Archive | September 2013

September Bitch Slapped Me From Day One

Acclaimed poet TJ Maxx T.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruelest month,” in 1922.  With all due respect to Mr. Eliot, I think it’s time to update that classic; therefore, I humbly submit this sequel:

September can kiss my biscuit-white ass.

Oh, yes, September bitched slapped me from day one when I found myself having a delightful picnic dinner of humus sandwiches with grilled vegetables in the antiseptic confines of the EMERGENCY ROOM.  There’s nothing like hitting up the children’s hospital on Labor Day weekend to really rouse the soul.  Gratefully, the injury was never life threatening– Simon earned himself five stitches after his little hobbit feet slipped on our living room floor.

And I’m not naturally a hater (I’m more of a self-pity-er), so I assumed the month would turn around.  Like every other family with children, we suited up for our first days of school and gamely signed up for volunteer activities, while juggling back-to-school nights and looking up EMDR therapy to treat the PTSD from the carpool line experience.

Each banal challenge showed up like a barrel and I jumped like Donkey Kong.  Mid-September, I learned that my beloved office was going the way of many a budget cut, and I tried not to cry so loud that I disturbed others. (I was not successful.)  I endeavored to forgive my aging therapist for leaving town for the month of September, which I shall refer to hereafter as “the month that hates my guts” (“TMTHMG”).

Still, I took steps to keep my mind aloft, far from the maddening flood waters that threatened to carry away my peace of mind.  I started watching Joel Osteen at the gym instead of gluing my eyes to the CNN crawl because one more piece of news about gunmen in malls or bombs in railway stations might have pushed me over a cliff.  Now I have  uneasy nightmarish dreams about Mr. Osteen’s hair coming to tell me how sinful I am for having negative thoughts.

Other existential battles I waged in my head and heart and are the subject of my forthcoming memoir (due in 2018) so I won’t detail them herein.

And to give TMTHMG  his due, I will acknowledge sublime runs on the lake in the brilliant autumn sunshine, bonding family time as we learn our new neighborhood, and faithful friends who’ve helped me peel my ass off the floor countless times in the past 30 days.  Like all difficult times, it wasn’t hard every.single.minute., but the minutes that were felt like they were going to take me under and poison me with stress and anxiety and discomfort.

I will not miss you, TMTHMG– I will wish you well, because that’s what Joel Osteen would do.  Please take your crises and woes and stress with you.  And yes, please let the door hit you on the ass as you leave, because you sort of deserve it.

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Unsung Heroes of The American Workplace: Coworkers Who Share Snacks

What makes a decent work environment great?  The first answers that come to my mind include good money, perks (like airline tickets or post-it notes), flexible hours, and an easy commute.

And of course the people.  Today we’re talking about co-workers, those facets of working life that make the worst of jobs bearable and the best of jobs even better.  I love a coworker who doesn’t flip out when I show up at the door crying tears of frustration, sorrow or hunger.  (Special shout out to my coworkers who fed me and gave me lots of tissues in August 2005.)

I love a coworker who has gum, a therapist, and a steamy personal life.  An extra sweater and saline solution? Coworker nirvana.

A work BFF doesn’t know all of your friends so she can be objective when you need to vent about one of them who has started acting like a Kardashian, only brattier.  It’s not a betrayal to tell your work BFF all about the dramz in your circle of friends because she’s removed from the fray.  It’s not gossip; it’s therapeutic.

And I adore that magic moment when you realize that your work BFF is someone you actually might hang out with outside of work.  When you and your co-worker take your relationship to the next level and decide to double date or do something on a Saturday night that doesn’t involve work– that’s when you know you’re dealing with that rare gem of a co-worker who’s going to be in your life even after she gets transferred to the home office or quits to write screenplays.

And there’s a special place in Heaven for those coworkers who have had to travel with me.  Good lord, taking the show on the road while wearing panty hose in an airport– those aren’t coworkers, they’re angels.

Your coworker is the only person who knows exactly what it’s like to work for your boss, just like your siblings are the only people who know what it’s like to be the child of your parents.  That’s a serious bond, people.  It’s not to be taken lightly.

In celebration of my favorite past coworkers, here are the top 5 acts of kindness that my coworkers have bestowed on me that I will never forget:

  1. Lent me breast pump tubes (holla!)
  2. Given me a sweater off her back when I could no longer deal with the sub-zero temperatures in my office
  3. Shared Cheetos and Ginger Ale when I was pregnant and working until 11:00 PM one night
  4. Accompanied me to Fogo de Chao with the douchiest interns so I wouldn’t have to talk to them by myself
  5. Married me
"Um, have you seen the McManus file?  Should we try to settle the case?"

“Um, have you seen the McManus file? Should we try to settle the case?”

So, what has your coworker done for you lately? Brag it up!

The “F” Word Can Suck It

Remember when your kids first started to acquire words, and it was all so terribly fascinating that you wrote them down, one by one, in their baby books?

Then there were words that your kids acquired that make you shudder in that micro-second before they actually said them, but when you knew they were going to. My least favorite is the “F” word.  Not THE “F” word– I’d give my left nostril to hear one of my kids pop off an “oh fuck” instead of having to listen to how something isn’t FAIR.

Image credit:

Image credit:

It’s the new hot word in my house.  That’s not fair is like a song lyric that my kids can’t get out of their heads. (Digression: Simon has taken to singing, at the top of his filled-to-capacity lungs, “My name is Elder Price / And I would like to share with you the most amazing book.”  About 1/3 of this city now thinks I took my 2-year old to see a profane musical about the Mormon faith, when all I did was show him the Tony-award spoof on that song.  Please consider: his favorite place to sing is at his Jewish day school. Someone please slip a chocolate-covered roofie in my drink before I die of shame.)

Just this evening Sadie sulked like a teenager asked to come home from prom at 8:30 PM.  “It’s not fair, Mommy, I never get to stick a hair pin in the electric socket.”  No, honey, you don’t.  Naturally, her little brother mimics everything she does.  So, he stomped his little foot and told me it wasn’t fair that I wouldn’t let him juggle with the carving knives.

Their lives are replete with unfairness.

And on these weeks when Jeff is traveling, and I have had two solo days back to back, I draw on every nano-second of meditation I’ve ever done to prevent my baser self from going off on them.  You know, from matching their “F” word with my own “F” word– as in “shut the fuck up, you first-world ingrates.”  Sometimes I want go all NPR on them and remind them that they can talk to me about unfairness when they end up in a hostage situation at a mall in Kenya.  Or when they get conscripted into a guerrilla army.  Or when the wake up one day and find that they no longer live within walking distance of a Target where they can purchase any bit of bullshit they want, including string cheese or a comforter.

Until then, they have been advised to reframe their arguments such that they strenuously avoid the use of the term “fair” as it relates to their perception of their current circumstances.  Because I will be that mom that makes them do community service at a local orphanage or forces them to hang out with helicopter parents at the park so they will truly know how good they have it.

For more on fairness, check out my concerns about whether it’s fair that my son gets to nurse for 33 months (and counting), while my daughter only got 10 months of the nip.  Click here for my latest post on Mom.Me.

Stinky Kids: Bad Hygeine or Neglect?


I’m tempted to write a dozen disclaimers about how I do not condone jumping to conclusions about other parents or assuming the worst about them.  I won’t offer the disclaimers because (1) they’re boring, (2) you wouldn’t believe them anyway and (3) I’m more focused on the instances where it may be in a kid’s best interest for nonparents to be judgmental. Or discerning.  Or suspicious.  Or concerned. Or nosy.

I’m talking about those instances where you observe something in children that you know reasonably well– something that seems off.  At first you can’t decide if you are just being Judge McJudgerson or if it is something that should be explained away with “well, some families do things differently than ours.”

For example, how do you know if a family simply has different hygiene standards or if the kids are being neglected?

This inquiry was sparked by my observations of some neighborhood kids that were part of a playgroup with my kids.  To this day, I don’t know if my concerns about their situation (showing up borderline filthy and reeking of human body odor) was an offensive and arrogant insistence that other people bathe their children as often as I do, (which, in all honesty, probably isn’t nearly often enough) or if it was compassionate engagement.  (For more on this, please check out my recent post on Mom.Me.)

I have no idea.

I suspect it’s not the last time I face this quandary.  What do you do when a family’s decisions are so different from your own, but you’re not sure if a child’s safety and welfare are at stake?  Maybe it’s all a matter of taste? But then again, what if it’s not?

Looking For A Gift For My Dad That Says I’m Happy To Be Present



My dad’s 70th birthday is next month.  He’s a decade younger than Willie Nelson, a decade older than my therapist, two decades older than Julianne Moore, and three decades older than I am.

70 sounds like a big number– not quite scary for a daughter, but almost.

We’re planning a big celebration down in Texas– me and my siblings and all of our families will meet our parents at a rustic resort outside of Austin, which is something we’ve done exactly zero times.  We haven’t been big on “everyone visit at once” in my family, unless it’s for a wedding.  Even for funerals and baptisms, there was usually someone missing.  More times than I liked to count, the missing member was me.

But in this new era of Christie Shows Up, I come to family events, quietly trying to make up for all the time I lost because I was busy being lost and that particular kind of 20- and 30-something selfish. I pretend like I can get those years back by being a good and present daughter (to them and for myself) now. I don’t believe, but I still hope it’s true.

I fantasize about getting the perfect present for my dad.  If I could just have a few hours to think about it or search for it on a folksy, Texas-based website I could find the thing I can picture in my heart, the gift that says: I’m going to keep this light, but just know that this is full of meaning and gravitas I can only hint at, and PS: I’m half sick for all the time that was squandered.

What is the thing that says that to your dad?

At night I think poke around on the Internet searching for that something.  Then I think about this little store over in Pilsen where they might have something meaningful, but I don’t know how to get there between the play date with Lily, the writing conference, the haircuts, and swimming lessons.

Can it really be true I don’t have time to do this?

No. It’s not true.

The truth is that the thing I am looking for doesn’t exist.  Unless you think a time machine exists with the ability to give me back the years between 1991 when I gave him a bottle of Canoe cologne for his birthday from Eckerd’s Drug Store and 2008(ish), when I learned to show up as an adult child.

The thing I am looking for is not a thing. It’s a feeling. Or a representation of a feeling.  It’s a mashed up ball of nostalgia, regret, love, gratitude, grace and sorrow that sits on my heart like a tumor, fucking up my circadian rhythm.  And they don’t sell that at thrift stores, even in the edgier sections of town.

But if they did, I’d buy two.  One for me and one for my dad.  And on the card, I’d write the only words I know that match gift: “Thank you for the gifts you gave me. I’m so grateful I recognized them as soon as I did.  I wish it were easier to say all the things I want to say.  I’ll keep trying.”

Someone’s Gonna Have to Share A Desk With Me– Let’s Pity Her Together

I just Googled “what to get a coworker who just found out she has to share a desk with me” because thanks to some of the policies enacted in my workplace, there’s some poor woman walking around tonight, cursing her Lord and Savior because she just got that spectacularly awful piece of news.  It probably went something like this: “We love you and value you, so we hope you won’t take this the wrong way, but you’re going to have to start sharing a desk with Outlaw Mama.”

Google was no help, by the way.  I don’t think a bouquet of flower-shaped fruit on sticks is going to make this woman feel better about drawing the shortest stick ever drawn in the American workplace.  The stick a worker draws that results in them sharing a desk with me is nothing more than a splinter. Or a chip.  Or a wooden grain of rice that says, in teeny print, “You’re screwed.”

I wasn’t there, but I can only imagine that when she got the news she smiled like the professional she is and acted all team-player-y.  But she had to be DYING inside.  Right? Like a million stubbed toes after dancing on pointe for the entire filming of Black Swan.  Because the thing is, my work process takes space– lots of it, and I’m less-than-tidy.  Also? I need a minimum of three drawers for my snacks.  And I’m going to need all the space under the desk for my seventeen pair of shoes.

Here's my present for the first day. What do you think?

Here’s my present for the first day. What do you think?

How am I supposed to tell her I’m sorry?

Here’s why her life is hell:  I’m seriously messy– like crumbs and dollops of lotion and gum wrappers messy.  I eat two meals a day at my desk on my work days, so there’s a lot more than dust between the keys on my keyboard.  I think there are approximately 40 Weight Watchers points between the first two rows  of keys alone.  Also, I cry a lot, so she won’t have tissues when she needs them, and I think she may be a sniffler.  And when I am working on a project, I spread out like I am setting up camp, except instead of useful things like tents and stoves, I surround my work area with print-outs of inspirational sayings from Deepak, Maya Angelou, and Pee Wee Herman.  My process is messy, takes up space, and smells funny.

Thus, in an effort to get on her good side before we “consolidate our work spaces,” I’ve made her a goody/survival/apology bag.  I’m hoping it will soften the blow ever so slightly.  If nothing else, maybe she’ll hide it in her our desk, and I can use the stuff in it.

Here’s what she’s getting:

  1. Costco-sized hand sanitizer
  2. A surgical mask
  3. Extra Zoloft that I never took (expiration date: 10/15)
  4. Whoopie cushion (she can use it on me!)
  5. Air freshener to hang from the computer monitor
  6. Febreeze For Office Chairs (does this exist? it should)
  7. A meditation book called, “How To Breathe Through Difficult Situations Like Sharing Your Desk With A Co-Workers Who Snacks All Day”
  8. A copy of Escape From Camp 14 about a prison camp in North Korea with a pink post-it note that says, “See? Could be worse.”
  9. Miniature safe to store stuff she doesn’t want me to touch or eat or steal
  10. Gloves so she won’t have to touch the surfaces I soil

What am I forgetting?

I’m Not Saying I’m A Better Mom Than You

What’s the hardest job in the world?

Don’t get all righteous and start talking about Chilean miners or child prostitutes in third-world countries.  It’s Friday, let’s keep it simple, ‘Kay?


The correct answer is being a mother.  And if you don’t think it’s a job, then you should read some self-esteem books and recognize that what you are doing is a job.  That’s why nannies and day care centers make oodles of money.

Today’s work piece is by a mother who knows a thing or two about, well, everything.  She asked to remain anonymous, which adds just the right level of intrigue and mystery that this blog was missing.  So, thank you, Anonymous Mom, for the hilarious post, the reminder to take myself a little bit less seriously, and for setting the bar on motherhood just a little higher. Yeah, thanks for that.

I’m Not Saying I’m a Better Mom Than You

by Anonymous Mom

I’m not saying I’m a better mom that you, but I am doing a pretty good job. Everyone says my children are exceptional, but it’s really not that hard for a committed parent.

For starters, no, I don’t use Facebook.  I don’t ever post about my children online, not ever. If people really cared about their children they would give them the precious gift of an entirely offline existence.  We will let our daughter create her own online identity when she understands the importance of effectively managing it, which, at her current rate of intellectual and emotional maturation, we expect to be age 4.5 to 4.7.

Your approach to healthy food is interesting.  Those fruit pouches you buy are even organic, which is a start.  But you probably don’t know that the organic standards still allow for use of lots of dangerous pesticides.  Of course, we avoid that problem by growing and making all our own food.  I even make my own cereal. Speaking of which, I’m surprised you give your children  Cheerios in a Ziploc.  We only use glass.

Your little one is not a great sleeper?  Ours were sleeping through the night at one month.  I know you’re exhausted, but I’m shocked that you are trying the cry-it-out method.  Studies show that even one night causes a lifetime of stress and PTSD equivalent to that found in survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I’m not saying I’m a better mom than you, but I would never inflict that on my children.

So, you drive and followed the recommendations to keep your children in rear-facing car seats until they were two? That’s something, but would you believe that car accidents are the leading cause of death and injury in children?  It’s not that I love my children more than you, although I probably do, but we don’t allow our children to travel by car.  Sure, it’s not that convenient to walk them everywhere, but I just don’t understand how any mother who loves her children can take that risk.   I know you like walking and it’s great that you walk so much and really like your stroller.  But for us, a stroller wasn’t an option. We just carry the children in our arms.  It’s more natural and creates a bond between parent and child that’s really hard to explain to stroller users.  Oh, but you use an ergo sometimes?  Those are so commercial – I made my own organic cotton baby carrier from fabric I wove myself.

Don’t worry about making your child share your plastic toys with us.  We don’t allow our children to come into contact with plastic, so my kids won’t even ask for a turn.  If you did any research at all, you’d see how toxic those chemicals are.   Let me know if you want me to share the name of the toy company we buy from.  The toys are all made from wood grown in a sustainable forest in Washington.  They don’t even have to kill the trees, they just carve out what they need and the tree continues to flourish.
You buy clothes branded with Dora and Diego?  I’ve never heard of it, but, obviously, we don’t have a television.  It’s great that you read to your kids.  We read books all the time too.  She reads to me though – the child of any competent parent should be reading by age three.

What enrichment activities are you enrolled in?  Gymboree?  I hear other people like that, but, personally, I wouldn’t take my kids to a big corporate chain that cares only about profit and not about children.   We do Mandarin and Arabic, and of course, she’s already fluent in Spanish.  We also do art, science, baseball, basketball, calculus camp, chess club, drama kids, dramatic interpretive dance and ballet, swimming and water polo.  It’s a busy schedule, but it’s nothing any parent who actually cares about their children’s emotional, artistic and intellectual development wouldn’t do.

You breastfed?  Oh, just for a year?   I suppose that’s a start, but it was best for us to keep going to make sure we really developed that little brain.  Plus, I just love pumping, so I pump for my whole family’s dairy needs.  You should try my Roquefort.  I guess the only drawback is I just can’t keep any weight on.  But hey, I should consider myself lucky we live in the Kate Moss era instead of the Renaissance era.

And I guess we’re doing something right. We just had our annual check-up.  Once again, our pediatrician says she’s the most advanced child he has ever seen.  And I can’t take all the credit, I attribute her intelligence to my macrobiotic pregnancy diet.  Oh, but you shouldn’t worry about your child, all kids develop at a different pace.

By the way, is your doctor worried about the shape and size of his head?



Forced To Pick Family Motto at Back-To-School Night *Shudder*

I was already scarred from “curriculum” night at my daughter’s school, wherein I sat through a round of questions of douchey parents who wanted to analyze the benefits of the school’s math philosophy.  Have I mentioned my daughter is FOUR?

Naturally, after that I was a little wary of the back to school night at my 2-year-old son’s class.  There was a layer of added stress for me because he goes to a Jewish school, and I am named after the savior of the Christian world.  My hand was trembling as I scribbled my name in a sloppy way so the Christ part wouldn’t be too obvious.

See that chair? Not so much for a grown ass woman, unless she's a hobbit. #I'mNotAHobbit

See that chair? Not so much for a grown ass woman, unless she’s a hobbit. #I’mNotAHobbit

When we got to the classroom, we got to sit on those four-inch-tall chairs, which I totally did get, because I know, it’s all about the children, not me.  Things were going well, and I pretended to understand some of the Hebrew words the teacher was saying.  I exhibited grace and humility when the teacher pulled me aside to explain why she’d sent a note home in Simon’s backpack “reminding” me that his lunch must be vegetarian.  It wasn’t so much a reminder as an initial warning, since I had no idea about the vegetarian thing.  I figured I shouldn’t send him with a ham or bacon-wrapped shrimp po-boy, but turkey?  Apparently, turkey’s out too because of kosher laws.  (NOTE: Simon was sent to school today with a pita, a Tupperware full of garbanzo beans, a kosher pickle, and a note from me, apologizing for the sucky lunches.)

Simon’s teachers had planned an activity for the evening.  Bless them, they gave us something to do.  “We thought it would be fun if you made a family scrapbook page, including your family motto.”

Motto? “Jeff, please tell me that is the Hebrew word for last name?  Because if by motto, she means phrase that summarizes your family mission statement, we are screwed.”

Turns out she was speaking plain English and we had about 6 minutes to come up with a phrase that fits our family.  By that point, my legs had lost circulation from sitting in that little hobbit chair and I was sweating.  How could I think straight to pick a family motto?  Jeff and I stared at each other, unsure of how to approach the task.

“Well, what do we normally say?” Jeff said, reasonably.

“How about ‘please help us’?” I suggested gamely.  “Or ‘Mommy needs a time out.’  Or what about ‘When you’re at our house, don’t expect home cooking’?”

Jeff wasn’t impressed. The clock was ticking down and I was trying so hard not to act like a flummoxed shiksa with no lower body circulation that I couldn’t think rational thoughts.  Like a jute box on the fritz, I started spitting out Willie Nelson lyrics as options:

  • You were always on my mind.
  • If you’ve got the money, honey, I’ve got the time.
  • Roll me up and smoke me when I die.
  • I just can’t wait to get on the road again.
  • Whiskey for my men; beer for my horses.

I was deluded enough to think that last one had some traction.  Kids love animals I argued, especially horses.

Bless Jeff for not slapping me.  He did punch my leg, but I couldn’t feel it.  In the end, we he picked a song lyric, not from the greatest musical artist on the planet, but from some hack children’s musician who sings about the goodness of the Earth and the interconnectedness of human life.

Whatever.  I still think we could have found a Willie lyric as a motto.

So what about you? Do you have a family motto?

Double Dog

There was only one dog, but there are two stories. At least two.  Probably more.

I tried, but it's not my cup of tea.

I tried, but it’s not my cup of tea.

The first story goes like this:

My dad started circling ads in the For Sale section of the Dallas Morning News featuring puppies for sale in small towns like Granbury and Red Oak.  As the doubting child, I thought it was as likely that we’d end up with a pet unicorn as some AKC pure bred.  Then one afternoon there it was: an adorable cocker spaniel with impossibly long ears and a dopey expression that was endearing and unchanging.

We had a puppy.  Overnight, we’d become a puppy family, an idea that infused my every fantasy with promise.  I was a person in a family that has a puppy!

We named him Buckwheat because we loved The Little Rascals.  I was surprised at how much he shat and pissed in the house.  In the kitchen.  It smelled really bad. I was indifferent when my mom moved his quarters to the garage, whereupon he chewed through the garage door, which allowed him ingress and egress to the backyard whenever he wanted.

Mom spent the most time with Buckwheat.  I have a faint memory of her throwing him a slobbery tennis ball and scratching his head before she served him his food.   When our next door neighbors, two aging “sisters” who anointed themselves the neighborhood pet police, berated my mom over the fence for how she was taking care of Buckwheat, the whole having a dog experience soured for Mom.    I came home from mass a few Sundays later, and my dad announced that he’d given Buckwheat away to the air conditioner repairman.

That night, as the cool air chilled my room, I stuffed my feet under the sheets and sobbed as if someone had given my dog away.  Because someone had.  When my dad heard me, he sat on my bed and rubbed my head.  I have no memory of what he said to me, but my guess it was entirely appropriate under the circumstances.  By then, he had almost a decade of fathering a complete drama queen to draw upon.

Later, I would tell the story of how “my parents gave my dog away while I was at church” when it suited me.  It suited me when I wanted someone to feel sorry for me or understand why I was the way I was.  Buckwheat was my narrative symbol of how adults betray children while they are at mass.  It was a story that implicated my parents, the Catholic Church, and central A/C– like The DaVinci Code, but with more heart.

It was a good story.

But there’s this other story.  Same dog, same drama queen, same nasty neighbors who actually were sisters, not lovers.  That story is about how my parents offered us an experience that I didn’t embrace for dozens of reasons, including the fact that I didn’t particularly like dogs and couldn’t deal with the realities of a real dog that had excretory needs and hair that shed like snow.  In that story, I admit that I never once went out of my way to play with Buckwheat. I don’t remember talking about him at school, drawing a picture of him with a Husky pencil or pining for him when I went to visit my Grandma.

I liked the idea of being part of a family that had a dog because it seemed wholesome and picturesque and functional, all of which were my deep, inarticulable longings.

But I didn’t like dogs.

And the A/C guy was gaga over Buckwheat.  He lived on a couple of acres outside of Fort Worth with a son who had been begging for a second dog, having already proven his canine devotion with a middle-aged golden retriever.

Now that I’m a mom, I either tell the second story or both, but never the first one.  And the answer to the question about whether I am a “dog person” is a long story.

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: Hiking, Surviving, and #TriggeringMyMotherIssues

Do you ever finish a book and find yourself fighting with it for days after you finished?  You devoured it so you must have liked it, but you are resisting. Maybe you’re pissed about some part of it.  Maybe you’re pissed it’s over and you miss it. Maybe it triggered you and brought some piece of you to the light that you thought was doing just fine molding in the dark recesses of your soul.

Image credit:

Image credit:

That’s me right now. I’m fighting with Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.  My thoughts keep returning to it, like a fresh wound I can’t stop looking at.  I have written and deleted the following sentence three times in the past five minutes: I loved this book.  It’s like I can barely bring myself to write it, but I’m not sure why.

Should you read this book? Yes.

Parts of the book were as compelling as any nonfiction I’ve ever read.  How an ill-prepared, recreational heroin user whose personal life is pocked by divorce, an abortion and the death of her beloved mother approaches a grueling months-long hike is as great a set-up for a story as I can imagine.  It beats the bear-shit outta Bill Bryson’s account of walking the Appalachian Trail in A Walk In The Woods.  I love a good journey story– and hers does a masterful job of tracking her physical and emotional progress as she advances through California in extreme conditions which would have left me deader than sage brush at high noon.

That’s probably all you need to know, and frankly, if Oprah says you should do something, do you really need to check with Outlaw Mama before proceeding?

But, I have so much more to say that I’ll pretend is about the book, but just know this: The following is all about me and has nothing to do with Ms. Strayed or her amazing book.

But there’s this whole mother theme that made me twitchy as I read about it on the bus.  When I start pacing while reading a book on public transportation, I can only assume a nerve has been struck.  Hard.  And Ms. Strayed’s book is like a mallet to my central nervous system.

As a mother, I read about Ms. Strayed’s adoration of her mother and thought, there is no way I am inspiring this kind of devotion in my children.  Strayed was crushed by her mother’s death, and the book has elegiac passages wherein Strayed tries to make sense of her mother’s too-short life.  The grief that Strayed describes upon the death of her mother twisted my stomach with shame.  First, I am not capable of inspiring that amount of grief (I assume), and second, I am not sure I could feel it for anyone other than my children.

Maybe her relationship with her mother was particular to the kind of family where the dad is a giant, abusive asshole– and maybe seeing your dad beat the shit out of your mom produces a certain fierce devotion and loyalty.  Trauma bond is a phrase that came to my mind while I read. I can’t picture my absence from my children’s lives grinding them down so thoroughly.  In fact, I hope it doesn’t.  It would be awkward if my 2- and 4-year-old children ditched school to walk the PCT.  When I pass,  I hope they feel sad for a while– I hope they listen to Willie Nelson on my birthday and fist pump me when they score a good sample at Costco.  I picture them leaving hydrangeas on my grave and apologizing for being such assholes when I tried to talk on the phone for five minutes.  For the record, I am OK if they skip the part where they destroy their marriages, dabble in hard-core drugs and sleep around.  A small, tasteful tattoo of my face (without bangs) would be alright.

As a daughter, I felt the same tug of should I feel this for my mother?  It’s not a fair question because my mother is alive, in good health, and living the purposeful life of a newly retired woman in the great state of Texas where her social life is teeming with more opportunities than mine.  When she passes, I hope I don’t go off the rails– I hope my journey to let her go (not anytime soon), involves tears, extra therapy, writing about all she meant to me and taught me and great appreciation for who she was to me and who I am because of her.  I don’t think I can spend the kind of energy mourning her that Ms. Strayed needed to.

Naturally, I am now asking myself if that means I don’t love my mother “right” or “enough.”  There’s a hovering question: What’s wrong with me that I don’t love like this? Should I?  Why is my love so bland?

Most importantly: Who’s going to shoot heroin and walk thousands of miles when I die?

As you can tell, this is a good use of my precious free time.  Instead of starting a new book, writing my own, or taking up equestrian arts, I am sitting here comparing myself both to Ms. Strayed and her mother.  I think it’s time to start a new book, one without any mother issues.  Note to self: Steer clear of Medea.