God Is Like The Good Milk

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” — C.S. Lewis

I was born to a nominally Catholic mother and an agnostic father.  While I did attend Sunday school at a Methodist church from roughly Kindergarten through 6th grade, I would not say I grew up in a religious household by any means.  I know my mother kept a Bible tucked away in her bedside table, but from what I can remember, I knew more about where it came from (it was my great grandmother’s, and it was old and delicate and beautiful), than what was in it.  I had much better access to  the literature on the bookcases in my father’s den, where I found the writings of Carl Sagan and Joseph Campbell.  He and I read them together, and often discussed their claims book club-style.

But before I was old enough to read about alternative ways of thinking, or to inquire about the silk screen cover art on an old Bible, nothing — no religious painting or statue, no learning rote prayers, no regular church routine — nothing in my material experience instigated a spiritual (or non-spiritual) notion.  That being said….

I have always believed in God.  Always.

Well, perhaps “believed” is not quite the correct word, because it seems to imply a choice of sorts — a choice that proceeds an examination of evidence and then some sort of commitment to a particular conclusion.

And because of the intellectual capacity required to hold a belief, I know that I could not have possibly “believed” in God as a baby, or maybe even as a toddler.  But, from the moment of my first conscious thought — from the time I first became self-aware — the notion of something “other,” something beyond my five senses, was perfectly real to me.

And trust me — I have a lot of memories from my early life.  I have fact-checked the details with adults who “knew me when,” and I can safely say that my recollections are on-point with reality.

So, God was real, and obvious, and inarguable from the very beginning just like arms and legs, and thoughts and ideas, and the breath that went in and out of my lungs in a particular rhythm to keep me alive.

So while “believed” might not fit, “known” seems to.

Let’s say instead that I have always known God.

He just was.

Now, I know if I was you reading those words I just wrote, I would want a little more.

But, how did you just “know?”  I’d wonder.  What does that really mean?  And how do you know you really knew anyway? I’d insist.

It’s so difficult to properly articulate.  Language can’t do it justice, but I’ll try:

When I close my eyes and fully concentrate on how I know — and have always known — that God is, I keep coming back to this analogy about milk.

Alright, do you remember being a kid and spending the night at your best friend’s house?  And how, upon waking up in that friend’s house the next morning — even though you had a blast, and you didn’t exactly want to go home just yet — something felt a little “off?”

It’s usually the milk.

I know you didn’t like the brand of milk they had in the fridge — I know because nobody does.  Milk is such a personal thing, and when the cap is green instead of purple, and when the label has an image of a daisy as opposed to a monogram of the store’s name your mom shops at, well, you don’t really want to pour it into your cereal bowl.

But you’re hungry and you’re thirsty.

And the milk is perfectly fine — fresh and cold and full of Vitamin D.

And you really don’t want to go home over some friggin’ milk.  So you use it.

But drinking it, you still feel thirsty for the “better” milk.  The one stocked in your own fridge.  In fact, this perfectly fine milk now before you actually makes you thirstier.  You are partaking in what you thought you wanted (cold milk in a bowl of cereal), but yet, as right and correct as it is to ingest this milk, it actually leaves you yearning for a better version of it.

It literally leaves you longing.

Well, even as a very young child, all the seemingly “good” things that I thought I wanted always left me thirsty — longing —  for more; they seemed a mere shadow of what could possibly be.

They were right and true, but they weren’t complete, exactly.  And I somehow knew it.

Curled up against my mother in her big, fluffy, marshmallow bed, the lights dimmed and a pile of library books between us….

Nestled in the crook of a medium-low branch on my favorite climbing tree, my fingers stained orange from popsicle juice nearly matching the hazy hues of the evening sky….

Standing barefoot on ice cold squares of kitchen tile in the middle of the night,  drinking apple juice from a Tupperware cup to chase the bitter tang of Children’s Liquid Tylenol….

Purer moments of perfect childhood bliss I dare you to find.


I always had to breathe in really, really deep — to drink in the faint scent of Prell in my mom’s hair; or the heady, sickly sweet air of Spring at dusk; or the sugary nectar with notes of dish soap against muted plastic — because it was never enough.

The comfort, the warmth, the safety, the beauty, the contentedness, the love — it was never enough.

And Prell and sweet air and dish soap against plastic weren’t exactly my aim, but they were the only ways I could conjure more layers for a bigger and truer experience.

And this is not at all to suggest that I didn’t like or appreciate what I had.

This is not to imply I was never happy.  Quite the contrary.

I had a childhood full of all I could ever possibly need, and, embarrassingly, even a bit of indulgence.

But, I always intuited that there was something more — something beyond.  A better, more fuller version of whatever good thing that was playing out around me.

Even before I had a word for it, even before I officially “believed” in Him, I sensed it was Him that I wanted.  God — the comfort, the warmth, the safety, the beauty, the contentedness, the love that actually is enough.  The “good” milk with the “right” label and purple cap, if you will.

I think we are all born knowing this.  But I also think we tend to forget….

Years and age and time cast dark and distracting shadows over simple truths I once saw so clearly.  As an adult, I have many times nearly lost my way.  I have many times mistaken wanting more in this world for needing more from this world.

But then, a few years ago, during a journey of rediscovery, I read what C.S. Lewis had to say about longing and insatiable desires.  And then, in my journal,  I wrote the following synopsis after closing his book:

We have a longing in our hearts that nothing in this world can fulfill, but it exists because there is something that can fulfill it — heaven/God.  Everything good here (falling in love/traveling/securing wealth/a satisfying career/having children) is merely a shadow, capable of producing only a hint of the feeling we truly seek.  Yes, there is always an unquenchable longing in our hearts in this world, because we were actually made for another “world.” 

And suddenly it all began to make so much sense again.

Even in my best moments, I am merely on the verge of something good.

Isn’t that kind of exciting — to live in a constant state of hopefulness?














Wherever You Go, There You Are

A story about something that’s very difficult to explain correctly, but is an important notion, and so it is worth trying to explain anyway.  Oh,  I hope I can do this thing justice:

“Okay, so, you’ve seen Before Sunrise, right?” asked M as she worked to WhereverYouGowrangle her two-year-old into a denim jumper.

The little girl arched her back, splaying chubby legs in a deliberate “V,” out and away from her mother’s reach.

“No –” I said.  “You know I don’t watch movies.  At least, nothing that was made after 1969.”

I was only half-kidding.

“Yeah….okay, well, you’ve heard of it, right?  Ethan Hawke and that French actress, Julie….” her voice trailed off as she engaged in a concentrated effort to guide a handful of toddler ankle through the neck hole of the jumper and then out the skirted end.

“Delpy?”  I offered.

“Yes, that’s it, Julie Delpy.”

I stood — leaning on the door frame of M’s daughter’s nursery — with my sunglasses still on, and my house keys in hand. I hadn’t yet committed to anything beyond a five-minute interlude amidst 1,440 minutes of daily grind. I had a million things to do at home.

“So, yes, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke….” M said, situating her daughter upright to survey the progress.

“Socks,” M noted aloud, as the little girl dutifully reclined into her mother’s lap, extending a foot and wiggling corn-niblet toes in my direction.

M reached for the sock drawer as she continued:

“….and, anyway, they meet on this train — they’re in Budapest — and they have this immediate connection, and so, on a whim, they get off together in Vienna and spend a day walking the streets and having these really amazing conversations.”

M is from Jersey; when she talks she uses her hands to help her words along.  I watched as she punctuated “immediate” and “whim” and “amazing” with gestures that somehow seamlessly worked two tiny pink socks into the choreography.

I love watching her talk.

“Yes, yes, right.  I remember the gist,” I said.

I hadn’t seen the movie, but I had seen the trailer several times:  With a stolen-moments sense of urgency, two dialog-happy young  strangers discover the very best parts of each other over the course of a day spent canoodling near incredible European architecture.

And of course, cue The Lemonheads:

I know a place where I can go when I’m alone. 

Into your arms, whoa, into your arms I can go.

I played the song in my head as I followed M back downstairs and into the kitchen.  She had now transitioned from Before Sunrise to its most recent sequel, Before Midnight.  She was pouring milk into a sippy cup while weighing the merits of  this latest installment, but I could only hear those lyrics still on repeat in my imagination:

And if I should fall

I know I won’t be alone

Be alone anymore.

That familiar pang signaling an impending bout of nostalgia grabbed at that space between my heart and my throat.  Every breath drawn felt like I was on the verge of both a smile and a cry.  A pleasant gag, maybe?

From behind the cover of my sunglasses, I looked past M and fixed a steady gaze on an empty glass turned upside down in her drying rack.  Sunlight streaming through a nearby window caught the glass at just the right angle to cast a bauble-like effect within it, the colors like a bridge to sunbeams past.

Like those that hit at vinyl dashboards during early evening drives on winding roads to wherever-the-Hell — a fog of Marlboro Light hanging heavy in the air, a Guy You Like sitting next to you.

I know a place that’s safe and warm from the crowd.

Like those that pierced the tiny spaces between fans of leaves so that when lying in the grass below — looking up at this tree canopy — you had a trippy cathedral in which to contemplate how The Cure was more a band of poets than a band of musicians. Or some other kind of indulgent, beautiful nonsense you used to have time think about.

Into your arms, whoa, into your arms I can go.

“I mean, I’ve  had those moments.  I’ve lived those moments.  I’ve walked through cities with a guy — I’ve had amazing conversations while strolling museums.  Albeit in the tri-state area as opposed to somewhere in Europe, but….I mean, I’ve lived those moments, you know?”

M’s words drew me back into the here-and-now of  Wednesday morning in a kitchen, in a house, in a neighborhood, in suburbia.  I blinked free from once-upon-a-time and studied my friend.

My toddler-rearing, milk-pouring, laundry-folding, mom-wife-friend, who in that instant didn’t really seem like any of those things at all.

M looked so young. Too young to be using past tense when speaking of long walks through interesting cities with someone who cares to really know her.

No way am I the only one who appreciates the way she uses her hands to help her words along.

“I’ve done some really great things,” I heard her continue.

Now I knew this whole conversation wasn’t about a movie anymore.  For either of us.

The movie was just a jumping-off point from which we’d both hoped to dive into something deeper.

As I’ve said before, moms talk about real things.  Real important things.

I dropped my keys on M’s kitchen table and flipped my sunglasses up to rest on top of my head.

Screw the grind.

“Yeah, I know.  I know,” I said wistfully.  “Me too.  I’ve lived those moments too….I’ve done some really great things too.”

“Lauren — I want to go somewhere,” confided M, who was standing right in front of me now — looking at me as though whatever I said next might help her get there.

“I want to go somewhere….” M repeated.

“I know.  Me too,” I said again.

I was enjoying the camaraderie so much that I didn’t want to acknowledge how the word “go” didn’t fit for me somehow.

But “go” can mean so many things, I reasoned.

“I want to go to Paris,” M sighed.

And there it was.  I wanted to say “me too” again.  But now I really couldn’t.  Because now the divide between her trajectory and my trajectory was too wide to stay the course.

So instead of “me too,” I said:

“I don’t want to go to Paris.  I mean, I don’t need to go to Paris.  I don’t really need to go somewhere at all.”

I took a moment to think critically about what it was that I was actually trying to say.

“I don’t need to go somewhere,” I repeated slowly.  “I think I need to…. feel somewhere.”

M looked at me, considering my words.  I don’t know exactly what she was thinking, but I know she wasn’t confused, which was enough for me.

My best friend, J, always likes to say, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

And it’s really true.  Cliche, but true.

Because the “go” is nothing more than new geography if the “you” is all out of whack.

See, the passage of time has a way of making you believe that everything has to evolve, that nothing is forever,  that people change.  That the essence of “you” is malleable, you know.   It has to be.

Dreamers in cars on winding roads to wherever-the-Hell….wonderers contemplating under tree cathedrals….they have to move on to more important things someday.

(Like pouring cups of milk?)

No way.  Not so.  I know better than that.

I know that I am essentially unchanged at my core.  I know because sunlight hitting the dash of a 1994 Toyota Corolla brings me to the same “place” as sunlight hitting glass in a 2013 drying rack.

Weird, but true.

And that “place” is not somewhere you go, but somewhere you feel — it’s that longing for something beyond the ever-changing circumstances of our little material existence.  It’s that sense that something good has yet to be fully realized.

I want to “be” there — in that state of longing — because anticipating good things makes me the kind of person who I could bring to Paris.  Milk-pouring, laundry-folding, harried-mommy me can stay behind.  I’m bringing the girl who pleasant-gags at sunbeams.  I want to travel with a dreamer.

But first I have to find her again.  And she can’t be flighty, showing up only when there’s good music (or too much beer).  She has to stay put.

M and I were now standing in her driveway — I was heading home, and she was hooking her big, brown bear of a dog to an outside leash, preparing it for a wash-down.

The dog had rolled in something dead again; the lighted Yankee candle on M’s stove top was no match for the stench.

M turned on the hose.

“So, Paris, huh?” I called out over the rush of water.

M looked up, still scrubbing soap into suds.

“Yeah….” she said.

“You’ll go, you know.  Just go,” I said as I paced backward out toward the street.

“Yeah….” she said, shrugging her shoulders.  “I don’t know….”

When I got home, I downloaded The Lemonheads to my iphone.  I added some Gin Blossoms and Toadies, too.

I went to my car and hid the booster seat far enough back that it couldn’t be seen in the rear view mirror.  I crumpled up stray PTA fliers and zip lock bags full of pretzel crumbs, and threw them in an empty grocery bag on the floor.

Slidding into the driver’s seat, I plugged in my music, and turned up the volume.


Make up your mind.

Decide to walk with me.

Around the lake tonight.

Around the lake tonight.

By my side…..

And then I opened the sunroof and waited for sunbeams to hit at the dashboard of my 2010 Ford Expedition.

Hey, you gotta start somewhere.



Just So You Know, You Are Cordially Not Invited

A story in a series of many future stories about how being completely humiliated can actually be good for your character.

So, beginning probably around 5th grade, each year of public school was punctuated by some new crush I had on a particular guy.  When I am asked to recall moments from my academic career — say, my older son wants to know what subject I liked least in junior high, or a book club discussion on next month’s selection includes an informal poll of who among us read Lord of the Flies in 10th grade — I instinctively do a mental image grab of “the boy I liked” at that time before proceeding into more relevant territory.

To this day, I cannot form my imagination around any experience from 1989 to 1995 without a phantom bouquet of Drakkar under my nose.  My memories of school are literally ushered in on the arm of an infatuation.

In order to set this story up properly, you needed to know this about me.

You needed to know that my many crushes were crucial to my entire experience as a whole person — as a human being.

I’m not particularly proud of this, but it was my truth at that time. And yes, I have completely evolved since then.

Moving on….

So, it couldn’t have been more than one week into 9th grade — my very first year of high school — when I recognized the guy who would be “it,” at least for the foreseeable future.

Two years older — a Junior (!) — he was tall and had these amazing blue eyes that were  framed out by the rim of a methodically sculpted baseball cap.

He was just the right mix of disengaged (he was cool!) but not totally aloof (he wasn’t disturbed!).

He wore a braided gold chain around his neck (yes!)

He played football (double-yes!)

We were in the same Spanish class, and I sat right behind him.  Most of first period was spent staring at the back of his perfectly tanned neck, breathing in generous wafts of Drakkar and wondering if it would be too forward of me to reach over and tuck in the shirt tag that was always flipped up and out of his collar.

I decided maybe it was too forward, and settled instead for resting my feet on the bottom rungs of his chair.  Close enough.

I don’t think we said more than three words to each other, usually mumbled when he turned around to pass assignment sheets down our row.

“Here,” he’d say.

“Oh — thanks,” I’d reply.

See?  Three words exactly.

There was the occasional prolonged eye contact, but at 14 years old, what was I to really make of that?

Sometime around the end of September, the whole “does-he-like-me-maybe-too-or-at-least-perhaps-notice-me” tension broke in a scene worthy of a teen-aged TV dramedy.  Think: My So Called Life.  It was that good.

Our teacher was calling on students to stand up and say something — anything — in Spanish.  Unable to hold our attention throughout a rote lesson on conjugating verbs, it was now necessary for her to shake things up and put us on the spot.

“[Guy’s assigned “Spanish name”],” the teacher called.  “Up.  Up.  You’re next”

The Guy I Liked stood slowly from his seat.  He stuffed one hand in the pocket of his Cargo shorts, while the other hand cupped the back of his head as he took a long cool moment to consider his words.

Please let him think of something that doesn’t sound stupid I secretly begged, wanting at all costs to avoid witnessing a falter from the pedestal I had set him on.  This crush was just warming up, and I needed for it to continue.

Twisting himself slightly toward me, he released the hand that was touching his head and swung it in my direction, as he said:

“Lorena (my Spanish name) es muy bonita.”

And there it was.

When I was finally able to recover from the exhilarating shock of this very public confirmation that the feeling was mutual, I emerged slightly less hesitant about how to handle careless shirt tags and the accepting of assignment sheets being passed back.

In the days that followed, the two of us continued to nurture this growing affection, he, making smart-ass remarks aimed at entertaining me during class, I, relaying my approval with stifled giggles and playful swats to his back.

By early October, it was assumed that he would turn around and shove his desk against mine to partner up whenever group work was given.  It was also assumed that we would spend most of that time socializing or scribbling nonsense profanities on each other’s worksheets, feigning disapproval as we worked to erase the offending marks and then prod each other to do it again.

From what I could tell, all signs seemed to point in an encouraging direction.

Now, amidst all this intoxicatingly delicious encouragement, and most likely precisely because of it,  my best friend began to plant within my impressionable young mind the seed of a possible Homecoming invite.  The big dance — arguably on par with or even slightly above Prom in social significance — was scheduled for the end of the month.

“Laur, I’m sure he’s going to ask you,” she’d say during our near-daily after-school phone calls.

“I mean, duh — he’s totally gonna ask you.”

“No…. I really don’t think so,” I’d respond, halfway meaning it.

“I’m just a Freshman.  No way.  Besides, like, it’s already October.  And he hasn’t really said anything to me, or hinted, or anything.”

“Want me to talk to him?” she would ask.  “He lives in my freakin’ neighborhood — I can ask him about you if you want.”

Anxiously pacing the perimeter of my kitchen table, I allowed the telephone cord to criss-cross in a tangled web around my core.  A makeshift lasso to help wrangle my nerves as I worked out a coherent plan.

“No!  God, no — don’t do that.  No!” I’d beg, insisting I would just about die if she were to tip our hand like that.

“Our” hand. Camaraderie is priceless, no?

“Well….I don’t know.  What would you say, exactly?”

And so it would go, round and round, back-and-forth, the two of us negotiating the terms of the deal.  I don’t think we ever came to an acceptable conclusion, but playing out imaginary scenarios was almost better than playing out real ones, so these conferences were not exactly wasted efforts.

And then one day, she called me completely frantic.

“Laur — I talked to him.  I was out walking my dog, and he was driving in to the neighborhood, and, like, he stopped, and we talked and he asked about you!”

Finding it hard to draw a substantial breath, I could barely get the words out.


Oh my God.  Oh my God!  My mind was racing.

I pushed the phone against my ear, not wanting to miss even one voice inflection as I instructed her to articulate every last detail of the exchange.

What I got in return was proof positive that I was, in fact, (most likely) going to be asked to Homecoming.  He had mentioned me.  He had asked if I was going to Homecoming with anybody.  It was then insinuated, somehow, that he might want to ask me.

Oh my God.  Oh my God!

In the days that followed, I may have mentioned the possibility of having perhaps secured a Homecoming date to a few friends.  I may have declined an invite or two from other guys, fully anticipating being asked by “my” guy.  I may have also told my mother, who then asked if we should start looking for a dress.

“Not yet,” I said.  “Maybe this week, but not yet.”

It was two weeks from Homecoming when I got the phone call.

I was in my room, blasting “More Than Words” on repeat, likely dramatizing the advent of our first sexy problem in my mind, when my mother cracked open the door and poked her head inside.

“You have a phone call,” she said with that kind of expectant look that, upon further investigation, seems to be the harbinger of impending disappointment.

Parents too eager to share in the development of your good fortune almost beg fate to hand you an embarrassing blow to the collective ego.

I ran downstairs to the den and picked up the phone.  My mother retreated to the laundry room — adjacent to the den — where the walls are thin and she could listen in while pretending to fold clean clothes.

“Hello?” I said as calmly as I could.

“Um….yeah.  Hey, it’s [The Guy I Liked’s name].”

“Oh, yeah.  Hey.  What’s up?”

“Um……yeah.  Like, I’ve kind of um…..heard from a few people that, um…..you think I’m taking you to Homecoming?”

….you think I’m taking you….  ….heard from a few people….

Those words — along with the punctuating question mark that begged a response — they were a completely unexpected force with which I had no fortitude to reckon.

Oh, God.  This is so…..bad

Oh, God.

My heart dropped to my gut, where the acid went to work, pulling apart its sinewy fibers one at a time.

My cheeks burned so hot that my face went numb.

I tried to attempt a save:

“What?  Uh….no.  I don’t think you’re asking me to Homecoming.”

I heard the mild rustling of laundry cease, as my mother undoubtedly felt the need to listen harder.

“Yeah, well, I heard from some people at school that you were going around saying we were going to Homecoming together.  I just need you to know that we’re not.  I’m taking [Name Of Girl He Was Taking Instead Of Me].”

….you were going around saying…..  ….I need you to know we’re not….

In my mind’s eye, I saw myself, sketched out by an artist instructed to draw “pathetic” personified.  This ugly little version of me was “going around saying” like a fly jumping from one rotten picnic sandwich to another.

I froze — just completely froze — stuck in this yucky, awful, humiliating moment with yucky, awful, humiliating images of me imprinted on my imagination.

But I had no choice.  It had to finish playing out.  And I was going to have to feel the entire weight of it happening.

“Muy bonita” my ass.

I was being officially not invited to something.  Is that even possible?  Even the sentence construction looks wrong.

Regardless, I was being officially not invited to something, and I had to participate in my own diss.  I had to acknowledge it and then respond.  While my head was spinning and my gut was eating away at my heart, and while my mother listened in to the whole thing, I had to come up with something to say that would provide at least a marginally graceful exit to this conversation.

I wanted nothing more than to retreat to my bedroom, scream into a pillow, and avoid looking at my reflection in the mirror for at least the rest of the day.

But I managed one last denial before he reluctantly hung up, at least somewhat convinced that I would not, in fact, be running up to Masters Tuxedo to rent him a vest and bow tie that would match my dress.

And no, thank the Lord, I did not have a dress.

I can’t remember exactly what happened next.  I know I reviewed all the sordid details with my friend, while I did not review any of the sordid details with my mother.  Upon my return to school, I executed a strategically pleasant avoidance of  The Guy I Used To Like — you know, acting “not pressed,” without looking like I was trying too hard to act “not pressed.”

Days turned to weeks, which turned to months that brought new crushes on better guys.

Life moved on.

While this humiliation is a 20-year-old memory, softened by time and wisdom and the fact that I quickly went on to much bigger and way better things (and that, two years later, after kissing this guy in the bleachers during a football game, I could sum up the entirety of what I thought I had missed two years prior in one word: yawn), it was an important teachable moment with unexpected value.

This was the first in a series of life lessons on not taking yourself too seriously, on not living on assumptions alone, on not idealizing men beyond realistic capacities (which calls for limited expectations, by the way)….

And — perhaps most importantly — how it is, in fact, very possible to be officially not invited to something.


Subconsciously, I Really Love Him

I could feel the weight of his gaze — it rested on my profile as I concentrated really, really hard on the menu in front of me.

Ew — please, please stop staring, my mind begged.

Every noodly fiber in my brain stretched and strained in an effort to push his longing away from me and onto something else — anything else.

The waitress.

The woman in the booth behind us.

The slice of banana cream pie on display inside a glass counter to our right.

The teaspoon resting in a pool of coffee droplets on the aluminum tabletop.

Anything.  Whatever.  Just.  Look.  Elsewhere.

Normally, I try my damnedest to put on a super cute performance when I know I am being watched by my man.

But now — no.  God no.  Now, I wanted to look repulsive, actually.  I wanted to repulse and repel him because his eye raping was making my skin jump and curl and shrivel.

If you are a woman, then I know you know that feeling — that jumpy, curly, shrively skin feeling.  You feel it when a guy is being a particular kind of gross.

I somehow sensed the staring was now being accompanied by open-mouth breathing and a side-cocked head.  I also somehow sensed that the top two buttons on his Oxford shirt were undone, exposing a sparse patch of black wire.

Why am I here?  This is all wrong.  Why am I here?

I made the most unattractive face I could conjure, pushing my jaw down against my neck to force a double chin.  I squinted my eyes, exaggerating the crow’s feet as I continued to review breakfast options:

Steak and eggs?

Biscuits and gravy?

I don’t ever eat like this.  Again — all wrongWhy am I here?


Just keep readingDon’t look up….keep reading.

“Enjoy two of our homemade buttermilk biscuits smothered in sausage gravy….”

I could feel the threat of a gag reflex at “smothered,” as a tube of Pillsbury biscuit dough — -seemingly lodged in my chest — exploded under the pressure of my ensuing panic, forcing a yeasty paste up into my throat.

I think I might vomit.  Or cry.  I’m going to vomit and cry.

It was then that I became aware he and I were not alone at our table.

There were suddenly two boys sitting across from us, and they were furiously scribbling crayons down to nubs, intent on covering their paper place mats with blue and red wax.

The smaller of the two threw me a sideways glance.

“I love coloring place mats, Mommy,” he said, tossing his red crayon aside to grab for a green one.


No, no, no, no!  No “Mommy.”  I’m not your Mommy, I thought.  He can call me Miss Lauren, I reasoned, but most definitely not “Mommy.”

What did I do — what stupid, terrible mistake did I make? 

Oh, God — what happened? 

Why am I here in this diner, sitting down for a breakfast date with this guy — this guy who, apparently, I have encouraged to the point of longing gazes and open-mouthed breathing, and allowing his kids call me Mommy?  This guy who looks like a mash-up of  an old neighbor and that strange cashier at Giant who talks my ear off every time I accidentally go through his line.

My thoughts zig-zagged like a thousand pin balls in a frenzied attempt to identify whatever events in my life’s story had led me here to this completely foreign and unhappy place.

In a brief moment of clarity, I remembered my husband.

My husband!   Yes, you, husband.  Where are you?  Oh, thank God — [husband’s name]!  Yes, yes, yes.  Him, please.  I want him.

And then it became apparent that the husband was no longer a viable option.  He was out.  Obsessive staring guy and his two crayon scribblers were in.

Waves of intense hopelessness washed over me as I came to accept this whole awful scene was my new reality.

No, no, no, no, no……

When I woke up, I was still upset.  The nightmare was over, but it had left an imprint that would likely take a few hours to shake off completely.  That’s usually how these things tend to go, at least for me.

I breathed deep and immediately felt grounded by the faint smell of All Free and Clear mixed with Polo cologne and just a hint of sour bath towel.

Our bedroom, I’m nearly certain.

I opened my eyes and blinked into focus a large brown mass above me.

Ceiling fan.  Ours.  The husband’s and mine.  Our bedroom, yes, definitely.

I turned my head to the left — the husband sleeps to my left — and rejoiced in all that was familiar. Big, broad shoulders.  Long back.  Thick legs capped by wide feet and odd Flintstone toes.

Oh, thank Jesus. 

And I literally meant “Thank you, Jesus.”  No worldly manhandling of the Savior’s name.  I’m a believer, and I was literally sending up a mini-prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude.

I was thankful and grateful that I had not, in fact, made a dreadful mistake by deep-sixing my husband in favor of some awful conglomeration of men I’d never want.

I was also thankful and grateful to be married not to any of the men from my past — nor to the occasional man in a series of “futures,” who, in moments of carelessness, I idealize to unnatural levels of perfection — but to my man.  The man I married nearly 13 years ago, and with whom I’ve produced two children and a life that suits me and him and us just fine.

I slipped out of bed, grabbed my robe, and headed downstairs to start the coffee.

Still enjoying that awesome sense of relief that comes with leaving a bad dream behind you, I started tidying up for breakfast.  Working my way through the previous evening’s dinner dishes, I wondered why it is that I feel my deepest longing for him — my husband — in my subconscious.

You see, the diner nightmare was not the first dream to have left me desperate for the comfort of my reality.  Two hands do not have enough fingers to tick off the number of times I have woken up frantic because I thought I had “accidentally” married an ex-boyfriend.  Or because I somehow got entangled with that co-worker at my old job, or with that character actor who played the “crazy cousin” on last night’s episode of that syndicated sitcom I sometimes watch before bed.

All these dreams of “terribly wrong” serve to reinforce what is “terribly right.”

So, why can’t I get to this place of pure and absolute submission to the correctness of it all in our day-to-day, night-by-night living of real life?  Why can’t I live in my waking hours the way I wish I could live in my dreams?

I’m going to change that now, I committed.

I’m going to start trying to live differently.  I’m going to consciously love my husband as though my reality depends on it.

And really, our realities do depend on it.  Right?

The coffee was ready, and so I grabbed two mugs from the cabinet as I heard the husband make his way downstairs.

“Good morning,” the husband offered as he blew past me toward the door that leads to our garage.

“Good morning,” I called back.

I stood at the counter, waiting for him to reemerge.  I had his coffee ready, and I was hoping he’d have five minutes to spare.  He usually does have five minutes for a few sips of coffee with me at our table.

When he came back inside, I could see he was not in a sipping sort of mood.

He was in a rush.

A second blow-by, this time past me and my coffee mugs and out to the foyer where his laptop rested against the wall.

Hoisting the black canvass strap up and over his shoulder, the husband came back into the kitchen in search of a to-go cup for the coffee, and to grab his keys and wallet.

Before he could make another move, I walked over to him and slapped myself against him — literally fell into him —  wrapping my arms around his back and burying my face into his chest.

I breathed him in, and then said:

“I had the worst, worst dream last night.  Oh my God, I am so glad I married you.”

Mildly amused, but failing to fully absorb my cue, he said:

“That’s sweet, babe.  Me too.  Hey — did you remember to buy the to-go mugs?”

I pulled back from him as he helped me further disengage, peeling one of my arms away as though opening a gate.  He walked through and away, toward the to-go cup cabinet.

“[Husband’s name]!” I said.  “I’m serious — I had a bad dream!”

“Sorry, babe.  I’m just hot, and in a rush — you know…. Tuesday mornings.  I’ll call you when I get to work.”

No, I didn’t know “Tuesday mornings” and I didn’t care if he was hot, and maybe he wouldn’t be in a rush if he woke up maybe ten minutes earlier.

I watched through the window as he headed down the driveway toward his car.

Mere moments into the conscious reality of a new day, and I was already agitated.

Okay.  Yup.  Got it.

This is soooooo why I tend to love you harder in my subconscious. 

But, subconsciously, apparently, I really do love him….

Some Thoughts On Hope, Control, And Self-Sabotage

I woke up the other morning draped in unsettledness.

I am confident anyone reading this knows exactly what I am talking about.

It’s like, you feel the physical impact of unrest immediately upon waking, but your mind hasn’t caught up with your instinct quite yet, so you have to lie there in bed and do a mental review of the usual suspects until you hit on the one thing that exacerbates your anxiety, signaling a match:

Ugh…(identifying feeling of icky unsettledness while still half-asleep). 

Uh-oh.  Something’s wrong.

What is it, what is it, what….is….it?  Think…..think…..

Did the husband and I fight last night?  No.

Forget to a pay a bill?  Something with money?  No.  Thank God.

Kids — oh…..yep — [oldest son] on the trip.  Eight more days until he comes home (shoulders further tense; pulse picks up the pace a bit).  Yeah, there it is.

Oh, and then my blog — never wrote a post for Monday.  Or Tuesday.  Ewww….lazy.  You’re slipping!  Okay, so that too.

That all?  Yes — I think so.

So, in my case, I woke up the other morning with residual stress because my baby isn’t home and I had neglected my blog.

These two things are related, by the way.  And this relationship is what I want to explore, because I think it touches on something observable on a macro-level — beyond me and my little experience.

Let me explain:

I didn’t create a post for yesterday (or the day before), even though I had made a comittment to publish something every single weekday.  And most Saturdays.

And while this might sound like no big deal to some, it is a very, very large deal to me.

When I set a goal, only the threat of losing life or limb qualifies as an appropriate distraction from said goal.  It’s just the way I’m wired — I’m incredibly intense about the deals I make with myself.  Recently, in a moment of reflection and self-assessment, I discovered that in all likelihood, my voracious appetite for the setting and meeting of goals is really a means to make sure a sense of hope is always available to me in good measure.

Goals not yet attained equal — in my mind at least — possibilities.  Possibilities with unlimited sub-possibilities attached.  And possibilities equal purpose and movement and discovery.  And purpose, movement, and discovery are all necessary in creating a sense of hope.

Hope that what is good might become even better.

So, yeah, ignoring my blog for a few days was crippling to my sense of hope.  Crazy?  Perhaps, but it’s my truth.

Now, neither life nor limb has been threatened lately, so what gives?

Well, you see, my oldest child is off on his first trip without our little family unit of four.  He is with his grandparents for a ten-day adventure, canyoneering and rock propelling and ATV-ing out in the wild, wild west of Utah, Nevada and Arizona.

We make our home on the East Coast.

So, my baby’s clear across the country.  Nearly 3,000 miles away for what feels less like “roughly a week” and more like 240 hours.

240 hours in which I must cede control over one half of what is most precious to me (in the event that my other son ever reads this post someday — yes, [youngest son], you are the other half).

So, I have a thing about fueling hope, and I also have a thing about control.

And right now, I have no control.  And when I can’t orchestrate, I self-sabotage by avoiding most things that involve purpose, movement and discovery (see above explanation on goal-setting).

I don’t know why this is.  I certainly don’t mean to do this — though it seems beyond my capacity to overcome.  Like, my loss of control over one particular thing ushers in a whole psychology of abandon, where I engage not at all in anything other than frittering away the minutes and the hours and the days on complete nonsense until I regain control over whatever it is I feel I’ve lost control of.

So, I can’t focus on writing a blog post or changing the sheets in the boys’ rooms or preparing a proper dinner, but I can go for my third jog of the day, repaint my bedroom, and on-line shop on etsy for “mid-century modern oil paintings of Italy.”

Right now, my most recent post is three days stale, the bed sheets are soured, and dinners are cobbled together without a plan — a can of baked beans, a few slices of bread, cheese? Check.  Dinner’s done.  [Throw haphazard mash-up of foods on table and exit kitchen to walk aimlessly around the house].

But — I have run more miles in one day than I typically do in three, my bedroom walls are a newly christened muddy gray, and I ordered an awesome portrait that I’ll find space for once it arrives in five-to-seven business days.

Bursts of unproductive productivity seem to be my coping skill when I lose charge over my comfortable and carefully-curated environment.

And, yes, I very much realize that this tendency only serves to add more things to the list over which I have completely lost my grip.

As I said, self-sabotoge.

Now, I wish I had something more intelligent to offer up.  I wish I could type out some really clever transition sentences that would bridge to an “a-ha!” conclusion statement — one that turns this whole jumbled mess of a situation into a teachable moment, complete with instructions on how to better proceed at times like this.

But I’ve got nothing.

I did want to share this with you, though.  Because, as I mentioned earlier, I suspect I am not the only one who grapples with control issues and unproductive bursts of productivity and self-sabotage.

I suspect this is a universally human thing.

So, see, I do it too.

And  that’s pretty much all I wanted to say.

Until tomorrow, when I will have only 120 hours left to go, and therefore will likely be in a better frame of mind — one in which I am able to tell a story with clever transition sentences that bridge to an “a-ha” conclusion statement.  Or at least one with lots of self-depracting humor and other attempts at levity.

I will work that story out in my mind as I paint my sitting room today….

A Poem For Moms

Bringing back that poem I wrote maybe four years ago, about a day in the life of a mom.  Happy Mother’s Day everyone!:

“A Day In the Life of Me, a Mom”

Eyes open to a new day.

Way later than I had hoped to be up.

My joints hurt.

My eyes, wrinkled and puffy

like the raisins on a gingerbread boy.

No time to hit the gym….at least maybe a quick hot shower — NO!

Is that my husband STILL here, in the bathroom

that I had hoped to occupy?

Yes.  Him.  Hairs and all.

Hot water gone.

Damp towel draped lazily over wet shower curtain (it will get mildew that way, I scream in my


I know he forgot to use the Tilex

that I leave hanging on the towel bar.


The usual back-and-forth

Something about no clean underwear.

I just ran 20 loads this week…how can it be?


Kids are up.

There is no escape now.

Make my way downstairs with a bird’s nest for a hairdo.


I wait to take the first sip

until husband leaves for work.

It tastes better that way.

Ahhh….partial sanity.


Younger son has a cold

I listen to him gulp his juice like only

a kid with a cold can do.

Hot breath into glass between sips.

Obligatory “uhh” noise punctuates each swallow.

I escape into the world

of on-line news….it is bleak


Check the decorating blogs and visually

arrange the furniture I cannot yet afford.

A girl can dream….and satiate her desires

at Target.  Instant gratification with quick and cheap

trumps saving and waiting any day.


Here comes the older boy.

I think I had the lady at the Hair Cuttery

have too much of her way with the scissors.

He looks like an escapee

from Jonestown.

Or a matchstick.


Pancakes (that they won’t eat)

Eight glasses of — gulp — o.j. (they will spill at least two of them)

Yogurt drinks (they will fight over who gets the blueberry)


Sigh again.


My house is scaring me.

How do we go through so many dishes?

Collect so many dust bunnies?

Never have clean laundry?

Why did we get a dog?

Why does the mailman never look up when I wave, which I only do because we

always seem to be in the kitchen window when he



Why does my husband never have clean underwear?


Make my way to laundry room to remedy the latter

only to find

a Pottery Barn catalog that I must

sift through.




Trip to bank (kids knock over the rope stands).

Change machine is broken. And sticky. And reminds me to worry about

the flu.


Target store equals drapes I don’t need, and a Nerf Gun that younger son will need assistance

with each time he wants to shoot a bullet

and he always wants to shoot

100 bullets a day.

Also plastic Popsicle molds

Undershirts for husband

Zone bars for me

because I still might be on a diet.






Kids tear through construction paper and tape

as though they were building the

Great Wall of China

And of course the tape was

MINE.  As in, from my little desk.

My little corner of the world where at least some things are sacred

Like having tape in the dispenser when I need it.

The tape is empty now.

All the tips of the crayons are broken.

The silly putty they played with last week

is still stuck on younger son’s chair.


Search in-box for e-mail I have been waiting for

Grad school adviser still has not answered the questions that I need answered

before I decide when to begin this whole

$30,000 process.

I secretly resented having to go back

until now b/c it may not work out and so I realize

that I may have wanted to do this more than I could admit to

my husband.


Dinner equals leftovers b/c Giant is too expensive anymore

To buy food in quantities as if I was a

new wife with new recipes

to feed a new husband who doesn’t care about how much

underwear is in his drawer

Kids take over an hour to eat

half their dinner.


Daddy says they can have a bath

not on your life, husband.  I cannot drag this

day out any longer or have

water all over the floor.

I quickly hose them down while they

still splash water all over my floor.

Younger son puts his lips to my ear

as I hold him, carrying him damp and wrapped in a towel

and it is not a kiss I get, or a special love secret

But a shout. Loud and just

for the fun of it.

My ear rings.

I yell at him.

And set him down on the floor among half his closet

that has apparently barfed toys

All over the floor.


I am done.  I am tired.

I still do not know what I want to be

When I grow up.

At least I have coffee and a best friend

whose husband gives her dumb Wal-Mart roses too.


I think I’ll send this to her.


Then surf the decorating blogs again

for the tenth time today.

Tell A Better Story

“I don’t know….” I said, trailing off as I searched for the right words.

“It just feels….I don’t know, like….like I’m given my lines every morning, and I just follow this script that someone else has written for me.”

My friend nodded in agreement as I continued.

“I’m more than a mom and a wife.  Bigger than the sum of my parts.  But, I’m not living like I have other roles.”

“That’s exactly how I feel,” my friend chimed in.  “I feel like I’m ‘just’ [my husband]’s wife, or ‘just’ [the kids]’ mother.”

The two of us stood on the safe side of a chain-link fence, looking on as twenty-two 7-year-olds kicked dirt into dust clouds on a baseball field.  We were careful to keep one eye on the game so we’d know when to give a wink or a clap or a thumbs-up to show that, yes, we did just see that hit/run/catch.

God forbid a mom doesn’t see whatever play her own child deems to be the “game changer.”

I hit a home run, and you were talking to your friend.  You didn’t even see me — you were probably talking about pillows or furniture.  [Eye roll].

I have many times been accused of ignoring my sons’ shining moments in favor of gabbing about furniture.  Furniture or “fashion,” actually.

And knowing that my boys think that furniture and “fashion” is what us moms are talking about, huddled together on the safe side of a chain-link fence, well…..that bothers me more than being accused of neglecting their game in the first place.

I have stood with many, many moms — for hours upon hours upon more hours of soccer games and baseball games and other kinds of games.  I’ve also sat with many, many moms — some friends, some strangers — in the collective wait for piano lessons to end, or dentist appointments to be over, or for our kids to take “just one more” turn on the tire swing at that park that has all the cool equipment, but is always swarming with bees.

I have stood with and sat with all these moms, and I can tell you as I tell my boys: Mommies talk about lots of different things.  Lots of different, important things:

We talk wistfully about our college years, when we hadn’t yet made any permanent choices, and the world was still seemingly at our feet.

We talk about current events, and carefully negotiate our way around politics so as to allow for the sharing of informed opinions (brains!) that don’t ruffle too many feathers in the process (respect!).

We talk about books we’ve read, and how we could or could not relate to the author’s perspective.

We talk about the books we always secretly planned to write.

We talk about traveling — where we’ve been, and with whom —  and where we still hope to go “someday,” and with whom.

And, as was the case during this particular moment of waiting on a baseball field one beautiful Saturday morning, me and my mom-friend — we were talking about who we wanted to be.

And neither of us came to any concrete conclusions, other than “more.”

We knew we wanted to be more than what we had been in the business of being lately.

As I sat in the passenger’s seat on the drive home, I thought about my friend and our talk, and how it wasn’t at all like the douche commercial I used to think these kinds of talks were reserved for.  A bunch of bad actresses with wedge haircuts  and male-imagined “female issues” we were not.

No….we were good actresses (with great hair, by the way), who grappled not with phony “female” problems, but with real human issues that women just happen to be incredibly deft at identifying and discussing.

When I got home, I went for a run, which lately I’m relying on more and more as a means to clear out my head as opposed to lean out my thighs.

Sanity trumps vanity any day.

So I ran.  I ran without my iphone because I didn’t want my thoughts muddled by lyrics that send contrived little vignettes into my imagination, leaving false notions of “how things go” to rattle around in my head.  I often wonder how much of my life is foolishly spent in an effort to imitate bad art  simply because I don’t spend enough time alone with my own thoughts.

And, so again, I ran.  Without music.  And it felt really, really pure.  I watched the street move under my feet as tiny rocks and pebbles blurred into ribbons of peach and gray against the black of the asphalt. I lost my self to the forward movement of it all, which was immensely satisfying; from the moment I left my friend and that baseball field, I’d had this nagging sense of urgency about needing to move forward.

And yes, it was a need to move forward in a figurative sense, but this run — beyond that lamp post, beyond that house with the blue shudders, over and beyond that tiny little bridge that eases the break in my favorite bike path — this literal running ahead toward whatever new landmark I picked on the fly felt like the kind of consistent pattern of accomplishment I was craving on a bigger scale.

A few months back, I read a book in which the central theme was how our lives are like movies, and we are the scriptwriters.  It’s our job to create a great story for our character.  And great stories, it turns out, require one to step into a whole bunch of different roles, meeting a whole bunch of different challenges, and then facing a whole bunch of new challenges so that we keep the whole risk/reward pattern going indefinitely.  For those curious, the book was A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  And, for those further curious, the idea behind the book was more interesting than the details contained within it, but that’s just my opinion.

The important take-away was this notion of diversifying your experiences to maximize the risk-reward potential that provides the fodder for personal growth.

I suppose that’s kind of what I have been chewing on lately.

It’s at the heart of most of my mom-to-mom conversations.  And with the conversations I have in my own head, usually while trying to fall asleep at night.  It’s my biggest motivator to “move” — whether pounding the pavement during a run, or forcing myself into some sort of commitment, like attempting to churn out thoughtful entries on a blog that I keep inviting people to read.

I want to move forward — forward and “out” in a million directions.  I want to diversify my experiences.  I want my character to have a full story — a good life with lots of different roles.

This is where I am right now, and I needed to get it down in writing.  I once told a whole dinner table full of people exactly how much I weighed — down to the ounce — because I knew it would hold me accountable for the diet overhaul I kept threatening to undertake.  Within three months of my public revelation, I had lost 12 pounds.

So, now I’m saying that I want a better story, and it will involve some sort of action on my part.  And now that I’ve said as much, it means I’ll likely do it.  I am thinking that some of my posts will (hopefully) start to reflect that.

As I work on my own story, I’d love to hear from any of you in the process of an edit and re-write.  If you are upping the ante on your own risk-reward cycle, how do you plan to go about it?  What challenges do you deem necessary for the kind of growth you seek?  What role are you aiming to play?

As I’ve said before, I love to hear how other people think and relate to the world.  This could turn an off-the-cuff post into an interesting discussion.











It Was A Great Morning And Then Rube Goldberg Showed Up

The other morning, I got up extra early to make the boys a “fun breakfast,” as they like to call it.  Basically, a fun breakfast is anything other than cold cereal or eggs.  It is also anything that requires lots of ingredients, and lots of time.

But, I was happy to do it.  Because these are the kinds of things that make me feel like a good mom.  Plus, I love to bake.  Plus, I promised them a fun breakfast on Monday, and then again on Tuesday, and then again on Wednesday, and I failed to deliver.  I served, instead, cold cereal; cold cereal; and toast with fruit, in that order.

Needless to say, I had two very unhappy patrons at my table the last few days.  Stoic faces and grumpy pout-mouths framed in bright blue toothpaste parentheses raised the guilt quotient effectively.

What is it about sad toothpaste mouth on a kid that sends a vice to your heart, each inch of stray crust worth an additional tightening crank?

I owed them pretty big.

So, I’m in the kitchen culling the ingredients for a Blueberry Breakfast Cake — a more “fun”-sounding breakfast I challenge you to find — the sunshine beaming through my moderately clean (!) windows to spray a runway of light along a row of ceramic floor tiles.  A “good mommy” runway, of sorts.  I took measured steps within the light as I paced back-and-forth to grab teaspoons and tablespoons, eggs and flour and cartons of fresh blueberries.

The jazz music streaming through the speakers encouraged a sort of choreographed production out of the whole process.  I moved rhythmically, like a woman on the brand-name side of a split-screen commercial for floor cleaner — I was doing “it” right, and my floor was gonna be all the shinier, or, rather, my breakfast cake all the tastier.

I’m such a mom — the mommy-est, in fact!  [Happy] sigh….

I practically glided toward the pantry on a quest for more white sugar.

I found the bag of sugar — half-full, its top end loosely rolled up into itself (no clip,  no rubber band.  Husband!) — on the top shelf, and made a quick grab for it.

Right as the bag swung over the floor of the pantry — immediately before meeting the added security of my second hand, intent on supporting its heavy bottom and assisting in the carry-over to my food prep area — it slipped from my grasp.

Dropping straight down, the bag hit the edge of the last pantry shelf, which gave it just enough chutzpah to flip over entirely, sending 2.5 million teeny tiny sugar granules flying in all directions.

You know, it’s funny how I react to these kinds of things when I have no audience.

If the husband had been sitting at the table behind me, it is of little doubt I would have launched into a litany of foul language, complete with exaggerated sighing and lots of angry hand gestures.

But I was alone.

And, like the whole “a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it” riddle, I didn’t make a sound.

I just stood there, absorbing the reality of 2.5 million teeny tiny sugar granules all over the floor.

All over the floor, and also inside my wicker basket that corrals bottled waters and juice boxes, inside the many folds of several reusable grocery bags wedged between the wicker drink basket and the wall, and inside the many compartments of my juicer — the one I had to have — that sits, never-used, on the pantry floor to the right of the drink basket.

As I left the scene to fetch a vacuum, I noticed the whole spilling/staring/absorbing 2.5 million sugar granules thing cost me some time.  If I was going to make good on my promise, I’d have to leave the mess for later.  I had to get the cake in the oven now.

Besides, the mess was safely contained inside the pantry, right?  It could easily wait.

I scurried back to the counter, and began to mix and stir.

In my hurry, I accidentally flung maybe an eighth of the flour-baking soda-salt portion on the counter, while aiming instead for the bowl.

Shit.  Well, what’s an “eighth,” really? I reasoned.  Not much.

Add to that another sixteenth, as I failed to snap the speed switch on the standing mixer to its slowest setting, sending a cloud of flour-baking soda-salt into the surrounding atmosphere, quickly settling over top a pile of yet-to-be-filed paperwork left next to the mixer.


Ready to pour the batter into the pan, I realized I had forgotten to grease it.  I’d need the shortening.

Back to the pantry.

I swung open the pantry doors and took a barefoot step forward into a sandcaslte mound of forgotten sugar.

Oh, come on!  Damn it!

I lifted my foot and strategically lunged to avoid further contact with the mess. In an acrobatic stretch, I reached for the shortening, inconveniently guarded by several large cans of crushed tomatoes. Straining my back, I used my fingertips to coax the cans out of the way, and then tried for the shortening.

Down came the tub of grease with a lid-loosening crash, along with two cans of tomatos, and a box of Raisin Bran to boot.

It now seemed I had a better chance of making breakfast from all that had been spilled on the floor than from what was left coagulating in the mixer.

Racing to the sink, I created a delicious little trail for the Springtime ants that had already begun to make their appearance in our home last week.

Crunch, step, crunch, step, crunch, step.

I flipped forward the the faucet handle and shoved my hands under the running water for a quick clean-up.

The steady stream ricocheted off a pile of dirty dinner plates, sending a geyser spray to soak the counter, pool along the edge, and then drip-drop in polite little splots all over the tops of my feet and the floor.

And now cue the first set of footsteps overhead.

The kids.

I buttered the baking dish, added the batter, and threw the no-longer-“fun”- breakfast into the oven.

Not only was I not feeling like the “mommy-est” of moms anymore, I was actually slightly resenting the kids.

The kids — with their first-world breakfast demands, and their bed head tousled into indignant little spikes of hair, and that toothpaste — do they not have a mirror and a damn towel, for God’s sake?

I was now completely ragey.  Almost nuts.

Which is probably why, in my mad dash for that vacuum, I slammed my shoulder into the door frame that marks the transition of kitchen to living room (where the vacuum, of course, had been sitting like a display piece for the past two days).

F@#!ing stupid door frame!  F@#!in stupid, clumsy shoulder! I screamed in my head.

It was at this point that the jazz music went from zippy morning accompaniment to a gnawingly nerve-rattling blend of various screams and screeches.

Loud, intrusive explosions of sound seemed to punctuate each mishap.

Shoulder slam — TRUMPET BLAST!  Tipping-over vacuum — SAXAPHONE BLAST!  Accidental yank of vacuum cord from electrical socket mid-clean up — ANOTHER TRUMPET BLAST! interspersed with a little Carmen McRae bee-da-ba-da-boop-ing for good measure.

What began as a great morning had quickly devolved into a womp-womp-womp-waaaa, all thanks to that bag of sugar setting off a Rube Goldberg chain of unfortunate events.

Now, of course, no one was there with me in that kitchen.  I had no witness to corroborate my good intentions, my happy mood, my dancing up and down a sunlit runway of light and joy.  No one saw my repeated attempts to regroup after each irritating episode threatened to derail the whole thing.

But now, whistling down the steps came the husband.

As I stood — detachable vacuum hose in one hand, the other hand willing sugar granules out of grocery bag crevasses — the husband rounded the corner to meet my crazed gaze.

“Goooood morning, babe!’ he greeted.

Silence paired with slight shoulder cringe.

“What’s wrong?”

“The f@#!-ing sugar spilled all over the f@#!-ing pantry floor, and I was trying to make this stupid breakfast cake for the kids, who probably won’t even eat it anyway….” I trailed off.

“Baby — relax,” said the husband, foolishly.

As in the story about the Saturday evening drive, I will save the sordid details of what an order to “relax” does to me for another post entirely.  Let’s just say it does nothing at all to assist in its intended effect.

The kids did end up eating the cake, and actually told me they liked it — small victory.

Once everyone had cleared the house, I cleaned up the many messes, trading out the jazz station for AC/DC on the iphone.

My day then continued as usual, though I pondered more than once why the road to Hell really does always seem to be paved with good intentions.

Such is the life of a mom, I suppose.











A Second Look At How Being “Settled” Can Be Very “Unsettling”

So, tomorrow is my birthday.


That “weeeeeeee” was meant to be read with a heaping dose of sarcasm, by the way.

So, yes……where were we?  Birthday.  Right.

So, tomorrow is my birthday.  I will be officially turning 36, but if you ask my husband, I’ve been 36 for quite some time now, as he likes to remind me that at 35, I was really in my “36th year.”  See, he’s splitting hairs here, about the way we humans mark the passage of time — on the back-end as opposed to the front.

The husband also recently revealed that yes, it was appropriate for M’s husband to suggest that she (38 years old) and I (a fresh 35 at the time) Google “office dress for middle-aged women,” when the two of us were curious about what, exactly, we would wear when we ventured back out into the world beyond the Target-library-grocery store circuit.

Middle-aged!  Middle-aged?

“No way!” I protested.  “You’re cracked.  Middle-aged…..puh-lease.”

“Baby — how long does the average human live?” he countered.

“Geeze…I don’t know,” I floundered, already sensing that I was not going to like where this was headed.

Being the prig that he sometimes is, he answered with what I believe is the actual average life-span number, according to the CDC.

“What, 78?” he quipped.  “So…what’s half of 78?  39?”

My stomach dropped at the notion.

“So, okay, then you have about three years left (remember at a fresh 35, I was really in my 36th year, so his math was sound).  And M is, well…….[her husband] was right about her.  Middle-aged, babe.”

This conversation happened in the kitchen: Me, at the computer Google-ing work dress for women in their mid-thirties, he, leaning against the counter, eating a stray piece of something from one of the kids’ already-cleared dinner plates.

I wanted to get up and give him a swift shove for being so smug.

I literally wanted to push him.  Hard.  Send him hurling backward to make contact with the refrigerator, shaking loose all the school papers and important reminders.  Sending magnets to crack and break against the ceramic tile.

I, of course, didn’t play out the fantasy.  But my violent impulse did make me wonder:

Why was I so spun up about the whole age thing?

It took me some time to peel at these onion layers — the ones that had covered an almost unnatural fear of getting older.  But I did eventually figure it out.  And, a while ago, I wrote a post about it.  I have re-published it below, and I invite you to read my theory and then let me know what you think.

Oh — and the mention of some content in my “About” page was referencing old material that I have since re-written, lest anyone get confused by a seeming inconsistency.


An essay on why I cringe at the thought of another passing year.  Turns out, I’m not completely vain after all.  Yay!:

….the absence of my own possibilities sometimes feels like a phantom limb reminding me of all that will never be….

Okay, so, in my little “About” page, I made some ridiculous statement about not feeling like I had grown chronologically older since 25 or so, and I went on and on and on about “vertical” versus “horizontal” movement of time and growth and something about wisdom trumping years and blah, blah, friggin’ blah.

Well I am back — a mere five days after the fact — to tell you all that whatever I thought I was selling is such a pantload of crap.  Cancel your orders.  Don’t buy it.

Anyone in my most intimate circle knows that I talk incessantly about getting older.  I mean, like, incessantly (J and M, thank you for always listening, btw).  And I most certainly do not mean older “out” like I would have had you all believe, but I mean older “up.”  Up in age.  Up in years completed orbiting the Sun.  Up in moments gone by.  Up in number of pounds that won’t budge from my middle, in the number of creases that frame my eyes when I smile, in the sixteenth-of-an-inch increments that I swear — swear to goodness — I notice my hairline receding by every few months.  Older.  I am getting older, and I feel it now.  I feel the weight of that movement — that upward movement — every. single. day.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait — couldn’t wait — to get to the “next big thing.”  I was never ever satisfied with where I was. Too restless to live in the moment, I could never carpe diem.  Rather than “carpe”-ing I just, well, carped.  I could include several quotes here mimicking the “me” that I was during each phase of life that I deemed a necessary evil on the way to the golden ring (the golden ring always changed, by the way — being old enough to go to junior high, old enough for high school, old enough to date, to vote, to get a real job, be married).  But I think you get the point.  And yes, I listed voting.  I did not list driving.  I am a nerd.  I already know this, thank you.

And now?  Now I want to hold on to every moment of every day– down to the second.  I am absolutely beyond myself at the notion of putting another year behind me.

I don’t know how so much of my 30’s has escaped me.  Well, maybe I do.  I got married young by today’s standards (one month after turning 23).  While my peers were still dating and job-hopping, I was celebrating wedding anniversaries and managing a joint checking account.  And then I got pregnant at 25.  And again 15 months later.  Before I had turned 30, my husband and I were eyeballs-deep in meeting a mortgage, rearing school-aged children, negotiating in-laws, and hunkering down in our “forever” careers (my husband’s outside the home, mine inside of it).  My late 20’s and early 30’s were a blur because I was bum rushed by the milestones that most others parse out —  allowing at least a few years between each of life’s big “gets.” When I finally got my sea legs aboard this existence I created on the fly,  I was somehow already 34.  And I was incredibly aware of my age.

Huh.  That’s funny.  34 doesn’t sound old. And further more, things slowed down considerably at 34.  These last two years, my life has been relatively static.  Kids are incredibly self-sufficient. My return to graduate school was slow, and very very part-time; upon graduation, it was agreed that I’d hold off on re-entering the outside workforce for at least a little while.  Marriage kinks had been more or less ironed out several years ago — we’ve long found our rhythm as a couple.  So, what gives?  I thought it was the “fast” of it all until I entered the “slow” and still felt panicky.  I could never really put my finger on it.  Why I was obsessed with age.  Why I felt old.

There was one thing that should have clued me in:  I repeatedly considered women who were older than me quite young. Why?  It all came down to their level of “settled”-ness.  For example, a particular acquaintance of mine: At seven years my senior, she still seemed to me just beginning her life.  She had deliberately developed a nice career that still offered much upward movement. She was in a lovely condo in an important city.  She had established a serious relationship with someone she might very well marry.  She had things that mirrored all that I had with one exception: she had an “out” from it all.  With no wedding ring, no mortgage deed, and no children, this friend still had one foot in the land of infinite possibilities. And, while I would never in a million, zillion, trillion years ever, ever, ever want any “out” from my beautiful family and the life that we’ve built, the absence of my own possibilities sometimes feels like a phantom limb reminding me of what will never be.

Could this be at the root of my whole “getting older” conundrum?  Was it not so much increasing years, but decreasing possibilities that was making me mourn for yesterday, and last month, and last year?

With this stressor always at play in the recesses of my mind, my heart, and my soul, I was ever grateful to come across this post by blogger Jennifer Fulwiler: Behind the Scenes of a Mid-Life Crisis.  I read it, and I knew.  This was it.  What she said.  Exactly what she said.  All of it.  I would love for each of you to take a few minutes to read her words; whether you share in my fear of getting older or not, I think there is still wisdom to be gleaned.

Do any of you feel like me?  Anyone unsettled about being settled?  Let’s discuss.


A Typical Saturday Evening Drive When We’re On The Verge Of A Good Time

A story that captures the typical amount of tension that seems to be a necessary prelude whenever the husband and I are on the verge of having a nice evening together.  It’s also a story about how men can be a little bit selfish:

Upstairs in my bedroom, I was perfecting “the look.”

Gold bangles? Yes.  Definitely.  But only two– and take off that white leather cuff.

I unsnapped the cuff from my wrist and quickly tossed it on the dresser.

Taking several steps back to get a better view of everything together, I scanned my reflection from head to about mid-thigh, where the mirror ended and the dresser began.

Ditch the ring, too.

I yanked the cocktail ring off my right index finger, and settled my arms back to my sides.

From what I could tell, it now all looked great — as long as I kept my stomach sucked in when standing. The dress had some ruching at the waist that — if positioned just a quarter-inch too high  — made for the unfortunate insinuation of a puffy gut.

Not good.

But — it was an otherwise really great dress.  And I knew that I’d only be standing upon entering and exiting the restaurant, and for maybe one trip to the bathroom, so keeping my mid-section taut for an estimated 10 to 12 non-consecutive minutes would not be too difficult a challenge.  Besides, the hair looked perfect, and the make-up had miraculously behaved too, so, there was always that.  And that counts for a lot, especially knowing most of the evening, I’d be presented only from the chest up, the rest of me conveniently tucked away behind a candle-lit dinner table.  Hedging my bets that there’d be a tablecloth involved too, I figured I was definitely good to go.

I grabbed my purse and clonked down the stairs in brand new heels.  The husband was waiting in the driveway.

It was an absolutely gorgeous evening.

Not a cloud in the sky.

But upon stepping outside, an unexpected chill hit my bare arms, while an overly aggressive gust of wind blew a mess of curls into my face, tangling some strands with mascara that hadn’t quite enough time to “set” yet.

Raking the hair back into place, I saw that the husband had the top down on his Mustang.

Sigh —

I knew how this was gonna go.

“Hop in, baby!”  the husband grinned as he held the door for me.

I hobbled down the driveway, curling my eyelashes back with my fingertips.  As I slid into the seat, I offered up the first of several hints.

“Oh my gosh, it’s so much chillier than I had thought it was gonna be.”


“[Husband’s name]?”

“What’s that baby?”

When the “ignore” doesn’t work (and it never, ever does), the husband then goes for the “phony-oblivious.”

“I was just saying it’s awfully chilly.  I’m freezing, actually.”

“You’re kidding me!” the husband said, feigning surprise.

We only have this conversation, oh, I don’t know, maybe….every single time he puts the top down, save for the 60 days between July 1 and the end of August.  This was still April.

“No, I’m not kidding,” I said, as I crossed my arms and tried to squeeze away the goosebumps.

“Well, here — turn the heat on.”

The husband reached for the dashboard, snapping the temperature knob toward the wide end of a red arc that framed the right side of the dial.  The most extreme of the heat variants, I noted.  He then twisted the little vents toward me, forcing a blast of hot, dry air in my direction.

This is what he always does when I say that I am cold in his top-down car.

The heat, as I expected, began to do weird things to my skin.  I could feel the blood rush to my cheeks, as the tip of my nose and the tops of my ears started to tingle.  My make-up, which had gone on effortlessly just 30 minutes before, was now congealing; every pore and fine line threatened a push to the surface. Lush, black eyelashes slowly morphed into scary, clumpy spider legs.

The full success of my “look” hinged on perfect hair and make-up distracting from the possibility of a puffy gut.  I could sense my plan slowly unraveling.

And, despite the assault of heat that roasted my face, 90 percent of me was still freezing.  The cold air that hung above our heads worked its way around my shoulders and down the back of my neck.

This was no solution, but a nonsensical effort to keep the top down at all costs.

“[Husband’s name]!” I said, trying not to yell.  “You know I hate that.”

I quickly flipped closed the slats on each air vent and snapped the temperature control back to “OFF.”

This is what I always do when he tries to keep me from being cold in his top-down car.

“Baby, this is silly — if you’re cold, put the heat on!” the husband insisted, as he once again reached for the temperature knob.

Now normally, I’m not one to mince words.  I say what I mean, and I mean what I say, and there is no in-between.  No dancing around the subject, or sulking quietly waiting for the husband to intuit exactly what it is that I am expecting of him.

But for some reason, I was — in this one moment — kind of waiting for him to offer up what I knew would be a sacrifice without me having to ask for it.  I was waiting for him to graciously relent, but not act like he was relenting (hence the “gracious” part).  I was waiting for him to care more about my comfort than his need to play like Crockett and Tubbs.

I was waiting for him — just this once — to put the damn top up without it involving such unnecessary back-and-forth.

At the first stop sign, I turned to him and glared at the side of his face.

I know he felt it.  He pretended not to.

“[Husband’s name],” I said.  “Can you please just put the top up?”

“You want the top up?” he asked, his eyes darting from side-to-side, as he tried to busy himself on a scout for cars that weren’t even coming.

“Are you kidding me?”  I asked.  “Uh — yeah, I want the top up.  You know I always want the top up when it’s cold.”

And, then, the kicker:

“Baby, I didn’t know you were cold!”  he said.

A strained silence hung all about.

Sensing my agitation, he corrected himself, slightly.

“I mean, I didn’t think it was cold out.  But, if you’re really that cold….alright.  You want me to put the top up?”

I marinated in the subtle emphasis on “you’re” and “that,” as well as the continued effort to keep things his way by ending with a question that he already knew the answer to.  I guess he figured he still had a fighting chance.

Agitation was now edging toward anger.

“You should have just told me you wanted the top up.  See — here it goes….I’m putting the top up.”

The husband forced a neutral face as he pushed whatever button needs to be pushed in order to maneuver the black canvass from crinkled accordion arm to smooth, respectable roof.

I should have been pleased, but I wasn’t that pleased, really.

See, I knew this mildly tense exchange had just set the tone for a moderately tense drive.  No doubt some unexpected traffic was gonna up the tension ante.

Plus, I now had to execute some beauty first aide in a moving stick-shift car.  Negotiating a mascara wand to effectively groom the spider legs — without putting an eye out — as the husband shifts it into high gear would be no small feat.

And, frankly, I was a little steamed that the whole thing had to even come to this in the first place.

Sitting there in the passenger seat, I assessed the damage in the visor mirror.


I was warm, but at what price?

Suddenly, I became very aware of my stomach.  What earlier seemed nothing more than a minor problem easily rectified by some strategic sucking in, now seemed a huge problem, completely insurmountable.  I could feel it — all gross, and blah-like, and pushing up against the fabric of my dress.

I wanted so badly to start up a fight.  Sometimes it’s the only way to exorcise the demons.

But I knew I couldn’t.  The evening would for sure be ruined.

So I sat there, and let my splotchy skinned, spider-lashed, puffy-gutted self be driven to an early birthday celebration — for me, by the way.  Did I not mention it was my birthday dinner?

As we got out of the car, roaming the parking garage for the stairwell that would lead to the restaurant, my husband seemed surprised to detect a slight aura of “attitude.”

“What’s wrong?” he queried.

I walked a little too fast as he pulled at my hand to force a slower gait.

“Just relax.”

I think we’ll just stop here for now, as the the issuing of an order to “relax” is probably the worst thing that could have come from his lips.

Nothing makes me feel more murdery than any man — most especially the husband — insisting I “relax.”

But that is the stuff of a whole separate post altogether.

Suffice it to say, generous servings of beer and really great food and company helped to soften the earlier blows to my mood.

When we left the dinner, I happily walked in obedient rhythm with the husband, and I was sufficiently “relaxed.”

We had the “good time” I had hoped for.

But, of course, not before first participating in A Typical Saturday Evening Drive On The Verge Of A Good Time.