Marriage is not for the faint of heart

Widowhood 101

The day before the last day I ever saw Jack, we went to Paseo Nuevo to see Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood. When we came out of it and walked back up State Street to his truck, I felt like I was in a trance, the pace and the length of the movie had overwhelmed my sense of time. I wasn’t sure if I even liked the movie, I had to read some reviews to help me figure out my ambivalence, but Jack had no qualms, he loved it. Looking back now, I understand why—it was about him, it was for him. He grew up in the early sixties surrounded by the type of man in that film, a man he learned how to be: strong, loyal, masculine, self-sufficient. Jack's father was an actor in TV westerns (click on that link and you’ll see his photo). At one point in Once Upon a Time, Jack elbowed me and pointed to a TV Guide in Leonardo DiCaprio’s trailer: the actor on the cover was the dad of one of Jack’s friends who starred in a Gunsmoke-type show. Little things like that hit Jack’s Tarantino sweet spot, and that night we watched Inglourious Basterds for the twentieth time, just to hear the way Brad Pitt says Naaazis.

Jack was one of the best—maybe the best storyteller I’ve ever known. Give him a few beers and he was a one-man podcast. There was the story of smuggling a knife into summer basketball camp in Indiana; of driving around Memphis in a Cadillac with his high school friend Vamp, who was also a pimp; of his uncle dealing drugs in Little Italy in the seventies and then dying mysteriously in Florida; of getting mugged on the way home from school on the Upper West Side. The story of the girl who broke his heart and the girls who came after who didn’t know why he was making them pay for it. Hundreds of stories that as he told and retold them were slowly helping him come to terms with who he was and what he’d made of himself.

I had wanted to record as many of them as I could, so that Jackson would have audio files of his father’s life, but we never did it, maybe because Jack wanted to write down his stories, turn them into a novel or a script. I’m not sure what stopped him. Maybe he lacked the confidence; maybe he couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with his own brain.

I finally unpacked his suitcase yesterday, one of his friends threw his clothes in there and zipped it up before they put it in his truck and drove it all back down to me. Everything was sort of crunched up and none of it smelled like him, I guess I waited too long. I was going to wash it all before I gave it to the thrift, but I can’t imagine making the effort when he still has so much clean laundry on his dresser to put away! It’s been almost a month, why has he not put it away yet? The cat has been sleeping on it and it’s covered in fur and I don’t want to have to wash it all again.

Paradoxes, Pair of Sockses

I was walking to work one fresh morning between rains a week or so ago, enjoying my big warm coat and keeping the mist off my head with my fine fuchsia-colored umbrella, when I approached a man who was pushing a shopping cart full of some thoroughly damp belongings. And because I often deal with homeless folks at work I slowed down as I came up to him and I said, “Hey,” and he looked me in the eye to acknowledge my greeting, and the look in his eye told me he was fucking done with this rain shit.

I had nothing to give him but sympathy, but as I kept walking I started thinking about what I’d do if I had five million dollars. I would pay off my debt and I’d buy a house and I’d set up my finances so I could transition into a magnificently ordinary retirement at age 65. Then I would work with local government and buy a giant lot and fill it with tiny homes, a health clinic, a police shack, and laundry enough to comfortably house (spitballing here) 200 people who for one reason or another cannot catch a break in this town.

The gods must have heard my thoughts because I got to work and it wasn’t long before a nice seventy-ish-year-old lady appeared and sat down across from me at my desk and looked at me sweetly with her curly white hair and told me she needed my help getting into a shelter that night.

The problems of an unfamiliar lady off the street were not what I was hoping for that particular day, but let me tell you: when you work for a religious institution, no matter how small your function, some people look at you like you’re God’s right hand man.

I’ll admit, the miracles of the reception office are small and my ministry often centers on whatever speaks to you from the candy jar. But she came to me at the right time, and without getting into her personal specifics, I was able to help her get into a shelter. But if this nice lady on Social Security hadn’t found me she would have had to sleep in a bush somewhere, and if you haven’t noticed, the way our country treats its poorest people is incredibly fucked.


I have a tendency to want to “save” certain items of clothing by not wearing them too much, and this ethic is applied daily and tragically to my socks. I have probably five pairs of Happy Socks that I really like because they’re well made and they’re man-sized so they fit my big feet. I buy them half-price at Christmastime from Marshall’s, where everything’s a little imperfect or odd, but inevitably one or two fantastic Happy Socks sneak through to the bargain bin and I GRAB them and HIDE THEM underneath my half-price Christmas purchases so no one will see them until I get to the checkout stand and then they are MINE.

The navy Happy Socks with red cherries on them are my most precious favorites right now, so naturally I never wear them. They stay lovingly rolled up in my drawer while instead I wear the slightly unpleasant green-and-blue geometric socks that remind me of a dress my Barbie had in 1972.

tl;dr My cherry socks spark too much joy in me, and I haven’t heard Marie Kondo say what I’m supposed to do about that.


I realized this week while I was dishing out wet dog and cat food that I was also doing this thing where I’d break up the food and mix in the food-sauce, and generally try to make this hideous paté I feed my animals more attractive on the plate. My animals 100% do not care what their food looks like, and now that I’ve accepted that fact I just dump it out for them and their hearts still go pitter-pat at the sound of me clanking the spoon against their dishes to get the last bits off (I don’t want to actually touch it, of course, the horror paté I feed my animal companions) and they are still just as nourished as before, and they go shit in their boxes like it never mattered how much thought I put into whether they should have the Grandma’s Pot Pie or the Cowboy Cookout tonight.



I was at the thrift yesterday and I found a pair of intensely preppy patchwork Tommy Hilfiger men’s shorts for $2.99. I texted a photo of them to Jackson to see if he wanted them, but all he said in reply was: “Fancy.” (He thought they were women’s shorts for me. Communication is a fragile thing.) I bought them despite his indifference because what a bargain, right? And when I brought them home Jack lit up with ancient recognition of a distant tribe. (Jack spent many of his tender years in the New York/Connecticut MetroNorth corridor.) The shorts fit him like a dream, so he went and put on two Lacoste polo shirts and popped up the collars and began talking as though his jaw were wired shut. “Darling,” he’d say, “I’m going to the package store for some Rheingold.” Then he’d admire himself in the mirror and say, “Lovey, I’m going to the farm stand for some sweet corn and I’ll be back in June.”


Buy Me a Coffee at


God help me, it's summer and I've vowed to post something every day for the whole season. I do not invite you to do this with me because it's a terrible plan. It's just that I thought it would be fun to use my web site again, that's all.

Plus, I like the name NaBloSuMo: it makes it sound like you have to fight your way through it.

It's hot as hell today (get ready for ninety-two days of weather reports, possibly) but I walked to and from work anyway, two miles each way, wearing an office-ready twenty-year-old Gap black linen skirt and a this-year-old Uniqlo white linen shirt. Nice in the morning, sticky on the way back home, and slow. I didn't wear sunscreen, just Merrell hiking shoes and a determined expression.

Here's a link to something someone asked me to write about reading Infinite Jest like we all did a few summers back. If you missed it and you need a book to read with a bunch of people starting today, you're in luck!

Me, I'm not reading fiction right now, I just can't, not while I'm writing it (still--this book is taking forever). But nonfiction is perfect and I've been reading some wonderful books about Zen (currently this one).

I have more to tell you but I only just decided to do this so I need to roll things out a little slowly. Tomorrow I'll tell you more.

Here's a photo of some rose petals that fell into a cup of ranch dressing. What's even better is that I later found this on my desk, put there as a romantic gesture. Twenty years of marriage, ladies.


Jack had four gigs this week, which meant four dinners were on me. Meaning, it was my responsibility to provide a savory yet nourishing meal for myself and my son on four different nights. Please, I know. I'm aware of my culinary reputation. Why not just give Jackson ten dollars and send him to forage at the drug store? He'd probably do better. Beef jerky would put on some muscle on him; Red Bull might clear up his skin.

On the first night Jack was away I rose to the occasion by thawing out leftover bolognese that he'd cooked in October. It counts as me cooking, though, because I oversaw its transition from frozen to hot and I boiled not quite enough penne to go with it.

The second night I was ready to serve twice-leftover bolognese and not-enough penne again, but Jackson put his foot down, and his foot is the same size as mine (though he's four inches shorter than me so it's kind of a draw). So I took him to Taco Bell. Nothing happened, but for some reason the staff giggled when they saw us. We might be part of some larger story for them but I may never know what it is. "Oh, there's that woman again, the one who keeps poking that boy and then they have a fake slap fight while they wait for their tacos."

I imagine that Jack has overcome his disappointment that after nineteen years I still haven't taken up an interest in cooking at the level he's brought us to. Every meal is an event with Jack. There is linen and silverware and bread in a basket and condiments and salad and anticipation. With me, there are straws and paper cartons of french fries, or those doll-sized plastic tables they use to keep the pizza box from collapsing. After Jackson has vanished into his room you'll find little bits of foil everywhere from the chocolate bar that stood in for our salad, and an empty wine bottle next to the speaker I plugged my phone into when I gave in to a sudden urge to make Christmas cookies and had an impromptu record party for one. (Smitten Kitchen oatmeal raisins and 1970s Tom Waits pair perfectly well with a ten dollar Côtes du Rhone, if you're curious).

I owe the three of you who keep track of this blog an apology: I skipped two months of monthly posts in 2014 so I'm recommitting to monthly posts for 2015. The novel is almost done, the drawings I owe to thirty-five people are recommencing, I'm practicing yoga every day, my head is clear and my heart is full. LET'S DO THIS, MOTHERFUCKERS.

(And happy holidays to you!)

Every post needs a picture so here's one from 2003 of me and Jackson picking flowers after a rainstorm over at the Ellwood preserve, half of which is covered in condos now, but you can still walk through to see the monarch butterflies mating every January. The monarchs don't care if you watch. Who knows, maybe they're into it.

Every post needs a picture so here's one from 2003 of me and Jackson picking flowers after a rainstorm over at the Ellwood preserve, half of which is covered in condos now, but you can still walk through to see the monarch butterflies mating every January. The monarchs don't care if you watch. Who knows, maybe they're into it.



And if you go camping in drag it's called Vamping

Here is the joke I made up last night: Q: What's it called when you get your period while you're camping?

A: Cramping!

One thing that Jack loves above all things is camping, and one thing I fear above all others is camping, and so up until last week we have spent every moment of our lives as a couple not-camping. Jack would take Jackson up to camp in Big Sur every summer and try to patch the sad camping-hole in his soul while I'd stay at home and guard our stuff, reveling in clean linens and locked doors and the sterile, bug-free existence that modern civilization provides.

I have been camping three times in my life, all of them terrible, sleepless affairs on lumpy ground, soaked with rain, or intruded upon by bears. I am at two with nature, as the saying goes, and despite Jack's assurances that he would provide me with a four-star campsite -- a veritable Mandalay Bay of roughing it -- one thing I knew he wouldn't be able to control was me getting carsick on the way to the Nature. Nature has some twisty roads into it, for some reason. Teddy Roosevelt and his horse both had something to prove, no doubt. But this summer I decided that maybe if I loved my husband I ought to give him this one thing, this camping thing, so here is everything I did/you can do to successfully avoid nausea on the road to Pfeiffer State Park in Big Sur. I offer this list for posterity and nothing more, for I am not some asshole blogger being paid to pretend she knows more than you about anything. If I were I would have titled this post, "Ten Ways To Avoid Carsickness This Summer!" and been paid $500 for it. I could still use the $500, so if you find this post useful, please PayPal a lot of money to me.

1. You have to want to not get sick. Some people have inner ear problems, or they're undergoing chemo, or God knows what's wrong, and I'm deeply sorry if that's you, for that sucks. However, other people (and this used to be me) unconsciously get sick for the attention, or to get out of doing things out in the world, or they just assume that's the way they are. "I get carsick." Well, maybe you do, but maybe you don't have to. Do you want to try?

2. Do not hit the road hungover. The last time we drove to Big Sur I had a wee bit of wine the night before, which led to insomnia and dehydration, all of which ensured that I wanted to barf all the way up Highway 1 the next day.

3. Hydration. So simple. You have a bottle of water? Drink it. Drink two. If someone complains that they don't want to stop for you to pee, say to them, "Would you rather stop to have me barf?" If they still complain, roll down your window and barf all over the side of their car. That will show them how serious you are.

4. Have a nice, fatty meal. I had eggs with buttered toast before we hit the road. It doesn't have to be a huge meal, if that sort of thing makes you nervous, if you think, "What if this doesn't work? It will just be more for me to barf." If you're afraid of eating too much on a nervous stomach, I don't know what to tell you apart from what I told myself: "You have to get something down, protein and fat. Figure it out."

 5. Anti-emetics are our friends. In Morro Bay I bought some off-brand, non-drowsy, pseudo Dramamine from an angry, sarcastic young woman at the grocery store. I'm not a big fan of too many OTC drugs, but it was $2.99, and I'm sorry she hates her life or whatever, but I took half a dose and immediately felt like Wonder Woman.

6. There are natural quease-easers, too. As a back-up I also had a bottle of herbs from the acupuncturist, they're called Curing Pills, you can get them in Asian markets, and I have never had a digestive issue that hasn't vanished within ten minutes of taking them. AND I had a box of hard-core ginger candy with me, and every half hour I'd eat one because ginger is a digestive stimulant (as opposed to peppermint, which is a digestive coolant, but which works well against nausea, too, as long as it's real peppermint, not just peppermint flavoring). I am also thinking of getting a couple of magical anti-nausea acupressure wrist bands for next time -- clang! clang! Wonder Woman!

7. Do you want to drive? Some people feel better when they're driving, but I let Jack do it because it was his truck, and his patience and nerves of steel were what was needed for Highway 1, whereas if I were behind the wheel no doubt I'd be too absorbed in prayer not to drive us off a cliff.

8. Pat yourself on the back when you get there, you did not want to barf even once!

9. Except then your period came on like gangbusters. I'm sorry, I have no advice, that part of your body is totally out of my control. Would you like to hear about the convenience of Diva Cups? No?

10. Ha ha, unreliable narrator. Guess what? Half of this post is a lie because once we got to Big Sur, Jack had booked us into a cabin just in case I changed my mind about this whole outdoors thing and crawled into the bed of his truck to die. So at the end of a long day of hanging around the campsite with friends eating weenies, going for bicycle rides, waving at deer and turkeys, taunting squirrels with Doritos, drinking beer, and soaking up the glorious Parkitecture, we would drive up the hill and sleep in not-tents. But now that I seem more amenable to the not-indoors, we're going to try camping a little closer to home before the summer's over, and Jack has already started his grocery list. And I still managed to write what sounds like a sponsored post for a group of products that paid me no money to endorse them, in a way that still makes me sound like some asshole blogger who probably knows less than you do about not throwing up. You're an expert at not-barfing, aren't you?

Goddamnit, sometimes you just have to barf. It's okay, you'll feel better.

Highway 1

An un-Photoshopped photo of California Highway 1 on July 22, 2014.

And if you go camping in the rain it's called Damping.

And if you go camping with Lionel Hampton accompanying you on vibes it's called Hamping.

And if you go camping in your pajamas it's called Jamping.

And if you read a book in your tent all night it's called Lamping.

And if you go with a baby it's called Pamping.


Also, there are so many elephant seals just laying around on the beach on the north side of Hearst Castle, above the zebra herd (California is a crazy place, if you haven't heard). After watching them do nothing for awhile I said to Jack, "If you're a stressed-out executive in this life, in your next life you get to be one of those."

Elephant Seals Outside of Cambria, California from Eden M. Kennedy on Vimeo.

That dude was the ambitious one.

And now it is February

My birthday present to myself this year was going to be a car adapter so I could listen to my phonePod while I drive (safely, without ever looking at it to switch songs, even if I'm listening to some tragic police procedural and it suddenly becomes desperately important to hear Burt Bacharach). Instead, I took a small wad of money that I'd collected in my yoga jar (I put a dollar in a jar every time I practice -- someday I hope to save up for a soul of my own!) and went to see Adyashanti (whom I have mentioned twice before) speak at the Methodist church down on Garden Street. It wasn't a class on how to meditate so much as eight hours over two days, with a lot of breaks, of listening to this guy talk about his experience as an awakened person and former student of Zen, and then answer questions from the crowd. So it was sort of post-Zen instruction on meditation, inquiry, contemplation, getting out of your own way, etc. There were no cushions or robes or sitting precisely this way and doing that thing with your hands and inclining your head just so. For him, meditation is mainly about finding a comfortable position and then persuading your ego that everything will be much better if it would stop making up stories and allow things to be as they are. ("Wholehearted cooperation with the inevitable," in the words of the Indian Jesuit Anthony de Mello.) Once you manage that, then full, universal awareness will pour through your entire being and you'll become the change you want to see in the world, I'm pretty sure. You know, like Jesus and Socrates and Gandhi and all those other people that we admire so much that we want to kill them.

When the floor was opened up to questions from the audience, one woman who was nearly shaking with grief stood up. She explained that she'd had a terrible year but to get through it she'd been trying to live one particular teaching, which was to always keep an open heart. To her, being open meant saying yes to everybody that asked something from her until she became utterly exhausted and felt like a total doormat. But she couldn't stop saying Yes because isn't that what we're supposed to do, walk through the world with an open heart? Like Mother Theresa or something? But it was crushing her.

So Adyashanti looks at her and he says, "Maybe you should try closing your heart for a while, then." And she was all, "Uh, what?" Speechless. I mean, what kind of spiritual teacher would tell you to shut your door and tell the world to fuck off? Yet here he was, giving her permission to do exactly what her heart was begging her to do, which was give it a rest. He explained it really concisely by saying that sometimes No is actually a deeper Yes. In other words, saying no to someone else was saying yes to herself. And this woman, who'd been so bound up in trying to be spiritual and do the right thing even though it was killing her, was so grateful for such a simple thing, but you could tell it was going to completely change her life. I'm sure it had an effect on all of us, to one degree or another, but especially on those of us who have a tendency to let ourselves be heaped with burdens like little emotional pack mules.

He said a bunch of other wise stuff that helped people, too. Some of it was really specific and intellectual and over my head, some of it was deeply emotional, some of it was funny (especially the Japanese woman who asked him if, now that he was enlightened, he still wanted to have sex with his wife). Good times.

A few days later I was working at the library and I got a call from one of our older, homebound patrons asking me to order a book for her, which I did, no problem. Then she says, "So. Do you have absolute power?"

And I, thinking she's making a joke, like she's going to ask me for something that she thinks will be really hard to get so she's flattering me like I'm some sort of genius, I go along with it and say, "Why, yes! I do have absolute power."

And she goes, "You do? Is it right there in front of you?"

And at first I'm thinking, Well, of course I do, I'm right in front of a computer with Internet access, and then I realize that she's asking me if we have the book Absolute Power by David Baldacci. I hope I am not the only library worker that this has happened to, because I would like to join a support group for people who think they know what they're talking about but actually don't.

It turns out that Jackson, at twelve, has about two-thirds more emotional intelligence than I do and 100% more gratitude.

Jackson, sitting on the couch doing something on his iPad, not even looking up as I walk past with a load of laundry: "Thanks, mom."

Me: "For what?"

Jackson: "I don't know . . . anything."

It was my birthday on January 10, and Jack and Jackson threw me a surprise party. Actually, they made it an even bigger surprise by throwing the party on the 18th. Have you ever had a surprise party? I'd always heard people say things like Never throw me a surprise party, surprises are the most dreadful thing imaginable! so I spent my life thinking Surprise parties are terrible! I hope I never have one!

And then I got home from work and this happened:


I'd never had an experience where I screamed involuntarily like that. I mean, I've been in the movies and screamed when a monster burst through a window or whatever, but it had never happened in 3-D real life that I opened a door and was confronted by people yelling and throwing shit at me when I had fully expected to open the door and see Jack sitting on the couch watching a Lakers game. I am glad Jack invited our neighbors to witness it or they would have heard me screaming on our front porch and the police would have arrived three minutes later. (I hope. I hope they would have called 9-1-1 and not just turned on the blender or whatever their loudest appliance is and waited for me to stop.)

Anyway, I clearly survived the experience, and I honestly loved it, once my pulse returned to normal, which probably took half an hour. But surprise parties are great! As long as your house is filled with people you think are awesome.

Lastly (since these updates are monthly now I have a lot to cram into them): sweater update! When last we met I was committing myself to doing things right instead of just slapping my life together with Elmer's glue and good intentions, and to that end I decided to rip out the weird, wrinkly top of Jack's sweater that I had supposedly "finished" in time for Christmas. So last month we had this:

Jack's new sweater

and this month we have this:


I'm changing the plain yoke to a fair isle and I'm using the Fornicating Reindeer pattern, which I found on Ravelry. I've knitted right about up to where the sexy times are happening and because I am still the person doing the knitting I am pretty sure that I'm going to run out of yarn before I'm done. My plan B is to start unraveling yarn from the sleeves to finish the neck, and then figure out some other way to finish the cuffs. It probably won't matter anyway since it's going to be so pornographic that Jack won't be able to wear it in public.

But I'm still not going to join a gym or stop drinking

Thus beginneth another year at Updates for 2014 will be monthly, if you're wondering whether you should drop me from your feed reader or not. Blogging: it's less urgent than ever! I'm not one to do year-end roundups, but I would like to remember December 2013 as the month I realized I not only needed to but had the resources and energy to stop half-assing so much of my life. (Brace yourself for an explanation that might involve yoga.)

Normally (when I'm not sitting in bed playing iPad solitaire) my life strategy* has been to stand just inside the sideline of [something] and see if I like/can succeed at [it] without putting a whole lot of effort, focus, or hope into making [it] work. The list of [things] I have approached this way includes knitting, sex, college, buying a car, parenthood, cooking, working in publishing, relationships, and preparing for my own death. You truly can make a life for yourself by relying on other people's energy and commitment, especially if you don't mind knitting sweaters that don't fit or eating partially-cooked chicken.

*"Why are you such a fatalist?" my father once asked me in frustration when I was a teenager, to which I did not have the vocabulary to reply, "Because I'm smart enough to get decent grades without trying too hard, I'm pretty enough to get attention without trying at all, you're emotionally abusive and controlling, Mom is a detached and passive female role model, the Catholic shame I've been infused with from birth controls every other aspect of my life, and I've learned to feel helpless most of the time." God, being a teenager was the worst.

The sad irony, of course, is that trying to save yourself from disappointment by not really caring so much how something works out will lead to having to accept disappointment as a result of almost everything you do. Now, it's true that some degree of disappointment is inevitable in a lot of what life brings, and it can be used to spur us on to refine what we want, learn new skills, find friends that really get us, and figure out how much yarn we need to make the sweater beforehand, instead of running out three-quarters of the way through.

Jack's new sweater

Yes, that's Jack's Christmas sweater, and I ran out of yarn three-quarters of the way through. I started it last year (unsurprisingly, given that it's me we're talking about, it was supposed to be last year's Christmas sweater). I just assumed that the box of vintage Irish wool that I found in my mom's house after she died was enough to make a sweater. And it would have been enough, if my husband were the size of Reese Witherspoon.

Anyway, the sweater humbled me. I had to buy different yarn to finish it, and it's weird and poochy around the shoulders in a way that blocking hasn't been able to solve, and I'm about to accept the fact that I need to rip out the entire top of the sweater and knit it again to make it right. And I can't tell you how much it shocks me to hear myself say that. Historically, I have not been a person who goes back and fixes her mistakes, I've been the person who says fuck it and shoves a year's worth of work to the back of the closet in chagrin and goes to bed to play iPad solitaire.

But what really drove home the idea of slowing down and doing things right (here comes the yoga): back bends. I hate them. I'm afraid of them. They require a huge amount of openness in the chest and shoulders along with leg strength, butt awareness, and a fair amount of spinal flex, none of which I was graced with at birth. For years I've been hurting myself over and over again by sort of heaving myself up and doing them in this bad, misaligned way and feeling envious of the people who could drop back into these delicious, flawless arches. Most days I'd just avoid doing back bends altogether. Which is a perfectly fine attitude (something hurts: stop doing it), but just underneath giving up was this nagging belief that the poses you hate are the ones you need the most, so I'd keep coming back to back bends but I'd continue to approach them in the least-yogic way possible: grit teeth, hold breath, wrench self up. Why? Because that's what we do when we're scared, and that's what I did, hurting myself again and again, I guess because my ego couldn't comprehend that there was something that didn't come easily to me. I belonged to the looks and good grades come easy club, right? So why couldn't I skip all the hard work and years of slowly developing the strength and openness I needed and make my body do this one thing?

In yoga they sometimes talk about "the gift of inflexibility," which I'm finally beginning to appreciate. Not being naturally flexible means you have to develop awareness and you have to develop compassion for yourself, and your ego has to back the fuck off because it might take you years to do something that the guy on the next mat can do the first time he tries it. So it's a "gift" because that guy can wander off and be amazing and buff without developing any of the interior qualities that you, if your ego can face you rolling around on your mat like a stranded tortoise, will discover inside yourself -- things like patience, bravery, humility, and being able to laugh at yourself because let's face it, you look like a stranded tortoise lying there. And your ass is really lumpy.

So this is my new year's resolution: to do what doesn't come easily at first, to do stuff right. To listen to people who know what they're talking about and let them guide me when my internal guidance has led me to a dead end. To be the best _________ [friend, knitter, worker, writer, dog washer, wife, mother, woman, human] that it's possible for me to be from moment to moment without gritting my teeth and holding my breath and heaving myself in and praying for it to be over. Standing still, looking, breathing, not running away from others, not running away from myself. Not trying to skip to the finished thing without having done all the work that leads up to the sweater that actually fits, the back bend that seems to do itself, the novel that works, the promise fulfilled, the deeply satisfied existence.

12 Years Ago Today

Twelve years ago this morning I woke up, tried to roll over, and burst into tears. I had gained 45 pounds and could not fathom how I'd make it through another day of pregnancy. Fortunately, by 11:20 p.m. that night I had one of these:

johnlsullivan (It actually took two months for him to look like this. When he first came out he looked a lot angrier.)

This morning Jackson woke up and asked for Cheetos and a Mexican Coke for breakfast, and reader, I sang Happy Birthday To You and gave it to him. It was a lot easier than to try to start lactating again.

Today he looks more like this:


I did not draw this, a tired caricature artist at Legoland did it for $15.

Jack, watching Jackson getting dressed for day camp in a black t-shirt: "A black t-shirt? Seriously? It's going to be 90 degrees out there today."

Jackson: "I like this t-shirt."

Jack: "Good, then you're going to die wearing it."

Jackson: *puts on long pants, knee-high socks, and high-top Converse*

Jack: "You can't be serious."

Jackson: *puts on wool beanie*

Jack (to me): "Are you going to weigh in on this?"

Me: "I think he looks cute."

Jackson: "Thanks, Mom."

Me: "You're welcome."

Jack (taking off white t-shirt, going to closet): "Fine."

Me: "Peewee, you need to take off your coat, it's going to be 90 degrees out there today."

Peewee: *wags because he heard his name*

Jack (comes back from closet wearing black t-shirt): "Then I, too, shall wear a black t-shirt."

Me: "You look cute, too."

Jack: "I've waited all week to hear you to say that."

Me: "Does this mean we're going to have sex today?"


I got the swag and it's pumping out my ovaries

Yesterday, for the first time in all my days, I cracked open a chicken's egg from the grocery store (a non-organic, factory farmed, 18-to-a-carton, supposedly non-fertilized egg) and out came a yellow yolk swirling in blood. Blood, my friends. The first thing I thought was, "Oh, it's fertilized, hm." The second thing I thought was, "Wait, what would a rooster be doing in an egg-laying situation?" Commercially, chickens are either bred for meat or bred to lay eggs and there isn't much use for a male from the egg-layer breed so they're usually culled (euphemism for gassed or macerated! Let's all be vegans now). My third thought was, "Oh, maybe this is a cancer egg." Like, Oh there's a bloody tumor in my egg, I guess I will wash it down the drain and get a new one so I don't catch the cancer.


Let me tell you a story about the healing power that resides in the common ice cube. Over the weekend I was pulling a sheet of sweet potato fries out of the oven and the dish towel I was using to protect my hand slipped. It just fell onto the oven door and I had that weird moment of unprotected forward momentum vs. OH SHIT. Unfortunately, it was too late for the pad of my left middle finger which, after getting a nice, firm handshake from the 450°F baking sheet, became red and oddly wrinkly, like it had spent too long in a hot bath. I ran some cold water over it right away but yeah, no. So I put an ice cube in our last remaining unbroken espresso cup and I pressed down on the ice and watched the heat from my finger melt it into a U-shape. Then I got another cube and did it again. Jack, who got his Ph.D. from Suck It Up University, was all, Yeah, but I've got a lot happening on the grill at the moment and I still need you to make a salad. So I set the table and made a salad with one hand in an espresso cup, and spent the rest of the night taking my finger out of the cup and then going, Nope, it's still on fire. After four hours of ice it was okay again, but I despair for those who burnt themselves in the days before refrigeration and who got their parts slathered in butter or lard or some such. And for people whose grandmothers still haunt them into handling small burns that way and infecting the shit out of themselves.


Then! I had an incident yesterday where I was carrying a three-gallon glass bottle full of water -- so, 25 pounds of water, plus around 8 for the bottle -- and my ankle turned. I was wearing an old pair of Dansko clogs on badly patched asphalt. (Although, believe me, I can fall off of a flip flop. It's a gift.) My ankle was fine but I completely lost my balance and I had to make one of those split-second decisions: drop the bottle, or not? A girl in my co-op in college once dropped a glass water pitcher and a huge shard of it ended up wedged in the top of her foot. I wasn't thinking of her at that very second, but I guess I had thought enough about her in the past to have processed Big Chunk Of Glass In Foot. It wasn't one of those times where everything goes in slow motion -- if anything, time sped up, because the next instant I had brought my full weight plus the 33 pounds I was carrying bang! down on my knees on the crumbly asphalt.

I put the bottle down and tried to stand up, but since I was just about to pass out I decided to sit on the hood of my car while two guys who saw the whole thing happen came up and asked me if I was okay. I reassured them that I was fine, and then I seriously forgot who I was for a minute. One guy offered to put the bottle in my car, and I was all, "Sure! Just ignore the bulldog in the back who is losing his mind barking." Then I was all, "Well this is a great time to operate heavy machinery," because I still had to drive a few more miles to pick up Jackson from his day camp. I felt around my knees with my hands -- they were a little sore, but I'd managed to come straight down on them equally and hadn't heard anything crack or pop -- so I started my car and drove away, like an insane person. The moral of this story is that I got us all home just fine and then I sat with my feet up and two Ziploc bags of ice on my knees and played Angry Birds Star Wars like it was my job for the next hour, and then I drank five glasses of wine.


I took Jackson and one of his good friends to Legoland and the San Diego Zoo last week as an early birthday present. The second night at the Legoland Hotel (which has the nicest staff on earth, there just aren't enough of them. Valet parking was free, but then it took them an hour to get my car. I could see it from the lobby, so eventually I was all, "Can you just give me the keys and I'll get it myself?" and the cute, sweaty valet staff was all, "Sure! We're so sorry," and I was all, "Don't you worry your pretty little head about it," and they were all, "Is there anything else we can do for you?" and I was all, "I'm in room 1044. I'll send the kids to the pool.")

Right, so the second night they were showing some Bionicle movie on a screen by the pool. The pool was pretty shallow, and Jackson misjudged the depth and jumped in and banged his heel on the bottom. There were tears. The lifeguard got him an ice pack and felt for broken bones, swelling, etc. (all clear), and I cuddled him up on a day bed and we watched the movie (which, thanks, Lego, for writing one of the four Bionicle warriors as a girl who kicked ass, made jokes, and didn't need to be saved). Afterward, he limped over to thank the lifeguard (heart: melted) and then he said to me, "I'm not cold but I can't stop shaking." I'd read something recently about how the body will process trauma by trembling, and how it's useful and not something to suppress, so I didn't worry too much, I just bundled him up and kept an eye on him and he stopped after a minute or two.

Foot injury is not optimal the day before you planned to walk 5.8 million miles through the San Diego Zoo, but he said he said he could do it so off we went. He was limping after lunch, though, so I said fuck it and rented a wheelchair for $12. He loved it until he was confronted with his first curb. It was a good lesson in not taking your mobility for granted.

This post is way too long so I will wrap it up with KOALAS AND WOMBATS, HELP ME I AM DEAD FROM UNREQUITED CUDDLE SYNDROME.

koala!Koala Yoda!

koalasThe one on the right had a baby clinging to her in its sleep.


It's hell being nocturnal, isn't it Mr. Cuddles.

More shocking developments

We have a new microwave oven, after having spent the last year without one. Heating our tea water in a kettle on the stove like savages. Yesterday afternoon Jack walked in on me heating soup for lunch, on the stove, like you do when you forget you now own a microwave oven.

Jack: "What are you doing?!"

Me: "Uh . . . not using the microwave?"

Jack: "Don't hesitate -- irradiate!"

I had been perfectly happy without a microwave, but our son mounted an extremely determined offensive to change my mind. Three days ago we were walking past a movie theater and Jackson was all, "Oh my God, that popcorn smells so good. I wish we could have some popcorn."

My response was to take him to the grocery store and show him bag after bag full of Jolly Time popcorn ready to be popped in a pan on someone's stove. Our stove, perhaps!

"Nooooooooo," he said, looking longingly at the individually-expensive, cellophane-wrapped packages of extra cheesy microwave popcorn waiting to be plucked off the shelf and taken home to explode into life within a microwave. A microwave that, sadly, did not belong to us.

It's just that we left our old, cranky one in the condo when we moved out, and there wasn't one already installed in this house when we moved in. And for the last twelve months I haven't particularly felt like spending a hundred bucks on a metal box whose main purpose is to make it easier for my son to eat junk food.

So I have no good reason to explain why I finally gave in after a year of being asked every day, "When are we going to get a microwave?" Apparently my goal was to teach my son that if he behaves as gently and persistently as water, he can carve a Grand Canyon through the microwave-resistant portion of my heart. Just like Lao Tzu prophesied in his deathless work, How to Succeed by Being a Really Stubborn Eleven-year-old. And honestly, though I may not be up on the current literature, I don't think microwaves are causing a lot of extra cancers, or damaging the brains of our nation.

Why haven't I been posting drawings? New excuse! My camera battery died and I couldn't find my camera battery charger, so I had to order another one online, where they're cheaper, and it finally came yesterday, and then my website was over quota on disk space usage. The whole thing was just tragic.

Anyway, I was feeling bad about the drawing I did for the person who asked for a fat old lady talking about sex, I felt it was too depressing and could be interpreted as the fat lady in the drawing was sad that she'd never fully explored her sexuality because she was fat. I might be overly fat-sensitive, but in order to correct an imbalance that may only exist in my own mind, I drew another picture, this time of a fat young (whoops) lady quoting Mae West (love her) talking about sex:


The lettering, sadly, isn't that great, but at some point you just have to let go and move on, even though I seem to be allergic to doing that. (Just ask Alice how I wanted to rewrite Let's Panic! when it was in final proofs. I win at being both fun and insufferable at the same time.)

This next one was for a friend who wanted me to draw of a cup of coffee saving the world. Coffee has naked arms and legs! I hope you're not shocked by this development.


Lastly, I have two Popcorn Whisperer posts you should see:

Sesame Street Does Downton, where you get to see the Muppetized versions of the Dowager Countess and Mr. Carson, and

Goodbye, Lurz, where I speculate wildly on what would happen in the not-happening eighth season of 30 Rock.