Eden M. Kennedy

mission accomplished, pal

Eden M. Kennedy is the co-author (with Alice Bradley) of the book Let's Panic About Babies! (St. Martin's Press).

A former college-radio DJ, Mrs. Kennedy has driven cross-country six times in a 1973 Volkswagen Bug and enjoys standing on her head.

Currently she works a straight job and is just about finished writing her first novel.

Whatever Makes You Different Makes You Pretty

I’ve been going through my drafts folder and inadvertently publishing ten-year-old posts about caulk and LeBron James, which is kind of a funny glimpse back into the mind of the person I still, basically, am. I saved the title of this post on September 19, 2007, and “whatever makes you different makes you pretty” was probably a notion that struck me while I was doing the dishes or photographing action figures pretending to talk about Downton Abbey. (I only have the dialog from that particular post I was paid to write for Babble.com, and sadly they’ve taken it down. I wish I had backed up the photos I took of the entire cast of Twilight action figures I once purchased so I could pose them talking, in character, with Hulk and Iron Man about the new maid who was lying about her past to Lord Grantham.)

My mom having a good time by a lake in Minnesota in the early 1950s.

As far as brain secretions* go, however, “whatever makes you different makes you pretty” has some merit. It might have come out of remembering the time when I broke my nose, and after it healed it had a bump in it. My mom wanted to pay to have the bump removed. I declined her offer, because I sort of liked the change, to be honest. I liked feeling that my face had been roughed up a bit, that pretty wasn’t as important as the lesson I learned about my own ego after being a showoff on a bike and having my face ground into a stucco wall. My mother’s own nose was scarred after a childhood run-in with a door frame, and she never seemed to mind the way it looked. She had a tiny bit of a pug nose. Maybe she owned that nose of hers, maybe she realized that was part of her work, not to be bothered by the scar from a split nostril. She also had one eye that was half blue and half brown.

If we listen to the Taoists, we’ll see that when some things become pretty, then others become ugly. If you start dividing things up into good/bad categories, all you’re doing is creating a lot of suffering.

* Uchiyama Roshi said,

“Thoughts are the secretions of our brains, the same way as stomach acid is the secretion of our stomachs.” The brain is a bodily organ with a job to do. It digests the impressions it receives the same way the stomach digests the food it receives. We don’t pay close attention to every little thing the stomach does to get on with its work, and we don’t need to pay close attention to what the brain does either.

But we’ve all developed the habit of being obsessed with the content of our thoughts. It’s not easy to break that habit. People often want to learn some special technique that will change that habit.

This is part of a larger discussion on meditation technique that I found really useful. It’s also useful if you’re working on impulse control, or just being a more peaceful person.

Anyway, I finished reading True Grit yesterday, and every time I think about the end I start to choke up. It’s so good, honestly. I might read it again as soon as Jack finishes it, because I pressed the book into his hands with the kind of silent gravity that made him look taken aback and assure me that he’d start reading it right away. Because he’s probably going to spend the day on the couch taking his antibiotics and watching football anyway, so he might as well turn off the sound and read a novel instead, right? Ha ha, yes, that’s the way husbands work. I just rolled my eyes so loudly I could hear cartilage crunch.

Horse

I don't talk much here about my deep and abiding love for LeBron James. But there it is. How much do I love LeBron? I wish he'd get traded to the Lakers so I could buy his jersey and wear it to bed, and that's not the half of it.

Jack knows and understands my crush on King James, so he sent me this video of LeBron losing a game of HORSE to some guy with amazing trick shot skills. I don't think you need to be a huge basketball fan to like this, and it's a nice reminder that there are a lot of great playground shooters out there who could, in the right circumstances, put an all-star to shame.

Rock Out With Your Caulk Out

This was originally published on my blog Fussy some ten-odd years ago, but somehow Squarespace thought everyone might like to see it again in 2018, and I’m not going to fight it. Enjoy.

Along with light bulbs, nuclear energy, and shows on a network I don't really watch, General Electric now also makes caulk. Personally, I like to focus on just doing one or two things at a time, like beading and knitting, until I can do them well, as opposed to GE's tack which seems to be "let's manufacture an impossibly wide variety of somewhat evil products. And make an ass-load of money." So that's one clear difference between G.E. and me: I bead for free. Profit motive aside, the packaging for these decidedly non-electric "caulk singles" G.E. sent me to review is great. A+ for that, General Electric! They're hefty and squeezy and feel great and not at all evil in your hand. So I took my little packages of caulk into the bathroom because I had some cracks in the grout in my shower. Because being married to a contractor does not guarantee that you'll live a grout-crack-free existence. It guarantees a lot of other things, including food to eat, cable TV, and fancy hand-me-down cellphones, but between Jack's understandable desire to come home and stop working and my housework ADD, a lot of shit can go by the wayside. So I thought I'd try fixing up our shower grout cracks all by myself with some free G. E. caulk.

Anyway, here you see some of the cracks I had to tackle. I'm a crack tackler!

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Nice housekeeping, I know. Please.

Once I had photographed my cracks, Cookie and I examined the free caulk.

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The best choice seemed to be the one on the right: white waterproof silicone. I set the others aside and opened up the label to read the directions.

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"Remove dirt, grease, moisture, and old caulk." I supposed my shower was clean, grease-free, and dry. Enough. No old caulk, just the original grout.

Then came this mysterious piece of advice: "To finish: Smooth or "tool" bead if needed." I knew for a fact that I didn't know what "tool" beading was, it sounded like some sort of professional tile-setter lingo. But I knew that if they were marketing this stuff to people like me it couldn't be that hard to use, right? Just squirt in in the crack and let it dry! What could possibly go wrong?

God, isn't this exciting? I can't wait to see what happens next.

What happened next is that I made somewhat of a mess. The caulk has the consistency of toothpaste so it's easy to manipulate. But it squeezes out of the package kind of irregularly, and I ended up with cracks that looked like they were filled with badly applied toxic birthday cake icing. And because I still didn't know what "tool beading" was, I went and got a Q-tip, thinking I could jam the grout deeper into the cracks and then smooth it out nicely. Why I thought a cotton swab would be the best tool for the job, I have no idea, but it ended up just creating little peaks and swirls with the caulk and just generally looking like hell. So then I did what any normal cave-dweller would do, I used my finger. This had the advantage of smoothing out the caulk somewhat more evenly, but once you get this shit on your hands it's almost impossible to wash off. I went and got a damp paper towel to wipe the excess caulk off the tiles, but then I'd accidentally touch the caulk and mess it up and have to start all over again.

This is what my cracks ended up looking like:

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Jack came home for lunch and inspected my work. He immediately went to the utility closet and got a big yellow sponge that had been left by the guys who originally set all our tile. He showed me how you make it damp and then wipe the caulk off the tile. But it didn't wipe off. Then he went and got a scraper and scraped it all off the tile. Then he tried to wipe the caulk off his hands and said, "What the hell is this shit?"

"It's caulk. By G.E.," I said. I showed him the package. "See? It's for small jobs."

"Why don't you just buy a tube of Dap? It comes with a cap, you don't have to use it all at once, it's waterproof, and it wipes off a lot easier than this shit," he said, scrubbing his hands with a wire brush.

"But this is for people who are intimidated by big professional products. It comes in a cute little package."

"So you're paying for a cute package filled with shitty caulk, I get it," he said, lowering his welder's mask and firing up a blowtorch to clean his fingernails.

I am not doing NaBloPoMo

Death is not interested in your pleading, young pink pope. Well, maybe Death is interested, because Death is the sort of being who finds the fervent denial of bejeweled persons amusing, but in the end nothing you say will make to make any difference because Death brings everything and everyone and every situation to an end eventually, and thank god for that. Because death is change and change is life, and isn’t that a cosmic hoot.

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in which I continue to be back

The process of becoming Extremely Online again is going just fine, thank you. I updated my About page to reflect that fact that Let’s Panic went out of print last spring, after seven years of unrivaled success in the pregnancy-and-parenthood-expert mockery section of your local bookstore that probably closed two years ago. Actually, it feels like independent, brick and mortar bookstores may be on a bit of an upswing. That is my perception, it’s what I sense from my tiny perch on this stool in my attic office overlooking a hedge and three garbage cans.

I have that sense because now that I’m on a break from writing I am reading actual novels again, stories printed on paper, like some sort of literate person. I just finished Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, and have finally begun reading that classic True Grit. Neither book is all that recent, but I think any author would hope that their published work would last in the public consciousness at least as long as it took for them to write it. Even if the financial return isn’t that great, it seems like the energetic output you make ought to balance out somehow. Said the woman who just spent six years writing a novel and has been waiting five weeks to hear what her agent thinks of this latest draft.

In becoming online again I also made the terrible discovery that all my Yogabeans photos had vanished. I was pretty upset! Once upon a time I’d put a fair amount of work into that site and found a lot of chuckles in the writing of it and in the comments I got, so I never backed any of it up. I trusted the Internet to keep it forever. I deleted every single carefully posed action figure photo from my photo library to free up the space on my laptop.

 You know how sometimes you go to a thrift store and find a thing that you didn’t know you needed and wanted with all your heart until you saw it?

You know how sometimes you go to a thrift store and find a thing that you didn’t know you needed and wanted with all your heart until you saw it?

Miraculously, Squarespace unearthed the whole site somehow and now the whole page is restored! That was Saturday, and now it’s Thursday and I still haven’t downloaded and backed up any of the photos. Will I? Who knows!

I was pretty depressed over the weekend and it took a while for me to grasp the source of it. The news has been terrible lately. Children are starving to death in Yemen and politicians got pipe bombs in the mail and a Pittsburgh synagogue got shot up by a deluded idiot, and also people I know had loved ones get sick and die, and it all leaves behind a lot of intense grief. I took on just a small part of this global and national and personal grief in an unconscious and unproductive way and was quickly swamped by it. “Do I need to get a divorce?” I thought in my darkest moment, wondering if this deadened feeling I had was because I had no one to turn to because my husband had spent most of the weekend doing his own recovery by watching a shitload of sports TV. And then I realized what I needed to do to feel better was mail in my ballot for the mid-term election because fuck all the awful people who shouldn’t be in charge anymore.

If I were in charge I might dress like a bee every day. 

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Not shown are the little bee antennae I wore for the bee ball that night, and I just realized that my slippers were criss-crossed on my feet so the bee prince will never be able to find me now. OH, well.

brb deleting fb

I got David Sedaris’s “Theft by Finding” for Christmas and finally read it last month, I don’t know why I waited so long except that ugh, it was so big, and diaries? Why. I mean, I know diaries are a venerable literary form and all that. I don’t even know what I’m complaining about, honestly. I’m just in a mood. A Big Mood, as the kids say. My kid is seventeen, by the way. I don’t think it’s legal for me to post photos of him anymore, so I’ll describe him for you: six-foot-two, hair longer than mine, a near-Barrymore profile, eyebrows like two fine kabuki smudges. He sleeps like a pony.

What else is new with me? Gosh, it’s been two years since I posted last. I knowingly broke my RSS feed by changing around the links a couple of times, because that felt like a fresh start, to cut off all ties. I finished writing my novel, I think. It’s being read by my agent right now, so fingers crossed she won’t come back at me with so many new insights that I have to rewrite it again. Some chapters have gone through more than twenty drafts. I can’t describe how it feels to not give up on a project of this breadth for six years. I just knew I had to finish it, see it through to a state where I felt it was complete, where I was done, where I’d said everything I had to say and said it the way that conveyed exactly what I meant. I grew deeply in touch with some long-suppressed perfectionist tendencies, and we are friends now. We have embraced, our hands in each others back pockets, inseparable as a long-haired 1970s couple who you can’t tell who’s a boy or a girl from behind. This is a deeply personal reference and there’s no promise that if you keep reading I will provide an explanation.

Well, okay: Cher and Greg Allman.

If I still owe you a drawing, will you please let me know? My spreadsheet disappeared and I never got the last dozen sent and I have been carrying this terrible knowledge around with me for five years or more. It may be why I stopped blogging, honestly, the guilt. Please yell at me through eden m kennedy at g mail dot com. PLEASE. Yell at me tenderly, though. Wrap me up in a blanket of your disappointment. We’ll fix this together.

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George Cooney is here to remind everyone who filed an extension about the upcoming tax deadline.

Fearless Inaction

I got into my first #BlackLivesMatter argument with a stranger! It was not #superfun.

The organization I work for has a sidewalk sign and we change the message every week. Usually it's a short, inspirational quote, but it's a liberal organization so I'm often on my guard in case someone walks into the office and has a problem with whatever's out there. It's not really my job to defend the organization and its views -- I'm not a member, I just work there -- but often the higher-ups have better things to do than argue with strangers so my job sometimes entails defusing cranks.

Unfortunately, when Mr. All Lives Matter called our office this week, I did not have on my Welcoming Hat of Patience and Respect. Instead my plumage was bright with righteousness and spread wide about me, and soon, as witnesses will attest, I was just talking over the guy and he was talking over me and we were getting nowhere.

And I hate confrontation. You really have to push me hard before I snap. But after a couple of fruitless minutes where I'm sure my heart rate doubled, my many years in customer service finally kicked in and I just shut up and let him rant. Normally that's a good technique to use with angry customers, to let them explain the depth and breadth of their problem unimpeded. And maybe he just wanted to be listened to by someone he perceived as the problem, or the enemy, or just ignorant and in need of educatin'.

The second technique that works with angry customers is to find something neutral to apologize for -- "I'm so sorry this happened to you," is almost guaranteed to get them on your side and to believe you're actually going to fix their problem* -- but since there was no way on God's green earth I was going to apologize for my defense of our beleaguered Black brothers and sisters, Plan C was just to wait until he said something I could reasonably agree with, which he eventually did. 

"Politicians are all crooked, they're not going to fix this!" he said, almost pleadingly, which allowed me to jump back in and say, "I agree, this is not something politicians can fix, the people have to do it." This gave us both the out we were looking for.

"You know, I learned something from you today," he said approvingly, "and I hope you learned something from me, too," though what he taught me was to get to the listening part a lot faster next time, and then tell him to put it all in a letter to my boss.

*Do not try this with me, Blue Shield, I see right through you.

The best thing to counteract all the office drama was the fact that, because I work in a historic landmark building, it's also a Pokemon Gym, so all throughout the week people were standing around the courtyard or sitting on the steps staring at their phones and battling with their Pokemon. I admit, I tried to pit my completely underpowered Rhyhorn against a champion Charmeleon, who immediately handed me my own ass.

My editor.

I am now on what appears to be the final draft of my manuscript, and that is #superfun! I love editing and rewriting, it's the best part of all of this. I would tinker with this book for years, I would polish and touch up until I die but Jack would probably kill me first (I know that makes no sense but believe me, he'd figure out a way).

I still have no health insurance, but I've been assured by my insurer that should anything happen to me while they're untangling the unholy mess they made, I'll be covered retroactively. Jackson would like someone to look at his shoulder but I haven't made the appointment yet because I don't believe either Blue Shield or the state will reimburse me. I know that sounds like I value my money more than my son's health, but his vague discomfort is not pressing enough for me to start writing checks to an escalating cadre of specialists. Please use this post as evidence of my neglect when Jackson's NBA career is cut tragically short by a career-ending rotator cuff injury.

You bitch!

Lastly, I'd like to recommend a few newsletters I subscribe to. Alice Bradley's Weekly Newsletter, of course. The Awl has a great one called "Everything Changes" and it always manages to say just the right thing when I need it. Sean Bonner's "The Crowd" always points me in good directions. And Meaghan O'Connell's "Like This" is a wonderful chronicle of her life as she writes a book and lives with her husband and young child while feeling somewhat adrift in the Cayman Islands.

Leaving so soon?

What's the Story

When something hard goes down that's outside my scope of personal experience, yet within my scope of human understanding, this is my first step: I empathize. There's an easy trick to putting yourself in someone else's shoes. It's a little thought experiment I like to call putting yourself in someone else's shoes.

There was a great Reddit thread where a bunch of (mostly white) people (men) posted their racist realizations, the experiences that woke them up to what shitheads they'd been. (The whole thread is here.)

This is the one that I still think about:

Apology Accepted

I got a lot of writing done this weekend. I took Sunday off (my normal work week runs Sunday to Thursday so I always get Friday and Saturday off), and then Monday was a holiday, and so I magically created a four-day weekend for myself without realizing that because I haven't worked at this job for a year yet, I don't actually have any vacation time accrued yet. 

So I may not be a genius at calendar-using and job-having, but because of those four days I am about 95% done with my novel. It's been four years, Mrs. Kennedy, you might be saying, How long could it possibly take a person unable to read an employee handbook to plumb the depths of the modern human spiritual condition?

Well, first of all, you need to stop being so sarcastic (you were being sarcastic, right? It's hard for me to read your tone), but I'll answer your question anyway, Jeeves. It takes as long as it goddamn takes.

Okay, I'm sorry for cursing, but you have to stop creating so much drama all the time.

Actually, I was the one creating all the drama because by Monday I was unaware of my own mental exhaustion and took to stomping around the house, angrily folding laundry, and loudly blaming my husband for the boredom I was facing because he didn't want to go get ice cream with me. Then I stomped out of the house, intending to go get some goddamn ice cream by myself, but the sun was so hot that I literally got ten feet down the street and turned around and came back. Then I pounded on the door (because who brings a key when they're taking an angry walk to punish their family for already knowing that it's too hot to walk and get ice cream?), stomped back inside when Jack let me in, threw myself into bed, read five pages of the new book I'm reading, and promptly fell asleep for two hours.

Then I woke up and apologized to everyone. I am a giant toddler who just needs to go down for a nap sometimes. 

This is what I saw when I woke up.

I do some thinking on my walks to work, and this morning I was wondering if I should write some sort of farewell post for Peewee's Instagram account, or if I should just let it go. I mean, the Instagram bulldog subcommunity is pretty involved so I'm sure I'd get some nice comments, but on the other hand, the thought of thinking up something to say makes me tired and sad. 

Then I wondered if I should just blow it off and start a new Instagram for the kitten, but the thought of trying to write funny captions and take cute-but-not-too-cute photos every day made me tired all over again. The only thing I like about the idea is picking a new username. Unfortunately, CASSCAT, ASSCAT, and CATASS are all taken. Sorry, Cassie. No Instagram fans for you today.

She will sleep for six straight hours if you let her.

Patriotic as HELL

Looking to win a prize at your Fourth of July potluck? Want to be the envy of all the boys down at the pool hall? Eager to gain the acceptance of some terrible religious sect that would just as soon drown you for the heathen you are?

Have I got a recipe for you!

Potato Chip Cookies

(From a butter-stained July 2012 Cook's Country magazine I found on the floor of a closet at work.)

Makes 24 cookies

  • 3/4 cup (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) reduced-fat potato chips*, crushed fine
  • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted in a dry pan and chopped fine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, softened but still cool
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounce) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) confectioner's sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 rimmed** baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine flour, potato chips, pecans, and salt in a bowl.
  2. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter, granulated sugar, and confectioner's sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture in 3 additions. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and space 3 inches apart on baking sheets. Flatten dough balls to 1/4-inch thickness with bottom of floured drinking glass.
  3. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until cookies are just set and lightly browned on bottom, 10 to 13 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cookies cool completely on sheets, about 15 minutes. Serve. (Cookies can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.)

* Cape Cod 40% Reduced Fat Potato Chips are the thing you need here because they stay crunchy and any other type of chip will be too oily, says Cooks Country magazine. I was afraid Cape Cod 40% Reduced Fat Potato Chips were going to be some Gwyneth Paltrow-level nonsense, but it turned out that people actually eat these things and they carried them at my neighborhood grocery store, which is frequented by everyone from transients to bewildered French tourists.

** If, like me, you are not a person who owns three rimmed baking sheets, I grant thee permission to use whatever the hell pan you can find that has a large-ish flat bottom.

And I know you're nnnnnot supposed to eat raw cookie dough, but who are we kidding? This stuff isn't going to wash itself off your hands, it needs help. From your teeth. The dough tastes like the 1950s Midwest to me. Like a fat grandma mixed them up with a wooden spoon that she once used to whip your dad.

But then, while they're baking, the mood lifts and the whole kitchen begins to smell like Christmas.

Finally, once they're baked, cooled, and in your mouth, the taste becomes something wholly different. It's the most delicate, crumbly, toasted-pecan sandie shortbread that I've ever coaxed out of a mixing bowl, and not only am I proud of myself for actually following the directions to the letter, for once, but I experienced a brief inner tremor that, left unexamined, would surely have led to me eating the rest of the cookies, the parchment paper, and the baking sheets, both rimmed and unrimmed, with a cup of roasted dandelion tea (which is so good for your liver and kidneys).

MY GOD WOMAN, THINK OF YOUR ARTERIES, THOUGH.

EDITED TO ADD: SORRY

 If you post a cookie recipe, it's polite to show how they came out.

Fifteen

In other news, this person is now halfway to thirty:

He arrived in our lives eight days late and he's kept a casual way about him ever since. 

[One week ago]

"Do you want to go out for dinner for your birthday?"

"I don't know."

[Four days ago]

"Do you want a cake?"

"Not really."

[This morning -- I bring him a hard-boiled egg with googly eyes sticking out of it for breakfast in bed]

"Happy birthday, Beast."

[One eye opens]

"Love you, Mom."

[Falls back asleep. Eons go by. A comet destroys all humanity. Dinosaurs re-take the earth.]

[He sits up]

"Dad, I finally figured out what I wanted for lunch."

[His father gurgles from the grave]

"Seriously, Dad? I have to make my own hot dog?"