Wednesday, July 9, 2014

In The Heat of Summer, Two Marital Moments

In case you haven't seen us in a while, here we are!

Yesterday I left the kids at home, idling in their summer torpor, and met Matt for lunch. After a pleasant interlude, we were walking out, and I said, "Do you like my toenails?" I gestured to my blue polish, which I thought was rather jaunty.

"Yes," he said.

"I did that myself, because I am frugal," I said.

"That's what passes for being frugal now?" he asked.

"Well," I explained, "With tip, it would have been $25 if I'd paid someone to do it."

"Well," he replied, "You could pay someone to wipe your ass."

Um? If anyone can penetrate the labyrinthine convolutions of this husband-logic, please elucidate. Because I was all, whut, and then like, sweetie, I love you so much that I want you to savor this moment of makin' your point and being right, right here on the sidewalk. Zing! Only what I actually said was, "Uhhh...." But it was in there, in the silence maybe.


Last week we were on vacation in the Berkshires. Matt's brother and my lovely sister-in-law have a lake cottage, and we all crammed ourselves into it for a wonderful week of reading and swimming and doing nothing. One night, as Matt and I climbed into bed in our little white bedroom, it struck me that we had spent the entire day side-by-side and were now tucking in to spend several hours in a row right up against each other.

I said, drowsy, "It's nice that we don't get sick of each other."

"Yes," he said. "And for whatever reason, I've decided my highest purpose in life is to please you."

"I like all of that," I said, "Except for the 'for whatever reason.'"

And he laughed with a self-congratulatory giggle that rolled out the open window, wafted through the cool night air, and disturbed some nesting loons, possibly.

That is what's up around here. I'll be back. Meantime, I hope there's somebody who wants to please you. xoxo

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

After So Long, A Sad Update

Hey friends. Carol (my beloved Normal Neighbor to this blog), died on May 1. She had been diagnosed with colon cancer at the start of 2011, and there were lots of ups and downs and calm periods and crises, and finally it was all too much, and there was nothing else to do. I'm breaking my blog silence to tell you about it because today, her mother called me, and I went over to Carol's house, and she gave me my old wig back. It was the wig I wore four years ago and had given to Carol a while ago. But she also gave me another wig Carol got for herself, one I'd gone with her to pick out. So somehow I lent one wig and got two back. She handed me the bag with the wigs, and I looked down inside it, and in that moment, it was just so much living for one day that writing about it really seemed like the only possibility.

Right after we found out her time was short, I talked to her best friend, who had just spent the whole day with her. "How was she?" I asked. I wanted to know if she talked about dying and in what way. The whole three years of her illness and treatment, we never talked about dying and we fully embraced a narrative of cure and healing, that she would do these painful, arduous, or merely pesky things and then finally be free of it all. But with that narrative taken away, I wanted to know how she was facing it. Her friend said, "Oh, we didn't talk about any of that. We talked about normal things. She wants to get the bathroom retiled." We laughed. But I thought, if that were me, I would want to talk about it. I'd want for someone to say, "This is happening and it's real."

When I got to talk to Carol myself, in the midst of her telling me about the hospice facility she would eventually go to, I said, "How did we get here so fast?" And we both started to cry, the first time we ever cried together. Because always before there was a hope, or a meal to organize, or a thing to be done, or something else to be said. But not anymore. And she said, "I know, how?" I said, "I just wanted you to have a good summer." She told me that she didn't want to die at home, because she didn't want the house to be gloomy forever for her kids, and I said that I totally got that. Then we talked about each of her kids and agreed that everything would be okay. And then I was squeezing my face together and trying not to make any noise because I wanted to hear her talk. And she said, "Of course I want more time, but you know...I don't want to just hang around."

The very last time I saw her, she was still at home, and we didn't talk about any of that. I hugged her and sat with her for about five minutes. She was sitting up and dressed, and we chatted about where I was off to next. I don't know, something insignificant. It is a lot harder to think of meaningful things to say than it should be. I think I told her I loved her. Or maybe that had been on the phone. Then a few days later she was sleeping most of the time, and then she was admitted as an inpatient, and then she was gone.

We had a funeral and a gathering of friends and neighbors, which was good and necessary. And now that has been several weeks ago, but I have felt all this time that she was at home around the corner, and we just haven't gotten a chance to catch up. It has been like one of many summers where we're both busy, or in-and-out of town, and we may not be together for a few weeks at a time. I've seen her husband, and her kids, but always with a sense that while Carol is somewhere out of sight on that day, eventually, soon, her absence will be over and we will meet.

Then, today, her mom summoned me to the house, where she's been going through Carol's closet and dealing with her things. Her mother is seventy-five and vigorous, capable, talkative--a big presence. Years ago Carol would sometimes suggest, with good humor, that her mom could be overbearing. But now she is running the house when Carol's husband has to be working. God grant all of us a busy, overbearing grandma to step into the space we leave behind.

So Carol's mom gave me a houseplant and a plastic shopping bag with the two wigs in it, the same shopping bag I'd put my wig in to lend it. And I thought, again, "How did we get here? How did we get here?" I didn't want the wigs at all. Mine, I am sick of looking at and I promise you I would never wear it again, but I bear it no ill will, if that doesn't sound ridiculous. But looking down into the bag and seeing Carol's, I felt such a shock of recognition--like, that's Carol's hair--and it brought her sadness and her vulnerability from that time all back to me. How did we get there? How do we do the things we have to do? How did I get here? And why me and not her?

I took them and thanked her and said that I would either keep them in case someone else needed them, or that I would donate them. "You never know," she said. And I walked home and put the plant in a bigger pot, then I took the wigs out of the bag and shook them out and looked at them, then I put them back into the bag and sat it at the bottom of my staircase. Then I went to Pretty Neighbor's house and drank three beers.

Now, as I have said in this blog so many times, you know everything. If you have read all this then thank you. xoxo

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Happy New Year! I believe you can wish people a happy new year for all of January, don't you think? Definitely the first time you see them in the new year. I still have a handful of New Year's cards unsent. When I sat down to order my Christmas cards this year, I realized they'd better be New Year's cards, and that was the right call. It's taking a little time because I'm writing personal notes on all 60 of them. I only mention that to shame you.

LOL jk not really! Not really about the shame that is. I really am writing the notes because what else do I have to do?

Anyway. I thought about you guys yesterday morning after I played a tennis match. My partner and I got beat, but I was driving away from the match feeling fine, thinking about my day, my friends, my kids, people I know who are sick, people who are grieving, my own health, just all the things that I think about. And it came to my mind to tell you how, back when I first started playing tennis in earnest, two years ago, being on the court was the only time that I didn't think about breast cancer. In those days I was worried all the time. Cancer dread was a constant background noise to all of my other thoughts. God, exhausting.

That dread is not gone. It has just changed from being uncontrolled and omnipresent to being a familiar part of my mental furniture. I see it every day, but it has a place and I keep it there and try to ignore it. I think this gets easier over time, the not feeling afraid. And also, you know what? Fuck it.

We're diving deep into the mind of Becky today, looks like.

So yeah, when I'm playing tennis, I don't think about any of that. I don't think about my kids. Yesterday I realized that when I'm playing, I don't remember that I even HAVE kids. And I'm not even very good! I marvel at how pleasurable and restful the sport must be for people who have real skills. I think this is the concept of flow, of like, being so immersed in an activity that you aren't even aware of your own self or of the passage of time.

I remember once Laura told me how she feels at swim practice sometimes. She said, "It's like I'm asleep, but I'm awake and my body is working." I think that's flow.

I think being in flow is good for us. I just wanted to poke my head in and ask you, what activities do you have or do that make you feel that way? We're supposed to start the year the way we mean to go on, so let's get flowing, shall we?

Back soon with a holiday update, etc. Yes my Christmas tree is still up, in keeping with our tradition of leaving it up long enough to honor Dr. King. xoxoxo

Friday, December 20, 2013

Tail Feather, Shaken

Gatsbyish themed Xmas party with our buddies!
God help you if you follow me here, facebook, instagram, and twitter. If I go to a party, you have to hear about it for days on all channels. Probably eventually you'll see a picture of the mints in the bathroom, as soon as I can figure out what filter to use.

LOL jk but probably!

Matt's company had a nice party the other night. One thing I enjoy about the video game biz--or probably this is true of any creative field--they love to throw costume/theme parties and everybody always gets into it. Or there was one guy in an argyle sweater, but maybe he was dressed as an old-timey caddy! I find that having a theme helps focus one's dressing up, you know? I love going to parties with my fella. When I got the invitation and saw that it was a 1920's theme, I knew exactly what kind of dress I wanted, beads 'n' feathers. I had seen Sue Wong dresses at Saks. But I needed to find one for a non-Saks price, and I did on ebay. Late on in the evening, this artsy girl in the lobby said to me, "I've always loved Sue Wong, it's fun to see that dress being worn." And Reader, how I did glow with pleasure! Anway, feathers. Check into them.

And since we're still talking about clothes, I can't say enough to recommend a pair of nude platform heels. Where have these been all my life? I paid a full $22 for them but I think I'm going to wear them with everything. Except not everything because they are so uncomfortable. But no matter.

The face I make when I roll a 7, below-right.
Another highlight was when the DJ crossed the room to where I was standing at the craps table. He said, "I just wanted to thank you. Everything I play a new song, you start dancing in place, and I know I've made a good choice." You're welcome sir? He was having a hard time getting anyone to dance, because there was gambling.

I am one of those people who thinks she could be really good at blackjack. But, you know, I'm not at all.

Another thing that happened was my strap broke. That dress is heavy, with all the beads, and it's held up by two tiny spaghetti straps. After I didn't win a prize for my gambling prowess, several people were consoling me with hugs. I hugged back and felt my strap give way. Thank the Lord I was wearing my special bra that has its own infrastructure and public works department, so I just tucked the broken strap into the top of my bra and put my hair over it.

Usually when your dress breaks, it's time to head to the house. But I partied on a while longer. Charleston!

Oh, and a hair note. Both Kelly Ham and I wanted to have a sleek short flapper hairstyle, but we both came to the same conclusion: We couldn't achieve sleek and short, so we went with big and voluminous. And thank goodness, because I needed it for cover. Kelly's dress was 360 degrees of sequins--very pretty and sparkly. She had on the Bra of Amazement too. Is this too much information?

Anyway, now you're caught up. In the next post I'll cover the rest of the weekend's festivities and that should bring us almost up to date.

Y'all going to any parties? Tis the season to spill all the beans about them. xoxo


Friday, December 13, 2013

OMG Again With the Balls

Facts that condition the current playing of the tennis in my sphere of operations:

1) I has rained for most days in December.
2) When it isn't raining, it is freezing.
3) Everyone has other things to do this time of year.
4) We have barely enough girls on our winter team to actually have a team.

So the tennis has been tough to make happen. Lots of makeup matches and then makeups for the makeups. It's my turn to be captain of this winter team, and it's been challenging to deal with these four facts.

Anway. This week we've had dry, though cold weather, and we got back out there. Yesterday we started at 9:15 in the morning. I am not kidding you in saying that it was 31 degrees when we started. There was no breeze, but the courts we were on were in deep shade. Oh, and, I didn't get to start playing right away, I sat and watched for over an hour, thinking, most of that time, "We are nuts." I got a new puffy throw blanket from Lands End so I was wrapped in that. I had all kinds of different performance layers on so it was tolerable.

I said, "When I'm old, I'm not playing winter tennis." Pretty Neighbor goes, "Old? I'm not playing next year."

It was cold.

Finally, when I took the court with my buddy J, it was a balmy 35 degrees. I started playing in gloves. That doesn't really work. This was J's third match ever and we did well, but we got beat. It was okay. Then, after we shook hands with our opponents, one of them offered me the match balls. I said, "That's okay, you keep them." And she goes, "But we're getting the new can of balls."

And I was like, oh for the love. That arcane and difficult ball exchange rule that I wrote about here does not apply to USTA league play, only to the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association.


So I said, "Oh, do we do the ball exchange in USTA? I thought that was only ALTA." Knowing full well it was only ALTA. But she was all, "Uh huh, yes we do." This girl had been playing for four years and should know better. So I took a new can of balls out of my bag and handed them to her and was pleasant. All GRACIOUS-LIKE. And my friend was like, you didn't have to do that, you could have cited the rules, etc. And I was all, I'm not gonna pull out the rules over a can of balls. But one day she'll realize her mistake and if there is a loving God, she'll feel like an ass.


Actually it was pure fun. And later, J and I sat watching our teammates play, and Pretty Neighbor and Peg were playing against these girls who had to have a conference between every single point. We could all feel our blood freezing while we watched and waited. And at one point one girl walked off the court in the middle of a game, I never did figure out why. And J goes, "Look at Pretty Neighbor." And I said, "Oh, yeah, that's Pretty Neighbor's WTF face." And one of the girls on the other team heard me and turned around and looked at me and I was like, OH IT IS ON BIDGES! Or what I actually said was, "That chicken soup is delicious!"

Oh tennis.

Then, THEN, today my teammate V and I were playing a makeup match against these girls from Fancy Land. V was back by the baseline and I was up by the net. The ball was coming toward her and somehow, I'm not really sure, I fell down. Maybe I was scooting out of the way or I was changing positions, but my heels caught and I went down on my booty and then all the way onto my back. Whoa, I never fall down on the court. And I was worried that I wouldn't be able to scramble up in time, or that V would stop playing.

I needn't have worried. V yelled, "GET UP!" And then she hit a winner to end the point. I cracked up laughing. She said, "I just wanted you to know the ball was still in play!" And I said, "Thank you! I was so worried you'd stop playing and come see about me!" If I could have communicated with her as I was going down, I would have said, "Watch that baaaallll...." But I didn't need to. She was on it! It was one of my favorite tennis moments of 2013.

There's a video of Rafael Nadal falling down, and in slow motion you can see that during every instant of his falling to the ground, he's watching the ball and planning to hit it. I totally get it.


And we won. It was one of those matches where all your stuff just goes in, and even the dumb crap you try just works. LOVE IT.

Okay. I just needed to talk about it?

All week I have been a bit snippy and emotional. I think I haven't been sleeping enough. Or that's what my new fitness/sleep tracker tells me. But today was a good day and I think I can hit the reset button over the weekend.

You have my love.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mother-in-Law's Pot Roast, Also Her Dog

Monday afternoon after I took Erika to the MARTA station to go back to California, I stopped and bought a roast. Matt's mom Betty made this roast in my crock pot one time, and I came here to tell you about it.

It has magic powers, e.g., the power to make my child eat onions and the power to make my husband leave the office early.

You need:

a chuck roast, I got a 3lb one
a large onion or two smaller ones
sliced mushrooms
red wine
packet of powdered blue cheese dressing mix
a stick of butter

Cut up the onion into chunks, like little wedges, and put them with the roast into the crock pot. Sprinkle the packet of blue cheese dressing mix onto the meat and onions. Unwrap an entire stick of butter. I mean it, just do it. Unwrap the butter and set it on top of the meat. Put the lid on and turn on the crock pot. I did "high" for six hours. After a couple of hours, when things have settled in a bit, open the lid really quick and pour in about half a cup of red wine. You don't need any other liquid. Go amuse yourself for another couple of hours. Then open the lid one more time and dump in the mushrooms. When the time has elapsed, the roast should be nice and tender and the broth--man--it'll make you want to hit your granny. As the old-timers say.

I served this with baked sweet potatoes. Normally I am all in favor of putting the potatoes or carrots into the crock pot and crocking it with the rest, but you don't want to put in stuff that will soak up too much liquid, Betty says.

Buddy the dog.
Betty came to my house yesterday to fly out of ATL on a trip, and she left her springer spaniel here to stay with us for a week or so. I had told her it was way too long to board him at the kennel, as he is a sensitive soul and it would be too much for him.

It's possible that I am projecting some of my own inner life onto this dog.

So there are the two dogs here. As Matt has remarked, having Buddy around is like having a dog, which is not quite how I'd characterize Percy the Beagle, Moody Daughter of Time. Percy is in a slow boil that Buddy is here. And Buddy is upset that Betty is gone. He's droopy and he definitely has looked around the house for her.

Today he tried to get in my van. He didn't even know where it was going. Just away from here.

So there are a lot of emotional creatures in this house tonight. We get our feelings hurt, then we eat some chow, then we watch a ball roll and find a soft place to lie down. Then we feel better.

That's the scene by me. xo

Monday, December 9, 2013

Prime of My Life

 Every dang year with the birthdays, that's me. I'm really getting up there.

Sometimes I feel like my life is one big party, like the universe is arranged for my delight, and this weekend was one of those times. My friend Erika came and visited from LA, and our grad school friend Dan was in town for a conference, so we took this opportunity to get all up in each other's business.

We didn't really do that much. When I go visit Erika, we undertake all kinds of LA things and see lots of people and go to complicated yoga classes and get professionally groomed and all that jazz. When she comes to visit me, we sit around my house and sip coffee, we talk, we sleep eight hours a night. We decorated the Christmas tree, we had random margaritas in the middle of the day, we Christmas-shopped.

With Dan, we ate downtown at one of those places where they fold your napkin for you every time you leave the table. Everything on the menu was a Southern classic that, through a minor tweak or two, had been rendered really expensive. Highlights were: The waiter trying to convince Erika that the cracked peppercorns floating in her very complex drink were a good thing; Dan explaining his tickbite-induced mammal allergy to the waiter; Being served moonshine in a mason jar and recalling that the last time someone handed me a jar of moonshine, I was standing in the middle of an actual dirt road, and it was free; Getting the waiter to fold the napkin into a paper airplane; The waiter getting sick of our shit, probably. Also there was when we parked the car in a little hole-in-the-wall downtown lot, and I said, "Are we going to get murdered in this lot?" And Erika goes, "Well we're not going to get murdered right now."

Which struck me as funny.

Then we had dinner and cake at home one night, and Hank gave me a card that said, "Since it's your big day, I'm giving you this present! PS: Dad paid for it." And Laura gave me some makeup and a Christmas ornament that looks like a pretzel, which she said was the "most you" of all the ornaments. I don't know but I do love it. I said, "Because I love Bavarian snacks so much?" And she pointed out that we do have a pickle ornament so okay. And Matt got me a fitbit wristband, possibly to offset all the Bavarian snacking.

It rained the whole whole weekend, and it was lovely to sit inside and look at the gray outside. It was a wonderful birthday, and if I have to get older, this was a fine way to do it. Today all the friends are back in their places and it's just the four of us, and we are heading into another busy, chilly December week. I am just hoping to to be able to give everyone what they need and to keep the good times rolling.

I wish the same for you. xoxo

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Learning and Growing, I Guess

I put colored lights on the tree. I know, I don't recognize myself. I mean what? I am a white-lighter all the way. You?

I mean, there are teams for this, right? Is it like how there are Elvis people and Beatles people? Or am I overthinking it? If I'm overthinking it only a little, that's probably the right amount for me.

Somewhere along the way, the last few years, there started being all these different whites at the store. There's warm and cool and LED and bluish and faceted and free-range, probably. I mean which white is white? And so it's like my signifier has lost its referent. Which is a painful condition, but let's not detour into Post-Structuralism this close to Christmas.

So today I was down in the basement finding Hank's fat Santa pillow guys and I saw this big coil of multi-colored lights, like the heavy duty kind that you're really supposed to use outside. And they're on this big reel and I could just picture myself so easily unwinding that baby around and around the tree. So I brought it upstairs and just like that, we stepped boldly away from the land we have known.

Not to overstate the importance of this choice even one tiny bit.

I mean, what will it look like with our ornaments on it? I will be sure to keep you posted during this adventure of my sensibilities.

In other news, it rained a ton all over the Hundred Acre Wood. And no tennis was played.

During a brief let-up, Hank ran outside to see what the foster daughters were up to. He came back inside and told me the girls were burying a snail they had got at the beach. A snail that was dead, he clarified. I nodded or made some noise of acknowledgment, I'm not sure, I was doing something else.

"Mom, I'm sorry if I crushed your happy mood," he said. I tuned back in and assured him that he had not crushed my mood and that while it was a shame the snail was dead, it was not an unnatural thing or surprising thing, etcetera.

And he said, "I just really wish I could have met that snail while he was alive."

And I had to lurch back through the kitchen doorway so I could silently laugh without him seeing me, but it was a laugh that was almost a sob.