Sep 29, 2008

Tell me about the beach, Mom.

My mom recently returned to my parents' main house after five weeks at the coast, and sent these pictures from our visit. (I know, the chronological discrepancy is killing me, too.) What struck me was how different Grace looked just a month earlier, and how pale and, uh, less thin I was before I stopped eating much (why add fuel to the fire?) and started laying in the sun because I've been sick and really, really lazy.

Grace is happy here because she knows we're on our way to the beach after waiting five whole days for decent weather. Can you imagine the suffering she endured? Grace and her grandma are kindred souls in that they need to bury their feet in the sand in order to fully enjoy the ocean. Me, I'd just as soon sip a cocktail from a balcony and watch the waves. It's a big picture versus tactile experience difference, I suppose. Our old dog, Dutchie, could stare out at the ocean forever, as if she'd been deposited at the Humane Society by a sailor who sold his boat and move into an apartment that didn't allow dogs, whereas Brady lurches around with her nose buried in the sand searching for something revolting to eat, oblivious to the sea and the seagulls and the sea air. My mother has been known to beach comb for SIX HOURS at a stretch. Needless to say, she has a spectacular collection of agates, sea glass, shells, etc.

Leave it to my mom to find the most hilariously entertaining person in town. Ric, the ├╝ber-realtor that helped my parents upgrade from their ocean-view-until-someone-builds-a-GIANT-house-in-your-back-yard beach cabin to a bona fide ocean front retreat, invited us for drinks twice, and both times Grace came along and behaved as if she'd been going to cocktail parties all her life. Ric is about seven feet tall and here he is stooping waaaay over, I think so he could reach my boobs. (Why do gay men always go straight for the boobs?) Anyway, his house is also gay, and the first night we visited, Grace's eyes lit up when she saw all of the fabulous goodies she could explore. She exercised admirable look-but-don't-touch restraint. I, on the other hand, gave myself the tour uninvited, climbing the stairs to what I can describe only as the most inviting sanctuary I have ever seen. The other guests (Ric's actual friends) had apparently never seen the upstairs, but seized the opportunity to follow the crazy stranger while my poor mother trailed behind muttering something about my social skills.

The second night, there was an older boy there, maybe ten or eleven, and Grace spent the entire time staring at him with that special look in her eyes. He was a pretty cute kid and was clearly used to this reaction from the ladies, fortunately. Then my parents took Grace home and Ric took me out on the town for a little karaoke. I wish I could say I had fun, but I think I was a little too determined to HAVE! FUN!, and therefore just behaved like an ass while Ric looked on indulgently. Still, I think I belted out a respectable version of "Son of a Preacher Man." I'm fairly certain Ric has witnessed worse, although my mom wasn't too amused (or was she too amused?) when I got home, laid on the living room floor and babbled about how old and pathetic I was.

It's a nice friggin' house, and those dunes are the only thing that will ever separate all those windows from the ocean.

Sep 28, 2008

Here come the disaster dreams again!

This week was such an unrelenting bummer, or rather a series of bummers, that when my mom mentioned in passing on the phone last night that Paul Newman died, which I had somehow managed to miss, there was this long silence as I came completely unhinged, and then my mom going, "Laurie? Laurie, are you there? Uh, are you CRYING?" She hadn't known I was such a big fan of his. I was actually talking to my dad a couple weeks ago about how Paul Newman was the perfect man, how he had such talent and integrity, how I loved his plans for retirement ("...we're just gonna horse around..."), how he didn't take himself too seriously even though he did so much good, and how he aged with such dignity. But that wasn't why I cried. It was the cumulative effect of all the sadness going on EVERYWHERE I TURN. Just one good thing needs to happen soon, or I will continue to dream of plane crashes and bug infestations and Brady running into traffic and Grace falling out a tenth-floor window and my teeth crumbling in my mouth. If Grace poops on the potty (or I can stop), if I find a job or get an agent, if my friend's family somehow makes it through the funeral tomorrow without someone becoming ill or collapsing, even if Sarah Palin is attacked by a pit bull wearing lipstick, then I'll keep on striving for that brighter future. Right now, I'm just going through the motions, and John is picking up the slack.

Sep 26, 2008

So THAT'S what it feels like to get kicked in the balls.

There's nothing quite like two hours of divorce mediation to suck the life force right out of you. I wasn't expecting Round Two to be fun; I never imagined any part of divorce would be fun. But I keep getting blindsided by details I manage to ignore until it is no longer possible. Today started out okay, with a little tension around the division of assets, but that's to be expected. Really, John gets the short end of this stick, so I feel guilty, and I don't like feeling guilty or worrying about whether he's feeling cheated. I got over that pretty quickly, though, because the law is the law and I'm not going to be some sort of divorced mom martyr. But at one point we were hammering out the specifics of the custody schedule, on a yearly basis, and that's when I realized that I will spend every other Christmas without Grace. And we will most likely be in different cities. Whoomph! Between now and the time she graduates from college, I will celebrate just ten Christmases with her, including the year she's twenty-one, assuming she still wants to come home and see Mommy. There was this awkward silence while all of this was going through my head, and when I glanced up, the mediator was staring at me as if I'd just inadvertently farted and was horrified, which must be how I look when I'm trying really hard not to cry.

It's not as if I hadn't given this any thought. It's just that I never let myself consider the worst case scenario. Instead I focused on those divorced couples who each remarry and spend the holidays together with all their kids and stepkids as one big, happy family. It happens, really — I read it in Newsweek. But both our families are out of town, and I can't imagine either one of us will choose to stay here rather than be with them. So that particular fantasy has been shot to shit.

I won't get started on the prospect of Grace having a stepmother. Every time I try to wrap my mind around that possibility/probability, I feel as though I'm going to vomit.

Sep 25, 2008

Job opening: Boss of Me

Buy or rent? East side or west side? North or south? Style or sustainability? Work part-time or full-time? Stick with programming or go back to accounting? Keep writing or give up the dream? What to have for dinner? Half full or half empty?

That last one's easy, having spent the better part of yesterday with my friend whose mom died, shopping with her girls for funeral dresses. No matter how big a dump the universe seems to have taken on me, my parents are alive, healthy (knock on wood) and still speaking to me. But decision making is NOT something at which I excel, unless it's someone else's life I'm dealing with. So I'm looking for someone to tell me where the hell to go with my future, and Grace's. (I've tried getting her opinion on a number of issues, but she usually looks at me and asks, "Are you a boy?") This is a part-time, temporary position, and the ideal candidate should have working knowledge of real estate, Portland school districts, child development, the job market and personal finance. Experience in divorce, nutrition and the publishing industry a huge plus. The ability to think on your feet and maintain a sense of humor under stressful circumstances are essential, and it would help to be acquainted with me well enough to know I'm stubborn, argumentative and don't like to be told what to do. Telecommuting okay. Compensation package: the satisfaction that comes from helping your fellow human being, a big karmic boost and a 100% guarantee that I would do the same for you some day.

Girlie got a haircut.

Every time Grace has gotten her hair cut, she has made some sort of progress developmentally. The first cut, she started walking. Next cut, she was all over the jungle gym at the park like a little monkey. And last time, her language skills improved dramatically (okay, that may have had something to do with her switching schools and being around five year olds). Need I say what I'm hoping for this time? SHE WILL POOP ON THE POTTY.

Sep 22, 2008

Again with the perspective.

One of my best friend's mother will likely die today, after a sudden and unexpected illness. I want to go and hug L., or bring her coffee or a cookie or ANYTHING that will give her the slightest comfort, but she's surrounded by family and I don't think the intrusion would be appropriate. But I ache for her, and cry, and feel helpless, and cry some more. What do you do to lighten a friend's burden when the unthinkable happens, other than call and listen and tell them you love them? Tell me, please, and I'll do it.

What's wrong with this picture?

In this idyllic moment, unbeknownst to me, my sweet little angel (who sat on the potty less than ten minutes ago after staying dry through a four-hour nap) is shitting her brains out. I am not exaggerating when I say this was a forty minute clean up. She remained cheerful throughout the entire process, bless her heart, or my head would have exploded. Perhaps the grimace should have alerted me, but I've got other stuff on my mind. Still, how cute is she?

Sep 21, 2008

Happy birthday, John.

Today I am sad. It's John's birthday, and I don't know the protocol for celebrating my soon-to-be-ex spouse's birthday. I imagine he's sadder, even though his expectations must be pretty low. He'll get a card and probably a cupcake from Grace, who perked up immediately when she heard "Blah blah blah BIRTHDAY blah blah" and started talking excitedly about cake and candles. I made a card with a photo of John and Grace, and looking at all those fucking pictures in iPhoto made me cry and think what a wretched, heartless bitch I am, that I could be ruining not one, not two, but three lives just because I have this crazy notion that happiness feels a lot different than what all of us have been feeling for a while now. But I can't ignore it, even when the reality of all that's changed makes me curl up in bed and cry. Which is what I'm going to do right now.

Sep 20, 2008

I'll live. The Cute Doctor's chances are iffy.

Everyone I talked to who has had a colonoscopy promised I'd get great drugs, would be out like a light and wouldn't be able to remember the ride home, much less the procedure itself. And I believed them. I am, however, a drug-resistant freak, and while I was a teeny bit drowsy for a while, I felt and remember everything from the moment The Cute Doctor arrived at the office in bike shorts and helmet until, well, now. He looked damn good in those shorts, and gave me a disarming grin, a thumbs up and said, "I'm all ready!" All I could come up with was, "Don't change clothes on my account." But that was before I realized he was a Sadistic Prick.

It hurt like a motherfucker. Every time that damn camera slammed into the wall of my colon, I felt it. I tried to be stoic, but I squeaked a few times and they told me to breathe. As if the pain were my fault because I'm a bad breather. Finally I gasped, "You said I wouldn't feel anything." And The Sadistic Prick joked to the nurse, "I think she's calling me a liar." They had a little chuckle, then upped my pain meds, which did nothing. Apparently he was having trouble maneuvering the scope, so they had me roll this way, and that way, then on my stomach. I knew exactly how much progress he was making because I could feel that friggin' thing banging around until it was all the way up under my right rib. I figured we were just about done, but the retreat wasn't much easier. He wanted to be thorough, so he took a couple of biopsies, and even though they kept giving me more drugs, I felt it all. I made sure to breathe audibly while I plotted my revenge. Once he was done, he told me everything looked normal and the biopsy results would be back in a week or so. Then he half-heartedly apologized for my "discomfort" and explained that because I am so thin, my colon is particularly angular, which made it more difficult for him. Then the nurse brought me to the recovery room.

Ah, the recovery room. Never before have I been in a room full of people being encouraged to fart. I imagine Katie Couric had a private room for her recovery (I don't watch whatever morning show on which Her Perkiness shared her own experience), but mine was just a bunch of gurneys with curtains around them. Here's what I know: all the other patients were in a much better mood than I was, had loved ones come in to sit with them, and had no problem farting up a storm. When my nurse promised me juice as a reward for passing gas, I was all, "Juice? Make it coffee and I'll blow a hole in the wall. With half and half, please." At some point the Sadistic Prick came in and asked me if I remembered the conversation we had when he'd finished torturing me, and I was like, "Uh, yeah. Why wouldn't I?" He repeated it anyway, then suggested another procedure if my biopsy came back negative. He seemed concerned that my ride wasn't there yet, but it was probably best that Ella showed up after he was gone. Otherwise he might have overheard me ranting to her about The pain! My God, the pain! Ella was definitely the best person for this job, because she knows me and expected nothing other than me complaining nonstop all the way home. And she brought me a Snickers bar. Angel.

Sep 18, 2008

Getting tired of washing my hands.

Grace will poop anywhere but in the potty. Literally. We've tailored her diet so she won't have painful poops, so it's nice and mushy — and impossible to hold in. A little bit is always sneaking out, and when she sleeps, whoosh! But the gnarliest part (forgive me, Grace, for sharing this; I promise I'll pay for your therapy when the time comes) is that she can't eat without pooping. It's hard to watch: she squirms and makes all kinds of faces and I can hear her bowels rumbling. Cleaning up after meals has become quite a bit more time consuming, and I'm thinking about feeding her on the potty. (I'm sure there would be myriad psychological repercussions to that.) This week, I took her to a "Child & Adolescent Mental Health" professional at her pediatrician's office (I guess she's already in therapy) to nip this in the bud before it turns into every parent's worst potty training nightmare — the anal retentive child. But I forgot to mention that for the last three months, she has witnessed my own potty issues, and really, can you blame her for not wanting to have any part of THAT?

Shit happens.

It seems to have taken over my life, however, and while I know this too shall pass (ha ha), I'M READY FOR IT TO PASS. Yesterday I saw my gastroenterologist, who happens to be young, handsome and hilarious — not exactly the kind of person I want to talk to about poop. He's also married with kids around Grace's age, so at least he uses words like "poop" and "turd" instead of "bowel movement" and "stool," which would be too much for me to deal with. Anyway, tomorrow I will have a colonoscopy, which means I cannot eat ANYTHING today, and a bunch of other gross stuff I won't go into. And while we're approaching this with a "better safe than sorry" attitude, a little part of my brain keeps remembering that my father had colon cancer three years ago. I hate that little part of my brain.

I also got a call from the Perfect Roommate, who has fallen in love with NW Portland and is trying to rent an apartment there. I can't blame her; in fact, I keep thinking, "Why didn't WE live there?" Then I remember it's hip, crowded, noisy, expensive and you can't park anywhere, and we were looking for a family neighborhood, something a bit more chill. I'm glad she's found a place that suits her, and we'll likely end up being friends, so it's wasn't a complete waste of time, but I haven't yet told Brady that she won't be seeing Boo again. Since I'm having second thoughts about the cohousing Ecovillage, I was kind of relieved that she wasn't rarin' to sign a lease and move in, but this puts the kibosh on two list items I thought I had settled: where I'll be living for the next six months and where I'll be living after that. What's best for Grace that I can afford? And that gets me thinking about the rest of the list — ring, job, book, etc. — and I want to curl up in bed.

I'm hungry.

Sep 16, 2008

Old business, new business

Here's what's on my plate right now (I hate that expression):

- scheduling our second round of divorce mediation
- finding some poor soul willing to counsel a divorcing couple and their troubled child
- finding a job
- finding a roommate or a cheaper place to live
- selling my ring without divulging my address and phone number (web scammers are CRAZY)
- getting Grace to poop in the potty, as opposed to in her pants, in the backyard, on the couch or on the rug
- figuring out why I can't stop shitting my own brains out (gosh, do you think it could be STRESS???)
- waiting to hear back from literary agent(s)
- working on my second novel during my free time, rather than curling up in bed in the fetal position
- taking advantage of that "new house warrantee" to figure out why our tap water is brown, our foundation is cracking and our electricity on the south side of the house keeps going all wonky.
- some family shit, too, but that's off limits, I suppose.

On a positive note, I'm lucky to have people in my life who surprise me with their ability to listen to me bitch and moan, seemingly without end. I hope it's because I've done the same for them, or they know I would. Some notable examples: my parents, who must have taken "Empathy 101" recently, because they know exactly what to say; J. Po, for his consistency and insight; Ella, for keeping me company me when she's got plenty to deal with in her own life; my sister-in-law, Annette, who reaches out when she must be in an awkward position; Leslie and Peter, with whom I would entrust my and Grace's lives; and anyone else who has taken the time to acknowledge the fact that my life is in some serious transition. Those who find it a bit much to deal with, I understand. My, my, that came out melodramatic. But I mean it sincerely.

Sep 14, 2008

Of course it's not that easy.

Exhibit A: Friday I met the prospective roommate (and her dog, Boo), loved her (and Brady loved Boo), and we planned for her to come back the following day to meet Grace and John. Then something happened that I never even considered: she called and bailed and said she was keeping her options open and she'd get back to me. So I guess I'll wait.

Exhibit B: Lots of nibbles on the ring, but no buyers. I can't part with it so quickly for under a certain amount. So I'll wait.

Exhibit C: I applied for a dream job for which I am perfectly qualified, maybe overqualified, and have heard nothing. Also the programming gig with Imbibe Magazine hasn't yet materialized. So I'll wait.

Exhibit D: Grace and I visited the site of the Columbia Ecovillage today for a tour of the condos (under construction), the farmhouse and the grounds. I anticipated lush, tidy gardens and eco-friendly homes. It was messy everywhere, and the condos will have ELECTRIC HEAT AND STOVES. The two bedroom unit I had my eye on was tiny, and will be carpeted. Thirty-seven households will share THREE washers and dryers in a communal laundry area. But Grace ran around under canopies of towering sunflowers, squealing with delight, picking sweet strawberries, huge blackberries and juicy grapes. Oh, the grapes. I had to drag her away from them, and the entire way home she cried, "I want more grapes! I want more grapes! I WANT MORE GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAPES!" I'm torn. I'll think about it, and I'll wait.

Exhibit E: I go back to the doctor Wednesday to figure out why I haven't yet fully recovered from my tussle with food poisoning. I imagine there will be tests involved. And I'll fucking wait.

Sep 13, 2008

Talking shit. Really.

I dropped Grace off at school yesterday, looking as if she was eight months pregnant, with the warning, "She REALLY needs to poop." They thanked me for the heads up, and I pretty much forgot about it, having had one of the crappiest days in recent memory. When I picked her up, I fully expected to be handed a plastic bag full of poopy underpants and to see Grace in pull-ups, which they put on her when she soils all the extra undies I've stuffed in her cubby. Care to guess what greeted me? My cute little girl with a noticeably smaller tummy, and one of her teachers exclaiming, "Grace pooped on the potty!" After I'd finished whooping and high-fiving and making an enormous scene that is sure to linger embarrassingly in Grace's memory for years to come, the teacher added, "For, like, an hour." When I laughed, she said, "No, really. I sat with her for an hour. It just kept coming out." Ah, that's my girl. Grace was hugely proud, and if you called right now and I asked, "Gracie, what did you do at school yesterday?" she would yell, "I pooped on the potty!"

Sep 11, 2008

Can it be this easy?

John and I have been trying to come up with a scenario where Grace and I can stay in this house for a while, since we just moved in April and it's her third house in three years. Plus, she's always running around exclaiming, "I LIKE this house!" So I've been looking for a roommate and a part-time job to cover the mortgage. I got the requisite Nigerian scammer, which I had fun with for a little while. Here is an actual excerpt from his/her last email, even after I made it clear I wasn't a complete moron and would not deposit a check under any circumstances:

How are you today? Am glad everything works fine..I really look forward to meet you. everything has regards the payment is all set so, you will be getting the fund soon and as a matter of fact my boss has decided to send payment for 2months at once so that i wont have to bother him to cut check for rent every month and i wouldn't want a situation where there will be delay from my part in paying the rent and pls note that the payment will beinform cashiers check or money orders so that it might be easier for you to cashat your bank.But pls before the payment comes,there is an issue i willlike to clarify with you........the truth is that the amount my boss will send iswill be in excess for the amount due for the 2 months rent reason been that my boss assumed i will live in a hotel for 2 months when i arrive US andas> such the amount he budgeted for my rent is more than what you are willing to rent to me.I really want to seize this opportunity to save money,in this sense i hope you will be helpful enough suchthat when you get the money my boss send you will deduct the 2 months rent from the total money and refund the rest to me by western union money transfer so that i can use it to take care of my traveling/miscellaneous expenses beforei leave for US,can i trust you to do this for me?this will definitely be the beginning of good relationship with you,i wish to let you know that my bosswill takecare of another payment before the end of the first months.I will waitto read from you real soon.
Best Regards,

After I pissed myself laughing, I added "LOCALS ONLY" to my craigslist post, and out pops this woman who has just moved here from Minnesota, and the first thing she does when she gets here is start looking for a naturopath for her and her dog. How can I not love her immediately? When I mentioned my hopes to become a member of the Columbia Ecovillage in six months or so, we ended up talking for over half an hour about how cool Portland is and how she'd be really into that kind of living, too. She's coming over tomorrow to see the place, and she'll probably rob me blind at gunpoint (Grace won't be here), but what if she's legit? Also, I got a couple nibbles on the ring, and a database project with, of all things, Imbibe Magazine. Once again, I've found my people. I hope.

Communication is key.

In the car the other afternoon, on our way to a friend's house:

"Gigi? I love you, bug."
"I love you too, Mommy."
"I'm sorry I was grumpy this morning."
Pause. "I'm sorry I hit you, Mom."

I almost swerved off the road. I almost cried. I almost said, "Excuse me, what did you just say?" But I smiled instead.

Sep 8, 2008

All ready for winter.

It was sunny and hot today, however, and by the time I got her to take off this raincoat, she was soaked with sweat.

Sep 7, 2008

Till death do us part, or something like that.

There's no getting around the fact that divorce sucks, especially when kids are involved. I hope I can use this space to blow off a little steam now and then, or even report some positive experiences. I'm too tired (and sick) right now to wax philosophic, but all the thoughts banging around my brain have to come out sooner or later or my head will explode, and I don't believe my expertly highlighted hair would look as pretty with bits of brain stuck to it.

Well, this is awkward.

It turns out the family will be going through a more significant change than anticipated this spring. I've been wrestling with how to address this here, or whether to address it at all, but every time I sit down to post, there is this elephant in the room. So I'll just put it out there and hope nobody gets hurt: John and I will continue to muddle through parenting Grace (and Brady) with what we hope is the appropriate balance of love, discipline and fiber, but we will be doing so from different homes. I am not making light of this; to the contrary, I worry about the impact on Grace, John and myself every day. I'll be updating the blog in the near future to reflect the changes in our lives, but I don't plan on sharing any details of the split.

If I feel the need for a little cathartic venting, I might do so here, but out of respect for John's privacy, I will try to limit my comments to my own experience of the process. I imagine there will be a lot more profanity.

There, that wasn't so bad. And I didn't even have to use the "D" word.

Sep 5, 2008

Coupla things...

First, I want to share this post, because it perfectly articulates how I feel about this election year. And I have intentionally kept my head as far up my ass as possible to avoid hearing anything that will cause me even more despair than I already feel about politics in this country, but a girl can ignore only so much.

Also, I've been thinking a lot lately about finding joy in the little moments when life takes a U-turn and becomes more stressful than enjoyable. And it's so much easier to do than I imagined. Recently: Grace in bed next to me, reaching out in her sleep to make sure I'm still there; a good friend's little girl recovering from a serious illness; going by myself to a meeting and being embraced by a group of perfect strangers as if I'd known them for years; knowing exactly where I want to be in six months; family and friends who care enough to call every day because they know I'm going through a difficult time; watching Grace run up and down the sidewalk squealing with delight; Brady letting me fall asleep with my head on her butt before making herself more comfortable. And the thing is, I could go on and on. (I'll spare you.)

Grace loves shoes, and while we don't always agree on which pair will best complete an outfit, I'M JUST SO HAPPY SHE LOVES SHOES!

Obviously, that megawatt smile will always be one of my life's greatest joys.

Sep 4, 2008


Day six, the weather was perfect and we had lunch on the beach. I swear she would head straight into the water and not stop if we let her.

There's a serious riptide, and this was making me a little nervous.


Uh-oh. Lost her feet.

Crazy little bug.

I don't know why I bother trying to keep the car clean. It's just a car, Laurel.

Sep 1, 2008

Tired old buddy.

Max was just a puppy when my parents found him under their deck fourteen years ago. He lucked out, big time. It's possible my mom's nest was feeling a bit empty, because she faithfully took him to obedience training and agility classes, and he was such a smart, gentle dude that eventually he worked as a Certified Therapy Dog. He's retired now, but he's not resting on his laurels. As head of the canine security detail, he dutifully checks the perimeter of the compound morning and night. He walks with my father each morning to the mailbox at the end of the driveway to get the paper and carries it to my mom in the house. (They don't get a paper every day, so on off days my dad brings out an old paper so Max has something to deliver.) But he can no longer jump on the bed or climb stairs or get into my dad's truck. It seems as if he aged so suddenly in the last year, but that's probably because I don't see him often. Which is my loss, because there's something so special about him that when we're canoodling, I'm almost always reminded what it's all about: love.