Sunday, December 30, 2012

Let's Resolve Some Stuff

I'm one of those people who really likes Resolutions. Sometimes I'll make them in the middle of the year, just because I feel like it.  I don't necessarily always keep them, although this blog is the product of an October 4th, 2009 resolution, and I'm a dedicated flosser thanks to an August 11th resolution in 2007.  But even if I make one and don't keep it, the act of resolving something always makes me feel a little like I have some control over my existence.

Which is a touch ridiculous, actually. I am beholden to several shareholders: a 3 year old, a frowny husband writing his dissertation, and several bosses.  For me the concept of free will is an adorable, nutty little fairytale. But a seductive one.

And so I make resolutions.

So, what's it going to be this year? A resolution should be small and achievable. I could start brushing my hair?  I could resolve to use pencils instead of pens, on account of my mom got me this Thomas Jefferson pencil sharpener for Christmas:

But what am I going to be glad I did? Like Audrey's boyfriend Jules says, "Sometimes you gotta hook your future self up today." How am I going to hook Future Jesslyn up in 2013?  I'm open to suggestions.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Apocalypse Scenarios

Today's the big day: the end of the 13th Mayan baktun--the last day that the Mayans cared to account for in their scrupulous timekeeping schematic.  It's sunny today, and, according to Dad, windy enough to rip your scalp off.  When I talked to him this morning, he was cautiously optimistic that this wind isn't an End of Days wind.

At any rate, the Earth hasn't opened up yet to unleash any bloodthirsty feathered serpent gods.  At least not here in Athens, Georgia.  Vladimir Putin reportedly told the Russian people this morning that the world's definitely got another 4.5 billion years on it, and according to Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Putin is never wrong.  So there you have it.

But possible apocalypse scenarios always give me pause, because I love this world and this life, and it makes me a little anxious to think I might never see it again.  I mean, I'm sure the afterlife is cool or whatever, but I like it here.

So, here on the Mayan day of, I just want to tell the day and the world that I love it.  And even you, Quetzalcoatl--if you're reading this.  I love you too, Buddy. Because maybe you're feeling like surfing the web after you've gobbled everybody up?  I dunno.

Anyway, what I love about the world is that there are indoors and outdoors, men and women, children and adults, close and far, plants and animals and rocks, scalping wind and warm, quiet water.  I even like that there is meanness to show us what kindness is. We've got it pretty good here, you know?

Okay, love ya'll.  Mayans, have it if you must.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I spent most of today with Odessa, which made me started thinking about what it must be like to be a little kid.   Of course I used to be a kid, and I remember some things about it--mostly the feelings I had, which were all waaaay more acute than any feeling I ever have these days.  Embarrassment, boredom, surprise, ET cetera--little kid feelings are essentially adult feelings on bath salts.  Those feelings will chew the paint off a cop car right in front of a cop.

Surprise was a big one for me.  I remember childhood as a long series of totally unexpected events:

  • Woah, that lady's crying
  • Why the hell is that old man wearing a tube in his nose? 
  • Huh, we're all going down to the basement of the school and there's a siren thing going off. Huh.
Being a little kid is pretty much one decontextualized event followed by another.  Surprising things happen over and over until they become less surprising, at which point, you grow up.

But this morning Odessa surprised me. I felt just about as surprised as a 34-year-old woman talking to her 3 year old could be.

The scene:

We are seated across the table from one another at a restaurant, Odessa with a scrambled egg and two pieces of bacon in front of her.  I'm reading the paper, looking up at her every two-ish minutes to say, "Dessa, eat a bite of your eggs."  She's rolling around in the booth, distractedly mumbling something: "Mommy I don't want eggs eggs are yucky I want a treat a snowflake cookie and a candycane I want a gingerbread man baby...."  And then I look up and say, "you have to finish everything on your plate before I even think about getting you a cookie."

And then she makes this weird face I've never seen her make, and whines, "Mommy, I can't eat this breakfast because it will make me get a fat belly."


Monday, December 10, 2012


Did I tell you I'm taking archery lessons? Or at least I was, but now that the actual lessons have ended, I go practice shooting bows and arrows once a week.  The thing is, I'm not very good at it.  I mean, I could probably become good at it one day if I practiced enough, but right now I'm objectively terrible.  Let's just say, if my being good at archery mattered in the least, I would have died in battle months ago.

Luckily, it doesn't matter.  Which has made me realize something: as an adult, I'm very rarely asked to do anything that tests the limits of my sense of humor about myself.  I think very few of us are.

Like when was the last time you were asked to draw a picture?  Grownups haaaate drawing pictures because objects rendered by adults who haven't tried to draw anything since 5th grade tend to look bad.  My friend Eleanor (who is a very good drawer) says this is because drawing is full of tricks--if you know all the tricks and practice them, you'll be a just fine drawer.

But it seems to me, being good at it isn't really the point.  I think we all probably put too much emphasis on mastery--immediate mastery--of skills that nobody has any business mastering in less than like 20 years.

So, what do you do while you're still bad at something?  Well, I guess you could do it for the sake of doing it, just because it's kind of fun.  That's probably okay, right?

Look at little kids: they draw all the time, and their drawings are fucking rotten.  Like here's Odessa's self portrait from last week:

Adorable? Yes. Does it look anything like her? No. Does she give a shit? Not at all.

My shooting an arrow at a target looks a lot like Odessa's self portrait: the best one can say about it is it  might be adorable to a bystander. 

But then sometimes I can really, honestly convince myself that ability doesn't matter: it's fun to do, so I do it whether or not I can hit the broad side of a barn from a distance of 20 feet.

But. BUT!

Then last week, Bryan started taking archery lessons too.  And of course he's really good at it because he's good at everything that involves hitting something with another thing.   Bowling, splitting wood,  throwing baseballs, archery.

And this is where it gets tough, because now archery requires not only patience and humility, but something else.   Graciousness? Good sportsmanship?  Things I pride myself on having an adequate supply of.  I'm not usually a very competitive person, but when it comes to Bryan, I want to CRUSH.  

We're both oldest children.  It's a problem.  Need to work on it.  

And NOW I have the opportunity. Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pictures of My Parents

My sister and I have always been kind of fascinated by our parents--not because we like them (JUSTKIDDINGPARENTS!), but because they looked really cool in the 60s and 70s. Or rather, whatever coolness there was ended up being documented and curated by skilled photographers.  

As kids, Allison and I spent hours poring over Mom and Dad's old photo albums, drinking in their majesty, marveling over who those people even wereWho were those people!?! I mean, It looked like my mom and dad, only way awesomer.

Like here's Dad shelling beans on our front porch, for instance:
Marlon Brando and Bruce Springsteen had a baby with a weird haircut.
And Mom kicking some dudes' asses in barefoot hippie football:
Mom with football, Dad in background in hilarious jorts.
So yeah--it was like our parents were double agents or something, and the photographs were proof.  I never actually figured out the mystery behind my parents' alter egos, other than to just accept that they were having a good time back then: they got plenty of exercise, they slept well, ate well, did stuff, weren't afraid or stressed out or unhappy.

But I admit, the photos have been a lot to live up to. The ones of Mom especially, since she was gorgeous and a bad ass and apparently had her very own paparazzi that followed her around everywhere. My mom's dazzling, happy visage plagued me for the entirety of my 20's.  She really did her 20's up right.

But here's the bad news: I think having me and Allison made a difference to how cool my parents were.  I mean, here's a picture of Mom maybe a year or two before she had me:

And here's one of us together when I was a wee babe:

I know, I know: the photo's not as good--it's just a snapshot.  But so is this:

I mean, she's doing basically exactly the same thing, but without the kid: she ostensibly had a good night's sleep beforehand, so somehow she looks 85% cooler.

I guess there's just something about having kids.  That's all I'm going to say.  But I will give you some more pictures of my childless Mom to ogle because she was looking pretty great.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I'm lucky I got the mom I have.  I mean, she and I are really different in a lot of ways--for instance, she's a 68-year old lesbian lady who always has hay in her hair, and I just spent an hour trying to decide whether or not to buy this dress:
Anthropologie, please grow up and quit charging $150 for "SALE" dresses.  (You almost got me, though!)
But in general, Ma and I see eye-to-eye on most stuff.  Which is good, because assuming most women eventually turn into a version of their mothers (unless we try super-extra hard not to), I can see that I'm wandering pigeon-toed into affable, slightly ditzy middle age.  

I'm completely fine with that.

However, Mom and I share a tendency to not pay attention to what we're doing. Like driving, for instance: the back of my car has one dent in the right bumper from when Mom backed into my car last spring, and a matching dent on the other side from last week when I backed into an old man's fancy car in the parking lot of Odessa's school.

Today no injuries were sustained as we chainsawed up some stuff in the burn pile, but on the way out of the pasture, Mom totally backed into the brand new fence she just built and tore it up with her trailer hitch.

And she was like, "Oh.  Woops."

And I was like, "Yeah, s'okay.  I don't think a horse is gonna get out of that.  Unless it's like a really sneaky horse.  Or like a real small horse?"

And then we sat in the yard and watched Bryan chop a whole cord of wood and posed for this picture with Ma's super-stupid dog Safina:

So, mindfulness: I'm working on it--not sure about Mom, though.

And Safina definitely isn't working on it.  God bless her.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What to do?

This month commemorates my one year anniversary as a freelance writer.  And while my job is interesting and fulfilling in that I get paid to do what is arguably my only marketable skill, I have no idea why people do this.  Aside from the fact that writing is tedious work, you have to think about taxes all the time, you have to pay for your own health insurance, you're constantly having to  tell people that they're not paying you enough to do this or that, and you could always, ALWAYS be fired tomorrow.

Or at least that's my perception.  (I have a possibly irrational fear of being fired ever since that one time I was fired.)

I'm pretty lucky because my main client is a good friend of mine, and I know Hank will do his best to keep me in science writing for as long as I care to do it, or at least warn me when there is no longer science writing on the horizon, so I can start applying for restaurant jobs.

But about a month ago, I was on the phone with my editor--not Hank, this is another guy named Blake--and toward the end of a call outlining a Restoration Ecology script, Blake was like, "Welp, I guess this is the last time I'm gonna talk to you for a couple months." And I was like "Whatcha talkinabout?" And Blake was like, "Oh! Forgot to tell you! Our season's over so we don't need any more scripts until January!"

So then I slammed my phone down on the desk three or four times and broke the glass on the screen*, and then I took Drew's office chair and broke out the window in our studio*, and then I called Audrey and blubbered incoherently**.  And then I went catatonic for about an hour** until David made me go for a walk on the railroad tracks because he said he couldn't study--even with headphones on--through all my moaning**.

I'll admit: them was dark times.  But things have been kind of looking up since then, because even though I'm not working right now, I'm not working right now.  I'm poor, but I'm free.

Yeah.  So after a year of working 70 hours a week, I'm down to 20.  I haven't written anything in like 2 weeks. I've even gotten kinda rusty.  This blog post is actually the most intelligent and inspired thing I could possibly have written today, and let's be honest: it really hasn't been very good so far.

And so here's the thing: I don't know what to do with myself.  Yesterday I called Audrey and repeated the words "WHAT AM I DOING WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME????" like 400 times in a row. And then we talked about the destructive power of the ego and Saturn moving into Scorpio, which is just how we roll.  But I think it all comes down to this: after 10 months working like a crazy maniac, all of a sudden everything's quiet.  (Quiet-ish--I still have a three year old).  And now I can't exactly remember what I used to do with myself when I wasn't working.

I mean, how do I relax? What are my hobbies?

Can anybody remember?


*False but practically true
** True enough.

Friday, November 2, 2012

People from Montana

I’m on an airplane headed to Montana.  I’m actually a pretty apprehensive traveller; it’s not that I’m afraid to fly or anything like that—I just like familiar things, I guess.  Friendly things.  Sometimes you get that when you travel and sometimes you don’t.

But Montana’s familiar, and today hasn’t been too bad: I got an entire row of seats to myself on the first flight from Atlanta to Minneapolis, and you better believe I slept all the way sprawled out like a hobo on a bench with a newspaper on top of me.  And now, even though we just had to wait on the plane, at the gate for over an hour, I’m with people from Montana.  And I totally love people from Montana.

So, I’m sitting with these two men: one’s wearing a cowboy hat—he’s a rancher.  The other’s wearing a baseball cap—he’s a miner.  Well, actually no: he was a miner, but now he digs bunkers for the military.  The miner looks a lot like a mole, the rancher just looks like a regular rancher with sideburns and a goatee. 

At first, the rancher was putting the moves on me pretty hard, because a) I’m irresistible to cattlemen: it’s a well-documented blessing SLASH curse and b) what else is there to do when you’re sitting at the gate waiting for the world's slowest catering truck to stock the plane than hit on the woman sitting next to you who literally cannot NOT talk to a person sitting next to her?

Anyway, so Rancher was giving me some pointers on arm wrestling (“All you got to do is make eye contact and wink at’em and BAM! On the table.”) when Miner, sitting on the other side of him, suddenly interrupts:

Miner: I don’t like to interrupt, but arm wrestling's just 20% strength. It’s a scientific fact.

Rancher: Yeah, it’s all in the wrist.

Miner: Well,…in the wrist and intimidation factor. And some other stuff.  I’m 50 years old but I can beat just about anybody I ever met.

Rancher: I never met anybody I couldn’t wrestle to the table.  Too bad we’re on a plane, or I’d wrestle you right here.

INSTANT FRIENDS!!  I totally don’t even exist right now—they’re talking about elk hunting.  Which proves that dudes love other dudes more than they love women, even though they think they like women more. 

Also: before we took off, Rancher called the steward a Bunnyhugger to his face.  His FACE!

I love people from Montana.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Queen of Halloween

Because I'm somebody's mom now, I have to show you pictures of my kid in costume.

For starters, Odessa went as Cinderella getting married:

Yeah, I KNOW.
And then we went Trick-or-Treating with Tucker, her very best friend ever:

But as you can see, there was a lot of waiting around for adults to mobilize.  Those poor children.

But then it was time to go Trick-or-Treating and we did and it was awesome.  And even though Dessa melted down at the end because I'm a inadequate mother and didn't make her eat enough dinner, I have very rarely seen her so happy as she was tonight.  And that makes ME seriously happy.

Seriously happy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Short Report II: A Little Bit Weirder

So, today's been A DAY.  The ups! The downs! The sidewayses!

But Drew, David and I were all in the studio today, and after a while, for my edification, Drew pulled a set of wax lips out of his desk.  Because why not?

Well, it turns out this is why not: everybody looks about 103% creepier wearing wax lips.  That's why.

I mean, look at this:

Creepylips David
Creepylips Jesslyn
Creepydoglips Sadie
And the pièce de résistance:

Either the best or worst picture ever taken of Drew.
So, you're welcome? I guess? 

Wax lips.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Short Report

I haven't checked in for ten whole days, and a couple of you have been asking after me to make sure I wasn't dead in a ditch somewhere.  And I appreciate your solicitous inquiries, but me and my bangs are still here! Still alive! Right now I'm eating a pear!

Just being normal.  Today I have to write a script about prenatal development and epigenetics, so I gotta go do that.  But I'll check in again soon! And remember: 

Oh, Beyonce, don't tell them that!

Seriously: I'm pretty sure the Universe thinks you're great. And so do I.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I love to walk. Well, now I do, but I never did when I was a little kid. When I was in kindergarten and first grade, Mom used to take me and my sister on hikes around where we lived in North Georgia. Sometimes she carried Allison, but she always made me walk all by myself on account of the fact that I was perfectly capable.  But all I remember about those hikes is standing in the middle of the trail, hollering at Mom's back as she walked away up the mountain.  Then I'd run after her until I could see her back again, and then I'd yell at her some more. Yet somehow, she had the patience to take me hiking a lot.

But all that was before Marilyn.

Mom had these friends named Marilyn and Bob who were my grandparents' age and childless, so they kind of adopted us: Mom, me, Allison, and our dog Moonshine Starshine. Mom became friends with them because Marilyn was the librarian at my elementary school and I was forever ruining the library books: I left them in the rain, put them places where Moonshine Starshine could chew them, I lost the ones I didn't injure. Eventually, Marilyn scheduled a parent-teacher conference to figure out how to foster my love of reading without costing the school system hundreds of dollars a year.  By the end of that meeting, Mom had Marilyn promising to babysit me and Allison three afternoons a week. 'Cause Annie Shields is that good.

Anyway, Marilyn and Bob were from Minnesota and loved to hike like you wouldn't believe.  They literally couldn't sit still for one second of the day.  You left Bob alone with a tree and he'd make a canoe out of it.  Marilyn was obsessed with expanding the collection boulders in their rock garden. She was a tiny little woman, but each morning she'd hustle up the mountain behind their house and work on unearthing a giant rock. When she'd done that, she'd work on inching it down the trail to the house over the course of a couple weeks.

Allison and I spent a lot of weekends with Marilyn and Bob, and each one was like it's own, special Bataan Death March. Marilyn would wake us up at 6:30 in the morning, we'd eat some Bran Buds with skim milk, make some PB&J's on whole-whole wheat, mix a couple bottles of Crystal Light, and take off up the mountain, looking for "flagstones."  When we started complaining around 10 a.m., Marilyn bribed/threatened us with pie after dinner: "A storbery-ru-baaarb pie!"  By the end of the day, Allison and I would each be lugging a huge (proportional to our size) rock down the mountain.  We'd also each have a temper tantrum (proportional to our size) when we found out what strawberry-rhubarb pie was, and then we'd sleep like children who had actually done something that day.  Because we had.

Anyway, because of Marilyn--or possibly in spite of her--I like to hike now.  I can also interpret and passably mimic a thick Minnesotan accent.

So, this week, Bryan, our friend Ricky, Odessa and I went to the Hike Inn in North Georgia.  It's this wonderful house in the woods that you hike 5 miles to, spend the night, and hike out again the next day.  Odessa and I did it by ourselves last year in a thunderstorm, and it was a formative experience for us both.  I felt like Gandalf carrying a Hobbit through Mordor.  Which I don't think Gandalf ever actually had to do, so I officially have the one-upsies on Gandalf.

This time, it was a lot better: we brought the mega-stroller and Bryan and Ricky helped carry her when the going got too bumpy.

It was really great, but I can't help thinking my mom--or Marilyn--would have made her walk by herself.  And possibly carry a boulder.

Orienteering has reached its zenith.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The List

Dear You,

It's late on Bryan's night out and I'm stuck by myself at home after a kind of horrible day.  It's probably been in the Top 5 Suckface Days of 2012.  Odessa's sleeping, but the house is really messy, I can't settle on anything to do, and I'm the kind of disheartened that even a long shower can't fix.  I'm just terrible at this.

The good news is, I've got a list of things I do when nothing seems good:

1. Talk to somebody who isn't me
2. Snuggle somebody who isn't me
3. Yoga
4. Take a shower
5. Take a walk
6. Write something
7. Paint my fingernails
8. Find something to laugh at
9. Take pictures of stuff

My apologies to the OCD among you. I know I should have 10, but I don't feel like thinking of another one. Sometimes there are just nine of something.

Anyway, here's my list of excuses why I have a list of things that make me feel better, but I'm still not currently feeling any better:

1. 11 PM is not an appropriate hour to call a friend and say, "I'm feeling blue," because then my friend would be like, "OMGdoyouhavearazorbladeinyourhand!?"

And then I'd just have to be all, "No, it's not like that--it's just so boring and stupid and I'm a hideous ogre that everybody hates." And then my friend would put her mouth guard back in and be like, "Fixth fixth advithe advithe advithe, you okay, honey? I luff you but I'fe got a thing thamorrow."  And then she'd hang up and I'd still be feeling blue.

2. Odessa would wake up if I tried to snuggle her, and there'd be hell to pay.  Bryan's at the bar. There's nobody left to snuggle except Nastycat over here.  You know, I've actually considered going to raves, because I've heard people are always trying to cuddle you at raves, but everybody I've vetted it with thinks that's basically my worst idea ever.  And I've had some bad ideas.

3. I would do yoga, but there's too much shit on the floor.  And to clean the shit off the floor would add "cleaning rage" to my already overwhelming list of complaints.  Sorry body, sorry mind, sorry Holy Ghost.

4. I took a shower already.  I even deep conditioned, toner-ed and moisturized.  I plucked my eyebrows. Nothing.

5. I can't take a walk because Odessa's in the house asleep, and what if somebody's in the bushes, waiting for me to leave so they can sneak in and kidnap her and sell her to a nice Mormon family? Better not.

6.  I AM writing something.  Results pending.

7. I would have to take my current polish off, and that's too hard and lame.

8. I just tried to watch TV and it was just too hard and lame.

9.  What am I going to take pictures of? My dirty house? My zit cream face? This gross topless Barbie?

I think Barbie there pretty much sums it up.

Anyway, this is what I wanted to know: what do YOU do to make yourself feel better?

I need your advice.  Please don't say online shopping.

Your sincere friend and advocate,


Monday, September 10, 2012

The End of Everything

My studio is right next to the office of this guy who spends a lot of time at a drafting table, drawing pictures of rivers.  The guy doesn't talk much, but he listens to music all day long, and the kind of music he likes is contemporary bluegrass--the more mandolin and dobro solos the better. I don't even know how to look up this kind of music on the internet to give you an example, but to me it all kind of sounds like, BIDDLYDIDDLYDIDDLYDIDDLY BUM BUM BUM diddlediddledliddle.  Except faster.

But this morning he played After the Gold Rush.  The whole goddamn album.  

Did I mention it's totally beautiful here right now? 74 degrees, sparkly white sunlight all over the place, a cool, undulating breeze.  Summer's almost over.

And we're all going to die!  You know that, right?  Every year, Neil Young smooshed up against the final days of summer reminds me.  I don't actually mind all that much--I mean, it's kind of nice and important feeling, actually.  I believe one of the reasons people go bonkers for autumn is we all like to be reminded, very gently, of our mortality.  It's what fuels nostalgia, everybody's favorite FEELS. 

So, I guess it's appropriate that today I'm supposed to be writing about how it's all going to end. And by "it all," I mean the Universe.  (Spoiler alert: BLACK HOLES!!!)  It's not going to be tomorrow or anything, but everything we know will eventually stop being, even Grandaddy Universe. Just FYI.

Maybe there's a good reason for everything having to end. I mean, probably there is, but I don't think even Neil Young knows why.  He just sang a little piece of it to remind us all, very gently.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Eating in Season

Earlier this week, I spent most of a workday sitting at my desk eating muscadines. I don't know how many I ate, but it must have been a lot.  I got a stomach ache.

Muscadines are like grapes, except they grow wild in the bushes, and they taste better. It's muscadine season right now, and the other day I hit paydirt on the side of the road out in Madison County, and filled up the little trashcan in my car with them.

Something I've noticed since I had Odessa is that I've started to really appreciate all the stuff that goes along with each season.  For instance, I've never been all that into Halloween, but since we've been discussing Dessa's Halloween costume pretty much daily since July, that shit is NOT sneaking up on me this year.  Hell no, it's not.  (BTW: Odessa's already informed me that I'm going to be a bride and Bryan's going to be a scary spider web.)

So, I'm becoming a little more of a seasonal planner, and one thing I did this year was eat produce off the vine like a little woodland animal.  We ate so many strawberries and peaches this year, it was obscene. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get at as many tomatoes as I would have liked; somehow I got thrown off my tomato game.  But not next year.  Tomatoes better watch their backs next year.

Anyway, so I was at work, eating away at the gallon of muscadines on my desk, and Chris looked over and was like, "you're gonna give yourself a stomach ache."  And I was like, "no way, this is the new me.  I'm seizing the day.  It's muscadine season, so I'm eating muscadines.  Is it corn season? I'm eating corn. If something is ripe, gonna eat the living shit out of it."

Chris hates it when I say things like "____ the living shit out of ____," so he winced and said, "I believe that's what they call 'eating in season.'"

Me: Call it whatever you want.  I call it gorging myself on stuff I like while it's cheap.

Chris: So, what are going to do in December?

Me: Cookies.  And then in November, it'll be discounted Halloween candy, and in January, It'll be birthday cake because that's when my birthday is.

Chris: You do realize you're going to gain 15 pounds this winter, right?

Me:  That depends.  If I really go for it, I could gain 20.

So, I'll keep you posted. If I really do gain 20 pounds this winter, I'll probably complain about it.  But it'll be the environmentally responsible thing to do.  I'll be okay with it as long as I've got the moral high ground on that 20 pounds.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Read this OTHER thing I wrote!

OH SNAP, ya'll!  I love it when somebody wants to publish something I wrote wherein "K" does not represent the carrying capacity of a population and there is no mention of alleles.

The Hairpin, which is basically the world's best blog in the world, just published a little essay on Virginia, everybody's favorite old lady.  Or maybe just my favorite old lady.

Is it weird that I'm a little bit obsessed with my grandmother?  It is kind of weird, isn't it?

Uncomfortable derailment: Also, in case you want to propose to me, I've decided I like ALL THE DIAMONDS.  The bloodier the better. I even like them a tiny bit haunted.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fearless Like a Skunk

I have a Work Husband named Chris.  Having a Work Husband is a lot like having a Home Husband, without all the being in love with each other business.  Chris has a very beautiful and vivacious Home Wife named Lila who he'd much rather spend his days with.  But he's stuck with me for now, two and a half days a week.

Here's what Work Husbands do: Chris reminds me about my calendar events that I can also see on our shared calendar, he asks me if I want coffee when he's making coffee, he tells me when I'm being unreasonable, but mostly he just listens to me bitch about things like mechanics, Odessa's speech therapist, and my Home Husband forgetting what size family picture I have to take to Odessa's class for the Family Month bulletin board because I, stupidly, sent Bryan to the informational meeting on Back-to-School Night instead of going myself.

Appropriately, Chris always sides with Bryan in situations like these. He'll nod slowly and sagely all the way though my story, and at the end say, "So, what you're saying is you're surprised it happened this way.  I find that interesting...."

Chris and I share an office, a phone line, a calculator and a black stapler, which is how the whole Work Spouse situation came to be.  This morning, I came into the office and got him to show me how to make a single cup of coffee with the coffeepot in the kitchenette.  He's got this special system for that....

Anyway, as he talked me through the process the way Bob Vila talks over some house framing specs with Norm, he kept saying, "But be careful not to burn your fingers."

And I was all, "GOD, I'm not in second grade, Daaaad."

And he was like, "You know the problem with people like you and Lila? You aren't afraid enough. In order to not burn your fingers doing this, you have to be a little bit afraid of burning your fingers.  And then you know what always happens? You burn your damn fingers and then you complain about it for the rest of the day.  And then it becomes my problem.  I'm just trying to prevent your problem from becoming my problem."

"It's because I'm fearless," I said. "Like a skunk."  And then I had to tell him this story:

In college I used to go to this psychic named Ann Marie--I've told you about her before.  She was really into what she called "Animal Medicine," which means she believed that we all have animal spirits that kind of guide us through life.  Anyway, the first time I ever met her, she did some kind of Reiki Juju magic on me with her eyes closed, making some little symbols with her fingers.  When she was done, she looked at me sideways, took a sip of Diet Coke and said, "Don't take this the wrong way, but you've got a lot of Skunk energy.  You're fearless like a skunk."

So I told that story to Chris this morning, and he just rolled his eyes.

"Quit bragging," he said. "Just don't burn your fingers.  Or do if you want. I have a meeting to go to this afternoon, so I won't have to listen to your whining."

He's actually a really nice Work Husband, even if he is sometimes kind of mean.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gay Pairee

That's Becca and her dog Squinchy
So, my friend Becca Rose is in Paris right now.  You don't meet people like Becca very much--she's kind of like a character in a book: she speaks English and looks like an average human, but then...there's something else, too.  You could chalk it up to the fact that she was home-schooled on a farm in Snoqualmie, Washington but then went to Stanford.  Or that since she was a teeneager, she's been running a hippie camp for Seattle's counter culture youth out on her parents' land.  She has a lot of  practice playing farmer, fairy, medieval merrymaker.

Becca just does what she wants. However, unlike other people I know who do what they want, she does it because she can't help it.  I suspect she sometimes tries to be like other people, and each time I see her, I feel a little pang of relief that whatever half-hearted assimilation methods she might be using are failing.

Anyway, Becca's subletting a studio apartment in Paris this summer because that's what she felt like doing.  She's there for another couple of weeks, and yesterday she pressed me to come visit her--like, next week--just in case I wanted to act on some spontanéité

You can stay with me in my artists' studio and get hit on by the 20 year old Halal butcher down the block and eat lots of figs.  She said.

Of course, Becca is unaware that her invitation fills me with this mournful brand of panic. Because I want to go, but just can't. First of all, my passport has expired; second of all, I'm too poor; and fifthly, I have a kid and two jobs. I can't, but I've always wanted to go to Paris, ever since I read the Madeline books when I was zero years old.  Sometimes when Odessa's feeling particularly magnanimous at bedtime, she says "I want you to read Madeline. It Mommy's favorite. It Dessa's favorite, too."  Which is a lie, but a generous one.

And here's an even more pathetic secret: when I'm feeling sad for no real reason, Bryan asks me what's wrong, and my answer is, I never got to walk around Paris at night.  And now I'm too old. Which makes no sense, but as humans, we enjoy a few inalienable rights, one of them being that we don't have to make sense if we don't want to.

So someday, when I'm very, very old--too old to walk--somebody will doubtless roll me around Paris in a wheelchair at night.  I guess that will be okay.

Boo hoo hoo hoooo!

Here's a boo hoo song just for poor old me:

Nils Frahm - Familiar

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First Week of School

Ah, they halcyon days of summer.  Before school started this week, Odessa sometimes made this face:

On an Adventure Day(TM), earlier this month.  With Bestie 4 Life, Tucker Belle.
Now she mostly looks like this:

5:45 PM. First Day of School.  No nap.

But, I remember what the first week of school is like: it's stressful and exhausting and not fair.  Yesterday we went to Target and I wouldn't buy her a $20 fairy dress, so she lost her shit.  I had to push the cart at arms length while she screamed blue murder and took swipes at my head with her tiny claws. It was a temper tantrum, the likes of which I hope never to see again.

But I have a lot of compassion for the kid.  It's kind of hard being a grownup, but I'm really glad I don't have any more first weeks of school ahead of me.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

This is Happening

You guys.  Things are moving fast. And by fast, I mean in the past week I've become a member of the 21st century elite.  Here are the steps I've recently taken to ensure my future as a successful and respected Woman of the Two-Thousand-Teens. In no particular order:

Step #1: Get an iPhone, CHECK
That's right, I got an iPhone, which means I'm now one of those people who has an iPhone.  A couple months ago, I was Skyping with a freelance client who was wearing some of those little white earbuds with a mic on them so you can talk on the phone without irradiating your brain. And I could hear the guy really well on Skype, but he couldn't hear me.  So, he was like, "Why don't you just use the earbuds that came with your iPhone?"

So, it's come to this.  We just assume everyone has a magic pocket computer that tells you your business.  It's not just for rich/important people who are smarter than me anymore.

So then my cell phone broke and I got an iPhone. The End.

Step #2: Get a New, Classier-Seeming Studio, CHECK
We had that old studio, right? Me and Drew and David? But then our landlord decided he wanted to use it himself for a work room, so we had to/got to move to a slightly smaller, marginally fancier room in the same building.  The good news is I was out of town this weekend, so David and Drew had to move my freightliner of a desk with their bare hands.  But then they made a sign for our door that says "Manly Mash Bar and Grill." So, whatever--I say we're even.

Notice: that door has a transom.  Claaassy.
Step #3: Bangs, CHECK
So, I had bangs for most of my childhood and I totally hated them, primarily because my parents insisted on my having them. Not sure why, but in my family, children have bangs. It's just a rule.

My bangs, right; my sister's bangs, left: 1984
Anyway, my friend Claudia has an eight-year-old girl who totally rocks the bangs, and I complimented them the other day while I was at her house and Claudia was like, "I cut'em myself!" One thing led to another, and over the course of like one minute, I went from not even considering having bangs to having bangs just like I did when I was 6!

And thanks to my new iPhone, they're probably the best documented bangs in the nation.

See?  We got sultry bangs:

We got weird-face bangs with baby butt:

We got the trying-to-figure-out-the-iPhone bangs:

We got'em all.

Step #4: Eradicate Ringworm, CHECK
Are we at the place in our relationship where I can talk about my ringworm?  I hope so, because if not, you should stop reading now.

For several months, I've been noticing a sort of...I dunno...rash on my abdomen? It's not super conspicuous, and doesn't itch or anything, so I just did what I usually do with rashes and waited for it to stop being there.

Because my skin, you's epic-ly sensitive, and if something's bad's going to happen to me, it's going to happen on my skin.  One time I got this weird skin parasite that took over my whole arm because I was unwittingly making it stronger with Hydrocortisone.  Finally a nurse told me I could kill it with rubbing alcohol, which worked, but it was horrible--that parasite fought me for every inch of arm I took back.  When I was a kid, I spent the summers incapacitated by poison ivy and sun poisoning. There have been warts.  If I have a stressful thought--just one--I get a huge zit on my right cheek with roots that wrap around my brain.  My skin challenges me each and every day of my life.

So this rash was kinda the least of my worries until I was walking around the house the other day without any clothes on, and Bryan was like, "Grrrrrrrl, you got The Ringworm." Yeah, Bryan is probably the only awesome straight guy in America whose wife regularly walks around the house totally butt-ass naked, and the only thing he pays attention to are her dermatological abnormalities.

Anyway, I went out and got athlete's foot medicine and we're taking care of it.  It's just a little fungus.  No biggie.

Annnnd, yeah.  That's what's happening.

Until next time, this is your sophisticated 21st century woman, signing off.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Today I took Odessa and her best friend Tucker on an adventure.  Tucker's moving away tomorrow, so we had to make this one good.

I'm always amazed by what a creek can do for a couple kids.  I took them to my friend Steve's house and we had a picnic in his living room and then we shot bows and arrows and then we walked down a long gravel road to a creek.  The girls wallered around in the mud and rocks and sticks.  They found water bugs and took off their shoes even after I told them they had to keep them on.  Steve helped them make a mud palace for the fairies.  They threw chunks of bread off a culvert to fish they couldn't see. They fought and hugged and fought and hugged intermittently and by turns throughout the day. At one point, we were joined by a turtle.  At another, there was a deer eating pears off the ground beside a tree.

They got filthy.  When they were done, they looked like they had been rolling around on the railroad tracks.  But there was no point in the day when at least one of them wasn't wearing a princess costume.

Then they came home and slept.

In my opinion, every day in late July should look something like that when you're three.  But it does you really good any age, actually.

We're gonna miss you, Tucks.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stories From My Grandmother

I've been writing about my grandmothers here a lot lately, I guess because July is their birthday month.  But also, they're both so damn old, I figure I should get to it while the getting's good.

Virginia, you know about.  She's great, but kind of a handful. For instance, yesterday I busted my ass running errands for her, and when I came in the house carrying a load of groceries and she said, "Jessie, are you pregnant?"


"Oh, you're getting a little bit of a stomach. Also, you got me the wrong toothpicks--I like the ones in the paper package you got me that one time."

Okay.  Well, the take-home here is I'm DONE wearing billowy white shirts with large flower patterns on them.  I'm through.

Anyway, that's just Virginia for you.  There's no changing her.  She and my other grandmother, Granny--whose name is Migs--couldn't be more different.  Granny lives out in California, and I haven't seen her in almost a year, but I could show up tomorrow, nine and a half months pregnant and she wouldn't mention it.  I could be in active labor and probably the most she'd do is ask if I needed Tums or perhaps some tea.

In fact, therein lies the trouble with Granny: she's so private and respectful of other peoples' privacy that you don't get many stories out of her. If she's not sure where the line between anecdote and gossip lies, she'll avoid that end of the pool all together.  Whereas, Virginia will just make shit up to keep you entertained.  I suppose both have their merits.

Anyway, every so often, Granny will tell a story about her childhood.  Like once she told me her earliest memory:

The year had to have been like 1913 or something.  She described to me this little blue jacket that she had loved, but had grown out of.  She remembers putting it away in her drawer and kind of petting the jacket and saying, "It's okay, I'll wear this again next time I'm a baby."

I love that story--it makes me cry a tiny bit every time I think of it.  I guess because Granny's 102 now, and you never know: she might get the chance to be a baby again pretty soon.

Anyway, Mom was just out visiting, and Granny told her another story while she was there:

When Granny was six, her father died.  He was a successful political cartoonist at a newspaper in Chicago, so the family lived pretty large until then.  But after he died, Granny's mother had to sell their big, fancy house on Lake Michigan and move to Sharon, Connecticut where her sister lived.  But right before he died, Granny's father bought a piano--just the stand-up kind--so Granny and her sister Sally could take piano lessons.  They moved that piano to Connecticut with them, and lots of little kids learned to play on it over the years.

Eventually, after a couple of generations of children gave it a good banging, the piano wouldn't stay in tune anymore.  Great Aunt Sally moved to Mackinac Island on Lake Huron and brought it with her.  Eventually, Sally donated the piano to "The Indians," which I guess means...well, I don't really know what that means.  I picture my tiny, prim little great aunt driving a truck with the piano in the back to the end of a dirt road where some Native Americans are sitting in a circle of tipis, making handicrafts around a smoking fire.  The chief in a full feather headdress solemnly accepts the piano from Aunt Sally.  Aunt Sally and the chief shake hands and Aunt Sally drives away.

Anyway, the Indians ended up not wanting the piano either.  It just wouldn't tune.  The last anybody saw of the piano, it was standing in shallow water out in Lake Huron. A fisherman took Aunt Sally out in a motorboat to identify it.

"Yes, that's our piano," she said, before turning around and motoring back to the land.

"So, The Indians didn't want it," Granny told Mom a little mournfully.

Mom could tell that, even though she wasn't saying it, Granny didn't approve of The Indians' piano-disposal method.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Me, Today

What purpose could be served, you ask, by listening to one song all day on repeat, while writing about cavemen?

How about the pursuit of human perfection.

Listen to this:  Cate Le Bon - What Is Worse

And go ahead and read this.

There, now you're basically me today.  Congrats!

Monday, July 16, 2012


I would like to dedicate this huggy lion to Jane Rogers.  I mean, Jane Argentina. You know what I mean. 

I miss you, gurl. 

(I kind of wish a lion would do that to me?)

Sunday, July 15, 2012


I just got off the phone with Granny, my Mom's mom.  She turned 102 yesterday and lives in a retirement home in Santa Barbara. It's foggy there and it's always the same temperature.  I think of Granny living everyday in a diaphanous sort of mist.

Granny does alright for an impossibly old person, although she does forget things.  For instance, my mom was just there visiting, but she left this morning.  When I was talking to her today, Granny kept forgetting whether or not Mom was in the other room, or on the other side of the country.  "Annie's around here somewhere," she kept saying.  Then: "No, silly me.  She's gone already.  It's so hard to keep track of everybody."

It's true! It is hard to keep track of everybody!  And not just for Granny, who's a tiny bit senile. Human memories are terrible, and I bet they're terrible for a reason, because who wants to remember everything that ever happened to you?  Not me. Anyway, our memories are what we have to work with, so we work with them.

I especially like the memories I have from when I was a little kid.  They don't make good sense, but they're really vivid--it seems like they might be similar to what Granny feels when she starts packing up to go visit her fiends who lived in Vermont in 1942 and who have been dead for like 30 years.  She's pretty sure she's supposed to go there right now; it feels right and real.  It's hard not to believe the story your mind tells you.

Like I have this memory of falling off a boat into the Atlantic Ocean.  I was probably 4. My whole family was there--all my aunts and uncles and cousins, looking down at me in the water from the deck, their faces blacked out by the sky.  I remember the gray, foam-tipped waves, no land in sight, the hull of the boat as tall as a cruise liner, my cousin Jason hollering that a shark was on its way.  And then, I turned around and there was a shark fin, drifting toward me, pointy against the white horizon. And, just like that, I was snatched out of the water by the hood of my coat.  The next thing, my uncle Bob was yelling at me. And then I was sitting in the cabin of a boring boat for the rest of a boring day.

I always thought that was a weird memory to have, because why would anybody put a houseboat on the Atlantic Ocean? And why was my whole family there? And why was I wearing a coat on a boat?  And did I really see a shark fin tacking toward me?  I've never really known whether that, or something kind of similar to that, actually happened. Or if it was just a story I told myself.

The other day, my aunt Sally asked me if I remember the time I fell off Bob's houseboat into Lake Lanier.  She sent me a picture of the place where it happened:

According to Sally, it was November and my dad's side of the family was taking a little spin on Bob's new boat.  Apparently I hadn't been wearing a life jacket.  We were just milling around on the deck and I just walked off the side of it, into about 100 feet of water.  Bob grabbed me as I was sinking in my boots and pants and winter coat.  Sally didn't say anything about Jason yelling to me that the shark was coming.   Actually, she didn't mention anything about the shark.

So, I'm sure Sally has a finer grasp of the context of the situation than I do.  But I remember what it felt like to be a 4 years old in Lake Lanier in November. It felt like the Atlantic Ocean.  It's a big story in my brain.