Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I have thought about this post for a while, coming up on two years now. Every time I've looked at that last blog entry from February 2012, and remembered the old house, my desk in the sunny dining room, my mother-in-law standing behind me, reading over my shoulder as I quickly drafted the few lines I needed to make my website current. She had been visiting us from New Jersey and I was irritated with every single thing that weekend, until getting word from the editors at Hello Giggles that they wanted to run a Valentine's Day piece I'd written, hence the need for the hasty post on my own website. Something to track back to. I was excited, she was happy for me--and curious, and even though I typically will shoot swords of fire straight out my eye sockets if you even come near me to check my "progress" on a project, I allowed it. Gosh, that makes me sound like a pretentious a-hole. "I allowed it," which is to say I didn't sigh petulantly and storm off, the easiest way to make my annoyance known without actually having to be a grown-up and ask for what I really needed: privacy.

That may have been her last visit, though there was probably a time after that--late summer, maybe? February is what I remember most; it was the year I tried to use one of those "happy lights" to fix my mood, that is, until I realized one has to stare directly into the Verilux 2500 for thirty minutes a day to achieve the desired results, and who on earth has time for that?  My mother-in-law was the kind of woman who never needed to recalibrate her circadian rhythms with Balanced Natural Spectrum Daylight.  No matter the season, or situation, she'd breeze in with a sunny outlook and start tackling your to-do list, even if you weren't entirely sure what was on that list, or if you had a list at all. This was a woman who traveled with her own flax seed, an individual who could make one green smoothie last for five days, and if you were married to her son, this last detail is the kind of thing that could incapacitate you with wounded rage.  Stuck in the corner, eyes narrowed, you'd watch as she reorganized your Tupperware cupboard with an offhand authority you'd never possess. What is she even thinking about right now, you'd wonder as you nibbled jelly donuts and stared, rodent-like, until you'd eaten the entire box and had to throw away the evidence. She never had to throw away any evidence. In fact, she rarely threw away anything because unlike you, she wasn't wasteful. She was resourceful, uncomplicated, and helpful. And I struggled mightily to love her.*

It used to comfort me, that everyone struggles with their mother-in-law. It's a foregone conclusion at this point; a cultural cliché. How many sitcoms would we not have without the iconic, overbearing matriarch to beef up the storyline? No one meddles like a mother-in-law, and no one resents the meddling, the idiosyncrasies, the everything more than the woman who marries her son. I fed my resentment because I was insecure, because, over the course of my marriage, every one of my weaknesses became a question she could answer with a strength. All my deficiencies were, in her presence, magnified. It didn't matter that I could create beauty out of chaos, that I could make you feel like you were the only person in the room, maybe even the world; that you always knew where you stood with me because I made a point of telling you. And how I'd look into your eyes so you knew I meant every syllable. When she was around, what mattered was the three-month's worth of ironing she could whip through in an afternoon, how she never put off essential errands to read a romance novel, how she excelled at every quotidian requirement at which some part of me believed a wife and mother should. And, how I shrank in the shadow of her confidence. I was an adjective, she was a verb. And out of all the parts of speech, my husband liked himself a verb.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

If These Dolls Could Talk: Seriously, Can we NOT?

You know I am really getting tired of you three and this constant business of "turning down for what." Every night it's the same damn story: one minute you're ice skating, doing crosswords, or feeding our chestnut mare thoroughbred, Penny...and the next thing I know, everybody's clothes are on the floor, somebody's passed out, and a random piece of pumpkin pie has appeared out of nowhere. Do you see me acting a fool and getting drunk on milkshakes? No, you don't. While you all are reliving some ridiculous YOLO/Girls Gone Wild fantasy, I am in a historically accurate canopy bed, practicing my recitations and trying to avoid the Yellow Fever. As I've said before, this mosquito netting is for everyone's protection, and no, there was not enough to go around. You're right, ladies, the struggle is real. Also, I don't really want to hear another word about my pantalettes, or for that matter, my ringlets. I appreciate that we each have our differences, but you would all do well to follow my lead here, as I am currently the only one in the room wearing an actual outfit. No, Nellie, your pajama top doesn't count, although your confusion about basic grooming habits is understandable given the fact that until recently, you were but a shy servant girl and also a child laborer. All I can say is, God bless Gardner and Cornelia Edwards for taking you in after your parents succumbed to influenza. Just remember, this is not the factory, and even though you are hardworking, honest, and have a penchant for disassembling things, I have a penchant for bitches who don't disassemble their clothes. Seriously, though, all of you: get back into your respective time periods, work your hobbies, and drop the Miley Cyrus routine because not only is it not cute, it is an embarrassment to America...and girls, everywhere.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Fried Egg, I'm In Love*

Everything I know about breakfast I learned in the home of my childhood babysitter, Dorothy--where, after being dropped off by my parents each morning, I would feign hunger (what Pop Tart?) in hopes that she might, in her mercy, fry me up an egg with the kind of lacy, perfectly crisped edges one only achieves by means of lard. After this second breakfast, we'd color, surf her four channels...maybe I'd nap, maybe she would. Later, though, when it was time to go home, I'd be on high spiritual alert, praying for my parents to be late picking me up so I could eat some of the delicious fish that Dorothy's husband always seemed to be catching (and frying) himself. I never felt unwanted at their table, a four-top in a corner of their kitchen with a clear view of the outside.  By the time I was four, I could sniff out both an honest welcome and a good meal with a mastery that belied my years; I was also savvy enough to stuff the last bites of Lake Erie perch into my mouth as soon as I saw my parents' car pull in the driveway, lest my double-down dinner gaming privileges be revoked.

All these years later and I'm frying my own eggs, though I use grassfed butter and still can't get the edges right. Whenever I try, though, I remember Dorothy, and how she never turned me down. I also think of how precocious I was then, how I didn't want small bites--I wanted you to give me a great big piece of the world.

I still do.

On the flip side, I wonder if my parents ever realized that while they believed they were paying for childcare from a semi-elderly woman who owned a pet ferret and allowed me to watch soap operas on the reg, they were really funding my foray into a diet based entirely on fried foods. In other words, guaranteeing me a lifetime of happiness.  The more I think about it, this may be one of history's last remaining examples of the "win-win" phenomenon.

Thanks, D.

*shout out to every moment of high-school angst I ever experienced, along with its corresponding Cure song.

It Was Actually More Like Three Years

...pretty sure I used all the hot water, though.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Birthday Girl

 Just wanted to let you all know I'll be spending my birthday weekend like I normally do, 
you know...eating an ice cream cone sundae in a monogrammed polyester cheerleading outfit 
while my Uncle Ron offers witty asides about the horrible service.

Then I think I'll put on my Cosby Show sweater and glare at you if you try to take my picture, 
because, *obviously*, I'm still mad about that home perm.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Sometimes I forget this website isn't a novel I'm writing wherein each chapter has to connect to the last; that there can be pregnant pauses, awkward silences, and sentences that don't get finished.  I get hung up on all the time that's passed since I last wrote and feel crummy, and then some of you remind me which I appreciate in an ungrateful sort of way. I feel loved and smothered all at once, which initiates the self-loathing cycle, followed by beautiful bursts of sparkly hope for real, inspired, progress. I can be more consistent, I think to myself...I WILL post at least weekly, not to mention exercise! And I WON'T even buy conversation hearts this year, because I've CHANGED!

This usually backfires; which I blame on the fact that real life doesn't come with its own soundtrack. I mean, don't you think if the above thoughts were put to music (Eye of the Tiger, obviously), I'd be more successful? I spent nearly every morning between my 13th and 18th years lip-synching in the mirror before school, and it totally pumped me up! Who cares if it was Oh Danny Boy, or that it made me so consistently late I actually had to go to school on a Saturday?! And clean with the custodians? At least I was motivated musically.

Things are fine here, if you'd wondered. Time passes, you know? I can't think of anything news-worthy,  I also can't actually remember these last few months too well. Today when the barista asked about my weekend and I hesitated, trying to recall, he winked knowingly, saying "then it must have been goooooood, right?"
"Sir," I said, "I am a mother. With insomnia. This forgetfulness is for real, and it might someday happen to you". Then I made my eyes look really big and crazy, in a silly way, to lighten the mood--so he wouldn't swear off kids right then and there, because they really are lovely, don't you think?