My Bleak Midwinter

In my bleak midwinter i sit,

The grass dead and trees barren,

My breath like the fog on an abandoned pier

In a Bogart film.

Grey and opaque.

My bones are shaking from the chill in the air,

Or my past,

I know not which,

And they make a frosted mug that holds

The slush of my bleak midwinter soul.

The cracking of dead limbs as they drop to the ground form percussion.

The whistling wind sings both melody and harmony

While the squirrels make the bass lick of the shortest day.

My Bleak Midwinter Suite, first movement.

Final movement.

Cold and shallow.

Cold and shallow and yet

Beautiful still.

The cheers of cardinals over the sound of the empty landscape,

The crunch of little paws on frost covered leaves over the mush of mud semifreddo,

The smell of hickory smoke overlaying the metallic scent of the cold ozone.

There is still beauty to please my eyes and ears and nose

And to feed my soul.

For even in the bleak midwinter,

A stone will warm in the sun.

And once heated, radiate and

Warm everything that it touches

Just a bit.

Just enough

To stave off the victory of my bleak midwinter.

Would that i will be that rock,

Warmth in the midst of cold.

Would that i will be the cardinal,

Color in a sea of greys.

Would that i will be the sun,

The eventual vanquisher of

All bleak midwinters

Starting with my own.



“I’m Weeing in the Rain, Just Weeing in the Rain…”

SiriDog hates the rain. Like most small dogs, she’s a bit of a diva, a bit daft, and she doesn’t like getting her fur wet or being cold. So when we woke this morning to some near-freezing rain, and i took her outside for her morning wee, i was treated to full-on Dopey Diva mode.

First she goes to the side stairs of the porch. One step down, she realizes it is raining and comes back up. Then she goes to the front porch stairs, and like usual, seems surprised and peeved to see that it is raining there, too. She looks at me as if to say, “Now what do i do?”

She trots over to the side stairs again. Sure enough, it’s still raining there. So she goes back to the front side again. Yup. Still raining. Back and forth one more time, just to be sure.

“How do you expect me to pee? It’s raining everywhere!”

“Siri, we are not going back inside until you pee.”

She starts down the front stairs. Two stairs down, she gets hit with a big drop from the eave and runs back up. She scoots around my legs like they’re a box on the highway and plants her tookis at the front door.

“Nope. You gotta pee first.”

She barks at me in her annoyed voice.

“But i’ll get wet!”

“Too bad. Go pee.”

She stares at me.

“Siri… Now! It’s too cold out here to be playing this game!”

“Exactly! Now let me back in! I’ll just go in there, where it’s warm and dry.”

She wags her tail.

“No. The pads are not supposed to be your primary pee spot. They’re for times when i’m not home. Besides, you miss it a quarter of the time. I’M COLD! WILL YOU GO PEE ALREADY!?!?!?!”

She sniffs in my general direction and then heads back down the stairs at the speed of an elderly sloth. She wees about 6 inches from the bottom stair and then trudges back up, scowling at me like i made her eat brussel sprouts.

She is still sniffing. Not sad sniffs, mind you, but the sniffs of an overly-powdered aging socialite who is forced to fly coach. She is inconvenienced. She is wet. And she is mad as hell.

We go back inside, i give her a biscuit, and she forgets she had to pee in the rain.

Then i got to thinking… SiriDog and i aren’t really so different. How many times in my life have i taken a slightly different approach to the same old same old, essentially just changing stairwells to the same yard, and been surprised to find that it is still raining. And when confronted with that reality, shouted indignantly to my Master/God/Goddess/Universe, “How do you expect me to do what You ask? I will never make it! And it’s gonna take too much work!” because i feel like i’m expected to pee in the rain.

Kind of humbling, since i generally consider myself smarter than a chihuahua.

But it is also true in that we can both be distracted from anger and misery by a small treat. So i suppose it isn’t all bad. I rather like that quality in myself.

I don’t dare compare myself to the way she humps her toys before she tears them apart. If there is any commonality there, i’ll let my therapist deal with it.


And now, in the relaxing part of the afternoon, we are sitting together on the couch. Me in my slippers with a nice cup of tea, her buried under her little throw blanket and snoring. We are companionable. Compatible. Sympatico. But i do like to think that i’m not as much of a diva. And that i don’t snore as badly. (However, i know one of those things is definitely not true.) In any case, there are worse things in the world than sharing some traits with my dog. I think dogs, in general, tho simpler minded, are more pure and loving of heart. And like every other human on the planet, my jaded heart can use a little purity and loving.

It does make me wonder, tho, if SiriDog thinks of me the same way.




Turkey and Gratitude

I realize that Thanksgiving descends from a terrible and evil time in our history. The beginning of an effort to eradicate an entire race by choosing to ignore the fact that they are people. (Oh, how history repeats itself over and over again…) And tho i certainly don’t condone what has happened to our native peoples, i choose to celebrate the mythical intent of the season. Just like there was no jolly fat man riding on a sleigh at the birth of Jesus, our Autumn holiday has evolved into something more generic. But to its credit, it has not become a holiday of extravagant gifts. It has become a holiday of simple gratitude.

That’s part of why it is my favorite.

The commercialization that has befallen some other holidays hasn’t disrupted Thanksgiving. It remains about sharing and communion with friends and family. Being thankful for all that we have, all the blessings that the Universe has bestowed on us. And food. Oh. My. The food.

Roasted bird. Squash coated in nuts and marshmallows. Potatoes loaded with butter and cream. And heavenly desserts whose scents have become synonymous with the glory of autumn.

I have been through some desperately lean times in my life, but we always managed to have a good meal on Thanksgiving.  A good meal and laughter. So much laughter.

From the year my then brother-in-law kept topping off my drink when i wasn’t looking (And i still somehow managed to win the Euchre tournament), to the year when i nearly tossed a full water pitcher across the dining room by accident (My weedlings still joke when i am carrying drinks that the table looks a little dry…) Oh, and we can’t forget the year when someone brought a Trivial Pursuit game and i drew the question, “What mates with a peacock?”

In the interest of common decency, i’ll refrain from telling you my answer.

This year, a lot of the laughter revolved around a Bill Pullman-a-thon. Independence Day followed by SpaceBalls. For much of both movies, there was a lot of line recitation and bad acting. We all knew both movies by heart. Listening to a group of people quote a movie in unison is always fun. And, come on, SpaceBalls. You can’t NOT laugh. Plus the usual barrage of funny stories and comically roasting each other. That kind of evening can’t be beaten.

Yes, I am thankful. For so many things. For the good food and laughter, yes. But also for my weedlings and the people they have become. For the rest of my family and friends and all the love they have given me. For the life that i’ve been blessed with – My own home, my travels, a job that i love. For the joys of life – The beauty of nature, of music, of art. For those things that make life just a bit sweeter –  Pets, Star Trek, perfectly made flan. For things that i vaguely remember but hope i might see again – Mornings without aches, uninterrupted sleep, sex with someone other than myself.

Hey, a girl can dream.

The point is, tho life is far from perfect, it has afforded me so many things that are greater than i ever imagined. To quote Steve Harvey, “God has given me a life far beyond anything I ever dreamed about. God IS, man. God is something else, man.” God, Goddess, Universe…. Same same. To me, at least. And i am grateful for all that It has given me. Loaned me. Allowed me to experience. Whatever the correct interpretation is. I’m thankful.

I know that your life isn’t perfect either. You have illness and bills and tragedy and a dog who gets terrible gas. I get it. Believe me, i do. Those things suck. But if we dwell on those things, we miss the goodness all around them. So enjoy the good things. Turn the garbage into compost. And be thankful.

To Break the Monotony

I didn’t write last week. And i almost didn’t write this week. Sometimes the daily drudgery gets so overwhelming that i forget my life hasn’t been filled with just earning a paycheck, doing chores, and raising children. It’s easy, at times like these, to think that maybe i have nothing of value to write at all. Because who wants to hear about today’s adventures in laundry? But then i get to thinking about what story gems i have in my head. Moments of excitement that the universe has afforded me throughout the years.

For example:

My oldest weedling and i were once almost arrested for taking pictures of subway art in Portugal. In our defense, the art was really awesome. And it was only the tunnel to the train… We didn’t think the tile walls and industrial lighting contained military secrets, so it didn’t seem improper to take pictures. And there weren’t any signs telling us not to. We couldn’t be blamed for wanting to document memories. The Lisbon police begged to differ.

I was also once chased by military police through an airport in Madrid… Because i was carrying a sword. When they came running after me, i got scared and ran too… Still brandishing the sword. It was a ceremonial replica, a gift for my husband at the time, and it never occurred to me that running through the airport with a sword held high was the reason they were chasing me. When they finally caught me, they seemed surprised i wasn’t drunk. In retrospect, it would have been less embarrassing if i had been drunk. Drunk is usually better than just stupid.

I once was publicly reprimanded by a sheik for calling out the ref (Who also happened to be the sheik) at a pickup basketball game in the United Arab Emirates. Well, the public reprimand was rather fake, to be honest. He knew my outburst was an accident – And it wasn’t like he was trying to hide the fact that he was terribly biased against my shipmates who were playing the locals. So he quietly told me i was making him look bad and to not do it again. Then he told me to cry so that all the people who were watching the game would think he had torn me a new one. Rather nice of him, as i’m sure he could have publicly flogged me or something. Instead, i got a true story that sounds like fiction.

I have a terracotta pitcher in my kitchen that i use to store cooking utensils. I won it in a hole-in-the-wall bar in Spain. It was the grand prize for being able to dance around a chair for an entire song with the pitcher on my head… While it was filled with sangria. Actually, i was filled with sangria too. That may have had something to do with it. Maybe. Probably. But i have been known to dance for less.

Just ask my weedlings. It’s the bane of their existence.

I’ve been in protests (Including quite a few “nurse-ins”) and served in a war. I’ve had varied careers and have equally varied college degrees. I’ve performed on stage, deejayed on the radio, and entertained foreign dignitaries at dinner. I have flown a plane, fired a weapon, and swum with fishes (As opposed to sleeping with the fishes, which i have not done, obviously. Thank you God!)

I have also slept on the ground, eaten cold beans from a can, and been so broke that i didn’t think i’d ever be anything but scrap-poor. I’ve made huge, mind-boggling mistakes. And i once took last place in a beauty pageant. Gotta have the downs to appreciate the ups.

I have had pasta and gelato in Italy, poutine in Canada, and bananas in the Central American jungle. I have also had Japanese food in Jamaica, Korean food in Panama, and Nepali food in Wisconsin.  Go figure.

I have seen the sun rise over the Pacific, and the sun set over the Atlantic. (Yes, my fellow Americans, it can happen that way. I promise.)

I have done so many things that started out as stupid ideas, but turned out be amazing experiences. And i’ve had grandiose plans turn into snore fests. You never know where things will lead when you take that first step.

So as i sit here on the couch with SiriDog, staring at the dining room which needs to be cleaned, thinking about the work i need to do tomorrow, and making lists of the bills to pay tonight… Really, in a way, this is just a rest stop between the last adventure and the next. Time to start planning the next one!

Unfortunately, i still have to do the chores and pay the bills before i get there.


If Thy Country Offends Thee…

As usual on a Sunday afternoon, i’m on my porch with a mug of tea. It’s a beautiful fall day, slightly warm, and SiriDog is enjoying laying on the grass in the sun. The wind rustles the leaves, and my wind chimes tinkle. The spiders hung from the porch ceiling in honor of Halloween sway gently, looking a bit more real than my neighbors would probably like. And my American flag billows as if in a military newsreel.

My flag. If it were human, it would be crying.

Yet another mass shooting. In a synagogue this time. 11 people gunned down while in prayer. Earlier this week, pipe bombs showing up in the mail for prominent political figures.  My disgust with it all is making my tea rumble in my stomach.

The beauty of this country lies in direct opposition to the ugliness of some of its inhabitants. Self-righteous actions of the viciously close-minded are boils on the body of America. Festering, rancid, gangrenous boils. And yet, somehow, it seems against principle to cut off the putrid appendages before they take the rest of the body with it. We cannot become what we despise. Not as individuals, nor as a country.

Part of me wonders how we got this way: So intolerant to our neighbors and countrymen. How did so many people grow to adulthood without realizing that they weren’t always right? How afraid are they of their own lives that they instead spend their time weeding out others’? How arrogant are they who put their own beliefs, comfort, whimsy above the lives of others?

I want to rail against my country. Wag my finger like a nagging and pissed off mother and let them all know what i think:

That we have become a country of narcissists, unconcerned with anyone but ourselves.

That we care more about money than humans.

That we worry so much about our standing that we have lost our understanding.

That we have forgotten the four most important words in the English Language: “I could be wrong.”

I find i have to continually remind myself that most of us are not plotting against others. Most of us aren’t out to rid the country of those who are different from us. And while we do still take issue with some other groups, most of us want to help our country become a better place. We don’t shoot people we disagree with. We don’t set fire to buildings that don’t represent us. We don’t send bombs to people we dislike. I know some very strict Christian people who would still feed a transgendered person in need. And i know some far left liberals who would help rebuild a community church that was destroyed in hate.

But in this era of instant world news, it can be hard to remember that the average person isn’t represented on the newscast. The grumpy old redneck who faithfully mows the yard of the elderly black woman next door, without payment or fanfare… The punk-looking teenager who volunteers at the animal shelter… The Muslim woman who gives every week to the food bank… These people don’t get the ratings or clicks that mass murderers and supremacists get. Blood and hate trump kindness in the news. In fact, we seem to thrive on it.

I’m starting to wonder if Americans just like to be angry.

Well, some Americans anyway. Far too many of them, it seems. Call me a softie, or a mush pot, or a snowflake – I don’t care. No matter how angry i get at the state of things, i will not respond by destroying other humans. Or calling for their destruction. I will do my best to fight the hate with as much love as i can muster. I will do what i can to make things better. I will give what i can to who i can.  And i will vote, as i did earlier this week, for people who i feel might improve the current status quo.

Because i don’t want to hate my country. Or my countrymen. As i look out over my yard, and down the street at my neighbors’, i am content with those that surround me. I know a lot of really good people all across this country. I love the America that i believe in. Even if it seems incongruous with the one in the news.

So come sit with me here on my porch. I’ll make you a mug of tea. And you can tell me something good about your America. The America that you believe in. And maybe also we can share ways to make things better.


Serenity In Tinnitus

I opened my eyes early this morning after my phone chirped to inform me of our first frost warning of the season. When i looked out my window, i could see my American flag blowing in what appeared to be a good breeze. Seeing how i was all snuggled under my new duvet, i decided to hop up and crack the window so i could listen to the sound of the wind as i took my leisure in waking.

I snuggled back under the covers, but my tinnitus is too loud for me to hear the wind. I hate the way it gets so bad sometimes.

But then i get to thinking… Does the tinnitus really wax and wane, or is it just that other sounds sometimes take my focus? I rarely am overpowered by it at work, for example. It is possible that, for whatever reason, it isn’t as bad at that time. But it seems equally as likely that my mind is in “work mode”, and so is ignoring the whooshing and ringing in my ears to concentrate on the sounds of the office. I give it a shot and try to focus on the sound of the wind. Still no luck. So i try harder. But the discordant droning in my head plays on.

Grrrrrrr. Stupid ears!

I remember reading somewhere that TMJ issues can worsen tinnitus. Since i have had long-term TMJ damage with multiple corrective surgeries, i deduce that maybe my growing frustration isn’t helping matters any, and try the opposite route. I physically relax my body, breathe deep, and try to forget about the wind, concentrating instead on the feel of the duvet against my skin and the leftover scent of the infuser i set last night. It doesn’t seem to work at first…

But as i continue to breathe in the custom blend i made last night (Clary sage, geranium, and tangerine, in case you’re interested) and revel in how good my bed feels; little snippets of rustling leaves come to me. And as dawn begins to break, the owls start with Last Call.

My neighborhood owls are freakin’ LOUD.

That definitely claims my aural attention.

And once it is there, the rest of nature follows suite and starts wandering into my ears. For a few minutes, i think of nothing else but those sounds. Those beautiful, god-like sounds.

Then the thought comes to me – I wonder if that is what serenity is? Letting those god-like moments claim your focus, instead of all the crap we encounter day-to-day guiding our thoughts? When i am listening to the owls and the wind and the rain, my tinnitus isn’t really gone… Whether by biology or psychology, it is just relegated to the background. What if i could learn to take that same approach to the rest of life? What if, instead of attaching my attention to bills, and politics, and the ever-wobblier hi-helens under my arms, and the inconsiderate schmuck who came barrel-assing the wrong way up a one way parking lot lane this morning and nearly ran me over… Effing moron…. What if i could redirect myself to occupy my mind with the wonderful things my weedlings do, the taste of the perfect tea blend in my cup, the music coming out of my laptop (One of my favorites – The Ramin Djawadi Amazon Prime station), and the scent of autumn that is in the air? The crap that life tosses at us, sometimes like it’s playing a championship game of dodgeball, wouldn’t go away. But just like the tinnitus, perhaps it can be relegated to a less prominent part of my brain, and therefore, become less annoying.

I’m not talking about the serious issues that need to be dealt with here. Health problems, personal safety, parenting – true responsibilities…. These are things that need tending and should never be ignored. I’m talking about the guttersnipe who cut ahead of you in line at the deli. The demon who keeps stealing your reading glasses and hiding them in places you KNOW you didn’t leave them. The evil pranksters who choose the fit models for every women’s clothing company in America. The piece-of-dung reprobate who uses the last of the toilet paper and doesn’t replace it. And the unforgiving rush-hour traffic gods.

You know – The generic assholes and frustrating drudgery that are the gristle on the meat of life.

Lets face it, we can’t get rid of these things, so it doesn’t really make sense to let them rule our moods. I, for one, am incapable of doing this without help. Hell, even with help, i am often incapable. So i am hoping that regular practice of my morning tinnitus breakthrough might gain me a little ground and growth in that area. Maybe it will make me a more relaxed person. If i can just learn to turn my attention away from unhelpful things.

I think this is why the yoga crowd is usually far more peaceful… They’ve learned how to focus all their attention on not falling over when they are standing on one toe with their other appendages fanned out like an abstract peacock – Thereby stealing their focus from the bullshit of life. You rarely see a yoga instructor screaming obscenities at the driver in front of them, so it must work.

If i am wrong, don’t tell me. Let me stay deluded. I need something to hope for.

I am going to try this kind of deliberate redirection of concentration as a life theory. It won’t be easy. I mean, it took my obnoxiously loud neighborhood owls to snap my attention to the wind. Perhaps i need to occasionally smack myself upside the head with some lavender branches or smoosh my face into a slice of freshly baked bread (You know, to make sure i get both the taste AND the smell…) I do have some tools already in my arsenal, but they won’t work for all occasions. I have been known, for example,  to visit the cubicles of certain people at work during high stress times because their hugs have enough warm energy to pull my brain away from the frustration; but i can’t be doing that every time i need to chill… Human Resources would take issue with it, and i’d never meet my deadlines. So i need to find other figurative loud owls. If there were a cannoli shop close by, that would work, but my arse would probably grow to be the size of Wisconsin – So i’m probably lucky i don’t have one near me. I will have to come up with something that doesn’t get me in hot water or worsen my aging bat wings.

But a cannoli really does sound like a good idea.

Anyway, so here’s to continued efforts to learn to drown out those things we cannot change. To cut out the moldy bit in the corner and enjoy the rest of the perfectly aged cheddar. To take pleasure in the intense blue of the sky in spite of the weather report for rain later. To be proud that we earn a paycheck rather than being disheartened at the amount of it. To remember the man who held the door instead of the one that cut us off. To live by compliments rather than insults. If we can find that serenity, perhaps it will boost out courage to change the things we can, and increase our wisdom in knowing the difference.


“Next Rest Area: 1,000 Miles”

It has been an emotional couple of weeks. Last week was overwhelmingly sad and scary (And not just because of the news.) This coming week will be just as overwhelmingly joyous and celebratory. And in between, there have been moments of humor, exhaustion, sweetness, anger, numbness, friendship, and loneliness. Granted, all of these things are a part of life and experienced regularly. But they aren’t usually all jammed into a couple of weeks.

Kind of like binge watching all of Game of Thrones in a single day.

Highs and lows, up and down, like a San Francisco street car.

Tom Cochrane may have sung that “Live is a highway”, but i would say that isn’t necessarily a good thing. If your life is like a highway in north Jersey, for example, riddled with potholes, crazy high tolls, and the aromas of Newark … Well, it would be easy to wish you stayed in bed.

Sometimes life has been more like a highway in DC. Overrun with self-serving and dishonest schmucks who refuse even the smallest bit of graciousness by letting you into the fray. With no one giving you a break, you end up railroaded off an exit and into a neighborhood even rabid dogs won’t go near. You tearfully make your way back to the interstate, just hoping you get there before someone carjacks you.

Far too often life is like a highway in NYC or LA – So crazy busy and congested that you can’t get off the highway to pee, never mind eat. You just keep your mind on your destination, cross your fingers and your legs, and hope you get to the end point before you lose your mind or wet your pants. (All the while assuming that you are going the right way, even as you see a landmark that you are sure you passed 20 minutes ago…)

At other times, life can be like a highway in Louisiana. What was once beautiful is now broken. The landscape, still half drowned in rain and tears, is a reminder that nothing in life is indestructible, and not everything is fixable.  You curse Mother Nature, the government, and people’s short memories as you envision what was and what should be. You think about what could be. But you know that even if effort goes in, things are never the same after. The melancholy and resignation is palpable.

When we are lucky, life is like a highway on the Pacific Northwest coast – Long swaths of panoramic views that take your breath away and remind you that God/Goddess/Universe was a freaking artistic genius. Beauty. Majesty. All four earth elements existing at once. Awesome in the literal sense. The caveat to this is that, sooner or later, most of us have to move on to find work or purpose. (Or maybe it’s that most of us can only take viewing so much beauty before we need some urban filth and grit to balance it out. What do i know? I’m not Voltaire.)

Of course, there are the intermittent times when life is like a highway in Kansas. Easy, breezy, and boring as hell.

But lately, for me, the highway of life has been like Rhode Island. At times dirty, dismal, and depressing; other times, picturesque and coastal; sprinkled liberally with all forms of suburbia, good, bad, and ugly… And the whole thing passing so rapidly that you have to pull over at the local Friendly’s and rehash it in your brain to be sure you didn’t miss something. It seems impossible that all that stuff has passed in only an hour.

Truthfully, i hope the next part of life’s highway has Glacier Lake view and a reasonably priced upscale hotel; but with my luck, it will be overrun with dead deer and abandoned truck stops. Ok, that’s an exaggeration. Realistically, i will have to settle for the nice-enough scenic overlook and a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar from the gas station to refill my tank. Thankfully, both of those things are known to keep me from running on empty, even if they aren’t the stuff of pop songs.

So, my friends, if your highway of life has lately been overwhelming, know that it isn’t you. It’s the stars or the gods or statistics or whatever. And all we can do is keep driving. Even the worst traffic jams eventually make their way to open road. And if you keep driving straight ahead, sooner or later, you’ll be at a beach. And things are always better at the beach. Right?


One last thing… The following Stephen King quote always makes me laugh, and much of the reason is that a small part of me wonders if it’s true….

“When his life was ruined, his family killed, his farm destroyed, Job knelt down on the ground and yelled up to the heavens, ‘Why God? Why me?’ And the thundering voice of God answered, There’s just something about you that pisses me off.”

Touché, Universe. Touché.

You Can Name Your Dog “Giraffe”, But He’s Still Gonna Bark

I was out dress shopping today. My niece is getting married, and my closet shrunk my tuxedo. (I hate when it does that.) I will eventually get another, but they aren’t easy to find, so i decided to get a dress for the occasion.

Off i go to a department store that i knew would have some options.

I’m not a fan of clothes shopping, and even less so of crowded department stores. Thankfully, after 52 years on this earth, i know what i like and what generally works for me. So i make a circular pass of the “special occasion” section and grab about a dozen potentials. I don’t look at brands or tags. Just grab what “looks like me” and seems about the right size.

Into the changing room. I take the corner stall. The other two are occupied by teenagers shopping for homecoming.

I really wish Chattanooga had a Nordstroms or something. Far too many of the options were decidedly stuck in “Bible Belt Grandmother” zone. Between my currently blue hair and the ink scattered about my body, it’s pretty obvious that most of these styles would probably jump off my body like a socialite off the Titanic. But i tried to make the best of it. You know, i mean, sometimes things that look like your Aunt Gertrude’s favorite tablecloth on the hanger might look better on a body. And polyester isn’t ALL bad.

I start trying them on, one by one. Well, except for the one that got stuck halfway over the ducks. I damned near had to ask one of the highschool girls for help… Except that my arms were stuck in the dress too, so i don’t know how i would have let them in. I did manage to get it off without ripping a seam. I should win a Houdini award for my efforts.

If i ever go truly bonkers, instead of a straightjacket, just shove a sequined grandma dress over my head in a size 6. That should keep me contained for a while.

By the time i got to the very last dress, i was D O N E. Disheartened, disenchanted, and disgusted. I felt lumpy and dumpy and frumpy. Thankfully, my mood was about to be spared.

The last dress didn’t look like much on the hanger. A knit blush-colored sheath with silver sparkles. A bit generic, but i liked the sparkles. (I refuse to offer up an excuse for that.) So i unzip and step into it. It’s about a half-size too big, but given my recurring cravings for ice cream lately, that isn’t a bad thing. I checked it out in the 3 way mirror. Belly bulge is only about a 2  or 3 on a 10 scale, cleavage is barely within “appropriate for church”, and it even makes me look like i have an ass that isn’t a husband or boyfriend. Not bad! I can do this!

I check the price tag. Redline. And today’s sale means another 50% off that.


I’m pretty sure i giggled out loud as i went back into the changing room to finish up. I took off the dress and put it back on the hanger.

That’s when i saw it.

The size tag.

Now, just 15 minutes before, i had been talking with the young girls in the other room and reassuring them that they looked beautiful. That they weren’t too big. Or bumpy. Or unsightly. They were just right and their dates were sure to be pleased. (And not just because i had seen both in other dresses that barely covered their underoos.) I gave them the whole feminist momma view. And i meant it. For them.

For me, however, that was different. I’ve been a size 8 for the last 5 years. A 10 if it won’t stretch to cover the ducks. But this dress was a 14!


The intellectual in my head knows that a tag is just a tag. Heaven knows where they get their fit models, or if they are even remotely industry standard. My desk job has me bigger than my old size 6, but i am still healthy and vital and well within acceptable BMI for my age.

But the diva in me was horrified.

How could i have let this happen? I mean, yes, i’ve been eating Hagen Daz every night, but only a third of a pint. That’s moderation, right? I mean, my only other vice lately has been a jumbo bag of black licorice. (Side note: Don’t eat a dozen pieces in one sitting. It ends badly. Trust me on this one. ) I haven’t been gorging on cheese or bacon. I haven’t been drinking. And i haven’t been any more lazy than usual. It’s hard enough being 52 and single. But 52 and 3 sizes up from my usual?

The world must never know. I can’t get the dress. I can’t. Because it would be admitting i wasn’t what i thought i was. Even as i thought it, i knew it was garbage, but i couldn’t shake it.

Mind you, the reality that no one was likely to ever see the inside of that dress, regardless of the tag, never crossed my mind. This isn’t a Vince Vaughn movie. I’ll be disrobing in the dark with my dog. And doggie can’t read. And doggie don’t care anyway.

Like i said, i wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking that if i purchased a size 14 dress, i was somehow devaluing myself.

But then i thought about the likelihood of finding one i liked as much, and finding it at such a bargain besides… All within the next 2 weeks… Sigh. I knew i was going to have to swallow my pride. So i started giving myself the same lecture i gave the girls earlier. I can’t honestly say it made it any easier, even if i knew i was right. There is something about a tag that can destroy a person’s self-confidence. Even when we know the number is meaningless.

I often shop at a store called Chico’s. They size their clothes much differently. In their line, i wear a 0 or 0.5. And yes, it does kind of make me feel special to be able to go straight to the “Size 0” rack. But the reality is, the pants that i bought there last week fit as well as the size 14 dress i bought today. Obviously, the number is just a number and bears no consistent definition when it comes to clothing. Neither the 0, nor the 14. They are, obviously, essentially the same, since my same body can fit into them. Just like a “natural” label on a carton of eggs, or “fair and honest” on a political ad, those numbers are just constructs with little concrete meaning. Infusing them with importance is just, well, daft.

Labels, in general, are meant to be guides as to where things fit. Clothes, countries, people… We slap them with tags in an effort to find a place for them in our brains’ file cabinets. That size is big. That country is backward. That person is different. But the labels really have very little meaning. There is no industry standard. All of our measuring sticks are in different units of measure, and we all use different fit models. “Civilized” by your standards may not be the same as “civilized” by mine. “Eccentric” by my standards is probably different from yours. Hell, even more concrete terms like “dark” and “light”… Other than the extremes, the rest is just opinion.

So why do we place so much importance in them?

As usual, i don’t really have an answer. Someone in some prestigious psych / sociology program is probably spending more hours than i have to study and figure it out. I’ll leave it to them. But i hope the next time a label hits you in the face like a dirty diaper, you will be able to calm yourself by remembering that “label” doesn’t equal “truth”. Either something fits, or it doesn’t. The label doesn’t change that.

You can name your dog “Giraffe”, but he’s still gonna bark.

The Edge of Parenting

This is a true story, and i share it because i think it’s important for all parents to know that when they have these errant and bad thoughts, they aren’t alone.

Heinlein once said that it takes a human mother to bear a human child. But human children have the uncanny ability to channel the behaviors of animals far less civilized. At various points, they bite like vipers, they get mean like chihuahuas, or they scream like howler monkeys. I have personally seen my children become grizzly bears, wild boars, snapping turtles, and during their teenage years, weasels. And a human mother (Or father) isn’t always equipt to handle these biological morphings. Sometimes, we need help. It doesn’t mean we are bad parents, or bad people. It just means we are human.

My middle daughter, who turns 21 today, was born when i was living out of the country. Our area of the multi-service base was rather small, and we were a tight-knit community. The fenced in arrangement of identical cement block duplexes was a safe haven, and our children could roam and play with a freedom that few neighborhoods afford nowadays.

When she was still an infant, my daughter caught an ear infection. Up til that point, she had been a fairly easy baby – Mostly happy with very little screeching. However, anyone who has ever had an ear infection knows that it is misery. My poor little weedling had a crazy high fever, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t nurse, and was in terrible pain… As was evidenced by the incessant, ear-splitting screaming that cut through every part of my body straight thru to my heart. I’m talking the kind of high-pitched siren that shatters glass, cracks dental fillings, and makes dogs wince and run for cover. Medicine, iced teething rings, cool baths, soothing music, rocking, walks… Nothing made it stop. And i’m not talking a couple hours here. This went on for days. Literally days. I knew it wasn’t her fault, but I got closer and closer to the edge of my sanity. The passing vision of my head exploding gave way to more realistic pictures of me taking a hammer to my head. Or putting a muffler over her mouth. Anything to make the noise stop.

I ended up reaching a point where i could feel my internal switch begin to flip. I was shaking and almost in a panic. Thankfully, something in me spoke up. It was like  a pair of hands were guiding my own as i put my possessed, screaming daughter safely in her crib, pulled up the side rails, turned around and walked out. Walked out of her room and out of my house.

Four doors down was one of my closest friends on base. Her husband was the unit’s corpsman (Medic, for you non-service folk). And she had two teenage daughters.

I walked in her house, sat down at her kitchen table, and said, “Can one of your daughters please go to my house?”

She later told me that i was white as a sheet. She immediately sent one of her daughters over.

Then i cried. I cried because i felt like a terrible mother. I cried because i couldn’t take the screaming. I cried because i was so afraid. Afraid i was going to lose it. Afraid i was going to snap. Afraid i was going to hurt my daughter out of my own frustration.

At some point, she had called her husband, but while she waited for him, she listened. She made me a cup of tea. She told me i had done the right thing to come get help. She empathized. She calmed me. And then her husband came home and gave me the most wonderful gift.

Foam ear plugs.

He explained that they would not drown out everything, but would take the edge off. He echoed his wife that i had done the right thing to get help. He asked me some questions that i now know to be a screening, to determine if i needed further care.

An hour after i had walked out, i walked back. I found my friend’s daughter rocking my baby, who was still crying, but less so. I was renewed enough not to need the ear plugs yet, but i was glad to know they were there just in case. I hugged the teenager who came to my rescue. I packed my daughter up in her carriage, grabbed another set of plastic keys (The little monkeys in the area were forever stealing those and sippy cups out of carriages and strollers) and set off for a walk.

That was the one and only time i ever felt the need to leave. But i am grateful that i could. That i had friends to call upon who would help without judgement. Because we have all been there (If you haven’t, you will be). It might be an ear infection, or the terrible twos, or it might just be you –   Short-tempered from a bad day at work. We all get near that switch. It’s important to know what options you have in those situations. To know how to keep your children, and yourself,  safe. To know where to find professional help if it becomes a recurring problem. And to know that recognizing those moments is crucial and doesn’t make you a terrible person or mother. In fact, it means we are paying attention, and hopefully it makes us more sensitive to the moms that come after us so we can offer help before they get to that point.

In any case, if you are a mom and you are close to the edge, reach out. To friends, to a counselor, to your pediatrician… Someone. And don’t feel badly about doing so. It is better to ask for help than to cross that line.  Your little heathen animals will challenge you ever chance they get. That is part of their job. Take the challenge.

And don’t hesitate to call in reinforcements when the challenge is too great.


*** If you are needing help, google parenting  groups and / or social services in your area. If you are in crisis, dial 911, call your local hospital or mental health facility , or try 1-855- 4A PARENT (1-855-427-2736) to reach the Parents Anonymous hotline. There is help out there. These are only a few of the options. 

Night Music

Nature is loud tonight.

Cicadas and crickets playing their tunes.

Tree frogs and stray cats singing along.

Owl hoots and bat wings setting the beat.

Thunder rolling in the background like

The rattle of speakers too small for the music.

My pup’s nails click as she trots down the road,

Her occasional pause to sniff and snuffle

Like jazz scatting.

The hard road is just a few yards away,

But i can barely hear the cars over the din

Of the gloaming.

The scent of the mimosa trees is so strong and heady,

It becomes an opera of its own.

The feeling of the damp and warm air –

The cork in my sound booth.

My own, personal concert.

Just me and The Goddess.

Gaia is drowning out my thoughts,

My worries.

She, the Mother of all Mothers, is enveloping me.

I drown in Her embrace

And am grateful.