Thursday, November 30, 2006

Victory Speech

30 days and 9,500 words later, I have fulfilled my NaBloPoMo obligations.

I'd like to thank God that it's over.

I'd also like to thank my husband for not complaining too loudly when he was forced to wear non-matching socks in the absence of any freshly laundered matches.

I can't forget my dog, who ate poop just so I'd have something to write about.

Thanks also go out to Blogger for unveiling a beta version that ate up at least one of my posts and ensured that anyone trying to stay abreast of my site via Bloglines got the shaft. I eat your hate like love*.

And the one to whom I owe it all: The Boss. You're the reason I started blogging. More than ever, I am truly me because of you. Thank you for being there. Thank you for not being there. Thank you for thanking me.

*Current Google research indicates this quote is attributable to the band Bikini Kill, but it came to me on the penultimate page of an issue of Sassy Magazine circa 1990.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Boss At Sixteen

The Boss's baby book has not been updated since she was two weeks old. It would've been so simple for me to crack the pastel binding on a more consistent basis, inserting one-liners, dates and strands of my baby's fine hair. It would've been easy, in dribs and drabs.

But I've never been one to just fill in the blanks. Empty lines between pre-packaged words are too shallow for my pen. I have to start something, to finish it.

Because I have this blog, I'm not sweating the baby book. The milestones are here. It is the way I feel about life, as it happens. But in between the recollections, however complete I believe them to be, is a lack of some simple detail. The plain facts. Truth that has shed its clothes for some good, old fashioned fun.

So here are the things I've thought about putting in the baby book lately, but have neglected.

- At 16 months of age, The Boss begins to show an interest in books.

- They are balloons, but she calls them "balls."

- She wears her fork as a "hat" at dinner.

- Her vocabulary consists of the aforementioned "ball" and "hat," as well as "thank you,"
"hi," "dog," "that," "look," "eye," "head," "dad," and, finally, "mama."

- After 6 p.m. she tends to walk like a drunk.

- She gives and receives kisses indiscriminately.

- She shows culinary appreciation with a hearty "mmmmm!" after each bite.

- She terrorizes the dog.

- The dog terrorizes her.

- Her favorite food is broccoli.

- She sleeps till ten most mornings.

And thus, my posterity-driven conscience can breathe easier until next month.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thank You

Today I brought The Boss with me into the basement. We stepped over puddles that would send any other homeowner running to the nearest sump pump dealer, only to find out there ain't nothing that will keep a 200+ year old house dry. The Boss wobbled her way along the edges of the trench that ran the entire perimeter of the foundation. There was the thin sound of water in a skinny stream. We stopped at the washing machine.

I was pleased to find that The Boss is shaping up to be the housekeeper I never was. "Here," I said, handing her a sock. "Will you please help mama do the laundry?"

She took the sock. "Thank you," she said. Then she threw it through the front loading portal.

I handed her a tee shirt.

"Thank you." In it went.

Another sock. "Thank you."

A pair of boxers. "Thank you."

Another "thank you" and she was tangled up in one of her father's shirts. While she tried to extricate herself from the armpit stains, I snuck the rest of the load into the basin. I marveled at this girl of mine, who has been saying "thank you" in all the right places since before she was a year old. Amidst unexceptional motor skills and an average vocabulary, it is her manners that stand out.

I can't claim any responsibility for this whatsoever. Not because I am an innate ingrate, but because I know my mother was the one who taught this to her. I dropped her off one weekend at nana and poppy's house when she was about ten months old to find a changed girl upon my return. Though she couldn't walk or indulge in a conversation that didn't involve "da," "dog," or "gak," she would accept the cup from your hand with a "thank you." Then she would sip from it, exhaling with that audible sigh of quenched thirst when she was through. If you gave her food, she'd say "mmmmm."

All these were things nana taught her. From me, she got nothing. No tricks to whip out at a party. No sweet gestures that make others giggle at her gratitude.

It's a sad realization that I must not play with her enough. I don't test her imagination and her intellect with every interaction. Of course, I don't do a lot of things that grandparents know how to do, being that they're generations deep into parenthood and I'm just starting out. Being that they have time and memory. Being that they can send the kid home when they're done.

I know I have to cut myself some slack. But I also have to remember something:

It's not just The Boss who has a lot of learning to do.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Winter Warning

The news on the cover of today's local paper was bleak. Below the fold but still very much on my radar, I learned that we can expect a "colder-than-average winter this year, with an increased chance of snow." Being that cold and snow are the very things I hate most about this tiny section of the USA, I sense that I am on the cusp of four long, dark months in New England.

Not the least of my problems with the extreme season is the idea that any barrier between myself and hypothermia cannot be taken for granted. It is not a baseless fear, this image I have in my mind of getting stranded in my temperamental car in -10 degree Fahrenheit weather on the side of a rural road with no cell reception for miles. Winter is a certain kind of helplessness. I've only experienced it a few times, but there is pain that would have you believe cold can crush bone into fragments.

It is no coincidence that my husband's grandmother, though she took 97 years to die, did it during the record breaking cold snap of 2004. It shouldn't have mattered, being that she was untouched by the elements in the toasty in-law apartment of her son's home, but she hated winter, too. On the other side of an ice webbed window, winter sucked the marrow from her bones.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


26 days of blogging and a holiday weekend behind me, I am feeling the NaBloPoMo drain. Today I take Mr. Moneybags from the clink to the bank with this Get Out of Jail Free card.

See you on the other side of GO, where I can assure you I will not be collecting $200.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Fortune Cookie

I bought a package of fortune cookies from the local supermarket to accompany a stir fry dinner I made a few weeks back. We read our three fortunes that night and I didn't think about the rest of the box until The Boss pulled it out of the cabinet earlier this evening and handed me a little plastic pouch with a thin, hard cookie enclosed. I bit it open with my teeth and handed it her. She wandered away. Not long after, I heard my husband speak out.

As I turned the corner, he was reading the fortune strip from the Boss's cookie. "Your ideals are well within your reach," he told her, sagely. Then he thought about it, and he raised an eyebrow.

He looked at The Boss, who was stretching a tiny hand, her fingers disproportionately long and slender, high above her head as she extended it over the tabletop in an attempt to grasp the cordless telephone laying in wait. One finger after another crept forward on the laminate until she was able to knock the phone off its perch. She was halfway to dialing China when The Partner scooped her into his arms and severed the connection. Then he looked at me.

"You heard the fortune," I shrugged. "It's all within her reach. I think it's about time we started child-proofing this place. "

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving Detox

Thanks to paper plates and giblets wrapped in paper, Thanksgiving at my house went off with relative smoothness.

Late the night before, while I prepared the turkey to soak overnight in salt water brine, I did not have high hopes for such a pleasant result. As I stuffed my hand in the main turkey cavity in much the same way I search, blindly, for my glasses if they accidentally fall off the nightstand, I came upon what I presumed to be the neck. It was frozen to the rest of the turkey, which was strange when you consider that the turkey I so carefully selected and paid for was labeled "fresh." Why the inside of my fresh turkey was a flaking ice cube is beyond me.

At any rate, I pulled on the neck. It wouldn't budge. Then I pulled some more. It still wouldn't move. Knowing nothing about turkeys, I wondered if was still attached to the spine, or something. Then suddenly it gave. I started, and then I screamed. I screamed so loud that one would have thought the gates of Hell opened and unleashed upon me the Ghosts-Of-Junior-High-School-Gym-Classes-Past. The Boss, who was situated behind me in a saucer, did not know what to make of it. So she started screaming, too. She was inconsolable for the better part of ten minutes. Her father patted her back and she bawled over his shoulder while I stood over the sink, my gloved hands clutching a long, frozen neck.

I thought about the way parents are not supposed to show fear. They are supposed to be a safe haven for their children. I wondered how that worked, exactly. It wasn't all that long ago that I was a child myself. When was I supposed to become fearless? When was I supposed to get myself together, reining in all the ragged ends of my dramatic and spastic (one of my friend's coined it "dramastic") personality? My daughter is 16 months old now and I show no signs of changing. Have I doomed her to a life of uncertainty and trepidation?

At any rate, she got over it. I bagged the neck and stuffed it into the freezer for my mom to take home, then I dumped my 20-pounder into the brine and called it a night. I wondered if I wasn't possibly forgetting something, but I didn't care enough to ponder the question too deeply.

At Thanksgiving dinner the next day, as my mother helped my husband carve a turkey I am proud to say was as moist and flavorful as I could've hoped, she peered curiously into the bird. "What's this?" She poked around with the electric knife, then she tried to stifle her grin. "I think you missed something."

"Oh, no," I said, the reality of my ignorance becoming clear. "It's the giblets, isn't it? I didn't take out the giblets."

She held out a paper-wrapped package of innards. "Yes,these are the giblets."

What I've been saying all along--which is that I know nothing about cooking a turkey--is no exaggeration. It's not that I forgot to remove the giblets. It's that I didn't know where the giblets were. When the neck popped out in a frozen mass the night before, I just assumed the giblets were included. It was easier to make that assumption than it would've been to violate another of that poor bird's orifices.

"Well, at least they were wrapped in paper," my mom said.

"That's for sure!" chortled my mother-in-law. "If they were wrapped in plastic, that turkey would've been toxic!"

I had to laugh, too. I mean, how could I not? As we all filled our plates and clinked wine glasses in thanks, I was already fat and happy with perspective. I was grateful for our large and ever-growing family, all present and accounted for; for our table full of food; and, of course, for giblets wrapped the old fashioned way.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for stories. It starts in the morning as radio stations play special programming aimed at listeners in the kitchen and on the road. Demographic studies and Arbitron ratings must have proven that today, more than any other day, we focus more on the words than the music: Alice's Restaurant on the local independent rock station; short stories read by their authors on NPR; tales of the olden days on the A.M. local.

Then family and friends roll in, and the stories get personal. Words like wine flow around a table or a fire-lit living room; they skim the heads of scampering kids. Now the words on the radio--snow songs crooned in the background--are secondary. The Thanksgiving picture is one of sound, smell, taste and warmth. It's more complete than yesterday; so much more substantial than tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Enjoy the tales and the telling.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ask Patty--Go Ahead, Ask Her

Roxie the family pet is making the rounds. Just today she was featured on a Web site catering to the automotive needs of women. If you're wondering what my dog has to do with female drivers, I'll tell you that the connection will become clearer once you stop over to say hi. And after you do that, you should cruise around the rest of the site for a look at the automotive world from a woman's perspective. The site has been featured in papers like the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and was recently a presence at BlogHer '06.

As someone who has been reduced to a snot-faced, blathering mess at more than one car repair facility by technicians who were out to take me for a ride, I am all about a Web site devoted to helping women assume the driver's position when it comes to navigating the slaloms of car buying and car maintenance. If only Patty could also teach me how to merge correctly and not to hit curbs.

Anyway, check it out. And tell them Roxie sent ya.

The Tail End of Autumn in New England

The fall of the frostbitten scarecrow.
May your November nights be warm and comfortable, and your December days not too much of a pain in the. . .well, you know.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

To The Family Pet on Thanksgiving

Dear Roxie,

Upon my homecoming from the Supermarket today, as I walked through the door with a 20 pound turkey hanging from one hand and a 20 pound girl tucked under the opposite arm, I saw laid out before me the evidence of gratitude. I saw that pit bulls, too, can give thanks. It is in the wag of their hind quarters that shimmies out through their tails; it is in the incessant licking; and it is in the fabric of three sofas ripped open with love.

This year, I know who it is that has taken over receipt of your doting energies. I see the bond form a tighter strangle-hold every day. You and The Boss. The Boss and you. She feeds you. You sniff her butt. She drops heavy objects on your back. You eat her socks. The two of you cannot get enough of each other.

I'm sorry I did not take you along for the ride to Price Chopper today, as I know how you feel about the separation. I just thought it was a little too cold out to leave you in the car, and supermarkets do not generally smile upon dogs in the turkey section. Perhaps I should enlist the practiced hand of a mental health professional to write the kind of doctor's note that would allow me to bring you with me, everywhere, in your capacity as my state-sanctioned "emotional service pet"--kind of like a seeing-eye dog, only for crazies. Because that is where I'm headed, buddy. Your love is slowly driving me insane.

Here's what I saw on the floor of the kitchen when I walked in the door just an hour or so ago: an empty ice cream container, a plastic dessert tray, the crystallized remnants of a doubly soiled diaper, and a host of brown baby wipes.

I remember that diaper when it was still intact. It was particularly foul. I threw it in the un-lidded garbage receptacle next to the front door with the intent of bagging it up and dumping it into the can outside on my way to the grocery store. Well, like everything else, I forgot. It's my own fault. It usually is.

I know you love The Boss and can't get enough of her toddling goodness. I know she feeds you every day from her own plate--a ravioli flung here, a waffle square tossed there. Just the other day we had to let your collar out a rung to accomodate your ever expanding neckline. But I have to tell you, Rox-o, it doesn't taste nearly as good second hand. Mealtime with The Boss is NOT a gift that keeps on giving. Just because we let you get away with sneaking morsels of your own solidified waste in the backyard does not mean eating our daughter's poop is okay. Because it is not okay. It is not okay.

You're thorough, though, I'll give you that. All that was left for me to clean up was a few shreds of papery plastic, some crystals and the wipes. I'm sure the bacteria that remain, so gloriously invisible to the naked eye, are nothing a can of Lysol (or two) won't eradicate. All's well that ends well, right?

Right, Roxie. Right. But I'm sure you'll understand why we won't be letting you into our bed tonight. Or maybe you won't quite make the connection, and will patter off huffily, in the dead of night, in search of something else to be thankful for. And if my negligence in appropriately dog-proofing the house is any indication, you'll probably find it.

I have nobody but myself to blame. You, I can't help but love every bit as much as before. Maybe more, because that's the kind of sucker I am.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with scraps never before digested,

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ten Things He Loves About Me, Plus One

Earlier this month I posted a list of 10 Things I Hate About Me. Were this any other month, I would've probably left it at that. But this is NaBloPoMo and, as it's the Monday before Thanksgiving, my time and inspiration are in short supply. To that end, I enlisted my husband's help in following up on the first 10 Things post via this latest bastardization of the game I like to call She Said/He Said.

SHE SAID: Please list 10 Things You Love About Me.

HE SAID: Would five be enough?


HE SAID: Fine. In no particular order, here goes:

1. talented writer

2. does cute things to surprise me

3. popped out a really cute baby (that looks like me)

4. tries a new recipe for dinner several times a week

5. is a freak in bed

6. pushes me to succeed

7. always wears thongs

8. has good taste in home decorating

9. laughs at my jokes no matter how dumb they are

10. likes to go places and see/do new things

11. drives a car that has allowed me to hone my mechanic skills

SHE SAID: Awwwww. But I'm not sure about #6. You make it sound like I nag you. I don't nag. You're the nag, remember?


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday Dinner

Things I should be doing tonight instead of blogging:

- The dishes.

- Something that pays money so that I can afford to remodel our kitchen into something that actually includes counters. Because we currently have none. Seriously. None. Okay, maybe one, but it can barely fit a spice rack and a block of Henckel's. In case you were wondering, that's why we keep dirty dishes on the stove.

- Figuring out how the heck I am going to cook my first full Thanksgiving meal in the culinary cubicle that is our kitchen.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Completely Useless Information That I Would Never Share If I Had Anything Better To Write About, Brought to You By NaBloPoMo

The states in red? I've visited 'em. The rest is a gray void that I won't be happy 'til I've filled.

I want to travel cross-country on a southern bent in a rented Winnebago for the better part of the month of May.

Create your own personalized map of the USA

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Novel Concept

My mother consented to putting a boring, traditional name on my birth certificate because she knew full well it was just a piece of paper. As soon as the ink dried, she set out to tell everyone my nickname.

I was Binky from the beginning.

When I first expressed an interest in being a writer at the age of 5, she told me I had the perfect name for it. "People won't forget Binky," she said. Even at 5, I must have rolled my eyes.

Who knows if I'd ever actually use that name on a published work. It's all moot at this point, as I have yet to commit any fiction of length to my computer screen. The idea of a royalty check signed over to any of my identities is still a dreamy, out-of-focus concept.

However, I have recently finished a 25,000 word manuscript for a non-fiction project I was commissioned to write by a trio in the process of building their own publishing company. The agreement I signed precludes me from going into detail until the project is unveiled sometime around the New Year. It's nothing earth shattering, but I'm proud of each and every one of those 25,000 words and I hold them up as proof that I actually CAN write a book.

If confidence is the foundation on which one builds a novel, then I guess I've got the basement. I even have some tools. What I lack is the most rudimentary blueprint. I just don't know what to write. I've got some characters, sure. I have a few settings. I just don't know how to nail them together, and am not entirely sure they'll fit.

I've joined a blogosphere-inspired writing group that I hope will be just the thing I need to get productive. A few days into it, I can already tell that the experience, discipline, and enthusiasm brought to the cyber-table by the other participants can only enhance my craft.

Now, if I could just find a cleaning group to inspire me to get the laundry done. . .

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Because the lack of communication in my family extends not only to the way we convey information but also to how we receive it, I had to deduce the name of my father’s cancer from a few clues dangled in front of me via a telephone call from my mother.

“Your father can’t remember the name of his cancer,” she said.


“He said the doctor told him but that it's long and he can't remember it. There are three words and it begins with an ‘sz’ or something.”

“You have got to be kidding me.” I sat there a moment in disbelief before practicality overcame me. I held the phone to my ear as I leaned into my computer and fired up Google.

“One thing your father did get out of the him is that this cancer has an 80% cure rate.” A lifetime of hope and fear was in the heft of those words. “I couldn’t believe the doctor actually said it. Cancer. The whole time my mother was dying, her doctors never once uttered that word.”

“Um-hum. Um-hum.” The computer keys tap-danced staccato under my practiced fingers. “Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx,” I said, suddenly.

“Yes, that must be it! Where did you find it?”



“Squamous cell carcinoma.”

“How do you spell that?”


“Definitely. That's it. Wait till I tell your father. He’ll be so happy.” She chuckled at the absurdity of it. “Would you believe he was actually shocked when he found out it was cancer? You should’ve seen his face. All those years of drinking and smoking and now using that chewing tobacco, and still his eyes were as wide as saucers. He just thought it couldn’t happen to him.”

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“I remember when he was a police officer and how he’d always say he was okay with the idea of being killed by a bullet, but he’d never want to die of cancer.”

“So he smoked two packs a day.”

I could see her on the other line, shrugging off my sarcasm. “He just didn’t want a drawn out death, by any disease. But he always said cancer.”

“Then why…” I trailed off into the realm of speechlessness I’d be better off to visit more frequently. Brief silence ensued.

“Well, anyway, how do you spell that again?” My mother was bright with the solid prospects of my investigative discovery.



Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What Do You Do When Your Dishwasher Stops Working?

The Original Perfect Post Awards

The warranty on the dishwasher my husband acquired through marriage has long since expired. Daily, and with a sigh, he resigns himself all over again to glasses that are not quite clean and teflon pans that are indelibly traced with soap scum. This dishwasher--never a finely tuned machine to begin with--gets more unreliable by the day.

Still, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't trade me in even if he could.

I'm a bad housekeeper. My mop is the dog's tongue and my vacuum is the handheld Black & Decker I nose into corners to remove blatant webs of dust. Only when there is not a single family member left with a clean pair of underwear to his or her name will I do the laundry. Upstairs, where no house guests may roam, it is hard to see the floor for all the clutter.

I'd like to clean it all up. I really would. But my messes are slow-growing and layered like certain fungi. To wipe out the scourge would take at least 4 days devoid of any other commitment, including motherhood, writing and sleep. And I'll tell you this: If I had that kind of vacation time coming to me, I'd spend it on the terrace of a spotless, beach-front hotel room with maid service before I'd waste a minute of it cleaning my own house.

I know some of the beliefs I hold, like this anti-cleaning one, are not easily supportable, so I have taken to collecting witty aphorisms that bolster my cause. I will end today's post with one of them, which I discovered on my mother's refrigerator when I was about ten years old. It's been there ever since.

"Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing." ~ Phyllis Diller

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Blogger Scorned

I am going to wait and see if the post I just spent over an hour crafting decides to show up below. As it stands, there is an emtpy space that was NOT there when I hit "publish post" just a few moments ago, so naively satisfied with my words.

You can imagine my surprise when I went to view the fruits of my labor and saw that no content conveyed with the title. I was so flustered, in fact, that I proceeded to engage in a series of missteps that made it so the "recover post" feature in Blogger was no longer an option. Though I have some of my post saved, the final third of it is missing, and therein lies my anger.

See, I have this problem where I cannot make myself re-write something that has disappeared. I just get too angry. I feel like the Internet has robbed me of words that I will never again be able to come up with, and I get so caught up in the rightous indignation of being the victim that I cannot possibly find any energy left over with which to write something in replacement.

I realize this borders on insanity and that it's wholly unproductive, but that's an issue for the psychiatrist's couch that I see no point in burdening you with here today.

So, unless someone has some great advice about how to retrieve lost words from the Blogger Dashboard, or unless they magically reappear of their own volition, you will never know what happened in the Dunkin Donuts Drive Thru More Than a Month Ago.

Somehow I think you'll survive.

To The Person In Front of Me at the Dunkin Donuts Drive-Thru More Than a Month Ago

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Bad Aunt

I am off to deliver belated birthday gifts to my niece and nephew, whose birthdays were in September and October, respectively. I am a bad, bad aunt. The sheer amount of groveling I feel compelled to do at their feet this afternoon precludes me from writing anything of length here today.

Instead, I leave you with this photo of The Boss and my shining star of a brother, who could never be construed as bad.

The Good Uncle, December '05

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Bright Side of a Rainy Sunday

- I slept in till 10:30 this morning. When I picked up The Boss from my parent's house sometime after noon, she was nap-lacking and slap-happy, but she shrieked with the thrill of seeing me.

- I dropped off my brother's clean clothes--laundered with love by our mom--at his college dorm and he joined me and The Boss on a trip to the UCONN children's book fair. We shared an oversized umbrella beneath the driving rain. Inside the building, The Boss gave the hairy eyeball to a host of children's book characters. Each time she turned away, unimpressed, I shrugged my shoulders and stuck out my upturned hands in exaggerated deference to the mesh eyeballs of Clifford, A Wild Thing, and one of the Berenstein Bears.

- We drove home inside grayness that was sopping like a dirty, wrung-out towel. Upon the completion of the evening's after-dinner diaper change, I took the night-ready Boss into her bedroom for a story. I read to her from a book about penguins with tactile illustrations. The pads of my fingers drifted over each page as I spoke the words. The Boss rubbed her eyes and slumped to one side. Only fatigue can keep her down long enough for a story. She's not a reader yet, but I can't help but hope we're getting there.

Inspired by prompt #6 of Margaret Mason's No One Cares What You Had For Lunch: 100 Ideas For Your Blog, which encourages you to "Count Your Blessings."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Let Me Tell You Where To Go

I came across Jocelyn's Stories courtesy of this link. Blogging Baby, I owe you one--not for mentioning this here humble little site (though I am surely surprised and thankful) but for bringing to my attention a blog that highlights the everyday wonder of life in posts both verbal and visual. After reading only a few of Jocelyn's stories, I began to think that her son's look of wide-eyed amazement might be his own early acknowledgement of the scope of his mother's talents.

I could go on, but I won't. Anything I say will be redundant once you discover Jocelyn's Stories for yourself.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Out Of Office Reply

The Original Perfect Post Awards

The moon was low and elusive on my winding drive from central Connecticut to the northeast corner. Its half-buddha belly was the fattest I'd ever seen. I turned a bend near the gold dome of the capital building and the shadowed orb disappeared, only to emerge again next to the sillhouette of another insurance building.

I sat by myself in the car, except for a strange loneliness that was so thick it seemed to take on its own form. There were only indents in the place where The Boss's carseat had been secured a half hour earlier. Now her seat was latched into my parent's mini-van and she was tucked away sleepily in the room I'd called mine as a child.

When I left her for this overnight visit with my parents so I could finish painting our living room, which had been sitting in a semi-finished state for three weeks, The Boss conveyed for the first time a genuine attachment to her mama. I know because she said it--"mama!"--as the tears formed along her lids and her mouth made the slow, hysterical square that always came before the swell. She was wailing.

I stood in the doorway. For a long time I watched her watching me. In fifteen months, she had never noticed me leave.

"You just need to go," my father said from his seat in front of the big screen television, where his scratchy words floated over her screams. "You're making it harder on her."

So I pushed open the door and walked through. I got in the car and was almost five miles down the road before I noticed the gaping yellow moon.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Growing Up

My father has a pain in the neck, and this time I'm not talking about my mother. He goes in on Wednesday for a biopsy on the tumor in his throat.

There has been a constant stream of nicotine in his system, with no exaggeration whatsoever, since childhood. First, it took the form of Marlboro Reds. About fourteen years ago, after the birth of my younger sister coupled with a stern warning from his doctor that an emphysema diagnosis was immiment, he switched to Kodiak chewing tobacco.

My father is not a weak person. He has kicked numerous addictions with not the slightest trace of relapse. If he knew something he was doing--something over which he had control--was hurting someone, he would stop it.

My mother told me recently that he confided to her he doesn't think he will live five more years. Furthermore, he doesn't care. This is interesting on many levels, not the least of which is this: I am shocked he and my mother actually talk to each other. Theirs has always been a marriage of my mother's monologues and my father's "yeah, yeah's." The very presence of such open communication is proof itself that something is up.

I will admit I took a strange comfort in the fact that he is not afraid of dying. But, as mom said to dad, "what about us?" What about the wife of 29 years? What about the daughter who is not yet fifteen years old? What about the grandchildren?

Questions. Right now they're all we have. Maybe we only ever have questions. Living is the big unknowable, and even more than dying, it's the thing we must truly seek to understand.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ten Things I Hate About Me*

1. That my eyesight would've rendered me a casualty of Darwin's theory had I been born before the advent of modern optometry.

2. That I hate talking on the phone.

3. That my hair is too sparse and thin to attractively accomodate the bangs I really need to cover my big forehead.

4. That I am inherently lazy.

5. That verbal expressions of love, sympathy, regret or contrition flow from me like sludge.

6. That I cannot do simple math.

7. That I am persona non grata in public libraries all over the tri state area due to the grotesque nature of my overdue fines.

8. That I am not inherently thoughtful.

9. That, when it comes to house keeping, I am about as effective as a slug--I am slow, I rarely get anything done, and I am more likely than not to leave a nasty residue.

10. That I don't regularly tell my husband how much I love him: for his selflessness; his intelligence; his humor; his contributions to this family; and for the way he has helped me become the person I was always meant to be.

*Meme courtesy of Chicken and Cheese. Go ahead, try it yourself. Spread the self-loathing.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Public Hearing

When I carried The Boss into the voting booth today and closed the curtain behind me, I was terrified that she would pull the red lever and finish out my session before I had even made it through the eleven different charter revisions, let alone weighed in the world famous Lieberman/Lamont question.

Luckily for me, she was too busy playing Peek-A-Bo over my shoulder by sticking her head through the curtain and ogling the gray haired poll workers situated in front of the booth. At first. My luck ran out somewhere around "state senate," which was conveniently where all the names began to float around in an unrecognizable muddle before me. I struggled to remember who was who. Which guy stood for what. I started wondering about definitions, like what it means to be a Connecticut Libertarian. All the while, The Boss pulled my hair and threated to flip switches. Patience drained out of me. She wiggled. She kicked me in the kidneys. I couldn't remember for the life of me anyone's stance on the issues. "I don't know what to do!" I said to myself and The Boss.

"I think the woman in the first booth needs help," the only male poll worker in the place shouted out.

A different, more placid voice was suddenly right outside my metal cube. "Can I help you, dear?"

"Oh, no, thanks!" I said awkwardly, shifting The Boss's weight on my hip. "I was talking to my daughter."

Everyone laughed. I cringed. Then there was that male voice again, either jovial or gruff: "Looks like someone needs to get their hearing aid checked!"

I felt like the school kid getting yelled at by the librarian for speaking too loud in a sacred institution. Then I got indignant, wondering why I, one of fourteen residents under the age of thirty who came out to vote at that particular polling station, was being singled out by the octogenarian set with a God damn joke about, of all things, hearing aids.

The Boss must've sensed that I was at the end of my rope, because she quickly busied herself with her own shoelace. I flicked the last few switches with a huff and pulled the big, red lever.

I high-tailed it out of there without getting an "I Voted" sticker.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Halloween Report

The Boss's first Halloween as a semi-cognizant human being has come and gone. She won't remember it, but The Partner and I know it's the start of many childhood memories she'll come to cherish as much as we do.

She was a little bopper, all 33 inches of her, in a poodle skirt with her name on it and a sparkly black neck scarf. Wobbly on new saddle shoes, she showed off her new skills in upright navigation. The orange sand pail she clutched in her hands was the best I could do at the last minute after I realized I forgot to buy the plastic pumpkin she really should have had for her initial foray into the land of trick-or-treats.

We only visited one house, and it was right next door. To go any further on the main thoroughfare that is our street would've jeopardized all our lives if we chose to walk it and would've been a completely unncessary pain in the hind quarters had we decided to throw her in and out of her carseat for a door-to-door drive. Since she was too young to care, I made the executive decision to hit up the neighbors and call it a night. I think The Partner was the only one who was really disappointed on account of the fact that free candy is a concept he's all too willing to exploit.

The Boss toddled between us, three hands-in-hand. We descended our driveway as the familiar breeze of disbelief swept over me, warm in the temperate night. "I can't believe we're trick or treating with our daughter," I said. "Our own daughter." The porch lit darkness was surreal. I thought about the Halloweens to come, and how fast her tentative wobbles would become sure-footed races to the next house. And I thought, because this is how I am, about the swiftness with which she would become too old for the childish pastime. I thought about the years between her last Halloween as a child and her first Halloween with her own. In the few paces from our driveway to the neighbor's, I thought about it all.

A friend told me about her young daughter's reaction to the holiday and I realized that little girl was feeling the same sort of disbelief as I was, except that her awe was derived from the newness and wonder of the costumes and candy and not from the company. "It's like a dream!" were the words her mother told me she repeatedly chanted as doors opened and shut and her pumpkin booty grew. "I just can't believe it. It's like a dream!"

And it was like a dream. When our neighbors held out a tray of chocolates, The Boss reached in for a miniature bar with unsure fingers. She grabbed it. She took it. She held it up for our approval. Then she went to put it back.

"No, that's for you!" I laughed, while The Partner showed her how to deposit it in her pail and then tried to get her to go back for more. But The Boss was already overwhelmed. I clutched her wispy, pink-skirtedness to my chest and kissed her head. I saw the lone piece of candy in her bucket and smiled.

There'll be much more where that came from.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Random Notes on Headgear

The Boss thinks anything that goes on her head--including her hair--is a hat. She has been known to sit in her carseat and pat herself on the head repeatedly, all the while chanting "hat," "hat."

Yesterday at the store, she put a basket on her head and, with glee, shouted "hat!" Then she did it again, and again.

The Boss's First Hat

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Someone Give This Girl Her Own Show on MSNBC!

With Tuesday's elections drawing near, we interrupt the rhetoric for a little bit of straight talk from one of Virginia's youngest constituents.

"Jim Webb is in a contest, and he wants to get a job. The other guy is bad. Well, not like bad. I think he just doesn't say please or thank you...and he might not share." ~ Bella, Age 4

Friday, November 03, 2006

An Introduction

It occurs to me that I've yet to properly introduce myself, despite the fact that this blog has been up and running since July. Well, there's no time like the present, right? That adage doesn't normally slip so easily from my tongue. I'm ECR: wife, mother, writer and supreme procrastinator.

College educated in the liberal arts, I work at home as a freelance writer. I've been doing so since my daughter was born in July of 2005. I feel more secure in my own personal and professional identity now that I am a wife and mother than I ever did when it was just me. Free from the distractions of a 40-hour work week outside the home, I’ve been able to concentrate on my family, my writing, and myself.

Parenthood hasn’t come easy to my husband and I, not in terms of how we relate to our daughter or how we relate to each other, but it has made us a family. We may not know always how to communicate, but we sure love to talk. We are rabid advocates of free speech, and it is evident in how we raise our daughter. She is currently exercising said right with much passion in the form of "dad," “look,” “dog,” “thank you,” “hat,” and “gak.”

I blog in search of the discipline necessary to the write the novels I've known I would write since I was five years old. I blog in search of the words. I didn't know I was blogging for the community I would find here, but it turns out that's part of it, too. It's a community compelling me to write every day this month as part of NaBloPoMo.

So, for the rest of you bloggers out there who are committing your words to computer screens all over the world for 30 straight days, tell me this: who are you? With a month's worth of whitespace to fill, I hope you'll have no excuse to dismiss this burning question.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Killingly Call To Action

I am sickened. Not, this time, by Staphylococcus , rotavirus or the flu. Not by the cold that's going around or the expired milk in the fridge. What has been making my stomach turn is the nauseating lack of support for education evident in every referendum, budget vote and public meeting since I moved here almost three years ago. Our public high school was put on academic probation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in 2004 and a total loss of accreditation is looming with the start of the new year.

The lack of support for education is not coming from inside the schools. There, people care. I have heard countless positive stories about teachers and administrators who put priority number one on shaping the amorphous minds of children into thinking, feeling vessels of productivity. They want kids in this town to have every resource possible. They want them to feel part of a community that lives for their future. Inside each elementary, middle and high school, our kids know they count.

A loss of accreditation doesn't change that. What it represents is a failure within the greater community, where the most vocal taxpayers espouse priorities that do not reflect a forward thinking and sympathetic mindset.

I've been to town council meetings where the education budget was debated inside an auditorium filled almost entirely with retirees. They slam the Board of Education. They slam the teachers. They slam custodians and bus drivers. They say they are not slamming children, but the children take the hit.

High School principal Mary Christian was quoted on the front page of today's Norwich Bulletin as saying that accreditation is a matter of credibility. "Accreditation is a stamp of approval that shows the community is providing support and stability. It shows we are working on programs and curriculum," she said.

When the high school was put on a warning list in 1998, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges presented the town with a list of 25 concerns to be addressed, most of which revolved around a crowded and antiquated building. In 2004, the high school was put on probation. According to the Bulletin, "little change" or "no change" is the status of most of those 25 bullet points to date.

Time and time again, referenda have taken place on the building of a new school. Each vote is met with a campaign by the "Citizens for Limited Taxation" to veto progress. A vote on the site for the new school that finally passed in 2005 was overturned this year. Though state subsidies for construction ensure that the costs of building a new school are actually less than those entailed in updating the existing structure, the residents most likely to go to the voting booth each time it's rolled out continue to stand by the notion that fiscal responsibility and responsibility to our children are mutually exclusive concepts.

I called the Office of the Superintendent today to ask how I can most effectively stand up for the importance of education in this town, especially as it relates to the high school. Unfortunately, I discovered that there are no organized support mechanisms beyond the obvious civic opportunties presented at town council, Board of Education, and various committee meetings.

It seems that the successful grass roots advocacy of the Citizens for Limited Taxation remains largely unchallenged. If we, as supporters of education, can learn anything from their efforts, it's that the passion and energy of a few motivated people truly CAN make a difference.

Margaret Mead, a student of anthropology and human nature, said it famously: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

But without action, these are only words. Please pass this message on to anyone you know with a vested interest in Killingly's future. Leave a comment with your ideas about how we can prove to the children that their education is one of our highest priorities. If you do not live here, I welcome any stories you may be able to share about successful advocacy in your city or town.

As always, I can be reached via email at

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

File Under "Open Letters, Misc."

Dear President's Choice,

The other day we bought a package of your chocolate chip cookies. They appeared to be very well sealed as usual. When I opened them that night - a night after a very long day of wrangling two insane children, a night where I felt I deserved a treat with a cup of tea, a night where I thought having a cookie or six would make me feel better - I was very disappointed to bite into the first cookie and find that it was stale. Rather than crunching like I expected it to, it was somewhere between crunchy and soft.

It was rather unpleasant and I was very let down since your chocolate chip and chocolate chunk cookies are usually so satisfying.

No, I can't take the bag back to the store for a full refund on your behalf or for an exchange. I ate them. All of them.

They may have been sort of gross, but I was a desperate woman.

Thanks anyway,



Dear Dollarama,

Thank you for existing. I don't know how anyone ever survived before you. I know my mother used to shop at K-Mart when I was a little girl, regularly enough that I referred to my little savings box as my K-Mart box. I would save any money given to me and keep it in that box and then go buy a toy at K-Mart. Still, even their decent prices were nothing in comparison to the joys of the dollar store.

And the sheer volume of crap, um stuff, that you sell is amazing. The other day we managed to buy lasagna pans, a cat dish, hamster food, multi-surface cleaner, candy, socks, soap, art supplies, and Halloween stuff all in one fell swoop. It was also dirt cheap.

Thanks for providing me with a place to buy way too much stuff.



Dear idiot drivers,

There was a reason that the province of Quebec was reluctant to make it legal to turn right on a red light even though many other places had already done so. It was because of morons who are incapable of doing two things at once, like driving and thinking at the same time.

You are allowed to turn on red. However you are only supposed to do that when the road you are turning on to is actually clear. You are not supposed to whip out and veer wildly into the oncoming traffic.

Also, you in the red car? You're also not supposed to sit behind a car such as, oh OURS, honking madly because you think it's your god-given right to turn on the red light. We weren't turning because three lanes worth of traffic were driving down the street at the time and we weren't interested in being involved in an accident.


PS - Nice finger! Look I have one too!


Dear cute guy at the pumpkin stand,

Thank you for being nice enough to help me carry the pumpkins to the car and thank you for setting them right in the trunk and making sure they wouldn't roll around and for being such a gentleman. With all the idiots around (see above letter), it's nice to have someone with such great manners and people skills.

And thank you for finding me two really good pumpkins since I know that it was kind of last minute in the season to be thinking, "oh duh I need pumpkins!" I really appreciate it and our jack-o-lanterns came out really great.

Mostly though, thanks for being hot. Really.

Fanning self,


Dear costume makers,

Next year you should just go ahead and make a costume out of fishnet stockings and latex and label it "My First Slut Costume". What is with all the costumes geared for kids that are revealing and trampy? Do parents actually buy that stuff for their young kids? A 16-year-old in a somewhat revealing costume is self-expression and kind of understandable; I was 16 once too and I get it. A six-year-old in flimsy costumes? Not cool.

I'm almost expecting to see kids as young as ten walking around next year in nothing more than a thong, stilletos, and a couple of pasties and announcing they're dressed as strippers.

Thank you for making at least a fe acceptable costumes for kids. I'm relieved that my four-year-old can be a normal Red Riding Hood.

Next year let's try to be age-appropriate!

A confused mother


Dear parents in our area,

Thank you for being generous with the candy when we were out trick-or-treating. My dauther hauled in a lot of loot last night. My husband and I both appreciate it since we can now gorge ourselves on mini chocolate bars and candy when the kids are in bed.



Sherry is a Canadian mother of two who often composes letters in her head even though she rarely writes any for real. She does freelance web design and writing and when she has a spare moment she blogs about the Chaos Theory that is her life.

This post is part of the monthly Blog Exchange. In the spirit of blog camaraderie, you can find my own Open Letter at Sherry's site. For even more in therapeutic correspondence, click here, where you can also find out how to participate in the next Blog Exchange.