Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ask the Fockers

Every Good Boy Does Fine. That's about all I remember from taking piano lessons when I was little because my mom used to do my piano homework for me. I'm pretty sure there's a mnemonic device for the notes in between the treble clef but I can't for the life of me remember if I ever knew it. When I was supposed to be learning such tidbits I was instead out in the front yard getting pelted with rotten plums by my brother while my mom was inside filling in my music worksheets for me. To do this day I can't read music but I can play Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" by ear, The Time's "Ice Cream Castles," and a very crude rendition of Pachelbel Canon in D. Let me tell you, I was a hit at 6th grade boy/girl parties. Meanwhile my mom is a modern-day Liberace, glittering gemstones, pomade and all.
I no longer have a plum tree in my front yard but I do have a Tivo'ed episode of The Real World: Hollywood on my queue. And I still want my mom to do my homework for me. So I thought of a new column I could install on this here blog: Ask Judy. Because the thing about my mom is she knows a little bit about everything. Gardening. Men. QVC. Softball. How to get away with a whopper of a lie and how to make a mean Hollandaise sauce from scratch. All at the same time, sometimes, while wearing shoulder pads and whistling a happy tune. And if she doesn't know the answer she still feels obligated to make one up. Most times it is pretty freaking believable, her answer, better than the truth. So please. I offer you my mother. Every Good Boy Does Fine But Every Naughty Woman Does Better. Ask Judy.
And just because I know he'll probably feel left out even though he is most certainly the quieter of the two, ask my dad, too. Ask Ed. He can be the masculine sounding board, the straight man's point of view if you're looking for what a 65 year old writer might think. And if you're not, you should. My dad also knows a lot about a-whole-lotta: Buddhism and sewing, bungee cords, how best to pull the tusks from a dead elephant and how to make a toothpick holder out of one half of a Bic pen cartridge and some red nail polish. His responses will be a hell of a lot shorter than my mother's, but as his business card says, "Quality Since 1942."

Ed and Judy sometime in the mid to late 1960's, Kenya. Or maybe that's just Daytona Beach.

Ask Judy. Ask Ed. Email me your questions at susannah DOT ink AT gmail DOT com and I will publish them in the coming weeks with answers from my fockers.
Off to watch The Real World now. Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad. You taught me well.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Princess Stinky Slippers

Zoey has found a new love: her gold beaded Princess Slippers. She wears them with everything: jeans, sweats, skirts, dresses. Most of all she wears them with attitude:

My own little Commie Pinko rockin' the Slippers of the Peoples' Princess.

Lately the obsession has taken a turn for the worse and she insists on sleeping in them. Now I know that as the mother I am supposed to have the power in this relationship, but have you ever tried putting a two year old to bed without something she thought she would certainly die without? No? Okay then, have you maybe snuck inside her room after she's fallen asleep to take that item out of her crib? Then have you been awakened at 3am to the blood-curdling rage of said two year old when she realizes the item in question is no longer on her person? That while dreaming of applesauce and the free balloons at Trader Joe's she has been stripped of her possession? Her obsession? Yeah, I think not. Because there is nothing like waking up at 3am to a full-fledged toddler tantrum over PRINCESS SLIPPERS! MY PRINCESS SLIPPERS! WHO TOOK MY PRINCESS SLIPPERS??? If Zoey yet knew how to curse I'm sure she would have done so like a tranny sailor upon realizing some pirate somewhere has made off with his princess boo-tay. WHERE THE FUCK ARE MY GODDAMN PRINCESS SLIPPERS??? I swear her voice dropped a few octaves just like a pissed tranny caught off guard.

I have taken to stretching them on over her footed pajamas on chilly nights. Which is better than warm evenings when she wears them sans socks. Hot days are the worst. Those gold beaded princess slippers? They stink like the old sneakers of a twelve year old boy who does not yet realize hormones have staged a coup on his body. I mean, I never knew a two year old could even have toe jam before the Princess Slippers entered my castle.

But this? The sight of Princess Slippers crowning the toes of two legs soft as sticks of thick butter?This sight is well worth twilight tantrums and the stench of Princess Stinky Shoes, My Maiden of Gilded Butter and Glimmering Toe-Jammed Gems. This sight is mine. --

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

To the Moon

It's official: we've been inaugurated into the International Society of Goose Egged Toddlers, IS-GETS for short.

Zoey was very stoic about the whole matter, crying only when she realized it was the world's ugliest coffee table that got her and it never even offered up an apology (either for being so damn ugly or for knocking her noggin).
After the incident we went to Target to show off her wound and buy grapefruit scented dish soap. By that time the goose egg had swollen even more and an angry red welt had risen in the middle. Zoey kept standing up in the shopping cart as we were in line at the check out so I had to yell at her reprimand her because the little illustration on the cart says that it's dangerous, that there is the distinct possibility your child's head might spontaneously fall off if she stands up in the cart. So I sternly told Zoey no, and then I caught the cashier flashing a look to the woman behind me and I realized then that maybe they thought I had hit Zoey. Or pushed her into the world's ugliest coffee table. Or farted, I'm really not sure. But I do know I didn't do any of those things. Not even once.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Other than having the day off I am not much for Memorial Day. Perhaps it's because I am lucky enough not to be touched by war. Sure my grandfathers were in WWII or maybe the Korean War, but I never heard stories, never lost relatives during military service. When my own father was 20 or so he shot himself in the leg while practicing his quick draw out of the holster, a dumb college kid, macho and most likely drunk. When Vietnam came a-calling he strapped the brace back on his leg and was deferred. He was lucky. I am lucky. The luck of the naive and the liberal, a conscientious obector voicing my peace-loving opposition to an empty room, to an echo and I cannot stand the sound of my own voice. Do I really sound so high-pitched? Is my voice really so thin? Maybe so because bumper stickers speak to me. I support the warrior but not the war and I visualize whirled peas whenever I close my eyes. War cannot be won, only survived.

An all-American family portrait: me, my mom and my brother, Andy. I'm guessing this is the summer of '76. A patriotic fashion choice for a Bi-Centennial July.
I grew up watching The Big Blue Marble and listening to Free to Be You and Me. In the sixth grade I read Ken Keyes' The Hundredth Monkey and feared nuclear war just the slightest bit more than I feared scoliosis after reading Judy Blume's Deenie, and that's really saying something considering the hours I spent examining the curve of my spine in the bathroom mirror.
Today I plan on taking Zoey down to the local Memorial Day parade. She will undoubtedly love the fire engines, the balloons, the 25 foot tall Gandhi float that says "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Which reminds me of my old job. You know--Gandhi and Merchandising go hand in hand like that. Well, there used to be this person in Accounts Payable. I never met her, but on her emails she had installed a permament signature with the Gandhi quote: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." And I always wondered what that meant to her, what change she wished for, what she was doing to abet that change from her cubicle there in Building D. How the signature at the end of her emails asking for people to break-down expense reports promoted peace or goodwill or tolerance. Or maybe all she ever wanted for the world was concise expenses, in which case, I suppose the quote in her signature worked and Gandhi was right.
He was a smart guy, that Gandhi. My personal fave is "Glory lies in the attempt to reach one's goal and not in reaching it." Which right about now makes me quite the Glory Hog.
I am no longer afraid of scoliosis but I should probably start to fear osteoporosis. I slouch. Today I will eat some corn and watch as a parade of happy white people marches down the street to the tunes of an off-key brass band. Everyone has the day off. It is easy to forget that we are at war right this very minute, that my biggest fears are happening right now, as I type, that even though the hundredth monkey is somewhere right this very minute washing his sweet potato people are still getting blown up and displaced as I sit on the sidelines of the parade and catch the candy that Gandhi tosses to me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Diary is a Slam Book: Further Evidence That 35 is the New 13

I got a job. But wait. Don't break out the champagne yet. For one, I don't really like champagne. It makes my throat itch as if I have an errant pubic hair stuck in the back of my throat and those corks are flat out dangerous. No, this is just a contract gig--3 days a week for 2 months. Kind of like the National Guards of Product Development without the threat of imminent deployment, i.e. a "real job."
Of course now that I'm staring down the barrel back of an Aeron chair I want to go back to napping on my couch just the slightest bit depressed. Go ahead--say it: you told me so! I should have enjoyed my time off while it lasted.
Oh, I know 3 days a week for 2 months is hardly a grind. But I went to school with the same kids from kidnergarten through high school and haven't had a first day of work since 2001. I suck at being the new kid. Invariably at lunchtime I find that my thermos has leaked chocolate milk all over my pb&j and I hide out in the bathroom with my feet pulled up on the can, shy and maybe just a little bit loose in the stool. What? You thought I'd hold back with that? See now why no one wants to nosh with the new girl?
I have my favorite pen--check. A full booklet of papier poudres--yup. Emergency Immodium and I'm wearing deoderant--got it. 8 hours until my first day is over and then I have to figure out an outfit for day numero dos.
Tell me the truth: would it look really bad if as the new freelancer I spent the afternoon cruising the internet to check in with all of you, my blog friends?
Missing you already,
The Girl Most Likely to Do It All Wrong (But Laugh At Herself Anyway)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jeepers, Creepers, Where'd You Get Them Peepers?

I am spending the day letting Zoey poke me in the eye. We might plant a few succulents, too. But mostly we'll just be poking each other in the eye.
Vintage photo of me poking my own mother in the eye. North Carolina, 1977. It must run in the family.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I Left My Heart

I was born in San Francisco, in a little house on Saturn Street (just around the corner from Uranus, my brother used to tease me). But when I was still a baby my parents moved us out of the city and across the bridge, to the suburbs of Marin where there were better schools, to where it was always sunny and my dad's cousin owned a store called The Bead Freak. I grew up a child of wide dappled streets and handmade signs warning drivers of children at play, with ice-cream trucks and honest to goodness white picket fences. I can remember once going to the city with my dad and him telling me how to walk the streets there. Fast. Aggressive. Eyes ahead, no lollygaggling at puppies and clouds. My tiny little legs quick skipping to keep up with him.
Zoey was also born in San Francisco. Bryan and I bought our first house in the Outer Sunset, near the beach. At night we could hear the rounding squeal of tires as teenagers tagged the streets and burned donuts in the intersections. During the day the fog lay low, still, and our neighborhood smelled like Chinese food.
Once when Zoey was just a tiny baby I stopped at the video store on my way home. I drove around the block a dozen times until I finally found a parking spot, my bumper only a few inches in someone's driveway. Carefully unlatching Zoey from her car set, I held her in my arms as I twisted my body to get out of the car. But my foot caught on the looped strap of my diaper bag and I could not stop the momentum. I fell out of my car holding my baby, fast, hard and flat onto the sidewalk without my arms free to catch my fall. I screamed, Zoey screamed, I saw blood and so I screamed some more. Not ten feet away a man stood talking on his cell phone. He glanced at me and continued his conversation. It was at that moment that I decided we were moving our family to the suburbs, too.
In some ways we are sell outs, Bryan and I, DINKS* who became DIKS* not long after the positive pregnancy test, strictly bridge and tunnel with a car seat in the back. But I love the suburbs. I love easy parking and parks, trees and dogs that aren't all pit bulls with choke chains.
I don't usually regret my decision to move to Marin but this past weekend made me pause. We took Zoey to the watch the Bay to Breakers in the city. For those who might not know this is a race from one end of San Francisco to the other, from the bay up and over hills and through neighborhoods to the breakers of the Pacific Ocean. I believe a man from Kenya usually wins, but that's not what people come to see. People come to see the runners who walk in costume, the outrageous floats that people make, the kegs people carry and the people who run naked. The race as it becomes a city-wide party, a community of freaks and freedom.

I missed my city this weekend. The energy. Zoey, however, was a little dubious at first:

Of course I don't blame her. I also wanted to hide my head in Bryan's chest when this man walked by:
I noticed more naked people than ever this year. Mostly men, make that mostly men you'd rather not see naked. But there is something about the naked people that inspires me. The bouncing boobs that look a little painful, the jangling penises so vulnerable in the sun and fog and car exhaust. They are so open and I cannot help but smile.
Then there were people like this, a traveling drove of hip hop kids who threw down a sheet of cardboard every few blocks to break-dance. They would crank up their old school beats and everyone around them would stop for a minute to watch, heads bopping, hips swinging in unison. The crowd loved them (and Zoey did, too).
I cannot imagine what was going through Zoey's mind as she saw devils and fairies walk before her, as an ostrich winked at her, a parade of nurses and pirates and pigs, storm troopers, various organs, a walking plush vagina, the Mona Lisa and the National Dry Hump Society (they would stop every few feet and dry hump each other). I mean, whatever happened to the fine art of dry humping anyway?
Somewhere along the way Zoey finally loosened up. She laughed at the men in their Hooters uniforms, the peacocks with their colorful plumage. She thought the running snail was the funniest of them all. And that is what I would like to teach her here in the suburbs or wherever we may be. That all of us freaks are walking in the same direction even if we are listening to different music, dressed in different clothes or costumes or no clothes at all. We are all one mass of humanity, of smiles and cheers and skinned knees and puking, all of us walking as one down to the finish line, to the breakers where surely there will be someone to hand us a free drink and a commemorative tee shirt. That there is a oneness to it all even if it is a race. That the end is nothing, that the road is all.
*DINKS = Double Income No Kids*DIKS = Double Income, Kids, although I guess right now we are officially SIKS = Single Income, Kid.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

We're Having a Heat Wave (A Tropical Heat Wave)

Current temperature here at Casa Petunia Face is a balmy 94 degrees. In the house. And because this is Northern California nobody has air conditioning. So here I am with all of the doors and windows open wearing a beach cover up without a bathing suit. I would be naked but sitting here at my laptop watching the sweat form in the creases of my stomach is just too much for even me to bear. There are bugs everywhere. Post-apocalyptic daddy-long-legs on the ceiling and a moth on the wall with a 3 inch wing span. I cannot help but think of Silence of the Lambs and I'm eating left-over three bean salad with favas to boot. It is too hot to post.

And yet here I am. A week ago Bryan caught a spider under one of Zoey's tupperware snack containers and it's still trapped there on the kitchen counter. He says it's his good luck charm, his pet. I taped a cartoon blurb coming out of the tupperware telling Bryan to kill me now. I just noticed the spider has woven a soft sac of what can only be babies stuck to the side. Nacho brought in another snake a month or so ago but somehow it escaped into a crack behind the bathroom sink. Every now and then we can hear Nacho pawing at the baseboards trying to get at it. One late night on the way to my 2 am pee I even almost bent down to pick up one of my black hair scrunchies in the hallway (yes, I admit I wear hair scrunchies but they are thin! And not at all 80's!) but just as my fingers grazed the scrunchie I realized it was the snake. I was too tired to do anything about it.
Al Gore could do a documentary about my house right now. An Inconvenient Heat Wave: What Global Warming Has Done to the Suburbs. Moms in muumuus wearing hair scrunchies because of the heat. I have just got to sell my SUV and buy a hybrid because next thing you know I'll be sporting a banana clip.
Happy Friday. Stay cool!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On Boys and Beards (But No Bearded Men)

Awhile ago Scented Glossy Magazine wrote a brilliant post about her Free Pass Five. For those of you not yet privy to the concept, a "Free Pass Five" is a list of the 5 celebrities with whom you are allowed to have sex without your significant other getting angry. It's a game of odds, a celebrity key party where more often than not the celebrity does not even RSVP.
The post made me think long and hard about my own list. Because the problem with my Free Pass Five is that I would need a time machine for anything to ever materialize. There are too many contingencies in my Free Pass Five, too many if only's and this but never that. There are some ye olde skeleton keys in my bowl but the doors all open with key-less remote.
First out of the gate I have a young Matt Dillon. But the emphasis here is on young. I want Little Darlings Matt Dillion, The Outsiders, Tex. I want tight jeans, a scowl and feathered hair to cover up his elephant ears. I want Matt Dillon before we ever knew about his ugly brother Kevin and saw the resemblance. I want a Matt Dillon I can save.
Continuing the theme of time travel, I want a young Robert Redford. Please ignore Paul Newman in the pic. I mean, he's alright if you like piercing blue eyes and salad dressing, but I'm partial to the Sundance Kid, to Bob and his wild horses. I will take him grizzled a la Jeremiah Johnson or clean-shaven like The Great Gatsby.
But I will not take him old. I do not like sun damaged Bob, Bob with the doll eyes, the result of some rather unfortunate plastic surgery. I think I draw the line around the time of Indecent Proposal. Anything pre-Demi and I'm in. Post Demi and Bob falls off the list.
Which makes me pretty picky with my Free Pass Five. I realize that I have already thrown away two spots to the time-challenged impossible.
Next I have Mark Wahlberg. While I don't really like metal bands, I do prefer Mark from Rock Star. There are certain movies in which he reveals a compelling mix of cocky and vulnerable, and I like that in a man. So I need to keep my Mark unconfident and just a little bit scared. I need my Mark like this:
But never this:
I worry a bit putting Marky Mark on my Free Pass Five because I know he has the potential to be a douchebag. A wicked bad pissah' of a douchebag. Still, I reserve a spot for him in good faith that I will get Rock Star Mark, Mark whose nostrils just might be too big but whose eyes are oh-so-sweet.
In striking contrast I have also included Harry Connick, Jr. Now I know he is not conventionally handsome. In fact his face is a rubbery mass of big features. But I saw him in concert once and woah! That guy can sing and dance like it's nobody's business. He is jolie-laid without being too laid. Plus, he's got that southern accent and if things went well he just might write a song about me.
Lastly I have Lenny Kravitz. I waffle on Lenny. At times he seems too stinky. Too religious. He seems like he might take himself too seriously which is a cardinal sin in my book. Despite all this I remember a dream I had about Lenny once. In the dream we were on the beach and he convinced me to wear a thong bikini which is so not me. But it was how he talked me into it, he made me feel so damn sexy. So I leave Lenny on my list for his potential to make me feel like one hot bitch.
So as you can see my Free Pass Five leaves me challenged, not just because they are superstars and musicians but because they are now too old, too cocky, handsome only at a certain angle. They are unhygienic and serious. And yes I realize I am writing this as I sit eating a cannister of Pringles, zit cream on my chin.
Still. I think it's important, the Free Pass Five. And I also think it's imperative to include a Bonus Lesbian Pick, just in case. I mean, I am not a lesbian and don't foresee ever going that route, but should I ever find myself feeling Sapphic I need to know who I can choose without Bryan getting angry.
For a long time I had Audrey Tautou as my lesbian lover. I envisioned us drinking Orangina in bed and giggling. Oh Audrey, I would say, you are tres mignon! And she would wrinkle her funny little French nose at me and protest. Non, non, tu est ma petite chou! she would respond, and I would have no idea what she said.
But then a few years ago I was in New York on business and rode up in the elevator at my hotel with Audrey. And she was TINY. Not just small-framed but ridiculously small in a large black coat. Meek. I spent the interminable elevator ride staring at the lit numbers and thinking that there is no way she could be my lesbian lover; we could never share clothes. I would break her.
So I reconsidered my Lesbian Bonus Pick and landed on a woman I could not break: Salma Hayek.
I'm not saying she's a lesbian herself or anything (although there are rumors) but it seems like she would know what to do (because I sure as hell wouldn't). She is fiery and strong, beautiful even with a Frida Kahlo monobrow. Even with a beard.
Salma would pronounce my name Sussana, she would braid my hair and we would listen to Spanish guitar in bed and eat flan. In some ways, she is more sure than any of the men on my Free Pass Five. She is the right age, straight up beautiful and looks like she smells nice. Not only would Bryan not get angry but I think he would downright approve. It's too bad I'm not a lesbian.
So there's my Free Pass Five plus Bonus Lesbian Pick. It's Wednesday, Hump Day. Who are yours?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gimme Gimme, The Sequel

Yesterday afternoon I had a job interview near Union Square which now that I am unemployed and trying not to spend any money is akin to plopping a white-knuckled alcoholic in the middle of Oktoberfest and expecting him to request just a splash of iced tea in his beer stein. Of course being one very anal Virgo I arrived 40 minutes early. Which meant I could either hang out with the greasy guy selling umbrellas on the sunny street corner or I could duck into one of a million stores that just so happen to cater to those seeking retail therapy.
H&M was my first stop. I thought it was rather responsible of me considering they are so cheap and the only other time I had been there I hated it. I expected to rifle through the racks with my nose in the air and my fingers dismissively flicking at polyester. But I was wrong. True, it was a sea of poly-blends but it was cute synthetic, Marimekko inspired and fun. I circled the store a few times and then thought maybe I should call my sponsor for support. The thing is, I have no sponsor. I have Bryan, a husband who thinks he married Eva Gabor, that $128 for a pair of pants at Anthropologie is ludicrous. (And maybe it is but the pants were the perfect cropped cut, not so short as to make my ankles look big and not so long as to look like floods. Um, darling.)
I am proud to report that I did not buy anything. Honestly it was because I ran out of time, but still. I am jonesing to go shopping. In an effort to curb the shakes I have taken to browsing online and clicking crap into virtual shopping carts and then abandoning them in some internet aisle in the ethers. I feel sort of like a horny guy in prison, licking his lips and gritting his teeth as he talks about all the women he's going to fuck the shit out of when he's finally released. Sorry, but there's really no other way to say that. So here we go, the shit I'm gonna' bang when I get a job:
This Orla Kiely dress. Or any of these Orla Kiely dresses. I'm going to be the biggest Orla Kiely slut out there, rockin' those fun prints and retro fabulousness with my new fangled bi-weekly paychecks and benefits.
And this dress from J. Crew. I have always had a thing for dingleberries (not the type associated with butts, mind you). At my wedding party I wore a Mexican inspired dress with dingleberries. But this one is better. In fact, I just might have to get married again if only so I can wear this frock. I will ride into my wedding on a white horse like Bianca Jagger did at Studio 54, waving my newly acquired company id as if it were a shiny silver coke spoon.
And then there's this Norma Kamali bikini. When I was little my mom loved all things Norma Kamali and I remember sitting at the kitchen table trying to perfect the company logo: skinny 'N,' big 'O,' skinny everything else, all accented with shoulder pads seeing as how it was 1980. Because my mom loved her I thought Norma Kamali was the height of glamour and looking at this swimsuit now I don't think I was very far off. So yes, when I get a job this little red number is so mine.
Okay, this is where I get a little greedy, like that alcoholic drinking straight from the bottle or the man in the clink doing unspeakable acts. This Becky Kelso ring is my prison rape, the bottom of my barrel, the story I will tell once I get sober and speak at AA meetings. But who knows? Maybe, just maybe, I will get a job that offers me a $7k signing bonus? With the condition that I spend it on something frivolous for myself? Certainly there are companies out there like that, right?
I could have gone really overboard here with vacation houses and pool boys but I have always been the kind of girl who figures out what my imaginary lottery winnings would be after taxes. Practical. So as you can see I am using this time sans job wisely, plotting my next move, my next purchase, my next reality. Planning on binging and banging and single-handedly getting this economy straightened out. Because while I may be greedy, I am also a damn good American.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Day After

I used to think my mom was lying when she said she didn't want anything for Mother's Day except to spend time with me and my brother. I was pretty sure all mothers lied about stuff like that, about how beautiful/talented/perfect their children are, about the tooth fairy and what an absolute gift it is to get your period for the first time even if you are still in the sixth grade and the bathrooms at your elementary school don't house any feminine hygiene receptacles. (Not that that happened to me or anything.) So when I was old enough I bought my mother some cheap rose-scented perfume at the drugstore. A box of Whitman's Samplers full of chocolate covered cherries and red dye #4. One year I even went all out and gave her a bottle of Jean Nate concentrated cologne spray. Happy Mother's Day! I wrote in a card probably featuring carnations tinged pink and maternal, and then I would skip out of the house to play with a friend or, later, off to TCBY where I spent my teen years slinging fro-yo like it was nobody's business.
Jaunty with giraffe, Mother's Day.
Of course now I know the bitter joke of parenthood. That everything I ever did to my mother will come back to me ten-fold. Rolled eyes and pfffth. Ttcccch. Duh. Luckily at two Zoey is not yet aware of this dynamic. I am her world and lately, when I kiss her, she opens her mouth as wide as she can as if she will never be able to get me close enough. If before she proffered me rosebud kisses now it is an overblown cabbage rose, a dark descent of pink mouth, sweet breath and chewed up Cheerios coming at me and I laugh. I have no doubt that she intends to swallow me whole.

A modern day Mary Cassatt painting, Mother's Day in our garden.

A few years ago on a Southwest flight I sat next to a mother and her daughter. The girl must have been about three and she sat on her mother's lap the whole plane ride, facing her, asking to kiss. Mwah? she would ask. Can we play kiss some more? And her mother would sigh, exasperated--I could tell she wanted to read her book--but she would lean forward just the slightest bit and kiss her daughter. The girl would open her mouth to cover her mother's, giggling, and from my seat not one foot away I exhaled loudly and hogged the arm rest. Why! They were practically making out! I would later tell my friends, although I doubt I said "Why!" because I am not yet eighty years old. The kisses seemed slightly incenstuous. That and the fact that the woman was carrying a John Grisham book loaded me down, heavy with disgust.

How can you not?

Zoey is still too young to give me Jean Nate. Instead she gives me kisses, mouth wide open, breath smelling slightly of milk and cookies. I cannot bear the thought that she will one day think I need chocolate covered cherries more than I need her. And so I kiss back, my mouth closed, but when she comes at me like that I take the chance to whisper deep into her throat I love you, mommy loves you. It is my deepest hope that she will swallow those words and keep them there in the pit of her stomach. That one day when she gets her period and thinks the world is over, that one day when a cheerleader comes into the TCBY where she works and smears frozen yogurt all over the tables because maybe, just maybe she flirted with the cheerleader's boyfriend at Homecoming the night before, that one day when she is a mother herself she will still be able to taste these words and know that she has swallowed me whole. That she is my Mother's Day present because she is the one who gave me the day anyway, that I am not lying when I say she is beautiful and talented and perfect. But that I am lying when I say getting your period for the first time is a gift because--let's face it--it's just not.
Happy Mother's Day Zoey. Love and a lifetime of cabbage rose kisses,
Your mama.

Friday, May 9, 2008

If, Why, Please, Amen

If I were attacked by a rapist in a dark underground parking structure I would like to think that my blood would not turn to mercury, that my bowels would not shake liquid loose and that I could find my voice to scream. I would like to think that I would not flash to flight but fight, that I would violently jab my thumbs deep into my attacker's eye sockets as if I were spearing lychee fruit with a straw, that I would jam my elbow into the naked hollow of my attacker's throat while yelling a strong gutteral no, motherfucker, no! In short, if I were attacked by a rapist in a dark underground parking structure or anywhere at all for that matter I would like to think I would kick ass like La Femme Nikita.

And if I were attacked by my own cells multiplying inside my body I would like to think my blood would not turn to lead, that I would not crawl into bed and cower, that I would not cry why? when there would be no reason at all. I would like to think I would not be immobilized by fear but moved to live, that I would laugh at the absurdity of picking my nose with fingernails worn weak and paper-thin by chemo, that I would only cover my bald head if I were cold, that I would still laugh and gossip and watch bad tv, that I would still sing songs even if terribly off-key. In short, if I were diagnosed with breast cancer I would like to think I would kick ass like my very good friend Rosalie.

Rosalie and her baby girl, the Divine Miss Sadie Wren

I was raised without a recognizable god. In a county known for hot tubs and crystal shops, where on late night local cable access television two hippies give each other massages by rhythmically swishing their hair across each other's backs. In this Zen-Zippy Buddhist world of the Yoni it was stranger to be raised with organized religion than without. We were expected to question rather than to have faith in an answer. Subsequently, I don't know how to pray.

But right now, right this very second as I am sitting in my kitchen listening to the relaxed low hum of the refrigerator, right now my friend Rosalie is undergoing a double mastectomy. Somewhere a few miles from here surgeons are cutting away at her chest, taking out the cancer and any affected lymph nodes while one of her sisters is at her house watching her 5 month old baby girl. And in this funny little world where Paris Hilton exists in the same synchronicity as Darfur I am here in my kitchen eating a croissant and wishing I were Catholic. Or Episcopalian. Muslim. Whatever. I don't have a preferance really, I just wish I knew how to pray.

I could go on and on about Rosalie. About how she makes me laugh both intentionally and unintentionally. About how brave I think she is. About how one of the strangest things about her having cancer is that when she lost her hair I could no longer tell if she had just been in a room: there were no tell-tale Rosalie strands of golden curly hair left behind. Throughout this ordeal what I have learned about cancer is that it doesn't give a flying fuck if you question it. It just is. Like faith.

And so I sit and do my own version of prayer. Please god/crystal/princess-swishy-hair. I pray to the good I know is everywhere, to energy and to vibes even though the word vibe makes me think of marital aids and cheap compact Pontiacs. Please give Rosalie the strength to get through this surgery. Please let the doctors find that the cancer has not spread into any lymph nodes. Please grant her baby girl a healthy mother. Please. In the church that is my kitchen the hum of the refrigerator is like a multiple pitch mantra, a spiritual chant to the gods of Whirlpool. Please.

Please go to Rosalie's blog and leave a comment of support. I don't know when she will get around to reading it but I know she will love it. This is my way of praying. Words are my faith and intention my psalm. This is my way of kicking ass.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


My apologiees for the lack of posts but what was supposed to be Tuesday Girl's Day turned into 101 Degree Fever Wednesday and then today we have a very special episode of Suspicious Rash Thursday.

We have been holed up in our house wearing as many flower barrettes as we can possibly clip into our hair and eating applesauce straight from the jar. Just two crazy girls at home on a sunny afternoon singing songs in Portuguese even though neither of us speaks the language, courtesy of Zoey's daycare provider.

Despite said mystery illness spirits are high. Zoey has been a living breathing ball of finger pointing love, poking me in the eyes as she emphatically says that I am her mommy, offering me tiny rosebud kisses for no reason at all.

I don't really know what I was so afraid of, staying at home with my daughter. So far so good. So good, in fact, that I suspect somebody might have smeared Vaseline on the lens of my family and in 20 years Zoey and I will be walking down the beach together talking about that, you know, not so fresh feeling? Down there? The hems of our jeans will be rolled up and we will be barefoot and then the logo for Masengill will float across the screen, a breeze will whip through my salt and pepper hair and we will both toss our heads back and laugh in slow motion. That's right, things are so halcyon here at Casa Petunia Face that we resemble a commercial for a feminine hygiene product. Itching has never felt so good.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Today marks one month and one day of unemployment.
Yesterday I went to the mall to see if maybe I could find some cute interview attire at my own personal Mecca of the Gimme Gimme, Anthropologie. My reasoning was sort of along the lines of if I dress like it they will come. But I didn't buy anything. Anthro was full of frilly print dresses and embellished sweaters too delicate for my hangnails, J. Crew had silk tops cut too full, Banana was just downright fugly in a Heathers playing croquet kind of way so I left empty handed and now I cannot help but wonder if because I am not dressing like it nothing will come. Just endless days of naps and going to the grocery store because every single day I wear jeans, a sweatshirt and some flip flops, the universal uniform of the unemployed.
Last year at this time I was on a work trip to China where the workers in the factories have to wear vests, each a different color to show what department they work in and at what level. If I were in China this year, right now, then surely I would be wearing the dingy grey smock flecked with metal shavings, my fingers stained with tobacco and machinery oil. But I am not, I am here in the States in my plush ivory bathrobe which is a blessing of sorts considering the next leg on that journey last year was India where somewhere on the road to Moradabad I ate a funky chaat and spent the next two weeks peeing out of my bum bum and cursing in the general direction of Ganesh and the Ganges, to anyone within hearing distance of the closed bathroom door. It was not so auspicious, that chaat I shat.
But no, now I am at home where my bathroom is clean(ish) and there is an abundance of toilet paper. Still I worry.
One month and one day.

In the lexicon of my family we have a word for this discombobulated malaise: derrumba. My dad first spied it on a road in Costa Rica, a street sign to warn drivers of a dip in the road ahead. It works: derrumba. Or if you're feeling particularly dramatic: derrumbatic. Translated literally, it means "to collapse."
I hear the irony in this post. Writing about factory workers in Communist China, India where golden-eyed beautiful beggars purposefully hack off an arm so they can make more money on the streets. Places in the world where there is no movement, just the instinct to breathe even if the air is brackish and still. And Anthropologie, my Mecca, where I browse in a fugue state of Yael Naim, where somehow a Visual Team has made apples fall from the sky and the pages of an old book swirl overhead as if caught in a breeze, where a shirt is easily $128 with a first cost of no more than $14. Made in Sri Lanka. I know how it works.
And yet this is all I really know, my survival instinct: It has been one month and one day. I have no solid leads and with every passing hour I feel smaller. My house, my car. Health insurance. There was a dip in the road ahead but I never saw the sign; I was driving much too fast. It collapses. Everything collapses.

Girl's Day

Sometimes I joke that I am a bad mother because I don't make macaroni and cheese from scratch or because Zoey knows the D, D, D, D, Dora theme song better than the alphabet. But them's just jokes, folks! The real reason I think I am a bad mother is because, okay my fingers stopped typing at the because and I don't even know how to say it. I can hardly even think it in a complete sentence let alone admit it to the www.

Because sometimes when I am faced with a full day with just me and the Zo' I feel a sense of unending blankness. Of hours stretched ahead filled with stacking blocks then knocking them down, with picture books that tell simplistic stories and me pretending to wear a sippy cup as a hat. And before it has already begun the day has bored me. Do you know how hard it is to admit that? To come perilously close to admitting that your own daughter might--no. I can't even say it. But picture an hour spent going up and down a staircase and maybe you will understand.
Up until now I have planned my weekends carefully. Trips to Target and the park with friends. The beach. Always busy busy busy! When she was a newborn more experienced mothers told me to nap when she naps and although I am fairly certain that advice is not intended for the mother of a toddler still I take it to heart. I take 2 hour naps on the dog days of my daughter. She plum tuckers me out with the constant repetition of more and no and again and more and then more again no! hand outstretched as if I am crimping her style.
And so it is with nervous trepidation that I have cut back on Zoey's time at daycare. With me not working it felt silly and costly her going full-time; it felt bad. So tomorrow is my first day with her, just me and the Zo.' I think it will be good for us, for me really. I think I need to learn how to slow down and enjoy the slow drip of the day. I need to enjoy my daughter. I need to learn to take the stairs, even if they don't go anywhere at all. More? Again?--No.
In the meantime, please tell me I'm not the only one who sometimes feels bored by--don't make me say it. Just tell me I'm not the only one. That Kraft Mac 'n Cheese is okay every once in a while and that the sippy cup on top of my head really isn't that funny, especially for the jigabillionth time.