A Fortress

Him: Mom, let me get under your blanket. I’m cold.

Me: It is no degrees outside. Put on some pants. 

Him: (Crawls under the blanket with me, rubbing clammy feet on mine)

Me: (Aw. And ew.)

Him: Pants are uncomfortable and I don’t like wearing them. 

Me: (Endlessly hugs the now-warm, still pantless child, who is clearly mine, and who tolerates the affection for one more second before he scampers back to his fort because sometimes too much mommy is too much. 

And we had a day in the fort with snuck-in food amongst the many pillows and too much TV. 

It was a glow of heat in the dark cold. 

And I remembered how much brightness there is. 




I had every intention to handle this like a warrior.

A paint-covered, ladder-climbing, putty-knife-wielding warrior.

That’s not exactly how it all went.



Yes. That’s the after. I couldn’t do any more.

It looks like a preschool class painting their first flat for a school play.

But it was the best I could do. Multiple trips to fetch supplies I couldn’t afford. Almost as many panic flushes. I was done.

My best is not much. Obviously. I can write you a poem about patching a ceiling but I can’t do it in practice.

Was this mess at least better than when I started?




I don’t know anymore.

The biggest hurdle was that I was going to handle this myself. And by handle, I meant just getting on with it. Not whining and whinging and lambasting my self-worth with the same enthusiasm that I used when wielding the blade of a paint scraper and the sanding block.

That hurdle, I instead smacked and took down with me as I tumbled to the ground. I sent endless texts begging for encouragement. To the point where I was disgusting myself, so I can’t image how pissed the receiver of my depressing messages must have been. I was so furious at myself that I didn’t know how to do this, how to fixed this, that I failed at something else. I

I do this every time. Every time. No matter what bobble or hardship or uncalm sea I encounter. Every little thing. Every time.  And this wasn’t even a crisis. When I came home to find this, now that was a crisis.

(For texture and amplification, it was -2 degrees Fahrenheit at the time outside the house.)

Did I handle both of these problems?

Sort of.

The heat now works and there’s not as much of a crater situation on the ceiling.

Did I beat myself up about my complete buggering of these projects?


Did I deserve that?

No comment.

Did I then beat myself up about my weight and my complete lack of musical or artists talent and my shit parenting job and…

Fine. You bet your sweet ass I did. Gave myself a proper run down.

I really need to stop this. It helps no one. It makes me feel worse and by doing it again, and again, and fucking again, I will push away the precious few that are willing to support me when I have legitimate crises, not just a few floating flakes of glossy enamel.

If I can kinda fix paint and more or less manage a broken furnace, why can’t I give myself a break?

That should be the easy part. Just taking away the labor I swing day in and day out that effectively chips mw down to a rubbled pile of nothing.

Even if I have nothing good to replace the absence.

A  wrong act continually enforced to the detriment of all is worth the struggle to repeal it.

The floor is open to motions.


Floor…does that look like a hole in my floor???

Let Down

Today, I let my kid be disappointed. 

I could have swooped in and saved him, been a sidekick, been a day-saver. 

But I didn’t. 

There was a school thing today. There are always school things. Today was one of many. 

Last night we planned. We packed the bag. We stuffed the envelopes. We were ready. 

And then this morning, he forgot. 

I tried to text him. He didn’t answer. I tried to FaceTime him. He didn’t answer. Why do I buy expensive tech that we don’t ever answer????

He went to school without. And I let him. 

Avalanche of guilt. Big, sharp, pointy, heavy boulders of it. Everywhere. 

I wasn’t there for him this morning. In my heart, I felt I let him down. 

Last night, I was at rehearsal for a show I’m excited about. I get excited about Shakespeare and that’s awesome. 

But, if I’m at rehearsal, my kiddo is with his dad. At their house. Because I couldn’t make that work. 

Now, I’m a lousy mom and a lousy partner and my kid is the only one in his class today without the things and ye gods these boulders of guilt are CRUSHING me and where’s a Shakespearean witch with a vanishing spell when you need one!!!

Stop. Move the boulder. Breathe. 

This is a nothing. In two years my kid won’t remember this. Other things are bigger. Maybe he’ll remember his class election not going the way he wanted. Maybe that was a big deal. We’re not there yet. 

I don’t want him to have my anxiety and hang ups. As a adult, I want him to take things seriously when they matter. I also want him to brush off the nonsense that causes ulcers but in reality doesn’t mean shit. 

So, I let him be disappointed. But I didn’t let him down. 

I’ll be under these boulders trying to remember that. 

A Perfect Sphere





Sphere by C.K. Without instructions.


Being a parent is like
making a perfect sphere;

out of a pile of broken legos.

They tell you you can do it.
They tell you there are instructions,
but those are long ago lost;
one page floating in the toilet
another page under the forks in the drawer
another in the basement of your bag
stuck to the bottom with melted chocolate
and to the side with bubble gum
that was tried, but named ‘not my favorite.’

What happens is, the pieces you need aren’t there,                                                   but that’s when you know how to use them;

or the pieces are there,                                                                                                                   but that’s when you can’t make them fit.

In the pictures, the ones they all seem to have,                                                          they tell you:
blue 3×2
grey 1×6
red 4×4

Press here,
click there,


So, you try the same,                                                                                                                       but all you have is:
green 2×2
black 8×8
white 1×1

You pound here,
you smack there,                                                                                                                                but not.

And there is it…

A crumbling pyramid.

Not a perfect sphere.

Some people can do it.

They dive their hands in,

and without any hesitation or sweat

or swear words or crying or whiskey,

they do it.

Round. Smooth. Perfect.

You can’t do that.

But you have to do something,

make something.

Try something.

So you do.
With whatever bags of edges and
sides and cracked bumps you have left.
You can’t just leave these blocks
scattered and pointless and deserted.

Maybe if you stack it,
just keep pushing to the center,
every one mounded on the next
as many as you can.

But they still separate and they fall.

You can’t make a perfect sphere.
You’ll never.

But maybe,

you can give them,                                                                                                                            the one on the floor next to you,                                                                                           who doesn’t mind the plastic in their knees,
give them the blocks  and a hug and                                                                                                    whatever ideas you have and some courage

and you might
make them
a better builder
than you.

It won’t be a perfect sphere.

Because maybe a perfect crumbling pyramid                                                                     is what they wanted all along.



4634 pieces.
4 missing.

We say kids are resilient.

Maybe that’s what we just hope. It’s surely what I hope. As my own kid bounces between two houses, multiple grandparents and step-family, resiliency is what I hope for and will be thrilled if we miss that and land at only mildly screwed up.

This kid is my hero. The young man started building his firehouse with his favorite grown-up friend. I was mean and made him go to sleep, so he had to return to the construction days later. I know. Mothers are the worst.

Fabrication started calmly. Until he asked for help. He never asks for help. Legos are not for the feeble minded nor for mothers. But there was a problem. Giant problem. They had come up missing. Four blocks. We needed twos and greens. There were none. Absolutely nothing in site.  Butts were lifted off floors, boxes were moved, instruction manuals shifted. Not a thing.

I would have lost my shit.

I would have screamed and stomped and yelled all the curse words. The big ones. The one made with  several nouns and messy adjectives to keep them company.

Not him.

He said, ” Hmmm.”

I’m sorry? Hmmm? Is that a new swear word? Is that what the kids says when things are really lit? Hmmm?

No. That is what stable, reasonable, resilient kids say when they are solving a problem.

Solve the problem.

That course had never even occurred to me.

Yet,  there he was. Snooping through the bin of extra blocks to find a substitute. Ready to simply carry on.

I’m not saying the boy is a genius. But he passed me years ago in the brain department.

Something so simple. Dealing with a problem. Finding an acceptable solution, that might not be the ideal configuration, but one that lets you just get one with it.

Why is this so hard for grown ups? Or at least for this grown up. Ok, for this petulant adolescent brain in an adult body with the grey hairs, the crow’s feet and the bum knee? But it’s so hard for me. I can be weak and wavering and floppy. I am not built resilient.

Right now, I have some adult-type problems. We all do. Money. Security. Health. Wishes. It’s all hard. Why does it not occur to me to just address my troubles as they arise and  as well as I can with what’s available to me and get to it? No. My first thought is that I should whine and bitch to my fantastic boy, send out cryptic, depressive tweets and eat a bunch of chips. None of these things will get the Lego Firehouse built any faster. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

I tried tonight. I quit bitching and sat down at my computer and did some work. Using what I had available to come up with possible solutions for problems. It was sticky and ungainly. But, it was something.

It wasn’t quite resilient.

It wasn’t the green blocks that I needed.

But it was a step to keep building.



Separate Sugar

Melania Trump looked beautiful at the inauguration. 

Michelle Obama looked beautiful at the inauguration. 

These things can exist as the same time, in the same sphere. Time continuum intact. Streams not crossed. 

Two people can both do good work. They can both be good people, striving for individual and collective greatness as they variously stumble and succeed on their way there. One does not negate or lessen the effect of the other. In fact, one might have no impact on the other at all. 

I couch my petty insecurities in the cozy cushions of the real problems we face today. My only trouble this Monday was that because my son has two homes, there were two birthdays. 

Specifically, there were two cakes. 

Now, know this, ( because I need to hang my esteem on whatever tiny peg of righteousness I can find) we are all together for his birthday. There is one party. Friends and family. Home team. Always. 

But, there was also a cake at one house, the day before. And there was a second on the actual day. 

I was thrilled with mine. There was planning. There was searching and inspiration. There was online custom ordering where was not just Luigi, but “Luigi-from-Luigi’s-Mansion” Luigi. 

It was rad, as the kids say. (Okay, they probably don’t say that. I say that.)

I also say, look at the bad ass cake I willed into existence. 

(Serious note, much respect to Cassie’s Cake Toppers for the really fun and fantastic artistry. )

I did that. By did, I mean I peeled sugar art off of a piece of film and I laid it on a cake someone else made. 

But I totally piped that green and white icing from the metal can on by myself. 

The point goes to team mom. Uncontested. 

I was soothed. 

And then I saw a picture of the cake he had at his dad’s house yesterday. 

It was beautiful. It was absolutely stunning. It was as good as a flawless Ralph Lauren couture.   In every sense. 

It was fondant and custom figure and 3D and it probably had its own WiFi. 

Of that cake, I have no picture. Pictures are for closers. 

The game, ladies and gentlemen and those fluidly named and unnamed, goes to team dad. And step-mom. 

And that’s ok. 

A third grader got two pretty fantastic birthday cakes. Because he has two people who love him. We had snacks together tonight. Kid. Mom. Dad. Just the three of us. To quietly enjoy the moment and remember it’s actually about more than cake. To do this, the ability to share that time together, is precious.  I recognize that this gives him a giant, resounding privilege that many children don’t have. I see that and I am grateful beyond words. I’m doing my best work to be sure he sees and knows and appreciates that, too. 

On that front, he also got to see women marching in Pittsburgh this weekend, and I made him listen. Because I want him to see and know and appreciate no just what  goes into making a great cake, but what goes into making well a good mom and step-mom and dad and ally and decent human. All kinds of women and men. All kinds of cakes. 

Yes. His mom “made” him a beautiful cake. 

And yes, his dad and step-mom also made him a beautiful cake. 

We should all want to make and do better. 

This kid made us who we are and we struggle to be worthy. At home and beyond. 

I forget. Every day. But I’ve been reminded lately, in both shouts and whispers, marches and tiptoes, that there are things that are worth that struggle. 

I want to keep struggling.

And I also want some cake. 

Getting Back Up

It was a hard day.

For so many it was even harder.

One of the most painful things to do as a parent is to let your kids lose. To let them crash and burn. To let them trip spectacularly, and then without a second to right themselves,   tumble and roll into the mud. Instinct wants to send you running toward them, to stop and fix and save. But that isn’t always possible. And it doesn’t always help.

I want to let my kid miss homework questions. I want him to have a friend tell him off or ignore him if he’s acting like a selfish asshole. I want him to fail. But bigger, than that, I want him to try and still fail.

I really don’t want that. But I have to try.

It’s an excruciating lesson. One I will truthfully say I haven’t learned yet. Too often, at the expense of my physical safety, emotional health as well as my relationships, I make a mistake and I don’t get back up to fix it. I wallow in defeat and wait for someone to come pull me out of my muck. Because, you know, I’m a nice person and I deserve that. That flaw has cost me some lovely things in my life. As very well it should.

I don’t want that for my young man.

He was a part of this election with me. We talked about the candidates, what they wanted to accomplish and how that matched or differed from our own ideals.

You find things out that way. I learned that, to my surprise/chagrin he is more religious than I would expect for someone who hasn’t yet hit puberty. But, then again, puberty does change things, doesn’t it? If he is my church kid, then so be it.

He learned that his mother is pro-choice. He seemed genuinely surprised and maybe even upset. We talked at length about that one. I’m not the church mom, and I hope he’s okay with that.

Mostly, we talked about what was at stake during this political cycle. We thought about how it would affect us and the people we love.

With me, he has voted for our nation’s first African-American president, and then for the first woman to run on the Democratic ticket. Two pretty great memories.

Then, he saw me sad on Wednesday morning because the person we voted for together did not win. And I was worried about what might happen. And I have to state plainly here, I’m a straight (ish) , cis, middle-class white girl. I am raising a white boy. I am fully aware and exceedingly grateful, that I am going to be okay. We are going to be okay. I recognize that privilege and cherish it. So many do not and will not have that luxury.

I didn’t get something I wanted. Welcome to grown-up land. Now, what to do about it?

I want us to not just talk about that, but act as well. If we are worried about our LGBT friends and family, we find a way to support.  That’s where we are. Learning how to be and then becoming the best allies possible. I want us, together, to  start to learn at least something about the mountains of things that we don’t know. There is so much we don’t experience daily, tucked here in a small red town in a newly red state. We are researching agencies for donations and volunteering. We are looking and seeing and being open.

He may grow to be the polar opposite of me regarding politics or religion, philosophy or ambition. I want him to see me fail. And I need to finally learn to rise up like I haven’t done before. So he can see that, and learn the same.

I’m not winning. We all may not be winning. But we have to keep trying.