The horror...the horror...

I had to go to Lo's class holiday party today.


Life with Dogs

Last night when Georgia and I left to go work out at the Y, Biggy was grilling dinner. He was supposed to save Georgia's until we got home. When she and I returned, everyone in the house had gone shopping.


There's Still Time to Order Books for Christmas

Bookstore: Snake Nation Press


Beri is the funniest girl in the world.
Kathy’s been a little depressed.
Josie’s just gotten off work
counseling rapists and pedophiles,
and because it is still the March
of my thirty-third birthday,
we’re sitting on the patio of El Toro,
drinking grande margaritas on a Tuesday night,
discussing the elusive concept of sober sex
while our waiter runs the chips-and-salsa
relay so he doesn’t miss a word.
For Josie and me, newly single after a decade,
like planets slung off our axis,
and Kathy, of ruler-strict Catholic upbringing,
sex intrigues us like a foreign language.
But Beri, married for more than four years,
is having a hard time remembering sex at all,
its permutation of limbs, its wet rock and slide,
though she pretends and doesn’t know I see
she’s counting on her fingers under the table–
best I can figure, it was Christmas,
Charles’s tired stocking stuffer
offered up like a diamond necklace.
Josie says it takes three martinis
to forget the day’s fun accounts
of rodents and rectal thermometers.
Kathy needs five beers on an empty stomach
to get past god, his son, and the holy ghost,
and I’m thinking half a bottle
of a decent dry white, I’ll relax a little
about the popped balloons of my breasts,
the post-caesarian belly battle zone
my husband traded in for a twenty-year-old
with a moon-pie face and perky ta-tas.
The waiter smiles a young Spanish smile
that tells us he understands this English perfectly,
understands our need for extra sour cream,
and suddenly we’re appreciating the fit of his apron
over tight black jeans, the neon sombrero
glow washing over our enchiladas,
the low night rumble of practical sedans
burrowing back to the suburbs
like guilty fathers, and the clear constant moon,
with its gathering of all things oozing and flowing,
that keeps us glued together. We’ve fallen
silent as the empty fishbowls
in which swim our dreams of love
in dregs of salt and citrus when Kathy says,
You have to really trust a man to have sober sex.


Even my dogs hate me today,
that weasel-eyed Chihuahua
and the prissy Jack Russell,
their thick middle-aged growls
when I sat too close on the sofa. 
And my three-year-old socked
me, smack in the nose. I almost
slapped her back, except it was my fault
she didn’t get her nap,
what with me lugging the vacuum
from room to room,
like something that couldn’t wait.

I don’t recognize myself anymore,
the magpie shrill of my voice,
the way the corners of my mouth
mop the floor. I can’t spare
the energy to smile, something
my husband just doesn’t get,
crooning Smile, like our sadistic
high school track coach. Apparently,
he doesn’t like me much either,
my spouse, and neither
do the two teenaged daughters,
who brandish unfeasible schedules
as I shoot daggers
at their renegade belly buttons.
It’s a civil war, alright:
Who will empty the dishwasher;
who should buy the K-Y?
And all the while, they’re,
all of them, tossing dead herrings
of socks and panties into a pile
that blocks the sun.


Evolution of Hallow's Eve Eve

I committed to attend an event on the 30th long before the neighborhood changed Halloween to Saturday, so I had to leave during the neighborhood cul-de-sac party.

This is the condition of Biggy and Lola when I left. They planned a long night of trick-or-treating after the party.

I arrived home around 11 pm, and this is how I found them.

And this is the final phase, Saturday morning.


Like the Back of Her Hand

So Biggy and I have a long-standing "issue" regarding Lo's diet. Part of the reason he's doing the grocery shopping now is that he believes he is more conscientious about buying healthy snacks and preparing wholesome meals (The other reason, of course, is that I spend too much). According to Georgia, all the two of them ever eat is steak. Yeah, just that. Nothing with. Unless you buy Reagan's ketchup-is-a-vegetable thing... But when I make the child's lunch in the morning, it's supposed to be half a lean turkey sandwich, a carrot stick, and an apple slice. Water to drink. She's supposed to have grapes for snack, 8-10. It's good if I can use the same baggie a few days in a row.

Anyway, this morning, while she was eating her cinnamon toast (He was sleeping) and I was making her lunch, she yelled at me from the sunroom:

Lo: Hey, those cheddar and sour cream potato chips on the counter are for my snack.

TR: Really?

Lo: Yeah.

TR: You must have caught your dad in a really good mood.

Lo: Buy one, get one.


New Refrain

In the grad program I'm in, we 're required to take part in group counseling. Last week, we were asked to come in with a self-affirmation to share. Very 90's-Stuart-Smalley, I know. But it can't hurt.


90 Minutes I Will Never Get Back

Every once in a while, Biggy will talk me into watching a movie with him against my better judgment--either a high-number sequel to a good movie (Saw) that was never equalled the second time, much less the sixth, or a terrible movie (Jackass) whose sequels cannot even be ranked against the original, or a movie that was so bad (The Waterboy, Team America: World Police), a sequel was never considered. I watch to be a good sport, to be his buddy, so he knows he can count on me even when things get unpleasant. And does he return the favor? No, he doesn't. He wouldn't go with me to watch Sex and the City, one or two; he refuses to watch Heartburn on TV, and he fell asleep during The Deer Hunter, which isn't even a chick flick.

So why did I let him talk me into THIS last night? Showers don't help; prayers don't work. My soul has been permanently damaged.


Never Goin' Back

Six years sober today, this from Karaoke Funeral:


I’m sitting on him in my living room chair,
his lap like a table where my bills pile up,
his lap a glossy stage I dance across,
and from it rises his big carpenter’s hand,
then down and into my shirt, he’s asking
if I’d have his child. Fat fucking chance,
I’m thinking. “I know all I need to know,”
he soothes as we’re watching PBS on the widespread
use of antidepressants; I’d rather pay a shrink
the hundred-plus dollars to whine about
my father’s floating penis, about that straw
perched on the lip of that tall drink, that olive
trembling in the bottom of a glass, and zombie dreams
starring my dead sister, grave-tight until twilight
when she appears, post-autopsy, offering up
odd pieces of herself. Here’s what Big Guy Lover
doesn’t know: Alcoholics take hostages.
He pulls my face up to his, his eyes deep
as disco, says, “Sweetie, I know you could never
be depressed, you smile too much.” I just grin
and shimmy over the hardwood, an unransomed
history aimed at his head.


First Day, Fifth Grade

Biggy, pretty much boohooing about how this was the last first day of elementary school, the first day of fifth grade, the first day of the last grade before middle school...got up extra early to make the instant pancakes, as always, which were not appreciated as much as they once were. Nor were the perfunctory snapshots for our cranky youngest child. The dogs, however, were as excited as ever to get to the bus stop.


New Sheriff in Town

So Lola spent yesterday afternoon at her Safety Patrol training session and came home sporting her new flair--cap, belt, giant binder (she's been upgraded from last year's clipboard). That's not all, though; they'll be getting their rain ponchos next week. Bright orange. She was just an ordinary patrol officer in fourth grade, but for fifth she's been promoted to Lieutenant; hence the binder.

Now she can issue warnings, citations, and detention hall slips, and she needs the larger ledger to keep track of the offending masses. She also has command over the lower officers, of course, and MUST hand out demerits if they forget any part of uniform or badge. She watched every episode of Mall Cops this summer, taking notes. School starts tomorrow, and we can all feel a little safer.


Convo with Georgia

Miss George is back in school, in Photography, let's just say VERY close to where I work, so she has occasion to pop into my office here and there to share what's on her mind. Yesterday, for instance:

Georgia: I really wish I didn't have to work tonight. I still have to shoot fruit--I'm thinking pomegranate, cut open all sloppy and gross looking, like awful lips-- sometime between when I get off tonight and six in the morning, when I'm meeting A to get sunrise shots.

TR: Rough schedule.

George (Brightening a bit): I did have time to get a Fit Shake, though.

TR(Obligatory question): How was it?

George: That GIRL made it. She's SUCH a bitch. They were out of big straws, only had little ones, which, of course, would sink down and get as lost as I am in Photoshop, and what good would that do me, so I asked if they had any more of the big ones, and she gave me a look like I was asking her to be my Maid of Honor. PLUS, she didn't fill the cup up. Terrible customer service. She should NOT be working with the public. I mean, neither should I, but if I'm not nice to people, I don't get tipped, and she's probably making about eight dollars an hour whether she's nice or not, and that inch in my cup that she didn't fill is the biggest part of the cup and that's significant. Fit Shakes cost over six bucks, and it should be mashed up against the lid. Oozing out even. It's not like she buys the acai herself.

TR: It's better when the guys make it. They usually blend too much and put the leftovers in a little cup for you to take with.

George: Exactly! And then I got out to my car and took a sip, and it wasn't even a Fit Shake. I don't know what it was, but I wasn't going to drink it. So I had to go BACK in and tell her. Then she screamed at the guy taking orders that he had PUT IT IN WRONG and glared at me while she made it again. NOW I have to go work the patio, and it's a hundred and twenty degrees out, so I'll be sweating like Fat Elvis.

TR: Come get a hug.


Welcome to My World

We're down to two kids in the house--Lola and her father. And somehow I find myself constantly trapped between them, ricocheting off one's shoulder into the other's hip, being stepped on--and, oh, the noise! The crying and whining, the questions, the bad rapping and fake accents. All weekend it was Biggy going, "WHOOP-WHOOP" and Lola responding, "THAT'S THE SOUND OF THE POLICE!"--at dinner, in the car, in the Apple Store. Imagine this a thousand times.


Biggy's Secret Stash

4 containers cocoa roasted almonds, in the back of the cabinet with the dinnerware.

2 bags M&M's and a Zone bar hidden in the cabinet above the stove, where we keep the dog meds.

1 more package of almonds (just in case),  squirreled in the top of the coffee mugs cabinet.

It's Official

I'm a hoarder.



One of the required courses for the degree I'm currently working on is Career Counseling. Only one of us in the class actually wants to specialize in that area, but we must all suffer the course. I'm not really, really complaining, because I understand the value in being better able to help a client who's been laid off or who is unhappy or unfulfilled in their current job. It's just that in the summer, we're cramming 16 weeks of learnin' into 8, and there are a shitton of theories in this particular area. There are theories for everything in life, of course--why babies look like their fathers, why dogs roll in crap...They give scientists something to do while the rest of us are watching Jersey Shore.

Last week, we were discussing Super's Life Span, Life Space Theory of career development, wherein he explains that during the exploratory--or fantasy--stage, which happens during childhood and which some people never advance past, our career goals center on such things as cowboy, rock star, astronaut, pilot. About those who don't grow out of this phase, our book says, "Often, the understanding of themselves or of the world of work needed to make more effective choices is either missing or disregarded." Hence, I guess, we have John Wayne, Mick Jagger, Buzz Aldrin (astronaut AND ballroom dancer--hello), and Frank Abagnale Jr.

Between the ages of 9 and 12, I used to stand in front of the bathroom mirror with a towel, preferably solid white, over my head, covering my hair, towel and hair tucked behind my ears, and imagine I was a nun or--even better--a saint. Ever since watching Song of Bernadette, I'd felt the calling. I believe I could have risen to the ranks of incorruptible, too, if it hadn't been for puberty, when I switched to poet.

Bogus theory.



About three months ago, Biggy agreed to take over the cooking and food shopping responsibilities. Before you get all 'Wow--what a great guy' about it, you should know that he never liked my buying the groceries, feeling that it was unnecessary to have both Raisin Bran AND shredded wheat in the house and that the cheaper canned fruit is just as good as fresh.

As I tried to stick to the same budget I'd had since Ginger left the Spice Girls, the complaints piled up against Tuna Helper and weekly Gorditas. Everyone wanted more variety, meal-wise, but if I purchased more than one kind of salad dressing, I was being excessive. And if I even THOUGHT about, say, a can of artichoke hearts, I was Zsa Zsa Gabor. Add my husband's list of random rules: cheese should be yellow...and the fact that I'd be sitting in class after a full day of work, thinking, What can I fix for dinner? Well, I was more than happy to relinquish those duties. I handed in my Amex (groceries quickly add up to frequent flier miles)and let the chips fall.

Only, now there are no chips. You want a sandwich? You get a sandwich--a couple of slices of Publix brand turkey and a 'cheese single' on white bread, no lettuce or tomato, no sides. Rather than Hamburger Helper, it's simply hamburgers, three times a week, on two-week old buns ("Just pinch off the mold"). Rather than Gorditas, Biggy fixes his own tacos concoction, blindly pulling several bottles of spices out of the pantry to season the meat. I've seen him use Allspice, Greek seasoning, and seafood rub. No need for the Old El Paso dinner kit; those things cost $2 on sale!

This morning, I had oatmeal for breakfast, which was my only option, and when lunchtime rolled around, all I could find was a three-year-old pack of Cup-O-Soup. The dogs are also out of food, since I fed the last few kibbles to the turtle, who is also OUT OF FOOD. I'd have settled for a flour-tortilla-and-cheese-product quesadilla, but I ate the last tortilla Wednesday night, and he doesn't shop till Sunday.

So, famished, I crawled upstairs to find my husband:

TR: Can I go to the store and get some food?

Biggy: There's food. I just had a turkey sandwich.

TR: C'mon. You only left one slice, and it's not even real meat.

Biggy: We'll go to the store together. After the soccer game.

TR: I'm starving. Give me the freaking credit card! I need to get some tortillas, or maybe a piece of fried chicken. I had cereal for dinner last night!

Biggy: OK, fine. But only if you'll take the scooter. You can't carry much on the scooter.


Mamoo's Magical Garden 2010

or How My Mother Got Poison Ivy; or Why All the Garden Stores Are Out of Statuary; or Yes, Every Woman Over 60 has a Doxie in the Yard


Allergic to What?

Another trip to the Emergency Vet. Yeah, she's fine now.


Has Anyone Seen This Boy?

He pretty much disappeared after graduation.



Poor Charlie. Antibiotics, IV fluids, and there might be some facial disfigurement.

Good Sunday Song

I heart Joshua James.


Real Country

Maybe it's the sweet lyrics and the fact I want to write a country song. Or maybe it's because of my bad habit of going backward, retracing my steps, trying to figure out where I went wrong. Whatever, I love this.


Overheard in the Hall This Morning

Lola: Did we win the lottery?

Biggy: If you wake up one morning, and I'm not here, you'll know.


Happy 18th, Jack. First-Batch Kids Are All Grown Up.

This morning:

TR: Happy Birthday, Jack! Welcome to your adulthood.

Biggy: Remember, if you get arrested, they throw you in real jail now, not juvie.

TR: Your draft registration papers are on the kitchen counter.


April Is, After All, National Poetry Month

If only all men were as honest.

Oatmeal Deluxe
       --by Stephen Dobyns

This morning because the snow swirled deep
around my house, I made oatmeal for breakfast.
At first it was runny so I added more oatmeal,
then it grew too thick so I added water.
Soon I had a lot of oatmeal. The radio
was playing Spanish music and I became
passionate: soon I had four pots of oatmeal.
I put them aside and started a new batch.
Soon I had eight pots. When the oatmeal cooled,
I began to roll it with my hands, making
small shapes: pigs and souvenir ashtrays. Then
I made a foot, then another, then a leg. Soon
I’d made a woman out of oatmeal with freckles
and a cute nose and hair made from brown sugar
and naked except for a necklace of raisins.
She was five feet long and when she grew harder
I could move her arms and legs without them
falling off. But I didn’t touch her much—
she lay on the table—sometimes I’d touch her
with a spoon, sometimes I’d lick her in places
it wouldn’t show. She looks like you, although
your hair is darker, but the smile is like yours,
and the eyes, although hers are closed. You say:
But what has this to do with me? And I should say:
I want to make more women out of Cream of Wheat.
But enough of such fantasy. You ask me
why I don’t love you, why you can’t
live with me. What can I tell you? If I
can make a woman out of oatmeal, my friend,
what trouble could I make for you, a woman?


My Sister Would Have Been 45 Today

From Karaoke Funeral


At the mailbox I’m disappointed,
only a postcard of a missing child.
If I recognized her, had to alert
the authorities, tell them,
She stands behind my daughter
in the third grade chorus,
maybe I wouldn’t feel this
strange compulsion to steal
my neighbors’ mail, wander
up the street as gray and vacant
as my ex-husband’s flannel pajamas,
slip all the envelopes into my pocket
like a fistful of gold chains.
Last night’s dream reminds me
I’d never be suspected:
Two a.m. on Fennel Street,
waiting for the red light to change,
I saw reassembled Kelly
in my rear-view mirror,
sprawled out in the back seat,
drinking a Budweiser, blonde curls
grown back like a Miracle Mop,
chiding, Run it, Goody Two-shoes
—not another car for miles!
Like when we were children,
raised on rules strict as metal flags,
she always breaking them, and me,
older, afflicted with Compliance.
And no cars passing now
on Parsley Lane, as I thumb through
the Owens’ J. Crew, a Visa bill,
an invitation to Chuck E. Cheese.
Suddenly, it’s not enough, stealing mail.
I want to cut class, smoke dope,
fail Personal Hygiene and Driver’s Ed,
I want to go down on the boy with the biggest
mouth in school, then cruise around the suburbs
and smash my mailbox with a baseball bat.


Family in Crisis

After I got home from school Monday night and crawled into bed, my husband wanted to tell me a story about something that happened earlier in the evening:

Biggy: While Jack and Lola and I were watching 'Say Yes to the Dress'..........

Yeah, it doesn't really matter what he said after that.


Jack Talks Some More

Jack: Do you think it's possible that using Chapstick can make your lips MORE chapped?

TR: What do you mean?

Jack: My lips have gotten so bad that I have to use Chapstick every two hours. After I use it, my lips get drier and drier--more than before I used it, and then I have to reapply.

TR: Maybe you're allergic to it--like Lola.

Jack: I'm NOT allergic. I think it's like using steroids, you know? When you're putting steroids in your body from the outside, you stop producing testosterone naturally. So when you quit using the steroids, suddenly you have no testosterone and you lose all your male stuff.

TR: What in the world does THAT have to do with Chapstick?

Jack: Well, in this case, Chapstick is the steroids and my lips are the testicles.

TR: That's quite a metaphor.

Jack: It makes perfect sense.


Back Door Mat

Jack: Mom, I HATE this rug. Can you get a new one?

TR: What's wrong with it?!

Jack: Um, it has Dachshunds on it. It looks like something Mamoo would have in her house.

TR: Do you understand that I'm turning 47 tomorrow? That's almost 50. It's perfectly natural for me to have a rug with dogs on it.

Jack: You could try to change that stereotype.

TR: OR, I could just enjoy it, like all the women who've come before me.


Childhood Memories

This has been a bad couple of late-night days for me--getting home around 11 pm.

So I was telling my friend Claire at work about my conversation with Lo this morning:

TR: Lola told me she HATES it when I'm not home at night, because her dad is the "worst putter-to-bedder ever." She said he just THROWS the covers on top of her in a big pile. You know, I carefully spread each of the five blankets in the particular order she likes them stacked. You'd think he could handle something so simple…

Claire: I used to LOVE when my dad tucked me in. He always read to me--Rudyard Kipling--in voice: …till at last he came to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees…It was great.

TR: Really, Claire?! That's so sweet. My dad used to come into my room trashed, throw himself on my feet, and cry.    

Claire: ...        ...          ...

TR: My work here is done.    

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Writer, teacher, student, mom.

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