Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Au revoir, mes amis.

I think we can safely admit now that this blog is defunct. Even though I still often think of things I want to say here, I never seem to make the effort to do so, and as such nobody much makes the effort to read the few sad pebbles that I do shake out of my pockets. Ah, for the days when Ms. Kate Lilac got a full night's sleep and got her daily energy from 3 chardonnays and a pack of smokes. Not that my life was any more interesting then, but I had more to say about it.

What to say now? I'm no mommy-blogger, but I am, for 24 all-consuming hours a day, a mommy. I haven't developed a knack for making that cute or funny, though, so though it pains me somewhat horribly to admit it, it's time to hang up my no-longer-cool-or-expensive ballet shoes and go home. I won't take the page down, because it would be nice to have a place to start over if I ever feel so inclined, and I am quite fickle so you never know, but in the meantime, it's just me and my boring old facebook page. I do make the occasional pithy comment there, so if you want to be my friend-o, you can always send me an email and I might DIVULGE MY TRUE IDENTITY to you and we can become real-life friends of the sort who exchange inanities in the land of social media for oldsters. I promise not to try to make you sell me a plot of land in Farmville or whatever happens there.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Mad, mad, mad. I'm mad about everything. I'm mad because I don't understand how so many voters are swayed by the absolute nonsense thrown out there by a new breed of power-hungry politicans. Same old story, except now apparently people can win elections with the messages of "no" and "we're angry, durn it" and "we hate smart people; they are elitist and out of touch" instead of offering up any agenda other than "taking back America's values." It's such a thinly veiled threat to return this country to an isolationist, "just folks" kind of land where people know their place.

It just seems so terribly misguided to me.

But anyway.

On a more personal level, I'm mad because I am not going to London. Well, not mad exactly. Resigned, a little bitterly, to my fate. R. and I cannot make plans to get away from the kids without them falling through 48 hours in advance. This time, my stepmom got sick, so they couldn't come out to watch the kids. Of course I feel terrible for her and all that - you can take that as a given - but this is my place to whine about ME so that is what I'm doing. Anyhoo, my mom generously offered to step in and watch the kids while we went anyway, which sounded great, but by then the enticing seeds of doubt about the wisdom of the trip had been sown in the marital noggin, and so we are not going.

We moved the trip to April or May; we'll see if it happens then. There is no reason to think it will, since the universe has had its say and it says:

1. The Lilacs shall not travel sans kids, and

2. America = Roman Empire, Part II.

That universe is a real joker, don't you know.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Some people here at work thought it would be funny to take pictures of all the lawyers and superimpose them on various movie posters. Talk about incongruous:

I am the most bored and sour-looking badass in the history of the movies.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Professionalism on the job and at home.

The atmosphere in my office today is toxic. It looks like a law firm – everyone is all suited and booted; looking very professional and, hopefully, employable. Walking by the office next to mine, I could see on my colleague’s computer screen that she was working on her resume. Yes, it’s merger season around these parts, and today lawyers from our acquiring company are here interviewing lawyers and paralegals and staff for positions with the combined company. Ouch. Our general counsel made some noise early on about how these meetings were not interviews per se, but all pretense around that has been dropped and the 30-minute slots are now being called what they are.

I’m as lucky as an employee could be here right now; I don’t have to interview because the person who would be my boss in the new company is the same person who is my boss right now. There is no guarantee I’ll keep my job, but at least she knows me and has given me great reviews for the last eight years. Nonetheless, I am all tarted up like a real lawyer today – or should I say, tarted down. Looking in the mirror this morning, I saw all forty-one years of me staring back at me from a somber shell of expensive, well-cut fabrics. It was so jarring I had to remove my pearl earrings. I still looked like somebody’s mother.

In other news of being somebody’s mother, two people asked me yesterday whether our trip to Asheville had somehow gotten the kids to sleep through the night. I was able to reply joyously that YES, somehow they were doing much better and we had now enjoyed a solid week of decent sleep.

Naturally, I jinxed myself.

I was up 4 times last night with those little rats – responding like Pavlov’s dog to Eeyore’s bellows from the comfort of his toddler bed.


Mom, shuffling like a blind mole into their baby cave: “What is it?”

Eeyore: “I’m cold.”

Mom: “Jesus Christ, Eeyore. You know how to pull up your covers yourself. One more time and you won’t get your magnet in the morning.” (Reward system for not bothering Mom and Dad during the night = special magnet, 2 days of magnets = 1 lollipop.)

An hour later:


Mom, seriously pissed off: “Eeyore? What is it? You’re going to wake your brother.”

Eeyore: “I tee-tee’d. Can you change my diaper?”

Mom, sighing: “OK.”

So there it was, 4 a.m., and I was changing a tee-tee diaper on the bed. There are a few things wrong with this picture, but the one I’ll focus on is referring to a wet diaper as a “tee-tee diaper.” I am an adult and yet this is how I refer to a certain object. I’m southern, which is where the “tee-tee” versus “pee-pee” thing comes in, but still. It’s just one of those sad little reminders of who I am at this stage of life. A lot of cutesy talk is just the way it goes.

Meanwhile, I wonder if today’s southern children still say tee-tee or if that is some sort of 1970’s anachronism. I certainly never thought I would say it again in my life, since once I was old enough to just say that I needed to “pee,” tee-tee was not an expression that just cropped up in my daily conversation. Yet as soon as Eeyore was old enough to have any reason to discuss the matter with me, “tee-tee” popped out of my mouth (the expression, that is) and once again, that’s what it’s called.

Wow, that’s a fairly jarring juxtaposition between my two topics of choice today.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oh, Helen, you always know just what to say.

Helen Mirren says that the best thing for good abs is to always keep your stomach sucked in. And for some reason I have been following ol’ Helen’s advice a lot, and with clothes on I do look a lot thinner. Without them, my stomach still looks like biscuit dough that the kitten has repeatedly pounced on, but you can’t have everything. What’s weird to me is that I seem able to motivate myself only when I deliver the advice to myself as “Helen Mirren says…” instead of just “suck your stomach in.” Who knew of her magic properties.

I can’t believe we’re going on vacation in 3 weeks. I had been semi-dreading it, wondering how the kids would do without us, wondering how I would do without the kids, but then a couple of weeks ago R. and I went to Asheville, NC for the weekend for his sister’s wedding and we learned that the answer to both questions was just fine, thank you. Now I’m mostly just excited by the prospect of strolling around Dublin and London, arm tucked through my husband’s, regaining some semblance of me inside my head. Here are things I was able to do on our trip that have been out of reach for the last couple of years:

1. Get through the air travel experience without:
a. breaking a sweat from lugging children and all their accoutrements;
b. having to change a diaper in an airplane bathroom;
c. having a screaming baby kick my drink into my lap;

2. Go to the bathroom without someone running in to sit on the floor and ask me if I am pooping;
3. Eat dinner without having to implore someone ten times to stop screaming, and
4. Read a book for more than the 5 minutes between when I get in bed and pass out with the light on.

But the single best thing I realized while we were away is that there is actually still a functioning mind and personality in this body. Liberated from the non-stop requirement of constant attention to someone else, which keeps an uncomfortable amount of adrenaline flowing at all times, I was able to THINK. Real, full thoughts were in my head, I had complete conversations with others, I was free to peruse menus at my leisure. It was heaven, and now I know it waits for me at Denver International Airport and beyond in just three weeks.

As an aside, have you ever been to Asheville? I loved it! What a nifty, beautiful little town. As soon as I got back to Denver I looked to see if there were any legal jobs advertised there, but no. I have no idea how that place thrives, but it really does.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Developments and a lack thereof.

Maybe I should be more encouraged than I am, but instead I feel there's a pall over my professional life right now - one that I don't know when will be lifted. My company is going through a merger process right now, and it's not ugly, exactly, but it's not pretty, either.

Yesterday, all the vice presidents of the new company were announced. My boss, who is fabulous and who I think I have a great relationship with, was promoted to be the head of my group. Arguably, this bodes well for my keeping my job, but at the same time the proportion of Newco VPs to my company’s VPs showed clearly that there is likely to be something of a bloodbath in our legal department. There are a lot of good lawyers who need jobs, so maybe I’ll keep mine, and maybe I won’t.

Usually, this doesn’t scare me too much because I have a decent severance package, and we won’t starve for awhile. But, this is ME we’re talking about, so there are certainly times I allow my mind to wander down dark and scary paths, or even just a path where my career becomes yet more mundane. My biggest fear is not that I won’t find another job, but that to stay in Denver, I will have to take a job with some company that nobody ever heard of, doing tedious and irrelevant work. Not that my job is particularly glamorous right now, and it sure as hell isn’t relevant to most people’s lives, but it’s good enough that with some work I could swing it out of its Mommy Track Death Spiral ™ and back towards something at least a little more international in nature. I haven’t found that Denver has a lot of these jobs, and whatever there is will soon become raw meat for the 50 attorneys who will be out on the street.

At any rate, my life just feels like a whole lot of limbo right now, waiting to find out how it’s all going to end up. We can’t move forward with the remodel until I know I have a job, so we’re still crammed into our tiny house that is rapidly becoming a casualty of entropy. If I do keep my job, it will likely be at an offer of reduced pay and bonus, and who knows about promotion opportunities? I would probably ride it out until my kids are just a little older and I will hopefully feel like I can commit more time to my own life.

Sag – it’s all so boring.

Not boring: trip to sister-in-law’s wedding on a week and a half with NO KIDS. Sleep, glorious sleep!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Choo choo


Shit's been busy around here (see, e.g., the above photo of my child (r.) on his first day of school this week). Is it not weep-worthy? A veritable milestone, yea, and one that did indeed reduce the child's mother to quivering jelly. My big boy!

And then there was Challenge Day yesterday. Look it up. It's an 8-hour extravaganza of serious emotion and dancing assholery that consists of about 25 adults spending the day in an airless gym with 100 public school kids (in my case, 7th graders) trying to "get real." There is a show about it on MTV called "If You Really Knew Me," and I can tell you that it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in some time. It is quite emotionally draining, and amazing how quickly so many of these kids want to talk about things going wrong in their lives. It was a very heartening experience, and I have nothing but the highest admiration for the people who do this for a living. It's awesome work. When I get laid off, maybe I'll look into it.

Hamish (as opposed to our oldest, Angus - our silly sometimes nicknames for the boys and ones I think I will use going forward just for funsies) made his first two-word sentence this morning. He pointed to the lamp that was not on and said "no light." the boy is a genius!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Shit that's on my mind.

Wow, do I still hate gum as much as I ever have. There is this hugely-gay-but-married-to-a-woman guy who often stops at the desk outside my office to chat with the desk’s resident, and he is invariably either chewing gum or eating something – in either case, with great, smacking enthusiasm. He’s like seven feet tall, too, so his joyous mastication rings out across the top of all the cubicles and reaches its ropey spit strands across the whole frickin floor.

Meanwhile, as usual I am too tired. I have been up and down 10 times a night for the last couple of nights, as Eeyore has a bad cold and wakes up frequently to call for assistance. That assistance consists of my telling him, “You’re OK, sweetheart,” covering him back up with the comforter that at 2 weeks shy of 3, he ought to be able to just pull up himself, or putting the binky back in his bed that he could have leaned over himself to pick up. I am a class A sucker. But then this morning he walked into the bathroom where I was brushing my teeth, wearing his little backpack.

“I’ve put everything I need in here, Mommy,” he announced brightly.

“What do you have?” I asked, foamily.

“My triceratops and my bunny,” he replied.

Of course!

My baby starts pre-school in a couple of weeks. I wonder if I will cry when I drop him off (I’m pretty sure that on the first day “dropping off” consists of the parents sitting around drinking coffee outside the classroom waiting to see if their kid will flip out and need parental intervention)? Maybe not – I’m actually very excited for him to attend his new school. Eeyore is such a bright and curious kid, I think it will be wonderful for him to have a place to start to really stretch his little mind, make some friends other than the children of his parents’ friends, all that. And the school itself gives me the warm and fuzzies like nobody’s business. It’s all pretty, young teachers with masters’ degrees (feel free to sneer at me, I don’t give a shit), sunshine through big windows and old wood floors, children’s art on the walls, books everywhere. It’s just wonderful, and I can’t imagine my little boy won’t love it.

R. and I have some pretty retro activities coming up. This weekend, we’re seeing Adam Carolla at Comedy Works, and in September we’re seeing both Pavement and the Cult in concert. Hellooooo, rapidly approaching middle age!

I’m sure you have been fascinated by this update. I know I have!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


This is lame. I opened my August 2009 file to save it for 2010 and write a new post. My topic: autumn is coming; I’m looking forward to my getaways with R., what I think about London in the fall. And guess what the first post was – a big, fat commentary on things I like about London in the fall.

Christ, I am even more on the hamster wheel than I thought. The only things that change in my life are watching my kids grow up and seeing my body degenerate. Even the things I’m looking forward to this fall are the same old shit I’ve already done. Argh!!


Navigating the 16th Street Mall after my daily, lunchtime trip to the gym, head bent so as not to have to see all the unpleasantness that is that lovely downtown thoroughfare, I thought for the fourteen jillionth time that my bestselling novel ain’t going to write itself. As always, however, I have no character, no plot, no location. That makes writing a little tough.

Today’s incarnation – a London girl moves to Denver (why? Who the f*** knows) and has misadventures with all the outdoorsy types here. Then what – she marries one and moves to the mountains? Where she learns to live without her Kiehl’s and hangs their Patagonia undergarments on a clothesline to dry? Yawn.

“Oh, dear lord,” thought Lucy, as one ski, then the other, started to slip across the snow. “What am I doing!?”

Tom grinned, his big, American teeth as blinding as the expanse of snow around them. “You’ll be great, Lucy. I’ll meet you at the Pub in a few hours, when my race is over. Bye!”

Lucy smiled uncertainly, cheered only slightly by the thought of an après cocktail or three. This “relationship” with Tom was leaving a lot to be desired.

How’s that for a rip-roaring scene? Of course, it is based on an episode from my own sad life, apart from being British, natch. Colorado is notorious for providing safe harbor to emotionally challenged, physically blessed specimens of manhood – guys who live solely to fund their own athletic, outdoor lifestyles. If you want to come along for the ride, great; they really could not care less. The delicate curves of their bicycles or skis provide more romance for them than you ever could.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


You hear stories in the news about unsavory characters knocking on innocent homeowners’ doors with crime on the brain. In my neighborhood, not too long ago there were three teenaged boys who would knock on doors and (1) if someone answered, pretend to be fundraising for a local high school, or (2) if they did not, break in and burglarize the shit out of the house.

Last night, as I was trying to get dinner on the table for the sprouts, our doorbell rang. Walking toward the door, I could see a weaselly, young blond guy standing there with a binder in his hand. The binder had an ADT sticker on it. I faced him through the glass security door, but didn’t unlock it. “Hi,” I said. The blond guy squinted and said, “Hi, I see you have an ADT sign in your yard.” “Yes,” I said. “I’m sure you’re happy with that,” he said, and as I said “Yes,” he suddenly tightened every muscle in his face, like he was trying to explode his skull inside his skin. “WILL YOU PLLLEEEEEEASE LET ME IN TO USE YOUR BATHROOM!!” he spat at me. “No,” I said, scared somewhat shitless. “AARRH…” he replied, and turned away and clomped down the front steps. I watched him as he continued down the sidewalk to my neighbor’s house, clutching and unclutching his fists, red-faced and muttering to himself furiously. I hoped my neighbor was smart enough to keep her door closed.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chemically yours.

I’ve been screwing around with the dosage of my happy for a few days, thinking of trying to get off the stuff. The only reason I care to go off it is that I want to know if it’s contributing to the way my body continues to hold onto the last 15 pounds of Haagen-Dazs/baby fat. But after 4 days on a reduced dose, I’ve decided that going chemical-free just isn’t for me, at least not at this point in my miserable existence. In the last 4 days I’ve snapped at my kids, yelled at my kids, gritted my teeth, sobbed, fought viciously with my husband and STILL eaten more than my share of cookies and ice cream. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find any of that desirable or productive - au contraire - and so today it’s back up to full bore happy.

It’s actually pretty amazing to see just how well Lexapro works for me. The only thing I don’t like about it is that I don’t always feel that my mental acuity is quite what it used to be, but the tradeoff is that I am reasonably even-keeled, I rarely get so frustrated with my children that I think I’m doing serious psychological damage, and basically most things just wash over me like water off the proverbial dead Gulf Coast duck’s back (except politics – I can still work myself into a muddy-minded froth over that). I can even be somewhat philosophical about the gut-wrenching toll that having two toddlers can take on a marriage. Even a few days of revisiting the old me was enough to let me know that I don’t want to be that stressed, pointy woman who has an incessant hamster wheel turning in her head anymore. Ever, really. And if that means I will have this doughy midsection forever, so be it.

Hey, I know it’s the cookies and ice cream, OK? And the wine, too. But ain’t no way Mama’s giving up wine with a one year old and a two year old at home, you know?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sorry, my 2 Republican readers.

I feel unsettled and testy today. Listening to NPR this morning didn’t help; a story about conservatives in Kansas had my blood boiling, then left me feeling helpless and at a loss about what to do. Not that I try particularly hard, but I simply can’t identify with conservatives. I hear the shit that comes out of some of their mouths, and I’m baffled. Some congressional candidate was motivating the crowd with the statement that when Obama says “Yes, we can,” “We’ll be there to say ‘No, you won’t.” THIS is ideas? THIS is progress for our country? But progress isn’t what’s wanted by these Americans. It’s the opposite; it’s the “return to the America we know we can be.”

What America is that? I have a vague sense of dread about what it would be. My sense is it’s an America where there are no rules for fat, old white men and plenty of rules for everyone else. Enforced “morality” – mine, not yours. Yeah, the good old days. I suppose the difference from 1955 is that now we have the new “feminist” conservative women, who believe that they won’t be stuck back in the kitchen. And maybe they won’t, unless of course they find themselves pregnant at 17 and severely challenged to fulfill any personal dreams they might have had.

I know I’m rambling, but I just hate the situation so much and don’t know what to do about it. Sure, I vote, but that doesn’t count for much these days when there are more stupid mother fuckers with the right to vote than I can shake a stick at. I’d volunteer for a candidate if I thought there was anything I’d be asked to do besides pass out fliers – not high on my list of fun or useful activities.

One bright spark: when I visited my dad this summer, that old Republican told me he, too, was disgusted by what passes for being a Republican these days. He delivered this golden nugget to me by telling me how unpleasant he finds it to be around his siblings these days, because they are the worst kind of knee-jerk, Fox news-loving drones who do no more than spew the latest anti-Obama crap. “They don’t think,” he said. “Sometimes I actually agree with the Democrats.” This from a man who told me when I was 15 that when I “grew up, [I’d] be a Republican, too.” I’ll cling to that.

Monday, June 28, 2010


We are adding this fur person to our family tomorrow:

1. I am not sure what we are thinking, adding a tiny kitten to our 1200 square foot household that already includes 2 adults, 2 children and 2 cats.

2. But just look at that face.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Man, I barely even remembered how to sign into this thing.

Yes, I have disappeared. I've had absolutely no motivation to blog about a life that rarely changes other than watching my children grow. I happen to love that, but I don't necessarily think it makes for great reading for the outside world. So, I have just been living a very ordinary life and discussing it over glasses of wine on the patio on warm, early summer evenings with family and friends instead.

It's been pretty good, though - we took our first vacation with the kids; to Hilton Head. Here, you can enjoy our view through the blob of bird shit on the window.

It was pretty fabulous. However, two weeks away with not one night to ourselves had me thinking constantly about what it would be like to take a vacation alone with my husband. So I bit the bullet and booked a trip for us to Dublin and London later this year. I know I am going to regret leaving my kids as soon as the plane lifts off, but sometimes you have to just muddle through, you know? Seven days and nights alone with my gorgeous husband, not to mention time to read and think and walk around at a normal pace without having to dart out to rescue one or more small children from various perceived dangers... ah.

I booked it even though we are still hoping to start our house in the next couple of months and even though I could lose my job in the next few months; maybe I booked it because of those things, too. Hopefully all will be "fine," whatever that means, but if my world comes flying off its axis I'd like to at least get in another vacation beforehand.

Monday, May 3, 2010


One likes to be locked up, one likes to escape...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The same and the same and the unknown.

Five or six lifetimes ago, I was a young associate in Washington, D.C. I can barely remember the work I did at the inaptly nicknamed "Cruel & Boring" because I was 27 and just figured the career part would work itself out. I did the work as well as I could and then got back to thinking about how I looked in my little suits and who was cute in the summer associate pool and what parties there were to go to. Life was pretty carefree back then.

Life is fun now, too, but it sure as hell ain't drinks across the rooftop bars of D.C., or softball on the Ellipse or lying around on my couch on a Saturday reading a book and thinking about where to hang out that night. Now it's all the nice parts of having my very own little family, but it's also making sure others have food and clothes and a roof over their heads. That's usually only a wormy little feeling at the back of my brain, keeping me from chucking it all in to do... who knows what. But now it is at the very forefront of my mind, and probably will be for some time.

It's what everyone starts their conversations with these days. "Wow, yeah, how are you doing? Are you looking for another job? You must be scared." Yes! I am! I'm paralyzed. There's not much I can do, if I don't want to act rashly. These things can take up to a year to pass all the regulatory hurdles, and there is a good chance I could keep my job. If I do lose it, I certainly don't have a golden parachute, but I do have a pretty generous severance. So I doubt I will go off half cocked and start applying for every shit job out there, but the tradeoff is I will keep on plugging away with a nasty little knot of fear in the pit of my stomach for the next... year? Year and a half? There's no getting around it.

We're trying to pretend it's not happening, at least on one level. The house, for example. Nobody in their right mind would buy a new house right now, but would they forge ahead with their plans to remodel their house and double their mortgage? Because we are! I've decided to rationalize it by telling myself it that if it comes to it, it will be much easier to sell a big, cool, modern house than it would our tiny, nondescript bungalow. But hopefully it won't come to that.

It would be so nice if my anxiety would translate into a lovely lack of appetite to speed along some weight loss, but no such luck.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Home is where I have a house.

It’s probably been true for some time now, but I don’t think I can call myself a “blogger” anymore. The word implies that the writer blogs on a somewhat regular basis, and I have clearly fallen down on that job if that is what I was supposed to have been doing.

Life has become a full-time job, and I guess it’s time to accept that the women at which I used to scoff, the ones in magazine articles who complained about being stretched too thin, were on to something. Children simply eradicate free time, and in my case they also seem to have eradicated any free brain cells. I have no idea how some women manage to maintain especially intellectual pursuits in their children’s early years, because it turns out I just don’t have it in me. I’ve beat myself up about it for some time now, but I think I am starting to make a temporary peace with it.

And then there’s that other job, the “real” one, the one that pays for food and health insurance and a roof and all that; the one I have been turning up to most days for the last eight years. Well… there’s been a little turmoil here in Corporateland and I’m thinking that to maximize my chances of not ending up on the corner of 6th and Colorado with a sign asking for help and/or informing drivers that Hillary Clinton has a chip in her head, I might want to keep potential excuses to lay me off at a minimum.

And you can bet I don’t go anywhere without my southern accent these days.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A bad habit.

I don't know what's wrong with me, but I've stumbled into this weird and probably unhealthy fascination with "babyloss" blogs - blogs by parents who have lost a child during the late part of pregnancy, or at birth or very soon thereafter. I read them and I tear up and I feel so awful for these moms, mostly, who have lost so much. Their grief is all-encompassing, and it feels like a stone is pressing down on my lungs reading their words. I would like to get back out of this phase of strange voyeurism that I am not sure why I am in. It's not as if I have so much time on my hands that I need to fill it with stories like these.

Maybe it has to do with the way since having children of my own, I feel everything "sad" about the experience of children so much more intensely - whether it's the sadness of the way a certain child lives or an experience he or she has, or now the pain parents can feel from the vulnerability of loving their children. I have to remind myself sometimes that lots of people live long, full lives, including most people in my family. Not everyone has this sort of catastrophic loss.

Having children is all about extreme emotion, it seems. I can watch my children play or in the process of discovering something and my heart feels like it will burst with pride, or love, or plain old bliss, then I'll be wracked with fear that it could all just disappear. Everything was much easier when my only concern was making sure there was enough room on my credit card for my next London shopping trip.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

May I ask...

There is a program on the local NPR station called “Colorado Matters.” Sometimes there are interesting topics on the show, but often they are beyond mundane and blow away a bit of the pixie dust I mentally sprinkle on my life in Colorado. For example, a day or two ago, when I turned on the car the host was discussing something about the smell of rancid potatoes with his esteemed guest. I only half-listened, as the topic was something less than scintillating, until I heard the host ask, tentatively:

“May I ask… what kind of potatoes were these?”

It was so bad I had to actually repeat it back into the empty car using his same, breathless tone. Like he was asking her to reveal a deep, heartfelt secret.


I am so frigging relieved that spring is here, even if my allergies are on overdrive. I don’t have any kind off soft spot in my heart for winter, despite the skiing and snowshoeing and apple-pink cheeks. In fact, since I don’t ski, and snowshoeing makes me sweat and grunt and generally get irritated, those are good enough reasons in themselves not to like winter. I will make such a good old person in Florida when the time comes. But the last couple of days here have been lovely, if more than a little windy. I made the mistake yesterday of venturing out in a wrap dress, only to have to walk down the street with one hand clutching my skirt and the other grabbing to keep my hair from whipping across my eyeballs. I am starting to understand why women of a certain age, i.e., mine, start to just say fuck it and dress for comfort. Pants, flats, and early onset general frowsiness.

Things to look forward to:

1. Night booked at local charming hotel for frolicking; fun laced with pressure of not having had night alone in 2 years.

2. Two week trip to the south in June, culminating in week at beach and sister-in-law’s wedding in Hilton Head. Downsides are that all of R., Eeyore and I are in the wedding – Eeyore in a tiny tuxedo. I know some people think that is cute, and I’m sure my baby will look as cute as humanly possible, BUT I think it sounds like a total nightmare. A hot summer night at the beach and a 2-year old in a tux? I don’t think this even needs any explaining on my part.

3. Commencement of work on our house? Who knows. The idea is that we will have our permit and financing and start work the beginning of July, but since I said that about this time last summer I am not holding my breath. If it does happen, however, I’ll have plenty to talk about!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I look so tired today. I am so tired today. I’m so tired every day.

When is this nonsense with babies not sleeping through the night going to end? I look like shit and I swear it’s keeping me from losing all the baby weight. Well, that and the anti-depressants. Jesus Christ, I have to laugh. What HAPPENED to me!?

Lunch today didn’t make me feel any more human. I met R. and the kids at Pasquini’s, a pizza place near downtown. We ordered, then after too many ups and down to retrieve crayons, milk, straws, whatever, we took turns walking the baby around the restaurant. While R. was away from the table, Eeyore suddenly looked at me with that patented, strangely pained expression that made his next words to me unnecessary:

“I’m pooping.”

Of course you are!

The bathrooms at Pasquini’s were not meant to accommodate mothers, so I had the pleasure of changing Eeyore in the back of my SUV on a busy road. He’s old enough now that he doesn’t think it’s very cool to have his poopy ass hanging out for all to see, so hopefully this will push him even faster towards finishing up with the potty training.

No, there is nothing else going on, unless you count Sesame Street Live on Saturday. Eeyore has asked me several times if Big Bird and Ernie will be joining us for lunch.

Monday, March 22, 2010

F*** you, Universe.

Ah, the naïveté. The sheer, earnest silliness of a woman who thought she would actually get those two days alone with her husband. What the hell was I thinking? I sure wasn’t thinking that the universe was a larger scale version of the Chinese government, cracking down on dissidents chafing for a little freedom.

Alright, enough of the hyperbole. So we were driving along I-70 on a beautiful sunny afternoon on our way to Vail, excited as could be about our romantic getaway. The car was packed with everything we needed for a great trip, including a lovely gift from my friend of wine, cheese, chocolate, even coffee. Halfway to Vail, the phone rang. It was R’s sister. She had started puking. And puking. And puking some more. We needed to come home. We came home, and she and her fiancé checked into a hotel where she could be horribly sick in peace, such as it was. Then, of course, he came down with it, too, so they were out of commission until Saturday.

Yes, of course I feel terrible for them! Their trip to Colorado was pretty much ruined, and believe it or not they came out because they genuinely wanted to spend their time with our two small boys, God love ‘em. But guess who else I feel REALLY, REALLY sorry for? I mean, seriously. First our trip to New York was scuppered, and now this. I couldn’t even go back to work and save the vacation days, since our nanny had headed to California on her own vacation (which apparently was an absolute blast, yay, glad someone had a good time).

On the upside, neither my kids nor I caught this nasty bug, and I was bummed out enough I lost a couple of pounds. Just call me Pollyanna!

Meanwhile, maybe I am deceiving myself because I’m the mama, but just look at these two. Are they not adorable? I’ll answer for you – yes! They are!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Away, away!

Oh, I’ve been around, but I’ve just been a little antisocial. I’ve spent the last week or two just being 41 and that’s been enough to keep me occupied. Well, that and eating cake, shopping, drinking and dining out with friends, picking up toys… all that. But I’ve noticed there’s a general lack of posting on most of the blogs I read right now anyway, so everybody else is also clearly occupied with all the more fascinating things in life.

This promises to be a pretty good week (knock on wood). Family is visiting and has graciously agreed to watch our whippersnappers while we head up to Vail for a couple of nights. Vail! Alone! A husband, a fireplace and me! Since our trip to NYC over Christmas was snowed out, this is the first opportunity we’ve had to spend a night without our kids, which means it has been TWO YEARS since we have spent a night without our kids. Well, wait, there was the one night in Charlotte over Christmas, but I was sick and just slept for 12 hours straight so I’m going to say that doesn’t count. So, yes, TWO YEARS. We are due for this.

As part of this little getaway, I think we might get in a little cross-country skiing. I’m trying to say that all casual-like, as if it’s something I do on a regular basis and at which I am skilled. Not so much – I tried it once about 6 years ago, and that’s pretty much the extent of it. In fact, that is almost the extent of all my snow-going escapades: a couple of snowshoeing “adventures” (read: slogging through knee-deep snow, bitching all the way), two ski trips before the age of 14, and one attempt at snowshoeing at age 34 that resulted in the sorest abs I have ever had and a probable concussion. So, you’re not dealing with the most snow-loving of ladies here. Still, my husband loves him some snow, so I am going to slap on a big ol’ smile and give it a shot. Given my circumstances in life, I am expecting to simply relish the quiet of being out in nature without someone practicing his standing skills on my legs.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Going nowhere...? Please?

This morning I wanted to move to nowhere (with an airport). As I thought about it, I realized I also wanted nowhere to have plenty of cool restaurants and bars, so maybe I didn’t really want to go nowhere after all, but I did have a reason for thinking I did. NPR was a real drag this morning. First there was Mitt Romney selling himself in his Ken doll voice, by proclaiming that Obama has been such a failure. I drove along, repeating, “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you” as Mr. Romney blatantly lied about what Obama has been doing, but it just wasn’t good for my blood pressure. That story was followed by a piece on “militainment,” a term someone has coined for the military’s increased use of entertainment as a recruiting tool. Apparently the Army put out a video game called “American Army” that allows players to enjoy themselves on a Thursday afternoon by creeping around sandy corners and blowing the heads of other folks. This has evolved into the military’s most successful method of recruitment.

Well, what does that say about society? Nothing I really want to be a part of, or have my children be a part of. Don’t get me wrong, I am not maligning the concept of a military. No, I’m maligning a culture that thinks it’s cool to sit around firing video guns at video people and then think that translates into an opportunity to go play fucking Rambo in the desert. It’s pathetic. It’s pathetic (but predictable) that the military preys on dumb Americans in this fashion, and it’s pathetic that young Americans are so stupid as to be taken in my the timeless propaganda of the military machine.

I’m also maligning a culture that thinks Mitt Romney, or Sarah Palin, or John McCain, or most other vocal Republican politicians are anything but poison for this country. It’s my exhaustion with the never-ending political cycle, and always feeling so angry and disbelieving that all these people truly exist, that also makes me want to escape to a nice mountain meadow somewhere. My family and I would frolic in the wildflowers; Thomas and I could nap together in the sun. Of course, I won the lottery so I can go get some shade in my incredible modern home designed by none other than my beloved husband – and I don’t have to deal with the outside world unless I want to hop a jet to Paris, where I will stay only long enough to soak up the good stuff and remain willfully ignorant of a;; the problems there.

I’m thinking I’ll swing by the Unsafeway after work and pick up a lottery ticket. Nobody ever wins buying a ticket in the lobby convenience store of an office building; it’s got to be from a grocery or liquor store somewhere in Sad Sack, USA. If I really want to up my chances, I’ll go in on it with a couple of factory workers or something, or some young guys signing up to join the army.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Rainy days and Mondays, part two.

I don’t like getting older. I’m scared by it. It’s both uncharted waters and the great, repetitive forever at the same time.

I’ll be 41 next week, and I can’t say anything good about it. Turning 40 was no great shakes, but 41 is another ball game altogether. It’s lifting one foot up on the ladder in that inexorable climb towards… well, you know. Before 40, I never thought like that. In my late 30’s I was hyper-aware that I had not reached the personal milestones that most women hope to have achieved by then, but I didn’t associate that with death. Quite the opposite, actually, since as a single, childless woman I served no master other than myself. Although I was sometimes lonely, I maintained the youthful attitude that my life was still in front of me – that I still had choices about the way it would turn out.

These days I think about the end of life a lot more than I used to. Even though I hopefully have more than half of my life left, I have such a hard time picturing it other than as this block of time that will just happen and be over. I see it now as punctuated by my children’s milestones rather than my own. By the time they are off to college, I will be almost 60, and then what? I’m reasonably active, so hopefully R. and I will be healthy and can still travel a lot and do whatever interests us, but will it really be as much fun when I LOOK SO OLD?

Maybe it sounds vain and strange, but my experience with the things I love has been as a young, attractive woman. Travel, concerts, restaurants, meeting my husband – everywhere I have sat and enjoyed the world has been as a young person; I have been observed as a young person, as a pretty, young woman. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that making the break with potency of the external-facing part of one’s self is a semi-traumatic event. Until I had children I still felt young and attractive, but on the other side of the big event I don’t feel that way at all. I am self-conscious about my pregnancy-revised body, about my graying hair, about my boring job. Honestly, sometimes I don’t even feel like me anymore. I feel invisible, like I’ve handed over my flag of youth to a new generation. I am irrelevant now apart from making sure I raise responsible, polite, loving little guys who have all the tools they need to create their own happy destinies.

Even as I write this I know I am wallowing it in a bit. I know I still have choices about what to do with my career, how to raise the kids, on and on. I choose to color my hair and try to lose weight in hopes that I can stop freaking out about the physical effects of aging, especially since they will only get worse. But I have had choices for a long time, and for a long time my choices have been to stay put and do nothing, at least on the career/personal fulfillment front. So how do I learn to light a fire in my belly at a time in my life when I barely have time to eat dinner before going to bed? I am daunted.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don't hate me because I'm no longer beautiful.

I was looking through some old stuff today trying to find anything to write about for this week's assignment that will be critiqued by the class, when I came across this little gem from 4 years ago. It's actually embarrassing to read - who the hell was I? Such profanity, my, my! And how amusing to have been "thin."


I wish I had a picture of me for you today, because I’d like to know if there’s something strange about the way I look that I wasn’t aware of when I left the house. Because when I walked into the coffee shop this morning, that was the distinct impression I got. I walked in to see two young women seated at one of the tables; well, seated, except they both had their feet resting up together on another chair, all cozy like, and one had her shoes off. So, you know, making themselves extra comfortable, like everybody else having a cup of coffee or a Danish likes to see. As I walked in the door they both looked up at me, looked back at each other and snickered. And really, why wouldn’t they? I mean, I looked really gross compared to them:

Me: tall; thin; longish shiny brown hair; tight True Religion jeans; high, strappy suede wedge sandals from Paris, glowing skin from getting laid on a regular basis.

Other Girl 1: lank, dirt-colored bob; limp, shapeless beige sweater; high-waisted, nasty-colored jeans that I doubt are being unbuttoned other than for the occasional mutual muff dive, washed out skin.

Other Girl 2: unwashed, sloppy ponytail; dumpy-looking figure crammed into an orange hoodie sweatshirt and 4th year med student scrub pants; pink socks and, once she finally put them back on, slip on leather shoes.

So, yeah, I could see why they might be looking at me askance. They were clearly serious, professional girls and I was obviously some brainless supermodel/administrative assistant. I figured we should have a chat, so I bought myself a huge chocolate cupcake with swirls and swirls of chocolate frosting and sashayed on over. Taking a big, licky bite, I said “What’s up, ladies? I noticed you checking me out, and I just wanted to let you know that if you’re looking for a threesome, it’s your lucky day.” Their jaws dropped as I licked the rest of the frosting off of my lips. Then I smashed the cupcake into Other Girl 1’s face, kicked the other bitch in the face and walked out.

Ah, Friday! My road rage was in full force on the drive to work today. I can’t stand when some asshole pulls out in front of you and then slows down to a goddamned snail’s pace. In the parking garage this morning, some jackass turned in front of me on the first floor and then practically got out of the car and carried it on his back all the way up to the 8th. When he finally parked, I parked a few spots down and waited for him to go inside. Once he was gone, I grabbed my baseball bat out of the trunk and smashed all his windows in. I rifled through his CDs but it was only a bunch of shit like Beyonce and an advance copy of K-Fed’s upcoming masterpiece, so I left it there. Then I moved my car so, you know, nobody would suspect me.


So, yes. Crazy times, apparently.
Guess who is a great big one year old today?

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I just dashed off my latest assignment lickety split. I don't know, do you think this is what the instructor was looking for?

Think of a moment when something funny happened either to you or to someone else, where you were present. Now, create a "sensory postcard." Freeze the moment, recalling in that funny moment what you saw, heard, smelled, tasted and felt. Don't tell a story. Tap into the memory of as many of your senses as you can recall. If you need to make some of this up, that's fine. Remember, it's a postcard; keep it brief.

It was really funny when the woman in the office next to me, the one who was promoted to my level two years after me, was promoted above me. When she told me, I saw spots floating in front of my eyes and heard the sound of la-la-la-la-la echoing in my head in that funny-sounding way that happens when you stick your fingers in your ears. I’m pretty sure what I smelled was my own flopsweat, but just to make sure I sniffed lustily under my arm. Yep, it was me. My mouth was awash with the twin tastes of bile and failure. I felt small, like a very small thing of some kind.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Tea Baggers.

Um, the “Tea Party”? Worried about tyranny and a despotic government? Where the hell were they when we actually had tyranny and a despotic government, oh, a couple of years ago? Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the populace of this country becomes increasingly ridiculous and frightening. Seriously, what is the end game for all this? Do they envision some sort of “one if by land” revolution? Then what? Are all these politically born again hicks from Idaho going to run our country? Do they think they can survive without global interaction?

I’m sure I have suggested this before, but maybe we can just have a split where the “intellectual elite” takes the perimeter of the country, and everybody else can have the middle. I would bet money that you’ll find quite a few Republicans choosing the coasts as well. Then the delightful masses can park their Ford trucks in a circle around the edge of their property, pointing their militia artillery out at the rest of us. You know, just in case we ever get the misguided idea that we want to set foot on any part of their Amurica. Then the rest of us can get on with our lives that acknowledge global warming, science, the benefits of internationalism, education, and goddamn arugula, if that’s what we want. I’d be all right with that.

It all starts to fall down a little when you acknowledge there would need to be some trade with the Middlers – we stupid elitists want to grow the industry of green energy, but we need some of the resources from the middle to do so. Not to mention I have a feeling these Tea Party types would get itchy fingers when they saw those asshole elites patting each other on the backs for managing to finally separate themselves from the dumbasses. But man, is it a nice idea.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The joys of...

Yes, I did fall off the Planet Earth. Where did I go? Nowhere special, that’s for sure! I’m still on the endless treadmill of work, home, Target, Safeway, Whole Foods, places for the kids to experience anything… and for once, I’ve been writing. Yes, writing! It seems this class is actually doing me some good.

I’ve had a couple of assignments that I’ve been using to try and write vignettes, chapters, whatever, of a book. Because that’s what I have to do to change anything at all about my life, right? So I am finally making an effort and I’ve really been having some fun. I can hardly believe it – we’ll see how it goes. I would love to go on about how I hope I’ve turned a corner and all that, but I have been so self-defeating for so long that I am scared to put it out there to sabotage. So I’ll just keep trying to write a little bit every day and pray to my puppet master that something comes of it.

And in the meantime, there is always more shopping for diapers and formula and endless binkies to be done – except the formula is finally about to stop, which should save us about $150 a month. That’s right; Alex will turn one next week! I can’t believe it. My little baby is starting to walk with help, say “mama, dada, bye-bye,” he sings Jingle Bells and he is the snuggliest little ball of sweet baby dough you have ever met. Ohhhhh, I know why crazy people have more babies – because the gross smell of barf and baby powder I always thought I’d loathe doesn’t exist. It’s all heavenly baby skin and shampoo and a head on your shoulder and it all balances so neatly on your hip. Even the powder’s not so bad when applied to adorable baby bottoms (and it disguises the gross smells that DO exist).

Did I go crazy there for a second? As excited as I am to see how my little guys are going to turn out, I just love who they are now and it’s sad to know they’ll never be little babies again. And that the older they get, the less they will show their love for their mom. Or feel it? I don’t know. These days, when I put Ian to bed and turn out the light, I lean over to stroke his hair and rub his back. He grabs my arm and says “Stay here” or “Don’t go” and closes his eyes and looks so peaceful and sweet. Sometimes he reaches up and pets my hair, too. He’s so unguarded. It’s such a shame that as humans we cut all that off at some point.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Yankee Swap.

Yes, they did get the worst haircuts I have ever seen this weekend. But they still are as cute as pie.

In other news, perhaps you remember my old "yankee swap" post I am so obsessed with. for my assignment this week for my writng class, I turned it into a story:


It was a very nice party, as parties go. I knew the hostess, Laura, only tangentially, but had decided that if she had taken the trouble to invite me I should at least see if she had also invited any attractive, single guys. Laura and her husband were not really my type but were very rich, so I figured that could balance out and deliver a better evening than staring at the TV, eating mac-and-cheese straight from the pan.

It was Christmastime, and Laura and her equally loud and beefy husband were in their element. Their lavish existence was funded by his successful Christmas ornament business, and the house was decorated to remind everyone of just that. They didn’t own any old dime-store type of business, either; their ornaments were the huge, brightly colored monstrosities that rich women with no taste snatched up like penny candy at Neiman Marcus. Laura, or more likely someone in an apron and sensible shoes, had covered the 17-foot Noble fir in the vaulted entry hall from top to toe with the hosts’ own wares, and the result was a towering cone of tackiness that if it had fallen over would have slashed all of our skin to ribbons. Fat-cheeked, mischievous squirrels on a sleigh and a snooty lap dog in an ermine-lined Santa suit were detectable among the nauseating barrage of colors, if you could force yourself to look at it long enough.

After handing my coat to Laura (careful to tuck the fraying cuffs out of her view) and taking in that abortion of a tree, I thanked her for her invitation and waited for her to introduce me to someone – anyone - that I might know.

“I don’t think there’s anyone here you know,” she brayed, grabbing my arm and pulling me tightly to her side in what must have been a sign of chumminess amongst her crowd. Her white teeth glowed cheerily in the festively lit room.

“I love your tree,” I lied.

“Oh, Kate, thank you so much,” Laura gushed, “it is beautiful, isn’t it? If you look around, you’ll see we’ve arranged more ornaments in all kinds of unexpected places – I’ve been taking some lessons from my interior designer.”

“She must really be something!” I tried to inject some credibility into my voice.

“She really is!” Laura smiled, satisfied with my reaction. “Here, let me show you where the drinks and food are – get something quickly because we’re about to start the Yankee Swap! If you hand me your gift, I’ll put it under the tree.”

Laura’s invitation had mentioned something about this “Yankee Swap,” and indicated that each guest should bring some sort of gift for the exchange. Not being a Yankee myself, but having observed the quirks of a few in my time, I figured the natural way to have approached it would have been to rummage through the attic of my family pile for the most useless piece of unwanted junk I could find and try to foist it off on someone else. But since I had no steamer trunks full of old snowshoes and sculling oars from Gramps’ days at Groton to choose from, I bought a decent bottle of wine and called it a day. I doubted anyone would complain about having to take it home instead of a broken alarm clock or somebody’s dog-eared copy of the Catcher in the Rye complete with adolescent insights scribbled in the margins.

Pointed in the right direction by Laura, I made my way over to the dining room table. Next to the food tends to be where I spend the duration of most parties; particularly if I don’t know anyone. You can count on most guests filing by at some point, and if they look interesting, I might assume an open expression to show myself as receptive to a conversation. If they don’t, it’s easy enough to look intent on whatever gussied up pig-in-a-blanket I’m shoveling into my mouth, or on reloading my plate. If that doesn’t work, there’s always excusing myself for yet another drink.

Speaking of drinks, the sideboard was set up next to the table with every alcohol imaginable, so before diving into the food I decided to make myself something special. “Take tarts when they’re passed,” my grandma always used to say. Hmm. A Tom Collins? A Manhattan? Some of that punch? No, definitely not that – there appeared to be some sort of animal floating on its side in the pink spume on the punch’s surface. Closer inspection showed it to be one of my hosts’ Christmas ornaments, a plump, little mouse. His smiling face bobbed in and out of the punch.

I settled on a scotch and soda, making a mental note to find out the name of Laura’s designer so I could be sure never to call her. I mixed my drink with my finger and turned back to the food with my finger in my mouth, not wanting to waste any of the very good scotch. I might have made a little too much of a sucking noise, I don’t know, but as I surveyed the table, I suddenly noticed a petite woman with straight, dark brown hair caught back in a ponytail looking at me with a faintly disgusted expression.

“Yes?” I said, maybe a little more belligerently than one should at a party.

The woman gave a dainty shudder and turned away.

Fine, maybe some people don’t lick their fingers at a party, but is it really that big a deal?

I loaded up my plate with some of almost everything on the table, noticing that Laura had set out yet more ornaments as rests for the various serving pieces. Cheese knives balanced on overturned Santas and snowmen, smears of Brie and camembert across their faces. A spoon from the spinach dip rested between a kitten’s paws, slopping green sludge down her side.

I was starting to wonder why I had come, especially since I had yet to spy any eligible bachelors. All I had seen so far was a bunch of married men I couldn’t even tell apart, so indistinctive were they with their glasses and receding hairlines, their plaid shirts and khakis.

As I looked around for a place I could make myself inconspicuous while judging people and stuffing my face, Laura’s voice blew like an air horn across the room: “Time for the Swap! Everyone pick a number out of the can, and get comfortable!” Some of the guests ran to Laura like they had been shot from a cannon, so excited were they to start the game. I noticed that the girl who had judged my social skills was among those in heat to get started. She pushed aside a man in front of her to get closer to where Laura stood with a Chock Full O’ Nuts can, and plunged her hand into its depths. The man looked at her askance, but as his face reflected recognition, he smiled weakly and said, “Oh, it’s you, Amanda. I should have known.”

Amanda fluttered her eyelashes at him and said, “Don’t you just love a Yankee Swap!?”

After everyone else had chosen his number, I reached into the can for my own: Number 38. Since there were about 40 guests at the party, Laura explained this meant I was in a prime position to take home one of the best gifts at the party:

“In case some of you don’t know how the Yankee Swap works, I’ll remind you.” Laura assumed her best head girl, jolly-hockey-sticks stance as she projected her voice to the crowd. “The person who drew the lowest number gets to choose the first gift from under the tree. The next person can choose either to take another gift from under the tree, or to take the gift that the first person got and let that person choose another gift. As more people open gifts, there will be more to choose from for each higher number. The person with the highest number can either open the last gift, or choose from all the other gifts that have already been opened. Everyone clear on how it works?”

I swear I saw spittle in the corners of Amanda’s mouth.

I poured myself a large glass of chardonnay and sat on the floor, since Amanda and her coterie had taken the sofa and all the chairs for themselves. A guy I hadn’t seen before sat down next to me, holding a wrapped gift. He had more hair than all the married guys I had seen, so I stole a quick glance at his left hand. No ring. I checked out his face and was encouraged, but reserved judgment until I could be sure there would be no girl soon joining him. No point getting one’s hopes up prematurely.

“I like my gift so much I’m not sure I can bring myself to give it away,” he whispered to me.

“That seems to defy the spirit of the Yankee Swap,” I whispered back. “What did you bring?”

“A bottle of sparkling red wine,” he said, smacking his lips appreciatively.

“Like pink champagne?” I asked hopefully.

“No, it’s really red wine,” he disappointed me, “just sparkling. It’s kind of fizzy.”

“Surely you could pick up some more at the 7-11?” I suggested.

“You think I’m kidding,” the good-looking guy with a full head of hair smiled, “but it’s really good. If nobody takes it from me, maybe you can try it.”

“I think the likelihood of anyone taking it from you is pretty small,” I said with what I hoped was a flirtatious smile, figuring enough time had gone by without some woman coming over to flash me a dirty look or piss a circle around him. “I’d be willing to give it a try.”

We settled down as the first few people selected gifts from under the tree. Apparently there were other guests who didn’t have the benefit of an attic to raid, as one girl looked doubtfully at a bag of “penis pasta” she held tentatively between thumb and forefinger, and one of the married guys sat with a coloring book and a box of crayons in his lap. His mousy wife noted to him in a stage whisper how nice it would be to take his present home to little Maggie, and he rolled his eyes with a sigh of resignation. No penis pasta for that guy. I took a slug of my wine and noticed the pleasant way the guy next to me’s thigh fit in his jeans.

“What’s your name?” I asked him.

“Peter,” he said.

“Peter,” I repeated. “I’m Kate.”

“Hello, Kate,” said Peter. He gave me a look I chose to interpret as interested, but then I realized he was looking past me at the ongoing swap.

“Do you know her?” I asked. Peter was looking at Amanda as she wrapped her arms tightly around a two-foot-high plastic leprechaun, hugging it to her chest. It was the kind of kitschy decoration you can plug in and it lights up, and it was revolting.

“We know some of the same people,” Peter answered. “I’ve never met anyone more competitive in my life. Someone told me that in high school, she broke another girl’s leg with her lacrosse stick during a game, just because she had heard the girl liked her boyfriend. Since it was her own teammate, she was able to play it off as an accident.”

“She sounds delightful,” I observed, hoping to God she hadn’t set her sights on Peter, or worse, that they hadn’t already slept together.

Over the next hour, Peter and I chatted and watched Amanda go crazy over the filthy leprechaun that everyone kept referring to as a “gnome.” Occasionally someone would choose it on his turn and come to take it away from her, and she would cling to it for too long and generally be a bad sport about handing it over. Then she would pick it again whenever she had a chance. This happened several times, and as we were nearing the last of the numbers, I could see Amanda’s shoulders straightening as she sensed her victory was within reach.

Laura called out “Thirty-eight?” and it was my turn. Everyone turned to look at me, and I pretended to look around the room as if I had so much wondrous bounty to choose from.

“Tempting…” I smiled sexily at one interchangeable husband holding what looked like a rusty, old hand mixer. His wife glared at me and slid her hand onto his khaki-clad knee. I winked at her.

Spying my own unopened gift under the tree, I announced that I would open it.

“You’re going to open your own present?” Laura asked in a tone that made it clear that was simply not done.

“Not really,” I said, turning directly to face Amanda. I smiled at her as she clung to the gnome; just enough so my incisors pointed out daintily over my bottom lip like the sweetest little fangs.

Amanda looked at me balefully. “I’ll take that,” said I. She clung to it like a life raft.

“Pass it over, honey,” I said.

She held it tightly, perhaps thinking she looked cute as she clung to the rotten, peeling leprechaun. Or maybe she was past that; her face was flushed and damp, and really, she looked a little unhinged. Everyone watched us, fascinated by the social faux pas being played out before them. I reached out and pried the hideous plastic figure from Amanda’s grasp. She still held a piece of paper in her sweaty hand.

“It’s no good without the instructions,” she said with a defiant tilt to her chin, dragging it out until the bitter end.

“Then give me the fucking instructions,” I replied.

The party broke up soon after, and Peter and I retired to his place for some sparkling red wine. I liked it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Oh happy day.

Here’s a little something I don’t care for: people who work at bridal salons. Actually, I can narrow it down to people who work at one particular bridal salon in Charlotte, North Carolina. The reason I find myself interacting with this breed is because I have the honor of being the most decrepit bridesmaid in my sister in law’s Hilton Head wedding this summer, which means, of course, that I have to get “the dress.” I haven’t even really looked at this particular dress I’ll be sporting, but my recollection is that it’s reasonably attractive as far as these things go. I don’t really see the point in analyzing it too deeply, because it is what it is, which is to say a bridesmaid’s dress – something that will be worn once and then find its way into my sons’ dress-up bin along with the cowboy hats and that weird headlamp thingy. Still, having worn my share of ill-fitting frocks in the past, I’d like this one to fit properly. Apparently, however, that’s not going to happen.

Earlier this week I endured my own personal humiliation of measuring myself with one of those cloth tape measures. I barfed a little in my mouth as I transcribed my measurements, which are less the prototypical screen siren than Russian nesting doll. I dutifully faxed in my form, plucked a chocolate out of the bowl next to the office fax machine, and put the whole unpleasant episode out of my mind. Until I got home that night, that is, when I found a syrupy, full of question marks kind of voice mail waiting on my machine.

“Haaaaah, I’m calling for Kate? From the bridal shop? I’m callin’ because I think you might have, um, maybe measured your waist incorrectly? And I wonder if you could call me and we could see if maybe you did that wrong. Because what you wrote just doesn’t make sense. So if you could just call me I’m sure we can get this fixed?”

Yeah. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

So I called back the next day.

Dippy Southern Bridal Salesgirl: “Oh, yes, haaaah! Thanks for calling back. Yes, so, I think you maybe didn’t measure in the right place. You’re supposed to measure your waist where it curves in the most.”

Kate: “Right, yeah, that would fit the definition of a waist.”

DSBS: “Well, I’m just thinkin’ maybe you didn’t measure right, because this just doesn’t make sense. Your bust would put you in a size 6, and your hips would put you in an 8 or 10, but your waist would put you in like a 12 or 14.”

Kate: “I don’t understand that. It’s not like my waist is bigger than my hips.”

DSBS: “Well, we tend to wear our pants down on our hips.”

Kate: “OK, so then what’s the problem? Obviously I have a fat stomach. You’ve never encountered that before?”

DSPS: “Oh, no! That’s not what I meant! Your measurements are perfectly within the range of, uh, normal!”

Kate: “Well, then, what do you mean? You’re the expert. If you’re telling me that the 8 I normally wear is wrong and that I need a 14, then order me the 14.”

DSPS: “Weeeelll, how about we compromise on a 12?”

Kate: “Whatever. If that’s what you think my belly requires, then get the 12.”

“DSPS: “Ohhh! I’m sorry! Thanks for calling us back.”

Doesn’t that sound like a delightful exchange, just designed to a T to make a girl feel all dainty and sweet? I swear to God, southern girls are sometimes just the assiest people on the planet. And before you get yourself all in a twitch remember I am a Georgia girl myself so I can say it if I want and it makes it TRUE. I just don’t understand why they needed to call me about that - just make the fucking dress, don’t ask me any questions, and I’ll do my part and look like a sack of potatoes on the big day. It’s a time-honored tradition.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Parenting without a license.

You've kind of heard this before, but here's what I churned out in desperation for my first assignment today:

Why is it that we require permits for all sorts of other skilled or dangerous activities, like jumping a motorcycle over fifteen monster trucks, but not to engage in what is arguably the most difficult and dangerous activity known to man: parenting? Leaving aside the most obvious offenders, the horrifying, abusive parents who shouldn’t even be given a pen to fill out the application, what about the rest of us? Shouldn’t we at least be required to pass a few simple classes? Nothing prepares today’s rootless parents for the terror and humiliation of raising small children, but some basic training for the onslaught would go a long way. Soldiers aren’t sent into battle without a few weeks in boot camp, for Christ’s sake; why are we?

I wish my children had arrived clutching little manuals in their tiny, red fists. Then instead of wasting all those hours watching daytime TV and poking idly at the Shar Pei folds of my vacated belly, I could have spent my post-partum depression learning how to be a mom. I couldn’t rely on the forty-five “definitive” manuals on child-rearing that I had bought, each telling me something completely different about how to turn my little cavemen into polite, law-abiding members of society. With so much conflicting information I’ve been left to cobble together suggestions from each into a giant, play-doh wad of failure.

If you’re bored on a Saturday and you have a mean streak, the grocery store is a great place to witness all sorts of people’s failures as parents. The other day, I put on a good show for the crowd at Whole Foods when I took my two year old son in with me to buy a bag of cat food.

Two year old: “Mommy, I want to walk.”

Me, adopting a fakey, commiserating tone I knew would be useless: “Honey, we’re just here to get some cat food. I’m going to hold you and we’ll get out of here.”

TYO, with a needling whine that acts as a head-snapping beacon to adults: “Noooo! Don’t hold me!”

Me: “Ok, how about you stand here while I lift this 30-pound bag of cat food, then I will pick you up with my other arm and we’ll go! Whee! Doesn’t that sound like fun!?”

TYO: “OK.”

Me: “Thanks, buddy!”

Why I was fooled by his easy acquiescence, I have no idea - probably because I had no alternative if I wanted to get that frigging cat food. If I had been willing to buy cat food that didn’t have “other cats” as one of its ingredients, I could have tossed my kid into a cart at Safeway and we could have called it a day. Instead, as I kneeled to grab the soul-satisfying kibble, off he ran. Before I could stand up, his rubbery little legs had carried him all the way into the next aisle. I knew he was there because I could hear his gleeful, piercing shrieks, and so could everyone else.

By the time I caught up to him, our faces were both red; his with the exertion of outrunning me for the length of the store, mine with humiliation. As I had chased him up and down the aisles, trying to appeal to him in an authoritative hiss that I hoped, magically, only he and no one else would be able to hear, everyone had turned to look at me with expressions either pitying or appalled. I scooped my flailing, bucking child up sideways into my arm and marched him to the check-out line. The old woman in front of us glared at me disapprovingly as my son somehow escaped my grasp and hiked himself onto the conveyor belt. “Hello,” he said to her as he passed her on his way to the checkout clerk. The old hag’s expression told me she wouldn’t have put up with such nonsense. “Hmm,” she opined through sour, pursed lips.

“Lady,” I said, “I know that you and I are both thinking that I’m that mother, the one who can’t even control a two-year old. And I’m sure things were much different in your day, when you would just cuff your kid on the head if he acted up. But have you been to Wal-Mart lately? If you think slapping my kid would solve the problem, I suggest you go take a whirl through their aisles and see how well that’s working out. So I’m kind of at a loss.”

The old shrew narrowed her eyes at me and, emphatically grabbing her change from the clerk, turned on her heel and walked away.

“Mommy, that lady is so meeeeeeeean!” said my kid, climbing back onto my hip as if the last 10 minutes hadn’t happened. “You’re nice.” As I kissed his head in reprieve, he rappelled off of me and darted towards the door.

Friday, January 15, 2010

You want me to do what?

I’m not sure why I ever thought promotion was something that just happened if you were good at your job. I had no basis whatsoever for thinking that, since I don’t recall ever witnessing that particular chain of events. My main exposure to promotion has been in the context of making partner in a law firm, where nobody who was ever simply good at his job ever made partner. Promotion in a law firm required something more (or different), and what was “good” was something of a moving target:

Partner: “Kate, thanks for coming in. As you know, you were being considered for partnership again this year.”

Kate: “Were?”

Partner: “Well, yes, I’m sorry, ‘were.’” You did great work this year, but when the partners met in a conference room at an expensive resort for a few hours between golf matches and spa treatments, when the dart hit your name we decided you needed a couple more years to really, uh, evolve into partnership material.”

Kate: “I see. You said the same thing to me two years ago, and in response to your concerns I brought in several new marquee clients, increased my revenues by 500%, won the two Supreme Court cases I argued, and received an offer to become a D.C. district court judge. What else could I possibly have to do to make partner?”

Partner: “Well, uh, you know, uh, Janet’s out today and I really need someone to pick up the cake for my son’s birthday party this afternoon.”

Kate: “Excuse me?”

Partner: “Or you could just blow me.”

More realistically, my observation was that dorks, no matter how good their work was, didn’t make partner. That’s simple grade school psychology – the popular kids only want others they perceive as being just like them to belong to their club. In the context of a law firm, that usually means elevating people with borderline sociopath personalities to the status of partner, while creating new, fake categories of “promotion” for the people they don’t like personally but can’t afford to lose. They don’t want to share their money or even a drink with these mere mortals, hence the establishment of “non-equity partners” and “of counsel” roles. The ostensible trade off for this middling placement in the hierarchy is that the counsel can find time to coach his daughter’s soccer team, while the illustrious partner can continue to occasionally attend one of her games without ever taking his eyes off his PDA. And everyone is “happy,” at least the partners.

It turns out the corporate world isn’t a lot different. I think that’s probably OK with me for the time being, but maybe I will reconsider when I have any spare time to care.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Not so funny after all.

My writing class started today, and it took about five minutes to realize I had made a poor choice by selecting a course on humor writing. As with my last class, the first order of business was to post a bio of one’s self. Before doing so, I read the five or six that had already been posted.

Oh, dear.

Everyone clearly felt the pressure to be capital F FUNNY (say this with a sing-song falsetto and throw in some jazz hands to really get the idea), and none of them actually were. It was obvious that whatever I threw up there would similarly reek of strained desperation, so I just held my nose and jumped in. And surprise, surprise, mine sucked as badly as everyone else’s - only in a more self-conscious and stilted manner. Like a butler in a posh household suddenly asked by the gentleman of the house to perform karaoke for the guests.

I’m not sure how I am supposed to get through this class. I paid $400 for it; I have to do something! Maybe I will just write whatever I want each week, regardless of the assignment. What’s the teacher going to do, fail me?

Kate: “Here you go, Teach, enjoy!”

Teacher: “Kate, you’ve submitted an essay on the child soldiers of Darfur.”

Kate: “Well, it just wasn’t a particularly funny week. Maybe next time.”

My assignment this week is to think of five things I find absurd about the world and write a 500-word essay about one of them. It sounds easy, but suddenly I can’t think of anything absurd. Let’s see:

1. Conservative commentators (that’s a gimme).
2. Those shoes that seem to be designed for those of us with cloven hooves.

Hmm. Not doing so well. Perhaps I had better take a nap and see if something comes to me in a dream.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Short 'n' sassy.

I never want to have “no-nonsense” hair. If for some reason I ever feel the need to have short hair, I would much rather take the artfully messy, attempted gamine route than go the way of the humorless, wash-and-go man-woman. Because it is humorless, isn’t it? Who do you know who has both a sensible hairstyle and a fabulous wit? I can think of no-one who fits that category. And hey, call me a hopeless perpetrator of stereotypes, but I’m going to go even further out on a limb and say that as a rule, women who have no-nonsense hair also:

1. have a dreadful sense of style;
a. pantsuits, twinsets, and loafers for one subset
b. football/hockey jackets and bad jeans for another.
2. call other women “gals”;
3. are strident in whatever their area of personal interest may be, be it work or their child’s right to prayer in the classroom;
4. lack a stereotypically minimal level of femininity – remember Jamie Lee Curtis’ aerobicized bod? Even in cocktail dresses and skimpy lingerie, it was incongruous, wasn’t it? It’s hard to imagine her or any other neatly clipped anti-sylph soaking in a bubble bath while eating chocolates and reading a trashy novel.

Yes, I like to generalize grossly, but who doesn’t? Of course I can think of one person who defies this stereotype, but it’s the exception that makes the rule, right? (What does that expression mean, by the way? It makes no sense.)

So this is exciting: today a federal court in San Francisco begins hearing a challenge to Proposition 8, that triumph of bigotry that was passed by a not-so-caring public in the 2008 California elections. This morning on NPR, one citizen of California was quoted as saying that Californians are tired of wasting the taxpayers’ money on a ridiculous issue like this where “the people have already spoken” through Prop 8 about how traditional marriage should be between a man and a woman. Well, honey, that’s tough, because even though you may have voiced your opinion, and even if that opinion is apparently shared by a majority of the people who voted on the issue, that doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t make it constitutional. Our l’il ol’ legal system is designed to keep the occasionally misguided majority from getting the last word when to do so would violate the Constitution (see, e.g., Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia). Maybe you could stop wasting everyone else’s time and money by focusing on more important issues like eradicating world hunger or minding your own business.

At least this is what I am hoping; that when our conservative Supreme Court is faced with this case on appeal, they won’t be able to deny that to deny a person the right to marry is to deny that person equal protection under the law. Separate but equal is inherently unequal, y’all.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


With my drastically improved brain chemistry, I rarely feel any road rage anymore. I wouldn’t say the anger I used to experience while driving ever rose to the level of causing me to do anything reckless, but it was still of fine, blood pressure-raising caliber and always incited a muttered recitation of some of the most creative combinations of nasty words I could summon to mind. This morning, when a woman in a tinny little Honda “Fit” cut me off, I recognized it as a situation where I would in the past have felt my temper flare. Instead, I felt a small, muted “grr” somewhere deep inside, and some idle contempt for her car, but not much else. Wondering if I could summon up some good old fashioned vitriol, and after a quick glance in the rear view mirror reassured me that my kids weren’t in the car, I self-consciously shouted, “Bitch!” just to see how it would feel.

Ugh. First, my lame invocation bounced rather thinly around the interior of the Santa Fe, reminding me that my own car is kind of flimsy. Second, the ensuing bitterness in my mouth was as if the word had squirted straight out of a piece of Freshen Up gum, filling my mouth with a dulling, lukewarm venom instead of with a burst of sweet, minty flavor. So clearly, shouting obscenities is useless when there’s no feeling behind it. It sounds half-assed and silly.

Stranger, though, was the physical reaction in mouth, which quickly spread straight upward into my brain. Is that what non-depressed people always feel when they say something mean, or was it just a quirk because it was contrived ugliness? Either way, it felt bad and decidedly unnecessary, and made me wonder WHO AM I? Having children and popping anti-depressants has made me a big old sap.

Meanwhile, I have yet to report on our Christmas trip. We survived the airplane travel, although man, it is it a pain in the ass to get through security with two small children and all their accoutrements. Once in Charlotte, we had a great time with family, and it was a pleasant change to have other people around who actually wanted to entertain our kids. A couple of highlights from an otherwise fairly typical (although strangely devoid of dysfunction) family holiday were:

1. Our trip to NYC was cancelled. Asshole snowstorm. (OK, just learned, some calling of names still feels familiar and good. Maybe this morning’s existential brain fart was only because I hadn’t yet had breakfast.) The only upside of having our long awaited romantic getaway ruined was that I was sick anyway, so our trip would probably not have been as fun as it should have been. Instead, R. and I booked a room at the Ritz and spent an evening watching a Broncos game at a bar and eating Thai food. That was followed by a bath in the awesome tub (for me; I was sick, after all), a 12-hour sleep in our fabulous bed, and room-service breakfast. All in all, quite a heavenly fallback provision.

2. There is a group of schoolchildren in Charlotte that idolizes Ian. One of R’s sisters is a teacher of 4th graders with special emotional needs, and she has been telling them about her little nephews for months. She asked us to come by her school one day so her students could meet the boys, so we did. We fully expected the kids to ignore us and our children and generally to continue on with their lives, but we could not have been more wrong. When R’s sister introduced Ian to her class, you would have thought a rock star or the Messiah had entered their midst – seriously. A delighted call of “Ian!” lifted the rafters, and many of the kids rushed up to see him and even to touch him. One boy grabbed Ian’s hand and announced that Ian wanted to hold his hand, while others just lightly touched his back and peered at him wondrously as if he were a benign little alien. The kids spent the next 20 minutes showing Ian around the classroom and finding fun entertainment for him, never seeming to realize he was much, much younger than they. One girl asked if she could take his picture with her cell phone.

With all of this adulation, you would have thought our two year old might be scared or at least befuddled – but no. He acted as if such behavior was perfectly natural and verily, his birthright. It was really something to see, and extremely sweet. It made me happy that that there is place for kids whose emotions are a little more fragile than the average to be nurtured and nurturing; where nobody makes fun of them for being kind-hearted and gentle.