Tag Archive | Yeah Write

Grandma Would Have Loved The Hula Hoops

I walked half a mile across the steaming asphalt parking lot because I decided it was time. I had to see for myself what the hell was in those stores. As I reached for the door, I saw foam pool noodles, sun visors, and cheap Tupperware jammed into bins by the door.


Heaven on Earth. Why did I wait so long?


Once inside, I was unable to keep from touching every.single.thing. The glittery hula hoops were so alluring that I grabbed two and hung them from my neck. “These are going home with me,” I said, as if someone had just challenged my claim to them.


Dollar World.  Its treasures beckoned me, shoved as they were on racks with alarming randomness. I picked up a number 5 candle for Sadie’s upcoming birthday celebration. Naturally, it was hanging right next to a colander and a package of disinfectant wipes.


Seriously. This place was actually better than heaven. It’s more like a calorie-free Dunkin Donuts or a Costco with that sells single rolls of toilet paper.


Dollar World, I think I love you. Said that out loud too.


It was all shits and giggles until I got to what could loosely be described as the “hair care” aisle. I didn’t realize that giant pink foam rollers were still a thing. I hadn’t laid eyes on them since sixth grade. But there they were: two five-foot stuffed racks announcing their continued existence. You can’t convince me it was a “coincidence” that Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survived started at that exact moment.


I dropped all the shit I was carrying, dusted off a twelve-roller set of the bigger black ones with the fuzzy, Velcro-like stuff on the outside. Just like my Grandma’s.  I didn’t need them any more than the ceramic hippo vase or the nude panty hose, but I wanted those rollers. An homage to my Grandma.


Nobody would love Dollar World more than she would have. She who never met a garage sale she wouldn’t pull over for or a thrift store she wouldn’t stroll into to peruse the dusty piles used men’s dress shoes—even after my Grandpa died. Sure, she’d love my kids—especially Sadie’s habit of breaking into song and the way Simon scrunches up his face when he’s playing ninja. (The Jewish thing might elicit a few vague judgments-disguised-as-questions, but she loved me and I was Catholic, which was almost as bad as being Jewish to her southern Baptist mind.) But she’d really, really love Dollar World.

By the time I dumped my haul on the counter, I felt that jittery I’m-about-to-cry tremor.  Thank god the teenaged clerk distracted me by trying to stuff my hula hoops into a bag better suited for a pack of gum or a hot wheel (both of which I bought).

It was hard to tell if the emotion was coming from that place in me that loves a bargain and plastic bags full of cheap shit, or the part of me that misses my Grandma and wishes we could split a piece of Big Red gum.  Hell, it was both.  Not sure how different those are sometimes.

Back at my car, I scrolled through my iPod to find the perfect music for the ride home. I floored the gas and cruised home with the sun roof open, How Great Thou Art on repeat.

Man, she would have really loved those hula hoops.


Lapsed Catholic Mother With Kids In Jewish Summer Camp




Let us bow our heads and pray.

I knew, but didn’t really know¸what putting my kids in religious school would trigger in me.  It’s been more than twenty years since my twelve-year stint in Catholic school, but its messages, rituals, dogma and secrets float inside me, mostly stable free radicals that rarely react.

But when I brush up against other religions, the past hums to life.  And thanks to the 34 hours a week my kids are spending in a Jewish day camp, all kinds of whizzing and whirring is going on.  It’s my daughter’s first exposure to religion and she’s treating it—religion—like an exotic pet that must be handled with care and examined from every single angle.  Oh, and discussed ad nauseam.  She’s the one insisting we say the blessing before we eat—not just meals but each snack in the car and stray yogurt pop on the go.  She’s all challah this and Shabbat that, and I’m struggling to learn the words to prayers the meanings of which are inscrutable to me as the inscription on the door of their school.

Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jeff knows what they are talking about—he’s only a few decades from his own Bar Mitzvah.  The prayers have returned to him like a language he never really lost, prodigal sons gliding off his tongue.  I bow my head and mimic the words they say a few beats behind, hopeful that by the end of summer, I’ll remember the Hebrew word for “bread” and that it will fall from my lips naturally like shalom, or the trickier, mazel tov.

God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.

I thought it would be Jeff who would be more rattled by this.  He was the adamant one: no religious schooling; the kids will decide for themselves.  I pictured our children dragging him unwittingly back to his own religious past, sheriffs hauling the prisoner back to his old cell.  So far, however, he is amused and good-natured that our children are learning his prayers.  “I remember that!”

Baruch atah Adonai…

I learned a whole other set of words—prayers about the Father, the Holy Virgin Mary and the ephemeral Holy Ghost, who, for most of my childhood, I pictured as Casper’s skinnier, more pious brother.  I dropped them all, like toys abandoned in a sandbox during a long, dark winter.  I’m not sure if I want to risk the frostbite and dig them out, or devote myself to the new prayers echoing through my house.  The longing is inchoate; I’m not sure it’s longing for a religion to give shape and contour to spirituality or the longing to join my voice with those of my family members.

Like the kids, I’m going to have to decide for myself.

Let us bow our heads and pray.


You Say “Slow Cooker”, I Say “Pot O’ Crock”

My therapist says that blaming (myself or others) is a character defect, but guess what!– he’s in China for the rest of the month so I’m pointing fingers, reveling in my shortcomings and regressing.  Right now, I’m pointing my big fat index finger at my least favorite appliance in our house.  Yes, it’s capacious.  Yes, it’s allegedly multi-purpose.  Yes, everyone from Rachel Ray to Jillian Michaels swears it’s perfect for the “busy working mother”, but I’m no fan of the slow cooker.  I also refuse to call it a “slow cooker,” because it’s the exact same thing my Grandma used to make pot roast in and she called it a “crock pot.”  If that name is good enough for Virginia Tate, it’s good enough for her granddaughter.

So, the crock pot.


Sent from the underworld to torture me with promises of "easy meals"

Sent from the underworld to torture me with promises of “easy meals”

I’ve given it a fair shot.  I broke her in gently with basic chilis (with and without meat).  The results were edible, but no matter what I put in there, it always tasted exactly the same.  Will someone please get that Neil Degrasse Tyson on the horn so I can ask him how a recipe with a fist full of paprika and chili powder tastes exactly like one with a sprig of parsley and a pinch of salt?  What the hell happens in that six hours of cooking?

Fine, so the chili was pedestrian.  My heart knows how to forgive (see recent example: Jeff killed a mosquito in the car with my Kate Spade purse and I forgave him within three hours).  So, I let bygones be gone, and I moved on.  I tried vegetarian dishes like polenta stew and vegetable strata with pesto sauce.  Funny enough, both of those tasted like each other and the chili.

Weird, right?

We had a pot roast experience that was not totally toxic, but again, not to beat a dead damn horse, but it tasted like the other six things I tried.  And the pot roast was sitting in four cups of dry white wine.  How in the Good Lord’s name does that not somehow alter the taste?

The very last straw was the latest two recipes I tried, which required approximately 45 minutes of chopping and par-boiling before putting everything in the crock pot.  I thought this giant magic pot was supposed to save me time.  My vision of a good crock pot experience is that I hurl my unwashed veggies (maybe still in the plastic bag from the produce department), dump in some Lipton soup mix, include a protein of my choice and then leave the house for half or all of the day.  When I come home, I want my house filled with savory aromas from food that is bursting with flavor and texture and color.

This thing that it does making everything taste like hearty tomato-based campfire gruel is just bullshit.  So, I’m done.  Keep your slow cooker.  Enjoy that baked Alaska recipe that you can supposedly make in there.  I bet you $50.00 I know exactly how it’s going to taste.  I guess it’s perfect if you like chili for dessert.

You will hereinafter find me slaving over my stove/oven/cereal box/take-out menu.  The slow cooker is a crock.



Diversity Counts


I can’t stop counting.  I feel like Rain Man.  One, two, three white men to my right.  One white woman and a white man on my left.  At the other table: six white men and two white women.  Later, another white man and an African-American woman join us.

I should stop counting.  What am I trying to prove? Don’t I hate math?

I’m not supposed to care about this.  We’re supposed to be beyond all this, gender and racial politics, right?  I’m neither a sociologist nor a census-taker.  Why am I graphing the race and gender of the room like a graduate student doing work “in the field”?

The food is amazing.  “Prepared by one of the iron chefs.”  Jose Garces.  Latino, I think to myself, realizing I can’t not think about broad social constructs during this dinner.  I concentrate on his expertly prepared chorizo and the perfect cauliflower side dish.  I ask one of the men to pass me more salad.  How often can you get perfect shoots of asparagus in the middle of a snow storm?  I hope it’s not cliché to be a woman asking for seconds on salad.  I don’t want any of the tenderloin, but I make myself take it because the men pile it on, and I don’t have a golf game.  It tastes like raw power.

Speeches are made.  The men who seem so different than I am in ways I can only trace with my index finger give tributes to the guest of honor.  Everyone is brought to tears for the goodbye that has brought us together.  They speak of friendship and loss and memory.  If I close my eyes, I can forget that there are less than ten women in this room, half of them plus-ones, and all of them kind to me during the cocktail hour when we mingle on the mezzanine floor.

In truth, everyone is kind.  Interested in what I do now, how many kids I have.  Boys or girls? Everyone asks.  One of each, I say, knowing that it’s the perfect answer. I’m interested in them: their general counsel jobs, their scions who have joined the family business, their aging parents.

It may or may not be true that the people who visit our table come to talk to the men.  Maybe they seek each other out because they are from the same generation (the one above me), or they know each other from “work,” or have met in rooms like this before.  I don’t approach anyone at all and recognize that’s part of the problem.  It’s definitely not the solution.

I finger my name tag to be sure that everyone knows who I am and how I belong.  Just in case they’re wondering.

It’s weird that I belong here.

I’m definitely not supposed to think that. I’m supposed to be so filled up with my accomplishments and success and good fortune that I would never allow such a traitorous thought.

When everyone’s looking for their coats, I put aside my field work and extend my hand over and over.  I let myself shine.  Corny, I know, but true.  I drink it all in so I don’t wake up with regrets about how I should have stood up taller, or “been myself”, or made more connections.

The next morning I find LinkedIn requests in my email.  I accept them immediately with a stroke of a key.  It’s just that easy.  If I could just stop counting.

A Solo Trip To Mexico: Tragedy, Perspective and Seinfeld En Espanol

No one questioned my decision to spend Christmas in Mexico.  Alone.  At least not to my face.  I’m going to Mexico alone because there’s nowhere else for me to be.  I said it like a warning, a flare I sent up that broadcasted that I was single, lost, and mad as hell.  My younger sister was a newlywed and my older brother just had a baby.  No way was I headed home as empty-handed old me.

Nope. I was headed to Cabo, pretending to be brazen, secular and flush with disposable income.  In truth, I was terrified, praying my ass off, and completely unclear about my finances.

When I checked in to my hotel, I felt the first hint of regret that I’d given everything at home the finger and jetted off to Mexico like I was Jennifer Aniston.  When I clicked the room card into my door, there was no Courtney Cox waiting for me.  Instead, I looked under the bed for a rapist and in the closet for a gunman.  I barricaded the balcony door and the entry way just in case someone planned to take advantage of this senorita.

There was a vague flicker of victory.  It was Christmas Day, and I’d traveled to another country alone to lick my existential wounds and get a tan.

That first dinner alone in the grand dining hall was the nadir.  Some little kid took the last of the fresh mango slices and the restaurant was closing early because of the holiday.  My instinct was to take a seat against the wall at a two-top to be inconspicuous; not the Old Maid taking her front and center seat in medias res.

There were no seats along the wall; those were all occupied by amorous twosomes who were ringing in the birth of Christ with a lot of kissing.  With tongue.

Fine. I set my plate down on a four-top between a large Jewish family from Winnetka and an extended family from Northern California.  No one gave me a second look.  My version of a Christmas miracle.

If I could get through the first night, I’d survive this “vacation”.  Back in my room, I propped myself up on two pillows and searched for some escapist TV.  CNN would have to do.  I fell asleep with the TV on to keep me company, though all it did was remind me that there was no one there to turn it off for.  At midnight, I got a glass of water, ate complimentary chocolates with one hand and grabbed the remote with the other.

Within minutes breaking coverage of a tsunami hitting southeast Asia interrupted a story about a “real Santa Claus” bringing hope to Detroit.  The reports intensified as the death roll rose.  By 3:00 AM there were thousands of deaths.  By 6, it was tens of thousands. I stayed up all night watching the crawl update the rising death toll.

The next morning, stretched on a chair by the beach, I sat behind my sunglasses, shell-shocked from fatigue and the images of water erasing whole lives in an instant.  It should have been easy to separate my “tragedy” from real tragedy, but it all blurred and swirled together beneath my skull like a mash-up of Kesha and Bob Dylan.  It made no sense.

That night as I tucked myself into bed, I prayed for relief from the horror, both real and self-created.  I found God’s mercy in an episode of Seinfeld en espanol that served as a lullaby before I fell into a dreamless sleep.

Not-the-Last Fight With My Four-Year-Old Daughter


The storm started in a quiet moment when I was working a puzzle with Simon in that dead-zone before it’s time to get dinner ready but after all the positive energy of the day had been spent on school and surviving the afternoon.  “Look! I found Iron Man’s hand,” I beamed because even 40-year olds need victories after a long holiday weekend.  Sadie’s fury began to gather steam by the window.  She was trying, unsuccessfully, to tape a valentine to the window.  Her solution was to stomp her feet and sigh loud enough to get my attention.

So that’s how this is going to go, huh?

I told her in my genuinely calm voice that when she was ready to ask me for help, I’d happily help her execute her vision of taping the heart to the window.  With great effort, I focused on the puzzle and let her work it out.  If this escalated, it wasn’t going to be my fault.

Of course it escalated.

Soon I was using my fake calm voice, and she was way past discussion.  My words were like a match to her flaming fury and when she spat at me, I felt my own pilot light flare and surge with blue-white heat.

I should just absorb her rage– I’m the parent, the adult, the one with the therapist.  I should not be reacting.

She ran and I followed, the air crackling with dispensed rage.  When I reached her, I held her as she squirmed like a feral animal.  My instinct was to hold her tighter– not to hurt her but to let her know that I am stronger.  I am stronger than her rage and her fatigue and her boredom and her frustration at being little in a big person’s world.   I wanted her to know she could test me with all her might, but still, even though I was angry, I was still stronger and I could take whatever she was dishing out.

I wanted her to know. I wanted me to know.

I spoke first.  Real-calm had returned to my voice.  She sniffled, unenthusiastic about making eye contact.  I touched her chin, “Please look at Mommy.”  When she did, I tossed my script about appropriate behavior to the curb.  Instead I said, “You’re angry with me, right?” She nodded.  “I feel angry too.  We’re angry at each other and we had a fight.  That’s what just happened.  We had a fight.”

She smiled.  I’d finally made something simple instead of more complicated.  A parenting first.  “It was just a fight, Sweetie.  We gotta learn how to fight fairly, though, okay?”  She nodded.

The air moved with the pulse of our newly-won peace.  “We had a fight,” Sadie said, testing the words like she tastes a new food. Tentative.  Willing but unsure.

I looked at Sadie. “It probably wasn’t our last, Sweetie.”

Two beats passed.  “Definitely not, Mom.”

I felt closer to her when it was over.  There was an intimacy to all that rage.  But I still hated it.  I want to get along with my preschooler. I want to keep my cool. I want her deplorable and age-appropriate behavior not to trigger me.  I want it to be our last fight.

But it’s definitely not.  I’m struggling to make peace with that.

20-Year Old Sorority Rush Memories: Time To Let Go


It was so hot that my hair, which had obediently twisted around the hot rollers just an hour before—fell limp and straight below my shoulders.  My head was woozy because I didn’t eat enough breakfast to gird me for the upcoming task of enduring hours of pretty, over-scented college girls singing in my face.

I’d made it to Day 4 of sorority rush.  Whoever decided that the third week in August was a good time for Texas co-eds to traipse up and down sorority row every day in increasingly fancy clothes should be subjected to a virulent strain of flesh-eating disease.  Or something worse—like sorority rush.

With two more days to go—the big finale was on Saturday—I was encouraged to “figure out where I thought I belonged.” All I knew was that I wanted to join any house with fully-functioning air conditioning and ice cold beverages.

During a break I sat on a bench in the relative shade of the Zeta Tau Alpha house.  I’d arrived early, hobbling across two hot parking lots hoping that my strategically placed Band-Aids would stay put for the next three hours. I fanned myself with a piece of paper I’d found in my purse and prayed that the day would speed by.

Three seats down from me, some girl was holding court.  She spoke with the authority of an expert.  The Dr. Ruth Westheimer of sorority rush at big agricultural schools in Texas.  Forgive me if I ignore you, I thought.

I’d already heard Dr. Ruth proclaim she was a triple Pi Phi legacy, which explained her smug tone.  My mom was in a sorority too, but it wasn’t one that had a house on my campus so there was no way to spend my legacy currency.

“For example, you are supposed to be wearing panty hose today.” I could feel her eyes on me when she spoke; her words a sniper aimed at my insecure little heart.  Bullseye. 

I looked down at my freshly shaved legs—I could feel the fresh nicks stinging as sweat snaked down my leg. No fucking way was I wearing panty house on Day 4.  I was willing to on Day 5 when most houses served cheesecake and tried to make you cry by singing songs about friendship.  But Day 4? Nope.

“If you want to get into the best houses …” She prattled on, other girls gathered around her drinking her wisdom like a fragrant mimosa.

I wasn’t going to look, but then, of course I had to.  If I was going down in a fiery shame spiral, I wanted to put a face to that grating voice.  I shouldn’t have looked over. I should have directed my attention to the sweet looking girl from Arlington on my right who stared straight ahead as if we were headed to a firing squad, not a sorority party.  She wasn’t wearing panty hose either.

For the next four years, I ran into Dr. Ruth around school regularly; the sight of her always accompanied by a dull zing of shame and rage, even though I’d found a place where my naked legs  were welcome.

As I clicked “accept” to her recent friend request last night, I remembered that sweltering afternoon and decided it was time to let go.  I’ve carried this story long enough.