dead right

A week ago I was headed to Chicago to see the Grateful Dead. I returned from that experience a different person.

I KNOW. How totally absurd and super annoying of me to say that. Like the person who talks about juicing or their dog’s poops or their baby’s personality a little too much, I realize how self-absorbed and trite this sounds. But allow a sister a little hyperbole.

People have been writing all week about the shows in Chicago and in California, and how the 70,000 + crowds each night were lovely and unified and super kind veggie burrito-ish to each other. No pushing, no aggression, just peace, love and sativa. How the music was rich and potent and how time seemed to hover somewhere between 1995 when the Dead played their last show at Soldier Field, and present day, present moment when they took the stage again with a few tweaks to the band lineup and the appearance of the fans. Walking through the streets of Chicago to and from the show was as cozy, crazy, happy and summertime party-down festive as anything I’ve done in years. It brought me back to college and fun and freedom and nothing left to do but smile smile smile. (Sorry).

It was special to go with two dear friends who live far away but will always be my true sisters. I was without my husband and kids and felt worry free and light. I was utterly in the moment — running into friends, high-fiving strangers, and dancing the hippy dance – the one where you don’t move your feet and might whack someone with your roving arms. I liked having to explain to several people that sorry, I did not have mushrooms to sell, but was grinning and giggling like a maniac simply because I was happy.

Now it’s a week later in the life of a mom of two youngin’s going to two different camps with lunchboxes and lost water bottles and pajama day and doctor’s appointments and playdates and living in the most non-peaceful construction zone of a neighborhood in the world. A lot of things have gone down this week, but I’m still smiling and thinking in these bumper sticker-y Grateful Dead song lyrics. I’m waiting for it to wear off and to return to the pissed off weirdo mom person who yells at people looking at their phones while crossing the street.

I can’t fully explain the transformative effect that one concert had on my attitude, but I am internally vibrating. Something shifted while I was reveling in those songs that were so much a part of my teens and twenties. I was having this intimate relationship with the band as they sang, while around me everyone else was having their own personal experiences – equally as intense of course. I felt like a vessel for the music and for memory and for love.

I try so hard to get there — I meditate, I self-medicate, I try to be mindful towards the happy times and to equally feel the sadness, the anxiety, the anger and the disappointments. But this was a time where everything was working. And the blissful memory of that weekend will sustain me.

It is bizarre, but I’m running with it. If you see me you’ll know. It must have been the roses.


I’ve been struggling with why I care about the whole Kim Kardashian wedding/divorce situation. I’ve never seen her show, and have desperately tried to avoid knowing about this glittery lady and her glossy lips. Some facts have seeped in, of course. I know she made a porn tape, has a gaggle of sisters, and a super fantastic publicist. But when I read unavoidably about the money spent on her recent wedding and the family’s endorsements being timed to hit right when her E! Spectacular was airing, and then her announcement to divorce three weeks later, I felt all self righteous, ranting about Republicans and all my gay friends who have been unable to marry, and the hypocrisy of celebrities marrying and divorcing with less care than they put into their photo ops coming out of Starbucks. Its not like I’m unaware of PR and what celebrities are willing to do for it, and the hollowness of this culture that gives these idiots a platform. So why did this particular incident push me over the edge into cranky Andy Rooney (RIP) territory?

I got married seven years ago in October. I imagine it was something like producing a Broadway show, complete with drama from the Producers (my parents), strong opinions from the talent (mostly me), and all the various folks that take part in a production of that magnitude (hair and makeup, dresses, tuxes, catering, Pilates instructors, media coverage). My husband and I laugh that we will never look or feel more like B or C level celebrities starring in our own reality show.

Seven years and two kids later, daily life is a long way from lighting design and calligraphy, and more like a life insurance ad set in our cluttered home on a weekday morning at 7:30 am. It strikes me as odd, and almost embarrassing that we made such a spectacle of our wedding day. Because now I realize how little the wedding experience mirrors the actuality of being married! It’s every day after the wedding that your union really needs the love and the high fives for making it through each day, each year.

The day of your wedding, you have no idea how much your partner might annoy you when he natters on about his iPhone, or how much you’ll annoy him by wanting to gossip about the parents at the school fundraiser. After the wedding, when your best friends (and random people you had to invite) are flying home, the champagne bottles piled in the recycling bin and “Play That Funky Music White Boy” echoing in your head, its down to dealing with your spouse’s habits, the possibility of growing away from each other, and the myriad of situations a marriage can, or can’t endure.

I’m thinking about this a lot as I watch so many couples around me split up. Its too complicated to try and create a trend out of people’s pain and the reasons why marriages don’t work out, but I do think that the emphasis our culture places on “your special day” to feel like a princess (or Prince) is somehow misplaced. Maybe the intensity and support from your community that happens during the planning of the wedding weekend can be dispersed somehow, so couples can get some love a couple of years in — when they really need it. Like periodic mini weddings: hugs, pep talks, advice, and real models of what it means to make difficult moments work. And gifts. I’ll take a new blender seven years in for sure. After a harrowing discussion of whether we can afford private school, whether our son ate a battery while we weren’t looking, or planning a time to fool around when someone isn’t sleeping on an air mattress on our floor, I could definitely use a blender for the distraction.

Its great that your college roommate gave a killer toast at your wedding about how awesome of a friend you are, and that your husband’s brother was able to articulate something he’s never been able to say since. But wouldn’t it be great if he could come over and read his remarks when you’re fighting with your husband of three years because of something ridiculous like he forgets that Sunday night is bill paying night? Or something less ridiculous, like you think you might be attracted to your best friend’s husband. Or your best friend’s wife.

I love being married. My husband is my partner, and he puts up with my flaws and my craziness and I think we truly fit. I have pride in the fact that we are constantly communicating and doing what we can to keep ourselves happy and committed. But being married is hard as hell, and married people can use all the help we can get. Not people desecrating marriage – cheapening, and turning it into a stupid, fakey-icky, cheesy brand you can buy at K-mart. And so that’s why I’m so annoyed by Kim Kardashian, I realize. Because I’m actually protective of this fakkaktah institution. I care about it. I believe in it. I’m actually not as cynical as I thought I was – I’m a softie and I believe in love and I believe in marriage. I even believe in weddings. That’s why I cry at every single one.

an audible sigh

You leave your toddler for one minute to answer an email in the bedroom, and the next thing you know you’re sitting in the pediatric emergency room discussing the length and width of a AAA battery and if said toddler could get it down his tiny little esophagus without choking.

Dude. That is so not relaxing and not at all how I wanted to spend my Saturday.

And that’s the crux of it. That from one minute to the next, with these little buzz kills running rampant through your lives, things have the potential to get majorly hectic up in here. You can’t just give the kid an old remote control to distract him so he stops eating the remote control you need to actually control the television remotely and is a lifeline to your relaxing 22 minutes at 9 PM where you laugh or cry or feel sexed up (HBO and Showtime). No! You must remain vigilant at all times, assuming that he will take the top off the remote and that there will be one battery in there when you get back to him. SO WHERE THE FUCK IS THE OTHER BATTERY? (Not metaphorically, but really. Where is it? Because they did an X-ray and it wasn’t in his body).

Are you loudly exhaling or oy veying right now? Because you can bet your ass I am sighing and oy veying almost all of the time. There’s this sonic icloud in my ipod of a brain, a chorus of bellowing, worrying, ululating mothers and fathers everywhere, who audibly sigh and oy vey their stress about random accidents or the very possibilities of random accidents. Just turn up the volume, its definitely playing.

Parents of small children are broken people and bloody exhausted, yes yes, yes. We know this. But for me, its not the physical lack of sleep and the energy burned to run after them and schedule their lives and meals and the cleaning oh Jesus the cleaning that is the real problem, though sure, those parts can suck. I’m referring to something more psychic here. At the heart of my anxiety in general is how quickly something could shift from moment to moment and change your life forever. This is why I’m terrified of car accidents, and planes crashing. My terror lies in thinking about the seconds just before the crashes when everything is normal, regular, routine. Kids watching a DVD. This American Life on the radio. Carguments between you can the GPS lady.

Thinking about the dangers and trying to brace for them fully is debilitating and probably why I never properly baby proofed my home. Because you drop one dime out of your pocket and then what was the point of all that stupid, ugly plastic shit and double stick tape you bought at Buy Buy Baby? You can’t just sit back and relax when you have kids, seemingly ever. You’re up out of that chair sister, because if its not one danger stage, its another. They stop putting things in their mouths? They can still choke! They don’t run into traffic? An out of control cab can still hit them. You keep them on a leash? Cancer.

And that is why, when you look at pictures of yourself 10 years ago, everything looks so much better. The lines are smoother. Your smile is easier. You are physically younger, and maybe you had more time to get your hair colored and put on some concealer, and more money to groom your brows. But really, it’s about the look in your eyes now when you’re photographed. You’re smiling with pride, or with joy, but there’s an inability in those eyes to think only of your own needs and desires. And there’s that flicker of fear, always present, that changes you beyond description. Most days I am so happy I have this family in my life to love. But the worry about something happening to them is what ages my face and my eyes, and my heart.

And so, we left the ER on Saturday relieved that there was no news, feeling likely there had only been one battery in that old remote control. Yes, we had probably taken the other out to put in one of our daughter’s 8 princess flashlights that also take AAA batteries. Right. We shook our heads at the wasted day, swore to be more careful, more vigilant, and wondered about the little boy in front of us at the X-ray line who we overheard had eaten staples. Oy vey, we said, and we sighed. Audibly.

big kid

The second week of September this year was a big one for our family. Lots of “firsts.” First full day of Kindergarten (my daughter). First PTA meeting (me). First lice scare (daughter, son, me and my husband. No one had it). These are situations I would file under: Having a Big Kid.

I went from knowing every move Z made last year at her small, nurturing pre-school with three teachers for 15 kids, to her being one of 22 kids with one teacher in K. I used to get a report about what she did or didn’t eat at lunch and if she went to the bathroom during the day (!) Now, the kids are eating lunch in the cafeteria on their own. They pee with a partner, and no one is making sure they go.

Becoming more independent. Learning to operate as part of group. Following directions and learning consequences. All good things! It’s just … an adjustment … for me.

That first week realizing I had a big kid was a bit jarring. There were lots of afterschool meetings bunched together, with big kid school-ese and information about fundraising and peanut allergies in the noisy auditorium, where the sounds of the principal on a microphone, plus the murmuring of parents, plus siblings of our newly minted elementary students were all echoing off of the walls. Lots of questions from parents of even bigger kids, about middle school and money for school band and lots of politics I couldn’t begin to understand yet. I felt like I had no idea what was going on.

And so the C word keeps cropping up. Control. And by that I mean feeling like I have none. Principals and nurses and teachers and lunch ladies and all kinds of interactions that happen to my child without my sanctioning during the day. I’m getting what I feel is very little information from or about my kid. But is this actually happening, or is it part of a larger realization that the world is moving forward and my big kid is being plummeted in? I’ve been feeling acutely that sadness and pain are now imminent for her. She’ll need to fight her own battles and deal with the challenges of big kid-dom beyond the safe cocoon of preschool. I guess I’m having trouble thinking about all the amazing things in store for her at the same time because I think I’m seeing it from her eyes, and it all seems so, well, BIG.

When we leave her every morning in class, the panic in her eyes seems to lessen each day. Maybe its more of an awareness than a panic — she seems to know that she’s in a new and somewhat uncomfortable situation where people are expecting her to be more self sufficient. We get very little out of her when she comes back in the afternoon after a full day, save for some worksheets practicing letters and notices about a library card and ordering Highlights magazine. I know she’s processing, and can see that she’s proud of her new status as a big kid. Every time another parent asks how its going, I’m forced to say its “going well,” and yet I feel a bit vague on the whole thing. That must be the realization once again, that Control is an illusion.