Everest

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May 22, 2015

This morning I made, like, the best packed lunch of all lunches for my kids.

It was the Everest of lunches.

No peanut butter and jelly, or ham and swiss sandwiches.

No. This was the real shit.

Leftover Honk Kong noodles, pork dumplings, shrimp shumai, little chunks of chicken rolled in potato starch and deep fried, bottles of icy lemon water, wedges of manchego and crackers, fresh cut raspberries and strawberries.

I had pots and pans going, steam wafting out of the kitchen, smells and bells. All before 7 am.

I was ON FRIGGIN FIRE.

And when it was over, and the little dumplings had been arranged and packed and put carefully into their lunch bags, all with my undying love and purest devotion, I wanted to turn around and get the standing friggin’ ovation I deserved.

I waited for it.

Hands in the air.

Looking for my high five.

The pats on the back.

The “You rock, Mom! Wooot!”

Instead I stood alone in the kitchen, a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. A smear of oil on the counter. No one noticing my great accomplishment. How I had traversed the mountain of bad lunch-making, only to reach the summit, and prevailed.

My Everest.

No ovation. No beers and war stories from my fellow lunch-making dudes. No recognition that I had KICKED SOME MOTHER LOVING ASS.

Just the realization that I have to come up with 8 more of these Everests before the end of the school year.

Fuck.

I hate making lunches.

Another Continent

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April 16, 2015

I was talking to Lucy and Edie. Actually, I was pushing a cart in Michael’s, and the two of them were in the belly of the cart – Edie, because her sister was there, and Lucy because she just got a shot in the ass and was moaning that she needed to be carried everywhere and she might never walk again and why, oh why, did I ever let her get that shot?

And I’m explaining again about her mysterious sting, the weird bugs and spiders here in Vegas, and the cellulitis, the red, swollen, itchy arm and how she might have to have her arm amputated if she didn’t get a shot of antibiotics, and in between the moaning, everyone is looking at crafts. They love crafts.

The crafts were healing Lucy’s butt.

And the girls were explaining to me what they would buy for their houses when they were grown-up and how those houses would look, and what kind of furniture, and how high the ceilings were, and their ideas about chandeliers, how many jewels should be on the chandeliers, whether you should have a chandelier in your bathroom, and Lucy talked about her kids, and how she would leave them with her husband and her chandeliers, and her vaulted ceilings, and set about the world traveling.

I mentioned how upset they would be if David and I went off on a big trip and left them at home, and to this Lucy replied she would take them sometimes, but sometimes she wanted to travel the world herself.

I suggested she leave the children with me while she traveled.

And to this she told me that she would, except she would be on another continent, so babysitting wasn’t possible.

“Wait. What?” I stammered.

“You are going to live on another continent?”

“Yes,” she tells me. “Maybe Europe, maybe another continent.”

And I summon all kinds of selflessness and say, “Baby, you can live anywhere you want. You are going to have a beautiful, adventurous life.”

I smile. But I don’t mean that smile.

I still haven’t gotten over it. But I’m trying.

Turning Ten

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February 7, 2015

Lucy is turning ten.

I can already tell ten is something completely different than any other age yet.

There is more spending time alone in her room. She doesn’t think every idea I have is completely genius. She can handle hurting my feelings, if it means taking care of herself. She is moodier, occasionally downright petulant. She has secrets she would never even consider sharing with me, but still wants me to know and understand exactly how she feels.

Ten is in the world – she notices other people, that old guy with the pale skinny legs wearing shorts way too tight for his body, and she has a quiet snarky comment about him. She has a good sense of humor. She can be stunningly right in her observations about people. She is an accurate reporter of information. A year ago, she would never have even noticed him or anyone not directly in her orbit. But ten notices everything, and sees herself in and against everything else.

She still needs time with us, alone and together. Mommy/Lucy time. Daddy/Lucy time. Edie/Lucy time. She wants our love and approval, and she flourishes there in our light and love. When we couldn’t attend a recent performance, she danced with a smile and, her teachers said, tears in her eyes. We still matter. Ten – for all her bravado – still needs a safe place, hugs and cuddles. Sometimes she needs to climb in bed with us, but mostly she is in her head – idea and stories flowing around in there – and in her room, reading at night, or writing in her journal, or sketching characters in a notebook, determining her own bedtime, based on what she needs.

She is clean, appropriately showered, she cares about everything, her clothes, her hair, her friends, their conversations, her schoolwork, her art, her drawing, her time to be creative, her music, her own personal dreams, what she is turning into, whether people like her, whether she’ll have friends, whether she’ll put herself out there and be rejected, whether she’ll matter outside of our family.

She is here and now, but also full of the future, and what she can be.

Mostly I notice the difference in this years’ party. Every year, the party is a tight schedule of activities and games and things to keep the kids from spazzing out and ripping the house apart. No more. Turning ten means restraint and self-created fun. No destruction whatsoever. Ten’s parties have loud music, and applying make-up on each other blind-folded, and everyone arm-in-arm singing Taylor Swift songs like they are anthems for their generation, and karaoke, and jumping on the slack line in the backyard, and just for no reason at all, dancing, and grabbing your girls friends and hugging and laughing out loud.

There’s the usual stuff – eating, drinking, cake, candles, sure – but ten does not want schedules and plans, and parent-guided fun. She wants to hang. She wants you to go in the kitchen and stay there. When I pop out to snap a photo, I feel like a monstrous interloper, so I stop with photos, and David and I make a drink in the kitchen and listen to them, all happy and full of ideas, and jokes and loud bawdy laughter.

We know everything is changing, even though a lot of it is, weirdly, kind of the same.

And we are ecstatic about that – because ten is pure beauty – but also a little part of us thinks all this change sucks. We are gaining a lot, and losing a lot. It is beautiful suckage.

We prepare ourselves. Every birthday will be beautiful suckage from now on.

Serial Killer

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February 2, 2015

We get the pig from a farm.

I watch Luis kill it. He slams it over the head three times with a crow bar, and the pig slumps into the mud. Luis sticks the pig in the neck. Blood spurts out. The pig is dead by the time it hits the little truck that we ride out to the hog pens.

It’s an awful, hard death, but a fast one. I feel a greater urgency that this pig comes out perfectly. It’s our third pig roast, this one for 100 people from the casts of Absinthe/Vegas and Absinthe/Australia. Each of our pig roasts is a testing ground for the next, where we try to make the skin crispier, the meat softer, the cooking time just right, not too long to dry out the meat, not too short to get limp skin.

Perhaps it is all the bludgeoning and whacking with a crow bar, and the bleeding out right before my eyes, but I want this pig to be the one to come out perfectly.

I decide to cook hard. Out of respect and obligation.

I touch the pig on the truck. It is warm and still. I watch Luis pull it by its teeth with a crow bar into a trough with boiling water, where it is scalded of all its hair. And then it’s hung, split, entrails pulled out and heaped onto the floor. Luis has done this a lot. He is all sweaty, hard arms and rote memory and efficiency. He barely even needs to look at the pig to do this work. I see purple liver, something that might be a spleen, long eel-like ropes of intestine, the colors of which were veiny blue-purple, like one end of a kid’s rainbow.

There is a lot of blood and a lot of washing the blood away with a hose. In fact, Luis is obsessive about washing away the blood -  health code, I’m sure - but also like he doesn’t want me to see what this killing really entails. He tries to keep it pretty for me, because I am, he thinks, a farm tourist or a delicate female.

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Whenever we get a pig to roast, I always feel like I am a serial killer, and David and I are secretly trying to get rid of the evidence. We heave the pig, this one a 60 pounder over one of our shoulders, usually David’s, and shove it inelegantly into the fridge. We slam the door, hoping it won’t pop the door open and fall out, revealing our crime. When I am ready, we take the pig out, lay it on a the table in the backyard and mojo the shit out of it. I stick it with needles, inject it with a concoction of pineapple juice, lemongrass, coriander, thai chilies, star anise, garlic, scallions. I rub it down hard with brown sugar and copious amounts of salt.

I have my hands all over this pig. And even though I wash my hands thoroughly, often, when I pick the kids up from school, I still smell the porkiness on my fingers, because I have been all over that pig’s body, in and out of the crevasses and ribs, in its head, all my fingers feeling the sinews and the rubbery bands of fat, and the blood that still trickles out, reminding me I killed this thing. Really, I made that decision. I am in this pig’s body. In it. I am the violator. I am both serial killer of pigs and a rapist. It is both soothing and lovely and violent and raw.

After I am done, we shove the carcass back in the fridge, again, the criminals hiding the body.

The next morning, we open the fridge and the smell is like some exotic open market, just dreamy and pungent all at the same time. I want to bury my face in the pig. Another fucked up violation of its body. Then, it’s in the roasting box, split wide open and vulnerable, fully-splayed out, dotted with slices of red chilies and the burnt browns of a few cinnamon sticks in its belly.

The coals go on, fat leaks out the bottom of the box in thick drips, the yard is hot with the pig smell. The neighbor dogs all congregate and sniff around. There is smoke, heat, there is excitement. Everyone loves a pig when it is a carcass. Everyone asks about the pig – how we got it, what its death was like, how I seasoned it, how long it cooks, and then the pig brings up some kind of memory or experience, where someone talks about another time they ate from a whole pig and they smile. They always smile.

It’s 6:30 now. People are eating appetizers.  I, and some kitchen helpers, put out fried shoshito peppers, heavily salted and oily, turmeric grilled chicken, chicken satay with a spicy peanut sauce, fried wontons with a mushroom and pea shoot filling, spicy-ass, Thai-style chicken wings, agadashi dofu, on-fire corn fritters, and grilled beef salad cradled in romain leaves. Simple food, lots of it, that is the strategy. Just platters and platters of food going out to satiate the performers and acrobats and crew arriving in crowds.

The pig has been cooking for eleven hours.

The side dishes are re-heating in the oven. I’m scratching off dishes made and served from the master lists taped to my cupboards. This is real MasterChef reality TV shit. The pig goes out on the table. It’s the first time, we’ve cooked a near-perfect pig. We are getting good at this. The skin is blackened and crisp as all hell. Maybe too black, but it doesn’t really seem to matter because I pop a piece in my mouth and it tastes like crunchy, salty, fatty, balls-on, wild animal. The meat is soft and wet. David and I start chopping up pig with big knives in front of a crowd of on-lookers, like we are putting on some strange theatre of butchery, but I realize after you get through the skin, you don’t need anything that blunt anymore. I start pulling apart the meat with my fingers, and using the knife as a kind of spoon.

The muscle has completely given itself over to the heat. The pig just breaks down into heaps. Total submission. That it did what I wanted it to do is breath-taking. I never get tired of the surprises of cooking.

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I look up and there is a long line waiting to be served, plates out. Someone wants the soft fatty cheek. Someone else wants the crispy ear. This makes me happy, all this longing. I set out the sides, Andy Ricker’s Stir-Fried Brussel Sprouts with Garlic and Chile and Stir-Fried Noodles with Shrimp, Tofu and Cashews from “Pok Pok.” There is also two kinds of fried rice, Chinese sausage and no Chinese sausage, a huge wooden board piled high with spicey chopped salad, and a platter of brisket that I soaked in Bird’s Eye chilies, coriander, cumin, garlic, onions, coconut milk, salt and lime and cooked super-low for 12 hours.

People eat. People eat more. I hear that I remind someone of a Ukrainian mom in the kitchen, and I know this is meant as a serious compliment from young people far away from home. I make myself a “secret tequila”, from a bottle I have hidden in the kitchen, just for the cook and kitchen helpers. The tequila is good and hard-earned. When I go back to the yard, the carcass is a butchered mess, all bones, sucked down clean, scraps of fat that the dogs (yes, people bring dogs to our parties) begged for under the table.

Lucy, my ten-year-old daughter, is the first to remind me of dessert and we set out buckets of ice cream, and cones, and people make their own. I am done. The pig is done. All I see in front of me is a little house crammed with people laughing and talking, a fire dancing in our fireplace, the doors swung open so the outside of the house and the inside are indiscernible, my floors slicked with mud and dirt from when it started raining, nice people coming to me and introducing themselves, kids weaving in and out of the legs of friends and strangers alike, laughing and chasing each other, and conversations with the acrobats and performers from the shows, and them telling me how excited they are to get their first or second big break, and how they just appreciate being here, how young and excited they are, how not jaded and cynical.

Young people are lovely. I remind myself to hang around with more people under 25 years old.

For all my obsessing about the food and the pig these last few days, what I realize most standing there, is that the food is the most important thing, and the least. You can have a great party without great food – I mean, really you can have a great party feeding people nothing but Doritos and Coors Light - but really, good, simple food, served to people you care about, says we give a shit about you enough that we want you in our house and we will go to this kind of trouble for you. It’s the meta-message that means everything.

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And this makes killing a living thing have some kind of value that maybe it didn’t before.

Or this is what I tell myself when I feel the ghosts of our guests, lingering, long after they’ve left. Them on us, us on them. I pour myself another glass of “secret tequila” now, although it isn’t much of a secret. And I’m already thinking about the next party, the next people we get to see, the next pig to kill.

Dead-Center

photo (1)December 14, 2014

I thought everyone read the New York Times. I did. In the United States anyway. I mean not everyone, obviously, but people who have Internet access, or a Facebook account, or an interest in the news.

And not like the whole New York Times, just maybe the book review, or the magazine, or the arts section, or the cooking section, or something specific like, the Eric Garner verdict, or the “I Can’t Breathe” protests. You know, the stuff that is of interest. But I kinda figured everyone on the Internet, at some point in their day, ran across a New York Times article or two in their sphere of interest.

Apparently this is not true.

Like when I went to a very cool downtown restaurant here in Vegas, and congratulated the front of house on an excellent mention and recommendation from Pete Wells. Pete Fucking Wells.

Blank stare. No idea what I was talking about.

It went like this:

“Hey, congrats on the mention from Pete Wells in the New York Times! Excellent!”

Blank stare.

“Yeah, the New York Times recommended you guys as one of the go-to downtown restaurants in Vegas, you know, like in the New York Times.”

Blank stare.

“He recommended your pork jerky and the short rib fried rice.”

Big smile, but still the blank stare.

“Anyway, that’s amazing to make the list. I mean, you saw what the guy said about Guy Fieri, right? This is good. You’re in the New York Times…in a good way!”

“Uh, thanks.”

Blank stare.

And then I took Edie to violin this week – and asked the violin teacher, the children’s violin teacher, the Suzuki children’s violin teacher – about the New York Times piece about the violin instructor waging war on Suzuki and trying to impugn his name. The New York Times entitled the piece, “Violin World Yowls at Challenge to Fabled Teacher.” Yowls. This is big, right? Violin educators are YOWLING.

So I asked our violin teacher about the controversy, expecting a rant, like “Yes, of course, I saw it! It’s been everywhere. We are simply yowling about it!”

But it was more like this:

“Hey, heard about the big children’s violin controversy in the New York Times…”

Blank stare.

“Yeah, the New York Times did a whole piece on Mark O’Connor and his war on the Suzuki method and Suzuki himself.

Blank stare.

“He called Suzuki a liar, and his method a fraud…”

Blank stare.

“Anyway, it was in the New York Times….”

“Uh, wow, yeah, I should check that out.”

Blank stare. Not even a hint of yowling.

I reported all of this to David.

“Really? Doesn’t everyone who reads the news, reads the New York Times, or at least, some tiny part of it?”

“News flash: New York – not the center of the universe,” he said, looking over his laptop, and then returning to his email.

What? New York – not the center of the universe?

I had no idea. I mean, I lived in New York City for 25 years and I was pretty sure we were the center of the God-damned world.

It’s the tiny little lie us New Yorkers tell ourselves – that living there is worth all the hardship and insanity, and cramped spaces, and windowless kitchens, and cold-ass winters, and un-manageably ridiculous rents, and the madness of subways and buses on the packed-like-sardines commute, and three deadly-depressive months of zero sun, and the hours spent doing nothing but shuffling our cars around for alternate side parking – that all of this is bearable because we have art and museums and shows, and that we aren’t just culture, but there is the fertile ground where culture is created, and all that hardship, that we either experience or we see around us, breeds the most desperate and beautiful kind of art, that the energy, the freneticism of banging off of so many other people makes us better creators. We know more for living there. 

That’s how we justify it all.

But it’s a lie. Don’t get me wrong, NYC will always be dead-center in my head in so many ways. It’s special. It’s intertwined with me. I will always be a New Yorker.

But downtown Vegas reminds me of old NYC. And I want to stay here. I need sun. I need space. I need an herb garden. I need to meet all the downtown artists, writers, cooks and musicians. I need to walk and hear nothing but the sound of my own steps and my own breath when I walk the dogs. I need the kids to take off on their bikes and not know where the hell they are and not care that I don’t know. I need to know every single one of my lovely, slightly off-beat neighbors. I want to feed people, because there are people here who need to be fed. I want peace.

But I’m still going to keep reading the New York Times.

Tween

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December 4, 2014

Last night, Edie was having a meltdown. She was crying about her math test, which she failed, and she couldn’t right herself.

She kept sobbing over the test paper we were supposed to re-do and hand in the next morning. I said the wrong thing – I have that habit – suggesting we get her a tutor, and that sent her head-first into the couch, where she wailed. She accused me of saying she was bad at math.

She was inconsolable.

So, I picked her up, all crushed up and broken, and put her into our bed, and tried to get her to snuggle me, and then eventually go to sleep. It was hard at first. She resisted in every way possible – she wanted the puppy up on the bed, she wanted to watch a show, she wanted to go out into the living room and sort the mail, she didn’t want to lay next to me, she wanted to flop her legs around like a dying frog.

Everything I said sent her into a spiral of more tears. She told me I was mean, even though my words were light and loving. Everything I said was tangled and turned around to scrape her.

Finally, she came in next to me and I settled the blankets in around us. I told her all the things she wanted to hear, but I knew she felt too exposed and bristley to take in – that we are so proud of who she is, that she is out-of-this world, rocketship-to-the-moon smart in all ways, including math, that nothing could stop us from loving her, that we are family and we will always be together, that she makes me happy everyday, that we are so lucky to be her parents.

“Mommy…” she said. She had her nose right up to my nose, and her cheeks were still wet.

“Someday I might want to move away. Will you come with me?”

“You probably won’t want me to come, you know. You’ll be in a relationship, or have kids, and fun friends….”

“I know. But I want you to come anyway, wherever I go, so I won’t be alone.”

“I will follow you wherever you go, okay?” I said, and I smiled, and wished it were true – that she could be an adult and still want us with her in her life – even though of course, I was pretty sure she wouldn’t want her old mother dragging behind her as she traveled the earth, like a pathetic, tethered ghost, looming over her, looking for another life to live.

“I’m afraid I might do drugs when I’m a teenager,” she said next.

And I realized this is what it really means to be a tween, to still be a kid, and like kid things, but to also see that just over the horizon, you are going to want new things, believe new things, see the world completely differently. You are going to be on your own – and you love the idea, but it’s fierce, terrifying reality rattles you to your sinews and joints.

Maybe you’ll be a pop star, but then maybe you’ll be a meth addict. It’s all so unwritten and unknowable.

Being a tween means being here and there simultaneously, without understanding what it all means. Knowing you will change, but still hoping you can hang out a little longer with cartoons, and stuffed animals, and long hugs from your parents that fix everything.

“I don’t know what you’ll do when you’re a teenager,” I told her, “but there’s nothing you can do to make us stop loving you…”

“Or liking me?”

“Nope, we’re always gonna like you.”

“I can sleep now.”

And then she turned over, and closed her eyes, and I held her in my arms long after she fell asleep.

The Better Half of the Omelet

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November 15, 2014

We just got back from a weekend in Utah, looking at peaks and mountains, and climbing trails and edging around cliffs. We rented an RV. We went with our friends, and Lucy and Edie’s oldest friends, Nakamae and Nabrakissa and their mom, Jessica. Three adults, four kids, four dogs packed into an RV, careening through mountains, and valleys, it was marvelous and dirty, the air was cool and clean, the mountains, well, they were so beautiful and jagged and awe-some as to make you feel like a tiny, impossibly stupid little specks, a heap of infallible chromosomes and muscle.

I mean, are you strong enough to be the water that can carve out a rock canyon? No. No you are not. You are a speck.

We got home and unpacked the camper, and I made a quick dinner for David and the kids. Mac and cheese for the girls, something easy to thaw from my freezer. The guy who is working on our house, Chris, was here working late, so I fed him too, a scallion omelet with cream cheese, and a heaping side of bacon. So simple.

I made a six egg omelet in my big copper crepe pan and split it down the middle. And I gave the slightly bigger, more attractive half to David, and the slightly less large, but still perfectly pleasant half to Chris.

And this made me think…

I hadn’t always given the nicer half to my husband. When we first started dating, I would say to him, “I’m going to give you the less attractive bits, and the guests the nicer slices.” He and I wanted to make it look good for the guests. He had my back. We were becoming a team.

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But now, nine years into our marriage, we are not becoming. We are solid. I realized last night, looking at those two plates of egg, that I always give David the best-looking piece. Or the largest. Or the most full of something delectable. Because after all of it, he deserves that little kindness.

He probably will never notice, and I don’t plan on pointing it out to him. I’m pretty sure he provides a hundred little kindnesses to me everyday, ones that he never thinks to tell me about, or remind me that they are there. I know they are there, because I feel their weight all the time.

They are so small, these kindnesses as to be nearly invisible – specks in the vastness of our marriage. But they add up. They are little reminders of our connection. THEY ARE OUR CONNECTION. That we value you each other in more subtle ways than flowers, and gifts, and big, holiday demonstrations.

There is nothing like watching 4 kids and 4 dogs crammed into the bunk of an RV, the kids screaming with laughter, the dogs flopping around joyfully, potato chip crumbs and discarded shoes all over the floor, and your laughing girlfriend, and your husband at the wheel, to know that you are surrounded by people who have your back. Or to see a sky so huge and stuffed with stars that you realize how meaningless it all is except for these wonderful people.

And just because of that, when you can give it, your people, the ones that are there everyday, deserve the better half of the omelet.

Loud

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November 1, 2014

It’s morning here. And I am seeing a peek into what winter is like. Windy. Chilly, but still so much more bearable than east coast weather. It’s eerie, and things tumble across the yard, and trees sway, but it’s beautiful.

And I’m awake alone in the living room. The kids are in a tumble of sheets and blankets, Lucy covered up to her neck, and Edie without any cover at all. This has been who they are since they were babies. It might always be this way.

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They were all in our bed this morning. A not unpleasant way to start the day.

And I couldn’t sleep, which was mostly the puppy’s fault. She woke up around six and wanted to play and to get everyone up to play, so I came here to the living room.

And then David noticed I was missing from our bed, and came out and laid on the sofa next to me. He still has eye liner on from his steam-punk vampire Halloween costume the night before, and his crazy bed-hair makes him look like Viggo Mortenson in “A Perfect Murder”.

Not unpleasant at all.

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And it’s quiet. Except for the dogs grunting, and snorting. Pugs do that, and loudly.

That is not so unpleasant either.

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It’s nice to be alone, but not alone. To be alone, among sleeping family. To have tea in my hand. To feel day happening to us. To wonder what loud thing will happen next. To listen to the limbs scratch and thump the side of the house. To see leaves shiver through warm windows.

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To know that soon the house will be filled with loud kids, and loud dogs, and loud us, and loud guests, and loud neighbors, and loud emails and phone calls, and loud work happening in the back casita, and loud food making, and loud packing up all the Halloween supplies, and making room in our cobweb stuffed brains for the next holiday, and the next one after that.

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All of that is good.

But it’s quiet now.

And that is not unpleasant.

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Fear & Relief

photo (8)October 28, 2014

We really like Halloween here.

Lucy and I think its way better than Christmas, even though there are no presents. We start gathering supplies in September. We have a party, make a haunted house – it gets scarier every year. We go to Halloween City a hundred times, and every year we amass a stash of Halloween gore that needs to be stored in giant tubs.

I will dish out candy to the hordes of neighborhood zombies and since Friday is “Nevada Day” and we have the day off from school, we will spend ALL DAY dressing up, adjusting our costumes, and draping our foyer with cob webs, and spiders, and skulls eating rats, and changing the lightbulbs into something dark and eerie, and putting out the severed heads, and the plate of delicious body parts. We will get the fog machine out, and cue up the freaky music, so both fog and shrieking noises pour out from the house. We’ll get a friend to wear a face-rotting monster mask and scare the hell out of the children as they pass by.

Bwah ha ha…Oh, I chuckle just thinking of it.

photo (9) I have a friend who says, semi-jokingly, if he doesn’t make a baby cry every Halloween, he hasn’t done his job. I’ve always liked that – not making kids cry exactly – but creating a safe-scary opportunity for my kids and the kids around us.

Kids face all kinds of real life horrors, from the minor to the downright terrifying – food scarcity, bullying, peer pressure, natural disasters, divorce, crazy parents, dead parents, instability, poverty, homophobia, racial bigotry, just feeling misunderstood, powerless, and a world around them filled with grown-ups murmuring about ebola, beheadings, kids getting shot in their schools, drone strikes, war, planes that disappear into thin air. 

Maybe that’s why we watch the Walking Dead, and World War Z, and maybe that’s why Lucy and Edie are sitting on the couch right now in their newly-created Halloween costumes, wishing they could just tear out into the night and MAKE. HALLOWEEN. HAPPEN. NOW.

Because its good to be scared, knowing it’ll all turn out okay.

Halloween is a vacation from the stuff that is truly scary and unfixable.

At least if I make a baby cry on our doorstep this Friday, I can whip off my mask, let her touch the folds of deformed skin, see the fake blood, and work the button on the glowing zombie skull chewing a rat that will sit right next to the bowl of candy. She’ll see it’s plastic, harmless, and that I am smiling, and not so mean at all, and that the world is good and there is candy to be eaten, and right at that moment, hopefully, she’ll laugh and grab the mask out of my hands and try to scare her little brother.

There will be fear and relief.

Fear and then, relief.

The relief will feel so good.

We can all go to the dark place, and come back.

Happy Halloween.

Rabbit Hole

photo (29)October 23, 2014

I started taking anti-anxiety meds in August, just after we moved to Vegas. Right after I fell down the big black rabbit hole.

Not that anything was particularly wrong. I did that thing I always do, where I sail through life without thinking. Of course it would be fine to leave NYC. Sure, I’d miss my friends, but I’d stay in touch. I’d make new friends in Vegas. It’s a big adjustment, sure, but it’s a huge adventure.

Adventures are awesome.

The move was smooth. We lost a few clay flower pots and the air conditioning went in my jeep, but nearly everything else made it here just fine. We had a great time in Tokyo.We watched David’s show 100 times, and roamed the streets looking for fashion accessories and yakitori and sushi.

Plus, we love a hotel bed. We know how to do our thing in a beautiful, big hotel bed pretty much anywhere.

photo (25)

But then we got to our new house. The house I had seen before we bought it. The house I knew had great bones and tons of potential. The house I knew was deprived of love and caring for many years.

And I saw the paint on the walls, bleak and dirty and morose. And the furniture the tenants left behind, broken, over-used, battered, cheap. The blinds and walls and shelves caked with years of decay. We had cleaners come in before the move, but the poverty that was there – not financial poverty, but spiritual poverty – could not be wiped down or washed away.

It was everywhere.

I labeled everything “poverty.” Poverty blinds. Poverty cupboards. Poverty furniture. So much of everyone else’s sadness left behind. And I soaked it up like a sponge.

And it was hot here. Obviously. August, Las Vegas heat, and water bugs the size of small puppies lived in the trees, forced their way through cracks in our old house, and there was a mouse in my sink, and apparently secadas come out every year here, not just every 17 years, and then shed their shells, so profusely that hard little shells were stuck all over the outside of our house. The kids ran around collecting them and kept them in a tin can in their room, and kept shoving the can in my face, asking me if I was still afraid of them.

Awesome.

I developed this crazy obsession with water bugs. Intrusive thoughts. I expected to see them everywhere. I remember seeing one on the outside of the house next door and going to check on it every five minutes, thinking it would come to our house. When it wasn’t on the house anymore, I checked our house. Had it come inside here?

I woke up in the middle of the night and searched the walls for signs of roaches. I was afraid to walk in the grass, or in the street at night. I asked everyone about their water bugs. Did they have them? Does the exterminator get rid of them? I talked to the clerk at Walgreen’s about roaches. No one was immune.

Everything I thought about was somehow connected to water bugs. Intrusive thoughts, so many intrusive thoughts. I wouldn’t stand under the beautiful, viney tree in our front yard because I was sure a roach would fall on me and get entangled in the web of my hair.

Water bugs as a symbol for my anxiety, my own personal crazy.

I fell down the hole. I woke up grey. The stray thoughts sent me spiraling out of control. Would this hurt me? Would that hurt me? Were there water bugs here? Under the bed? On the walls? On me? There isn’t one on me, is there?

fell far away.

Poverty shelves.

I fell into myself.

Poverty walls.

David saw it immediately. He sent me to the show doctor. I asked for meds. I got them. I recovered. And we painted the morose walls, and threw out the poverty blinds and the poverty furniture. I even took an old wrought iron shelf from the yard and transformed it into a place for Lucy’s copious amounts of tiny little collectible objects.

Re-purpose.

Make everything our own.

Find ourselves here.

It’s becoming beautiful. I see us in it, more and more everyday.

I’m still on the meds. I’m still fighting intrusive thoughts, but not nearly as many. I’m starting to love life here. I’m feeling good. I love my morning walks. We are going to good restaurants, hosting a lot of dinner parties, hanging with new friends. I love the light, the way I can throw open the windows and let the breeze blow in. There are good people here.

I’ve learned to pronounce “Nevada” correctly. Nev-a-da, not Nev-ah-da. This is important, I’m told. When you know people from Nevada, you pronounce the name of their state correctly.

When you are from Nevada, you pronounce the name of your state correctly.

This is a good adventure, after all.

And its Fall, and cooler, so not so many water bugs and all the black widows seem to have disappeared. And Fall is 85 degrees here. That helps, too.