Sunday, March 8, 2015


Suddenly my tiny baby was sixteen, It felt like the blink of an eye, the way those cliches go. People who complain about teens are idiots, or maybe they have horrible teens. 
My teen is awesome, and parenting him is my joy, my pleasure, I only wish I had more to offer, a million thank you tokens to the person that makes me real
I believe, sincerely, that without him I would have just shrunk and shrunk as a person until I blew clean away one day, without notice.  A vacancy, left in my absence.
We celebrated on the day of his birth with our little family, and Onkie, and my mom. 
We ate shrimp in his honor, and exchanged modest, but meaningful gifts. 
We shared stories of his birth and infancy and early childhood. 
A roomful of people that love one teenager with precise devotion. 
Boats all pointed in the same direction of adoration.

My mother saved the day on Thursday, by hosting a small dinner.  I worked late, and never would have been able to pull everything together.  I looked worse for the wear, but I made it home by 6:00pm.

On Sunday, Freya and I made salsas and cream pies, and spiffed the joint up, to host some friends of Maxwell.  We ate a great deal of pie, and Mark's mother came for dinner.  I made too much food, as usual.  I let them have rivers of soda and chips

Maxwell inexplicably requested chocolate cream pie, after having devil's food cake for his birthday, his entire life.  This was thrilling to me, as I am a big fan of all pie, and chocolate cream pie in particular.  It reminds me of my Grandma Betty, who would make it often, and was good at fulfilling birthday "orders".  I made a vanilla cream pie too, because Maxwell has a good friend that doesn't eat chocolate, and Mark's mother is not a big fan of it either.  Both  we fabulous and decadent and lovely.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A friend's post about parking lot brawls in Gresham, reminded me that, one new year's eve, in the mid 1990's a lady, a big, strapping, tough, tall, lady, in plaid (she may have been a lady lumberjack, now that I think of it!) once punched me right in the face, in the parking lot of the Blockbuster Video Store, on NW Burnside. 

She was very angry, because she felt that I parked in a parking space that should have been hers.

There was an identical parking space right next to the one I parked in, so at the time I thought nothing of it. 

I just parked. 

When I stepped out of my car, WHAM!

Right in the kisser, as they say. 

More like in the cheek.

I sort of crumpled and sat down, next to the car.

I thought about saying something to her, but my mouth had gotten me into trouble in the past, and since I had already been struck, rather soundly, I thought better of mouthing off further. 

Who knows what she might have in her?


Is what she said, as she walked away without offering me a hand up.

My mother had warned me more than once that running my mouth would get me into trouble, but who knew that parking would lead to such violence? 

I went home without getting a movie. 

Rolf saw my face and said "what happened to YOU."

Monday, December 22, 2014

I was offered a job.

A big, real job.

Instead of feeling excited, I felt a little sad, and unclear, because I have a tiny, beautiful job right now. 

The big, real job could also be beautiful and the realness and the money would be good for my future

I have done a poor job with making my life about my future. 

I mostly make my life about my present. 

I care a great deal about whether things are good, ethical and nice, which doesn't always fit with a future plan.

My mother said "I don't think you should take it.  It's not you, to be concerned with a career." 

Which felt a little hurtful, because I feel like my work with children has been a career, but I know what she meant, I had not, in my life been very concerned with keeping up with the Jones. 

That much is certainly true.

"Mom, I am going to be eating cat food, if I'm not more mindful about laying the groundwork for the future."

"You can live with me, I don't eat cat food, besides, I'm going to die soon, you can have everything that's mine." 

My mother is not what anyone would call gentle, or sentimental. 

She was a teen mom, a single mom, that worked very hard for her numerous successes.

When I was a child she was in the Army reserves and would go on active duty from time to time, always telling me cheerfully, as she walked out the door, "you make them bury me, if something happens! Don't spend a dime of our money!"

I knew my duties well as a child; keep my brother in line, keep the house together. 
Don't be a schnook. 
Don't get taken.
Don't be anyone's fool.
Act as good as you look.
Look good so no one will think you are trashy.

My mother grew up with farm people, with self made parents, that worked sun up to sundown, and  the notion self expression or self esteem was foreign. 

I was always my grandmother's pet.  Allowed to be inside when the other children had to play outside and stay out from underfoot.  Allowed to be sentimental and gentle and pampered a tiny bit.

My grandparents cared for special needs foster children, all through my mother's childhood and mine.

Cared for them like they were their own. 

There was always a heavy burden similar to noblesse oblige  that permeated our family, and while I feel like my work path has followed, my mother would characterize me as very self directed. 

My grandparents were utterly horrified and perplexed by my career choices, by my liberal arts education.

"All that money, to wind up wiping butts!" My grandmother would say, and shake her head. 

I chatted a bit online recently with an old boyfriend, and we both agreed that the most significant thing in our adult lives, is that we have a nice family.

Money, smoney!

He wrote in praise of his wife and children. 

I feel lifted up when someone understands my perspective in that way.

"I think you will be FANTASTIC, in this role", the lady that offered me the job said. 

I think I will be fantastic in this role too. 

I think I will be driven and passionate and fantastic and a little different from the usual person that usually does the job. 

I will feel a deep sense of duty and purpose to do a good job, I will avoid cat food.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Santa loves little baby Jesus

A friend posted on Facebook around the quandary of what to tell her four year old about why Santa only brings one gift in their family and the rest are from them. 

From Mom and Dad.

This is the type of parenting question that I would never in a million years ask. 

I would never ask, because I believe to my very core that each family has a right to create whatever tradition they need or want to make their thing work. 

I'm not picking on this family. 



Holiday season.

I hear a variation on this theme from alternative parents. 

I might be confident, or perhaps delusional, but I have never wondered such a thing. 

My kid will believe what I tell them.  I am his universe and outing Santa and explaining in painstaking detail why we do what we do is not going to make a young child feel more or less good.  That kind of explanation is for adults, not for children. 

Getting their loot, and eating something special, whatever that looks like, will make them feel good.

If you opt out of the gift scene, your child will not notice (much, or for long) until he is older than preschool age. 

He may invent some personal narrative to go along with the stories of candy canes and Barbie the other children are sharing in preschool.

In my opinion the best thing you can do is believe in whatever thing you are doing.

When I was 20 I had a Jewish lover. 

A man more than twice my age. 

Older than either of my parents.

I loved him insanely much, an admired him even more because he was a single parent. 

He parented his children with a fierceness and defined confidence that was totally foreign to me.

When Christmas rolled around I wondered if I could have a tree.

He laughed at me.

Of course you can have a tree, you can have a whole god damned forest, you can have whatever you want to have.

 My extended family are all very religious people.

Sincere  and deep believers.

We always had the manger and the angels and  and Mary and Joseph, the tax collector, the  


I always had to be the angel, with a tinsel halo, that stood behind the holy family, because I was a sort of second string player in the nativity play, being the granddaughter of a parishioner. 

There are photos of me in my white bed-sheet angel costume, with my cousins and my brother in bathrobes, as shepherds. 

And we always had Santa, even at my paternal grandparents house.

My grandfather was a Baptist minister and he never spoiled Santa for us. 

I guess I don't understand the people that feel that this is deceiving their child.

My mother grew up poor and her parents were foster parents to a gaggle of special needs kids.  In their family, my grandfather would come home from the dairy  on Christmas eve, and clean up and they whole group would walk to the top of the driveway and look for Santa, and by golly, every time they got back to the house, my grandmother would report that they had just missed him and there would be a present for everyone, plus new underpants and socks.  On Christmas day they would go to church.  I grew up going to their house on Christmas eve with cousins and extended family.  Everyone had fun.  No one required a lengthy theological explanation.  No one was duped by the notion of Santa.

In my family we opened our presents on Christmas morning, with my mother and went to my father's on Christmas day.  His mother would make dinner and my grandfather would make some kind of dip out of liver sausage, which I love.  He would put green food coloring in it and my grandmother would say

"oh Dan!"

My brother and I would give him a giant peppermint stick and give our father a package of white handkerchiefs.  We would have a Santa gift, something fun, and something we "ordered" from our grandmother, something special.  When I was an adult and she was an old lady, I would order snicker-doodles. 

I am not a religious person, but I have tried to teach my children to respect all people's beliefs and to be considerate.  I hope that they don't grow up and wonder if they need therapy because their mother "lied" to them about Santa.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Giving Thanks

A rare occasion where Freyja allowed me to fix her hair

Rolf made what could be described as an insane amount of potatoes

Everyone brought wine, so there was a lot of wine, but I was anticipating have to drive several different people home, so I wasn't drinking, and a couple others were thinking the same think, so we wound up having a lot of left over wine. In the end I didn't have to drive, which I was truly thankful for, because my back was killing me and I was very tired.

The sweet potatoes wound up on the appetizer table, due to lack of space.  I made pate, that was really good, and Karen brought a most excellent cheeseball, so it was a lot of richness in one tiny corner.

The unibomber at your table.  He is resolute on keeping the beard, no matter how much I beg.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I'm preparing for Thanksgiving. 

I took the day off, as I have managed to do for the past 20 years, or so.

It is a day that is important to me one among very few. 

I lack sentimentality around holidays, having grown up with the frequently spoiled or tainted by the weirdness that envelopes my family of origin.

When I was old enough to make my own holidays I made Thanksgiving everything I wanted holidays to be, as a child, filled with warmth and people that like each other. 

No gifts or obligations.

The Wednesday before became my day, a day to prepare and to be happily alone, with at most Rolf, or my friend Karen to help. 

I cleaned a lot.

I like to clean when I am alone. 

I have a certain order, rhythm of the way I do things, and I am pleased when there is no one half doing things. 

No one resenting the cleaning.

I'm good at cleaning and I like it most of the time. 

I am not afraid of a bit of bleach. 

I am not afraid to stand on a chair on my tip toes and dust the light fixture. 

I am a fearless cleaner. 

A destroyer of germs.

When Rolf's daughter was a toddler, I would sometimes babysit her in my apartment. 

She liked to help me clean. 

I would say "Dirt is our enemy!" and she would repeat it, with great enthusiasm.

I made the creamed onions, two kinds of cranberry sauce and a brussel sprout dish.

All I have to do in the morning is prep the dressing and bake the turkey. The other things can just be popped into the oven to warm.

My Grandma Betty would say "roast the turkey". 

She would roast the turkey in a turkey roaster; a device that sat on her covered back porch on top of a chest freezer.  A device that would both save precious oven space and produce a tender turkey (although not a carveable turkey, a moist sort of stewedish turkey.  There was no skin to be had.  The skin was not a thing, with the device roasted turkey. 

My mother is very anti-skin, so I never knew people love the skin of fowl until I was an adult. 

I know how to carve a bird rather well, and I know how to make skin.  I am not really fond of the skin, but I know it's a thing, so I make it for the people that think of skin as part of the whole deal.

We will have a large group tomorrow, 18. 

In 1996 we Rolf and I hosted four guests.  I used a remnant of really beautiful upholstery fabric, a sort of needlepoint floral pattern, on a navy background. 

When our friend MM arrived alone, without his new wife, we asked after her, or I did, since I am the one that is prone to nosiness, not Rolf, and he told us that she had given birth to their son that morning in a hospital a few blocks away. 

I fixed her a plate and send him back to the hospital to feed her. 

She was newly arrived from the Ukraine and never understood what all my fussing was about (regarding this or any other holiday). I've always gotten the impression that she views me as some kind of frivolous American hussy, with my flower arrangements and my red lipstick. 

One year Karen arrived on the train with a raw cranberry salad.  It was remarkable and to my great annoyance, I have not been able to duplicate the flavor, despite many attempts.

Karen is the only person brave enough to carry cranberry salad in her luggage.  Which might be why she's been my friend for 40 years.  You really need at least one person that brave in your life, to have your back.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Two nights ago I dreamed that I was rescuing dogs from people that didn't really love them.

In actuality I was taking the dogs, stealing them, but it seemed completely good and ethical, until it dawned on me that that the dogs might not like each other.

Last night I dreamed that Mark and I had a huge warehouse, that we were remodeling to live in.  It was a mess, and required a lot of work.  In the middle of all this work, a former friend of Maxwell's came in.
I yelled at him, "I treated you like my own child for ten years, how could you betray us?".  He needed a place to stay.  I let him stay, but I was angry.

It was a mildly cathartic dream.

When I woke up I felt more hopeful than I had in weeks.

I can be a little mafiaish on the subject of loyalty.

My friend Dom called the other night and I said "I feel like people are judging me for quitting my job."

"No one is judging you.
I am not judging you, at least.
You are the classic underachiever though, that is true", she said, and it didn't offend me, because she is right and she knows me well enough to say so. 

I felt slightly better.

My friend Jenny said "being authentic means saying hard things sometimes."  I am usually not very good at saying hard things.

I usually say nothing, when it comes to hard things.  I am a failure when it comes to hard things in my personal life, ironically, I am excellent at dealing with hard things professionally and solving other people's hard things. 

I've been doing a little side work, a little technical writing and a little consulting.

"you need to do less.  A LOT less." I told a teacher I am mentoring.

She told me she slept well for the first time in months, after I left.  After I officially gave her permission to do less.

It made me feel better to help.

"I know you, you need to do something where you think you are making a difference." Is what Mark said, when I suggested that I would just work in an office someplace.

He frequently gives me permission to do less. It is one of the things he does best.