Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone. Get ready because tonight marks the beginning of a year long onslaught of news stories, articles and TV programs devoted to the coming apocalypse. By next December you'll be so sick of hearing about it that you'll wish the world was ending, which it isn't by the way.

New Year's Eve is one of those days for me, like stinking Valentine's, that always disappoints because it's so heavy with expectation that the night can never live up to what you think it ought to be, or what it looks like in movies, or other people's lives. I'm kind of a New Year's Scrooge and I plan on staying that way. I'm so damned tired that I know I won't last 'til midnight and I'm having dinner with my parents tonight. It's kind of like when we were growing up. My parents never went out back then and they'd have champagne while we had soda and everyone would share a platter of Ritz crackers, pepperoni and longhorn cheese while we watched Dick Clark. It was great.

I'm making a big resolution this year. A few piddly ones too, but one big one. Wait, two. Resolution One is to finish the book, but I think I've got that under control for the most part.

2012 will be the year of NO GOSSIP.

A few awful things have happened this year to people I cared about and I watched as they became the fodder for gossip and I was close enough to the situations at times that people came to me for information and I could tell it wasn't because they genuinely cared about the people involved. It was because they wanted juicy bits. Sometimes it's for entertainment. Other times it's out of jealousy or spite. Schadenfreude. When people feel badly about themselves they love to hear stories about others who seemed to have it all and then got knocked down a few rungs and that is a shitty way to be. 

I began to feel, I mean really feel, gossip's negative energy and how damaging and rotten it is to talk about people behind their backs. Gossips always say they were just curious or they care about the people but if you care about someone, don't talk about them behind their backs. Go directly to them and ask them yourself. Ask if you can help, let them vent, whatever, but don't talk about them when they aren't around and speculate and offer theories and say what you'd do in that situation or act like these people are another reality show with drama contrived just to entertain your sorry ass.

Our society is drama driven and we're totally desensitized to the suffering and emotions of others. Think about it. We watch other people's personal lives for fun now. We watch shows in which producers, for ratings, put people in situations that mess with their emotions so that we can gasp in horror and laugh at them. We're riveted by this crap and don't think that your obsession with the Kardashians or Teen Mom won't spill over into your real life until the lives of your friends and family and people around you become as meaningless to you as the lives of strangers on screen.

I'm guilty of it. Being a writer, I have always had a problem with this due to my love of a good story but I need to mindful about this tendency.

Gossip is a monster. People who thrive on it are beasts. Don't fuel them. Don't give them information. Don't let them talk about others to you. Call them out on it. Don't feed the monster.

Last, I saw this article that a reader posted on facebook and I read it in the middle of the night. It is so simply brilliant that I want you all to read it. Please. Here it is. It's about twelve stupid things to never do again. I'm a comparer. I need to stop.

Happy New Year all. Behave yourselves. Stay safe and don't forget your collards and black eyed peas tomorrow.
Thursday, December 29, 2011

Parenting is Not a Career

Recently I had the pleasure of hearing two men make ignorant and insensitive remarks to their wives regarding their parenting responsibilities and the more I think about it, the madder I get.

The first man, whose wife was pregnant, was asked by a friend if he was ready for the sleepless nights that come with a newborn (and forever if you're me) and the man replied that he would be sleeping just fine because he wouldn't get up with the baby. He was the one with the job, you see, and his wife wouldn't be working. Her job was to take care of the baby. Since he worked all day ,when he got home, baby duty wasn't happening and his life would carry on just like before.

The second man didn't care to relieve his clearly exhausted wife of baby wrangling so that she could enjoy a moment of peace on Christmas. When asked, her husband also replied that her job was to take care of the baby because she didn't work and he had to go to the office every day to support them, therefore he shouldn't have to watch the baby during his time off.

There's a lot I'd like to say to these guys, but I'll refrain from cussing them out, and if I hadn't heard this sentiment reiterated numerous other times I'd probably not bother writing this, but dammit, parenting is not a career. You cannot equate it with having a job. It is work yes, but it is not employment. Being a nanny is a career. Being a parent is something else entirely.

Let me make it clearer for these guys, who have clearly been watching too much Mad Men and have somehow trapped their worldviews in the 1950s.

First, thank you for working to support your family. This is a wonderful thing and we stay at home moms are grateful, HOWEVER, you can't act like the only reason you're working is because you must support this burden of wife and child. You had a job before you got married and before you had a kid. If your family didn't exist, you'd still have to work.

You work for a set period of time each day. It's different for different jobs, but most dads are out of the house for ten hours, give or take, counting their commutes. Parents aren't parents for forty hours a week. They have to continue to take care of their children all day, every day, no matter what.

Laws require that workers get a break. Most people get a nice hour long lunch. You can relax at your desk, chill out in the break room or enjoy a meal in peace in a restaurant during this hour. This hour is yours to do as you please. During this hour you don't have a screaming child pulling on your leg as you try to heat a microwave meal, which you eat standing up as you simultaneously try to keep said child from pulling ant poison out from under the kitchen sink because your child has figured out how to disengage the child safety latches on the cabinets.

When you're at work if you have to go to the bathroom you can just get up and go. When you're home taking care of a child, you have to find a way to restrain the child, who then screams bloody murder while you try to express poop and nearly give yourself a hemorrhoid. You could also bring the child into the bathroom with you, but only if you feel like having the contents of your cabinets thrown haphazardly into the bathtub and your toilet paper roll completely unspooled while the baby chews on the toilet brush.

If you need to run an important errand during work or if you need to go to the doctor, in most cases, arrangements can easily be made. Stay at home parents not so much. Elaborate plans must be configured and babysitters must be found and paid. Simple tasks become arduous and complicated. Wow, it must be nice to be able to stop in for a latte at Starbucks on the way to the office without a wiggling little one strapped into a Bjorn, which is absolutely killing your back, and without then having to prevent the baby from grabbing everything in sight, including your scalding coffee. I know you complain about the commute and the traffic but I'd love to be able to sit in the car without my ears being pierced by bloodcurdling shrieks coming from the backseat because the baby can't handle the car seat and finds it totally unacceptable that you have to stop at red lights.

You may have a very demanding boss. Your boss might be a complete asshole, but I can guarantee you that no matter how awful your boss is, that he or she isn't calling you and hollering into your ear and demanding that you get your butt to work every two hours all night long every night while you wish desperately that you could just get some sleep. Your boss doesn't come mess up your house and then prevent you from cleaning it. Your boss would certainly allow you to get dressed without throwing a fit and I hope, that your supervisor doesn't demand that you pick him or her up and carry him or her around all day long. It is not your responsibility to keep your boss alive.

Let's not even discuss taking showers. Showers are a luxury for stay at home parents. For me, getting to take an uninterrupted shower, with listening to a sad baby, who you'd swear had just been abandoned to a wilderness wolf pack, whimper and whine in her jail of a crib, is akin to a full on spa day. I daydream about showers. You, with your jobs, can take as many showers as you want. You actually get to get up in the morning and take a shower every single day. I can't even imagine such a thing anymore.

When you have a job, you get days off. You get holidays. If you really hate your job, you can quit and get a new one. Parents don't have these options. Ever.

Supporting your family is a good good thing and I'm not saying that after a long day at work that you can't decompress or relax a little. I'm not even saying that you need to split parenting duties 50/50. I'm just saying that you need to show a little sensitivity and a little good sense. Stop equating staying at home with the kids to having a job and give your spouse some much needed assistance and relief whenever you can.

And let the poor woman take a shower for God's sakes. Look how greasy her hair is.
Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Have a wonderful holiday everyone. All I can tell you is that right before Thanksgiving I had the idea for my next book - a collection of essays about my family's long history of over the top holiday disasters called "O Holy Shit." The Christmas we've had this year has provided me one more essay and I've decided to take it as a sign that I absolutely must write this next book once the current one is done, which it almost is.

Last night we had a water main break in our city that shut off water to a quarter of a million people. We were on about fish five of the seven and were left with a gigantic mess and no water to clean it up and the best part of the night was when my mother accused my dad of not paying the water bill. It only got better from there, but the water's back on now. We can't drink it without boiling it, but hey, what are a few amoebas? I could use some dysentery to drop a couple of the holiday pounds I've put on. No, I'm just kidding. I do not want dysentery Universe. I was kidding. Do not give me dysentery.

The other great debate this season was what to have for Christmas dinner and no one could decide and we went through several options before my dad took over and decided to make a prime rib, which nearly sent my mom into convulsions because she must have turkey, but both would have been too much so she's making turkey tomorrow, meaning we get two days of Christmas dinners. I can live with that. I like it all.

I'm going to brunch with my husband and Baby Lawns here shortly so I can relax and enjoy my day and in spite of all the crap I've dealt with this past week, and some of it has been awful let me tell you, this has turned out to be a really great Christmas after all. May yours be even better.
Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas - Frosted Almond Shortbreads

As a Christmas gift to you, I'm posting the recipe for the best cookies I have ever eaten. They are so good that they caused an honest to God fight. Make these and watch people beat the hell out of one another.

Frosted Almond Shortbreads

1/4 cup of sugar
2 sticks of butter
2 Cups flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 Cup finely chopped almonds

Cream together sugar and butter. Beat in flour, salt and vanilla. Stir in the nuts. Roll dough into small balls and press down in the center to form a thumbprint indentation. Place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 300 for 30 to 35 minutes.

Cool and ice. to make the frosting combine a cup of powdered sugar with 1/2 tsp. almond extract and enough water to make a paste. You can color half of it red and half green to be festive or just leave it white. Place a drop of frosting in the indentation of the cookies. Let it harden and let the fighting begin.

* I'm on the lookout for some Nasty-Assed cookie recipes. I've seen a couple involving cake mix and weird ingredients and things smashed up and mixed with cream cheese that sound pretty questionable. Please send me the nastiest cookie recipes you can find. Email them to me at

Happy Holidays!
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Don't Forget Your Mail Carrier

I love my mailman. His name is Brian and he comes every day at four. I hear him singing and it always brightens my day. I look forward to him coming up my walkway, earbuds in and singing away to whatever is playing on his iPod. If I'm outside, he'll always stop to talk. One day I ran into him in Chipotle. He was out of uniform and hanging out with some friends and he recognized me and we stopped to chat which was kind of funny because I guess you never expect that your mailman is a real person with a life outside of letters and packages. It's like I half expected him to wear nothing but his uniform and to even sleep in the post office. I pictured all the mail people in there in a special room lined with cots, all of them wearing cute mailman pjs with eagles on them.

You'd think I'd have better sense than that being that my grandfather was a mailman for over forty years. No, they don't get to drive the truck home. My grandfather rode a motorcycle anyway. He was cool like that. I remember waiting for the sound of its engine coming up our street every night. He'd come in, take his uniform off and dress in street clothes again and sit in his easy chair with a beer to watch MASH reruns and play with me. My grandfather was a wonderful man.

The people along his mail route thought so too and I remember that on Christmas he always got a lot of presents. Candy, cookies, odds and ends and a number of cards with money. He preferred the money and I'm sure most of it went towards my presents.

Even though I remembered people giving him gifts, I never did this for my own mail carriers. I never knew them. In many of the places where I lived I had a different person delivering mail each day anyway, but now its different.

Brian makes me happy. He's a young black guy, younger than me, but his spirit and work ethic remind  me so much of my Pop that I wanted to honor that. This year I gave Brian a card with money. It wasn't a lot. I can't afford a lot, but I thought if everyone gave him a little, it would add up. He was really happy to have it and said times are tough at the post office and he worries about his job a lot.

This Christmas, for me, to honor my grandfather and the people who work so hard to deliver our mail each day, try to do something for your mail carrier. Give him or her a little something or other, even if it's just a sincere thank you or a small bag of cookies. Remember that they're real human beings, not letter carrying robots.

And thank you to all of the men and women who work for the US Postal Service! Happy Holidays.
Friday, December 16, 2011

The Playground Scene

Only in South Florida can the playground be a "scene." I swear to God. It's ridiculous.

I thought I'd take my little one to the park to run around a little. They have bucket swings, which she likes and lots of slides, which she really really likes although she's too little to go down by herself and I have to hold her on my lap and slide down myself. I have as good a time as she does with that.

We have a really nice park pretty close to our house and I feel extremely lucky to be so near it. Baby Lawns loves it there and I like playing with her, but oh my lands, the people.

While I have lived in South Florida for over a decade now, I still haven't been able to come to terms with the people who live here. Where else on the planet do women wear heels to a playground? I'm not talking harried working mom still in suit and pumps. I'm talking women, and lots of them, who dress like they're going out for a night in South Beach in skin tight jeans, studded rhinestoned tees and four-inch platform wedges, not to mention freshly flat-ironed extensions and full faces of makeup. TO A PLAYGROUND. It is insanity.

I wear shorts and tee shirts and sneakers.

At least the mothers are taking the kids to the playground themselves right? At least they're spending time with their children. Sort of. If you can count standing on the edge of the play structures endlessly texting on their iPhones spending time.

And then they'll suddenly realize that oh yeah, they have kids, that they are at the park and they'll jam the phone back into their Louis purses and begin the awful hovering and micromanaging of play again, alternating smothering and ignoring their children.

Besides that, a lot of these moms are highly critical of their kids. I saw one mother, who had to at some point in her life danced exotically if you know what I mean, trying to play catch with her son who was about six. All she did was bitch about his pitch. His throw was off, this was wrong, that was wrong. I wanted the ball to bust her in her rhinoplasty. It was like she was coaching him to play in the big leagues already. I felt so sorry for this child.

Friday evenings the playground really gets hopping. Around five they all show up in a parade of flashy SUVs. The parking lot looks like a Range Rover dealership and out come the mommies in their high shoes and tight pants. A few, the skinniest ones, emerge in yoga gear but still fully made-up and baring their abs in half shirts that have pictures of lotuses and say things like "Namaste." Everyone has Starbucks - nonfat, Splenda, extra shots.

The kids are decked out in Janie & Jack and they proceed to run wild while the mommies pull out the phones and start thumb typing. They gossip with the other mommies. They talk about people out of earshot or not present. They complain about preschools, teachers etc. They compare notes on whose kid has achieved which milestone the soonest. Then they descend on their kids to interrupt their play with demands, directions and criticism. If a child comes to them while they're gossiping or texting, the child's mouth will promptly be plugged with a juice box or a yogurt cup.

I've never seen a single mom play with her child. I'm the only one. They look at me like I'm insane. I must be. I'm wearing Keds.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Fail at Mommy Group

I think that I am a very good and capable mother to Baby Lawns, but I am a terrible "Mommy" and by "Mommy" I mean that I am just not one of those women who can identify themselves wholly as "Mommies." Like Mommy Bloggers. Mommy is who they are. These women all dress alike, drive SUVs and aren't seen without Starbucks in hand. It's very important which preschool their baby gets into because that means a good elementary, and even better high school (private) and naturally Ivy Leagues will follow. So if you're kid doesn't go to the "right" preschool then pretty much his or her life is over and count on having a pole dancer or a car thief in eighteen years. And I can't. I just can't do it.

I joined a Mommy group because I was lonely and wanted to meet other women and I wanted Baby Lawns to play with other children because she so loves that, but these women are neurotic as hell and they get on my nerves.

Here are things I've learned in the mommy group:

1. That other people are obsessed with shoving snacks in their children's mouths. Oh my God people let your children play without stuffing them constantly. What the hell? We have a rule that there is no eating outside of the high chair. This saves lots of mess and prevents bad eating habits. These women think it's ok for children to eat all over the place and all the time. I have no idea why. One women spoons yogurt into her baby the whole time the child plays to the point where it actually prevents the baby from playing. Drives me nuts.

2. I've learned that I am apparently extremely lax in my parenting because I allow Baby Lawns to play and explore as she wishes without constantly standing over her telling her what to do and how to play. Cheese and Rice people, leave your kids alone. I don't mean that literally. I never have Baby Lawns out of my sight, but I'm saying stop interfering. Only get involved if there's danger. These women are on top of their kids in such an overbearing, stifling way. "Here honey, play with this." "Don't put blocks in the basketball hoop. That's for balls only." "Why don't you play with the kitchen set instead of the ball pit?" It's a never ending barrage of orders to the very small children and they never allow the kids to play and develop their love of exploring and learning things for themselves. It sucks. I never do that to Baby Lawns.

3. That rich white women have no qualms whatsoever about leaving their babies for weeks at a time with nannies and in one case their husbands' secretaries to go on cruises. I know it's not PC to judge other mothers, but I'm judging. We're talking about babies. Five year olds fine. Maybe. But one year olds? I can't even imagine. When you have a baby you give up certain freedoms for a little while until the children are bigger and ignoring your kids and leaving them constantly so you can go have fun will cause them to end up as drug addicts a lot faster than attending the wrong preschool will. And what would be so bad about taking your child on vacation with you? I've done it three times now and we've had wonderful trips each time. And if you don't believe me about how these kids end up, ask my sister who went to a foofy private school here in town which was filled with messed up children ignored by their busy and uninvolved parents. The valedictorian of her class, a beautiful girl with a Masters from Boston College, died of an Oxycontin overdose a couple years ago.

I get that there's a contradiction here. One one hand I said the mothers are overbearing and won't leave their kids alone and on the other hand I said they ignore them. It's a weird dynamic that's going on and yes, these two things can co-exist. You just have to see it. One mother actually complained that she has a nanny and a housekeeper and still can't find time for herself. She doesn't work either. What the hell is the matter with these people?

Inappropriate Things That Have Happened at Mommy Group

1. Vagina Exposure. This should never happen. One of the mothers wears skirts and no underwear and sits cross legged. God help her. At least we see she's kept up with her Brazilian waxes post-baby.

2. Hard-Core Gangsta Rap. We meet up at this local place where they have open play in a big safe room full of wonderful toys. It's a great place. I love it. One day we were all sitting there, kids playing when all of a sudden we realized we weren't listening to "The Wheels on the Bus" anymore. Something about Niggazz, Bitches and Hos was booming out of the stereo and Eminem was cussing about something and "Fuck this" and "Fuck that" in a duet with I think Jay-Z maybe, and good Lord we had no idea where it was coming from. It was like the cd player revolted and decided it couldn't take The Wiggles anymore. The mommies were appalled. I thought it was hilarious.

3. My child beat another child over the head with a frying pan and gave him a black eye because he tried to take a wooden pepper away from her. Bless her heart. She's all mine.

4. Baby Lawns and her cousin both like to deep throat the plastic cucumbers from the play grocery set. It is extremely obscene looking and does not bode well for their futures, but I'm sure they'll be quite popular with the boys.

What I Wish The Other Mothers Would Learn

1. That "Share" is not a command. That children this little don't understand what you're talking about when you demand they share. That its ok to be upset if someone takes something from you that you were playing with and being upset about it doesn't mean you aren't sharing. If you want your children to grow up as generous, sharing individuals you have to demonstrate sharing yourself. You have to show them that sharing with others feels good and is fun because you don't want your kids to share just because you told them to, do yo? You want them to share out of the natural kindness of their hearts. I hope so at least.

One mother snatches things from her one year old and says "Mommy's turn. SHARE!" I think this is vicious and hateful. It upset me profoundly. That's never going to teach her baby to share. Depending on the child's temperament, it's going to do one of two things. The child will either become timid and turn into a doormat or she will learn to go aggressively snatch things from other people and demand that they "share" with her.

2. That children will work out disputes on their own for the most part and that you should only intervene if things get ugly, such as when my child beat the boy over the head with the frying pan. Let them learn to solve problems on their own. They will and they'll be better socialized people for it.

Next post - the assholes at the playground. You'll love this.
Saturday, October 29, 2011

Writing a Book is Hard

Poor neglected blog.

Writing a book is hard. That must be why I never got very far in my attempts before. Last year I birthed a human being and this year I'm gestating and delivering a memoir.

I've finished over 200 pages now and I'm still going strong. I write when the baby sleeps. I sacrifice my own sleep to write. I write when my husband takes her on walks and to swim lessons. I neglect almost everything else so that I can do nothing but write in my free time. I am absolutely determined that this book must get finished and that it must get published.

In other news, my in-laws have been here for a week. My cousin also came to visit and Baby Lawns, oh my God, turned one. The child is one. She walks and points at things and refuses to eat things just like a real person. She rides a tricycle, cries if the cat hisses at her for no other reason than hurt feelings, laughs at things like my bellybutton and gets very excited when planes fly overhead. She is an actual human being. She likes cheese (well, she is mine after all) and hates even the sight of bananas. Now, she's started getting books off the shelf for me to read to her. I can say "Bring Mama a book from the shelf" and by God she will do it. Craziness.

I know that nearly all children do these things, but still, it amazes me that a wild weekend with my husband resulted in a laughing, ridiculous little person who loves me to read to her and won't stop pulling the cat's tail. Poor kitty. God bless that cat's patience. She has never bitten or attempted to harm the baby in any way. She seems protective of her. The cat follows the baby around the house, staying as close, yet out of reach as possible. Every now and then if Baby Lawns gets too rough Kitty will haul off and whack her across the face, but kitty has no claws so it doesn't hurt.

So that's my life at the moment. We're going to Atlanta next weekend for my birthday and I'm really excited about that. Do I have any Atlanta readers? I'm not sure if I do.

Let me get back to the memoir.

Happy Halloween.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Still Writing, But How About a Reading?

I'm still working on my memoir during nap time, but I wanted to let local readers know about a reading and a lecture happening at FAU in Boca. If you're around you should definitely go. I'm sorry to miss tomorrow's reading, but I'm going to try to make the November 7th lecture.

Here's the info:

Thursday, October 20, 5:00 pm
Bestselling novelist Cristina Garcia will read from her work
Florida Atlantic University, Boca campus
University Center for Excellence in Writing
(GS 215; second floor of the breezeway, opposite side from the Ritter Gallery)
Includes a wine and cheese reception and presentation of awards to winners of
National Day on Writing  competition

Cristina GarcĂ­a’s first novel, Dreaming in Cuban, was a bestseller and a finalist for the National Book Award.  With four subsequent novels, a poetry collection, and three books for young readers, including her most recent novel, Dreams of Significant Girls, Garcia has firmly established herself as a major American writer with an international reputation.  She has received accolades from numerous institutions including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and her work has been translated into fourteen languages.  Her reading will be followed by a brief question and answer session.


Monday, November 7, 7:00 pm
A lecture by
Fiona McCrae, editorial director of Graywolf Press
“Against the Tide: Perspectives on Independent Publishing”
Florida Atlantic University, Boca campus
Live Oak Pavilion, Student Union

Fiona McCrae has been publisher of Graywolf Press since 1994, following eleven years at Faber and Faber where she was a director and executive editor. She began at Faber and Faber, Ltd., in London, where she worked with such authors as Kazuo Ishiguro, Caryl Phillips, and Howard Norman. She then moved to Boston, where she worked with Faber and Faber USA and taught publishing courses at Harvard University and Emerson College.  Authors that McCrae has published at Graywolf include Elizabeth Alexander, Charles Baxter, Per Petterson, Salvatore Scibona, Percival Everett, and Binyavanga Wainaina. She also currently serves on the board of Books for Africa and is an advisor for Open Letter Press. There will be a question and answer session following the lecture.
Sunday, October 09, 2011

Sunday Reading

I don't know what the weather's like in the rest of the country, but in South Florida this weekend has been a washout, in the best possible way. Gloomy, dark, blustery and with high surf pounding over at the beach, it really feels like fall and like Halloween is around the corner. It's also been perfect for sitting inside and reading all day.

I haven't been reading as much and it's been forever since I recommended a book for you all. Baby Lawns naps only once a day now and I use that time for writing the memoir, whereas I used to read. Now I read in the middle of the night on my phone using the Kindle app because I've developed a hateful case of insomnia and wake every night between three and five am.

You all, you have got to read Charles Frazier's Nightwoods. I'm not kidding you. It's southern gothic, creepy, weird and so beautifully written and surprising that I've been raving about it to everyone I see.

Frazier wrote Cold Mountain, another favorite of mine, though I didn't so much care for the movie. I thought it was poorly cast. The book is a million times better and if you haven't read it, you'd love a Frazier double feature, though the books are vastly different. Their only similarity is the mountainous southern setting, but Cold Mountain is in North Carolina during the Civil War and Nightwoods takes place in Virginia in the 1960s.

Nightwoods is scary as hell, which is perfect for an October read. The suspense and the violence is superbly done. I'd say the book is very much a literary thriller and at the heart of the plot are twin children who appear to be autistic, though they aren't labeled as such in the novel because I suppose that diagnosis wasn't as common or well understood in the 60s as it is now. The twins fascinated me and I thought their odd behavior patterns and general lack of speech added an unusual and interesting dimension to the book and the mysteries of the story.

Frazier writes magnificently about nature. The way he describes the environments where these characters live makes me want to throw down my laptop and never write again because I know I could never describe a tree or a clearing in the woods with such stunning grace and scientific accuracy. I love nature and I love reading about it and I especially love reading about nature when Charles Frazier's doing the writing. It's almost like the natural world has its own character that is essential to the novel and while it's factually precise and intricately detailed, it's also strangely magical and other-wordly too.

I can't recommend this book enough and when I'm finished, waiting in the Kindle queue is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which got a crappy review in the New York Times last week, but which I'm reading anyway because the first couple of chapters really hooked me, especially the prologue. After finishing Lev Grossman's The Magician King, which kicked ass by the way, I'm craving another grown-up fantasy. I must need more magic in my life.
Saturday, October 08, 2011

Overheard at the Park...

One young mother to another:

"I'm never going to spank Paisley Madison because I just don't believe in capital punishment."

If Baby Lawns sasses me in a couple years, she's getting the electric chair. We just can't let all these kids playing with matches and snatching candy bars from the convenience store get off with mere life sentences. Keep 'em on death row!
Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Baby Monitors - A Cautionary Tale

The seventeen dollar baby monitor I bought at Walmart last month is about the best purchase I've made in ages. How did I go nearly a year without one of these things? Why didn't someone tell me? I know, I'm clueless at parenting. I also didn't understand the whole playdate concept and had no clue you were supposed to bring hostess gifts, but that's another story.

The baby monitor is wonderful and allows me all sorts of freedoms, but it comes with some potential for embarrassment, like if your neighbors have babies too and your monitors are set on the same channel and then suddenly you end up having each other under surveillance.

And then this, this HYPOTHETICAL situation.

Imagine your joy at just having discovered the freedoms afforded by the baby monitor. Say you're just so happy that you take it with you to a party with lots of people you admire and you're really excited about attending and then let's say that your baby goes to sleep in the guest room in her pack n play and you get the baby monitor all hooked up so you can go back to the party and have a grand old time while the baby sleeps and you are just so pleased with yourself. You didn't need a babysitter or anything.

Perhaps in an hour or so your baby wakes up and cries and you hear it on the baby monitor you are so excited about and you rush off to comfort her, or him as the case may be and then let's say that in your haste you forgot the receiving end of the monitor on the dinner table where your friends are still lingering after dinner enjoying coffee and dessert.

Here is my advice to you if you find yourself in this again, hypothetical situation which I'm not saying actually happened to me, although it could have. Maybe.

Take the receiver with you because you might end up going into the bedroom to get the baby and then finding that all of a sudden out of nowhere you have to poop and you might thank God that the bedroom has a bathroom attached and that the baby can see you on the toilet from the pack n play. And if the baby cries and fusses while you are on the toilet, please, please don't start making up a song that may or may not go "Mommy is Pooping! Pooping Mommy! Poo Poo Mommy Poo Poo Poo!"

Because once you finish and get the baby settled back down and you are ready to rejoin the dinner party, when you return to the table you may be met with an awkward silence. Your friends may appear to be trying very hard not to laugh. Others may not be able to make eye contact with you. One of them might even call and sing the "Poo Poo Mommy" song on your voice mail the next day.

And again, I'm not saying this happened to me. I just want to make sure that it doesn't happen to you. Just in case. That's all I'm trying to do.
Sunday, October 02, 2011

Sick Again

Baby Lawns is sick again and I'm trapped in a vicious cycle of snot. Her nose runs. I wipe it or aspirate it causing hysteria because nose wiping is child abuse you know. The crying makes more snot. It never ends!
Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shhh, I'm Writing a Book

I've been using every ounce of writing energy and every teeny second of writing time (so damned limited these days) to write my book, which I realized I HAD to do even if it never gets published. I have to get this book out of me. I have to be able to say that I tried even if it never works out and I never become the bestselling, touring author I want to be.

So I haven't been blogging and I'm sorry, but I hope it will all be worth it in the end. I'm very proud of what I've been writing and how far I've gotten. 140 pages as of just now!!! That's the most I've ever written and I have plenty left to go. I haven't even lost steam which is miraculous.

Thanks for being patient. You know what's aggravating as hell? I really want to share parts of the book with you and I can't. I think I'm addicted to blogging's instant gratification, but I need to hold out.

I'm pretty sure you're going to like it, so let me keep writing. At this rate, maybe I'll be done in a few weeks? Let's hope.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Checking In

We're sick. I'm sick. The baby's sick. Lots of snot. Coughing. Fevers. Cough syrup for me. I'm not writing much of anything until we're better.
Wednesday, September 07, 2011

I'm Writing Dammit

I wish I had more time. I really do. I have only a very limited block during the afternoons when I can write and I've been using all of my energy up on the book, which is hard. Writing books is hard. I like blogging about a thousand times more. Here's my current mantra:

It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be done.

That's what revision is for, except that I hate revising and I feel overwhelmed and weepy at the mere thought of having to revise a large chunk of writing. But I just want a finished first draft of something.

In other news, my child, my God, she's practically a grown woman these days. She walks all over the place and started swimming lessons last weekend because did you know drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children in Florida?

We have a yard now. Half of one at least. The front half that everyone can see, so that's good and we have a beautiful new driveway which connects to a path that leads straight to my front door. I am in awe of my new driveway. It's that wonderful. Pretty soon we should have a backyard too and I can't wait for that.

Lately I've been getting my shit together. It took almost a year but I feel like my OCD has gone back to sleep and I can act like a normal human being again in regard to the baby. She's a fearless, tough little thing so I worry less and less about her and I've been enjoying showing her the world, rather than protecting her from it. Would you believe we go to the beach now and actually get in the ocean? Yes, with all those sharks and waves and man 'o' wars.

I'm getting it together in a lot of other ways. I finally got the baby a stroller. I childproofed the house and got a sunshade for the car window. I hadn't done any of that stuff, which I know is ridiculous but I was just kind of paralyzed for a while and not understanding exactly which parenting things I needed to do or how to get them all done. I think I'm getting it down now. I think I can do this and it's certainly a lot easier now that she's nearly one.

The book is part of my getting myself back in order too and I apologize for not writing more on here, but I feel like I need to just do this for myself even if nothing ever comes of it. I may never get an agent or a book deal or any of that and if that's the case I promise I'll make the book available to you guys because I know at the very least my blog readers will enjoy it.

So I had better get back to writing it...
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

An Announcement

So a few weeks ago, before I went on vacation, I had a discussion with someone about why I can't get a book written and I started really thinking about it while I was away. There's no excuse. I have at least four books in me, possibly more and they want to be written. Maybe it's self sabotage? Maybe I'm lazy? Maybe I'm scared of the rejection or have ADD or all of the above?

I'm writing my first memoir and I need you all to keep me accountable, to kick my ass and email me and pester me and bother me about getting it done. I have to do this.

Here's the plan. I must finish it. I must try to get an agent and if I can't, I'll publish it myself as an e-book. Another thing I considered is that a lot of bloggers books are rehashed posts. This drives me nuts. I want to give my readers new material if they're going to pay to read my writing. I'm writing about my days at the strip club, which I've never blogged much about and I think you'll like those tales if I can get the work done. It's called Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat.

I'd like to give you a little teaser (remember the formatting goes awry when I paste from Word):

"I passed the Bubblegum Kittikat all the time. It wasn’t one of those sign-free topless bars in the middle of nowhere, behind an industrial complex under a highway overpass. The Bubblegum Kittikat was next to a Holiday Inn across from a Target. It was a present shaped building, wrapped in mirrors, ribboned in hot pink neon. An obscenely large, diamond shaped sign announced South Florida’s premiere gentlemen’s club from the parking lot where an attendant stood at all hours directing traffic with two flashlights as if he were landing private jets on some exclusive runway. I always thought that was overkill, but nothing at the Bubblegum Kittikat was understated, except perhaps me."

Should've Been Romeo

Do you remember last summer when my dad played a bus driver in a movie? Well, the movie is all done now and looking for a distributor. I've seen the director's cut and it's very sweet and funny - a definite family film. Though the story is different, the tone of the movie reminds me kind of like "Little Miss Sunshine."

This movie is a collaboration between a group of guys who I've been friends with since I was twelve years old and first visited New York City. They were a bunch of struggling artists living in Chelsea and they followed their dreams one day and packed up for LA to be a director, an actor and a screenwriter. All have been successful. These guys actually gave me my first book on writing. It was Story by Robert McKee and it taught me a lot about writing before I even went to college. When they were writing the script for "Romeo" over a period of several years, they'd send me drafts of the script to help them with because that's what I love and what I do anyway. I'd make comments, give suggestions and opinions just for fun, because they were my friends. It was a total surprise when they included me in the credits of the finished movie and an even bigger surprise when I found myself on IMDB (kind of a lifelong dream there). I'm really rooting for this movie.

Go visit the web site for me. You can see clips from the film and the more clicks they get on the site the more distributors are willing to buy it.

Here's the link: Should've Been Romeo

Let me know what you think.
Thursday, August 25, 2011

Our Help Our family

I haven't seen the movie version of The Help yet but I'd like to. I enjoyed the book when it came out. I like Southern Lit and stories about women, especially minority women, so it was just my thing, although I could get grad school about it and say that it was unfair that the white character's story was privileged as the "main story" and she was the "main character" and all, but I'll save it. It was entertaining and satisfying. I'm pretty sure everyone has read the book already, but if you haven't, it's a quick entertaining read. I liked it and you probably will too.

My family has lived in rural Southern places much like the setting of The Help for centuries. My ancestors were all farmers and I love hearing stories about the relatives that came long before me. The thing is, you never know what you're going to dig up when you look far into the past and some things you find might be upsetting. What if one of your ancestors owned slaves? None of my relatives were wealthy enough to own any slaves before abolition, but I expect a lot of them shared the prejudices of everyone of their times. We came from a state that was split in the Civil War and a lot of my ancestors appear to have sided with the South after all. We have some old tin types of boys in Confederate uniforms.

On my recent vacation, I had the pleasure of speaking with my grandmother about her grandparents, who were born in the 1860s and who she knew very well. What she told me ended up being a really pleasant surprise.

My great great grandparents were named George Washington and Lydia Hill. Lydia was educated, but George had never been to school and was illiterate until his wife taught him to read. They farmed.

George was lucky enough to get some sweet potato plants that his parents had been growing for many years. They were a special strain I guess that had been growing in his parents' garden forever and who knows where they came from, but they were particularly good. George started growing the sweet potatoes and word got out that George Hill grew the best sweet potatoes around. He made enough money to buy more land and grow more sweet potatoes and pretty soon he was the biggest sweet potato producer on the Eastern Shore and everyone wanted Hill's sweet potatoes.

George Washington Hill wasn't educated but he was a smart businessman and he became a sweet potato tycoon. He bought a magnificent farm called Paradise Alley where he owned hundreds of acres of farmland and was a millionaire. A blight caused his special sweet potatoes to go extinct forever, but he still prospered with other crops and good investments.

George and Lydia had four daughters and no sons. Back then men relied on their sons to help farm, but George only had girls, so he needed hired help. He hired a black man named Sam whom he built a house on the property and he got a homeboy named Woodrow. My grandmother told me that "homeboys" were like black foster children. They were kids with no families who were given to white families. Most people abused them and treated them like slaves. It was child labor. They were called "homeboys" because they worked in the home most of the time. My grandmother explained that they were really treated horribly, and yes, that's where the term "homeboy" came from. I guess the term was reclaimed and recoded by African American pop-culture.

Woodrow was George and Lydia's homeboy, but unlike most farm families, they didn't treat him like their slave. In fact, my great great grandparents ADOPTED him. This was so totally unheard of that it caused a huge scandal. This happened somewhere around the 1910s my grandmother recollects, because she remembers Woodrow as being a young adult when she was a child. Woodrow had his own bedroom in the house and was my great great grandparents' son. He worked hard on the farm yes, but so would their natural sons if they had had any. My great great grandfather worked on his farm until he died even though he was extremely wealthy, although he could have probably hired more help if he'd have wanted.

According to my grandmother, Sam and Woodrow loved George and Lydia dearly. They were allowed to eat at the dinner table with the family, which was also unheard of. They were treated as equals. Mommom tells me that Sam got married and had a family and still remained living in the house that my grandfather built him on property. Woodrow she thinks did not marry, but she isn't sure. She said she just remembers him being around and her grandparents calling him their son and having a very loving relationship with him. Unfortunately, she thinks he passed away young, but she's not sure what happened because she was little.

I find myself thinking about this story a lot and feeling really proud and really happy that my great great grandparents were such good people. I know that most people back then were racist, even otherwise good people, because that was the way they were raised and that was how everyone was. It takes enormous strength of character to see through that sort of cultural norm and to go against popular beliefs and ways of life even when those ideals are wrong and harmful. I'm glad that my family members weren't like the characters in The Help who mistreated their black employees and considered them dirty and less than human. My relatives considered these people their family so much that they adopted a little black boy.

It makes me feel good to know that this is who I came from. I wish I could have known them. George and Lydia and Woodrow, I'm honored to be related to you, wherever you are.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Before I start, I just need to let you know that there's now way you're getting any kind of coherent post out of me today. I'm still in vacation recovery mode.

I came home to total hurricane hysteria. On the plane home Sunday night it's all everyone was talking about. Mass panic. The big one was going to hit. Monday the local news had two possible scenarios:

Scenario 1: We're all going to die.

Scenario 2: We're all going to die but it might not hurt as badly.

Then I got up yesterday and South Florida had been deconed and maybe it'd rain or something but nothing major and the wind chimes probably wouldn't even rattle. Stupid news.

I'm livid though. I missed being in an earthquake by mere hours. I can't believe it. All I want is to feel a harmless little earthquake to see what it's like, but noooooo. No earthquake for me. I miss all the fun. Figures doesn't it?

So I've managed to get my house in some working order now. The laundry is mostly done and put away and everything is clean and organized. My next major project is dealing with vacation photos and lordy there are plenty of those.

I came home and my entire yard was gone, as you can see. We're getting a new driveway and we needed to put in some new water pipes so now I have a yard of solid mud and no damned driveway, which is no fun let me tell you because I am not a fan of parking on the street, but the new driveway won't be circular, so we'll see how this goes with my running over the trashcans issue. I'm thinking it won't go well.

I thought you might like to see a picture. The house/ Money Pit is coming along very nicely. This is the new color. We decided not to go with the green after all and I like this scheme a lot better. The workers with the little tent are sealing our doors if you're wondering. For some reason there were gaps around all the door frames and bugs were coming in, so now all the doors are sealed tightly and bugs are still coming in, just smaller ones and fewer of them. That's life in South Florida. If you're going to live in the tropics, you're going to have to cohabitate with insects unless you want to spray so much pesticide that you'll come down with three different kinds of cancer  by tomorrow in which case you will then have cancer and still be living with bugs.

In the meantime I think I'm going to have to rename the blog NO LAWN and Narrow Minds.
Saturday, August 20, 2011

You Can't Go Back

We stopped because the traffic wasn't even at a crawl. It was a parking lot and we were starving and the exit was right there so I said, just get off here because at least I know where to go. I think. I think I still remember, because how long ago was 1989? But secretly it was because I wanted to go back, to see Nyack again because I never wanted to leave in the first place and I've been mad at my parents for dragging me to Florida since I was fifteen.

I don't know what I thought it would be like. Maybe I believed that everything had been perfectly preserved when I left, the way grieving parents will keep the bedroom of a dead child and turn it into a sort of shrine. I did that with Nyack, but the shrine was in my head - a quaint and glossy museum image of a town, made more perfect by the imperfections of memory and wrapped neatly in one of the many drawers of my brain. 

It's not the same of course. Yes, much has changed, but at the same time I wonder now if it's just that I viewed things differently at fifteen and the things that thrilled me back then don't anymore. 

Nyack, New York is still a lovely little town on the steep banks of the Hudson, but it's no longer a home for which I desperately yearn. I thought I did, but I don't. My ghost no longer lingers on the corner of Main Street and Broadway. I'm not there anymore. 

The town looked shabbier than I recall. It's much more urban than I remember and looks crowded. Much of the Northeast looks as if it has outgrown itself and Nyack is this way too, like it was too small to contain the people and the cars, the stores, yoga studios and organic food co-ops. I saw a cluster of teenaged boys gathered on some steps and I thought they looked greasy and vagrant. Did we look that way twenty something years ago? We couldn't have. My favorite pizza place was on the same corner and we stopped in for a slice, but what the hell? When did Tarantella's decide that penne pasta and Buffalo chicken were acceptable toppings? At least the plain slices were still perfect.

Most of the people I went to school with and ran around with stayed. I don't know a single one of them anymore. I don't have any friends in Nyack now. Maybe I never really did when I stop and think about it.

I've spent twenty-two years bitter and regretful about moving to Florida. I've wasted hours wondering what my life might have been like if we'd never moved, mistakenly imagining it to have been the better life, the perfect life thwarted. I got the life I was supposed to have. Nyack wasn't my home after all and when I tossed my crust in the trash, I couldn't wait to head south on 9W and get out of there.

And finally, I have the closure I needed.

Going Home

I just want to go home. It's been 2 1/2 weeks and I want my own bed and a bathroom that I don't have to share with people with whom I'm not comfortable talking about poop. I may be having a vacation breakdown and I'm pretty sure this is the longest trip my husband and I have ever taken together. It's definitely a long trip with a baby, but she's been just fine and is probably a much better traveler than I am. So far I've managed to live out all of my summer beach house fantasies all up and down the East Coast. We've had sweet corn and blueberry picking, sunflowers, waves breaking on rocks, starfish strewn tidepools, swan feeding, cocktails at fancy hotels, lots of clothes with blue stripes, sunhats, ice cream, darting swallows, one big rainbow and one little one, tons of BBQs, roadside farm stands, lobster rolls, mermaid weather vanes, New England shingle style beach houses and wow, it's been amazing. Exhausting. Beautiful. The best vacation I've ever taken and everything I've always dreamed about.

But now I'm really ready to get home, to get all this laundry done, to get back on a schedule, restock my fridge, start writing again, start planning my memoir class and prepare for my favorite season of all. People, it's only a matter of days before they have Pumpkin Spice Lattes again. I've milked this summer for all it was worth and now I'm saying bring on the fall.

And by the way, we booked our return flights tomorrow night on Southwest since Spirit sucked crap. No charge for checked bags!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Mortified and horrified are not synonyms. It peeves me when people use them interchangeably. Mortified means deeply embarrassing and humiliating and horrified means aghast and appalled or generally full of horror. Often a mortifying experience is also horrifying, but they are not the same thing.

I had an experience on this vacation that was both mortifying and horrifying. It was also gross, so if you'd rather not hear about my terrible shame, then you can skip this one and come back tomorrow or so when I'll share a touching family tale.
Sunday, August 14, 2011

Back to Civilization

It feels weird being back on a computer. For the past week, I've been in my extremely rural hometown where the cell phone service is so weak that I couldn't even talk to my husband, who was working in New York. I had no Internet access whatsoever, because my grandmother has no computer and certainly no wireless and apparently, neither do her neighbors. I suppose I could manage without a computer for a week, but the phone? It was torture. I was so aggravated. Plus, everywhere I went, it smelled like some kind of farm animal's poop.

I'll be home in one week. Right now I'm back in New Jersey. This is where we started out. We flew into Atlantic City on the horrendous Spirit Airlines and stayed at our friends' shore house for a day before heading south to Millpond where my husband dropped me off and then went back north to New York for work. I know, it's confusing.

So the baby on the flight was not as bad as I'd anticipated. It wasn't great, but it was completely fine. For the first half of the flight, she was fidgety so my husband walked her around and then she fell asleep for the rest. She saved her screaming for the hour car ride back to the house. That was deeply unpleasant, but over soon enough.

That flight though. I hate Spirit Airlines and I know I'm not alone in this. They just nickel and dime you to death and they've jammed so many seats on the plane to try to maximize profits that you get zero room whatsoever. It's like sitting in the back of a Porsche. And by Porsche I don't mean a new one. I mean some old ass Porsche that's at least 20 years old and hasn't been taken care of so it doesn't even count as a luxury car anymore. That's Spirit. Spirit is so ghetto I think they have rims on the landing gear. I'm pretty sure I saw one of those crown air fresheners in the cockpit too. The absolute highlight of our flight was that right in front of us two black ladies got into a fight. It was great. One of the women was right in front of me and the other one was up a row and across the aisle. The woman in front of me saw that the one across the aisle was messing with her cell phone when all electronic devices were supposed to be turned off and she went crazy hollering and freaking out because she thought it was going to crash the plane. The woman with the phone kept telling the woman in front of me that her phone was on airplane mode but the woman in front of me called the flight attendants on her. I thought it was going to come to blows. She was all "Turn that shit off! They said turn it off! TURN IT OFF!!!" and the other one was all like "It's on AIRPLANE MODE!!" and the other one said "If you don't turn that shit off I'm about to throw you off this airplane mode!"  The flight attendants managed to settle them down before it came to blows.

The next day we spent outside of Seaside Heights where I was pleasantly surprised. I think "Jersey Shore" gave me the wrong impression. There's some of that element, yes, but there's also a lot of pretty houses and nice normal people here too. It's actually very pretty and our friends' house is right on the water and ducks come right up to the dock to be fed. The highlight of my day was crabbing, which I haven't done since I was a kid and which I just love. I didn't eat any of the crabs though. I just caught them for fun and threw them back.

Last Saturday we went to Millpond to stay with my grandmother and it was there that I began having serious technology withdrawals. I spent my week visiting relatives and my husband came back down from New York and got me and brought me back to the digital age again.

Right now I'm in New Jersey (did I already say that?). This week is my husband's vacation week and tomorrow we're going up to Rhode Island to visit relatives. I've never been there so I'm pretty excited about that. We were supposed to go today but we're having torrential rain and we figured we'd rather avoid floods combined with outgoing beach traffic, which is sure to be a nightmare. Add to that a car seat averse child and it just wouldn't end well. So we're making tacos and then getting ice cream.

One thing New Jersey has in its favor is Hershey's Ice Cream. Wow. I guess it's a regional thing, but oh my God. They have a flavor that is chocolate chip oatmeal cookies (my favorite cookie on earth) mixed into vanilla. Words can't describe. I'm not kidding. I may die if I don't get more of it before my trip ends next week.

What New Jersey does not have in its favor is beach traffic. For some reason you can't make left turns here and everything is one way and it frustrates me to no end. I really don't approve of the driving situation in this state. Last Saturday on the way to Millpond we got stuck in a horrific jam behind cars and cars full of Guidos on their way to the shore. You should have seen the fools hanging out of their cars. I saw one shirtless idiot at a rest area making all kinds of body building poses at himself in the reflection of his car door. I kid you not. I guess in honor of it all I should go see the "Jersey Shore" house, since it's right down the street and all. I'm a little ashamed of my interest in seeing such a thing. The people watching here, when the weather is nice, is pretty priceless. Last week I saw a Snook-alike walking down the road in an impossible pair of coochie cutters. She was squawking into her cell phone apparently at someone with whom she'd just broken up. The person on the other end was mad at her for breaking up with him and she was mad at him for being mad at her. Or that's what I surmised between all the sobbing and cussing at least. This morning the entire fire department showed up at the neighbor's house and they went in with an axe. We still haven't figured out what it was all about, but the next door neighbor is an HOA nazi type who gets mad if the stones in his driveway get out of order and God forbid, spill out into the street. 

Last night I got so scared on the way in. We took Route 70, which is some awful, forsaken country road with no lights that winds through the pine barrens. I just knew that any second the Jersey Devil was going to fly out of the woods and carry us off, rental car and all. It didn't but it may as well have. We were chased by some 'roid raging jackass who tailgated us for several miles with his brights on. He had been in front of us, but actually pulled over so he could get behind us to do this. What would possess someone to do this? I was terrified. The baby slept through it all and when we arrived at eleven she was ready to go out and party and refused to go to sleep although her parents were so tired that they were in a zombie-like state.

Ok, my dinner is ready. It's good to be back Internet people. Very good. Next I'll share my deeply mortifying, unbelievably embarrassing vacation experience. It was so bad I almost wanted to sneak out of the house and fly home alone where I'd never have to face my hosts again.
Thursday, August 04, 2011

And Away We Go

The day is here and we're leaving tonight, hoping that a bedtime flight will mean a sleeping rather than screaming baby. My baby doesn't scream, but I'm afraid a plane ride will convince her to start. Let's also hope that she (and I) gets all of her pooping done for the day because I don't want to change her in an airplane bathroom. I guess gone are my days of leisurely flights spent reading trashy magazines and sipping ginger ale.

I can't wait for my vacation to really begin. I can't wait to see my family and I can't wait to visit Rhode Island for the first time. Here is my Rhode Island "To Eat" list: johnny cakes, lobster roll, Gray's ice cream, more lobster, fried clams, clam chowder. Am I missing anything New Englanders?

I'm looking forward to reading on the beach. I figure I'll get some time to do this because there are so many relatives who want to play with the baby that I'm sure to get a few free moments.

Here are my two vacation books.

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

I adore Anne Lamott and her writing book Bird by Bird is one of the best books on writing there is. Operating Instructions is the story of her first year of motherhood and I've only heard wonderful things about it. It sounds like something funny and touching that I could probably relate to after this year.

And The Magician King is the sequel to one of my favorite books of 2009, The Magicians. It's like Harry Potter meets Narnia with sex, drugs and drunken debauchery. Amazing. Loved it. You'd think something like that would be predictable and trite and unoriginal, but it managed to be wonderfully entertaining and satisfying and I've been maniacally awaiting the sequel. I'll have it August 9th. Yay! I'll also be reading Lev Grossman's blog, which I just discovered is also pretty entertaining and more like a real person's blog rather than one of those professional writer blogs. You'll like it. He's funny.

I'll see you again as soon as I have Internet. Remember it's tricky in rural Millpond. Wish me luck.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011


For the past month I've been having major issues with my feed. My blog wasn't showing up in readers, the RSS was broken and I lost more than half of my traffic. It was awful.

Through much diligence on my part, pathetic, Luddite me, so technologically uninclined, managed to fix the problem. I did it all by myself, which is nothing short of a miracle and involved a whole lot of googling and a weird bit of divine intervention yesterday where I found a random post on twitter that led me to a blog that led me to another blog where I found a link and well, it's just too freaky to try to explain. But the problem is FIXED. Hooray!!

So here's the deal for people who didn't know the feed was broken and thought I'd disappeared. There's a whole lot of reading material you've missed out on - more than a month's worth. The way I've fixed the problem is by only allowing three posts at a time in a feed, so you're only getting three new ones in your readers now. There are way more. You'll have to actually type in (I know, so hard to do, right?) and go back and read the July archives. Let me know if you have any continuing problems with the feed and give me some comment love. I've been terribly lonely the past month. I've missed about 816 of you.
Monday, August 01, 2011


I'm in insane vacation mode right now. I'm such an over-packer that it's ridiculous and now I have not only myself to pack for, but a baby and we both need outfits, with accessories, for different events and what if we have something fancy to go to? What if we need extra beach clothes? What if it gets chilly? But wait, what if there's a heat wave? It could happen you know. 

So I pack way too much. I pack stuff I don't even use or need or wear at home, but you never know, I might suddenly need it while I'm away. I tend to look at a suitcase the way many people look at a plate. You know how people fill their plates according to the size of the plate? That's why they say you should always use a small plate, because you'll eat less (that is if you don't pile the food sky high on top of the small plate). Well, I pack according to my suitcase size. It's an empty space and it must be filled to its maximum capacity. It must be filled to the point where both my husband and I need to sit on it at the same time in order to get it to close.

Every time I go on a trip, I tell myself that I don't need to bring so much. I always regret it because then we have to lug a massive suitcase around, and my suitcase really is gigantic, though now it's starting to feel a lot smaller. I pretty much need one of those old time steamer trunks now that I have the baby and all of her gear. I got her a little suitcase, but it's bursting at the zippers too.

I need to stage an intervention with myself. Logically I know that I'm being ridiculous. If I forget something or need something I can just go buy it. It's not like I'm going to be in the wilderness or a third world country. But still, I try to imagine every possible scenario that could occur while I'm away and what I might need in that situation, but I'm out of control. 

I may as well just pack my wedding dress in there too, because you never know. Maybe we'll renew our vows or something. I may as well include it. It's the only thing left hanging in my closet.
Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nasty Assed Recipes - 19 Pukes and Counting

I am ashamed to admit that I have an ongoing train-wreck kind of fascination with the Duggars. You know, they're the Jesus freaks out in Arkansas with the nineteen kids (and apparently counting). They're the Quiverfull movement's poster family and they have a show on TLC, which I can not get enough of, though I have no idea why because nothing ever happens on any episode. They just show them being happy having almost twenty kids and it's totally obvious that the show is highly contrived and edited and that as soon as those cameras stop rolling I'm pretty sure old Jim Bob starts whooping everybody's ass and acting like the tyrant he surely believes God intends him to be as head of that household. I know damn well that the show is whitewashed to make them look all sweet and happy and that in twenty years or possibly less, one of those nineteen kids is going to break free and write a tell-all and I'm going to be the first to eat it up.

What I'm not going to eat up is any of the Duggar family's recipes. God help these people. I mean that. Really. They have a web site and on it is a recipes page and it is a treasure trove of nasty-assery. They are from Arkansas after all and that's the state where I  encountered some of the worst nasty recipes I'd ever seen. Check it out here. I'm scared to copy and paste any of the actual recipes because they have all kinds of copyrights, though why I have no idea. Basically, it looks like the nineteen kids are being raised on processed garbage and a whole lot of canned soup. Tater-tot casserole? Are you kidding me? A soup where the base is ranch dressing? Gag. There's also a lot of Velveeta going on, as one would expect.

Dear Duggars, God does not want you to eat like this. It is a sin to mix hash browns with mushroom soup and then put cornflakes on top of them. The Baby Jesus cries whenever you feed your kids a casserole.
Friday, July 29, 2011

Carrot Nose

I'm one of those people who loves to criticize what other parents do with their children. I was especially fond of this activity before I had a baby and I've only been humbled slightly. I'm still convinced my baby is perfect and much better than everyone else's.

(The whole paragraph above is JUST KIDDING.)

I'm the last of my friends to reproduce and before I had a child, I'd look a numerous pictures of my friends' and relatives' kids and wonder why so many of their babies had yellow noses.

"It's from feeding them orange foods," my mom told me.

My sister and I were particularly fond of looking at some of our white trash cousins' kids with their little orange beaks and talking about how our cousins were so stupid that they didn't even have the sense to quit feeding their babies orange foods even when their little noses took on the hue of a duck's bill.

I once almost lost a friend because I asked her why her son's nose was such a sunny shade of gold. She was deeply insulted that I noticed and said something.

"It's from carrots!" she snapped.

"So why don't you stop feeding him carrots?" I asked, meaning it innocently.

She rolled her eyes as if to say "You freaking idiot. Just wait until you have a baby and then ask me that dumb ass question again."

I spent so much time criticizing other parents for turning their kids' noses orangey-yellow that I am now convinced that the Universe is about to punish me by doing the same thing to my baby, who, of course, only wants to eat foods ridiculously high in beta-carotene. Of course she does.

The condition I fear is called carotenemia. It sounds like carrot-anemia, which sounds terminal, but from what I've read, babies generally don't die from orange noses. They just look like snowmen. The foods babies like the most contain a lot of beta-carotene and sometimes they eat a lot of it and sometimes their systems can't filter it all out like ours can and it colors their skin. It's most noticeable on the nose.

Every morning, I get up and we go through a routine of nursing, changing, dressing and nose-checking. Is it orange yet? Is that a hint of yellow? Maybe it's just the light. Then I look again. Then I get the flashlight (no, I'm joking). So far, we're good. No orange nose. For now.

Our children come to humble us. Their purpose is to prove to us that we, when we think we have all the answers, really don't know jack. They are here to make fools of us for every prideful, know-it-all thing we said before we had kids and they are here to continually kick the sandcastles of our expectations for them into the outgoing tide. But I'm prepared, because I know my karma's just waiting to kick my ass and that's why Baby Lawns is about to learn to love her some peas. And spinach, and broccoli, green beans and well, basically anything that isn't orange. But watch, she'll be the first baby to end up with a green nose.
Thursday, July 28, 2011

Disaster in the Park

When it was all said and done I sent my friend a text that said "We need cocktails."

Her reply: "You're telling me. It's like instant punishment for even THINKING about fun."

Last night I was so excited to go to a local event that just started here in Ft. Lauderdale called Gourmet in the Park where all of the trendy food trucks so popular in Miami head up our way so all of us here in Broward can see what the fuss is all about. Couldn't wait to go because I've heard so much about these trucks and really, I haven't done all that much in public in the past nine months. Now the baby is getting to the point where she likes going out, so I'm starting to venture forth and discover a new kind of social life for myself. I thought this would be a good event to attend. It's outside, we can walk around and we could come and go on our own schedule. Plus, grilled cheeses, nachos, cupcakes, burgers, BBQ!! I was ready for some grease and sugar.

My sister went with her baby too. It took us a good twenty minutes to jam the double stroller into her trunk. We'd never folded the thing up before and it's the size of a golf cart and we probably should have read the manual, but whatever.

Gourmet in the Park is at Esplanade Park on the New River in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. It's a lovely location across from the Museum of Science where the IMAX theater is and is close to Las Olas Boulevard and the downtown area where all the clubs are. I haven't been to that part of town in ages.

My husband went there straight from work and we all met up with a friend of mine, J, who has a baby, a six year old and a little wiry-haired dog. Little did I know what a recipe for disaster four children and a dog could be.

But let's discuss the actual event first. The good thing is that it was cloudy and therefore less hot than it would have been with sun even in the evening. The bad thing is everything else.

My friend explained the problem perfectly. The food trucks are a victim of their own success. The event was too crowded for the cooks in the trucks to handle the number of orders they were getting. There were several trucks, but not enough to handle several thousand hungry people at once and really, those trucks aren't meant to serve such throngs coming at them all at one time. The lines were ridiculous and the trucks were all clearly in the weeds, taking more orders than they could get out. This caused a situation where there were two long lines for the starved - one to place your order and one to actually wait for your food to come out. Waits at each truck were averaging around an hour. For a four hour event with many trucks to visit, it just wasn't possible to sample much of anything except standing in line and I didn't see anyone who wasn't aggravated. Worst of all, I didn't see anyone actually eating anything and Gourmet in the Park is supposed to be about food! My husband and my friend's husband thought maybe the beer line would be faster because there was nothing to prepare, but the beer line was over 200 people long.

I can't write about this evening without discussing the live music. I love the idea of live music at festivals, but the band they had playing last night just didn't fit the crowd. People who eat a lunch trucks are pretty hip types overall and the band was like something out of a Christopher Guest movie. My husband asked me what was up with the Peter, Paul and Mary cover band and I said I thought it was a scene from A Mighty Wind. Maybe next time they can get something a little more, well, festive? Current?

I really wanted to support the food trucks and I was dying for something delicious, but it was just too crowded and you know, I have bread, butter and cheese at home. Why wait an hour in the humidity for a grilled cheese sandwich? It wasn't worth it, so my sister and I decided to leave and on the way home we stopped at Chipotle and had dinner done in all of about five minutes. On the way home, both babies decided to have nuclear meltdowns in their car seats. Once home, Baby Lawns decided to pee in her crib (don't ask and yes it was my fault), spit up and then poop immediately after I'd given her a bath and after all that my husband still wasn't home, so I called him and he described a scene of chaos and devastation that made me very glad I left when I did.

Since we drove separately, my husband had to go back to our friend's house to get his car. It was a 15 minute walk away and my sister and I had parked easily for five dollars at the park. Husband and his friend went back to our friend's house. My friend J wanted to stay and try to get some food and her husband told her that he wanted her to have a good time and that he would take their two kids home. My husband went with him. They were going to entertain the two kids and have a quick beer before my husband came home to me. Well, this didn't happen because on the way home, the six year old, who had had a cupcake, became violently ill all over himself. There was vomit. There was diarrhea. It wasn't pleasant. Two men, a baby, a sick child and a dog. It sounds like a scene from a bad comedy. My husband said it was like The Hangover if The Hangover had been a kids movie and the way he tells it, I'm surprised there wasn't a tiger involved too. J's Husband panicked and called J to come home while he tried to corral the sick son in the bathroom, but he didn't get him there in time before he puked all over a foot stool in their living room. My husband ended up hiding in the kitchen trying to entertain their baby boy, who naturally freaked because he was in the company of a total stranger and his mom was nowhere around. While my husband was trying to get the baby to stop screaming and while J's husband was trying to tend to puky poop boy, the dog decides to jump up on the foot stool and lick the throw up. Of course the dog then got vomit in its paws and tracked it all over the carpet and my husband couldn't stop it because he was trying to deal with our friends' angry baby.

Poor J had just gotten some food and a beer when her husband called, so she rushed home to put everything back together again and when she arrived, my poor husband finally came home where he took a much needed shower and then cooked himself three shrimp tacos from stuff we already had.

In all, the night was a total disaster. No one got to eat any food from the trucks and the only person who did (the six year old) came down with a nasty case of food poisoning. I think the next time they have Gourmet in the Park, I'll invite J and her husband over, get a case of Stella, make everyone grilled cheeses and whip up a batch of cupcakes right here at home. Where it's safe.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This summer has been pretty uneventful. You know, I'm still trying to get my house in order. We finally finished all of our building inspections and passed them and now we're getting a fence and a yard together instead of a pile of dirt. We have a bunch of little, piddly annoying things left to do, but in all, it's totally habitable. I even have a nice porch where I have a pepper plant and some mint and basil and I've been loving being able to go out there and pick mint for my iced tea. Nothing is more refreshing in this heat than iced tea with lemon and mint and it has made me so happy. It's the little things, as they say.

Next week we're going on vacation. Baby Lawns is going to Millpond, among other places. She'll take her first plane ride, plus a ferry ride, plus a long car ride. We're going to Millpond to see the family, then to New Jersey to see friends and then we're off to Rhode Island to see family on my husband's side and I am beyond excited about that because I've always wanted to see the New England coast in the summer (mainly because of lobsters). We'll be gone over two weeks and I think it's going to be a big adventure. Traveling with a baby. Hmm. I was nervous and then I decided not to be because my baby is pretty flexible and easy going and seems to actually like being out and about and seeing the world. I also keep telling myself that I really don't need to pack a bazillion things because I am not going to a third world country and there are Targets in the Northeast. Imagine that. I can just buy whatever I forget or need. Miraculous, isn't it?

I have been all up in a book for the past couple weeks. People kept telling me to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and it just didn't sound like something I'd be into. Finally, I read a sample of it just to see and wow, just wow wow wow. A reader described this book to me as stunning and devastating and I can't think of any better adjectives. You have to read this book. I'm not kidding you. It was on many top ten lists this year and for very good reason and it's stories like this that actually make me believe in God. Yeah, it's that good.

For people who have already read about Henrietta and her HeLa cells, another book I think you'd enjoy is Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. I had to read this for school, had zero interest and complained about having to read it until I actually read it. Again, what could be so interesting about a Hmong child with epilepsy? I thought I'd hate it, but I loved it and it shares many similar themes as Henrietta Lacks' story. Read them both right now and you'll be glad you did.

I finally broke down and bobbed my hair that I'd been complaining about and I really love it. I got a layered bob this time and it's not flat and it's not giving me a hard time with styling. I got some of those decorative headbands that seem to be all the rage now and I'm liking that look too. Maybe I'll just keep it short from now on and break the endless hair-hating cycle.

This fall it looks like I'm going to be teaching a memoir class in West Palm Beach. It's a fun class, not one of those for credit, college classes. If you're in the area and interested, email me and I'll give you the information. There will be two, six week classes. One starts in September and the other in November and they'll be great because, well, I am the teacher of course!

That's about it. Not much else has been going on around here, although there was some kind of elaborate crime scene behind my house Saturday evening and no one knows what on earth happened.

I discovered a new blog that I liked because he linked to me last week. You must read Wag the Dad. This is my kind of parenting blog and he cusses more than I do. I found myself wondering if he's hot. I bet he is.

That's all I got for you all today. The baby is asleep, my house is almost presentable and that means I can watch some of the trash I have on my DVR, and without getting off on a rant, is it me or is this summer's TV just sucking total ass? I am so disappointed in Curb Your Enthusiasm so far and that used to be my favorite show. Likewise with True Blood. Sultry vampires can't make me over look this fairy land crap - I don't care how many times Eric takes off his shirt or how many steamy lesbian sex scenes they throw in.

So, anyone with book recommendations, tips on traveling with babies, new blogs I need to read or TV shows that don't suck? Please comment. Yes, I am comment whoring. I'm lonely as hell over here with the RSS broken and my traffic down. Give me some love people.

About Me

Blog Archive