On Apologizing For My Own Novel

I recently published my latest novel IN THE GARDEN ROOM and I think I did a disservice.

To myself.

To myself? How is that possible?

Instead of being proud and proclaiming “Hey, everyone! I wrote a book and here it is!” I said, over and over, “I wrote this book and please check it out if you can but it’s really dark and I’m sorry about that.” Maybe that’s not a direct quote but it’s the sentiment behind it.

Why did I apologize about my own book? Then again, in general, why do I say sorry all the time?

I apologized, I think, out of fear. I worried that people would think poorly of me, or whatever colorful impression I made on them (tried to make on them) would twist. So it’s fear that makes me apologize. If I apologize, then I won’t be hurt. Then I don’t really own the piece, the idea, the feeling.

Here’s the thing. This novel was one of the scariest things I’ve ever written. I started with an idea of “What if I wrote something that was emotionally honest about mental illness?  What if the heroine couldn’t be plucky and ahead of her time? What if she was truly trapped by her time and circumstance? What if I tried to show how brutal life can be when women don’t have the ability to be independent, when they’re valued for their bodies and not their spirits, when they have no real power at all?”

Those were big questions. Interesting ones. So I wrote as an act of discovery. When we published the piece, I didn’t say anything about my intentions. I apologized.

I’m not trying to sound all Self Help Aisle here. I’m trying to be very real. I wrote a book where I gave myself the freedom to confront head on the dark times I’ve lived through…if not in exact details, in the essence.

I’ve dealt with unchecked mental illness in my family my entire life. It’s been a constant dark companion and something I’ve been told over and over again not to talk about. That I needed to be more understanding and forgiving of my loved ones. That their actions weren’t their fault, and I needed to control my own emotions better because I was healthier than they were. But the thing that’s gotten to me over the years is the effect of mental illness not only on the one suffering, but on their caretakers and loved ones. And if there is no support, no therapy, no medication, there are very dark things that can, and sometimes do, happen.

Why would I want to write about that? Isn’t it better to write another comedy? That’s something people will want to buy. But something dark? Something scary in a real-world kind of way? Why do that?

Because that was the story I needed to tell.

I don’t make my living from writing. I make my living from narrating, so I have the unique freedom to tell the stories I need to tell.

My hope was to be emotionally honest. To go to those places I’ve been told to stay away from. And to create something that is a dark mirror to current problems. We’ve forgotten our own history. We’ve forgotten how far women have come and how, not too long ago, your only real power came if you had money or if you were beautiful. And actually, that’s not too different from today.

I’m still dealing with mental illness. With close family members, friends, extended family, and now with my own son who has debilitating anxiety and depression. I deal with anxiety and depression too. It’s something I’ve learned to live with and navigate with. All of this 'living with' and 'dealing with' makes me sad at times.

And here’s the thing…it is okay for me to be sad and angry and frustrated about this. I have family members in pain who have caused me pain because of whatever is misfiring in their brains. Sometimes I wonder ‘what if’ with them. What if they’d had therapy sooner? If we had day programs and even free stays at hospitals and medication and an openness to talk to one another about struggles with the psyche? What if we had a society that said: “We may not be able to fix this, but we can help you all manage and heal.”

So that’s why I wrote IN THE GARDEN ROOM. I’m not sorry about it or embarrassed or ashamed that I wrote it. It’s complicated and scary and beautiful all at once. That’s something I should be proud of.

 

And I am. 

 A postcard that is similar to the one Lillian looks at IN THE GARDEN ROOM. 

A postcard that is similar to the one Lillian looks at IN THE GARDEN ROOM. 

My Weight Is Not Your Business

Oh, I have struggled with whether or not I should write this. The truth is, I probably shouldn’t, but I can’t get my brain and my emotions to stop churning it over and over. And in thinking about it, I realized this has probably happened to a lot of women, and it makes me sad. Deeply, deeply sad that still women are judged according to our appearance and not our character, and our appearance seems to be everyone else’s business. My son and me in Empire this weekend.

This weekend I was mushroom hunting with my extended family and just happy to be with everyone. My mom brought a friend and in the woods they had a conversation about me, and the huge amount of weight I’ve gained. I guess my mom tried to defend me by saying I worked out and I wasn’t just lazy, but her friend wasn’t convinced. They said a lot of hurtful things about how I look. I guess that would’ve been fine, this conversation of theirs, everyone has their own thoughts…but they had the conversation in front of my eleven year old son. They’d seen him sitting in the car in front of them, windows down, but they just forgot he was there. My son listened, shocked, and came crying to me and asking me if I was fat and was I going to get diabetes. He wanted to know why his Nana was saying such terrible things about how I looked. “How can she do that?” he asked and I didn’t answer him because I didn’t know.

A few weeks ago, my ex sent me a vitriolic email saying that I needed to talk to our primary care physician because I obviously don’t understand healthy eating or nutrition and that I am actively trying to give our kids diabetes with the way that we must eat.

At conferences I attended, I had people approaching me with brainstorming ideas on healthy eating and how I could lose weight.

I didn’t ask for anyone’s help or opinion on my appearance. They offered it to me, complete with a heavy side of judgment. It’s as if my weight gain is some ticket for everyone to express disappointment in me as a person.

My body, the cause of much discussion, 5/24/16.

I weigh 173 pounds. I’m a size 12/14. This is average for a woman my age. I’m in my mid-forties and have two children. I have a sedentary job. And here’s the thing. I work out. I walk about 30 miles a week (12,000 steps a day). I eat lots of vegetables, lower carbs, healthy protein. I’m learning that as I enter pre-menopause, things are changing. I sometimes talk about lifestyle changes with people, but it’s as I learn that things I used to enjoy make me feel yucky. I don’t talk about diets. I’m not interested in dieting. I’m interested in learning to grow older with my body and to be okay with who I am as a person.

Funny thing is, I tried to lose weight this year…not because I felt bad about myself or was unhappy…but because of how other people have started to treat me. For three months and a few thousand dollars, I met with a personal trainer three times a week. I lost two pounds. But this wasn’t sustainable. I couldn’t afford it, and I couldn’t take off the time in the middle of the workday to work out for an hour and drive the twenty minutes there and back, not when I also needed to take time off to take my son to the therapist’s office, or to meet with my sister who is struggling, or to have yet another meandering conversation with my mother about her health. To lose the weight, I had to give up a glass of wine with dinner, an occasional dessert, and began focusing on everything I ate…and I felt guilty about everything I consumed. Every time I ate I felt like a failure. This is not the way to live.

In fact, the times in my life I’ve been the thinnest…are the times I’ve been the most unhappy. When I lived in New York and felt the kind of loneliness where I thought I could disappear and no one would notice. In my first marriage, where every day I disappeared a little more and was criticized for eating too much, not running enough, or wasting time writing when I should be focused solely on the kids. These were the times I was skinny. And you know what people said to me then? During those times I thought I could leave the planet and no one would care? “Tanya! You look so great! You’re so pretty!”

Looking at me now, you wouldn’t know the amount of stress that I’ve been shouldering this year. You also wouldn’t know that, somehow, I am happy in this body and in my life. I have a wonderful husband and two kids I love with every atom of my being. They help me carry the other things going on.

People don’t see that. They see someone who used to be skinny and has now ‘let herself go’. I haven’t let myself go. My body is changing. And you don’t have the right to comment on my appearance. No one comments on a man’s appearance with the kind of vitriol they use about women.

Here’s the thing: my body is not here for your pleasure. I am not an ornament. And while you may think these comments about my weight are offered from a good place in your heart, they’re not. They’re offered from a place of judgment and cruelty.

When did people lose the ability to filter or be kind to others? When did it become okay to say whatever you want to another human being? Has the Internet and trolling become so accepted that we can now look at someone else and let them know how much prettier they’d be if they could only Photoshop away all their flaws?

When did my body become a flaw?

Last week at school, my son was having a hard day. My son is an old soul, a deep thinker, possibly on the spectrum somewhere and there are days he is very sad. He doesn’t cover it up. He just IS. And a kid pointed at him in the lunch cafeteria and said: “Why don’t you just go kill yourself?”

I couldn’t believe this had happened, and then a part of me thought “Of course. It’s okay now to say whatever cruelty you want to another person.”

That night my son and I walked hand in hand around our beautiful neighborhood, the trees lush and green. He said, “Momma, people just don’t seem to know that words hurt. He hurt me. I feel bruised on the inside.”

“I know, baby,” I said. “Words can be sharp, can’t they?”

Words can cut.

Be aware of your power. Try to use it for good. When you have ugly thoughts about someone, instead of saying them, try to focus on something good. Take control back. Don’t assume that because someone weighs more than you think they should, that they should change. Maybe they don’t want to. Maybe they’re trying hard to but they can’t. Let them come to you if they want to. Otherwise, keep your judgment to yourself.

By writing this, I’m trying to take back control over my life. People can think what they want about me. I have no control over that. But I do have control of how I walk through this life…and I’m trying to do so with tenderness…and sometimes…an occasional sundae.

Blunder Woman Returns! (Maybe)

I've met some people lately who've read and/or listened to BLUNDER WOMAN and I can't tell you how grateful that's made me. Funny thing is, Chloe's been talking to me a bit lately. I think she waited until I finished writing my gothic historical novel. But I think...I think she's back. In fact, here's the opening to her new story. Tell me what you think. If you want to hear more. If you do, I'll keep listening to what she has to say: Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 11.26.08 AM

BLUNDERFUL

Prologue

It’s high noon. The sun quivers in the sky. A tumbleweed rolls past.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. This isn’t a showdown with Clint Eastwood or whatever. It’s actually like 9 or ten o’clock at night. And I’m drunk as pee.

I’m standing/slouching with a bunch of hot and sweaty females, everyone panting and focused, and everyone’s wearing shiny dresses in various hues of the rainbow. Everyone except me. I’m not in taffeta. Nope. Not me. Me? I’m in a mammoth and very hairy bigfoot costume that smells like hot horse. I lost the head to the costume ages ago (I see better without it and right now seeing is key) so my head looks all shrunken or something. Plus, it was so hot in that mask that my face melted off.

I mean that sort of literally.

The fake eyelashes are sort of swimming down my cheeks along with mascara streaks.

My lipstick is smudged.

And there’s a hickey on my neck.

But I don’t care. No. I don’t care because this monstrous weekend has all led up to this moment and I’m so incredibly focused I can’t even breathe. Everyone else smooshed up around me is breathing plenty. Like they’re some kind of giant taffeta lung or something.

Then we all gasp as Megan holds her bouquet in the air and a beam of light, I swear to the All Mighty, a beam of fucking light falls on it.

I adjust my costume at the neck. Stamp my hoof.

My foot.

Whatever.

And when she tosses it in the air (and it’s in slow motion because of course it is) I do the only thing I can think. I take a flying leap. It’s a real thing and I do it.

And so do the twenty other single ladies, their manicured nails like sharp talons in the disco balled night.

I scream with everything inside of me “MUTTTTTHHHHHHEEER FUCKAAAAAAAAA!” because it is a war cry and at this wedding, I’m an Amazon. In a bigfoot costume.

There is a perfectly logically explanation for this.

I assure you.

If you’ll just bear with me, I can start from the beginning.

Ahem.

Romancing The Orkin Man

I just wrapped narration on a very sultry story by Vivian Arend called ONE WILD RIDE. Let’s just say, it’s not about a ride in a station wagon. Unless by station wagon, you mean cowboy. So let’s say my mind was in another place. I tell you this, because when the Orkin Man showed up to talk about the couple of ants I’ve noticed in the house, and he arrived wearing very tight pants, a belt, and his white shirt stretched taut against his bulging-man-muscles, and his tag said BED BUG EXPERT, I thought, Oh, I just bet you are. And I purred that thought. I did. Also, he was young and wearing a lot of cologne.

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Now, I wasn’t attracted to him. Not really. But there was an awareness that this dude could be on the cover of a romance novel. Just unbutton a couple of those buttons and have him hold his bug sprayer ‘just so’ and blammo! Every housewife’s dream.

My friend showed up around that time and we let the Orkin Man do his stuff and I tried to ignore the inner romance writer in my mind. Though I did notice that there was a strange breeze ruffling his slight disheveled hair. As if a fan was blowing.

Whatever.

So my friend and I visited, and then the Orkin Man interrupted me. “I’ve got some rather important questions,” he said. And suddenly, he was like some hardboiled detective investigating a crime. “If you’ll follow me,” he said, and I did. My friend followed too and she shot me a look. I tried not to notice.

We stood in the hallway. Was it hot? I think his pectoral muscles flexed. He pointed to the bedroom. “Do you see any action in there?”

And I gasped. I did. “Uhmmm. What?”

“Action. With the ants. You said there were two ant sightings in the hallway, but have you seen any activity in your bedroom?”

Boy have I! I wanted to say, but we were still talking about ants.

“Oh. No. Nope. There has been no action or fatalities or whatever in my bedroom.”

He ignored me and went on a very lengthy explanation about carpet ants and how their bodies were big and swollen because THEY LIKED TO MUNCH. ON WOOD. And I just started giggling. I did. They were the tremor kind of giggles. I could feel my friend’s eyes burning into me. She knew. She knew what I was thinking!

I’m not sure if he mentioned a bush, but he did mention trimming and I laughburped. God, I hate when I laughburp. I apologized. He looked hurt. He looked…I think…like he felt like the housewives he visits, never take him seriously. They never listen to his knowledge of pests and their need for eradication, and how he knows how to do that. They just look at his tight pants.

I prayed for him to stop talking. Eventually he did. I thanked him for coming. Over. To my house. To deal with the ants.

I really should not talk to other people. It’s just not wise.

****

If you want, you can listen to the blog here:

The Hardest Part About Freelancing

For me, the hardest part about freelancing isn’t the constant hustle to get jobs, really, but a general feeling of being disliked or an annoyance. Every time I send out an email telling publishers “Hey! I’m available!” I feel like I’m saying “Hey! I’m desperate! Please like me! Be my friend! Think I’m funny!” Then again, I think this fear of being disliked is my main insecurity in life. Blame it on a tough childhood, an absent father, or the 6th grade class telling me, literally, that I wasn’t liked. (It happened on the playground. A group of girls called me over to tell me that they’d had a meeting and they all decided I wasn’t liked and they wouldn’t be speaking to me anymore.) It all adds up over the years to a major complex, enhanced by a career where if I’m not liked, I won’t get work. 2-francesco-gallarotti

Why did I choose this? I didn’t really. It wasn’t a choice, exactly, but an inevitably led by following my passion: words. I’ve always loved words, but particularly words out loud. They have a music when they’re said out loud, and I’m in love with that. Most of my own work sounds better out loud. And I love reading a new book, an author’s works, and bringing out that music.

These last few months have been particularly tough on my little tender spirit. I think it’s growing older, but also the complications my son has been having. I wrote a blog about that here, but since posting that, we’ve discovered that he’s probably on the Autistic spectrum. It makes sense. All his meltdowns, his awkwardness, his inability to connect. But as his symptoms have increased, I’ve had pull back on some of my career…travelling to jobs, seeking things out, and being available last minute. It’s been hard.

The industry ebbs and flows. I get that. I’m breathing through it and I’m not complaining. I love narrating. Passionately. But along with my son’s issues, I’ve been trying to find an agent for my new book. Every day I wake up to an inbox of rejections. I have faith that my work, my writing, is good…so if it’s not about my work…then it must be about me? So couple that with auditioning for titles that go to someone else, or reaching out to publishers and not being answered, and then add in the stress of the last few months of a huge move, some family issues, and those ten extra pounds that aren’t really extra anymore but seem to be part of me for the long haul…and what I really need (besides a gin & tonic and a girl’s weekend with Rachel and Kim), is a big old, heavy, ugly cry.

And then I need to pick myself up, dust myself off…and get back to it.

I get through it by continuing to do my best work, even with the swirl of chaos dancing around me.

This is life, isn’t it? It’s ugly and painful, and goddammit, it’s also beautiful.

Thank You, Philadelphia

This week, we moved out of our house on Philadelphia Avenue and into a new house. This wasn’t just any house we left. This was the house where I was able to start over. I purchased it on my own a year after my marriage ended. I knew I had to find a good house so that my kids would be safe and that my ex wouldn’t be able to start a custody battle for them. My heart needed a good house too. I was paying over a grand a month at an apartment, so it seemed smarter to buy a house. And my ex was already buying a home with his new soon-to-be wife. I still remember the humiliation I felt when I was trying to get approved for a mortgage. Because I was a stay-at-home mom for five years, the bank wouldn’t count my ex’s income as mine. According to their paperwork, I was unemployed for five years. My cheeks burned with shame. My ex could get a new car, a new house, with no trouble, but I couldn’t because we’d decided that I stay home with the kids. I remember shaking and crying that night and I thought: “How do women do it? How do they start over?” My answer in the quiet was a very loud: “They just DO.” So I did. I had a good job and narration gigs. And I pushed. I was fierce. I was tenacious. And the assistant to the president of the college where I worked, very kindly penned a brilliantly worded letter that stated that I would be employed for the foreseeable future. And the bank, eventually, gave me a mortgage.

And I got the house. On my own. For me, and my kids.

The day I got the keys, I walked in and looked around at the vast emptiness of the house on Philadelphia. But I didn’t SEE emptiness, I saw potential. I saw hope. I saw safety.

The house on Philadelphia

And for six years, that house became a home to me and my kids, and then my dear Kealoha. And we all grew together and laughed, and fought, and healed. Because that is what you do in a good house that is a home. You grow, together.

Still, it was my house. And I wanted something that would continue to grow with us, all of us, as a family. So we sold the house on Philadelphia and we’ve moved to a new house that we will make ours. I didn’t have to fight for this one. It just happened. And it felt like after a very long time of running, that I can finally stop. Be still. And breathe.

On the last day in the house on Philadelphia, my son ran from room to room, thanking it. I laughed at first, but then I started to cry a little. “Thank you living room! This is where we all hung out and had Christmas.” Runrunrun “Thank you kitchen! This is where mom cooked great food and only burned things sometimes.” Runrunrun “Thank you dining room. This is where we ate lots of good food and had family dinners most of the time even on days I didn’t want to but I liked it anyway.” Runrunrun “Thank you basement! Thank you bedroom! Thank you back yard!”

Later, alone again in the empty house, I breathed my own words of thanks. I didn’t need to say them out loud. I just felt it. With every beat of my strong, fierce heart.

The Hair Drama

I’ve been letting my hair go gray. Earth shattering and so important, right? I know. It’s ridiculous. At any rate, it’s going gray and a couple of days ago, my kids cornered me to ask what was going on. I was playing on my iPad, sitting in my comfy reading chair, when the two walked up to me. I’m pretty sure Moxie was smacking a bat against the palm of her hand, and Franz was chewing gum obnoxiously, looking all tough like.

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FRANZ: Mom. Come on. What’s happening with your hair?

ME: What do you mean?

MOXIE: Mom! You know what we’re talking about. The hair.

(Then there was a dramatic pause here as the camera that wasn’t filming us but should’ve been did some dramatic close-ups of my graying bangs, my eyes, a twitch in my cheek.)

ME: Well, I’m getting older and I’m just tired of dyeing it and I thought, you know, I’d become my authentic self.

MOXIE: What are you talking about? Authentic self? That makes no sense. We hate it!

ME: * blink blink blink *

FRANZ: No. Wait. It’s okay. You’re still pretty. We’ll get use to it. I mean, now, I guess, you’re kinda shiny…and….that’s…good?

(I nodded. My daughter then put the bat down and immediately burst into tears.)

MOXIE: But you look older and every time I look at you I think how old you are and that you’re going to die and I don’t want you to die and be dead so can you just put your hair back the way it was???

I’ve felt guilty about a lot of my parenting choices, but this was a new one for me. The idea that my hair color was traumatizing my kids. I mean, sure, they’ll get used to it, but I don’t really have the energy right now to work through Teachable Moments. So I scheduled an appointment at the salon in two weeks.

What can I say? I’m weak.

Thank You

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 6.20.01 AM It’s finally arrived! My last day of my daily blog posts. I’m rather proud of myself for being able to blog every day this month and I thank you for stopping by, reading, and sometimes even interacting by leaving comments or liking the posts.

I started this little one-month experiment as a way to reconnect not only with my blog, but, as cheesy as it sounds, to reconnect with myself. Blogging sometimes helps me figure out things in my life. Words and the act of writing can sometimes make order out of chaos. The very act of writing alone organizes as you think of what to write next, what word to use, what colors to paint your world with.

There were days I didn’t want to blog, but I blogged anyway. Sometimes I’d start to panic and think “What if I run out of things to say?” but then I’d sit down and some kind of topic presented itself, as if it was just sitting there waiting for me.

My only rule when sitting down to write was to be genuine. And allow myself to be vulnerable too. It allowed me to post in Lunch With Strangers about meeting my father for lunch and the sadness I feel about letting go of a relationship-that-isn’t.

I wrote about struggles with my son’s behavior in There’s Something Wrong With My Kid and the shame I felt for breaking a plate and screaming out of sheer frustration. And then I heard from dozens of people who wrote to me and said: “Yes. This is happening to me too. I’m part of the Broken Plate Club”, and I was comforted by the idea that maybe I’m not a monster.

I wrote about the things I love in I Love The Way, as an exercise to remember the good in the world when there is so much darkness.

I had days where I made myself laugh, even if no one else did. I loved my Love Poem To Ulgra by Hammertoh the Dwarf, and the idea that my stress level is indicated by my legs’ hair growth.

I re-posted my favorite blog about my difficulties with friendships, and my love for my girlfriends in To The Women I Have Loved And Lost. And I remembered both my worst and best Thanksgivings.

All in all, this month has been a journey, a bit of an adventure, a bit of a nightmare, all wrapped up in a wonderful life-burrito. And I thank you, truly, for reading.

For a long time, I’d given up on thinking of myself as a writer at all, or questioned the point of even trying, but your reading this, your comments, your kind words to me, gave me a little more faith in myself. A much-needed recharge of spirit. And I really mean Thank You.

The blog’s not done, but the daily posts are. I’m going to put my energy this month into rewriting my novel. I hope you’ll check in occasionally, and I’ll occasionally post when something happens where I feel moved to write about it.

I’m actually a little teary right now. It’s probably hormones, but maybe not. Maybe it’s that this has been a great experience. I’m proud of myself for doing it. And I’m astounded that so many of you followed along with me as I put words into order and posted them out in the world. I believe this is an act of magic. Magic does exist; it just doesn’t look the way we expected.

So thanks for the little bit of magic, too, and for helping me to believe.

Top Ten Things That Turn A Mom On

This morning, while scrolling for my Facebook feed I saw a headline from The Elephant Journal that read “Top Ten Things That Turn A Mom On” and I thought WHAT? And then I realized what it actually said was “Top Ten Things That Turn A MAN On.” Oh. That made more sense. And then, imagining the two lists, I thought…I bet those lists would have very, very different things on it.

So here is my list of the

Top Ten Things That Turn A Mom On

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1) Taking a bath without someone pounding on the door because they need to poop and/or they need you to set up the Xbox.

2) Having your husband say without your asking: “Don’t worry about dinner tonight. I got this.”

3) Having the kids actually listen to you and pick up their room/brush their hair/ take a shower.

4) A clean house, free of Lego Death Bombs on your feet.

5) Finding a nice place to get your hair done where the stylist doesn’t need to make small talk and you can just Be. Quiet. And get your head rubbed.

6) Having your head rubbed.

7) Being able to watch some of the programs you’ve recorded to the DVR while the kids play quietly upstairs and don’t try to strangle each other or shout things like “Stop looking at me!”

8) Taking out your winter clothes from last year and trying them on and having them STILL FIT.

9) A good, supportive bra that lifts your boobs and is sorta stylish and doesn’t make you look like you shop in the Granny section at Kmart.

10) A nice glass of wine, a good chocolate truffle, a slice of pizza (warm and gooey), a kiss from your husband on the side of your neck, having enough money in the bank for the essentials and some extras.

*Bonus Turn On*

11) All the male movie stars in England.

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No Sleep For You!

I had one of those ultimate bad-sleeping nights, the kind when you get up in the morning, it’s like trudging through knee-deep sand. The kind where Mr. Sandman has declared “No sleep for you!”

Last night, by 8:45, I was done. Done as in exhausted, and tired of my son’s meltdowns and the kids fighting and cooking food they didn’t want to eat and having to do laundry and clean the house and and and. I was just done. Sleep called to me like a satiny seductress.

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I wanted to wake up at 4AM and get a little recording done. I have a couple of big, ‘important’ books due this week and any progress I can make will mean a less stressful week. So I told everyone I was going to bed. I immediately fell asleep. By 9:01, I startled awake, gasping, as my son thudded upstairs screaming for me. My husband quickly reminded him that I was sleeping, though it was already too late.

Hubby tucked the kids in and I fell asleep and then gasped awake again when my daughter started calling for us because she need Dream Dust to help her sleep. (Basically, we rub our hands together and then tickle the ‘dream dust’ on her. She knows we’re doing this, but it’s the routine, I guess that helps her sleep.) Hubby took care of her. Good man.

I fell back asleep and a few hours later, around midnight, hubby let out some snores so deep and disturbing that I thought he was demonically possessed. I nudged him a few times, but to no avail. That man was ASLEEP.

Fuck it, I said, and stumbled downstairs to sleep all contorted like on the couch. At 12:30, hubby let the dog out and he zombie-walked back upstairs. My dog sat in front of the couch. Whining. Whining. Whining. I got up to get her a bone, but evidently, she wanted to play so she attacked a pair of slippers while I floated in that haze of dear-god-just-let-me-sleep.

Finally, after about an hour of constant whining and running around, she jumped up to fall asleep with me where we slept, for a while, pretzel-like, and then I had a dream that I was on a boat and there was an enormous tsunami wave coming right at me and then my alarm went off at 4AM so I could narrate, which there was no way I could do because I’d sound drunk.

I gave up and made some coffee.

Now I’m grumpy and depressed and stressed out and I had turkey tetrazzini for breakfast and I need to workout but I have no energy and I’m just, generally, unlikeable right now.

Maybe I can wiggle in a nap. I might have no choice. I think it’s either nap or pass out in leftover stuffing swimming with gravy.

Ugh.

To My Love Ulgra A Poem Written And Performed By Hammertoh, The Dwarf

I’m too tired to write a blog today, so I am posting this for my friend Hammertoh. He’s new to writing, and I really want to encourage him. He also came over to my house (unexpectedly) and recorded this (by forcing me to boot up the studio with a dagger at my throat), so you can either read or listen to his sweet words of love to his girlfriend, Ulgra.

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To My Love, Ultra written by Hammertoe, The Dwarf It’s the holiday season, Ulgra, And instead of playing into the rampant commercialism, I thought I’d write you a love poem instead. (Also, because I’m unemployed and have no income because my parents are making me pay rent to live in the basement of Mount Elohnay.)

I love you. I love you with a deep throbbing. A good throbbing. Not an infected throbbing. I love you the way that elves love eating salads With things like kale and chick peas and them there flowers. I love you the way that dragons breathe fire, Not from indigestion but from their sheer desire For all the shiny things. I love you the way the Dark Lord Goneigha loves death And blood Though maybe that’s not a good example. I love you with all of my being Which, like my stature, is mammoth. I love you more than I love to crush rocks. And that’s saying something.

So this holiday season, it is with all my life essence That I give you my love. I’d also give you a ring, But, again, no income. Still. You have my giant hand, My love, and my giant loins.

They are yours to do with what you want. Happy holidays, Ulgra. You are the stones beneath my feet, The molten lava in my veins, The giant battle ax of my metallic heart. You are my foundry, my heat, the sword in my stone.

I love you. That is all. And, as you know, That Is Everything.

To The Women I Have Loved And Lost

This, maybe, of everything I've written, is my favorite blog. It is written simply but it says the things I've always wanted. On Thanksgiving, I'm reminded how lucky I am to have wonderful, powerful women in my life who 'get' me and all my awkwardness. And since the writing of this blog, I have new friendships in my life, proving that even though it's hard, you can still connect with others. And your life will be better because of it. Happy Thanksgiving. Wishing you blessings, laughter, and lots of love!

Tanya

quiet

TO THE WOMEN I HAVE LOVED AND LOST

Kaly was my first love. Our Barbies humped in her room upstairs, her house slouching next to a gas station. We made them dresses and they were fashion queens and then when Ken came in, everything went to hell. I didn’t know then that I was creating a pattern in my life. Ken, the bastard, would always tear friendships apart.

Then there was Katie. She had blonde hair like Sally in Charlie Brown. She wore plastic bangle bracelets, slouchy shirts, and puffy skirts. She played the piano while I sang Barry Manilow. We watched Madonna on MTV. We sang so loud we had to open the windows so our song could escape.

Missy lived across the street and we felt pressure to be friends because our moms were friends. I sat in her room and we listened to 45s. She played “I’m Your Venus” but I thought it was “I’m Your Penis” and I refused to sing it out loud, but wouldn’t tell her why.

I moved and my friends could not come with me. They slipped silently underwater.

Three of a kind

At my new school and now living with my dad and his wife and my new stepsiblings, I fumbled around for a good friend. My stepsister would become my life’s greatest love, and one of the most complicated. We went through everything together: our first period, first crushes, first heartbreaks. We snuck out once in the middle of summer to meet a couple of boys at the basketball court, but it was boring and we snuck home. We shared a bed and sometimes we’d kick each other, trying to hurt the other one. She lit her bangs on fire and we laughed and laughed at how fast Aqua Net could ignite. Boys loved her. Boys thought I was her brother. I dreamed of being beautiful, like her. (I still dream this.)

High school friends were on the outside of my life, but in my senior year, there was Kim and Cheryl, the Cheerleader and the Brain.  We took an independent study with Mr. Messing. One day, we spread out a blanket on the front lawn and I made them listen to Crosby, Still, and Nash even though this was our parents’ music. We listened and we talked of all the places we would go. How we were unlikely friends, but our lives would be magical.

In college, I had roommates. Amy with the wild hair, so curly it seemed like it was trying to escape from her head. And Jill, who was eight years older, a returning student. She drank her coffee with a straw because she didn’t want to have yellow teeth. Shannon wanted to be a doctor. I didn’t understand her. She ate weird things like bread so sour that it made my lips pucker. She said it was that way intentionally and I didn’t believe her. She was obsessed with the human body, constantly amazed by it. She once called me into the bathroom to see her enormous poop and how it snaked around the bowl three times. “I did that!” she cried, proud. “Isn’t that amazing?” It sorta was.

But they were on the outside because I met Paul. He was from Detroit. He would be my Ken, but a tougher Ken. A Ken raised in an all black neighborhood in the heart of Detroit, even though he was white and Italian and Catholic. He was a genius and I loved his family and he made me feel like the world was safe and comfortable as long as I was near him. I ditched hanging out with my girlfriends so we could drive around in his Iroc, windows rolled down, Guns N Roses blaring, singing at the top of our lungs, even though I thought the band sucked. I liked jazz, but you can’t sound angry while singing to jazz.

When we broke up, I moved in with three women who would transform me: Kim, the artist; Rachel, the singer and attorney; Sarah, the director. We wore red lipstick. We ate pot roast. We talked about heart break. When Paul came over asking for me to come back to him, they supported me silently but blared “I’m a Creep” through their rooms. Sarah directed a play I wrote and Rachel starred in it and Kim helped with the posters. The friendship I had with Sarah was intense and confusing. We fought over the play. I told her I was embarrassed and wanted to know how she was directing it. She thought I didn’t trust her, that I thought her work was crap. Really, I didn’t trust myself. I was embarrassed by my words. I wasn’t good enough. I dated an actor, and then I went back to Paul. Sarah dated someone out East, but still loved her high school sweetheart. I told her that you don’t marry your high school sweetheart. That’s what our mothers did. But what did I know? I didn’t know anything. In the end, she married him, proving how wrong I was. About everything.

Paul and I moved to Miami so he could go to grad school and I could be a waitress.  I met women who wanted more than life offered them. In the Beverly Hills Café, there were women who wanted to act, be a stewardess, find love. Women, like Gina, who was warm and from Georgia and had a laugh that could melt butter. I should’ve spent more time with them, but I was always with Paul. I should’ve asked them more questions. I should’ve been more present. Instead, I was always looking out the window, wondering how my boyfriend was.

When I left Paul, I taped the engagement ring to his computer. I said goodbye to him and I felt cruel. I did not get to say goodbye to his Italian mother. I missed her pragmatism. Her strength. The way she’d push the grocery cart in Kroger’s as if she was ready to run anyone down. She taught me the secret to her family’s Italian pasta sauce, and I still feel guilty. I have never cooked it. I did not get to say goodbye to Paul’s sister, Beth. We laughed together, curled up on the couch, eating Ben & Jerry’s from little Dixie cups. We watched Anne of Green Gables over and over, though we were in college. I had red hair and she had brown hair and secretly, I pretended I was Anne and she was Diana and Paul was Gilbert and we would all live happily ever together. We did not.

On my own, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I began to do theater. Community shows where I was in Assassins, and played Squeaky Fromme. I was in Angels in America, and I played Harper and I felt like I knew her because she was just as lost as I was. I became friends with Shelly and Tracey. We were called the Triumvirate, and I didn’t know what that meant though I thought it was religious. We had big boobs. We laughed a lot. We drank more. At night, we’d meet up at the Cottage restaurant and we would pass around lemon drops. We’d flirt with men. We’d flirt with each other. We told secrets. We kept secrets. The friendships felt intense and like we would never be without each other. Then I moved to New York, and the friendships could not come with me.

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There were others. Of course there were. Dionne and Ann and Vicki and Arnie and Jeannie and Shayne. Women I envied for their beauty and their strength, for their intellect and creativity. Women I could’ve learned more from, and grown up with, and cared for. But I was jealous of them And angry. And petty. They were women that I put second and third and fourth because what was important wasn’t friendships, but finding a man, getting married, having kids before my womb dried up at thirty.

I found a man. I had kids. I said goodbye to all my friends. Not consciously, but they slowly fell away, like leaves dropping. And now that I’m forty, and remarried, and my kids are past the stage of needing me for every moment, it’s not the ‘wild years’ of my twenties that I look back at with longing. It’s all the women that have fluttered into my life. How they changed me. How they influenced me. And how I was never brave enough to hold on to them, to put friendship before dating, to give them the time and energy they deserve.

I wish I could have them back. All of them. I wish that the girlfriends I have managed to keep over the years (Keeley and Rachel and Kim) I wish that we could be closer. I wish I was the kind of person that could talk on the phone for hours. I was I had a Sisterhood or something. Potlucks, maybe. Book clubs. Something. But it’s hard to manage. It’s hard to reach out. I wish I had my sister back. I wish it was summer and we could sneak out of our houses, not to meet boys again…but to hang out under the stars and the moon. To look for fireflies. To laugh at each other. To say "Does this make me look fat?" and have the other say "God yes, but who the fuck cares?"

I wonder what they’re doing now, these women I have loved and lost. All of them. I wonder, are they happy? Do they laugh? Do they ever think of me? And if they do, I hope it’s with fondness. I hope it’s with understanding. I should’ve been a better friend. I should’ve been a better person. But you do the best you can, even when the best you can isn’t good enough.

My Favorite Thanksgiving

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 6.45.31 AM My favorite Thanksgiving happened in 2001, when I was living in New York. I’d moved there in July, got a job at Carnegie Hall, slept on a friend’s floor for a while, and then sublet an apartment across from Bloomingdale’s. It was all sort of magical. But I had no real network of friends there, no family, no boyfriend. Then 9/11 happened and everyone, the whole city it seemed, was depressed.

I was looking at a Thanksgiving eating a burrito alone in my apartment since my roommate (who wasn’t really a friend) was leaving. And then my college roommate called. She was in school at UMass. She wanted to come to the city for Thanksgiving, along with her Madonna-loving-political-planner boyfriend. And could they bring some friends?

Kim and Kyle came the night before and we walked around the town. We ended up on the Upper West Side to see the balloons. Apparently, the night before the parade, they blow up all those Macy Balloons and then corral them on one long city block. The city trees were awash in golds and reds and we wove between families dressed in bright sweaters and scarves, and we pointed and laughed at the goliath balloons, bobbing in the slight breeze.

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The next morning I happily set about cooking in the tiny apartment. Cooking for me is an act of healing. It’s meditative and calming, and something I couldn’t really do when I lived in New York because I was alone and poor, and anything I wanted to cook was so fragrant that I’d annoy my roommate and everyone in the apartment complex. But on Thanksgiving, I could do what I wanted.

Kim and Kyle went to see the parade and I opened the windows while the turkey cooked. I could hear the sounds of the parade in the distance: the clash of drums, people cheering, loud and tinny sounding music, and I thought: “I am here in New York. I live here and this is happening.”

When they came back, their friends joined us. We didn’t have enough chairs so we sat on the leather couch, stools, and maybe someone was on a box. I didn’t even know half of the people there, but for that one meal, we were a family when I needed a family most in the world.

That meal reminded me of the good things in the world. The colors of red and gold, balloons, families wearing bright scarves and gloves, a warm meal cooked with love. And it also hinted at the things I didn’t think was possible then, but I would one day have: a family of my own. But this time, with enough chairs.

Seriously I Dreamed This

I was going to write about my favorite Thanksgiving, but I had a dream last night of such profound importance that I decided that I needed to write about that instead. It’s all about flexibility, people. I dreamed I was at a Magic Mike type strip club with my sister.

Ahem. Yes. Let’s just revisit that line again and then move forward.

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I dreamed I was at a Magic Mike type strip club with my sister. Only I didn’t feel like I could go there and wave dollar bills. That felt too dirty. So instead, I brought sheets and sheets of cake balls that I had infused with liquor. I handed them out to all the ladies and screamed: “It’s Drunken Cake Balls, y’all!”

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The women pounced on those balls like they were…uhm…liquor infused chocolate cake balls…while the half-naked men watched in horror. Really. The music stopped and those men just stood there, their male bits tenderly cradled in pleather swaying slightly in the breeze caused by mad women shoving cake balls in their faces.

Then I woke up. Slightly aroused. But not because of the strippers. It was all the Drunken Cake Balls, y’all.

That’s gotta be a thing, right?

My Worst Thanksgiving

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 2.59.51 PM Holidays are always hard, especially when you have an extended family that is more dysfunctional that functional, or even present. So, in general, I have these wide hopes for the holidays inspired by epic holiday movies, and things generally fall short. I try to adjust my expectations.

My son was about two and a half, my daughter around seven months. Instead of doing the whole turkey thing, I decided I’d make Chinese food instead. Homemade eggrolls, crab rangoons, meatballs in a hoisin sauce, rice, sweet and sour chicken. My in-laws were coming down from Canada and they’d already had their Thanksgiving, so it seemed fun. I spent a day sweating and rolling eggrolls and when we sat down to eat, I had the realization that it would’ve been so much better if we’d just ordered takeout. I craved turkey and mashed potatoes, not mediocre meatballs in a soy sauce dotted with sad slices of green onion.

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That night, my son called out in his sleep and I ran to him. “Mommy I don’t…” I knew he was going to say ‘feel good’ but he started retching and I looked around in a panic but couldn’t find a trash, so I held out my hands. It was the moment I felt like a real mom, trying to catch my kid’s vomit. Then my daughter got sick, followed by my husband, and then his dad.

The house reeked of illness. I tended to everyone while my mother-in-law stood outside in the cold chain-smoking. “I am not going to get sick,” she said and I couldn’t tell if it was a promise or a mantra of black-magic using cigarette smoke to ward off the demons.

Two days later, everyone had recovered and we sat at the breakfast table. My father-in-law slowly ate a bowl of cereal as if it took great effort and looked at me and said in his thick French-Canadian accent: “Oh, Tanya. It was ze ring. Ze ring of fire.”

He wasn’t kidding. Because later that day I got sick. I felt like an exploding pin cushion. It was all kinds of horror movie.

My mother-in-law took over caring for the house and(still chain smoking) made her famous pot of spaghetti with a homemade sauce of spicy Italian sausage, red peppers, and onions. The smell permeated the house like a plague. I tried not to breathe, but it was either breathe or pass out.

The days passed, slowly trudging to Christmas.

With four adults and two children getting sick, our septic tank backed up and on Christmas eve, it broke entirely. I’d recovered enough to talk to the plumber in the basement and then my daughter, in her new crawling adventurous spirit, decided to follow all the adults and she tumbled down the stairs.

She was fine and we scooped her up and dusted her off, but the plumber looked at me (I’m pretty sure) like I was evil incarnate for leaving the door to the basement open. For the record, I didn’t. There were four other adults who trundled down the stairs after me.

I don’t remember much about that Christmas, but I do remember when the Thanksgiving/Christmas/NewYears mania was past us, I thanked the gods above and below. And I made a vow to never thwart tradition again. From here on out, Thanksgiving would always feature turkey, mashed potatoes, and a corn casserole that I would be the only one to eat. And maybe I’d start chain-smoking too. Just in case.

My mother-in-law never did get sick.

Quiet Walk With My Dog

Reggie I am not a dog person. Not by any means. When I was little, I was petting a dog the way little kids do, by scrunching its fur with every ounce of my little body. The dog bit me in the face. For the longest time I had a little scar by my eye and my mom says the doctor told us “One more millimeter, and she’d have lost that eye.”

While I don’t remember the event, my body does. When I see a dog, I tense. The weird thing is, dogs seem to really like me. They’ll come bounding after me, tails wagging, tongues lolling and intellectually I think “Oh, they’re coming to say hello”. Emotionally I think “DEAR GOD THAT DOG WANTS TO BITE OFF MY FACE!”

We are not friends, canines and me.

Except for one. We got a dog mostly for the kids, but she’s snuggled right up close to my heart. We take walks together. Sometimes when I don’t really want to, but I guess that’s a benefit of having a dog too. She makes me leave my house. Everyone in the neighborhood knows her and you can hear echoes of “Hi, Reggie!” when we walk up and down the block. Once a woman called out “You got your dog a haircut! She’s looking goooooood!”

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This morning we took a walk in the snow. There’s a peculiar thing that happens after a heavy snow. Things quiet. I’m sure the snow muffles the world. This morning, it was particularly quiet. No cars whizzing by. No insects. No birds. Just the soft shuff shuff of my boots and the click of Reggie’s claws on the icy sidewalk.

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The air was so crisp and clean and I just breathed it in. Reggie dug her face in the snow and occasionally looked at me for approval.

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We plodded along, in the cold and the white, and I thought, “You know, some dogs are okay.” And mornings like this put me back in center. In calm.

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Later Reggie and I will take a nap on the couch. She will lay her head down next to my face and we will sleep.

See? Proof that you can learn to trust again, even after you’ve been hurt.

Today's Secret Word Is SIMPLIFY

Ahhhh. On this cool and wintry November morning, I'm reminding myself that some things have got to go. I need to simplify so that I can focus on the important things. The important things aren't things at all, they're my kids, my husband and myself. So. Out go the extra appointments that can be postponed for the next few weeks. The laundry can wait. I'll cook easy meals that don't really require a recipe. I'll play gentle jazz and drink some good coffee. My to-do list will shrink from ten to two. We'll have a simple Thanksgiving, just the four of us, and give thanks for good food and being together. Today, I'm letting go of some chaos and making things a little more manageable.

It's not some spiritual zen thing or anything. It's just a little time to brush away the extra crumbs and start with a clean tablecloth. Maybe that metaphor is too complicated. This simplifying thing might take some practice, at least for me. That's okay. I can do this.

This is me...just making things a little easier so I can breathe.

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Prologue To My New Novel

I took a long break from my blog to work on my novel. I just finished the first draft, and will begin the rewrite in earnest on December 1. In February, I'll go to a writing conference in that ever-hope of finding an agent or a publisher who believes in me. So there will be another long break from the blog. If you're curious, here are the opening pages to the novel. It's called The Murder Of Cora March. Hope you like it. Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 4.45.46 PM

PROLOGUE

Chicago December 1910

LILLIAN

My father says we have to move the body and come up with a story before anyone finds out. I find that very odd. Not the story part, I am used to stories, but the part about the body. Just an hour ago, that body was Mother, but now she’s gone. Her soul hissed out like steam from a kettle. I cross to the object who was Mother but now is The Body. Papa says hurry and I do. “The police will be here soon and we must be ready,” he says. He does not know that the police only come to the Packinghouse District to drink and to open their trousers.

There isn’t time for me to see the room through my father’s eyes, but I do anyway. It is easier to see the room than it is to look at the deep red staining my hands and dress. The drops on the floor that start small and blossom, like crimson fireworks. I don’t look at her boots with the many small buttons. At her torn stockings and too-short skirt. At her sad, exposed bosoms, like white dough gone too long to rise. I don’t look at her face and her open eyes, and the red blooming along her front. I look at the room while Papa scrubs my hands with a stiff brush and cold water.

There is my straw mattress in the corner. The postcard I would stare at hidden underneath. The paper shade that she pulled to block me from sight. The iron bed with the mattress that smelled of damp earth and the sea. The wallpaper is curling in the upper right corner as if it’s a snake shedding its skin. There are playbills nailed to the walls. The places Mother went to, maybe, in the beginning. The places she dreamed of going later. The places she’ll never go to now.

My hands burn.

“Lillian,” he says. His words are molasses. “You must change. Do you have anything else you can wear?”

I cannot speak. I am metamorphosing like the bugs in the biology book I used to read. My words are a rock in my throat. I shake my head.

“Is this all you have?” he asks and I can hear the sorrow clinging to him. “She left home for…” Now Papa has no words either. Maybe he is metamorphosing too.

He squeezes my hands in his. He has worker hands. Firm and rough and warm, but I am not afraid of his hands. He still thinks I am just a girl.

I point to the dresses she has hanging on the door. There are two. One looks like a costume, and I suppose it is; it is meant to be taken off quickly. He grabs the light blue one, the summer dress. This was the dress she wore when she took me from him. It is stained and torn, the hem thick with mud and horse dung. Once, it was the color of the Michigan sky over the bay, its ruffles like whitecaps surfacing. The blue is more grey now and it smells of loss. “Put this on,” he says. “I will tend to…” He turns away from me, for propriety, I guess, and I try to stop the giggle from bubbling. He thinks there are still things left for me to hide.

I dress. What I’m wearing now is no better than a sack and it pools at my feet. I step out of it, and into the dress that once hung to my mother’s curves. The dress’s bustle is long gone now and it floats on me. I breathe with relief. It does not fit me. Her curves are in the wrong places, so maybe there is hope that I will not grow into her shape.

We have lived here for a year. I was a child when we first got here, and I am leaving transformed. Worse than becoming a woman, I have become a monster. I know it is worse because I am glad of it. In the blue stained dress, I am a demon, and I am smiling because we are free of her.  

Afraid To Go Gray

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 3.01.11 PM I’ve been so busy with the little calamities happening to my family, that all trivial things are sort of taking a backseat, or getting postponed indefinitely. Most of those trivial things are things for myself like working out, shaving my legs, going to the dentist. Not enough time, not enough energy, too many appointments for the kids to have appointments for myself. I mean, I have to try and work around all the therapy appointments, homework, and chaos that has become our every day.

Two weeks ago, I had the appointment set for my cut & color and I was looking forward to having my hair played with for two hours and coming out smelling like an Aveda shower and looking if not like a model, then at least in a slight more-together me. But my son was sick, again, so it was yet another canceled appointment. And because of the holidays, I can’t get into the salon for another month.

There is so much gray in my hair. So. Much. And I’m tempted…I’m so tempted to just let it happen. I’ve been dyeing my hair since I was sixteen and have been every color of the hair-rainbow. At least until the modern hair-rainbow of blues and greens. But I’ve been black, platinum, brunette, blonde, auburn, and sometimes purple. That was a mistake, that purple, and resulted in a lot of tears and an immediate return to the pharmacy for Ash Blonde and a bottle of Absolut.

I’ve been dyeing my hair so long that I don’t even know what color it is anymore. And frankly, in all that dyeing, I don’t even know who I am anymore. But now I have a hint. I’m in my forties, and I’m probably forty-to-fifty percent gray. Not just gray, but bright silver. Threads and threads of it.

What stops me from just letting it happen? I don’t know, exactly. I’m afraid. It seems like such a little thing, but it’s a big thing too. If I let it go gray, then I’ll look older. Will it stop me from getting cast in romance novels if I look middle-aged? If I go gray (or silver), will I suddenly stop being attractive? Will people judge me for ‘letting myself go’?

These seem like really trivial questions or concerns in light of the world. And they are. But they’re also tied somehow to my identity. My sense of self. Which….right now…I’ve got to tell you…is as fragile as a butterfly’s wing.

I’m holding on. I’m keeping strong. I’m taking care of my kids and we’re figuring things out. And maybe if to do that, I need to ‘let myself go’ a little bit, maybe that’s okay too.

There will be time, sometime soon, for that pampering. That long shower. That new outfit. That luscious dinner out without having to rush home.

Just not right now.

So maybe the choice has already been made. At least for another month, gray it is. Although, actually, maybe I’ll just call it silver. The words that you use can sometimes shape your perception, and silver sounds a tiny bit magical.

Early Morning With My Daughter

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 11.53.24 AM My daughter is nine and doesn’t need me as much as she used to. It’s a good thing, this growing independence. Still, she will call out occasionally, and it warms my heart when I can go to her. Last night, or rather early this morning, around 4AM, she called out and I immediately jumped out and bed and stumbled to her room.

“Mommy, I can’t sleep. I keep trying but I just can’t,” she said.

“You want me to just sit with you for a while?”

“Okay.”

And so I sat next to her. And waited.

“My eyelids are tired,” she said.

“Well, don’t try to keep them open. Let them close.”

“But the rest of me isn’t tired.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “Just close your eyes and try to think of things.”

She closed her eyes. “What things?”

I yawned. “Oh, I dunno. Think about a project you want to work on.” Her face scrunched and I could tell that wasn’t working. “Think about a magical animal.”

“What kind?” That softened her face a little, the idea of magic and animals.

“Oh…Think about what an animal would be like if you combined a cat and a bird.”

Her face re-scrunched. “Mommy. That would never happen. The cat half would try to eat the bird half. It’d be chaos. It’d never survive.”

“Ah,” I said. “Good point. Well then, just picture a cat with wings. That’d be cool.”

“Maybe,” she said.

We sat there for a while. The house ticked. It was dark. She reached for my hand in the dark and we held on for a bit.

“Do you think I could get up?” she asked.

I wanted to tell her “Can’t we just stay like this a little longer?” but instead I said “Sure, baby. We can get up.”

And we did.