Saturday, May 31, 2014

Peeling Carrots

"It just feels less special without Jimmy in this world, doesn't it?"  I ask my husband while peeling carrots and after two mixed drinks.

"Yes.  Yes it does," he admits in a lower register than usual.

I don't care if I make it awkward.  Jimmy's name is as common around my household as it ever was.  I bring him up from time to time and so far the only downside is having Abby ask me if I'm crying because of "Uncle Jimmy" every time I blow my nose.  Sometimes, Honey, it really is just a sneeze.

For the most part, I carry no weight of sadness on my shoulders.  I no longer live through that day of hearing about him being gone over and over again like a loop of a YouTube video.  I am able to function as a mom, wife, daughter, and friend.  But other times, when I'm doing dishes or peeling carrots with my grandmother's vegetable peeler, I go there.  And it's not always a bad thing.

When a favorite person of yours is no longer here to look forward to seeing, hugging, clinking glasses with, Instant Messaging, or just setting your eyes on, the world is on a forever tilt.  The day you learn you can't be with him anymore is the day minutes shift and smush down onto a record that has a finite number of lines on the vinyl.  And that feels right.  Your mortality is in visual and that's alright too.  It doesn't feel like a thing that is to be feared or guarded against but more like a fine tuning of your time left.

Yes, I wish I made it to his apartment for that drink we talked of having.  No, I don't regret doubling back for that awkward conversation and even more awkward hug I gave in his driveway one summer day when his thoughts were elsewhere and his spirit was low.  Yes, I want to climb through the clouds to hear him tell me if any of this dying business hurt and was he scared when he knew nobody was coming for him.  Yes, my God yes, do I wish I could've been there for him like he has always been there for me.  There would've been nothing to stop me from getting to him in time. Not. One. Damn. Thing.  But that wasn't negotiable, nor is it worth any time spent in regret.

But, holy sh*t do the days show their palor and the conversations I have with others mark his absence like they should.  I don't try as hard to make an impression because the one I wanted to impress is gone.  Maybe there is freedom there.   For some time later.

My world -this world- is missing someone so, so special and that's hard to get used to.  It will always feel off, I think, and maybe that's just how it's going to be.

Our last Instant Message Conversation:

Jimmy:  Hello my favorite niece. Just wanted to say thank you for your kind happy Father's Day greeting. I had a great day. Hope to see you soon and as a reminder, we both have a birthday coming up soon. Yours is joyfully anticipated, mine is being met with all the eagerness of attending a Dahmer family reunion.

Jimmy:  Are you smiling? Hope so. Could not love you any more. oooxoxoxox Uncle Jimmy
February 10, 2013 5:05 pm
Erin:  p'ville just sold again a few months ago. it was the highest sale in our neighborhood overall, awesome! i'm now "following" it on this site so i can find out when it goes on the market again. leave it to me to follow a house on the interwebs. maybe it has a twitter account? it totally should xoxo love you, uncle jimmy! xoxoxox

February 11, 2013 4:41 am

Jimmy:  Awww....So exciting. We'll get that house back, yet! My biggest regret was letting it go.

Erin:  No regrets, you had to. Boomps was still "in it" and holy moly as much as we love him, a ghost him would just be too much. We will ke track of it and maybe stak it until it's ready for us again. xoxo
*keep * stalk My editor is still asleep.
September 14, 2013 3:04 pm
Erin:  Dear Jimmy, I miss you so much I can't stand it.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Letter to Myself

Do you want to run?  Let's hold hands and run with coyotes.

Do you want to sing?  Sing until light lifts from your skin like an easy sunrise.

Do you want to sit quietly and watch?  Then grab your blankets, watch those tiny lizards in the grass, and narrate their funny, busy pace to find each other.

Do you want to walk among the ones just like you?  Then go.  Go to where you feel them, hear them, see them.  But don't walk.  Run.  They might be leaving soon because it's getting hot and one of them forgot sunscreen.  Run toward the ones just like you because that's a start.

Then turn the other way and bump into all the rest.  Be uncomfortable and green.  Nobody cares if you're not where you think you should be.  We all have a parallel me - the one we planned on and the one who says "that's horsesh*t" to her children.   Push yourself to stand there - all there - every stretch of your 5 foot 6 inches without hunching like a scared kangaroo.  Honor your expression as much as theirs for both are valid.  This place won't last forever.  Three years has already turned into one down, two more to go.  There is rich, exciting fabric to weave yourself into where some won't notice and others won't forget.

Go and be here while you still can.

Because you still most certainly can.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Feverish Time

Abby's fever is hovering between 101.7 and 103.5.  I've already texted a trusted mom friend asking which number do we hit before DEFCON ice cube bath.  We agreed 104 is the number.  104.5 is grabbing car keys and screaming directives to the dog sitter.

My Ninjas (in-laws) are here visiting and I have no idea how to keep an arsenal of preschool germs from entering their immune system.  I'm protecting mine well with gin from a second Tom Collins.

There's a fan Andy brought in to our room (sickbay) that is both keeping Abby cool and me hard of hearing. This white noise brings me back to teenage years.  My brother, Eric, sleeping in 'til noon after a late night at the restaurant.  It was never less than 64 degrees near his bed so I'd curl up on the futon, snuggling close the afghan with diamond holes in it.  Sometimes I'd get in a whole episode of Saved By the Bell before he ever stirred.  Then his feet would wiggle Hello.

Sadie's on high alert with Abby's fever.  She stays close by which is typical when things go awry in our house.  As if her presence alone will bring strength to some invisible structure only she sees adding up.  She's right.  Love molecules do accrue when she's near.

She's a walking shield of healing.

Lately, I've wanted to sit with time instead of curse its passing.  There's no sure-fire way but stillness comes close to damming the steady flow of minutes.

Abby's calling for me, calling for "Mama" and when I'm with her she thanks me so profusely it's bordering on hallucinations.  "You're the best, Mama.  Please no more wet cloths on my shoulders, it's so, so hot.  Thank you for taking good care of me, Mama.  Will it hurt when all these colors break?  What did you say, Mama?"

Nothing, Baby.  Close your eyes and try to sleep.  The fever calms when you are resting.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Growth Spurt

As usual, it is a race against the clock to get myself out the door for Abby's preschool end-of-year program.  While Andy waits in the car for his snippy wife, I am locking doors, grabbing lip balm, and circling back for sunglasses.  I head for the tissues just in case.  Too little, too late.  Ready tears push down my face and the only thing Andy is waiting on now is for me to pull my sh*t together.  

Wasn't I just holding Abby's little hand as she jumped into puddles at Grayson's preschool?  I was.  I can see her little impish grin.  She was wearing her tiny brown sandals that squeaked.  Didn't I just have to figure out how to get green paint out of her bellybutton or decipher her cries when Grayson wasn't around to read her mind?  Weren't we just hugging our friends and families goodbye in driveways of Virginia?  

Time flies isn't really accurate.  It's more like Time crawls, stalls, then lunges forward in one pitiful pile of tears at 8:45 one sunny Monday morning.  

"Mommy, are you OK?" asks a worried graduating preschooler. 

"Yes, Baby.  I think it's allergies, all this pollen."

"I think I have pollen, too, Mommy."  Oh my dear hearted sympathy-crying baby girl.  You're my last shot at getting this right or wrong or just getting it at all.  After you, I stroll into a new plateau of scary unknowns and itchy years of aching for these days.  I don't want to ache for them and had convinced myself I would most certainly not but the twinge is already here - a pang of please come back and let me rock you to sleep, sweetheart.  The new life won't be awful, I know I'm looking a gift horse in the mouth, but it's going to be different and right now, I just want it to all be the same.  Why can't we ever rest in sameness?

The tissue-searching meltdown helped me get through Abby's program without one gulp of tears.  She sang out proudly in tight jeggings and a rainbow zebra-striped tank top.  She stood out and stole the show for me among her peers of summery dresses and neatly parted hairdos.  My girl isn't like the others and my heart can hardly hold itself still when I watch her beautiful difference up there - signing with those little hands for all she's worth:  "Yes, Jesus Loves Me." If pride feels like a panic attack then I was as proud as I've ever been.  Vertigo threatened to take me down but I talked myself into a standing ovation instead. 

Ah, Feelers and all their inconvenient Feelings.   

I'm sure my real breakdown won't happen until the fall.  The summertime still affords me many crazed and frustrated hours of aimless hours to fill.  I cannot wait.  It will be one of our last summers where they'll call me Mommy, where we'll have adventures in our backyard, or they'll be ok with not hanging out with their friends all day long.  It'll be one of our last summers that this familiar trio will be connected at the hip for weeks on end.  It will be sweaty but it will be cozy and good.

Soon after, I'll have to plunk them both down on the school bus and be useless to anyone for 8 hours a day. Is this the quiet I've been pining for when it's 4pm and I can no longer read a recipe to its completion in the din of living?  Is this the sense of being benched and no long integral in the upcoming years?  Am I bummed to retire my role as the nucleus of all of their sweet needy little molecules?   Yes.  Yes.  And so much yes.  

And the breach in my system is taking me by such surprise I can hardly think past it.  

Oh sentimental me, didn't I know this is the whole point?  It's not making snowflakes out of coffee filters and stacking Max & Ruby Save The Day back onto their bookshelves.  It's not Tic Tac Toe on napkins in restaurants, building fairy houses out of cardboard tubes, or catching frogs in their good school shoes. 

Didn't I know the better job I do, the less they will need me standing next to them for help?  

Yes.  I knew all of that.  But somehow I thought I'd have more time. 

The rub is that we always think we'll have more time.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

How I Met My Mother

There comes a day when we rip off the band-aid and see our mom as a person separate from her role as our mom.  If we're lucky, and I was, we get some of that while growing up.  And then again after having our own children.  And then last week over FaceTime.  

Seeing her this way is like meeting a stranger at a party, listening to her catch up with old friends, and watching as she orders a drink you've never heard of.  She's fascinating, engaging, and very, very funny.

Here are some of the many ways I got to meet my mother.

  • Mom as Surgical Assistant - When my brother was 16 he got into a bad car accident.   The ER where the ambulance took him had only a skeleton crew that night.  After a three-hour wait, Mom went back to the room, let the doctors know she was an oral surgery assistant so she could see her son.  Mom left me in the waiting room with clear instructions to wait for her and not go back there.  Being a dutiful voyeur, I snuck back to find a familiar face scrubbed in.  In a matter of seconds, she had two patients as my head became swimmy and I passed out right into a garbage can.    
  • Mom as Ginger Rogers - Sometime in the early 90s my mom decided to take ballroom dancing. She couldn't talk her then boyfriend into taking the lessons, too so she just went by herself.  I remember waving to her from the driveway as she drove off with a nervous smile.  Even without a recital, we could tell lessons were going well from the flowers showing up at our door.  Dancing dude was smitten with Mom and tried very hard to win her affections away from the boyfriend.  Mom stood firm, however, and she (with those elegant long legs) bowed out of dancing lessons gracefully in the end.  

  • Mom as Animal Rescuer - One time in the 80s while I was roller skating to Debbie Gibson in our basement, Mom was grinding up dried dog food for two orphaned baby birds she found near our house.  Without Google, Mom figured out how to nurture these bald and blind critters to health and a wealth of feathers.  I'd find her feeding them with a tiny eyedropper, teaching them how to grub for worms, and bathe in the dust.  Mom was very thorough.  To our surprise, those baby birds took off in flight when it was time to let them go.  Eric and I didn't have the heart to tell her they never left our backyard trees.  Their great-great-great grandbirdies are probably still populating those trees to this day - oddly intransient birds who hop only from limb to limb of the same tree.

  • Mom as Collector - When my mom crushes on something, she falls hard.  Then she wants all of them.  In the world.  Through ebay.  Somehow she started on those glass jars that store brandy.  What are they called, decanters?  She owns maybe 15 of them (thrift finds, I'm guessing) and doesn't even drink liquor, bless her heart.  And please don't ask me how many Vera Bradley purses she might have tucked safely in their dust bags.  She only has two arms and one daughter but that doesn't stop her from bargain shopping for another one to send to me in case I need to wear it with something ecru.  

  • Mom as Mrs. Somerhalder.  My mom thinks Ian Somerhalder is her boyfriend.  She adored the man well before I knew him as an animal activist.  She watched him as the vampire bad boy in Vampire Diaries because my mom loves all that creepy stuff.  Before that I couldn't call her between 9pm and midnight lest I interrupt her Ghost Hunter marathons.  Let's just say she asked for an electromagnetic field detector for Christmas one year.  And still uses it.    

(Ian is far left for those of you who aren't into vampires.)

  • Mom as Facebook Dropout - My dear mother does not get Facebook.  She has an account, occasionally uses it properly, then one day calls me in a panic because Ian Somerholder just left her a picture of himself on her wall.  Oh Mom.  That's your newsfeed.  I got the same picture of Ian. He's just using you to get to me, Dear. 

My mom does have a point, y'all.

  • Mom as Aesthetician - Without fail I spend more time watching my mom pat down her neck or push toward her temples than actually engaging in conversation over FaceTime. Mom, you look great.  Listen, I want to talk to you about our summer vacation.  Dear God, do I really look like this?  Why can you only see the inverted skin on this thing?  Does my skin look all inverted to you on that end?  Mom.  Seriously, I don't even know what that means.  You look beautiful as always, I really like your hair.  Oh thank you, my hair is about the only thing behaving today...Oh Honey, have you gotten your brows done recently, your eyes look so open!  Oh good.  A two-way mirror.
  • Mom as Diane Keaton - A little over a year ago, a friend of mine told me my mom reminded her of Diane Keaton.  Perfect, I told her.  I canNOT wait for her to hear this.  She's going to love that.  Come with me so you can see her reaction, will you?  Hey Mom, guess what?  What.  You know who Jen thinks you look like?  Kate Winslet.  No.  Um, no.  Diane KEATON.  Ah, yes, I can see that.  
  • Mom Unplugged- I can't remember the first time I saw my mom play the guitar but I can tell you it never gets old.  When I was little, I'd beg her to sing Roger Whittaker's Whiskey in the Jar and Peter, Paul & Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon just so I could hear her voice rise and fall and watch her fingers reach and press strings I still barely understand. 
  • Mom as Lent Observer - This year my mom gave up meat for lent.  She's lost about 12 pounds from her already svelte frame and thus, has been barely able to peel herself off the couch to play with her boxer puppy.  Other than that, she says she feels great - ?!?- and that she doubts she'll ever go back to a carnivorous lifestyle...until our last FaceTime session when I caught her gnawing on a hunk of Filipino beefsteak that had been marinading in soy and something else yummy overnight.  Thank goodness.  I think maybe we'll ease her into a vegan world one week at a time.

  • Mom as YouTube Aficionado - Most recently I mentioned to my mom I've been trying to build more muscle.  She no sooner heard me say that when I received a few emails in my inbox from her that led me to a YouTuber named Leslie who has excellent workouts for busy moms.  I mean, excellent workouts that make you grunt and want to stop at 5 instead of 15.  A few videos and one yoga ball later, I've shaved off one inch from the hipular region and can feel ab muscles underneath the layers of loving kindness womb cushion still remaining.  Thanks to my mom (and Leslie), I am feeling better about my ability to get back to me.  Me as The Old Me.  Me as Her Daughter. Me as Stranger Ordering Mysterious Drink. 
Cheers to all the mamas out there whether you mother children, fur babies, feathered babies, yourself, or your friends.  May we all get to see the real sides of one another shine through more often than our Hallmark versions.  It would be such a shame to cover up the good stuff. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Such a simple joy, lasting only minutes before she's tearing off her swimsuit to wrestle dry clothes over a dripping little frame.  Because suddenly, so very urgently, she has to paint a dress made of toilet paper, for Elsa.

She's off designing, taping, painting - fiercely devoted to her own made-up task.  I can barely keep up. Physically, I am standing all day like her beacon of light, listing in the water when she needs to see there's still someone taking care of her.  

I'm here.  Watching constantly, loving on often, reassuring frequently, and worrying way too damn much. This is my worry face.  Dear Sparrow has it down: 

Cute on her, not so much on a nearly 40-year-old woman with crow's feet.

All the worry, I know it's bad.  I can feel its gnarly cells leaching into my body, stealing off with my proper liver functions and Buddha-like peace.  

Good news is I've identified the problem.  Bad news is I'm stuck in a rut and not sure how to get out.  Yoga my way toward the light?  Vacation away the stress?  Interview toward a different goal altogether? 

Chocolate.  I just wish chocolate was the answer.  

I'm trying to take a page from my son's way of doing things.  At school and on the field, he is hyper-determined and freight-train driven to the point of distraction.  We have to remind him it's about teamwork and S+ are not so bad.  But he completely turns it off when he leaves the field.  Somehow he can let it go when there is no field.

I need to get the hell off my field, guys.  

Don't worry.  This isn't code for an abysmal dark hole I'm digging myself out of.  It's just an annoying little bad habit rut I want to mash down with my fists.  Wanted to share in case you've been there, too.  I'll figure something out.  Right now, I get the feeling I'm supposed to work it off (physically - run, workout, increase muscle) and intellectually work it through (get myself re-certified?  pursue another field entirely?  Dance naked to the Beastie Boys?)  

The balance between worry and peace will always rock back and forth, never resting center for long.  My goal is to strike that balance of me vs. them vs. us enough of the time that it doesn't feel like work to smile.

Because look how beautiful that must feel.

Monday, May 5, 2014


If Andrea from About 100% asked me to hike part of the Appalachian Trail, I'd price hiking boots.  If she suddenly showed up at my house in a rental, a feathered boa, and a flimsy reason why, I'd drive us both to Vegas.  Actually, I would probably head to Nashville and tell her I'm horrible with directions. Since she has recently asked me to take part in a blog tour about our writing process, I'm all in.

What's a blog tour?  Not sure exactly.  But I do know what a writing process is because I spent 9,4245139587103758 hours in writing classes while lamenting about what I wanted to do with my life.  That's like eating twenty stuffed olives while rooting through the fridge for what you might like for a snack.  One Psychology then Journalism then Philosophy then Veterinary Medicine then Gerontology major later and I'm standing with weepy eyes before a Career Counselor the last semester of my senior year.  All the while, eating stuffed olives.

So, here's a failed psychologist/journalist/philosopher/veterinary student's take on writing.

1) What am I working on?

Foremost, a writing schedule. There are stories my kids ask me to tell them all the time ("Please, the one about Uncle Eric and you chasing him with your hairbrush!  The one about your dog getting stuck in the sewer at Thanksgiving!) that I want to compile in one spot for them.  I'm holding my feet to the fire until I finish that in the fall.  Another writing project I'm working on is sorting through all my old poetry from the 90s and seeing what can be shaped into what two decades later.  What's most interesting about those old writings isn't my sappy perspective or nostalgic heart. Tiger stripes, those are.  What's most interesting are the doodles.  There is something so therapeutic about those sketches.  Like silent flares and tiny explosions of encouragement from the sidelines.  Keep going, they say.  We're here to help, they promise.  Whose days couldn't use more suns bursting through the lines or curling gardens of teardrops in their margins?

2) How does my writing differ from others in its genre?
I might be one of the few who writes a blog but doesn't consider herself a blogger.  Through the years, I've learned that bloggers network, comment on each other's work regularly, and attend functions with other bloggers to grow and develop.  I tried for a while and spent most of that time hiding in a deli with a spoon in my mouth.  For that reason, my writing differs because I'm comfortable with or without an audience.  My audience here is an intimate group of intelligent friends (some I've never met) who come here to visit, nothing more.  They're not looking for advice or guidance.  They're not here for a revolution.  Neither am I.  Any time someone leaves a comment or sends an email, it's like we ran into a cafe from out of the rain, sharing an umbrella.  Unexpected fun.  A welcome surprise.

While I do appreciate readers, I write for myself as a rule.  For a later time when I can pore over the details of this busy life as a mom who knew she was missing the point sometimes.  For a later time when I want to remember who my children were before pessimism and teenage swag.  For a later time when I might not remember things so clearly and it begins to bother me.  When you write for yourself, realism and romance are your sanctuary while details and specifics become your stained glass.

3) Why do I write what I do?
Oops.  Got ahead of myself and already answered this question in number 2.  I do make a concentrated effort not to confuse my stories with anyone else's.  When starting this blog, I vowed not to write about anyone else's experience but mine- thus the name, One-Sided Momma.  It's becoming a fine line for my kids as they get older.  My comfort level with sharing them has changed since starting this blog.  I'm going with this recent evolution and feel happy to embark on a new path.  Fewer mommy stories and more about a lady trying to live her own personal truths - personal, professional, and sometimes spiritual.  Of course, this will necessitate a new blog name soon, I think.  Any suggestions?  

4) How does my writing process work?
Man, this question makes me feel like I forgot to study.  My writing process doesn't exist.  Or maybe it does but it's in my head.  Typically, a post is written in my head while I shower, mow the lawn, untangle my dogs on a walk, marry socks, or drive home in a quiet minivan.  Then, if there aren't any other pressing priorities, I jump on my husband's computer, twist my legs into an anxious uni-limb and type frantically until I feel an exhale coming on.  Every period is an exhale.  Every comma is an invitation for me to rewrite the sentence. I'm a huge comma splicing maniac.  Always trying to better the structure but forever leaning on old bad habits.

One thing my favorite English prof taught me was to learn all the rules first, follow them well for a very long time, then dance.  I probably dance too much.

Thank you for the visit.  It's always a pleasure sharing an umbrella with you.