Tuesday, March 31, 2009

(This Is) Me, (That Was) Them

Throughout my life I have found pieces of my mother in the unlikeliest of places. The bottom drawer of the kitchen hutch: angry typed letters to The Pope and Eddie Fisher, Steiff African game animals that served as centerpieces at my parents' wedding, a mysterious box of old tin toys, chipped and red with lead. As a child I loved nothing more than to paw through her jewelry box, inhaling the thickness of dust and precious metal, the violence of diamonds nestled between red velvet alongside my handmade macaroni necklaces and what I knew to be normal. I saw my mother through a mist, this woman who taught me how to rinse the soap from my vagina so it wouldn't sting, this woman who cleaned my face with her spit, this beautiful happy sad woman who had already lived 27 years before I was even born. When I whistle I can hear her breathe, and sometimes, I taste her breath in my mouth. And yet I also don't know her at all, cloaked as she is in the unspoken uniform of how a mother serves her child.
My father grew up in a tall tale that just so happened to be true. Whisked to school in limousines, a little Lord Fauntleroy in Brooks Brothers short pants, a Jaguar for his 16th birthday which he promptly wrapped around a tree, jumping out of airplanes and living in Africa just to get away from the starched collars that his great uncle had invented. Every Thursday a man would take the train from New York City to my grandmother's house just to wind the clocks... Rudolph Valentino shot one of his movies in the backyard... there were elevators, elevators! And other tales of a life I could not even imagine.
The man I know has a red beard, wears running shorts, holds a toothpick between his teeth when he isn't smoking. The man I know as my father has a strange love for bungee cords and the banality of their danger, the money having long gone somewhere south. I do not know the other man, even though he, too, is my dad.
Zoey is my daughter, my insides slick exposed to air. And yet for her, part of me will always exist in boxes and drawers, neatly tucked away in archival quality paper, photos of me in college, my eyes larger than she knows them, five foot eight in two and a half inch heels, stories told through a vaseline lens of the night she was conceived, our first house, the color of the wallpaper, does she remember it? Years from now she might say she does, but she won't, won't remember me at 35, won't know me at 20, won't believe that I was ever her age. But I was, I am; I swear it, though I have long been slipping away of this me for me. Me: the quick flash of a coat with peacock embroidery back when the door did not lock at nightfall, a box of pointy toed shoes, a bleached polaroid of that birthday when we all kissed each other because we could. She will never really know me, and it is this loneliness of parenting that nobody ever talks about, although when she whistles, it will be my song escaping through her lips.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Using The Force

Zoey had her first date on Friday. And by first date I mean the first time she got nudey in a plastic pool with a boy and then let him buy her a slice of cheese pizza. We still have some work to do on the order of things...
Here she is regaling her date Liam by coquettishly covering her nose with her fingertips while simultaneously trying to pick a booger and make a funny face. (That is totally how I seduced her father, by the way.)
Please note: the Dora fiesta frock, aka her lucky dress.
Later she watched Liam poop in the potty (which is totally how her father seduced me way back when). Even though Liam's mommy had to help him with the wiping, Zoey was still adequately charmed by his potty prowess and soon, she, too, wanted to impress with her mad bathroom skillz. After she went pee pee on the big girl toilet, Liam was chivalrous enough to give her a potty sticker. Unfortunately, Liam was plum out of ballerina princess fairy pink stickers, and opted instead to peel off the most girlie thing he could find in his Star Wars Sticker Book:
Sadly, Zoey refused to put the sticker on her fiesta dress, or even on the back of her hand. She looked at it and then at me like a teenage girl at prom whose date has gotten her a cheap carnation corsage. What the feck am I supposed to do with this? she seemed to be saying, and I, ever the couples counselor, told her to stick it to her sippy cup. Which is basically my advice to any couple for any problem. Ever. You're welcome.
And then it was the end of the evening, the part where Liam and Zoey awkwardly said their goodbyes in the parking lot while holding their mother's hands, because those are the rules when in a parking lot on a date: you hold your mother's hand. And the mothers--we said our goodbyes over their heads, secretly planning the wedding of our children, a wedding with a Star Wars Goes to the Ballet as a Pink Winged Fairy Princess Secret Jedi Warrior theme, the party favors delicate pastel jordan almonds gathered in tulle fastened with a miniature light saber and one very crafty Jedi mind trick the likes of which Martha Stewart has never seen.
Zoey and Liam: I dream that one day in a galaxy far, far (far!) away they will create their own babies, a super human race of ridiculously long-eyelashed people. If for nothing else then because I really like Liam's parents, but mainly because everyone deserves a partner who offers you a sticker when you go pee in the big girl potty.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Patrons of Petunia Face

Yesterday I fell asleep in the park. Like a real bum, only I was drinking pomegranate iced tea and not malt liquor, but maybe that's just a stereotype. Maybe bums do drink pomegranate iced tea and read Us Weekly before nodding off on the grass. Maybe the line between us is not so thick after all. Who knows? Maybe they, too, take pictures of their feet, toes in the grass and nowhere to go. At least the ones with a camera and a computer. A pedicure. And a blog. You know, those bums.
An hour later I woke up to a dog licking my sunburned eyelids. My mouth dry, my head sweaty, my back crazy itchy from the grass. And I realized how lucky I am, unemployed, broke, selling my house, battling dandruff. Because I know what I do have, and not everyone does. And that right there is riches.
Don't worry--I'm not going to hold your hand and sing kumbaya again (although do we agree it's a catchy tune?). No, today I am going to hold out my hand instead, which is just about as comfortable for me as sticking that same hand down my throat, through my innards and out my ass to wave hello, i.e. not so very comfy. But yes, I've added a DONATE button, (see said nifty button on the right-hand side of the aircraft). A few things about this latest addition:

1. Apparently I am an idiot. I wanted my button to be this photo of Nacho here, since this is pretty much what I see every morning as I sit down to write. This head-butting kitten cat all up in my bidness, the bouncer at the door to my blog:


After trying to figure out how to upload the photo on Paypal for an hour, it quickly became apparent that I am not getting paid to write, not not getting paid for my mad computer skillz. Which leads me to...

2. I have issues with the word DONATE. But it was either that or Buy Now/Add to Cart, and those are even more misleading. Because here's the thing: I'm not asking for donations. I am not a charity. This is not because I am unemployed or can't afford a Starbucks Chai or the latest cute frock at Anthropologie. That would be disgusting of me. No, this is because I would like to make some money from my writing and am adverse to advertising. I don't want to compromise my content because fuck that and farts are funny and motherfuckingtittyscukertwoballedbitch if I want to. SunMaid Raisins are rad, but something tells me they don't want to be associated with the two balled bitches. But you, on the other hand...

3. If you like what you read and are so inclined, please click on the DONATE button. A quarter, a dollar, $10 grand, whatever. And guess what? If you'd rather not, THAT'S OKAY, TOO. The truth is, I write for myself. It's cathartic, fun, keeps me alive. But in making my writing public via this blog I have to realize that I am also writing for you. No strings attached. This is what I have, and I freely give it to you. Yes, freely. Unless, of course, you want to donate. In which case, fine, I suppose the word "donate" is appropriate. Sheesh. (Why hello there! I'm waving at you from my ass! Toodles!)

So there. Become a Patron of Petunia Face. Or don't. Either way, I know how lucky I am to have you, which makes me the richest blogger in the www.

Happy Friday! May it be sweet.

UPDATE: The lovely Ill-Fitting Overcoat told me how to get Nacho's mug as my DONATE button! She suggested I caption it "Pet My Pussy," which I quite liked, until she said "no, no, don't do that." So I did not. But I thought about it.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Just returned home from dinner with friends, eager to check how many millions of thousands of dollars I've accumulated from my new donate button, only to find that I set up the link wrong. God, I suck. I think it's fixed now, though. Why don't you try it out and see? :)

LAST MOTHEREFFING UPDATE (I THINK): There have been a handful of comments to this post that think my new Nacho button is tacky. If there are a handful of people who have commented about it then I have to believe there are more that just think it. And I hate thinking you think I am tacky, or worse--greedy. I am not, but I do believe in supporting the arts; I stand by this post. And yes, I think blogging is an art, just as writing is, painting, music, etc. I never thought this would be controversial, but apparently it is. And no matter what you think about the new Nacho button, I do hope you'll come back. In the meantime, consider donating to Americans for the Arts, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the arts throughout American communities.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Don't Worry: Tomorrow I'm Back to Bitch. See? See How I Have to Poke Fun At This?

There is something on the tip of my tongue. Only it's not a name, or a word. I guess it's more of a thought, a feeling, an idea. That's the thing--I don't really know. But I will tell you this: it tastes very slightly sweet, like a soft milk candy melting or a half-smile from a stranger on the street.

I've been thinking about kindess lately, and how it makes people uncomfortable, myself included. True kindness, we shrug it off, excuse it, worn weary by its energy and fa la la. Kindness is the sweet dumb sister to Snark. And in this age of online everything, Snark reigns supreme. Snark with its sharp wit, Snark so glamorous and funny. Snark is the drive-by rat-tat-tat blast of energy, always moving, never asking more than a moment of your time. (If given the Universe, Snark would be the Sun, bright, hot and sexy, Kindness the Moon made of a lump of cheese, waxing and waning, quietly pushing us forward then pulling us back, its powers slowly lapping at the sand yet moving coastlines.)
In some cultures, a smile is a sign of submission, the flash of your teeth a threat. In our culture, a smile is a form of currency we flip to the cashier at the grocery store, no warmer than the chump change curled between our fingers. Our smiles have been slowly devalued as the value of something other has risen. And so I wonder in this post-economic crash world, what will become of our smiles, of our distrust of kindness? Of snark and gossip and eyes cast down to the gum-pocked sidewalk? What will become of the one thing we all have but seem afraid to geniunely use?

"We mutually belong to one another," writes philosopher Alan Ryan, "and a good life is one that reflects this truth." No mention of new clothes or houses or cars. No mention of Rock of Love or Bret Michaels anywhere. It seems that not only has our economy crashed, but so has our spirit. As a society, we are staggering from the guilt of it all, each of us out for ourselves, mutually isolated, but that is all.

I curse Bernie Madoff, AIG, blah blah blah and yes, them, too. But I also think that what is happening is not so much a crash as an evolution. As dumb as it sounds, I believe kindness will help us rebuild not only our stock portfolios, but our sense of community, our spirits. So here I am, the girl with the flower power-stickered banana seat bike pedaling lazy circles in the cul de sac. Do you want to play with me? Yes, my bike is dorky. Yes, I am wearing my hair in two uneven side ponytails. Yes, sometimes I lisp (not really, but this is an image of a feeling, I think). I have room for one more and the milk candy is sweet. Do you taste it on the tip of your tongue, too? This thing? This smile? This possibility of something more?
I don't know. Like I said: I can't quite grasp what it is, but it's there. And I am here, waiting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This Post Contanes One Misteak

Before I begin speaking, there is something I would like to say: There are no absolutes. I am a firm believer in optimism, because without optimism, what else is there?And lastly, does this sentence remind you of a turtle struggling on its back?
No way! Me, too! WTF turtle? WTF me? Person, place or thing and sometimes Y. I am the square root of -1. Who am I?
I'll let that sink in for a moment.

Maybe a little more time.
Yeah, me neither.
Yesterday I had an interview. Not just any interview, mind you, but the MOST AWKWARDEST INTERVIEW WITHOUT EXPOSING A BREAST OR FARTING EVER. It was a second interview. The first one went well, and I was asked to come back and speak with the founder/owner/CEO man. A man named Lou. A nice man. A nice man named Lou who proceeded to tell me that the company I used to work for ripped him off, that the company I used to work for is unethical and bad, a bad, bad place and how could I have worked there and am I bad, I must be bad, how could I not be bad, am I bad? Who's bad? And then he took a phone call while I sat there wondering if the interview wouldn't go better if I did fart. You know, just to take the focus off the stench of my previous work experience.
Epimenides was a Cretan who made one immortal statement: all Cretans are liars. It is commonly supposed that self-referential paradox arises when one considers whether Epimenides spoke the truth. However, if Epimenides knew of one Cretan (other than himself) who is not a liar, his statement is a lie (because he asserts all) even though it correctly describes the speaker as a liar.
Who's on first? I don't know, but Lou the nice man boss guy essentially asked me if I am unethical, if I am a liar. And I said no. And then we shook hands and I descended up Escher's staircase, on a road to nowhere, let's take a ride, the end is nothing, am I bad? Who's bad, and I have the urge to grab my crotch and shriek ee-hee-heee! (That was a Michael Jackson reference in case this is getting a might bit too oblique.) (Also Michael Jackson-y? The very term self-referential paradox makes me think of inappropriate touching, one glittery glove, things that make no sense, like a nose that looks more like an ear on a man that is a boy that is neither black nor white nor green all over.)
WTF turtle?
I don't know. I just. Yeah.
So I came home and let Zoey do my makeup because that made sense. Because that is beautiful. Because that is the truth.
The End.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pill Bug

Today has been a day of people poking at me with sharp sticks dipped in salt, so I am curling up into a ball until the world is once again a blunt object the texture of cotton.
See ya' tomorrow.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Many Faces of Zo

Wanna' hear something pathetic? Sure you do--it's Monday. Well, when I was but a wee awkward lass in the seventh grade I had a girl crush on an eighth grader named Tracy McKibbin. Of course at 12 years old I could not call it a girl crush, would not dare even think of it that way lest my classmates catch on and call me a lezzie like they called poor Vanessa Gaynor who later had to change schools because the kids were so cruel.

But I am not here to talk about Vanessa with the unfortunate last name. I am here to talk about Tracy McKibbin, Tracy who danced to Madonna's "Borderline" in the school talent show, alone on the ampitheater stage confident and pretty, me on the stone steps wondering how a girl could do that when I could barely look at myself in the mirror alone in my bedroom. I remember watching Tracy dance, and later, watching Tracy walk down the hall, open her locker, watching Tracy talk to her friends, flirt with boys. I watched Tracy and I came to the conclusion that what made Tracy so perfect was that she never smiled too broadly, never laughed too loudly, never snorted or squealed or beamed. A more mature mind would recognize this as possibly being aloof, maybe scared, but 12 year old Susannah surmised that beauty must come from not having any facial expression at all. And so I set out not to smile, not to laugh, not to squint my eyes or crinkle my face. And that is what I remember most about the seventh grade: trying to keep my face still so I would be beautiful.

Pathetic, right? Happy Monday, people. Of course now I know better, and I make a contorted disgusted face at my 12 year old self. I recognize the beauty in a wide smile, a face red and twisted from crying. To honor the beauty in the goof, I present to you The Many Faces of Zo (complete with emoticons that are so dorky I have to wonder if Tracy McKibbin would know what they meant) (but whatever):

Surprised Face!

Mean Face, Grrr :/
Guilty Face :>

Oh No You Di'int Face :#*&$^

The Prettiest Face in all the World Face :)

If there is one thing I wish for my daughter it is that she grows up knowing that she is most beautiful when she is authentically herself.

And I wish that for you, too. Like I said, Happy Monday (insert whatever face you want here).



Friday, March 20, 2009

What If There Was a Good Hair Day and Nobody Came?

Would it still make a sound? Yes, yes it would, and THAT my friends is the sound of one hand clapping. The answer to this and other zen koans may be found here on a very special bored housewife edition of Petunia Face, the Friday Bonus Post!
I got my hair cut today. But wait! There's more! Here is a shot before the ginsu knives made their swashbuckling debut:

Long hair, no style, not often seen outside of a ponytail. Hm, blah, there's only so many hours an unemployed girl can spend trimming off each split end one by Days of Our Lives in the background one. So I found a Very Inspirational Photo of an Olsen twin (I'm thinking it's Mary-Kate although I fancy myself more of an Ashley) and brought it to my friendly neighborhood hair stylist. Am I a dead ringer for the long-lost third twin (also known as a triplet), or what?

Admittedly I was a little sheepish pointing at this unidentified Olsen and saying I want to look like her seeing as how a few years, some el-bee's and millions of dollars separate us. But whatever. Sitting next to me was an old lady wearing a hospital oxygen mask. Her stylist had to cut around and under the surgical tubing over her ears, so I figured I was a real peach in comparison.
Apparently the third Olsen twin (er, triplet) is a bit of a saucepot, because check me out post-do:
Rockin' the layers with my arms stretched out. Come hither without anyone to hither fro. Because here's the thing: Bryan is at dinner with an old friend tonight. None of my friends were available to play. So I picked up Zoey at her grandmother's house and we came home and made mac and cheese, the forced air from the microwave tussling my professionally blow-dried hair just so. And I got a little sad. Anxious. This good hair day wasted on the It's-It I'm about to eat. So yes, here, please: tomorrow I shower, but tonight is a night of one lone tree falling in the woods. Listen up.


It's true: sometimes I come to this space, cast a furtive glance over one shoulder and then proceed to strip off layers of my skin for you. See? I hold up tissues of my dermis to the light, carefully pointing one sharpened eyebrow pencil at each follicle as if it were a miracle.

And then there are days like today, days that I stand here bundled in my pjs, croissant crumbs scattered down my front like elephant dandruff. See? I say on days like this, and I point at something funny, something crass, something that makes me smile in the way that it's so perfectly clumsy and human. As if it were a miracle. Because it is, all of it.

Happy Friday, friends. May you laugh so hard that you cry.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Death and Beautiful Things

It's raining, it's pouring,
The old man is snoring.
Bumped his head
Went to bed,
And didn't wake up in the morning.
I prefer to think the old man simply slept in til noon. Or I modify the lyrics from "didn't wake up IN the morning" to "didn't wake up UNTIL the morning," the translucent membrane between life and death separated by a mere preposition. I suppose I prefer my nursery rhymes rainbow colored, the cradle still swinging high in the treetop, the ring around the rosie referring not so much to the Black Plague as it is a wild English garden. Tra la la, life is good, and then you die. Yes, AND THEN YOU DIE.
I am embarrassed by how much I am affected by the death of celebrities. Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, Kanye West's mother, for Chrissakes. Up until yesterday I thought Natasha Richardson was in the Hotel New Hampshire, but no, that was Natassja Kinksi; and still, I feel an emptiness where somebody used to be. Did you hear? I wait a few minutes after I pick up Bryan from the ferry to tell him at the end of the day. After all, it can't be the first thing out of my mouth. Who is she? Bryan asks when I tell him. And I rattle off her stats having just looked her up on IMDB. You know, the mother in The Parent Trap? She was in Maid in Manhatten with JLo? Nell? And then when none of this rings a bell, she's the real life sister of that woman you hate on Nip/Tuck. Oh, Bryan says, okay. And then after a minute he says, I don't hate the actress, just her character. To be clear. 'Cause that's pretty sad. And we drive the rest of the way home in silence, me loving my husband who does not hate the sisters of dead women, the world tragic enough already.
I do not know what is happening in Darfur. Sudan. Sierra Leone. I know it is bad and that there is not much I can do, although I also know better than that. If we all did something... The absurdity, though, of a culture that blasts the headlines of an actress' death while a genocide occurs far and away, off camera. Since 2003, 400,000 people have been murdered in Darfur and yet I do not feel an emptiness where they used to be. They are not on IMDB.
Oh no, my mom says when I tell her on the phone that Natasha Richardson has died. That is just terrible. Who was her mother again? Vanessa Redgrave, I tell her. That's right, my mother says, and then she tells me the story of a man she knew growing up, a friend of her father's who would often come over for dinner because he was a widower. One night his wife bumped her head on their swinging door. Ouch, she said, and then went to bed that night never to wake up again. It's raining, it's pouring. And this is why I'm a fatalist, my mother says, the story now over. A subdural hematoma, the punchline of prognoses everywhere, seemingly the absence of sense and free will and fairness.
I do everything I can to stay alive (short of eating well and exercise): I am a smug non-smoker, a bit of a teetotaler. I wear my seat belt, believing not so much in free will but in a fate that is determined simply because I want it. Which is stupid, I know. As if the people in Darfur don't want to live. As if Natasha Richardson didn't want to just learn how to ski. As if me wanting a long healthy life with my family is enough.
My step-father most likely has cancer. Already he has progressive MS, is a quadraplegic in a wheelchair, sleeps with a machine pumping oxygen because his lungs are weak, but now his kidneys are failing rapidly and they have found masses. He is not ready to die, and that is the biggest tragedy of them all, that any of us should die before we have the courage and peace to let go. This is my modern day holocaust, this deep yawning sadness of a thousand deaths that are not my own, and so I think of Natasha Richardson. A woman who meant nothing to me. A death that means nothing to me except that I am able to think about it at all.

And now, for Beautiful Things (lest you commit hari kari after this happy happy joy joy of a post):

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Silly String On a Loofah

Let's see: it's been almost six months (fuck! really?) since I was last laid off, five and a half if you're counting pennies and pity, commes moi. So I'd say we're about ripe for a post on things I'm going to Shop the Shit Out Of Once I Am Employed Again, (SSOOOIAEA, for short. Feel free to use that on your next Facebook Scrabble game. I'm pretty sure it'll be accepted, especially if you're playing against me and your name is Rosalie and you have already beat me with words like qi and qua and reif and shit, yes, SHIT even though Facebook won't accept my graciously proferred and perfectly acceptable word of ZEN. That's right: Facebook hates breastfeeding, Buddhists and apparently me.) Ah, but I digress.
Shit, yes, shit. I want this shit even though this economy has taught me it doesn't mean shit but shit happens and I want me some of the following (shit):

1. This funky Swedish Lampel light. What can I say? I am a child of the 70's; I grew up in a house dripping with ferns, warmed by orange shag carpeting and quaaludes. I'd drape some air plants in these bad boys and call it a day. Day. Moving on.

2. A Becky Kelso ring. I realize that last time I was unemployed I listed this in my SSOOOIAEA list, but once I got a job I wasn't employed nearly long enough to buy it. So yes, Becky Kelso redux, preferably rose gold with diamond, although a moonstone will suffice. (Don't tell, but sometimes if someone is tailgating me and Zoey is not in the car I daydream about slamming on my brakes so the person behind rear-ends me. Of course in my daydream I am not hurt and the person behind me is a wealthy alcoholic who has too many DUI's so he--it's always a man--pays me off with wads of cash, hush money that then becomes my Becky Kelso ring money. Check out the bauble below and tell me it isn't worth slight whiplash. Sshhh.)
3. When I was in college I had a fake leopard print coat that was too plush so I bought some clippers at a drugstore and spent the afternoon shaving my coat. My neighbor was the Hispanic son of strawberry farmers and I saw him peeking through my living room window at me surrounded by puffs of leopard fur as if I were nuts. And maybe I was, because that shorn coat was sheer perfection and somewhere along the way I gave it away or threw it out or lost it, whatever. My neighbor avoided me for the rest of the time that I lived there, and ever since I have mourned that coat until this: 1950's Fur Leopard Print Faux Fur Trapeze Coat. Good God, with my Becky Kelso ring, a few lamps dripping with sexy time greenery--koo koo ka choo Mrs. Me, and yes, I am trying to seduce you with this swingy feline number.
4. But I am not entirely selfish in my SSOOOIAEA. No, I would love to purchase this Moroccan Leather Pouf for Zoey's room. And then I would ban all markers, crayons, paint, juice, milk, sweaty food stuffs and chapsticks from her room. Or just keep the pouf in my possession until she turns 16. (She would thank me later, of that I am sure.)

5. And lastly, once I am gainfully employed with benefits and the luxury of ignoring the evening news, once the world is again round and good and plenty, I would like me one of these:
Perhaps I should have marked this as NSFW. Whatever, just tell your IT department it's silly string on a loofah and they will never ever know that it is indeed an extreme close up of sperm fertilizing a human egg. Beautiful, right? While it rounds out my list at #5, this desire pretty much trumps all, if for nothing else than it would give me something to blog about rather than stuff I want to Shop the Shit Out Of Once I Am Employed Again.
Happy Hump Day. (You have my express permission to tell your partner tonight that you would like to spray some silly string on a loofah. It sure beats saying you want to "do it.")

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Commercial Break

Well I'll be damned if this is not a commercial for Coca-Cola, spermicidal soda of the new generation, or something like that (again, not sure why I have yet to receive offers of employment as a copywriter/marketing maven):

Usually I hate commercials that get me in the gut. Makes me feel like the sap that I am. If this is the case for you, never fear: I got a little wiseass for you here!

Coke or no, Have a Smile.

Back tomorrow with our regularly scheduled deprogramming.

Monday, March 16, 2009

On The Elasticity of Time (And Again)

*There once was a Zoey so bright,
Who grew up faster than light.
She set out one day,
In a relative way,
And returned on the previous night.

We bought a daybed this weekend at Ikea, spending money to make money. We bought the bed to stage our third bedroom for selling our house. And yes, for the very futuristic idea that years from now, maybe when she turns 14 and cars levitate and I can order a venti non-fat, no water chai latte from the surface of my sub-zero fridge, that one day the bed would become Zoey's big girl bed. Of course once we got home Time snapped its rubbery ass right in my face because Zoey demanded to sleep in her new big girl bed that night. Now. Then, the dilation of length, time, mass and energy sighing before my very eyes: my baby has become a big girl and I have become a puddle of particulate cliche. They just grow up so damn fast.
It did not matter that we had no sheets yet for the bed. It did not matter that the bed was not set up in her room, that she did not have her ballerina light, her night-night music or her books. It did not matter that I was not ready. Zoey, I said while stuffing one pink toenailed foot into her fleece heart pajamas, what is the purpose of the Federal Reserve? I wanted to remind both of us that she is still a baby, but then she answered, The Fed is the Central Banking System of the United States, created in 1913 by the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act. And that's when I knew it was over.
Okay, so maybe that last part didn't really happen, but she did watch 60 Minutes with us last night much too quietly, her hands folded in her lap just so, her eyes narrowing with doubt over Ben Bernanke every now and again. When did this happen? The Cult of Quick and Now and Oh, Grow Up? When did the alarm on my bedside table become an Atomic Clock? When did I care about who sleeps where? And why and how and who.
Nacho, my what, my cat. My baby of fur and tail and whiskers the quality of prized porcupine quill. Last night he discovered Zoey's abandoned crib and set up shop on the plush pink blanket and damask rose pillow, all purr and mine and lickety split.

Time is elastic and indifferent. Transparent, or maybe that's just me. In my town there is a woman of questionable mind who pushes her dogs down the street in a Graco stroller. They each have a blanket, one blue and one pink, I can only assume because one dog is a boy and the other a girl. The woman is friendly, chats you up if you stop to stare. And I do: stare, because I have seen my future, 30 years from now in the sting of a rubber band. I have known what it is to baby something, to love, to tuck in, to kiss closed eyelids like a prayer laced with faint capillaries.
Knowing that, I don't think I could ever not love, not tuck in, not travel to Zoey's marriage bed to tickle her back, not stand in the doorway with reassurances unasked, I'm here, Mama's here, right here, (her husband or partner sighing and rolling over, vowing not to come to Thanksgiving dinner at my house ever again). And suddenly, the particulars of the behavior of time as specified in the theory of relativity do not seem quite so questionable, quite so insane, dogs in strollers and cats in the cradle, kisses on eyelids and whiskers on kittens.
*Limerick a take-off on this one, published in 1923 as a critique of Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Disappearing Ink

Question (bordering on rhetorical, most certainly hypothetical): how dumb would I be to get this statement tattooed somewhere on my body? Like a 36 year old tramp stamp, only rather than a sexy, curling tribal design the tattoo would be these very matter of fact words on a flat black background that does not flatter the post-maternal hip spread one freaking iota.
As dumb as the time I was 19 and got a dolphin tattooed on my ankle because I had seen a particularly riveting episode of "House of Style" featuring Nikki Taylor who had the same tattoo? What can I say? It looked oh-so-cute on her, riding around on a golf cart as she was with Cindy Crawford. (I'm just lucky I didn't get a mole tattooed on my face.)
Or would it be as dumb as the time I was 23 and for the briefest of moments fell in love with Bruce Lee and thought to my 23 year old self, self! I want to be as strong as water just like Bruce Lee. Punch the surface, its strength lying in the fact that water flows around any force! Phenomenal woman, that is me! (I had a tendancy to identify myself with books and movies back then, often confusing myself with characters, mixing them together like a bowl of stone soup to which I had contributed nothing.) Later I went to the library and looked up the Chinese character for water, not knowing if the symbol I ultimately chose meant still water, tap water, river water or sewage. I tattooed the symbol on my ankle next to Nikki Taylor's dolphin, and then I went to the farmer's market with some friends and cried when a large man stepped on my freshly bandaged foot. Phenomenal woman that I was, like water for chocolate seemed more like it, so I went to Cold Stone Creamery and ate a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup ice cream cone to find my strength.
I guess what I'm trying to point out to myself is this: there was a time I thought I was a dolphin, a martial artist, a time when I thought my life could be summed up by a symbol in a language I don't even speak. Now, of course, I look back and laugh, the tattoos now blurred, turning blue like the bicep of an aged sailor who has long since lost the line of his horizon. I am wiser and have no desire to ride around in a golf cart with supermodels. So maybe this, this year or years of what seems like something that will forever define me: failure or liberation, moving on down and out and in some sort of direction far, far away. Maybe this will one day blur, too. Fade blue by the sun accompanied by a thousand yard stare of my very own. Maybe one day I will look back at this and laaauggh. Remember when I used to blog? I will say. How I sat at the kitchen table wearing that sweatshirt with the embroidered birds and sighed, thinking it was the end of something, when really, it was just the beginning? And then I will smile. Yes, of this I am sure: and then I will smile.
Happy Friday the 13th, tout le monde. Stay lucky.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Lil' Paint

I'm beginning to think there are some benefits to having less money. For one, I don't have all that bulky cash so my wallet sits as sleek and thin as it did when I bought it in the store. Dark cloud, meet silver lining (cliche, meet I don't care). But by far the best part about having no money is that it forces one to get creative.
I used to be super creative in college. I painted, made lamp shades, adorned a coffee table with broken shards of colorful ceramic tile. Somewhere along the way I got a job, had less patience, no time, more money. I bought a coffee table. And it was this:

1999, Crate and Barrel does Rachel Ashwell, did me fine while watching Friends. But these days I cannot stand to watch reruns of Friends. Something about the purple walls and comic timing. And I can't stand that coffee table. So I painted it. And then painted it some more. Staple gunned oil cloth to the top, screwed in some purdy knobs, and voila!

Rachel Ashwell would hate it. Zoey, on the other hand, loves it.
As do I. This is a coffee table with superb comic timing. It's funky and clunky and bright and garish and me. Plus, it wipes down clean, key when you have a marker-loving toddler in 'da house. Here's a close up of the oil cloth pattern I chose:
Next up: my car. Not to worry, no oil cloth was involved in this home makeover. (Although, hmmm...). In the process of downsizing, we are selling my new Toyota 4Runner. I will be driving a 1995 Honda Accord Wagon that my mother gave me. (Just a perk to having a mom that doesn't drive: the car only has 38k miles on it.) However, the paint job was badly oxidized, and I'm embarrassed to admit how very much that bothered me. So I got it painted (thanks, Andy!). Ta-da!
The paint place was supposed to match the factory color, a dark grayish-blue. And it is this color, in the shade. In the sun, however. Well, I have come to realize I am driving the wheeled equivalent of a mullet: business in the shade, party in the sun! Because check out the jazz hands on this bad boy station wagon:

I call him/her Ziggy Stardust. He/She is androgynous and sexy, an aging starlet with too much frosted eyeshadow, my own Norma Desmond with blinkers. Fitting for a girl with an oil clothed coffee table. (And believe me, this photo does not do the iridescence justice.)
A $19 refurbished coffee table. A $600 fresh mullet on wheels. Tell me, what are some ways you are getting creative in this new world of ours? Do you find that the failing economy is fueling your imagination? Any good tips, paint, fabric or otherwise? My glue gun is warming up and I'd love to hear your ideas!

Bum Bag

(Not to be confused with fanny pack.)

Yesterday my dad was helping me pack up some stuff and schlep it to storage to get the house ready to sell and blah blah, zzzzzzzzzz, moving on. Yeah, so we got hungry and since my kitchen cupboard contained an empty box of teddy grahams and a bag of stale marshmallows my dad suggested we open up one of his homeless bags. Turns out he makes these individual baggies, each containing two protein bars, one juice box, a handful of coffee flavored hard candies and a few pounds of quarters. When he sees a homeless person standing with one of those cardboard signs at a red light he grabs one from his glove box and hands it to him. Genius.
So yes, in a way I took a protein bar from a homeless person yesterday. In my defense it was a little chalky. But now I have a Bum Bag in my own glove box, ready to hand out to the next homeless person I see. (I must admit this makes me a little nervous as the last time I gave a perfectly toasted untouched bagel to a homeless person on Haight Street he yelled at me and hucked it at my quickly retreating back, leaving a horseshoe print of cream cheese on my dress. But I suppose I'm willing to give it another shot. From my car.)
And yes, I know Bum Bag might sound a little un-pc, but I like the alliteration and maybe the allusion to fanny packs, if I have to be honest. Anyway, my dad inspired me to make some Bum Bags to store in my car for those times when the red light lasts an eternity and you can only fiddle with your ipod for so long. Lord knows, if I'm having a hard time in this economy, many others are having it so much worse. I hope you're inspired to do the same. While wearing a fanny pack. And matching halo.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jiggity Jig (the) Jig (Is Up)

Last night I picked up Bryan from the airport. The boat he sailed on came in second place; he is now deliciously tan and relaxed, although his knobby knees resemble two bubbling slices of pepperoni from crawling around the grippy bow of the boat all week long. Here is a pic Zoey snapped of us once we got home: What can I say? I like my men veiny.

Okay, fine. That's not really us. Truth in advertising: Bryan is just a cafe con leche away from personifying this crispified version of Todd Wilkins on steroids, although he doesn't look quite as dirty/oily, nor has he worn a tank top since 1989, praise be to the god of male armpit hair everywhere. And while the fraulein on the left bears a striking resemblance to yours truly (if you squint your eyes after liberally dousing them with nail polish remover, vinegar and a dash of salt), maybe, just maybe my abs are a tad doughier than hers, my hair not quite so yellow, my nails not quite so, uh, picky. Although I would totally rock that Frederick's of Daytona bikini number if ever given the chance.

So, for those keeping score at home, here is a brief synopsis of what I did for the past ten days:

  • Consumed 4 entire bags of Cadbury mini eggs
  • Drank 2 quarts of chocolate milk
  • Watched 17 total hours of slutty drunk bitch reality tv
  • Painted my coffee table what was supposed to be a brick red but in the light of day tomorrow Bryan will discover is truly a carmine pink

What Bryan did for the past ten days:

  • Lived off of fresh Caribbean fish
  • Drank cold beer
  • Sailed aggressively all day
  • Slept in a $15k/week mansion complete with infinity pool on an island covered in sand the consistency (and probably the taste) of powdered sugar
  • Partied with the Wailers at night. Yes, of Bob Marley and the...
I think we can agree that I sure showed him for going away.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bubblegum Puff

I once saw a woman blow up a sheep's lung. It was 1980; I was in the third grade and the woman was the mother of a girl in my class named Shawnie. I watched the woman put her lips to a hole in the sheep's lung, watched her inhale deeply and then blow, blow, the bubblegum flesh of the lung expanding like a slick-sacked lopsided balloon. I remember hearing the collective eeews of the kids, and I glanced over at Shawnie and felt terribly, deeply sorry for her. I knew she would never be able to live it down, how her mother had put her bare science-lady lips to a dead sheep lung in front of the entire class. And from that day forward Shawnie was branded with the faint mark of childhood ick, like a guppy growing mold. As if somehow sensing that fateful day in the third grade, Shawnie's body quickly grew too tall, her brain too smart, her hair styled in a Dorothy Hamill haircut long past socially acceptable. The girl whose mother blew up a sheep's lung.
It was part of the Just Say No to Tobacco program of the early 80's when classroom blinds were drawn and we counted down the 3, 2, 1 of the crackly projector to watch film reels of black lung and a cowboy singing campfire songs through a trach tube. We were impressionable and they knew it. After school I would go home and write messages to my mother on tiny scraps of paper and slip them into her many packs of Marlboros: Please don't die! I don't want you to get emphysema! You stink! At first she generously asked me more about what they had taught me at school, but soon she was telling me to knock it off.
I smoked one cigarette in high school. Mad at my parents, I stole one from the kitchen counter and sat outside by our pool. All would have been right and addictive if I had just known how to hold it. But I didn't, and at 16 it's funny how even inanimate objects can mock you. The shrubs snickered, a chaise stared at me haughtily, one slightly deflated raft floated gently past me in the water and rolled its sun-bloated eyes in my general direction. I was no longer deterred by cancerous growth and arterial plaque so much as the fact that I felt like a total fucktard.

This weekend my mother stayed at my house. She let Zoey use her dark lipstick, picked California poppies with her and put them in a juice glass filled with water. (I grew up thinking it was illegal to pick poppies, that the minute my hand touched one I would hear sirens.) Later, Zoey and my mom took a bath together and my mother laughed as Zoey tried to scrub the palm tree tattoo off her butt. When we got home from taking my mom back to her house, Zoey turned to me and said, "I'll be right back, Mama. I'm going to go smoke a cigarette."
And I nearly died.
Hearing those words--that word, in my girl's tiny little voice. I thought of that cowboy with the trach tube, the Indian crying in the PSA from my childhood. Give a Hoot! Don't Pollute! I thought of Nancy Reagan and Shawnie. Is she still too tall? Too smart? Her hair a wedge of misfortune? Are her lungs still pliable and pink and young? And then for some reason I thought of the Kool Aid Pitcher bursting through wooden fences and into backyards, spilling that sticky red shit everywhere. It must have been in the same commercial break.
Oh, I know I have a few years before anyone lets Zoey bum a cigarette off them. A few years of me drilling it into her that smoking is bad, dangerous, gross, stinky. And yes, there was a small part of me that thought that maybe it was very slightly funny, my not-quite three year old announcing a nicotine break. But there is an even larger part of me that wonders just how badly the lung of a dead sheep would taste on my lips.
Photo by Sally Mann.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Few Good Things (And One Very Good Man)

Hey there Friday, I like your shoes. Did you get a haircut? Because something about you looks different. Not that you didn't always look good, but, you know. Today you're looking particularly swank.
Perhaps it is this snippet of genius: The Bright Side Project where Sunshine is Delivered Daily.

Tristan of the lovely Blah Blah Blahg hatched the idea as a way to stay positive in these dour times. Don't you just love a girl with a little get up and go? Every day she will be giving away something for free. That's right Friday, I said free. Pretty baubles, beautiful art, coveted home decor, maybe a mortgage payment or two if all goes well. All you have to do is visit and answer a question formulated to get you thinking about the bright side. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself. No catch, I wouldn't do that on this, the beginning of the weekend.
Oh Friday, you with your happy hour. You'd think that being unemployed I would not be as affected by your charm, but you'd be wrong. Friday: job or no job, you still make me want to dance. Which makes me all the happier for finding this DJ Lance Rock Motion Activated Dance Hat that I will officially buy Zoey for her birthday and then wear every night after she goes to bed complete with glasses (included) and fuzzy orange socks to keep my feet warm (not included):

Just think Friday! I can have a party in my tummy (So yummy! So yummy!) every You night from here on out. Break it down, now.
And then there's this:
Dear Friday of a lost weekend, behave. How I have always loved me some James Franco, from greasy bad boy in Freaks and Geeks to slightly greasier stoner in Pineapple Express, grease has never looked so good. And now I hear that my celluloid lover has just signed a book deal for a collection of short stories? That all this time he has been going to graduate school for a degree in Creative Writing? That he is slated to star as Allen Ginsberg in a biopic centering on the obscenity trials for "Howl"? Push me over with a Smith Corona, Friday, and do not hit return: you are too, too good to me.
So Mr. Friday (for some reason I feel you are a man), casual You in those sexy ass jeans: Thank God It's You.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sex, Lies and Pap Smears

Name, rank and serial number. Sometimes I like to be boiled down like a Scantron bubble. A, B, C, or D, (and sometimes Y). Because I'm a fraud, I suppose, and a fraud likes nothing more than the legitimacy of multiple choice.

The other day I had my annual exam. It was a new doctor, so I sat in the waiting room and filled out the new patient questionnaire. Yes, no, this, that, last name, first, middle. I hesitated at filling in occupation. Because what am I, really? Unemployed? Lapsed Product Developer? Occupationally Agnostic? The pen hovered over the form briefly before I scribbled in: Writer. And then I handed the clipboard to the front desk and sat back down to read a very riveting article about casseroles in Family Circle.
What do you like? Huh? I looked up and there was one of the nurses whispering to me: What do you like? I thought it a strange question considering I had just filled out a form detailing my sexual history. Long walks on the beach? A little dirty talk? Huh? I must have looked really confused because she repeated herself a third time. What do you write? I saw on your questionnaire that you are a writer. Ah, write, right. Shit. Short stories, I whispered back. Fiction. Children's books. I felt as if I had been caught stealing something. Great! she said. I'm a screenwriter myself. She was wearing one of those square cotton smocks that nurses wear, the kind with a pattern of kittens tangled in yarn. Are you on Facebook? I nodded. I'll look you up! And then she went back behind the front desk to read more about the first day of my last period.
I wonder if Obama ever feels like a fraud. If Stephen Hawking maybe feels as if he is the 'um' in quantum theorum. I remember when I used to go to China for work, how the people in the factories would follow me around their showrooms, how I would stop to look at a frame or a fake flower and they would almost bump smack dab into me. Stop following me so closely, I wanted to say, I have no idea what I'm doing. Instead they would start chattering in Chinese excitedly if my fingers so much as braised a product when really, all I was trying to do was steady myself.
And then sometimes I feel as if I am standing beside me when I hear Zoey call me mommy. Me? You talking to me? I'm a mommy? It is absurd, this life of being who I am. Mommy, Mommy, Mommy. When I was little I would sit in the back seat of my dad's car and stare up at the tiny pin holes on the upholstered ceiling until my eyes went slack and the naugehyde seemed to float down in transparent layers. I would reach my hand up to try and touch the pin-holed phyllo of the ceiling, Susannah, Susannah, Susannah. If you stare long enough, think hard enough, say it enough times it all seems illusory.
Susannah Clay M, PhD. Dr. Susannah Clay M, M.D, DDS, STAT. The Honorable Miss Susannah Clay M., Esq., Jr., CPA. When I send away for catalogs I add a suffix if given the option. (Which may tell you more about why I am sometimes surprised to be a mother, not exactly mature but it's fun.) Who am I? What do I do? The truth does not fit on a line one inch long.____________
I should have written this--Occupation: I'm not really sure right now. Mother, wife, one of the legions of the unemployed. I spend my days on the internet blogging. Looking for jobs. Doing laundry. Thinking. Sometimes I nap. Yesterday I watched The City. You want to know my occupation? It is this: waiter. Not like in a restaurant, but in the world. Waiting for Something to Happen with an advanced degree in Watching. Not quite sure what, or why. Maybe this is it. This today of feeling like a fraud. Maybe that's what we all are. Doctors and lawyers and mothers and writers and physicists, dreamers and pretenders and
I would have written all of that in the margins of the form, and then I would have run out of room. Because that's what it is, anyway. Life--the pressing need to define yourself until you run out of time. Who the fuck cares what I think I am anyway? Susannah Clay M., Writer of Things. I could wear cotton smocks with kittens tangled in yarn, don a papal robe, tattoo your name on my neck. You could stare at me until I become transparent layers of pin-holed plastic floating toward you. 1, 2, 3, 4. Does it matter if you cannot reach your hand up and touch me? Because in the end, none of it matters, none of it changes the cellular makeup of my cervix.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

And Now, Our Feature Presentation

Because every now and then it's wise to return to one's roots. (I defy you not to smile.)

Filed under: shameless, petunia face, precious giggles, high-waisted acid wash jeans with a brag book crammed down into the front pocket behind the inverted pleats and just above the camel toe, mommy blogger salami lager, so sue me it's not like I actually file away anything but resentment anyway.
Happy Hump Day, party people.
the OG Petunia Face and her Nasturtium of a Mother.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


My apologies for the late post today. I was out this morning running errands, ultimately trying to find Waldo on the ceiling poster at my gynecologist’s office. For the record, I did not find Waldo, but I did find uncomfortable and good-lawd, la la la la la, and then my happy place which just so happens to be right around the corner from holy pointer finger Batman, where is he going with that? If you must know I highly regret marking YES next to the box asking if I have any family history with colon cancer. Shoosh.
In the name of all that is Oathy and Hippocratic I leave you with this WTF from the annals of medicalia:

Because nothing says maternal love like sucking up your baby's snot through 15 inches of plastic tubing. Shut up. You know you want to try it.

Monday, March 2, 2009


This much is true:

  1. My husband left for the Caribbean yesterday, where he will be sailing in the Heineken Cup regatta in St. Maarten for the next ten days.
  2. We are renovating our house: new shingles, new bathrooms, new deck, new paint.
  3. We have three cars now and only a two car garage.
At the same time, this is also true:
  1. My husband is sailing as crew: an all expense paid trip to help someone else win a race.
  2. We borrowed money to renovate our house in the hopes that someone will buy it so we can go back to renting. The house goes on the market April 1.
  3. My mom gave me her 14 year old car so we can sell my new car and get rid of the payments.

I realize now that the sun never truly goes down. It's just an illusion caused by the world ceaselessly spinning.

This time last year: my favorite game. This time last year Bryan was in the Caribbean for the same regatta. I did not go because I could not take the time off from work. While he was gone I blogged about buying a new coffee table. To buy or not to buy: that was the question.

This time next year: a game I dare not play. But I'd be lying if I didn't hope for the strong Caribbean sun to slap me flat across my face.
I never did buy a new coffee table.
It's going to happen quickly now, the process of downsizing. Selling the car, the house, the dream if I am to be dramatic about it, and let's face it: I blog, therefore I am (dramatic). Still, it feels strange, this anti-Jeffersonian unfolding of moving on down. Somehow it seems antithetical to being American, although I don't remember anyone ever promising me anything. (But if Bryan hums the theme song to Sanford and Son one more time, I will scream.)

This time next year: I don't know. We are shrinking from a double-income household with a hefty mortgage and car payments to a single-income household (for now), no mortgage, no car payments, no debt at all. (Of course no new coffee table, either.) I feel both free and restrained, light and beaten down, hopeful and dashed.
The sign of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.~F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I love this quote because I am often plagued by cognitive dissonance. If I have to be dreadfully confused, I might as well feel smart while doing it. (Although I'm not quite sure if the same holds true for a mind stuffed like a pinata with confetti-like bits of thought and cheap candy...)
Of course one question has been answered for me. To buy or not to buy. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune... Not quite what Shakespeare had in mind with that soliloquy, but there it is all the same. I will not be buying much of anything, have not for awhile now, and yet the fortunes I hold are still outrageous. I have and have not, those damn opposing ideas again, Abraxas with his truth and lying, good and evil, light and dark rolled up into one neat little package tied up with tongues. What do I think about all of this? I don't know. Everything, I guess.
Already in this post I have referenced Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Carl Jung, The Jeffersons, Kurt Vonnegut, Bogart and Bacall, Descartes, Sanford and Son, materialism and nothing. And yet I am pretty sure I have not said much at all. (It would be so much easier to post a photo of a vagina and be done with it.) What is there to say when you are losing everything but still have all that you need?
Quite simply, Abraxas was a supreme being, a hallowed and accursed word meaning both life and death. The name contained great mysteries because it contained the seven Greek letters that when computed numerically equaled the number 365, the number of days in a year.
This time last year, next year, same time. This time. This much is true(ish):
  1. The sun does not rise and set.
  2. It is an illusion from where we stand.
  3. A silly perception in thinking that we are still.
  4. That is all.

*click on images for source.