Jan 14 2015

On Knowing


“The thing that’s important to know is that you never know. You’re always sort of feeling your way.”

Diane Arbus

At first, I read the second part of this quote in what I suspect is the wrong way. You’re always sort of feeling YOUR way. As in we walk around in this life and everything we do, everything we see, is filtered through our own personal lens. For me, peevish-tinted lenses as variable as the winds. By turns frothy, angsty, optimistic, pissed off, in love with everything or weary and bored. Impatient, wide-eyed, ornery, grateful. In other words, it may not be possible to get to THE truth of the matter. Perhaps the best we can hope for is to get to ONE’S truth of the matter. And maybe that’s ok as long as allowances are made for all other sentient creatures and THEIR truths and THEIR matters. I’m going to call this benevolent relativism – I will not google it, because I would like to think that I am the first to say it. You’re always sort of feeling YOUR way.

But this isn’t what Diane was talking about.

Diane was talking about feeling your way, muddling through, doing our best without all the answers and information. When my mind did its agile flip to read the words in the way I believe were intended (kind of like those brain teasers where you either see two women’s faces or a vase), I thought yes, yes, that TOO!

All my writing on this blog has been an attempt to capture moments and tease out the strands of beauty and meaning and humor within. That’s sort of it. I hope to never have conveyed that I have anything resembling the answers. Answers are not what I’m about. Questions are what I’m about. And clever rationalizations. Finding fancy and funny ways to say hey, this rag-tag-seat-of-my-pants way of careening through life and raising my kids works for me. Because in the end, what other choice do we have? We can’t know the right way because there is no right way.

Richard Linklater won a Golden Globe for best director for Boyhood (well deserved! hurray!) and in his acceptance speech he dedicated it to all the parents who are evolving every day and the families just making their way through this world, doing the best they can. I might have spilled a little of my vino blanco when I wiped away a tear with the back of my wrist. On my hardest and darkest days of parenting, I try to remind myself that every day is a new day. Every day is an opportunity to start fresh. Children have mercifully short memories and open hearts. We have new opportunities, minute-by-minute, to do right by them. Same for our spouses, our friends, strangers.

Knowing, answers, absolutes – they’re dicey, man. But we can know this: We are all sort of feeling our way.

Dec 25 2014

Happy Birthday, Supergirl

loubIt’s peculiar thing to be the mother of a twelve year old girl. I don’t know that it would be strange for everyone, but to me, it is. Maybe it’s because my 12th year is incredibly vivid to me. It was the year that my parents plucked me from the public school and turned me over to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, so the nuns could teach me how to wear a skirt and fill in the spiritual holes my parents feared they might be leaving behind due to our busy lives. And yes, there was the education too. But I’ve been told that the uniform was the biggest draw – a surefire way to soften my tomboy ways and teach me to sit like a lady. Query whether any of it worked at all.

So I have this very vivid memory of this very vivid year in my life. A year filled with angst, emotion, new girls, all girls, intense schoolwork and shrill, obnoxious laughter. And what I remember of this coming of age, is not quite jiving with the kid in my house. Supergirl also switched schools this year. And yet, she is so much more self-possessed than I ever was. I can’t get in her brain, I can’t truly know what she’s thinking or feeling, but man, from the outside she’s as centered, happy and easy as they come. Will this be the year she remembers as the year her mind kind of woke up? I wonder. She seems like she’s been awake for a long time.

It’s funny to me that my parents thought they might be able to effect some change on me, my ways, my persona. When it comes to Supergirl, I can’t shake the feeling that she landed on this earth holding within her all the tools and talents she would need to become who she is. I’ve said it before, but I can take very little credit for her. This is not a kid who has needed much in the way of molding. Dash and I pretty much sit back and watch as she makes her way through, vicariously enjoying the ride and watching her grow up in a world where (to her) every one is a potential friend, or at least someone worth having a conversation with.

As my girl embarks on her 12th year, I feel as grateful as ever – I am lucky to call this little chick my friend. As of now, she’s game to pal around while I do errands, keeping me entertained with a seemingly endless stream of amusing stories and quirky observations. What I notice with her and my friends’ girls around this age is that they really are like little ladies. They look like kids, but all of a sudden they have this capacity to communicate and understand that makes them really fun to be around.

But I’m also excited. She’s the kind of person with slightly off-center curiosities and she finds a way to go deeper. I’ve always admired that in other people. This past year I’ve watched her explore the worlds of jazz, yarn bombing, succulents and cacti, cartooning and entrepreneurship based on human connection – the latter a pretty successful sidewalk “free advice” stand that yielded copious tips and some new found friends and fans. She was like Lucy, but nice. She also became kind of Jewish for a while, joining a group of kids for snacks at Lady Tabouli’s before Hebrew school on Wednesdays. I can’t wait to see what else she decides to explore and try her hand at. I can’t wait to meet the people she connects with. I can’t wait to see what comes next for my Supergirl.

Happy birthday, to my dear sweet girl.

Dec 21 2014

On Devil Baby


The first order of business after my long hiatus will be to give Devil Baby a new pseudonym. She is a Devil Baby no more. What was once a little bullet of a girl, who raged through life like a hurricane seeking snacks, stimulation and full operational control of any kind of shopping cart is now a sensitive, irreverent, musical, funny, bawdy and kind girl. My Little Pony is a true friend – to me, to those lucky enough to be in her class or in her life. She’s leggy and loyal. Spirited and graceful. And there’s that mane, that splendid ponytail that I’ve watched my friends grasp in their fingers, to feel it’s weight and circumference. And that bike helmet. Anyway, there’s never a perfect name but there’s a perfect not-name and that’s Devil Baby. It has been a long time coming.

My Little Pony wears her heart on her sleeve. Other peoples words, expressions and experiences affect her deeply. While Supergirl sails through life on wave of laid-back, presumed goodwill and unflappable positivity, MLP is sensitive to every day vagaries and the small slights and assaults that are the stuff of life as a human being. She absorbs things, she feels them deeply. And while that can be maddening and challenging, the flip side is empathy and kindness. She does not tease, she does not taunt. She is a defender. She is a laugh-maker. She is a goof and a true friend. She operates on a different wavelength. She’s acutely tuned in to that frequency that many of us choose to ignore, if we can even hear it at all. She hears and she sees through her heart and that tender beating muscle of hers cannot, will not look away.

If My Little Pony happens to be your corral, you are lucky indeed. Just be kind to her and treat her well. She needs love and petting. She needs big laughs and constant sweet melodies. She needs to be cherished. And she needs snacks -many, many snacks.

Dec 21 2014

On Peevish


For a long time now, I’ve been thinking it may be time for me to wrap up Peevish Mama. But I need to wrap it with the tenderness and attention it deserves rather than let it snuff out in a whimper of neglect.

After all, this blog allowed me to keep my sanity through the toddler/little kid time of life – years which ironically hand you the most glorious volume of baby fat and kissable cheeks with a hearty side of monotony, busy-ness and loneliness. This blog gave me a place to think and create and breathe when my life was all about the doing. Wiping butts, reading cardboard books with less than five word on a page, ripping turkey slices into ragged pieces to be scooped up by fat little fingers off a plastic yellow highchair tray.

It allowed me to, quite literally, create a new identity for myself. Here I could tell the truth. I could vent. I could be utterly and unequivocally peevish. It was a secret for a long time, so I was free. Also, through many years and many more posts and even more words, I began to call myself a writer. At the beginning, talking about this blog brought a flush of mortification to my cheeks. How dare I presume? What a poser. Who the fuck cares what I’ve typed? And now I can say it with a straight face: I’m a writer. I’m a writer in my heart. I experience my life through words. I take things in and my brain starts to put letters together – in order to enjoy, to understand, to remember. When I think, when I write, I weave long strands that have their unique tempo and timber, they might be studded with profanity – hyperbolic and salty, cynical and romantic. Always wordy, much too wordy. But my wordy.

My words.

This blog got me friends. It got me writing jobs. Because of it I received some of the sweetest and most heartfelt tentacles of gratitude and support from people. When someone tells you they love your writing they are telling you they love your innards, your thoughts, your very soul. At least that’s what I hear. Because this blog is my innards. It is my thoughts and my soul. Hearing that something I write resonates, that it lingers or amuses, is the highest compliment. More humbling and beautiful than almost any other thing.

I’ve got some things left to say through Peevish Mama. For Peevish Mama.

Apr 23 2014

Magical Creature Woes

Funny-Rabbit-Happy-Easter-WallpapersWhat happens when you are caught in flagrante delicto with the Easter Bunny? What happens when your youngest child flings open the door to the storage closet and discovers you crouched amidst a veritable orgy of Easter offerings, spread out and naked in all their sugary glory – a tableau of secrets and cavities, searingly pastel under the bare basement light bulb?

Well, first you scream. You scream the kind of scream normally reserved for robbers in face masks or flashers in trench coats. Or rats. You might scream like this if you saw a rat. And that youngest child would scream too – or at least you think she’s screaming because her mouth is in the shape of an O – but you can’t actually hear her because your robber/flasher/rat scream is so, so loud.

After she slams the door in horror you collapse, your ass mercifully landing on a soft bed of hot pink Made-In-China Easter basket grass and you weep with frustration. Your tears are hot and angry because you have spent the last fourteen years of your life guarding the magic, protecting the shimmer, stoking the flame. All to have it ruined by a little white rat who NEVER LISTENS WHEN YOU TELL HER TO STAY IN BED. You want to smash and break every colored plastic egg the way your heart is broken, because she’s only seven. And seven is so, so little.

You only have one choice. One hail mary pass. The TRUTH. Yes, you will tell her the TRUTH. And when you go upstairs and find her curled up in a frightened little knot with her bedspread pulled up to her eyeballs and her two braids sticking straight up on the pillow, the TRUTH comes tumbling out. And you might sound slightly more emphatic and unhinged than what’s below, but this is essentially what you say, and it feels so good to say it because the TRUTH always saves the day.

You are the kid and I am the grown up and when I tell you to stay in bed, I have a very good reason! I’m supposed to be the keeper of the magic. There’s a line between the kids and the magical creatures and the grown-ups are supposed to keep you on the other side of the line – whatever the cost. You disobeyed me and now I have to tell you something that you’re not supposed to know. The Easter Bunny isn’t as powerful as Santa. He’s a spring creature, he’s a little fragile, he’s white, he has little pink paws and when it snows in the spring, he can’t handle the deliveries. He just can’t do it. When that happens he contacts us – I can’t tell you how because you shouldn’t know ANY of this – and he drops the stuff off early and I was just trying to figure out what was what so I could put it out for him. He’d be angry at me and at you if he knew what happened and you better hope he doesn’t come back here and pluck everything tonight. NOW STAY IN BED!!!

And then you go down stairs and pour yourself a glass of wine and you cry a little more with your hand on your heart, because when you leaned down to kiss her, she whispered: OK, Mommy.

Apr 12 2014

Bodies in Motion

No two times on my yoga mat are alike. Sometimes I feel fluid and strong. Sometimes I feel creaky and old. I wonder if I look any different on the outside. I know that when my body doesn’t move the way I wish it would, as seems to increasingly be the case, I fret. I think about aging, about my inevitable, slow decline, about becoming something that is anathema to me: still. I move so that I can keep moving. I want to have dance parties with my grandchildren and not just be the stiffy grannie who amuses everyone. I want to get DOWN.

I’m especially preoccupied with all of this because I recently found out that my ACL repair of a few years ago did not take. It’s unclear whether another surgery is the best option. The only thing that I know is that someday, I don’t know when, this knee will hurt. And maybe it will hurt so much and for so long that I will need a replacement – which I know isn’t the end of the world, but oh my god. I find myself doing a lot of magical thinking around the knee – Would I switch bodies with that person? That person? – trying to intuit what other kinds of health issues I would be inheriting along with their seemingly intact knees.

Crazy, I know. But isn’t it nice to know that things haven’t changed much around these peevish parts?

Yesterday my yoga teacher said something along these lines: our bodies are how they are and what we have right now. It was a different beast twenty years ago and will be a different beast in twenty years from now. We take care of them so that we can use them to communicate with the people we love. We take care of them so we can feel good. Because if we feel good, we can be good.

It made me want to cry. And it made me want to write.

You must watch this video about the A-Z’s of Dance. It’s so inspiring.

And hello again. We have some things to catch up on.

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Jan 6 2014

Brilliant Old Spice Ad

This commercial had my family HOWLING last night. We  had to rewind back and watch it a few times and it just doesn’t get old.

And for mothers of sons? All I can say is: touché.

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Jan 2 2014

Happy Birthday Supergirl

LouHaving a Christmas baby is not something I ever imagined for ourselves, but after having known and mothered Supergirl for 11 years, I can honestly say it makes sense. Lord knows I am not comparing her to Jesus, but her having been born on a day of celebration, connection and hope does have a certain poetic resonance. To know her is to know that she is a peacemaker.

Instead of being sour and sad at having to share the attention (and the gifts), she has always reveled in the specialness of the day. For Supergirl it’s not about the stuff, it’s about the people. And on Christmas, it is a sure thing to have people around you. Whether it be our little family of 5 or a dance party of 35, the girl gets to be surrounded by love. Every year is different, but every year we make sure this happens for her and I have every confidence that when we are no longer in charge of how her December 25ths look, she will see to it that she is hanging out with people who love her. This much we have taught her. And it won’t be hard for Supergirl.

Over the last year, there have been times when something she says or does stops me in my tracks and I think oh my god – this person. She’s always been a funny, feisty, easy delight of a kid, but what takes my breath away is that as she’s adding inches, she’s adding depth. She’s present, empathic and kind. It’s easy to assume that happy-go-lucky people lack gravitas, but Supergirl is proof of the opposite. She’s soulful and earthy and grounded – sister runs deep.

And yet, she still got her tongue stuck on a pole a couple days ago on her way to buy bird seed and Creeper Bud had to rescue her. She is still a kid.

But she’s a kid with more than her share of relationships in her life – separate, distinct, real relationships with boys, girls and adults. When I was a kid, any relationship I had with a grown-up was pretty much an offshoot of my parents’. But she’s different – whether it’s Red Vogue or Crackerjack, one of the book club ladies or her band teacher, she has whole layers of friendship, communication, inside jokes and emotion-exchange that I have nothing to do with. She is a deeply connected girl. It is her gift and her happiness. And she is very lucky indeed.

Happy birthday to our sweet Christmas babe. Keep spreading that joy around, girl. And let it keep you, protect you and lift you up, always and forever.

I love you.

Dec 24 2013

The most wonderful time of the year.

deerI am the queen of NOT throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I grab that baby, wrap it in a towel and the water can go to hell. Which is just a confusing way of illustrating that I am adept at culling what I like out of things and being just fine ignoring the rest. Nothing is perfect, so why not focus on the good parts and be a little lighter in life? It requires a flexy mind, a blind eye, a deaf ear and a bit of focus or non-focus, depending on how you look at it, but I think it’s worth it.

It would be so easy for me, as a moderately cynical and non-gifty-type person, to abhor this time of year. I also don’t love the smell of cinnamon and Christmas carols sung in Chipmunk voices. But, oddly, I don’t hate it. I love it. I don’t love everything about the holidays – I just love certain aspects quite a lot.

There’s a Dutch word – gezellig – that is untranslatable in English, but as far as I can tell begins to describe exactly what I love about Christmastime. It means cozy, homey, pleasant, convivial and fun. It’s about having your people around you in a warm and lovely environment. It means holing up and eating and drinking and laughing. It means togetherness and twinkle lights, roaring fires and long conversations. It means merry and bright.

We all trim our homes and string up lights and create the spaces to accommodate this cozy time of year and there is something really comforting about it. Whether the party be a grown-up-dress up affair with rivers of booze or a long afternoon at home with just the family, some tunes and some games – it just feels good to preen the house, to hibernate, to be together, to cook and to take stock in the passage of time.

Apropos of time passing, there is honestly no better marker of time for me than the annual Christmas concert. You sit in a pew, shoulder to shoulder with your honey watching as each class performs their little songs. Your friends’ kids who started in kindergarten angel wings are suddenly gigantic 8th graders. You watch chubby cheeks grow progressively slimmer as each grade takes the stage and you marvel at the changes over time. The constant (the church, the lights, the songs, the pews) allows the change (the children) to jump into focus and it is always staggering and beautiful.

And so, with fresh reminders of how quickly it’s all going and how lucky we all are to be going at all, we gather in our homes with each other and try to stop time, for just a little while. We pull out all our tricks to get ourselves to stay still long enough to feel the wonder again, to spread it around, to fill our cups for the rest of the year.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Nov 14 2013

Minnehaha Love Song

photo-8There’s a stretch of creek that runs in front of our house that’s just about the most bucolic place you’ve ever seen. Shimmery waters, rustling trees, picturesque bridges – it’s gorgeous. And wholesome. But not everything is entirely what it seems.

When we bought our house we told our friends out East we were moving to Minnehaha Creek. Minnehahahahaha we would bray nervously, making light of our move back to the Midwest and to a place with such a preposterous name.

Little did I know how Minnehaha Creek, the backbone to the good green city of Minneapolis, would insinuate itself into my imagination and my reality. We didn’t just buy a house. We bought a kingdom.

It takes thirty seconds to walk down into the gorge of the creek from my house and I feel my cells quicken. I feel ten years old and more than a little frothy. Places like these, woods like these – this is where the best and the worst stuff happens. This is where you’re free. Free and hidden.

I remember dirty magazines in the spot I used to go to with my friend, Effi, back where I grew up. I remember clearing ground, making forts, staring up through the canopy of woody capillaries. I remember digging in the dirt, making smooth concavities to hold our stuff. I remember a dude who scared us bad – as in, run away with branches tearing at you and your heart pounding in your ears screaming bloody murder, bad. He was probably just a teenager looking for a place to smoke.

Years ago, I was hanging out on the bridge down at Minnehaha Creek with my babies. A man appeared with a look in his eye and an energy roiling off his shoulders that stopped me cold. I tasted bitterness in the back of my throat – fear. I will never know if he meant us harm. I do know that my body responded to him like prey.

And yet, despite or because of what I know about the woods, I still shoo my brood down to the creek. Go play. Make a fort. Explore. Run around. Brush up against life, nature, people. My son broke his arm on a cold winter’s day when he fell out of a tree after one of my shoos. Another time, two of them came home cheeks aflame with outrage. A woman had yelled at them for touching the dead fish caught in the muddy pools during a drought.

It takes a village, I told them.

You have my permission to touch the dead fish, I told them.

The creek is a favorite strolling place of a lady we call the Minneha-ho. She sticks out on these paths thick with runners and bikers in high tech sports gear. Ink black hair, sky high heels and more nights carved onto her face than her hot pants would have you imagine. I don’t think she’s actively looking for action, not that it much matters to me. Everyone needs a spot to walk and think and let the sun hit your tired back.

My kids’ favorite babysitter lived across the creek from us. I wonder if she ever told her mom about the time I rolled ass over teakettle down the snowy sledding hill when I was walking her home after a boozy night out. I popped up and dusted myself off with a chipper, not-fooling-anyone woopsiedaisy! Maybe she was too young to realize.

In winter, people sit on the banks, lace up ice skates and glide down the creek. It’s ridiculous and lovely – like a goddamn Currier and Ives painting. In summer, canoers and kayakers float by, disturbing the mallards and waving to feral children (mine) hanging off the bridges.

A couple winters ago, the Southwest Minneapolis Patch reported ‘Naked Man in High Heels Flees Police Near Minnehaha Creek’. He was apprehended and treated for lacerations to his feet from running in heels in the snow. His poor feet. He should talk to the Minneha-ho about more sensible shoe options. But, the truth of the matter is that he picked the best spot in the city for his little foray.

This is where you’re free. Free and hidden.

Oct 22 2013

Good Company

kidsrockNormally, the way this blogging thing works is that I find a pebble of an idea in my palm. It can appear suddenly when I’m driving or walking around the lake. Sometimes I have to dig through the sand to find it. Sometimes it feels substantial – a reassuring weight I can close my fingers around. Sometimes if I squeeze too hard, I find it wasn’t a real stone at all and it dissolves into nothing. Sometimes I toss it away or put it in a drawer for later.

If it’s a good one, one worth holding on to, I’ll huff a few puffs of warm air on it and shine it up. Then I’ll start to wrap words around it and – poof – it ends up here on these pages.

This summer, I kept rolling the same nugget around between my hands, over and over, and never made time to write about it. I would be driving with the music on and the windows down or taking a dusky walk with any combination of my kids and the thought would strike me – these guys are pretty good company.

I like to be around people, but I like to be around people who are easy to be around. My guys are easy (for me) to be around (mostly). They are funny and chill, irreverent and observant – all qualities I enjoy in the people I actually choose to spend time with. And this summer it started to dawn on me that these built in sidekicks are such a stroke of good fortune for someone who enjoys a good sidekick. I like walking around the world flanked by my people and in retrospect, it was pretty darn savvy of me to birth a little squadron of my own.

Not too terribly long ago, I ached to race to the market by myself – free, unencumbered, quick as a rabbit – no words, no negotiating, no saying no. But times are  changing. We’re transitioning from my having to watch, protect and manage to my getting simply to BE. And simply being together frees us up to shoot the shit, kick around, hang. Also, let’s be honest: they’ve got more words now and that makes them way funnier than they used to be.

So why this nugget now? This past weekend we were in Madeline Island. We had already enjoyed a big hike and were lounging around as the day began to fold in on itself. I looked up from my book and saw that the sun had peaked out and got a hankering to go outside. It started as a solo mission but fifteen minutes later I found myself in the company of all of them. Every single one – dog and husband included. We went to the beach and watched the clouds streak pink and purple, skipped rocks and sat on a damp log and talked; my quick solitary walk turned into long stretch of peaceful family time under a darkening Lake Superior sky.

Afterwards we scrambled into the van, pockets full of rocks and chilled to the bone, and I thanked my lucky stars. In that moment I relished being the mama – the one with that mysterious mama duck power, the force that galvanizes the brood to follow. For now, they want to be with me and I best remember this a few years down the road when they’re as private and skittish as wild foals. For now I cling to this: my kids are good company.

And heck, maybe so am I.

Sep 16 2013

Music Monday: Patti Smith

2d946c9aI had the indescribable pleasure of seeing Patti Smith perform this past week at a cool event called Station to Station – a traveling art installation featuring concerts, art and artisans choo-chooing its way from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Unlike my usual m.o., I actually came to Patti through her look first, her writing second and her music third. It seems I’ve always unconsciously knocked off her iconic androgynous style – flat chested, no hips, her tomboy look always worked for me. Still does. I wear many different things, but I am most myself in a pair of Chucks and jeans. That’s what I wear when I want to be free. Or invisible. Or invincible. I was a total nerd and stole a white oxford from Saint James and basically wore the black ribbon outfit pictured above (also the cover of her Horses album). Felt like a goofball and also, a million bucks.

A few years ago I read her quiet gem of a memoir, Just Kids. It’s about her friendship/love with Robert Mapplethorpe, and I must admit it shook me. These people were so extremely outside of my experience growing up – basically finding no other way to live than to completely mesh life and art, so that one bled into the other until they were indistinguishable and often deeply painful. I read it again with the ladies of my book club, the second time leaving me free to concentrate on her words and how she delicately strung them together like the beaded necklaces she and Robert used to wear. Her writing is so beautiful, tender, strong and honest – really just a way to describe her too.

She took the stage with her son, Jackson. (Don’t even get me started on the awesomeness of watching a mom and her boy make music together). She was soon joined by Gary Louris, Mark Mallman and a few other local musicians. She pretended not to know their names, but she did of course. They were utterly and obviously in her thrall – grown men, accomplished musicians, full-fledged rockers just happy and jazzed to be on stage with her. It’s not often, in this society, that a woman of that age gets to command that much respect and adoration. It was inspiring to say the least.

She is simply bad ass. But she’s also delicate and her voice sounds unexpectedly young and sweet. I think that she has lived so authentically her whole life, that she’s one of those people you can see into. She’s complex, she’s a thinker and a creator, but she’s very very clear about who she is and what she is. When you can see and feel someone with that immediacy, their art goes straight to your heart. There are no layers – no artifice – no attitude. Nothing to get in the way and distort the art. She very simply gave us the gift of herself without a lot of fanfare. And that is her power.

She dedicated this song to all of our “loves” and to her love, the late Fred Sonic Smith. Talk about a swooning moment. Top five, people.

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Sep 5 2013

Tiny Floating

tinyfloatingI love lakes. I just do. So many people prefer oceans, or (egads) swimming pools, but to me nothing beats a cool, deep lake. I like that the water is sweet. I like that it holds mysteries. I like that lakes are alive, yet contain nothing that can actually eat me. Lakes are safe, but they are dark – and something about that floats my boat.

August had me returning to the lake every day. Multiple times a day. After a summer spent at the pool, I’m over its artificial blue waters and right angles – the chlorine, the bodies. Something about the late summer light makes me yearn for nature and its wild edges. I crave the inky black water and the cloud streaked sky. Morning, noon and best of all, night, the lake is different and completely gorgeous each time.

I’ve always been one to swim out way far – searching for the middle – possibly the area where I go tiny dancing. On vacation I would eye a distant rock island for days until one day I made a break for it with Saint James. We don’t swim fast, we don’t swim freestyle. A simple, head out of the water breast stroke allows us to talk and go for days. He’s always been my deep swim companion and we’d turn, panting and proud, to see our people, impossibly small and worriedly standing with hands on hips on the shore.

This August, through the heatwave, the middle of Lake Harriet became my parlor of sorts and I brought anyone who was game. Dash, Supergirl, book club ladies. I wanted to share the MIDDLE, because the middle is better than the edges.

It occurs to me that what draws me back again and again is the same exact feeling that I get from crunching my way out onto the white expanse in the wintertime. It’s found territory – a place where your body isn’t necessarily supposed to be. I love being where I’m not supposed to be.

Floating on my back, with planes flying overhead or the moon hanging like a swinging bulb, the water lapping at my temples – this is the physical sensation of summer that I am choosing for myself this year. This is what I will think about when the snow flies and the lake is frozen to land. I will imagine those waters holding my body afloat, limbs splayed and eyelids heavy, a sacred offering to the sun.

Sep 1 2013

Crappy Family Time

treeshotDoes crappy family time still count as quality family time? I sure hope so, because as of late, I feel like we’ve concocted more than our fair share of it. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. It’s when you really want to do something fun as a family and it feels doomed at the word GO. At least one person is being a pill, at least two people are fighting with each other, at least one person is crying or whining, at least one person has sunscreen in her eye, at least one parent is yelling about gratitude and at least one Croc is missing.

People don’t talk about crappy family time because mainly, you want to forget all about it. It’s pathetically easy to believe that other families don’t experience crappy family time – that your own family is the only family comprised of malcontents, drama queens and feeble brats who act like riding a bike around the chain of lakes is a cruel and unusual punishment. For my own sanity, I have to believe we all have crappy family time sometimes, and if I’m wrong, well then, you must be feeling really great about yourselves right about now.

By no means do I mean to imply that I am a blameless observer of crappy family time – some of my least proud parenting moments have happened within the framework of fun and togetherness. This is how it tends to go: I will play Julie McCoy, spawn an idea, quickly research a bit on line and announce it to the brood only to be met with resistance or worse yet, complete apathy. I will soldier on and run around making preparations, while I alternately bark orders for readiness and rattle off enticing reasons said outing will be just! so! terrific! Except that in lieu of smiling eager beavers, I get a pack of surly rabbits who refuse to come easily. And inevitably, I lose my cool and before we have even left the house, I have yelled at everyone and am left asking myself a simple yet crushing question: why bother?

Really, I’d like to know. Why bother?

Because sometimes, you finally shove off, pulling a black cloud behind you like it’s tethered to everyone’s bike seat and someone (I’m not naming names) will start in on the whining from the get go and others will bike ahead and you will spend a good 20 minutes fuming and pondering the question, and then you will find a way to dig really really deep and say something funny, something encouraging and a couple tethers on that cloud will snap, and your shoulders will relax and you’ll keep going, steadily pedaling your way into the light.

The truth is, crappy family time usually turns itself around. Notwithstanding all the annoyance and grief, if you push through, it eventually dissipates, sometimes in imperceptible increments, sometimes all at once. The moods lift, the complaints soften and you get into a groove so that by the time you’re rolling back home you feel happy, tired and like, maybe, you accomplished something. Together.

That’s why we bother.

Aug 25 2013

How to Eat an Elephant

skyOne bite at a time. Or so they say.

This poor neglected blog is feeling like an elephant lately. Every time I have the shimmer to write something down, it just feels unwieldy. So much time has gone by, too many things have happened. I just haven’t had time this summer, between the swims and drives and music and family and friends, to write about any of it. Or, more truthfully, I didn’t make time. I’ve been feeling like I don’t need this blog like I used to and so I grapple with what that means for peevish mama the blog as well as peevish mama the person.

For whatever reason, whether it be older kids, busier schedule, actual paying freelance writing, richer friendships or the instant gratification of sharing on instagram, I don’t have the yen to vent as much on these pages. And without the peevishness, what is there? Am I losing my edge? Shit, man, too much good stuff, too much nice and this is just another boring mommy blog that’ll make ya barf. Make me barf. I’m not necessarily feeling less peevish, but I’m generally feeling as if, maybe, good thoughts will give way to good words which in turn give way to good living. And if I had to sum up the very thing I’m after these days, it’s exactly that: good living.

Sometimes you just have to live without writing about it because that’s what feels right.

Also, as the kids get older I feel like I need to tread more carefully with respect to what I write about. They are people now. Real people. One of them is even a teenager as of four days ago, and with that I feel like he deserves some modicum of privacy. My peeps don’t need me publicly working out all that there is to work out as we wade into these very cool and interesting but potentially fraught and intense years. The stakes are higher now. The stuff we’re dealing with isn’t as simple as potty training, snacks and fiendishly stubborn toddlers. Now we deal in character and morality, life’s dreams and matters of the heart. All good, but it’s bigger – not something I can just toss off like I used to.

So how’s that for a whole steaming load of excuses? Pretty good, eh?

Last night, I got a bit of shizz for being such a blogger bum from my friends Lady Tabouli and Sporty Spice. But, ever the supporters of my words, they gently prodded me to pick up the thread and get back to it. I may not need this blog like I used to, but I love this blog as much as I ever have – simply because it turned me into a writer and is the place where I have chosen to stash many of our family memories over the last four-ish(!)  years. And honestly, enough of you have given enough of a damn to come back to roost from time to time, and that, my friends, makes it very very worth it.


I’ll start.

One bite at a time.

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