Category: Family

A Dress Fit For A Warrior Princess

It has taken me a week to write this story. Since there was no way to change the names to protect the innocent (Ok, we weren’t really innocent), i had to wait for my embarrassment to subside before i could do it.

Both of my daughters are getting married in the coming year. Tho my oldest is eloping out of the country, it seems she was worried that she was depriving me of some momma-daughter time spent wedding planning by doing so. I am totally ok with her decision, as i feel their plans are perfectly suited to them as a couple. But i love spending time with her, so we decided to spend a day doing the frou-frou wedding dress thing. She makes an appointment at one of the local bridal shoppes, and we head there after enjoying a nice late lunch together.

While my daughter is filling out the requisite profile – You know, so they can keep reminding her of how important it is to spend lots of money – I start perusing the gowns. Racks upon racks of gowns. I am not terribly hopeful, tho, because my daughter is more Princess Fiona than she is Snow White – fabulously bold and lovingly Dreamworks real- and all the gowns were definitely Disney.

I get chastised for going off on my own. Apparently there is a system to bridal gown shopping, and i am subverting it. So i am pulled back into ranks, and we are given instructions on what we are supposed to be doing… Finding something that suits her style. Which, of course, was exactly what i had  been doing, but i didn’t wait for Simon Says.

Shame on me.

Most of the gowns were frothy, spun-sugar confections with tulle and satin and beads. Lacy sweetheart necklines, sumptuous satin trains, and full-on crinolines. The stuff that so many little girls’ dreams are made of. My oldest weedling, however, had never been one of those. She is a glorious mix of Frida Kahlo, Tank Girl, and Jessica Rabbit. She needs, deserves, something a bit more unique. Something with sexy flair. Something with an edge. None of these gowns really has that, but just to get a feel for it all, she picks some out, and we start with the trying-on. I go into the dressing room with her to help with the buttons and bows.

The first gown is a sleeveless fit-and-flare in a beautiful shade of champagne. Not exactly her style, but a good generic place to start. On the rack, it looked graceful and somewhat understated. On my daughter’s  killer figure, the skirt spread like she was about to go square dancing. Like maybe she should be poised in a bathroom with a roll of toilet tissue holding the skirt out. Not at all the look we were going for. All that was missing was the scent of lysol-and-geranium.


She tries on a slinkier gown. Kind of a 40’s starlet kind of thing. It mostly fits, the bias cut accentuating her badass curves. But it isn’t old-fashioned enough to really look retro, nor is it modern enough to look edgy. And it is white. Blindingly white. It-will-be-stained-before-he-ever-sees-it white. With her beautiful Italian coloring, the white is just too much. And of course, it didn’t come in any other color.

Probably not.

The third gown was the exact opposite of everything she had set out in her guidelines. Miles of white tulle. Strapless bodice with a lace overlay and off the shoulder sleeves. Dotted with tasteful beading and sequins. And a train. A luxuriant, swooshing train. It was the stuff of fairytale and fantasy. And she loved it.

She was stunning.

Oh my, yes.

I didn’t cry, tho i came close. As did she. And then we looked at the price tag. Holy hell. If it wasn’t the most expensive gown in the place, it had to be close. But what the hell, this was our first round of looking, so she tries on the matching veil and headband. And then a jeweled waist sash. At that point, the only thing missing was ostrich feather, but i’m sure we could have found that on a clutch purse. It was the total princess package, and the saleswoman could tell we had bitten the baited hook. So she tells us that she can put in an order, just in case, because it would be terrible if we decided she needed this dress and then it was discontinued before next year.

At this point, we notice the shoppe is starting to close up. All that remains are us and a younger bridal group on the other side of the wedding runway. So we go in to remove the dress. And that is when it all descended into crazytown.

My daughter and her fiance are planning on eloping in Ireland in the off-season, at a place with lavish outdoor gardens near Galway Bay. They aren’t bringing a bridal party, so the dress, which is as much as the rest of their destination wedding budget combined,   is just for them.  And tho i am no wedding expert, i’m thinking that irish moss stains will be a bitch to get out of that beautiful train. So i decide i might need to tell her that she should keep this dress on her radar, but maybe not close the deal today, in case she gets caught up in it all (Which she had already done once before and had to go through the hassle of requesting a deposit refund.)

Unfortunately, my brain wiring hasn’t aged well. Sometimes when i am emotional, the words in my head don’t come out of my mouth in the right order. So tho i opened my mouth with the intention of saying, “We don’t have to decide today,” what came out of my mouth was gibberish. Real words, but in the wrong combination. My daughter asks me if i’m having a stroke, but she doesn’t seem worried because she can tell i knew the moment i heard the words come out that i had missed the mark. And i start to laugh.

Because of the yummy Greek lunch we had prior to arriving, the laughing makes me break wind. And because a small part of me is still a child, that makes me laugh harder. Which makes me toot again. Which makes me laugh even more.  And so on and so on. Within 60 seconds, my oldest weedling and i are laughing so hard we are literally crying, and the highfalutin dressing chamber may never be the same. We bust out of the room wet-faced, barking, and holding our bellies.  The saleswoman immediately grabs a box of tissues. My daughter tells her that we are ok, but the woman offers the box again in our general direction, saying, “You really look like you need these.” She then asks if we are alright and admits that she can’t tell if we are laughing or crying. Between breathless rib cramps, we explain that it is both, but that we are fine. She nods her head and makes towards the dressing room to grab the dresses.


We both yell it, and i run in to gather the dresses and bring them out, pleased to find that the little room doesn’t stink too badly, and the paint hasn’t peeled from the walls.

The barbie girls across the room seem pretty certain that we are certifiable.

Minutes later we are outside and still coming back down from the humor high. Even now, i am giggling as i remember it. Man, i love spending time with the woman who is my oldest! It is never, ever boring!

I honestly don’t know what my daughter will end up wearing to her wedding.  She will be beautiful even if she shows up barefoot in jeans and a t-shirt. But getting to spend that time with her: Talking about the magic moments in life, watching her transform into a princess, feeling my heart swell when i see her regal beauty all decked out, and sharing the kind of laugh that bashes the hell out of every other thought in your head… That alone was worth the trip.


Civil Anger Management

So my oldest just moved into a new apartment. The apartment is around the corner from a beautiful new mosque. As a result, there are a large number of Muslims living in the complex. There are also a lot of ducks living at the complex, but i am pretty sure that is unrelated.

Anyway, i went to see her new apartment today. I had brought raspberry muffins that i had made, my daughter made eggs, and her fiance made coffee. We had brunch before we changed into swim clothes and headed for the complex pool. She had mentioned to me that there were usually a handful of women in burkinis there, so i was a little disappointed to see only one. I mean, i had never seen a burkini in real life before, and i was curious as to the practicality of it.

I will also add that my daughter has just been waiting for someone to mouth off to a woman in a burkini so that she could give them the what-for. I think she is almost disappointed that, so far, everyone seems to be getting along fine. Which is pretty cool considering the ones not covered head to toe pretty much are only 2 steps above naked. Today, my weedling was wearing a moderately sexy one piece, and i was wearing boys’ swim trunks and a bikini top. There were other women there in a variety of usual western swimwear (Including one woman wearing a black tank that read “Slay” in gold letters), many of us with tattoos, etc. A big contrast from the Muslim swimwear. In spite of this, there were no issues to be found, which according to my daughter is the norm, even when the mix is more balanced.  No one degrading anyone else.

Well, except for some under-the-breath cussing at the pre-teens who kept jumping in the water next to people who obviously didn’t want to be splashed. But that is likely more a unifying thing amongst the adults than a source of ignition.

It made me feel good to know that not only are there very few issues between the groups in daily life, but also that my daughter was willing and ready to come to the defense of someone so different from herself. Her sisterhood solidarity quotient is incredibly high.

It was the second time in a week that i had been impressed by a behavior like that.

I have a former science teacher (now a friend) who is very much a liberal-minded man and has a lot of issues with the current political administration. A few days ago, he was out to eat with his family at a favorite local place, when he finds himself in close quarters with the Speaker of the House and his family, also enjoying the good food.

Mind you, my teacher-friend is not alone in his views. I come from a very politically liberal area. It is not unfounded to believe that other than the Ryan family, it is likely that nearly everyone else in the restaurant would be Democrat.

And yet, instead of raising Cain, tearing into the politician, disrupting and potentially scaring the wife and children, giving himself heartburn from churning up bile so soon after a meal, or otherwise causing a ruckus; my friend and the community remained polite and allowed the family to eat in peace. My hometown largely disagrees with the Speaker, so i wouldn’t be surprised if he was handed some napkin notes on his way out, but that is unobtrusive compared to some of the behavior that has been given to our government officials as of late. I am proud of my community that they chose to wait for another time and place before letting loose with venom.

There has been instigation on both sides of the political aisle to create disturbance at every corner. Tho i understand the urgency, i feel it takes away from the cause itself. It creates new arguments on decency and common courtesy, instead of focusing all the energy on the initial issue. If enough people contact their representatives within the contexts of emails, meetings, petitions, and respectful statements, the representatives will either listen or be voted out of office. But if we yell and scream at him while he is feeding his child an ice cream cone, we look like the bad guy and our message gets lost.

We are all angry at the current state of affairs. I’ve yet to talk to a single person who is totally satisfied with our government. But being a hothead about it is like yelling at a teenager – All it does is make the teenager yell back. The problem itself never gets solved.

But if we are able to stand in our bikinis and defend the rights of those in burkinis, firmly but civilly, things will be forced to change. If we can come face to face with someone who is our political opposite, and instead of chewing them a new one right then, say, “Enjoy dinner with your family! And i would love a word with you at another time.” If we can show respect – or at least civility and common courtesy – to people we disagree with, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.

Because, lets face it, not calling a duck a duck, or a schmuck a schmuck, takes incredible strength and tenacity. That kind of restraint is a superpower. Enough of those superheroes, and we can fix it all.


Aunt Nancy, Please Don’t Put Radish In The Jello Salad

You know that weird jello salad that everybody’s Aunt Betsy brings to each and every gathering? That is my brain right now.

I’ve spent so much of the last 30 years trying to ensure my daughters grew up to be strong, thoughtful, and independent. Ever in fear of breeding another doormat into this already infested world, i wanted my daughters to become paragons of badassery in whatever way suited them. And as you know from previous posts, the efforts were successful. I am inordinately proud of the women my daughters have become. Tho very different from each other, they both are fierce in their passions and principles. They are hard workers, big dreamers, and fair judges. Everything i had asked for.

When you have adult daughters like that, it’s a bit like living in an underground women’s magazine of the 70s. Force them into polyester pantsuits and big sunglasses, and they could be on the cover of “Ms.” (Don’t worry, my awesome weedlings. No polyester pantsuits for you, i promise!) But just like so many of the celebrities of that political era, life is more than a magazine cover.

What good is a life of untamed equity if you have no one to share it with?

But it takes a special man (Or woman) to accept a badass woman as a partner. It isn’t for the weak, or the staunch, or the confidence-less. A warrior woman doesn’t want someone who just lets her take all the sun. Nor does she want someone who is going to constantly battle her for it. It has to be someone who can let that Light flow back and forth like one of those waves-in-a-box that are supposed to help keep you calm at work. The conduit between the two shores must be strong and clear, the water going over and around obstacles, precluding dams and producing energy that feeds the tides as it goes. It is a precious balance. One that some never find.

And yet, both my daughters have found it.

In a few short weeks’ time, both my woman-weedlings have gotten engaged to awesome men. Ones who respect them, support them, and adore them. Ones who are strong enough themselves to share the spotlight… Not just as a mechanism for leadership and recognition, but also as facilitator of growth. These men are amazing, and each also a badass in their own way. And so, on the whole, i am crazy happy for them having found partners who truly see them, get them, and love them.

Which brings us to the jello salad.

Jello salad is one of those things that can be really yummy. I mean, sugar and flavoring and food coloring has that magnetic appeal to the 5-year-old inside us. Throw in some fruit cocktail or pie filling…. Oh, yeah baby!  There is usually some  cream cheese or something thrown in to make it more adult and fancy. Mmm mmm! Love me some sweet and savory together! Toss in some marshmallows because… Well, because marshmallows!!!!! What’s not to like?

But then the devil steps in.

To distinguish it from “dessert”, Aunt Sally always throws in something “salad-y”: celery, pepper, shredded carrots… Crap like that which has no business being in jello.

In the midst of my heartwarmed-happy jello concoction for my daughters, there appears some of Aunt Sheila’s lunacy. (Oh, Aunt Sheila… Is that pickled onions i taste in here?) It took me a while to figure out exactly what it was. I mean, like i said, i am over the moon for my daughters and adore my soon-to-be son-in-laws… So what could those bitter, chewy bits possibly be? And why the hell are they in there?

I answered myself subconsciously but out loud.

“What now?”

I only just figured out parenting adults, but married adults is a whole other level. Especially for me. Lets face it, three past marriages make me the exact opposite of an expert on it. And before you joke that i should just tell them to obviously do the exact opposite of what i recommend, i promise you, that will make me cry.

Like Hermione, i kind of pride myself on being an insufferable know-it-all. But my daughters are about to embark on something i cannot help with. Yes, i realize they don’t really need my help, but that is beside the point. Mothers want to help. It’s what we do. And i can’t. That fact leaves me stumped. It is the carrot in my otherwise delicious jello salad.

The irony of it all… In having raised daughters without so many of my own issues, i have made myself obsolete.

So that’s what those crunchy bits are: self-pitying garbage.

When confronted with jello salad, one has three choices. You can refuse to eat it. While that is an option, it also means you miss out on all the good stuff in it. No marshmallows. No maraschino cherries. That is a big price to pay for a little bit of green pepper. Not an option i would choose because marshmallows!!!!

Or you can just force a smile and pretend you aren’t gagging every time a bit of celery finds itself in the mix. This is, of course, the polite option. And if i were at a once-in-a-lifetime visit with The Queen, i would probably take that option. But this isn’t a one-time gig. This is the rest of my life. And once i get past the celery, there will be grandbabies and other things that i know nothing about and will become the next crunchy bits. So this is probably not the best option.

Then there is the last option. The practical option. Enjoy the jello salad, but surreptitiously pick out the crunchy bits when no one is looking. Make sure there is a lettuce leaf somewhere on your plate to hide the shredded carrots under. Or a rabbit to feed them to, thereby disguising your disappointment as an act of kindness.

That, i can do.

Decades of therapy has made me pretty damned decent at picking out my useless negativity and turning it into energy for other things. So when i find myself thinking about my weedlings and their awesome partners and their limitless lives ahead and starting to wonder what purpose i can possibly serve in it; i will remember that i can and will be whatever they need. If i don’t know how, i will learn, just as i did when they were babies and i knew nothing of raising children. I learned. And if i didn’t always do it right, at least i did it well in the end. And when there are more wee ones, i can read to them like i did to my own. I can help teach them to be independent badasses like their parents. And i can help show them that sometimes you just have to pick out the sour bits and just be happy for all the wonderful things that will come to pass.

My babies are growing up and getting married.

Holy cow.

If i make Aunt Shelly’s jello salad for the celebrations, I’m gonna leave out the celery. Who needs it anyway? Things are so much better without it.


Travelogue – Canuck Edition

My writing has taken a back seat these last couple of weeks while i spent some time gearing up and making a whirlwind round of college tours with my son. My son, just as unusual as his sisters, is intent on a school in Canada. I dealt with the travel, and he made the arrangements for the tours. (I have been surprised at how many people found that “too much” for a kid who just finished his sophomore year of high school. And how many thought it was “too early” to be touring colleges. Both things are done on purpose so that he knows full well what it takes to get what he wants, and he knows he has to make the effort to get there….)  Anyway, with a little help from my middle weedling who has become a budget trip master, and my oldest weedling who graciously took care of Siridog, we set out last weekend for the Atlantic provinces.

In spite of the fact that i have been blessed enough to have traveled a lot of the world, i had never been to our northern neighbors. My son had been to Ottawa, but not east. So we were both excited for the journey. On top of the college tours, we had a few other things we wanted to experience as well. First on the list was a good lobster roll.

We left long before the crack of dawn to get to the airport on time. And to save a good-sized wad of cash, flew into Maine and rented a car to drive the 6 hours to Moncton, New Bunswick. It all went off without a hitch til we set out of the city of Portland.

It appeared to us that Portland is the Newark of Maine.

Trying to get to the interstate, we ended up in a neighborhood where it seemed the entire residency was gathered in the street to shout insults and cusswords at each other. One woman, hair like rusty cotton candy, dirty jeans and tank, boobs at her waist and yet somehow still hanging out, was dead center of the street leading the colorful pack of profane poets. When she saw us waiting for her to move so we could pass, she flipped us the bird and spun around so fast that her boobs were still facing us when she started to walk away – Directly up the middle of the street. Ok, lady, you win. When we finally made it to the highway, we had to pry our fingers out of the grips they had in fear.

Once we were safely outside the mainstream, we googled a lobster roll and found our way to a local joint. Tho it was technically a brewery, to my delight, they also brewed their own root beer. The lobster rolls were spot on. The Maine wild blueberry desserts were outstanding. The rootbeer was perfect. We were in heaven until the bill came.

The menu had listed “Market Price” as the cost of the lobster rolls. I hadn’t thought to ask. I mean, the meal was served on paper plates so we weren’t paying for fancy, and it was important to both my son and i that we start our trip off with a bang (Thankfully, not one on that side street in Portland.) I grew up on Cape Cod, so i know that lobster isn’t cheap, but i was unprepared for the bill. 2 lobster rolls with potato chips, 2 sodas, 2 modest desserts was $74. Seventy-four freaking dollars. My son was apologetic, but i explained to him that it was my own fault for not asking. Besides, it was worth it. The food was good, and it was a yummy start to the trip.

Back on the road – the fast route, not the scenic route – and we arrived in Moncton at what we thought was 2200. We were unaware that they are an hour ahead. The daughter of the owner to our Air B&B was kind and accepted our apology for the late arrival before showing us to our suite. We hit our beds and slept like the dead.

The next morning, we set out for Fredericton after hitting Tim Horton’s. My God, what a wonderful thing to have a place that keep hot tea brewed day and night! The drive to the University of New Brunswick is a beautiful one. Lots of farmland and rural communities. And the University itself was smaller, warmer, and better equipped than we expected. The students who showed us around and the faculty advisor that explained their process to us were a delight. We left with a great impression and a good recommendation for lunch.

Can i just say that smoked fish cakes are surely the nectar of the Canadian gods?

Day 2 was Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Dalhousie University. Dal, as they call it, is an upscale school in a surprisingly city-ish city. I guess i expected more of a fishing village city, so the excess of construction, modern office buildings, and traffic took me back a bit. There were some beautiful Historic buildings nestled in between newer business quadrants, especially near campus. And the school was a Canadian version of Ivy League… Imagine a smaller, laid back Yale where everyone has a slight Celtic accent.

Fish & chips and seafood chowder on the Boardwalk were the order of the day. Then we took a different route back to base to see more of the countryside. Unafraid of getting lost, i drove us along the coastline, dipping into coves whenever the road allowed. All of it was so breathtaking that my son barely rolled his eyes when i stopped on the side of the road for the umpteenth time to snap a picture. I was even able to gather some shells for souvenirs.

Oh, and not to be forgotten, we were also, on the way back to Moncton, able to engage one of our trip traditions…. Homemade ice cream. We happened to pass a sign on the highway advertising it, so we took the opportunity and exited. True to Canadian form, the shoppe was not exactly on the exit, but approximately 5 miles down the road. But it was worth it. We find a homemade ice cream shoppe on every trip we take, and it is always worth it. Homemade ice cream is a gift no matter your destination!

Day 3 was Prince Edward Island. Everything the storybooks say about it is true. In full Spring mode, the island was greener than Ireland itself. The landscape is heavily dotted with lupine and cows. The people are friendly and relaxed. We had a bit of a  disappointment when we found that the Confederation house was closed for refurbishing – My son is a history buff and was eager to see it. But we did get to enjoy St Dunstan’s cathedral. And we had an amazing lunch.

The Chip Shack reminded me of one of the many fried clam stands of my youth, except being in PEI, it served Lobster rolls (For much less than $74) and poutine. And Lobster poutine. Seriously. Lobster flipping poutine. A glorious coronary intervention of perfectly seasoned fries, cheese curds, a gravy that the owner makes from seafood broth, and a huge scoop of lobster meat. Could you come up with a meal that screams Atlantic Canadian more?

I think not.

The food was accentuated by the owner. She was energetic and tatted, singing boisterously along with the radio, and if she is not a direct decendent of Anne Bonny, i’ll eat my hat. She is a Pirate Queen in her soul and it exudes from her like perfume. She made our day and had smiles on our faces as we made our way to the University of PEI.

Tho Charlottetown is a city, it is a much smaller one than Halifax and retains a more of that port-town feel. And it extends to the University. There was plenty of diversity at all of the Canadian schools we visited, but the most at UPEI. In true port-town fashion, nearly half the student body is foreign. In fact, the contagiously congenial man who took us on our tour was a student from the Bahamas.  He waved to everyone we came across, and each wave came with a short commentary about where they were from. Tho he admitted that most of the Canadian students were home for break, it was still evident that my son would not be the only international student by a longshot.

Again we took the long way back. I spent an inordinate amount of time pulled off on the side of the road, admiring cows grazing in a pasture at the oceanside. If i had seen it in a movie, i would have sworn it was fake, but there it was in front of me. The ocean, a few feet of sand and rocks, then a grass pasture full of beautiful cows. After a while, the cows noticed me staring and came over to the fence. Not wanting to be rude, i said hello,  fawned over their home, and asked if they minded me taking their picture. My son was not amused and laid his seat back in the car to nap.

He missed out. Those cows sat there and engaged with me as if they knew what i was saying. Or maybe they just knew that i was taking time with them and liked them. Either way, they stood by that fence and regarded me with thoughtful muzzles for nearly half an hour.

My son perked up just before we hit the bridge back (As expensive as a Maine lobster roll, but definitely impressive!), as there is a little mini village at the front sporting the flags of all the provinces. My son is an amateur vexillologist (One who studies flags… I had to look that up), so of course he knew which flag was for what province, could expound on why each flag was decorated as it was, and listed his favorites in order. His enthusiasm made me smile. Only my kid would get so exhilarated by a bunch of flags.

By now the traveling had caught up with us. And by that, i mean that the food had caught up with us. Apparently, Canadians have yet to get on the fiber train, and days of croissants, fish cakes, and poutine had me feeling like the Pikachu float at the Macy’s parade. So we made a dinner stop at a local Moncton place for salads and a hummus plate. Before eating, i said grace to myself that it would work long before i got on the plane.

Early to bed and early to rise for the trip back to Portland. Thankfully, we left in plenty of time, because my idea of taking a smaller back road wasn’t the best i’ve ever had. First off, i have become spoiled in Chattanooga. When there is massive construction, there is someone with a sign standing in the middle of the road telling you when to go. Apparently, in rural New Brunswick, they stand on someone’s lawn…. Where, of course, i never saw him. My son did, but instead of saying anything let me proceed like the Queen of Prussia. I had to pull onto the grass halfway through the cone maze because there was a semi coming in the other direction who apparently didn’t know the Queen has the right of way. Then, to add insult to injury, i realized about 5 miles after that i had gotten turned around and was headed in the wrong direction…. So i had to tuck tail and head back through the same construction zone that i had just ignored the signs for.

The extra waves of the sign by the guy still standing off in left field let me know he recognized me.

But we made it back to Portland finally, got thru the plane flight without hummus interruptus, and survived my son driving back from Atlanta in his ancient convertible, top down, and thru traffic.

I think that last was when my blood pressure caused the blood vessel in my eye to rupture.

Now that we are home and mostly recovered, i have to say that it was a good trip. My son is a good traveling companion. Tho the whole thing was a lot more driving than i would have liked, he got to see the schools he wanted, and his opinions of each changed with the experience. I am glad we did it.  And i’m glad we’re back. It may be way too hot here in the summer, and i may hate the mosquitos, but i do love the area that i now consider my home. And of course, i love my home itself. I may not have pasture, or lupine, or cows on the ocean, but i have my own bed and my favorite haunts, and my Siridog. The place may change down the road, but the feeling of home when you return… That is the perfect ending to any road trip.


If My Weedlings Only Knew

Over the weekend, my weedlings had some big stuff going on. Watching them adventure make me a wee bit jealous and anxious to have an adventure of my own, but it also makes me so proud of them and how full-on and large that they live life. Their hearts and minds are so open and beautiful that it makes my own heart bubble over. (Ok, that is sappy as hell, but i swear it is true none-the-less.)

It started Thursday. My son, who was headed out for some jROTC adventure and competition in another state, was desperate for some old-school comfort food before he left. I would have made my meatloaf, his favorite, but i don’t keep meat in the house anymore. Besides, he wanted Cheerwine – Like, wth? Who drinks that on purpose? Anyway, we decided to go to this awesome diner downtown that has food we can both eat, and great desserts besides. We ended up parking in front of the soda shop, 8 blocks away, so he could stock up on Cheerwine. As we were walking from the shop to the diner, we get approached by a – i assume – homeless man who asks for spare change. My son says, “Sure,” with a sweet grin and hands the man a dollar. Mind you, my son probably only had $5 in his wallet. But he gave it, the man said thank you, and we walked on.

At the diner, we talked and laughed. He got his meat, and i got a Greek vegetarian platter. And of course, we both got the half-pound slabs of cake that they call dessert to take home. (For the record, he got Coke-a-Cola cake, and i got tiramisu cake.) Then another 8 block walk back to the car.

We pass another down-and-outer on the way back to the car who asked for spare change. Again, my son smiled and gave him a dollar. No hint of being annoyed. No pre-programmed message of blessings or reproach. No diatribe pro or con – A feat for the kid who lives to soapbox and debate. He just gave and smiled and walked on.

As we walked, i told him that i was proud of him. Proud that he would give a bit without second thought. That he had such a kind heart. His response was calm and nonchalant. “It was just a dollar. No big deal, but maybe it helped.” I told him that made me happy.  What i didn’t tell him was that i was a little surprised at his generosity.

Boys his age can be real schmucks. Selfish and self-righteous. And mine has a dream of a future in the realm of politics… With the ego, sometimes, to suit it. Don’t get me wrong, he is incredibly bright and has great ideas, but he hasn’t learned humility yet. Or, at least, i didn’t think he had. Obviously, i was wrong. He is at least on his way there. He idolizes Justin Trudeau, and it made me proud to see him grow towards that kind of politician.


On another note, my daughters are off on an adventure this week. nearly 10 years apart in age, they haven’t always been terribly close, but have been growing closer as of late. My middle weedling is still in college and on spring break, so she and my oldest decided to take a trip together. After a couple months of planning, they headed towards Spain.

On spring break, other weedlings are consumed with heading to a booze filled resort – Heading to a place where they will spend most of their time at a pool talking only with those who came with them. They might as well have found a good hotel in their own city. My daughters, however, opted for someplace off the usual track. They are exploring a smaller city at an air B&B and enjoying the local flavor.

I am pleased that they have my love for travel. The thrill of trying new foods, seeing new places, meeting new people – These are what i want my daughters to spend money on, as opposed to chasing the fancier house and glittery lifestyle. Getting to know fellow humans broadens the mind and heart and soul. And the deeper the understanding and appreciation,  the less likely we are to marginalize and hurt each other. On the grand scale, if all of us traveled more, there would be fewer wars. It’s hard to kill people you have visited, even if you disagree with their leaders.

But on its most basic level, this is two sisters, drastically different in vision, beliefs, and aesthetics, learning to appreciate each other and who they are. The love they have for each other as family being deepened as they build a strong friendship. As a mother, it makes me so happy. It means that long after i’m gone, they will have each other to lean on.

On a superficial level, it gets me jazzed for a trip with both my girls together. The three of us taking on a new place. Seeing it through each others’ eyes. And maybe sometimes after that, including my son as well. The whole caravan on adventure together. Learning about others and about each other.  The hippie, the leader, the politician, and the gypsy (Me). All together on an adventure!

And on a grand level, they will go on to touch people and spread what they have learned. That we are all one people. That in spite of our differences, we all enjoy sitting down to a good meal in a beautiful place. And when we do it together, we grow to appreciate the differences in each other, or at the very least, we take a step towards understanding them. Maybe even hand them a dollar when they need it, a smile on our face, and no judgement.

They may have gotten their love of adventure from me, but i have gotten so much from them. Their understanding. Their compassion. Their ability to forgive. Their willingness to fight for what’s right. If i never do another thing of value, i made these weedlings possible. I hope, tho i have told them the words, that they someday understand the depth of the pride and love i have behind those words.

No Ma could be more thrilled with her own weedlings than i am of them.

Home Renovations – The It Episode

Due to some excessive rain (I started to say “Unusually excessive rain…”, but excessive rain IS the usual here), the power was going on and off for a bit this morning. My son’s room was unusually cluttered because we are doing some renovations on his bathroom (More about that later), so the towel racks, towels, and assorted accessories, along with my ladder, are stuffed into his fairly small bedroom. And to note: The kid keeps it as dark as a cave.

So as various household appliances are switching on an off with the indecisive power surges, they are all making different noises. The humidifiers beep. The temperature gauge clicks. And something in the house made an upward sloping attempt at middle A.

It was the last that creeped my son out.

He recounts to me after dawn that laying there in the pitch black, unfamiliar shadows from the extra stuff stashed in his room, he was seriously rattled. All the added flotsam, plus the emptiness of a bathroom devoid of part of its floors and walls changed the acoustics such that the poor kid couldn’t tell where the noise was coming from. He tried to convince himself it was the heat, but given that it was unseasonably warm, he couldn’t get that  thought to solidify.  He ended up staying awake til morning.

He comes in my room when he hears me waking and playing with Siridog. he tells me about the storm and the dark and the noises. He especially points out that the strange, eerily musical hum really rattled him. It sounded like song notes. Like a half scale. It didn’t sound random. It freaked him out. I can tell by his expression that he wasn’t exaggerating – The kid had been really scared.

“You just need to take a deep breath and remind yourself, ” I say to him, “That this is a safe neighborhood and that it was unlikely to be a bear or criminal.”

“Criminal?!? Ma, I was afraid it was a clown!”

I couldn’t help it. I busted out laughing.

“I’m serious, Ma! If a clown had shown up, I’d have beat him with my lamp and then wet my pants.”

Truth be told, if I’d been in that situation, and a clown had jumped out of the closet, I’d have wet my pants before beating him with the lamp.




So about the bathroom renovation…

My house is ancient, and the people who lived there before did most of their own repairs. Which is to say, a lot of stuff is totally jerry-rigged. Makeshift. Mechanically creative. When I decided I was ready to replace the shower stall in the back bathroom, I knew better than to expect it would be pristine underneath.

First, the contractor, a friend of mine, tells me he is there to start the demo. Then he sends pics of some wood rot around the drain. To be expected in an old house, I remind myself.

Then pics of some wood rot on the bottom of the wall behind the shower. No surprise there – The back wall had a bit of a crack in it.

Then some pics of wood rot around the perimeter of the shower pan. No surprise there either. There is no air vent, heating vent, or fan in that room. It gets damp easily.

Then a pic of the joist and crawl space below the shower section of the floor. In the center of the photo, there is a mushroom… A cream colored, beautifully topographically sculpted fungus, big enough to feed a small country, or at least a large city, for a day.

THAT was a surprise.

It wasn’t a clown, but it was damned unnerving.

It has since been pushed down into the dirt and been broken, sprayed and sterilized (Pretty much everything short of set on fire). The room will get fixed, my son’s room will go back to normal, and hopefully neither of us will be tortured any more by thoughts of clowns, or mushrooms, or clowns with mushrooms, or mushrooms shaped like clowns.

Effing clowns.

Stupid mushrooms.

Please, let us not find anything else.



Next Week, It May Be Pink

So, i’m in Ulta killing time while my son shops for comic books. I notice they are having a great deal on some Urban Decay lip glitter, so i am trying the testers to find some colors for my oldest daughter who embodies that Urban Decay look. When i see one that i can’t find the tester for, i ask the salesperson. She points out one that would look good on me. So i explain that these are for my daughter… I am far too long in the tooth to be wearing that kind of statement lip color.

“But, ma’am…” She says, with a duh look on her face and a rather pronounced eye roll that you could almost hear, “You have purple hair.”

Ok, yes, i have purple hair. This week. It was blue last week. But that’s beside the point. My ultra-short funky-colored hair isn’t as noticeable as full-on silver glitter lips. Is it? I mean, wouldn’t that put it WAY over the top? I’d look like some sad woman trying to recapture her youth.


It’s a fine line between being a silver-age woman with independent and funky style à la Iris Apfel… And being a joke.

I’d prefer to be the former.

But truth be told, i am a bit of a joke. Case in point:

My son and i are watching his new favorite show, Designated Survivor. An ad comes on for some new drug, and as expected, at the end a bland male voice lists the common side effects: Fungal infections, false test results, elevated liver enzymes… And my son and i start adding on our own…

Excessive flatulence

Bad breath

Suspicious hoof growth

Elevated gas prices

Hermaphroditical tendencies (I swear he made that word up)

Lack of Christmas spirit

Inexplicable craving for hockey and cottage cheese

You can imagine the rest. We have so much fun with things like that, as nuts as that may seem. I know it is more expected to have a kind of Tom Hanks humor (Which we love, don’t get me wrong…), but in reality, my family is more Coen brothers and Eddie Izzard. Smart, dysfunctional, sometimes daft, sometimes sick. It’s the liquid in the glue that holds us together. Not surprising, i suppose, to anyone who reads me regularly. And probably adds credence to the purple hair and glitter gloss.

Or maybe not.

Maybe there is nothing that explains a 51 year old woman with purple hair. Glitter gloss or not. One who takes up tap dancing instead of joining a gym like normal people. One who, after raising three amazing weedlings, makes an effort to live life unapologetically. One who writes a blog saying a bunch of stuff that probably would better off if left in my head.

But then, the few of you who get it might not know you aren’t alone.

Besides, my head might explode from holding all this in.

And my weedlings, just like their Ma, aren’t the best at cleaning… I can’t leave them with that kind of mess.



Just An Everyday Sunday

Work has been insane, and i needed something that would totally take my attention away from it for a bit. Thankfully, i snagged a couple of great end tables at a yard sale a few weeks ago to team up with my coffee table, and all 3 needed a makeover, so i had something that fit the bill. On advice from The Creative One (My oldest weedling), i decided what i wanted to do and had bookmarked some videos on the technique i was going to try. I went out yesterday morning to get the necessary supplies, and spent a delightful half day sanding and base-coating the pieces.

I was up past midnight last night thinking about the project and how i was going to approach it. I have been mad busy with work lately and haven’t done much creating, so the excitement of a new project was hitting me like the first snowfall of the year. It was right before i shut my eyes that i remembered i was still missing one key ingredient.

So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning, fresh out of bed, with only a teeth brushing to distinguish me from the living dead, i head out to the dreaded Walmart. I am surprised that i didn’t fall victim to Murphy’s law and run into some stunning love interest while i was looking homeless. That is usually what happens. Not today, tho. I grab what i need and start to head back when i remember that my son had mentioned yesterday that he was craving a bagel.

There happens to be a Dunkin Donuts next to WallyWorld, so i go thru the drive thru, grab us each coffee and bagels and drive back towards the house. I am about 4 blocks away when my son calls…

“Where are you?”

“I’m just around the block. Why?”

“I made you breakfast. I was going to surprise you and brought it to you in bed… But you weren’t there. I got worried.”

I start laughing. “I’m bringing breakfast home as a surprise for you!”

So i get home, and on the porch table is oatmeal and english muffins and limeade. I add the coffee and bagels. We feast and talk.

He tells me he has never been able to figure out what my Spirit Animal is. We agree that my middle weedling has Kermit the Frog for a Spirit Animal, but he says it changes to a honey badger when she gets pissed off. We discuss his grades, and i remind him again that i actually do use Algebra at work (He insists that Algebra was created solely to torture teenagers.) We recount funny family stories. I remind him that he needs to excavate the landfill under his bed. He waxes disdainfully on my preference for cinnamon toothpaste. We marvel at the beautiful cardinals flying thru the yard. We discuss the virtues of Chile versus other South American nations. He surprises me by confessing a hatred of minion memes. I impart a bit of wisdom on the topic of toasters. And he tells me a groaner of a joke…

“Hey Ma, do you know what a Splenda Daddy is?”

“It’s when you want to be a Sugar Daddy but you don’t have the money.”

He does the vaudeville smile&doublewave while the universe decides if it should throw in a “ba-dum tsss” or just let the crickets have it.

I couldn’t help it. I laughed.

All in all, a good morning. My projects are out on the porch drying. My chores are getting done. I’ve got a nice dinner planned. And i’m still smiling over the statistical anomaly that was my son and i getting each other a surprise breakfast.

Sometimes, even the most common of Sundays can be just grand.


Silk Impressions

My son takes me outside to show me something very cool…

At the bottom of our driveway is a spider web. Up at the level of the transformer on the electric pole opposite, it spans across the entire street and is probably 5 or 6 feet tall. It’s a real beauty. And in the center is a large garden orb.

We both stand and stare at the magnificent creation. I am thinking the spider must be very lonely. Here she is – a BBW (Well, BBS… BBWS?) in an enormous beautiful house all by herself. No egg sac, no little man-spider to share it with. I feel for her.

My son is thinking differently.

“So, Ma, if i start acting weird, you know why…”

I’m thinking he means if he gets the willies.

“…I was walking to the bus stop and the spider dropped down and bit me and i turned into Spiderman.”

“But, ” i say to my son, “That could be kind of cool!” I start doing my best Spiderman impression. Hopping around the street in a bad interpretive dance, pointing my wrist at things and making noises formerly only seen on the 1960s Batman TV show. Pow! Spoing! Fwoosh!

I’m sure the reclusive spider diva was amused.

My son, however, was taking this very seriously.

“Ma, that is not a good thing! He is filled with teenage angst! And he accidentally killed his girlfriend with radioactivity!”

I stand corrected.

Well, not really. I’m still doing my Spiderman dance.

When i am done with my Tony award-winning performance, we both settle under the web and tilt our heads back. Standing right under it, we can see the huge expanse of it as it billows in the breeze.

“It really is extraordinary, ” I say.

“Yea,” He responds. “It really is. I mean, how did it manage to jump and get the silk from the transformer all the way to the tree on the other side? That’s a big jump for something so small.”

We stare in silence and appreciation for a few minutes.

“Well, goodnight, beautiful woman.”

“Yes,” says my son, “See you in the morning…”

I wonder if he’ll be infected with angst this afternoon? And what will his Spiderman dance look like?

Should I Stay or Should I Go

I used to really enjoy my time on social media. I loved seeing everyone’s vacation pictures, funny memes, and dinner recipes. Sure, there was the occasional rant about how much something sucked, or the Facebook equivalent of a chain letter (For those of you too young to remember, these were actual pen-and-ink letters that you had to copy by hand and send to ten of your friends, or Hitler was going to show up at your next birthday party with near-beer and a rabid wombat and ruin everything, and you’d be left to rot in hell forever after)… But on the whole, it was my happy place. After a rough shift at work, i looked forward to seeing a video of a friend’s new grandson, or a screaming goat singing the chorus to the latest Taylor Swift song. It made me forget the stress of the day and laugh a little. It made it much easier not to kick the dog and go to bed angry….

Until last year.

While, before that, there were people who clogged up my newsfeed with conspiracy theories and mean tweets (Excluding, of course, the videos of celebrities reading mean tweets… That stuff’s hysterical!), if i wanted to stay in contact regardless, i could always hide their posts so i didn’t have to see them. But the last election turned far too many of us into partisan, uncompromising, political commentators. I had hoped it would end after the election, but it has, in many instances, gotten worse. From both the left and the right.

Now, i’m not saying people don’t have the right to be angry. And i’m not saying that people don’t have the right to post it. There is no law that says you can’t argue via the internet. And i admit, sometimes people say things, either true or false, that make me look it up and learn more about it. I consider that a good thing. I like to learn.

It’s the meanness that makes me log off.

Which brings me to tell you about my grandmothers. (I know that doesn’t make sense… Stick with me here…)

One of my grandmothers was a petite, quiet, but strong woman, born within the first decade of the 20th century. A good Irish Catholic girl (Yes, they DO exist), she strived to live like a good Christian. Like most of her generation, she had prejudices about color and lack of religion. I doubt she knew anyone who was (admittedly) gay, but she probably would have felt uncomfortable with it. She did not, however, believe in the mistreatment of anyone, regardless. No meanness. No evil thoughts. As a child, whenever i would get frustrated and shout that i HATED (Clams, tie shoes, the miscreant kid down the street…), she would gently, but sternly, say, “You must not hate. You can dislike, but you must NEVER hate. God doesn’t like hate.” And tho i certainly wasn’t a good Irish Catholic girl, i knew she spoke the truth. I knew it was wrong to hate and hurt. I knew that Love was the answer. Even if we don’t care for someone, we were to treat them as we want to be treated. And then pray for them. Never hate them. Hate was what caused people to do mean things. Hate is what caused us to mistreat others. Hate is what hurt people.

Now, my other grandmother was not like that at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. She was strong. But the other stuff? Nope. Not even close. For one thing, she was the center on her high school’s girls’ basketball team… This was right about 1940, so that should tell you a lot about the woman. She wasn’t petite, she wasn’t quiet, and her idea of religion was more about the holiness of a good lobster roll. (And if you fail to see the holiness, you’ve never had a really good lobster roll.) When my other grandmother was heading to mass on Sunday, this one was preparing to settle in and watch the Dolphins play. She could swear like a sailor, and she loved a good bet. But it never mattered who she was betting, or watching the game with, or sitting next to at the bar. Your validity as a Dolphins fan was not questioned if you happened to be from another human category. That never mattered to her. Case in point, i had the pleasure one day of sitting with my grandmother and the remaining women from her basketball team at their regular get-together for coffee. They told me about how difficult it was to find other female teams to play… They would have to travel hours to games… And how angry they would get when they would arrive, and someone would question the fact that their power forward was a black woman. To them, they were a team. Period. That was all that mattered.  And they wouldn’t tolerate mistreatment of their friend, classmate, and teammate, even if that meant refusing to play a game if she wasn’t included.

As i said, these women weren’t perfect. They each had their own social circles, and like others of their generation, didn’t cross the tracks to other neighborhoods very often. (Many generations later, this is still a widespread issue.) But neither of them ever knowingly mistreated someone because of a skin color, religion, political affiliation, whathaveyou. Maybe it was because they were both forced into single motherhood at a time when there were no allowances for that. They knew what it was like to be refused a job simply because you were female and a mother. They knew looks of disapproval for something that was outside their control and had no bearing on their worthiness.  Maybe because of that, they chose to override their socially-nurtured prejudices and try to treat all people with fairness and equity. Your worthiness for trust, to them, was based on your behavior to others and your willingness to work hard. Your worthiness as a human was determined by the fact that you were human. Clear. Simple.

Two women, over a decade apart in age, different social brackets, different religions and interests… Both coming to the conclusion that heart and tenacity are better discriminators than color and creed. This is how i was raised.

Yes, there are times i find myself jumping to conclusions about people based on an accent,  bumper sticker, or hygiene habits. At those times, i forcibly remind myself that i could be them in another circumstance, or vice versa. And i remind myself that a lot of what i am might horrify them, too. And that puts us on an even playing field. I still might make the wrong judgement in the end, but at least it’s an honest mistake and not a thoughtless one.

So as i cruise my social media tonight, as i weed thru the Trumpsters hating on the immigrants, and the Dems hating on the Right, and everyone hating on the Muslims… I will try to remember that they probably have some valid points. That they have a right to express their anger, even if others don’t agree or sympathize. That they may not know or care that all i want to find on my home page tonight is a story about bikers helping kids or a video of guinea pigs talking about pumpkin spice. That they don’t realize how bitter they sound. I will try to remember because i don’t want to get caught up in the hatred. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hatred. And God/Goddess/Universe doesn’t like it when i hate.

I know, because my grandmothers told me so.

They also taught me that, in the face of hate, sometimes all you can do is refuse to play the game.