Thursday, January 29, 2009

Don't Read This If You Have Delicate Sensibilities...Actually, Don't Read This, Period

It's no secret that The Partner and I have different attitudes toward sex. He can take it or leave it, while I prefer to take it.

He often goes a week-and-a-half to two weeks without showing any interest. Then, suddenly, the testosterone begins to flow. This time it coincided with a deluge of another kind, and the story that resulted is such a sad but illustrative commentary on the state of my sex life that I cannot help but relay it to you here.


I had just climbed into bed for the evening. The Partner called the dog downstairs for her evening constitutional. I heard the door open. I heard the door shut. I heard "Goodbye" from The Partner's AOL session and I heard him let the dog back in. They both padded up the steps toward bed.

I had an inkling that The Partner might be interested in a little romp in the hay. It had been long enough that even he should have been getting antsy. But then I heard the bathroom door shut, and instead of water spilling over a toothbrush, I heard him settling onto the toilet. Then I heard sounds no amorous wife should ever hear.

"No, he is not," I thought to myself.

Yes, he was.

I was trying to decide whether or not this was a blatant enough foul to call off the entire game when I heard a muttered expletive from behind the closed door. Then, louder: "What did you DO to this toilet?"

I shook my head. I was crossing over from disbelief to shock. "What did I do? Well, I did not just take a huge dump," I shrieked indignantly.

More expletives, and then the deep, bubbling suck of a plunger. I buried my head in the pillow and took in all available air with my sigh. The roiling continued in the bathroom. I lay dejected on my stomach.

Finally, after the faucet ran its perfunctory course over soapy hands, The Partner emerged from the bathroom. His fortnightly good humor having returned, he sidled up to my side of the bed.

"Where did you leave the plunger?" I demanded, squirming away from him.

"On the floor next to the toilet."

"Ugh. How did you clean it off?"

"I rinsed it in the toilet," he said, seriously.

"You rinsed it in the..." I trailed off. I wanted to slam my forehead into the headboard repeatedly. And not in a good way.

"I'm quite the plumber, aren't I?" He was full of pride as he insinuated himself into my space once more with a disgusting spooning motion. The only thing plumber-like about him was the inch of ass crack that I could be sure was peeking out from his boxers as he curved around me.

"Hmph," I muttered to the wall. This was a new low. But it wasn't over yet. I steeled myself for what was coming. You don't know someone for more than ten years without gaining some insight into his indiscriminate use of the double entendre.

"Want me to plunge you?"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Like Brother and Sister

I was in the kitchen when I heard a sound like a little miracle from the living room. It was a 9 month old belly laugh lurching out in spurts at the prompting of a three year old. Not the least of the miracle was the fact that the 9 month old part of that equation had just popped two teeth--simultaneous eruptions of exactly the same height and width in the center of his bottom gum--the night before. It was a labor of love impossible for him to sleep through. He had been a Teething Mimi for the past 24 hours, during which time there were no smiles.

The second marvelous aspect of the scenario was the instigator. The delight The Boss took in entertaining her brother was totally new. Up to that moment, she'd sooner let him choke on a Gerber Puff than divert her attention from the television to notice his windpipe had been compromised. But then she did something that made him laugh. Sequestered in the kitchen, I didn't know what it was. But he did it again, and again. He really laughed. Suddenly The Boss didn't want him to stop.

It's these moments that remind me of the potential that lays before them as brother and sister. It's the belly laugh that brings me to the dinner table where my own brother would put me in stitches nightly. It's the adoration that comes unconditional not from up high, like mom and dad's, but from ground level, down and dirty, where the most fun is had.

The Boss and Number Two have no idea yet how their sibling bond will play out, but in that moment in the living room while mom was away, they may have gotten their first inkling.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

You Can Write a Poem

Write a poem. You can do it. It's easy.

Don't believe me? Here's a template.

I first tackled the exercise on an old blog almost three years ago. For some reason, I was thinking about the poem in the shower this morning. I'm reposting here.

Note: You may be interested in knowing, if you get to the last line, that Great Aunt Sonia has since passed. So too have our secrets.

Where I'm From

I am from Cookie Monster sweatshirts, shrugged on past bedtime. I'm from Dairy Queen and a station wagon.

I am from the chain-linked smell of gasoline and grass clippings. I am from dandelion seeds, yellow weeds and petals of "he loves me not." I'm from lilacs for mom on the kitchen table.

I am from Marlboro Reds by the carton, by the day; I'm from them living while I sleep.

I'm from Faith, Hope and Wisdom, Russian sisters in translation. I'm from pampered grudges with skin soft from attention. I'm from funereal reunions.

I'm from shhhhhh and daddy's sleeping.

I'm from crimson carpets and Sabbath inattention. I'm from kneeling in a straight line.

I'm from the USA. Hot dogs and pierogies.

I'm from the #6 Combination Platter at Hong Kong Kitchen, from tiny fingers on a teacup with no handle, and an empty space in the booth.

I am from Great Aunt Sonia's head, where all our cramped secrets will die because nobody wants them.


Where are you from?


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

When New England Is At Its Most Frigid

If my parents ever doubt my overwhelming devotion to them, they need only look to exhibit A:

I am still living in Connecticut.

They are the only things tying me to this godforsaken suburban box where winter lasts for 7.5 months and you can buy a 1000 sq ft split-level for roughly the price of the South Dakota governor's mansion.

I'm bitter because it's cold. I get this way toward the end of every January, though my inability to deal with it gets worse with each passing year. I am seasonally affected and dis-ordered. I can't get myself together. I would like to sit in the bathtub beneath a heat lamp and read for the next three months straight, but then my skin would fall off and the authorities would probably take away my kids. Instead, I put on two sweaters and turn on every light in the house. I do the best I can. But my February best is nowhere near good.

The Partner and I stay here because of our parents. It's not just that The Boss and Number Two need babysitters; the truth is that we all genuinely appreciate the company of grandma and grandpa, nana and poppy. There's no sacrifice involved. We're lucky to have them and we take full advantage of this time we share.

Still, in the depths of winter, when my lethargy allows me to do nothing but dream, I have visions of barrelling south on I-95 in a Penske truck that will keep going till the thermometer hits 70. I imagine getting out, stretching my arms in the rising heat, and reducing to tank top and shorts. All around are people in a similar reach, tied to nothing but the sun.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

These Are Days

I am standing at the coffee counter, waiting for my order to come up, when Number Two begins to trill in the soft vibrato that has heralded his ascent from the surly depths. Recently, and as if overnight, the line of his lips curled upward and a voice emerged. He used to give the impression that he was humoring us with his presence; now he's a laughing child.

I press the too-sharp line of my nose into his neck. He giggles. I hug him tight and he laughs harder. The air in the coffee shop is as hot and aromatic as a mug of house blend. All the sudden I hear 10,000 Maniacs, and though it could be coming acoustic from the speakers, it's not. It's in my head. These are days you'll remember. Never before and never since, I promise.

It would be easy to shake out the sap, grab my coffee, and go. I mean, how sentimental am I? Instead, I go with it. It's not every day that I attune to my own soundtrack, but I hear it now. I'm resting against the long wooden counter in a not-yet-caffeinated calm. I close my eyes against Number Two's head. And as you feel it, you will know it's true, that you are blessed and lucky.

Life isn't all lattes and laughs. I know this. In general, I perceive my cup as half empty. Maybe that's what makes the small moments all the more embraceable. Number two is a warm puff of baby in my arms. My ear is to his. The song between us is real. See the signs and know their meaning. It's true, you'll know how it was meant to be. Hear the signs and know they're speaking to you, to you.

Photo by Lauren

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Mouse in the House

I think I saw a mouse in the kitchen. I'm going to cry. I've been feeling overwhelmed to begin with; now I'm overwhelmed and nauseated.

My phobia of rodents makes it hard for me to function. The only way I was able to return to the location of the peripheral mouse sighting (I can't be sure it was a mouse and not a figment of my imagination, but let's be real--it's five degrees outside, while in here it's a balmy 62, and crumbs abound) was to have my dog, Roxie, go in ahead of me to sniff things out. She didn't appear to sense anything, so I bit the bullet. The dog tried to leave as soon as I joined her. "Get back here!" I shrieked, not only to get the dog's attention, but to make a general noisy situation that would not appeal to vermin.

I quickly made my sandwich. Roxie stayed semi-loyally by my side. I made sure to look only where I absolutely needed to. I've known for awhile that we have mice, but the knowledge alone is not the problem. Witnessing the low-lying scurry is what freaks me the fuck out. I was proud of my record in our previous home of never having attuned to a mouse. It wasn't that we didn't have any (the house was built in 1790 with a foundation like swiss cheese); it was that I made sure to avoid looking too closely at dark recesses and never snuck unannounced into a room.

It appears my luck, or calculated obliviousness, has run out. It's time for The Partner to don his exterminator's hat again while I begin the deep clean.

Or I can just keep sitting here and blogging about it in hopes that the situation will resolve itself.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's Dizzying

I've been so preoccupied with Number Two's small size relative to other eight-month-olds that I failed to notice he's still growing. Fast.

Photos by Lauren

That's not a baby. That's a boy.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

She Knows What She Sees

The Boss, at three, assigns context through personification. Take, for example, her thoughts yesterday morning when we rose before the sun to bring The Partner to the train station:

"It's not day yet." She was perplexed in front of the bay window as her upper lip guided her face into a small yawn. She looked jealously outside. "The sun must still be resting."


Her reality becomes a story. She fabricates understanding. The Boss views the world from the carseat of modern mythology.

Having returned to the train depot to pick up The Partner at the end of the day, we headed home again via I-95. We were all quiet. We looked fixedly ahead. Several vehicles in front of us, sheets of ice careened off the top of an SUV.

"That snow does not want to stay on the truck," The Boss commented.

The Partner and I nodded. I hummed my agreement in absentminded vibrato.

The car behind the ice-wielding Ford flashed its high beams vigorously. More ice fell. The asphalt took the brunt of the shatter, luckily, but that precedent didn't stop me from shrinking deeper into my seat with each new chunk.

The Boss continued to marvel. "Wow. It really wants to get off."

I nodded again, resisting the urge to put my hands out in front of my face.

"The ice is freaking out," she said.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Wedded Bliss in a Blog

It shouldn't surprise me, being that I met my husband via America On-Line, but somehow the shock is still there every time the world as it appears on my computer screen intersects with the world that lives and breathes and smells and shrieks around me.

A blogger I know named Lauren wedded an Irishman named Sean in a nature preserve before the snow started to fall on Saturday. She was protected from the elements by a gazebo, by Sean, and by a fur trimmed coat that The Boss tells me is something a snow princess would wear.

The thing about the coat--the thing that intersects--is the fact that it was sitting in my own closet just a few days ago. It never occurred to me when I first stumbled upon Lauren's blog three years ago that this wiry, red-haired artist would be making her wedding vows while wearing "something old"--in this case, vintage 70s--from me.

Lauren came over my house on the Thursday before her wedding and mentioned that she had to go shopping for a coat. It seemed that the strapless wedding dress she planned to wear was not likely to stand up to an outdoor ceremony in January, in New England.

I nodded at her dilemma and tucked it away in the back of my head for most of her visit until, seemingly out of nowhere, I said:

"I have an interesting coat."

The momentum of speaking the words propelled me toward the closet, where I grabbed the leather, fur-trimmed ode to Mother Russia by way of Detroit, circa 1978. I paused only a second behind the open door, which shielded me from the living room, before slamming it shut with gusto and proceeding boldly to where Lauren, The Partner, The Boss and Number Two awaited.

I really didn't know what she would think, or if she would seriously consider wearing it. But it's a fun coat, and Lauren's a fun person (I'm not the only one who thinks so; Sean said it himself, and he would know) so I was laying it out there.

Much laughter ensued. There was talk of the coat's resemblance to the backseat of an old car. There was the forced sniffing of musty fur. There was modeling. The leather, aged and soft, fell smoothly over her tiny frame and a chest that had my 8 month-old-son drooling.
I secretly thought it was perfect, but I sent her out the door that night--she was still wearing it, underneath the coat she'd arrived in--hoping maybe she'd come to that conclusion herself.
Which she did.

Photo by Sean

Later, I watched the wedding unfold in video, photos and words on her blog. It's a friendship I couldn't have imagined just a few years ago; it's a technological way of life that could not have been foreseen when the coat came off the rack last century.

Here's to wifey with a weblog and her much documented, much doting new husband. Best wishes for a long life together layered in love, spontaneity, excitement, and gentle surprises.

Friday, January 09, 2009


The Boss was giddy in her perch behind me as I drove away from pre-school. "Mom, do you know what E. said?"

I looked in the rear view mirror to the pink-clad, pink-cheeked girl sitting in her gender-neutral car seat. Stray hairs emerged from under her hat, pressing against her forehead like trampled straw. My nose wrinkled at the sound of E.'s name. "No, honey. What did she say?"

"E. doesn't hate me anymore! She told me she LOVES me!"

The unbridled enthusiasm of The Boss's proclamation made my heart beat faster for a second, then sag in my chest. E. was one of the older children in The Boss's Montessori classroom, with at least 1.5 to 2 years on The Boss's 3. I've considered her a bully ever since The Boss told me that E. had pinched her twice--"Two times," The Boss said, holding her fingers in a V and counting them off, one by one--and made her cry. I know it's best to reserve judgment on the bully issue with children so young, but that would be the rational thing to do. My reaction to anyone hurting my child is much more primal than that.

"Oh," I said slowly, gearing up for the false enthusiasm that was the best The Boss was going to get out of me. "That's good. She loves you, huh?"

"Yup!" The Boss bounced in her seat a little, then leaned back with a contented sigh. When she tilted her head away and began to watch the world go by outside her window, it was my clue that she was done recounting her day for me. My own sigh was less contented. I maneuvered the truck through roads lined with gray snow and mailboxes that had stood up to plows, only to be knocked right down.

Fickle little E. It was bad enough that she'd hurt my little girl in the first place. But now she was invoking the feminine privilege of changing her mind. I shuddered at the thought of each morning in the new world of the schoolroom, where The Boss was forced to wonder how the arbitrary rays of E.'s sun would shine down on her that day. It also occurred to me that The Boss was learning from E.'s behavior that friendship and respect is as changeable as the New England weather.

In the truck on the way home from pre-school, I had visions of another mother, a year from now, wrinkling her own nose as her child recounted the story of The Boss's fickle affection. I thought of girls on the playground running and tagging in a vicious circle. Drumming my fingers with frustration against the steering wheel, I searched for the words to tell The Boss that it doesn't have to be like this. She doesn't have to be like that.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Dusting Off The Muse

Sometimes it's the precise alignment of the words that draws me into a book; other times it's the story. The ones that stay with me, though, burrowed in the recesses of my brain where I would think more usable information might be better saved, are those that weave language and events into a history so detailed it is as if it becomes my own.

Isabel Allende opened Two Words, one of her short stories, with this line:

"She went by the name of Belisa Crepusculario, not because she had been baptized with that name or given it by her mother, but because she herself had searched until she found the poetry of 'beauty' and 'twilight' and cloaked herself in it."

The ability to fuse language, love and story layout in contemporary literature has also been mastered by Nelson DeMille, Pat Conroy, and Anita Diamant. I read for balance: sarcasm and sentimentality; the feminine and the masculine; a series of scenes and an epic journey. These writers have created my favorite books. They've ventilated my best loved characters from nothingness to breath.

If I have a muse, it is my library. In third grade I won an award for writing the best stories. I also won for reading the most books. As my teacher unfurled my prize--the laminated poster of a unicorn--she described the interconnectedness of these two accomplishments to the class. "You can't be a writer without being a reader," she said.

Twenty-two years later, I've still got the reading part down. Perhaps it's time to get back to work on the other part of the equation.

Recommended Reading:

The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Beach Music by Pat Conroy
The Gate House by Nelson DeMille
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I'm Not Buying It

A timeshare telemarketer called to inquire about my vacation plans. I told him I didn't have any and that, when I start formulating some, I will do so with The Partner, who is not available at this moment.

The telemarketer told me he could not wait. His offer for two days, two nights in LAS VEGAS! TUSCON! CORAL GABLES! was time sensitive.

"I am not an idiot," I informed him.

"Did you know that vacationing together is one of the most important things you can do as a family?"

"You can stop with the spiel because I am not going to make any decisions without The Partner."

"I'll tell you what. I can give you all the information about our premier resorts in LAS VEGAS! TUSCON! CORAL GABLES! and you can call your husband to discuss it. Then you can get back to me right away." He spoke with a strange lack of inflection despite the exclamations.

"No," I said.

"Your husband sounds dominating; your marriage, unstable. Perhaps you need to reconnect. In CORAL GABLES!" Okay, so he didn't actually say that. But I was so livid I wasn't paying much attention to what was coming out of his mouth. All I knew is that I'd received this "one time offer" about fifty times before. I don't take kindly to being played by script-reading bastards.

"Listen to me, buddy. If you want to give any information, you're going to have to call back tonight. I am not making any decisions now. And you can just stop acting like this is a special offer and that I'm as stupid as you are."

"If you pass this up now, I'm just going to have to go on to the next person."

I've never been one of those quick-wits who can come up with extemporaneous zingers. I can't even think of them after the fact. My vocabulary at any given point just does not match the vitriol burning inside me. Instead, I huff a lot, and I foam, and sometimes I snort.

"You," I huffed. "Do," I spit. "That," I snorted. Then I slammed down the phone. On the way to the cradle, he inserted the last line from his script. His tone remained vacant and even, but his voice got softer as the distance grew between my effervescing head and the earpiece.

"Thank you. Good bye."

I stared dumbly at the phone. I snorted again. I perched with furrowed brow at the edge of my desk chair.

In my complete overreaction to having my intelligence questioned by this telemarketer, an uncomfortable possibility was brought again to the forefront.

Maybe I am an idiot.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Diary of a Bad Housewife

Sometimes I get tired of my idiocy. For a while it can be blissful, but eventually the stupidity coagulates in a pool that's an aerobic workout to trudge through.

I just got off the phone with a local business owner. I was calling in my capacity as publisher of our town's quarterly newsletter, beseeching this woman to renew her advertisement. The fact that I volunteer [note: apparently I don't have enough non-paying jobs] to publish a 24-page color document every four months is just one example of my stupidity. Another is that I realized, after speaking with this woman, that she requested a change to her ad a good six months ago that never materialized. You can imagine her reluctance to pay up front for another year of wrong information. She came around when I promised her a proof of the corrected ad before she sent any payment.

It's no biggie in the grand scheme, but it's me being wrong again, and the last thing I want is another person thinking I'm incompetent. I try to embrace my flaws and be honest about them, but it's getting to the point where mocking myself before someone else gets the chance is taking up as much of my time and energy as raising two children--which, you can be sure, I am fucking up as well.

I've never felt such a constant need to apologize for being me. Maybe it's because, lately, everyone I know is calling me on my mistakes. I turn around and there's someone more organized than I am, more thoughtful, more wronged, who is politely or not-so-politely trying to fix whatever I've torn asunder, or who is content just to point at the wreckage. I can try to be on top of things, but the truth of the matter is that I'm never going to be the type of person who can walk a straight line of structure. That's my weakness, but it's also my claim to creativity.

I don't like to disappoint people. But I'm also sick of apologizing. I'm sure The Partner thinks that if I just did things right in the first place, I wouldn't need to apologize. It's not that easy, though. I am going to make mistakes. A lot of them. Maybe the big difference between me and the rest of the world is that I don't try to hide that fact.

I would like to step back from my volunteer commitments. I would like to pick just a couple things--for example, family and writing--and try to get them right. I don't get off on inflicting my incompetence on others. But, d'ya know what? Nobody else wants these commitments, either--at least nobody who could do them any better. The competent people are off elsewhere, being productive and paid.

I'm not sure what to do. I don't even know what to think. I just want to be good at something. Through it all is this question floating around as I try, in vain, to get any of it accomplished: is it that I've reached new heights of ineptitude, or that I am just now beginning to notice the view?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Flushing In the New Year

It's been said by some misogynists that one shouldn't trust anybody who bleeds for seven days and doesn't die. It's been amended by certain people with whom I stayed on an extended New Year's holiday that one should not trust such people anywhere near the septic system.

I clogged two toilets over three days with a combination of sanitary products and the morning-after effects of a digestive tract compromised by hormones and bourbon. It was embarrassing, to say the least. The Partner brandished the plunger in accordance with promises made at the altar to deal with my shit till death do us part. For reasons unknown to me, his best friend took up arms, too, applying the black rubber suction with as much vigor, and possibly more finesse, than The Partner. If thrashing around in your friend's wife's excrement isn't a sign of true camaraderie, I don't know what is.

I haven't had a visit from Aunt Flo in 18 months. It figures that she'd make up for the absence by showing up at the ski house and screwing with the plumbing.

It's stuff like this that makes me leery of staying with others for extended periods. Subjecting innocent bystanders to my life can be very uncomfortable. At least when everything turns to shit at home, all the occupants are used to the smell.