A Tent full of Trying…

In a wooded gully on a Virginia park property, a small, slime-green tent sits beside a lazy brook. The noise of nearby traffic and squeaky park swings are overpowered by the quiet of nature.  With an uneasy heart, I call out, “Hello?  Is someone here?”  No one is home.  And it HAS been someone’s home; at least, for a little while.  It’s time to clean house and my blonde kid and I have been asked to do the cleaning.  Neither of us wants to look inside, but we must.  

Drowning face-down in the 6 inches of rainfall is a kid’s library book, “Moon Child”.  It instantly deadens my stomach to think of a little person living here.  Over there, in the corner, is a dirty hairbrush, and a black bag with kiddie stickers on the outside, that later reveals a woman’s makeup kit and sopping wet lip glosses.  Mom is doing what she can; I envision her making up her face to go on a job interview.  She’s got 2 packs of purse-sized tissues stuck in the tent pockets, a fresh bottle of acetaminophen and a barely used tube of antibiotic cream, along with a jar of peanut butter, deodorant, shampoo and a flashlight.  It’s the bag of pre-natal vitamins staring up from a puddle that speaks to Mom’s desires; she is trying to do right by this baby, just as the “already” baby has a library book and a warm place to sleep.   Two bright red sleeping bags and some worn fleece blankets make a nest, but there in the middle…it’s the dirty, raggedy “Barney” pillow that makes my heart moan. Some child in our county is sleeping tonight without their special pillow, and they have probably known this feeling all too often.  

We drag all this out into the still air.  Now’s the time to just “get it over with”.  I can’t.  There’s a school journal with, “Gerald” written in a slash across the front, all black and bold.  Is Gerald the one who fell asleep snuggling Barney?  No.  First page, he’s telling Sarah how much he loves her and she is his special person, and he can’t think of life without her, and “as soon as I get out, I will take care of you and the baby, I promise”. A few pages more, and Gerald has started a log, in his middle-school scrawl, to track a daily dose of olanzapine/zyprexa, 20 mg. It only lasted a few days.  I couldn’t help myself.  I took a picture so I could find out what it’s for, and it pains me to know. Schizophrenia or extreme mood disorder?  

it’s Sarah and the vitamin baby and another Barney-loving “Little” in this tent, and I’m putting all their molding, dank belongings in a trash bag so it can be disposed of, because it’s illegal for Sarah to come back.  Till now, she’s held onto a journal of love words and hope in pill form, and now she’s left it all behind in these beautiful woods and strangers are pilfering through her life and feeling sick that she’s out there and that Barney’s owner is sad and it’s just one story among many and why does it have to be this way…and…where is Sarah and will she have food tonight, and I wish I could deliver every scrap of this stuff to her and tell her that, in amongst all this despair I feel, that I’m SO proud of her for TRYING.  

It’s as if there’s been a book with all but one page ripped out, and that page’s words are so gripping that you long for all the other pages, but you’ll never know. A phrase resounds in my heart as we carry four bags of Sarah’s world up and out into the stark sunshine:  “There, but for the grace of God, go I”.  I’m sorry, Sarah, Moon Child, and baby.    I wish you knew someone cares.


My First “Top Ten” List

The fairy tales make step-mothering about as appealing as rotten bananas in the roadside dumpster of life.  Who thought adding the word “step” in there was a good thing?  It’s still mothering…so, on one of my recent glorious days at OBX, when it appeared to the rest of the world that I was sleeping on my sun-baked lily pad of a lawn chair, I came up with a “top ten” list of reasons why it’s GREAT to be a step-mom:

10.  You can be cool all your life because you’re called your first name by the kids.

9.  No stretch marks.

8.  If they misbehave, nobody will look at you and whisper, “Well THAT apple didn’t fall far from the tree!” (although they may whisper, “Ohhh, those poor dears…they have a stepmother!”).

7.  The kids you get when you sign the dotted line are usually housebroken.

6.  Legally, when you are married to more than one person at a time, it’s polygamy.  Here’s a loophole. Laugh in the face of Johnny Law, people…you just married 3 people in the same ceremony!

5. Unabashed bragging about your kids isn’t really bragging, since they got all that great stuff from somebody else.

4.  It’s your own private joke when people say, “Oh, he/she looks just like you!”

3.  No wondering if it’s a boy or a girl.

2.  In the checkout line at the grocery store, you can roll your eyes and sigh, “It’s for my stepkids!” when you buy yourself the family-sized box of Froot Loops. Those finicky eater people back off immediately.

And the Number One reason it’s great to be a step-mom is:

1.  IF you put your heart into it, somewhere, someday, when you aren’t expecting it, one of those little sweet things you married will get taller than you and send you outrageously corny text messages, and another one will call you from afar and tell you “I miss you”, and you are sunk, eyeball-deep and jelly-kneed, in a love so squishy that you don’t even remember that there was another road.


Death and Taxes…

Yes, it is said that the only things sure are death and taxes…I beg to differ…only thing I gotta do is stay white and die.  Taxes are optional…as is everything else.  Sometimes just having a choice in the matter makes it easier to take, Uncle Sam.


There are Moments…

There I was, foaming at the mouth, Aqua-Fresh style, and she rattles in…it’s late, I’m not ready.  She needs something.  I supply it.  Then, outta NOWHERE, she tells me that, back when we didn’t agree about something (seems like a long time ago, this particular incident), well, she didn’t like it then, but she understands it now, so…”just….thank you”.  That’s what she said, those exact words, her voice plunging, as if “thank you” didn’t really cut it, but it does!  It DOES!!

I kept foaming at the mouth, but now my eyes leaked, too…..A tight, “love just got bigger” hug by the commode and spit, rinse, repeat,  as if it never happened…my heart has basked in that toothpaste moment for 3 days now…


Losers’ Party…

♥  I hear your eyes rolling, people…Some of you out there may find yourselves a victim of this delightfully tacky holiday…is there any other time of the year when life practically shouts, “Hey!  You are ALONE!  You have NO ONE!  Everyone else’s lives are PERFECT!”  How did that ever get to be something to celebrate??  I know, I know…it’s not supposed to be like that.  Being single on this day can be a real downer, I well remember.  Lots of people, enthralled with the thoughtfulness of their sweetie, forget their audience, and unknowingly rub sea salt and carmel chocolate hearts into the wounds of those wonderful people who are Valentine-free for one reason or another.

These days, our country celebrates losers of all shapes, sizes, genders, and career paths – think weight loss, drug dealers, bad singers, and political figures.  So, face it – we’re a nation that loves losers, and this, THIS,  my single friends, is your chance…make Valentine’s Day about being a Loser!  Embrace the temporary role of the person who can’t get/find/keep a “someone special”!  The clear solution is this:  A Losers’ Party.

A long time ago, a friend of mine hosted a Loser’s Party.  If you had ANY hope at all of having a date for VD, you couldn’t attend.  There had to be a line drawn, after all.  It was exclusive, and it was fabulous.  We had prizes for Tallest Loser, Loser that Drove the Most Miles to be There, Loneliest Loser (no breathing things in their home – no plants, no pets), and the Biggest Loser (we weighed in!!!).  It was liberating!  All in attendance were laughing in the face of Loser-ness.  We were with people who understood! We weren’t smiling into the face of someone who should have remembered, but didn’t, We weren’t being wooed by chocolate or roses or a wordy card. A bunch of normal, fun-loving people laughed at the current status, acknowledged that it stunk a little, but were not going to mope.  Nope, we gulped down pink punch, tied our hair to balloons filled with helium for ridiculous pictures, and watched rom-coms while snarking our way through each love scene!  Yes, men were there, and yes, they had a good time.  After all, the pressure was off for them, too!  You may be picturing a scene from a bad nerd movie, but it wasn’t like that.  It’s one of my favorite Valentine’s Day memories, and there have been some doozies!

It may be too late for this year, but next year…even though I have a forever-valentine now, I still want to be invited to your party.  It’s wise to stay in touch with your inner loser.  And most days, being a loser in the dating world puts you in the winner’s circle.  After all, my late great Aunt Nana Banana spent her life without a forever-valentine, and her advice was, “Better to be lonely than to wish you were”!



Charles Simple…

Thus, it begins…he is losing his hearing.  She has a plugged ear.  She filled him in on the news from the other room.  He assumes she’s updating him on some fictional character from a book she’s reading.  “Oh, so ole Charles Simple died, did he?”, he responds, half-caring, but not really.  She thinks he’s got it.  He doesn’t.    RIP, Shirley Temple.

The eventual caring for Those Two is going to be an adventure.