Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jungle Plant

there's one in every litter


Remember looking at National Geographic magazine's pictures of jungle tribes?  Lying on the living room floor, your head bracing hand falling asleep, the scratchy carpet irritating the skin of your belly where your Hang Ten hand-me-down shirt had lifted up,  turning the slick pages with your functioning hand.  The smooth skinned naked natives with their blackened nub smiles both fascinated and repulsed.  The body manipulations: ritual tattooing, scaring, piercing and stretching of the dark jungle moist skin was so other, alien.  I thought about this as I seated myself at the dinner table on Christmas Eve, forcibly softening my squint of disapproval and holding my tongue in order to enjoy a rare visit from my eldest son.

to find some books on xeriparenting
Modestly pierced ears were pretty much unanimous at the table.  My scientist brother-in-law has tiny hoops in each ear, but my eldest son has surgical steel in various gages looping in and out in three different directions, plus rosewood bottle cap sized plugs in stretched lobes, but most festive is the thick shiny silver bull ring ending in double ball bearings dangling from his upturned nose, jewelry that would be more suited on a 350 pound Samoan, not my delicate featured, freckled, blue eyed Scot-Irish Neo Primitive. Plus I think we can all agree that white boy dreadlocks are unfortunate. Two ambitious rope heads are seated at our dinner table. Brothers, one dark, one red. Seeing them seated next to each other, eating only the quinoa salad, I recall rinsing playground sand and sweat from their toddler scalps as they battled with multiple Batman action figures – and me -  in the tub.  I would pour water from a Toy Story popcorn bucket as they covered their eyes with a washcloth, the stream pulling their ringlets down their backs as the suds were rinsed away. Now those curls are matted and hidden in rough ropes that smell worse than they look and include remnants of camp outs on Mount Tam, beads and feathers.  The elder, the redhead, ‘the Gingerdread Man’, has crafted his signature look into a dread mullet, cutting the front short, growing a pompadour, bleaching it, then shaving it down to a burr cut again, and with the red ropes pulled back, he passes as employable. 



The Gingerdread Man, as he sits here before me, is six months into what we are collectively agreeing to agree is a gap year. He left college after his freshman year and he is the only person at the table who is happy about this. His freshman year of college was a busy one.  While he did well academically, he also hopped freight trains, took up with a nefarious crew in Portland, can use the term ‘squat house’ with confidence, has earned an arrest record and he has three four DIY tattoos. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he hasn’t been wearing his retainer.

I’m enjoying Christmas Eve dinner with my family and baffled by my poseur Hobo. When he left school he and his tribe went on food stamps because they didn’t want to be tied down to summer jobs. He wanted to roam and since we, the evil fun oppressors wouldn’t be sponsoring his plan, well he showed us. He and I had a chat about integrity and I might have used the words ‘lacking a moral compass’ when I forgot to use my inside voice.

Willing to sleep in a squat house in Oakland or the joint custody tribal van rather than his bed in our home.  Opportunities rejected, intentionally festooned to appear unemployable, throwing himself headlong with gusto into risk laden situations, all the while knowing he has options.  His reality is his choice.
HoboCam Pic
My choice is to detach, and enjoy my dinner, sip my wine and breathe. I look at my kids and realize it was never my intention to raise house plants, children who fear the world and I cannot control his 20 year old choices. I am fascinated and repulsed. I say nothing. 

Mary Allison Tierney's essay The Gingerdreadman is included in the anthology Mamas Write, available at Amazon, or your local independent bookshop.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zingers




Searching for my gym bag led to a shocking revelation: it was gone.  After gutting the car, laundry room and rest of the house, searching in rooms and closets where I never take my gym bag, I recreated the scene of the crime. I had dropped my daughter off at her job at the farmer’s market, went to the gym, came back to retrieve her and get lunch, and in approaching the car noticed that I had inadvertently left the passenger side back seat window down. 

  It was a warm spring day and the car was a crock pot when I got in after the gym, so I drove with the windows down to the market.  I thought, ‘stupid’ when I unlocked the door and loaded the flat of strawberries, chess pie, sun gold tomato plants and bags of produce in the back seat and my daughter climbed in front.


Little Ladybug Pies.  buy them.

It wasn’t until I was loading the car again for school on Monday that I was looking to resupply the gym bag and could not find it. We were running too late to search. Normal Monday. 

It was later that afternoon that I tore the house apart and the cold reality settled in my gut.  Someone had reached in behind the driver seat and somehow managed to pull it out without setting off the alarm.  I did a quick mental inventory: running shoes, stinky sweaty outfit, new North Face fleece, iPod and headphones, toiletry bag of face stuff, toiletry bag of hair stuff.  And the bag itself. Nothing irreplaceable and no cash or credit cards.  But an expensive haul to replace. 

I vented aloud that a karmic pox fall upon the gym bag thief, who probably dumped the whole lot in the trash when they realized there was no cash or credit cards.  I doubt they will appreciate my Rodin perfume or my audible download of The Wind Up Girl.  That  all my lotions and make up are organic.  A pox I say, ‘may your pants always feel tight, may your earbuds always tangle, may your shampoo bottle always be empty.’

Speaking of religious gym attendance, questionable behavior and too snug britches, Zingers will be revived and on shelves again by the end of summer.  Vanilla & Devil’s Food with gummy icing and fake crème filling and the bright fuchsia coconut sprinkled Raspberry met their end along with their more famous sister, the Twinkie,  last year.  Twinkies are the Marcia Brady to Zingers Jan. The American snack cake was made by both Dolly Madison and Hostess, which makes zero sense.
Blue Collar Eclair photo by Zingersfan*


Hostess closed down after it offered a contract that would cut it’s worker’s wages by 8% and benefits by 27 to 32%.  Workers went on strike and the company decided to shut down.  Somewhere this might have to do with people wisely not buying the product for health reasons. But there was a nostalgic public outcry about the disappearance of the classic Twinkie. (Marcia Marcia Marcia!)

Hostess was bought by an investment group and the new boss, Michael Cramer is adamant to avoid working with unions and will reopen with non-union hires to replace the teamsters and Bakery Union employees who were on strike when the company folded last year.  How American. 

*


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Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yet


......and yet....

fierce tourist in Guatemala

He is so tall now that when I hug him his thin hip pokes just under my raised arm, and yet, he’s thinner than a full bag of groceries, hugged close to my chest, his long lean arms drape on my shoulders. The rare times I see him these days, standing at his full 6’4”, is in the kitchen, foraging bagels and frozen pizza.  

Fairfax Bicycle Works
When he is home he’s tightly coiled behind his drum kit, pounding with a machinist’s precision, tapping out intricate thrumming rhythms. Or he’s curled over a guitar or banjo, his graceful elegant skilled fingers sliding, pressing fluttering picking the strings. Then he’s leaning into the computer keyboard, composing, mixing, fingers tapping head banging along with his creation*.  



drumming with Vuotan
The hours in his basement lair, the creative sleep cave that mirrors the inside of his 18 year old brain: musky, blues, purples and browns with dark grimy shadows, mold skinned cold coffee in multiple cups, guitar pics and strings, gnawed splintered drum sticks, balled socks, ticket stubs, burrito foil and rumpled sheets under a sleeping dog...and yet, pure creative necessity. 
Mystic kids

He emerges, purged and hungry, late for class, needing the air of the redwoods, loading his bike with necessities and peddling off to sleep in the woods and read of trolls, dwarves, Vikings and sandworms... so close to manhood, and yet.....


*stick with it 

** nothing created in your basement is ever boring

***teenaged boys have teensy little opinions about music



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Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Wait!


Knocking over that first domino, we remember all the firsts. Tooth, step, haircut, day of school.  But when does a thing end? A wind comes along and you have tied your last shoelace.  There was a day when I jabbed a juice box with a lethally sharp straw and that was the last one. Do you remember the last diaper? The last time you had to help with the seatbelt? The day you hauled the lacrosse bag out of the back of he car and it never went back in. The night you didn't have to search for the beloved stuffed animal?

I'm on to a whole new round of firsts, with more biggies to come for sure.  First college launch for second son. First solo european excursion for first born. First high school thoughts for my baby, my youngest. Dandelion seeds.  That's what this feels like.  A wind is tugging on my kids and pulling them by the root.  I hope they have everything they need embedded in their psyche and selves.  Because the clicking of the falling dominoes is getting louder, closer, and then it will be very quiet around here.




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Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Valor, or maybe Victory?



The Armchair Squid has has chosen to bestow upon me the Liebster award. Well, myself and ten others. I am now obligated to layout 11 fun facts about moi, answer the 11 questions the Squid posed (really good ones), award it to 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions. They in turn can, if they wish, follow the same steps to keep the award going. Check out his link so you can get to know him a little better, too. I hope I'm doing this right (write?) 

Eleven Millvallison Factoids:

1.   I am a retired skier. Meaning I no longer feel compelled to ski, or shlep anything related to skiing. Ever.

2.   I buy pretty much all my edibles at our local Farmer’s Markets. 

3.   David Lee Roth > Sammy Hagar. Duh.

4.   My computer is seriously overdue for an upgrade. 

5.   My daugher uses a sonicscrewdriver tooth brush.  If you understand, we can be friends.

6.   She, my third child was not a ‘surprise’, but thanks for asking.

7.   I allowed my two sons to stop cutting their hair in middle school.  One hasn’t cut it since, and he starts college in the fall. Because Santa Cruz needs more dreadlocks.

8.    During our annual summer trip to Texas, one year I made a split second decision to detour north to Archer City to see the crumbling theater from Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show.  Everyone got Dairy Queen, so there were minimal complaints.

9.   I’ve been hugged by Eddie Vedder. 

10.    Coffee is my drug, my jesus, my love.

11.     #9 is better than you can imagine.


Eleven Squid questions:

1.   If you could live one year of your life again, which would you choose and why? 
I would say possibly one of my post college NYC years, I would go out and do and see more art & music.  So many of the artists and musicians who were active in the late 80’s are no longer with us.

2.   If you could be good or better at one thing without putting the time and work, what would it be? 
Blues singer or guitarist.

3.   You’ve been invited to join a bowling league and you may choose any five people to be on your team. There’s only one catch: you can only pick fictional characters.  Whom would you choose? 
Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes, Aunt Bea, Lucy Ricardo, Harry Callaghan and Jamie Summers.

4.   How do you feel about pears? 
Juicy and delicious if in season, but can easily turn mealy.

5.   How do you feel about the metric system?  
It has let me down.


6.   The doctor knocks on your door. He’ll take you to visit any place on earth at any point in history (he always seems to make the choices with intersetellar travel). Where and when do you choose?
Creation of the earth, end of the dinosaur age, or a great lost weekend at mardi gras with well connected locals who know all the right places to go.

7.   If you could learn any new language, which would you choose? 
Spanish for practical travel, Elvish for Comicon

8.   You have one personal quality which eventually annoys everyone in you life including on occasion yourself. What is it an do you feel its within you power to change it? 
Negativity/pessimism.  Probably not.

9.   If you knew when you were younger what you’d be doing with your life now, how might you have planned things differently? Do you think your life would be truly better overall if you had? 
I would have worried significantly less about getting my kids into the right preschool and traveled more. Yes, possibly


10.  If all went south and you had to turn to a life of crime (assuming you haven’t already) what line of dirty work would you choose? 
I’m guessing there’s gonna be something shady happening with electric car chargers/solar panels that I’m not dialed in enough to know about – it’s going to be energy related. Or possibly like the fake tweet that was read by an investing algorithm and tanked the stock market for a few hours.  that was pretty surprising.  to me.


11.How do you get your geek on? 
Vicariously, through my kids mostly. Dr. Who, the new Star Trek movie next month. Discussing LOTR with my son. Hubble telescope photos of deep space.The usual.

It is my great honor to present the Liebster Award to:





5. A Daft Scots Lass (Jack White's girlfriend)








My eleven questions to pass on:

1. What's the first thing you ever wrote that you were proud of?

2. What kind of roller skates did you own/rent?

3. Did you name you bike as a kid? as an adult?

4. Has another person's dietary habits ever ended or threatened to end the relationship?

5. Is there a sport you could not live without following?

6. What is it about ketchup?

7. Have you ever shaved your head.  Have you ever wanted to? Why?

8. Is there a song you know the lyrics to that you will sing just to annoy people?

9. What is the first meal you learned to cook?  Do you still make it the same way?

10.  Have you ever turned down an invitation out of spite?

11.  Did you believe new sneakers made you run faster? What if they did? 





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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Umbrella




A kid doesn’t have much use for an umbrella in Arizona. There are seasonal monsoons, but they are welcome and warm. I had a seldom used, clear plastic bubble umbrella.  Something that Lady Ga Ga would consider costuming today.  Very 70’s mod, but it wasn’t used very often. It stayed in the living room closet with the moving box full of Christmas decorations and a thick lambskin coat my mother rarely had an opportunity to wear.

By college I had a matching rain coat and Papagallo slip ons, but again, seldom used. I met a boy at school in Flagstaff who told me he thought only rich people had umbrellas. He was raised on a gentleman’s cattle ranch in southern Arizona.  Cowboys wear hats and dusters, seldom carry an umbrella.  That’s a city folk thing.

After college I lived in NYC and  the moment the sky threatened, vendors with boxes of cheap black compact umbrellas materialized outside subway stops.  These were the umbrellas that were left in bars, on subway trains and quickly blew inside out and were dumped into a corner garbage can. 

I always felt reluctant to leave my umbrella in the suggested receptacle at the doorway of a restaurant or bar, worried that someone would take it even though it was cheap. They’re all the same, how could someone not?

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Transitions

Granny and Paw Paw’s yellow brick two bedroom home was built in the 1940's in a nice Ft. Worth neighborhood near the TCU campus, and was sold when Granny moved into an assisted living home nearer my aunt and uncle. Granny was widowed in her 70’s, and lived there several more years before eventually moving into the assisted living residence, then a nursing home.  Her quality of life and dependence on others swiftly see-sawing in opposite directions. 

I stayed with Granny often when I was a baby, while my mother finished her BA at TCU.  I visited the house every summer as a kid, traveling from Roswell, El Paso and later Phoenix. I even moved back in for a few months during my college transition year. The smell of that house lingers in my memory: the cold mildew of the unfinished basement combined with Paw Paw’s gold bond talc powder and closet moth balls. The shush sound the front door made when it was opened, rubbing against the plush carpet and the squeak of the brass plate mail slot in the door.  The sticky crackle of the linoleum underfoot in the tiny yellow kitchen. The rotten dried husks of pecans on the thin border of concrete that framed the back yard  where Paw Paw would chip and putt golf balls endlessly. 


Granny’s pinktiled bathroom vanity had deep drawers filled with stacks of dial deodorant soap and multiple tubes of Pepsodent toothpaste, bought on triple coupon day at Minyards Market.  Those packaged soaps are now over 30 years old. I saw them last thanksgiving in my aunt’s bathroom drawer along with Granny's steel comb with a pick end handle. Attached was a single grey hair. 

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Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Swimming Pool






I worked as the fill-in life guard the summer I was 15.  It’s a small Texas town, and then it was the only public pool. It was outdoors on the old high school campus sandwiched between the gymnasium and the original football field. My two cousins were the main life guards, and I went to the pool with them each day to learn the ropes, as the elder was getting married that summer, and I was to be her replacement. The public pool was soon to be run by a 15 and 17 year old.


A couple details about that summer job haunt me today, as a mother and as a responsible person.  First off, I was not certified by any agency to be a lifeguard. Nepotism at its finest. I had the general idea, CPR wise, and I had a whistle.  Also there were no adults in charge, to speak of.  The football coach, in high waisted nylon shorts and knee high white socks, dropped by on occasion, probably because he was getting a few extra bucks for running the pool. And it was near the weight room where the football players worked out.  Another was we were paid daily right out of the till, so if it was a slow day, we closed the pool early so we could make it worth our while to be there.  My cousin checked the PH of the water, or whatever that kit with the colored drops was.  Occasionally the water level was too low so we put a hose in.  I know there were bags of chemicals we dumped in from time to time.

We had the key to the doors and the padlocked plywood cover for the admission window that covered the front of the cinderblock building that served as snack bar, and twin changing rooms and bathrooms.  I cannot remember them ever being cleaned, just hosed down.  There was never toilet paper and the concrete floor was always wet and hopping with crickets.  It was a dollar admission and we purchased bulk snacks, zingers, twinkies, chips then sold them for profit.  Swimmers could get a wire basket from the snack bar but there was no place to stash it.

I have a painful image of a rough passel of scruffy kids in cutoffs and t-shirts standing on the asphalt in the burning Texas sunshine, having been dropped by mom and given a buck each. We opened at 1 PM, and I vividly remember a couple of them didn’t have shoes and were hopping from foot to foot, waiting for us.  Mothers were often late and pissed off, screeching into the parking lot in rattling faded station wagons with the windows down, smoking a cigarette and her hair in sponge rollers.  Lots of kids road their bikes and left them laying outside the fence, never needing to worry that they’d be stolen.
This was mostly an extreme babysitting job with fighting siblings, water, and two diving boards. There was one giant football player who went off the high dive and sunk.  We had to both go in after him.  We gave time outs for pushing and dunking. We yelled at a kid named Dwayne a lot. 

At the end of my summer adventure at the pool, I had learned how to French braid my own hair, had snagged a kinda-sorta summer boyfriend and I had a bitchin’ tan. For me those were all firsts plu I had a Styrofoam Sonic slushie cup stuffed with one dollar bills

At the end of summer the pool was closed then totally removed some years later.  A big Corporate Wellness Center with an indoor Aquatic Center opened at the new hospital across town. Many more people now have their own backyard pools I guess. A patch of brown grass has replaced the entirety of the old public pool and snack shack, and the space looks impossibly small.






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Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Record Store Day

Happy four twenty, or as it is also known, Record Store Day. I still play vinyl and have even been buying actual records lately. My love of records was born with the first sound system I could call my own. My red Close and Play record player I had as a preschooler. It only played 45s, but my mother’s Beatles She Loves You never sounded so good. I might have had some Mother Goose as well. I especially loved tapping it on the lid and making it skip. That was hilarious, apparently to my three year old brain. Not so much to my mother’s if I remember correctly. 

My parents later had a huge coffin type piece of furniture that housed the turn table, speakers and possibly a full bar. It was the 60’s. You could load several albums in a stack, the precursor to today's playlist. Can you remember the sound of the next album slapping down? The sound of the end of a record? You’re old. 


 I went from Donny & Jimmy Osmond directly to Leif Garrett. I was 13 years old and had a subscription to Tiger Beat. If you were a Tiger Beat reader, three words: Leif’s satin pants. ‘nuff said.

I lived in Phoenix during my album collecting days and the sun was your enemy. I once had an album warped by sitting in the car on the drive home from the mall. You couldn’t store them by a window inside either. 

The last album I remember buying, before the current post digital hipster resurgence of turntables, was Big Audio Dynamite. I also, much to my son’s amazement and horror, have Run DMC and Beastie Boys on vinyl. 

 I’m old. Happy Record Store Day – go buy an album!


Tiger Beat Magazine 1978



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Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for Quest


The prize table was laden with huge colorful water bazookas, the only thing that mattered. That damned race.  On vacation at a resort in Oregon, a kid’s triathalon!  So fun! 

boys
As soon as the kids started the swimming leg, it was immediately obvious who wasn’t a swim team kid. I wanted to pull him out of the pool and wrap him in his towel, but my son pushed me away roughly as he hurried to put on his shoes, one of the last out of the pool, and he began to run.  He ran and rode his bike and crossed that finish line well in the middle but never quitting.  But I wanted to die for him as he struggled with the swimming and saw how far back he was. I wanted to pull him into a hug and sneak off into the pine trees. He would have none of it.  We walked past the prize table featuring the huge cartoon water gun after the race, not really looking this time.

I admired his perseverance and dealt with my own maternal guilt
by putting both my boys into swim team as soon as we returned.  Not to win races, but I felt I had overlooked some fundamental basic childhood necessity. They had swim lessons, I felt confident they could swim, but lanes and strokes and laps were not in their playbook, and it seemed every other kid but mine was on a swimteam.  I felt like I’d accidentally forgotten to teach them how to use a fork.  Actually that might still be some peoples opinion. 

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is for Options





I want him to look down and ask himself ‘What’s on my plate?’  How do I create a future? Lay the stepping stones to a goal?  So far its still Chutes and Ladders for him.  Every day a new adventure. He has walked his plate to the dog bowl, scraped it clean of opportunities and wondered off the trail. I’ve heard from some (men) that this is admirable, formative.  They’re envious of his freedom. 

Why must his lessons be hand forged artisanally crafted, locally sourced, micro brewed in bad behavior? So Portlandia! His parentally woven safety nets of financial planning and collegiate expectations have been shrugged off, while suspended above his head a sharp blade dangles, twisting in the breeze of his creation with his tsunami of questionable choices. Only visible to maternal eyes, apparently. He senses it but it doesn’t factor into his decision making. 




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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for North Beach

Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe


I walked through North Beach this morning and it’s been a while. Predictably, as it happens, things have changed.  I moved to San Francisco’s North Beach in 1991. My first child was born a year later, and we spent the first year and a half of his life walking and strolling around our neighborhood before we moved to the burbs and his brother was born.

First off, Tower Records is now Walgreen’s.  This is partly just the way it goes, record stores are not profitable enough to occupy two corners of prime real estate in San Francisco.  But Walgreen’s? Bleh. Strike one for charm.

pagoda theater Go Giants!
What’s still thriving? The Chinese laundry and alterations shops, tourist bike rentals and Coit Liquor. The Pagoda Theater is gutted. Once an actual theater, then a blue movie house,  when we lived nearby it was a movie theater specializing in Kung Fu flicks. It's Deco façade is now stripped of neon and the front is boarded up and nicely graffitied. (Go Giants!) The theater was supposed to be renovated, then a parking garage was to be dug out of the basement and the building converted into condos.  Now the plan seems to be about the impending subway and the theater being an entry point. Strike two.

A few doors up Powell is an empty restaurant called Bottle Cap which used to be Ed Moose’s historic WASHBAG.  Erased with periwinkle blue paint. Same with Moose’s across the park. Just another restaurant. Out front Prius cabs and helmeted tourists in three wheeler go-carts, slow as neon slugs, manuver around as if in a San Francisco’s North Beach theme park.

Mario's on Columbus & Union
What’s still around, thank god, are Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store and Saints Peter & Paul church. On the east side of Columbus and the north side of Union Street, it is sunny and warm spring weather. On the opposite shady sides, it is down jacket weather with icy gusts of wind.  Inside Mario’s my ambitiously mustachioed barista whips up a double cappuccino and a roasted red pepper and eggplant panini. Unchanged since the first time I order it in high school. The bells of the church chime noon as kids screech and yell in Washington Square Park. This remains the same.


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Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Monday




For this Monday. Today. A daily siren sounds at noon at Stinson Beach. I was there today when it blasted, with my daughter and the dog.  No school today – optional parent teacher conferences – we opted no and made it a beach day. An hour later we were home and I learned of the horror at the Boston Marathon. The first explosion happened at the same time the beach siren went off. I am so grateful for this day with my daughter and send healing thoughts to all in Boston and to those who were victimized by this violence.  I am shielding myself and daughter from all visual coverage.

My son and I spent last weekend touring the campus and local beach scene in Santa Cruz. He plans to start college there in the fall,  needed to check it out the living conditions.

Now, Monday, laundry and dirty dishes and snowdrifts of dog hair have gathered in their favorite spots.  Food-like things crunch underfoot as I walk by the piles in the kitchen and reach for the leash, sending our 13 year old Aussi-Border collie  into a complete Bieber fever spaz attack complete with sneezing. If she could bounce on her hind legs and clap, she would.

It is windy and chilly but I am seriously scoring in the sand dollar hunt. The dog is going nuts, hunting eviscerated crabs and chasing anything thrown. My daughter is walking behind me, head down in a hardback library book, fighting the wind to turn the page. She observes with all the wisdom of a twelve year old. ‘You know what the greatest thing is about Robert Downy Jr., besides everything?’ then goes on to tell me some antidote from an Avengers fan page.

Prepping my second son for the launch pad has me slowing down with my daughter.  The time between seventh grade and the end of senior year is a much faster five years than from kindergarten to fourth grade. So this day belongs to the beach, sand dollars, a half and half soft serve cone at the Parkside, and a screening of Mean Girls when we get home. The dog hair, crumbs, laundry unreturned emails and unscheduled blah blah can keep. 



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Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Lessons


I didn't grow up in a home that contained musical instruments. We had a stereo and lots of my parent's LPs: Zeppelin, Paul Simon, The Stones, the Who, Rod Stewart, Phoebe Snow, Linda Ronstadt, Willie Nelson and Judy Collins are the album covers that immediately come to mind. I also was taken to many concerts as a kid, but not out of a sense of exposing me to music as much as not wanting to pay a babysitter.  There was a guitar at one point. I might have been twelve when my father, living with his second wife in Santa Fe for five years at that point, bought me an acoustic guitar for Christmas. Extravagant. It served as a constant reminder of what I wasn't: a kid who took music lessons. I couldn't afford to learn how to play it, didn't know how to tune it and it sat, mute, and ultimately was sold when I moved out of my mothers house and left for college.  I think I got 50 bucks for it and put it towards my first semester's books, so it served some useful purpose.


My kids started playing instruments when my middle son was in fourth grade and Santa brought a drum kit.  His older brother started taking classical guitar soon after. Then the drummer added bass lessons, and his older brother added electric guitar, then suddenly they both played everything you could shred. My daughter was in fourth grade when we inherited my mother-in-law's piano, so I had my first piano player.  At one point I was employing four musicians for six lessons a week divided amongst the three kids.


It goes without saying that I feel very fortunate to be able to do this. I am grateful that my kids love playing music and very blessed with the caliber of musician mentors in their lives.  It is a language of expression I never had, and I appreciate how it grounds them and enriches their lives and their interactions with others. 

This weekend I took my middle son to check out the college he will be attending in the fall.  I hung back as he strolled the campus and eventually fell into a conversation with some music students.  He became a different person before my eyes. We stopped at a music store on the way back to the hotel and he happily sat for 30 minutes playing a vintage dobro.  Total bliss. Harmony.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for Knowing

breakfast at Mama's


Unseen threads of psychic spider web link me to my children in good and terrible ways. Many choose to take a broom to those webs.  But if you are very quiet and can be very brave, if you are listening to your gut, and paying attention, you know. A mother knows.

It used to creep me out when a random thought would pop into my head and my eldest son would start asking me about it.  Something would remind me of my sister and then for some reason I would be thinking of her Teva sandals and my son would ask me if he could get new water sandals because his were too small.  Something would remind me of my family in Texas, a pickup truck or the clouds and my son would say, “I wish we had Sonic here.”  I got used to it.  The nagging pull from him is constant.

maybe just practicing?
It didn’t happen as often with my second son, but he was much more cerebral, less verbal.  He was also a sleepwalker so my mission was different.  I woke up at 2 am and immediately knew.  He was outside, in the rain, in his footed pj’s, fishing with a plush fabric pole that had Velcro at the end of the line, to pick up felt fish. Sound asleep but successfully catching felt fish. 


My daughter, is just a different animal altogether. I think her first words were: “What’s next?” She’s the one who took the broom to the webs, as she just blazes a trail to whatever it is she needs.  


Sea Ranch was on the To Do list
A very articulate communicator from the get go, she started making to do lists before she could write. She was slightly jig saw puzzle obsessed. There was no such thing as Not Finishing the Puzzle. My job has always been to create a cocoon for her to relax and not be so task oriented.  I kept her home until she was four, unlike her brothers, who would have loved preschool at 11 months, right? She was fun to hang out with, hike, go to the beach, anywhere without puzzles. She still is.  They all are really.  The mother web is intact.




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Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for JAVA!

maddie's mud at marin farmer's market



Crazy California Claire is hosting my J Is For JAVA! piece today as part of the Write On Mamas! Blogging A to Z challenge.

Are we all familiar with cupping?  The fanatical java fans know what I'm talking about. My friend, Bill, sent me this article on brewing the perfect cup.




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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Inconsolable

Today my I is for Inconsolable piece is featured on  Crazy California Claire's blog as a part of our Write On, Mamas! group Blogging A to Z challenge.  Enjoy!


Bike Tour to college


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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Houdini

This was the first piece of writing I had published. (Marin Independent Journal)  Motherhood is a minefield. Motherhood is a goldmine. Oh yeah. 




Houdini at 8

Houdini Toddler


There’s a cold dark place you go when you can’t find your child. I went there once. This isn’t the run of the mill can’t pick out your kid’s head bobbing in the pool, can’t sift through all the hooded toddlers at the park, just focused on a sale rack for a second and now you’re on your hands and knees at Nordstrom.

This is an all hands on deck, EVERYBODY is looking and minutes are ticking by and your toddler is GONE. This is when someone gently leads you to a room so you can scream while they hold you.

I stepped into the Toddler Room to pick up my two year old son and in the scramble for lunch boxes and hanging up of jackets I couldn’t see where he might be. The afternoon kids were settling in for lunch and the hip-height chaos was all around me. A few seconds passed before I could move into the room and peek around the corner to the area where I usually found him painting. Not there. His teacher saw my questioning look and helped me look. She opened the door to the outside play area, asking several parents and teachers if they had seen him.

In seconds the entire school was in lock down mode with all able bodies calling his name and looking in the garden, upper school, kitchen, parking lot, office. This is when it became cold and dark, and I was led by the elbow into an office. I remember screaming for someone to call 911.



Parents and teachers had begun looking in the creek that runs behind the school and were fanning out into the neighborhood, when a local resident came out of her house and asked if we were looking for the little boy she had in her arms. He had slipped out the gate in the back of the school and disappeared up a flight of stairs leading to the Homestead Valley Community Center. Like Popeye’s Sweetpea, skirting disaster at every turn, he had gone past the pool, through a parking lot with a blind driveway, along Montford, a typical Mill Valley neighborhood street with no sidewalk or shoulder, across Montford and up this neighbor’s steep driveway.

The fact that he wasn’t run down by an SUV was a miracle in itself. Ten years have passed since that day, and the two preschool teachers have since retired and moved away. I send them both a Christmas card each year and get one in return. I know they went to their own cold dark place that day.   2007

He's 18 now.  Still pulling Houdini's.  Off to college in the fall. 

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