Category: Family

Unbatten the Hatches

My sister has an amazing memory. I’m sure, at our age now, she occasionally mixes up her kids’ names or forgets why she walked to the basement; but she remembers things from long past that i never could. She remembers the name of every teacher she ever had, every babysitter, every celebration. Me? Not so much. There are a lot of memories that my brain has either tossed out like garbage or buried deep in some trunk, including most of the memories before i turned 8 years old, when my parents were still married, and life was “normal”.  For me, those years aren’t crisp photos in some leather covered album. They’re more like a stack of Rorschach tests that have been used to soak up spilt milk. But there are a couple that remain clear. And days like today always remind me of one in particular.

When i was 6 or so, we lived in an apartment that was on the bottom floor of 3 stories. We had a patio that was sheltered by the balconies of the apartments above us. It wasn’t big, but it was big enough for our purposes. Fold up lawn chairs, a bike, a Big Wheel, the basics of the era.  In the winter, it was a place to stash those plastic roll-up sleds and to shed the snow coated jeans and parkas (So as not to drag the wet inside the house). In the summer, the cement was spotted with popsicle stains and fluffernutter sticky spots. But my favorite thing about the patio was the rain.

I’ve never asked him why he did it, if it was planned, or if it was for his own amusement or mine. And truthfully, i couldn’t tell you if it happened only one time or 100. But the memory is as vivid as if it happened this morning. (Or more vivid, really, since, as usual,  i can barely remember this morning.)

So as i sit here on my porch listening to the thunder roll and  the rain patter, i can’t help but be brought back to that patio.

Big bad thunderstorms can be scary when you’re a kid. But i don’t remember being afraid of them. What i remember is sitting on the patio with my dad. A big bowl of popcorn (Made the RIGHT way, with lots of butter in the big stock pot on the stove). Sitting next to him, watching the storm like it was a much anticipated movie. We’d count the seconds after each electric streak across the sky, we’d jump and squeal at each resounding boom, and then we’d figure how many miles away it was. I’d sit with my dad and watch the storm with safety and comfort and a belly full of good popcorn. And i wasn’t afraid. Instead of being an explosion of God’s wrath and all those other things we kids ascribe to it, it became a beautiful and wondrous bit of nature that i learned to love and appreciate.

And when my own weedlings were young, i did the same thing with them. Our own covered porch, a bowl of popcorn, the watching and waiting and counting.  And they were never scared either

I was afraid of a lot as a weedling. Hell, i’m afraid of a lot as an adult. But i’ve never been afraid of storms. In fact, i relish them. Maybe as i grow older, i will learn to appreciate storms of other varieties,the non-weather varieties, as much as i do Mother Nature’s. Maybe, in the midst of it all, i can imagine my dad, relaxed in one of those woven-strap lawn chairs, bowl of popcorn in this lap, telling me it’s ok and reminding me to count so i’ll know when the storm starts to go away. As all storms eventually do. Yes, maybe that would be something good to add to my self-improvement “to do” list.

Raindrops, wind, thunder… The sounds of a good full-blown storm…. Therapists use it to help their patients relax, unwind, clear anxiety. It does all those things for me, too. But it also makes me smile. And think of my Dad,

And This Little Piggy Went “Wee Wee Wee”…

Ages ago, when my current college sophomore was still in kinder-clothes, there existed a pig. A Swarovski crystal pig, to be exact. One that i had gotten her older sister as a gift. The pig lived on a window sill in older sister’s bedroom and projected faceted light into all the corners of the room. My oldest thought the porker was pretty, but my middle weedling… She thought it was the most beautiful thing in the whole wide world.

Since my oldest wasn’t living with me at the time, her bedroom was not usually occupied. This meant that the poor crystal piggy was lonely. My middle daughter, totally in love with the magical swine, could feel his loneliness and felt compelled to bring him into her own room. On her own window still. Where she could hold him and love him and marvel at him as if he were her own. She cherished that pig as much as, if not more than, her sister.

One day, while vacuuming, or collecting laundry, or whatever mom thing i was doing at the time, i noticed that the otherwise elegant piglet was missing an ear and a tail. I called my middle daughter to task, but she swore up and down she hadn’t hurt him. I called my oldest and conspired with her to put on a face of full-on disgust and disappointment at the animal abuse, and the lie that failed to cover it, in hopes that her conscience would sway her to tell the truth and apologize. I mean, it was her room, after all. Who else could have broken it? We did a guilt-job worthy of the best old-school preacher or ethnic grandmother. We really poured it on thick.

In retrospect, her obvious sadness should have told me that she was as brokenhearted as we were, but at the time, logic did not allow me to put anyone else to blame.

She finally relented and apologized, but she always maintained that it was not her that curtailed the piggy.


Fast forward to a couple months ago…

I get a call from my middle weedling. Her excitement is palpable. “Hey, Ma! I’ve figured out what i’m getting (sister) for Christmas!” She was literally sparkling thru the phone, she was so ecstatic. “Do you remember the crystal pig?” (As if i could forget…. For the last 15 years you’ve been periodically restating your innocence, i say to myself.) “Well, i found one just like it. I am going to get that for her! But you have to keep it a secret! And for the record, i am not the one who broke it.” I am a decent secret keeper, so even tho my heart was bursting with love over such a thoughtful gift, i kept my word.

A couple weeks later, i meet my oldest for brunch.

“So, Ma… Guess what i got (sister) for Christmas?” She seems bursting with energy and happiness, so ready to spill the news. “Do you remember the crystal pig?” (I damned near choked on my eggs benny) “Well, i found one for her just like it! But you can’t tell. It has to be  a secret. I am so excited to give it to her! You know, she didn’t break it. We still don’t know who did.”

I promise you, i am not making this up.

So, over the course of the next few weeks, i am the recipient of multiple phone calls from each daughter that go something like, “Do you really think it’s a good idea? I mean, it’s not too sentimental, is it? Do you think she’ll like it? It isn’t a stupid idea, is it? I just hope she remembers!”

I cannot express how difficult it was to maintain an unknowing air as i told each of them that, indeed, i thought it was a great idea. And yes, i was certain she would remember. And that i felt it was sentimental in only the best way.

When my middle daughter came up with an idea that she was certain would make an even better gift for my oldest, it was hard not to beg her to stick with the pig. I could imagine the love explosion that would occur when they  both simultaneously opened each other’s gift, and i wanted so badly to see it happen. But i kept my promise and let her change her mind. Truthfully, the gift she chose really was equally as perfect. Even if it wasn’t a pig.

Our gift giving occurred earlier this week. And when it came time for the porcine love fest, it was all i could do to stay calm. When middle daughter unwrapped the piggy… Both girls and i were teary eyed. And when i shared the story of all the coincidental phone calls, we were all borderline crying. Tho none of us are Grinches, i admit, my heart grew three sizes that day, and i’d be willing to bet, my daughters’ hearts did too.

And yes, they still took the time to remind me that she wasn’t the one who broke it.

You know, people always say that it’s the thought that counts. I couldn’t agree more. The love that caused both my daughters to seek out a crystal pig… Well, that’s the best thought of all.  And i couldn’t be prouder.

As Natural and Pleasant as Childbirth

For most of my life, i have labored under the delusion that i prefer “natural”. I try to buy mostly small farm and organic food. I make my own perfumes and most of my own toiletries. I don’t dye my salt and pepper hair. Other than laundry, i mostly clean with vinegar. I try “holistic” remedies before resorting to drugs. I mean, i’m not a full-on hippie: I wear makeup, shave my legs, and cave to the occasional desire for McDonald’s french fries; but i do try to go the wholesome route when possible. Natural is better, right? I thought so, but a conversation with my middle weedling this morning made me realize that sometimes the natural order of things sucks.

Poison ivy is natural, and it sucks.

Ditto for mosquitos, periods, booger-filled sneezes, and the idiocy and flippancy of a teenager.

But most of all, worse than aging, radishes, and the smell of skunk combined is the natural order of watching your weedlings grow up and move on.

My oldest daughter, for all her awe-inspiring baddassery, is a loyalist and a caretaker more than anyone outside her immediate circle would believe. Because of that, she is never gone for long. Visits, even when she isn’t living 2 streets over, are frequent. She gets worried when she hasn’t heard from me in a while. And even if, in the future, we are living on opposite sides of the globe, we will be meeting up for adventures as often as possible. Her spreading her wings as an adult, while difficult, was tempered with the knowledge that she would always be back.

My middle weedling is a different story alltogether. The college she chose, a military academy, means that she has very little time to visit home. And what time she does have is split between myself, her father, and her boyfriend. (For those of you with weedlings in “normal” colleges, imagine your parental loss, and magnify it by a factor to account for none of the usual weekends, nor most of the requisite vacations.) And not for nothing, i know that when she graduates, she will be far-flung and not likely to be able to return home easily. Her daring and accomplishments have made us all proud, but her absence still sucks.

I know, i know. Genesis, Matthew, Mark, Ephesians.  Peter, Paul, and Mary. And Laura Ingalls Wilder. Many wiser voices than mine have made it clear that this is the natural order of things. Well, so is death, but unless you are the highest order of Buddhist monk, i can’t see you being happy about it. None of the wise voices ever said that the natural order was pleasant.

I don’t deny that i am  looking forward a little to my pre-decrepitude. Being able to travel on the fly. Truly being my own servant and master. Not having to close the bathroom door. But those perks don’t make up for the fact that i can no longer call my children home when i want them here.

Yes. I realize that is selfish. But that, too, is “natural.”

Of course, as much as it hurts to watch your weedlings grow up and “adult” on their own, it’s not like i want them staying in my house forever, either. My older weedlings make great adults. They give me hope for the future. My son will as well, when it is his turn. Them growing up isn’t so painful that i want them living in my basement. That would seriously hamper my pre-decrepitude plans.

So maybe, in spite of this middle weedling’s more distant life, i will survive. The pride i feel at seeing what she accomplishes, coupled with my own expected shenanigans as a carefree, gypsy broad when my son reaches the age of ascension, and my years of solitude begin, might just be the Benedryl for my “natural order” allergies. I will still have a reaction to the loss of weedlings to weed-hood, but the medicine of taking advantage and living well might make it a little less severe.

But i’m still gonna wish i saw them more.

A Tribute to the Triad

I went out for brunch today with my oldest weedling. Not surprising, since we do it at least twice  a month. At some point, over pimento cheese with bacon jam, biscuits and gravy, and some killer grits, she confesses that she loves when i write about her on my blog. (She also said she wished i hadn’t written about the teabag incident but i can’t help it… It still makes me laugh even now.) My son has also confessed to loving when he is featured here. My middle weedling, well, my guess is she tolerates my blog like she tolerates my impromptu dancing in the supermarket aisle. But since she is outnumbered, i decided today to feature them all… In a rendition of my favorite, “Yup, they’re my kids!” moments.

Mind you, they are my children, so they occasionally say or do things that can’t really be explained. They were never “typical” kids. And they can sometimes be a wee bit inappropriate. Go figure.

I hope i don’t end up in a rat infested nursing home because of this.


Oldest weedling is now a manager and designer at a flower shopppe. She is creative, intelligent, and responsible. And she always was…. Tho every now and then, her inventiveness ran far ahead of her intelligence and… BAM! Momma Hol moment.

Such as it was nearly two decades ago. My husband at the time and i were living in Central America, and i was very pregnant with my middle child. Oldest daughter was outside playing while i put my feet up for a bit. I watched her go collect the coconuts that had fallen in the driveway. She peeled off what was left of the bark/peel, arranged them and rearranged them in different patterns (I never thought about it til just now, but she used to do that a lot. A prelude to her career choice maybe?) Anyway, when she finally gets them as she wants them, i see her lean back and scrutinize. There is one that is larger than the others and just doesn’t fit. She picks it up and eyes it carefully. She weighs it in her hand. I see the idea come together. She throws it hard to the ground.  Bang! It bounces and rolls to the grass. She picks it up and does it again even harder. BANG! It bounces, but doesn’t break. She disappears to the garage and comes back with a hammer. Thwack! She hits it and it skitters off sideways. She wedges it between the sidewalk and a rock. THWACK! She puts the hammer down and picks up the coconut. Still whole. I see her examining it closely, looking for a crack, her body slumping a little when she doesn’t find one.

The next part, i promise you, it wasn’t my fault.

I see her take a thoughtful pose while she ponders the problem. I see the glint in her eye when she gets the idea. In the house, i am shaking my head. “Nope, bad idea, you goofball.” I know she can’t hear me, but i am thinking she surely will dismiss the notion… After all, she’s an incredibly gifted kid. But her curiosity got the best of her. As soon as i realized it, i jumped up to stop her, but it was too late… She extended her arm and slammed the thing against her head. KONK! Her feet come from underneath her, her body horizontal, and i swear i saw birds and stars circling around her noggin as she hit the ground. I’m waddling out to check on her as she rolls over to where the coconut has landed. It is still undamaged.

“Crap, ” She says. “Good thing i didn’t really want it anyway.”


My son is Nathan Lane’s logical heir. He is intelligent and dramatic in a way that belies his age, but probably not his upbringing.

I’m at work one afternoon and i get a call from my son’s pre-school teacher. He’s a paisano from  my native area, long since transplanted to our adopted southern home,  and my weedlings and i adore him. But today he is obviously trying to sound serious as he tells me i need to come down and collect my son. He is fine, teacher/friend assures me, but i need to come down. So i finish what i am working on, explain to my boss what is going on, and head down to the in-house daycare. All the toddlers are outside playing, except for my son, who is sitting by the wall with a grumpy look on his face.

“We had a little problem today, ” Teacher says, “And we used a bad word…” His face cracks, he runs crazy fast back inside, out of earshot of the kids, and starts to laugh.  “Oh my God, it was the funniest thing i’ve ever seen! He totally nailed it!” Apparently, the kids had all been gathered around the long tables with legos and such, engaged in that kind of creative play that is supposed to make them better thinkers. As my son is building, he looks up to see that another boy is looking back. My son gives him a quizzical look, but goes back to his building. Next time he looks up, the classmate is starting at him again. My son appears mildly annoyed. The same thing happens a few more times, with my son getting a little more rattled each time until….

He’s had enough. One last time, my son looks up to see the same kid still eyeing him. Teacher hears the expulsion of air that comes before an exclamation of exasperation, but before he can intercede, my son makes an authentic Italian hand gesture and, with a perfect Italian-American accent,  shouts, ‘What the hell are you looking at??!!??”


Yup. Definitely my kid.


Now, to the weedling that hates being the subject of my stories. And she knows which story i’m going to tell. But the fact of the matter is, knowing that she is now in college at a military academy, this scenario makes perfect sense. And not for nothing, it shows that, although my weedlings are far from perfect, their hearts and souls and characters are strong and good, as this honestly could be an account from any of mine.

All three of my weedlings are good kids and generally don’t make trouble, but the middle one has always been especially upright. With the exception of her intent to someday serve in politics, her actions have always been pure and brave and level-headed. So it was a surprise when i got a call from her principal.

I drove down and was escorted to the office by a teacher who seemed uncomfortable with me having to come in, my daughter being a gifted student and the smallest kid in the 3rd grade. But there she was, slumped down in a chair, hands crossed across her chest, indignant look on her face. The principal’s mouth was hidden by her hand as she asked me to have a seat and told my daughter to explain what happened.

“Ma, you know i told you about Dillon?” Dillon was a boy with Down Syndrome who was in her grade. I nod yes.

“Well, we were out at recess, and Austin kept calling him ‘retard’. I told him to stop being so mean, but he just laughed and called him ‘retard’ again. So i got really mad…”

“And…?” I ask.

She blows out a big breath and says, “I told him if he called him ‘retard’ one more time, i was gonna kick his ass.” Principal makes a sound that sounds like a snort and looks down at her desk.

“And…?” I ask, knowing that there must be more to the story.

“He got in my face! IN MY FACE, MA! And he said, ‘He’s. A. Retard.'” She has tears in her eyes now, tho i can’t honestly say if they were from sadness, anger, or frustration. The principal had tears in her eyes, but it was becoming more evident that hers were more likely from repressed laughter.


“Well, then i HAD to! ”

“Had to what?”

A sigh of exasperation that i am not following her here… “Kick his ass, Ma! I said i was gonna, and then he did, so i HAD to kick his ass!”

I am stunned. “You hit him?”

“Yes, but he deserved it. He was being mean, and SOMEONE has to stick up for Dillon, and you always say that we’re supposed to do what’s right, and….” She’s upset now and losing her cool.

“Calm down,” Says the principal, “It will be ok. Go get your books and things.” When my daughter leaves the room she turns to me, her face now out in the open, and it has a big grin. “She really did kick his ass. I think she even broke his nose. School policy is that, if you hit another student, it is two days’ suspension.”

I nod my head. “I don’t advocate her hitting another student, but i understand why she did.”

Principal responds, “That boy is a bully, and nothing we have done has made a dent in it. But today he got beat up by the smallest girl in the school. We’ll see if that makes a difference. I don’t advocate hitting, either, but it speaks volumes that she would go to such lengths for another student.”

I can’t help but smile with pride.

“Oh, ” She says as i rise to leave, “I should also remind you that she can’t swear at school, even if it’s for a good cause.”

Well, even the best of Good Guys has his quirk.


So there you have it, my favorite funny / embarrassing  stories of my weedlings. Nope, they aren’t perfect. But they are smart and strong and independent… And i love how they make me smile.


Getting Cool With My Dad

So, my dad came to visit last week. I had a lot of trepidation because my dad and i haven’t always seen eye to eye on my life choices, and even tho i’ve hit the half-century mark, i still desperately want to please him. I was afraid he wouldn’t enjoy my house, my life, or my company. (I know, i know… After nearly 2 score years of therapy, this should no longer be a cataclysmic issue. I regress now and then; so sue me.) I tossed and turned my nights, and fretted thru my days leading up to it. Now that his visit is over and i’m back to my usual grind, i can honestly say i had a wonderful time and i miss him.

We are very different, my dad and i, but this trip we spent more time sharing the things we both enjoy.

Dad and i are both walkers. We like to stroll and sight-see. So we spent some time doing it together. We took our time around the art district and downtown. We walked my SiriDog, who developed an almost romantic attachment to him. We also spent a day at Chicamauga Battlefield park (If you live in the southeast U.S., and you haven’t been, it is worth the trip.) We had some good meals and conversations. And we made one obligatory Father-daughter trip and went to get some lawn tools for my new house.

After we had the tools, we took an afternoon to work on the yard. The trees and shrubbery were  overgrown from the previous owners and were languishing. Everything needed some serious pruning. I was excited to get out there, on the first non-sweltering day of Autumn, and really get things trimmed up.

My son was not quite as enthused.

Armed with our “implements of destruction”, à la Arlo Guthrie, we jumped in. I claimed the hedge trimmers, hoping that the few pushups i do fairly regularly would save my chest muscles from days of pain. (They did not.) My dad took the loppers and started making short order of what i think were once Crepe Myrtles. My son grabbed a rake and started to bitch and moan.

We tried to get him on board by showing a lot of enthusiasm. It was a beautiful day out. The yard was already looking better due to some tree work i had done. And with Dad and i both cutting, a little bit of order was starting to come very quickly. My son, who was armed with a rake, was supposed to be shuttling branches to the street side for pickup. His 14 year old body grudgingly grabbed modest loads and trudged to the street like he was carrying a large anvil thru a swamp of molasses.

My father is a retired cop, so he has even less patience than i do for such lame behavior. In good humor, he makes comments to my son about how he is being out-performed by his smaller female mother and his old grandfather. Each dig gets a response, and each response comes in an octave higher than the one before. Apparently, while i was in the back yard for a moment, my father and son, who were both in the front, had some sort of interchange that caused my son to lose it. Fast forward 15 minutes later, and two police cars come to a stop in front of our house.

The two cops look obviously confused. “Is everything alright?”

“Yup,” i respond. “Just doing yard work. What’s up?”

“We got a call about a death threat…”

My dad makes his way over.

“Someone called and said there was a girl with a rake saying she was gonna kill someone.”

My dad starts to laugh. “Well, you see, his voice hasn’t changed yet, and he was mad because we were making him work…” My son looks mortified as the officers laugh.

“I have a 14 year old boy myself.  I know how it is!”

“He’s a good kid” i say, “But if you ever see him out and about being a schmuck, feel free to beat him with your nightstick.”


“She’s only saying that because she knows you’re a good kid and won’t need it, ” the officer replies. We introduce ourselves to each other, make small talk, and then we all go back to what we were doing. But now, while we are working, my dad is trying to explain to my son, who insisted he had done nothing wrong, how that kind of attitude comes off to some people. I am chiming in here and there to back up my dad while intermittently wondering who called the police.

We never did get him to understand, nor did i ever find out who called, but it became a running joke whenever he got loud or obnoxious to remind him that he was now on the cop “watchlist”, so he’d better shape up.

On Sunday, we did brunch with my oldest daughter. She and i  have made it a ritual to do brunch a couple of times a month, but it was nice to bring my dad and son into it for the day. Chattanooga is full of incredible eateries, and we took them to one of our favorites. As we expected, it was a delicious meal, and we were able to take our time and really savor everything. After, we still had a few hours before we were to embark on a riverboat cruise (A touristy thing to do, but strangely, in the nearly 2 decades that i’ve lived here, i’ve never done it.)  We headed downtown and after a bit decided to grab a cup of coffee before the boat. We walk across the river to be closer to the pier. There are all kinds of coffee houses all over the city, so it shouldn’t have been a problem. Two blocks off the walking bridge, we make our first stop.

Coffee House 1 was packed. Rather than wait,  because we need to work off brunch, we walk 8 blocks to coffee house 2, which has gone out of business. 6 blocks to coffee house 3, which wasn’t really a coffee house, but a treat shop, and doesn’t serve coffee. 3 blocks to coffee house 4, which doesn’t have any open tables. They direct us to coffee house 5, 5 blocks away, which turned out to be closed on Sundays. Why on Earth would you close a coffee shop on Sunday???

If i live to be 100, no one will ever trust me to find a cup of coffee again.

We wasted enough time that we need to head to the boat. The cruise was wonderful, and the gregarious guide was full of historic regional tidbits that both informed and entertained. Dad and i are also both interested in History, so we were totally engaged, ignoring the call for Bingo on the lower deck.

My oldest daughter turns to us and says, “I’m going to win some stuff…” and she trots off down the stairs with her brother close behind. Dad and i almost forget they had gone below until they came up a bit later with prizes. Dad says, “You really won?”  My daughter mocks offense and says, “You saying i can’t do the Bingo? I can do the hell outta the Bingo! Look what i won!” She shows off a box of gourmet chocolates and a book of a local poet’s prose. We all laugh and lean back in our chairs, enjoying the sights and stories.

Most evenings found us with a glass of wine and a cold plate talking about little things with my son. Just normal stuff. Nothing  fancy or noteworthy. Just cheese and salami and conversation. It was enjoyable and comfortable in a way i didn’t expect. It felt “right”. And i admit, i was sheepishly surprised to find the worries i had the week before were unfounded.

Dad may never understand my purchase of shampoo bars to reduce my use of disposable plastics. And i may never understand his need to buy an actual paper newspaper every single day. We may both wince at the sight of each other growing older. We may never appreciate each other’s taste in wine. We may have different versions of the same memories. But that’s ok. We can still eat and walk and joke with my son and do touristy things and spend hours looking for coffee and be cool.

Yup. We can be cool together. How cool is that?

Just Singing In The Rain

Moving sucks. Even when it is worth it in the end. So you have to savor those moments that make it seem less like Hell.

Bringing our final load of assorted leftover crap from the old place to the new place today, in the middle of a rainstorm, my son comes out with this gem of musing…

“Hey, Ma. Do you know that song, ‘It’s Raining Men’?”

“Yes, ” i reply, with a cocked eyebrow.

“I’m wondering, when they fall, are they whole?”


“I mean, does a man just fall from the sky, land on his feet, and say, ‘Hi. My name is Terry. I’m from Montana. I’m a Capricorn and i enjoy cooking and volunteering at the local animal shelter.’?  Or do bodies just fall from the sky realistically, breaking into pieces so it makes a mess of blood and guts everywhere? ”

“You know that old joke, ‘It’s raining cats and dogs out there! I just stepped in a poodle!’? If it were raining men, would you say you stepped on a head? Or a foot? Or a butt! Oh my God! That would be funny! But then you’d be slipping everywhere on the blood and guts.”

“Can you imagine the umbrella you’d need? Body parts falling everywhere? It would have to be made out of plywood or something. Like, a Kevlar umbrella, maybe. And, man, it would suck for the street sweepers!”

“Also, how would you know it was going to rain men? Would the sky be filled with cumulonimbus  clouds shaped like penises? That would be weird.”

I am silent thru this whole stream of consciousness, as i have no flipping clue as to the proper parental response.  When he finally goes quiet, i relax a bit. Then…

“I hope they just fall out of the sky whole.”

Me, too, son. Me too.


The Human Animal

So, Siridog got her ass kicked earlier this week. Indisputably and thoroughly kicked. Ended up at the vet with shots and meds and a cone of shame, but thankfully, no surgery. I’ve taken to telling people, when they see us on a walk and ask what happened, that she got in a fight at the bar. But really, she got totalled by a cat.

My oldest weedling has two cats, each large enough to be mistaken for feline Shaquille O’Neals. Except that they aren’t nearly as industrious. But they are that big. Clark is a gray and white, cute-faced stoner. Either that, or he was dropped on his head as a kitten. Laid back and chill, you can almost hear Bob Meowly singing reggae in his head. George is a typical gray tabby, except supersized. He is generally pleasant, slow-moving, and could easily be mistaken for Garfield if he were shot in black and white. She has had both of these cats her entire adulthood. And they’ve never bothered anyone.

But as sometimes happens in apartment living, she needed them out of the abode so a repairman could let himself in (They like to try to scoot out when an unsuspecting visitor enters). She brought them to my place with the original intent of shutting them in the bathroom. But after watching for an hour, she saw nothing to prohibit letting them out. Stoner cat was sharing a bowl of kibble with Siri in perfect camaraderie, and George was ignoring everyone. So she made the decision to let them be.

Fast forward  a couple of hours later. The youngest weedling comes home and gathers up Siridog for her afterschool walk. He immediately put her back down because she whimpered. Then he noticed his arms were covered in blood. Rather than freak out, he immediately called his sister, who came and scooted her off to the vet. She was in contact with me the whole time, knowing i would be a mess if i lost my Mexican mutt baby. And she felt terrible that George, who we knew was guilty by his ducking and hiding, would do such a thing.

Now, Siri weighs less than half George.  If he had wanted to kill her, he would have. But in spite of all the blood, there were no cuts that went thru the fascia, and there were no bite marks anywhere near her neck. What that told me was that George was trying to prove a point to Siri. And prove it, he did. He was the Alpha. And tho the outpouring of sympathy was overwhelming and the cat critics were thunderous, i couldn’t be too mad at George. I’ve no doubt that he got too close to Siri’s sleeping place or favorite toy, and she growled or barked, sparking him to demonstrate his mettle. That’s what animals do. They fight to be king. It’s their nature. How can i fault George for behaving the way he was made to?

My inability to be angry at him got me to thinking about man equivalent.

My middle weedling is on her way today to an internship at the United States Institute for Peace. And tho it may seem contrary to send a military person to the USIP, in reality, it makes perfect sense. Douglas MacArthur said, “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” Being able to broker for peace will make her a better and more principled and ethical (And hopefully less war-torn) soldier.

And lets face it, we all want world peace

But realistically, man is, in many ways, little more than an animal. Especially when up against a wall . And we can’t expect an animal to behave like anything but an animal. We can’t expect it to want to be anything but Alpha. And we can’t expect it not to fight.  So in a world fraught with dictators and hunger and poverty~ both in pocket and in soul~ How do we find peace?

The minority religion guerillas who feel threatened and bomb their way to Alpha. The socially disordered who are desperately spiritually hungry and shoot their way to Alpha. The inner city kids who feel disposable and punk their way to Alpha. From a feral perspective, the violence isn’t the least bit surprising. They feel cornered by circumstance, by life, and in an attempt to escape, bare tooth and claw. Just like your average junkyard cat.

Of course i don’t advocate violence. I wish i had the power to stop them and make them all take a breather with some milk and oreos and maybe, for once, try to talk to each other. Try to find a way besides killing. Pull a Robert Fulghum and bring them all to a table laden with crayons and paper and legos and keep them there til they learn to play together. Make them eat together. Make them rely on each other. Maybe then they will elevate over their own nature and become more than an animal.

But the fact remains that we’ve been trying various methods since the beginning of mankind, and in spite of the efforts, there has always been war. On any given day, there are insurgents or enemies or just plain punks. For every bully who repents, there is another to take their place. Which makes for a vile and repulsive truth: Those who broker for peace will never have the success or profits of those who broker for war.

And yet, some will continue to push for peace. Against the odds, they soldier on. Hoping the animal will regain its humanity. Hoping to salve and heal the need to be Alpha. Hoping the human animal elevates itself to something more than the cats and rats and wolves. Reading the news each day makes me wonder how the peace keepers can keep up the fight. They must truly be people of faith. Faith in humanity.

I can’t help but wonder, sometimes, if that faith is misplaced.

But i trust that my weedling and her ilk have the fortitude and the patience to soldier on in the face of history and animal nature. Such respect i have for their tenacity and passion to make the world a safer and more harmonious place. And with her military training, my daughter will be able to keep others safe when the animals rage. Like a zookeeper for human animals.

I guess that makes her the Alpha.


A Birthday Card for Ma

Today is my Ma’s birthday. She would be 73 today.

73. Holy cow.

She was 51 when she died, so i can’t even picture her as past middle age.

I wonder if she would be the type to lie about her age? Would she swear she was 49? Or would she steal Sophia Loren’s tactic and tell everyone she’s 85, so they’ll think she looks unbelievable for her age? Or maybe she’d just say it. “I’m 73, ” with an unspoken, “And eff you if you have a problem with it, ” behind it.

I don’t know.

Would she have stopped dying her signature red hair and let the gray come in? Short and pretty and wavy, tho undeniably gray? The pewter buzz she sported after the chemo actually was pretty flattering on her. Maybe she would have kept it. Or maybe, after seeing my oldest’s new galaxy hair, she would have gone out and gotten it done up for real. Plum and purple and blue and green. The Cora-lee Nebula. She could have pulled it off. She had the chutzpah.

I don’t know.

There is a lot i don’t know about her. A lot i don’t understand about her. And i hate not having the chance to find out.

But there are some things i DO know about her. Things that, even tho she never got a chance to do, i am certain would have become truth for her.

I am certain she would be proud of my sister and i. We have done well. Our weedlings are pretty awesome too, and she would be  so in love with them. And the beautiful great-grand-daughter that my niece has blessed the family with? I think Ma would have her as a personal pet. Our whole family has grown and grown up and found their stride. She’d be so proud of all of us. Ma would be one hell of a colorful matriarch, and full of joy for how wonderful the family turned out.

I am certain my Ma would still be chemical free. Her sobriety was important to her, and she made it her mission to play Pied Piper and lead others to a cleaner path. She was put here on this Earth to be that shepherd. It was evident. It was inevitable. And it would have continued.

I am certain she’d be feeling the Bern, tho i’ll bet she’d secretly have the hots for Trump.

I am certain she’d be lamenting the end of American Idol. And that she’d own the entire Shrek franchise on dvd.

I am certain she’d be delighted at the bawdy antics of Betty White.

I am certain she’d still be the same big-hearted, larger-than-life, joyously funny, universally accepting,  hot-flash mess that she was.

And i miss her.

God, i miss her.

Happy birthday, Ma. Your legacy lives on. You did good.



Winning the No-win Scenario

I am a mother. Three times over. And the weedlings have all turned out great in spite of my shortcomings as a parent. In spite of my mistakes. In spite of my own childishness. Somehow, the weedlings came out wonderful. There are other people who contributed, not the least of which were their fathers who loved them dearly and did their best at this Kobayashi Maru thing called parenting. But it’s Mother’s Day, so i’m going to lay my experience of motherhood out on the table for you…..

I often tell people that i have three “only children”. There are nearly 10 years between the first two, and nearly another five before the third came along. So tho they each have some of the traditional birth order traits, they aren’t exactly perfect examples. Part of what having them so spread out creates is a huge disparity in the way they were raised. My age, my philosophy, my whole self grew and changed between births. It was as if they were raised by three different mothers.

I didn’t have much use for babies as a child. I was never a girl to always have a dolly in  a stroller or make plans for my future wedding and family. My visions of the future were very different, and they revolved more around Vulcan than Walnut Grove. I didn’t babysit much as a teen. And it was less than a year after i moved to an opposite part of the country from my family when i had my first daughter. A a result, i was clueless.

But, i admit, i am a smart and resourceful woman, so i read up as best as i could. I tried to get informed. I made a lot of mistakes. Mentally, i was stunted and depressed and self-absorbed, tho i didn’t know it at the time. I was lost. In every way, i was lost. But i tried.

The magazine feminists who claim women can have it all? Be supermom, shatter the glass ceiling, look like centerfold, and be a paragon of success? They can kiss my ass.

It is impossible. I bought into it, but the stock didn’t pay off. Everything suffered. My career languished. My self-esteem dropped to negative levels. And my beautiful daughter was deprived of so much of me. Back then, the psychology of “good enough” wasn’t accepted, and the push for unattainable success coupled with the inevitable failure was more than most of us could take. (I was not alone. I know of many who fell into this pit.)

By my second child, i knew what a mess i was. Strangely, that helped a lot. I made sure i was as prepared for the post-partum depression that had crippled me with my first. I was living in a foreign country, even farther from family, but i forced myself to take advantage of support services available. I didn’t feel the need to do everything. I was content to be Ma. I stuck with much of the things i had adopted with my first – breast feeding, cloth diapers, homemade baby food… – only now, i didn’t hate myself for my inability to always get it right. I did my best to enjoy the moments with her that i had been incapable of fully experiencing with my oldest. As a result, she got far more of me than her sister did.

By the time my son was born, i was old enough that i had settled into myself. And while that was good for me, it may not have been the best for my son. I was no longer on my toes, pre-empting bad decisions and flung peas. I merely sighed and cleaned them up. I didn’t get wound up when he ate mulch. And tho i called poison control when he sprayed Lysol in his mouth to combat his bad breath, it didn’t render me stomach sick or desperate to flagellate myself as punishment. I was chill. That lack of concern bubbled over into him. He has a nonchalance about life that will preclude him ever being the head of an empire. Of course, he probably will never have an ulcer either, so it isn’t all bad.

Now that my children are more weeds than weedlings, i am able to see more clearly the impact i have had on them. And while it is true that my clinical depression, my aggregate unrest, and my self-ignorance have laid permanent scars on my children; they have also been marked with some good things. They are all three charitable and non-judgmental. They are intelligent. They are curious. They are kind. They are entertaining. They are fearless. They are beautiful. At least some of that had to have come from me. What they are, who they are… Some of that is me.

Wow. It’s amazing when you really think about it.

They really love. They really live. My weedlings… They are truly good people.

So i guess i was good enough.

Maternal Wind

In honor of Mother’s Day, a favorite story involving my Ma. It was from her that i learned to take things in good humor …

For a short while, i dated a guy in the British navy. His fellow sailors called him “Taff”- some kind of geographical nicknaming convention based on a river where he grew up. He was tall and lanky and funny as hell. Even better, he thought was funny as hell. A sweet, boyish face with a mess of dirty blonde hair that would have gotten him written up in my Navy. On my pier watch, he would come stand with me, and we would talk about a million things. When watch was over, we’d hit the break area of his vessel, his chief would issue me a beer chit, and we’d talk and sing and drink with his mates til morning.

To this day, when “The Lady in Red” plays on the radio, i remember him singing it to me one night, wax nostalgic, and wonder where life has taken him.

It was bliss, being with him. He felt (or at least made me believe he felt) that i was the most beautiful, smartest, wittiest woman in all the world. And he never hid that fact from others.  Not even his friends. Until that point, i’d never had a man show affection for me in public. Vulgarity, yes. Unseemly sexual overture, yes. But not affection. It was a wondrous thing to me, to have someone so outwardly pleased to be with me. Real magic.

Once in a while, we’d get a chance to run off. In my p.o.s. Datsun, i’d drive us to the beach in hopes of finding a secluded dune, behind which we could tumble and make trouble. Well, it could have been trouble… If we’d ever gotten caught.

It was one of those beach trips that i was thinking about today.

Taff and i had spent most of an evening rolling naked on the beach. Long enough that we had lost track of the tide. While we were running amok like a couple of playful rabbits, waves slopped our pile of clothes with seaweed and saltwater. By the time we were ready to pack up and head back to the pier, everything was soaked.

It was an hour back to the ship, but only a few minutes from home. So we wrung out what we could and then headed to my house, where i could put on some dry duds and loan him some sweats so we wouldn’t freeze in the night air. It was the wee hours, so we tried hard not to make much noise.

Leaving Taff at the kitchen table, i quietly stole up the staircase and grabbed the clothes. A few moments later, i was supplied, and we dried off and changed. At some point, we started giggling, which must have woken Ma.

The tall, narrow staircase led to a landing. While we were shushing ourselves and trying to stop the giggles, the landing light switched on. We looked up, and through the slight opening at the top, there stood the whitest, skinniest calves ever produced by God, at the bottom of which were what had to be the rattiest, shaggiest, pink slippers in all of New England. That was all you could see… My Ma’s signature stick legs and those awful, but favored, slippers.

She yelled down, “Is that you, Hol?”

“Yes,” I replied, “Just grabbing some dry clothes.”


My Ma cuts a loud, mean piece of gas that should have lifted her right off the floor. For real. It was at least a 4 on the Richter scale. The National Weather Service could have given it a name.  It was gloriously horrific. I was mortified.

“Ma!!!!!!! Taff is here!!!!!!” (His eyes are bugged out in shock.)

Silence for a couple seconds, then, as she shuts the light and heads back to bed….

“Oh, like they don’t fart in England!”