Cannonball Run


I hope my dress stays up.

I hide in the wings, about to go onstage and face 200 people.

Read stuff I wrote. Will they like it?


I am past hungry. To fit into the bright red, floor length, strapless gown, I have eaten mostly lettuce and handfuls of cherry tomatoes for a week. I would have eaten carrots, but I was afraid I would turn orange.

Does my skin have a Lycopene tinge?

I fantasize about chocolate.

I am squeezed, shoulder to shoulder with a partially plastered brick wall to my right and taught drapery cords on my left. Loose electrical wires are against the brick wall. They sway slightly with the movement of the dancers and performers backstage.

I have a vision of myself touching a crackling cord and being launched, cannonball-style out onto the stage before my cue.  Upon closer inspection I am relieved to see that the wire ends are wrapped with electrical tape.

Breathe more.

The hanger ribbons are sticking out the top of my dress. Quick! I hide them from view, sliding my right and left hands into my bodice.

Pull up the dress…again.

I wish I had a breath mint.

No one should know that I smell like tomatoes.

The stage, softly illuminated before, is now in blackout.

My cue.

Walk out, stand alone.

To a Spotlight. A Microphone.

The audience, I can see only their legs.

Row after row of legs.

Words. I wrote about words. About writing words. The weight of words.

Somehow the words come out of my mouth.

Beat Poet inspired, but me: Highbrow, Lowbrow.

I am calm.

How can I be calm? Don’t I remember how afraid of public speaking I used to be? How the memory of reading my third grade book report in Miss Bomba’s class still gives me chills?

There is a split. The girl I was is standing next to to the woman I am now.

I see her, that other person. That other me. She’s wearing knee highs and culottes.

She watches me on the stage. Giving myself to people.

She lets me.

By the second night of a three performance run, I am enjoying myself. We are enjoying ourselves. We look out to the audience, a lot. When the audience looks back, are they seeing the scared girl or the confident woman?

I barely register the applause. It’s the giving I was after, not the thanking.

Later, the scared me and the confident me share handfuls of chocolate chips. They’re her favorite.

Besides, I’m all out of vegetables.



This is How it Feels


It’s November, which means I’ve done it, I am doing it: surviving my first Autumn with my oldest son away at college.

I know you are thinking: What’s the big deal? And you know, I am completely aware that it shouldn’t be.

It should be a celebration: we have an extra bed in the house, a lot more food and no one playing Xbox at 1 am. But it makes me think of all the other things I know.

Like, how it felt to get pregnant right after a miscarriage and a few months later hear the doctor can say “Wow, this kid’s got a big head, are you doing your Kegels?” And practice them at stop lights.

How it felt to discover I was having a boy, coming from a family of women.

How I began seeing myself as a wise, pregnant-aware sage, preparing for the inevitable, knowing that my boy was going to grow up, get married and spend holidays with his wife’s relatives. Because that’s how it always works in my family.

How blissful it felt to have my 9 month old- 3 year old, 5 year old-son reach out to be held, lay his head on my shoulder and fall asleep playing with my hair.

How hard it was to hear my 15 year old son say: “Just stay in the car, I’ll come find you- DON’T come onto the field,” as he bolted for lacrosse practice. How I sat there in the car searching for tissues in the glove box and finding only maps from the pre-GPS dark ages, and a three year old Wet-Nap.

I know how shock resonates. How it began with his 16th birthday, walking out of his bedroom each morning in a cloud of Axe Body Spray, noticeably taller. I know about ordering sneakers from the Nike factory in China because no store stocks a size 14. How it felt to realize I was living in a household of not boys, but MEN and was totally inept.

To whom will I pass down my Julia Child impersonation? My liquid eyeliner application skills?

I know how it felt to send my husband into the boy’s bedroom to give him the REAL TALK, not the pseudo-talk I gave him when he was 6, the one that when I was finished espousing bee pollination, he immediately asked to watch Scooby-Doo.

How it felt, this time- when my husband came out of our teenage boy’s bedroom an hour later relating: “Well, I told him everything.” And I’d said, “What do you mean?” Only to hear, “Well, the whole deal- you know, everything sex related like oral and anal…”

I know how it feels to realize nothing will be the same, life is careening out of control, that there is no more Thomas the Train, no more Lion King no more snuggling with Goodnight Moon that culminated in a primal scream from my uterus, vibrating my Fallopian tubes:

“WHAT??! Are you crazy?”

And hear: “You told me to tell him everything..”

Followed immediately by my husband pouring himself a glass of whiskey.

I know how it felt to have my 16 year old avoid my eyes for a month because he thought his mother was a sexual deviant, and not just the woman in the mini van crying into a dried up Wet-Nap.

I know how it was to be home alone with my seventeen year old son on a Sunday afternoon, and have him announce that he was making me dinner. How we ate while watching PBS and he didn’t complain, but laughed during Doc Martin.  How touching and quietly tragic it was for me to be handed a Warm Brownie in a Mug that he’d learned in Foods class. How eating cold ice cream and hot brownie mirrored my emotions.

I know how it was to watch the boy I reminded every day to be punctual, responsible, kind, and disciplined, walk across a stage and receive his high school diploma on a blue skied, high UV alert, June day- just a few months ago. How it felt to know he was so happy to be leaving us soon.

I know how it felt, relaxing into my Adirondack chair in the backyard after the graduation party, everyone gone- but the experience not finished. Chinese paper lanterns swinging on the dogwoods behind me, finally having a piece of cake, because it was supposed to be a celebration and felt more like someone died.

Then, how it felt to deliver our boy to college. Ready to learn, to party, to grow, to become. How unready his father and I were.

How it felt for a couple weeks, things quiet at home, until my cell phone became very busy. Text messages, not daily- no, but very often and sometimes with 11pm phone calls, catching up and ending with something unexpected.

“I love you, Mom.”

Yes, this is how it feels.



Confessions of a Makeup Addict

“I came out of the womb waving a red lipstick.” -Rose McGowan

I love make-up. I love everything about it. I love the product names from my youth: Airspun, Moisture Whip, Kissing Potion. The packaging: crisp boxes gift wrapped in cellophane, the little molded clear plastic caps protecting new lipsticks and most of all, the promises.

I’ve been known to wander the aisles of my drugstore with no particular purpose and leave with $78.53 in new promises. I just say no to the plastic bag from the cashier and slip my new foundationeyelinerlipglossbronzer into my purse and mentally, my wish has been granted and I am already transformed.

I can trace the groundwork for the attraction. My parents moved my sister and me to Virginia where knowing no one, I decided I could turn myself into a new, better, OLDER looking version of myself. So, there I was in 1983, 14 years old and sitting in the front seat of the school bus, directly behind the driver. While all the cool kids sat in the back, smoking pot, I used the twenty minute drive to slip a hand into my LeSportSac and pull out the magic: Maybelline Great Lash mascara. I used the mirror over the bus driver’s head to sweep my lashes. Appraising myself, I would smile with achievement. I looked older. Since all the windows were closed, I was also a little high. When weeks later, on two separate incidents- grown men flashed me, I was shocked. But secretly impressed. Wow, this stuff really works!

It seemed to me that makeup was connected to power and I soon got another example to prove it.

My mom became a Mary Kay consultant. Makeup, which had been taboo for me, was suddenly OK. No more stabbing myself in the eye when the bus hit a pothole. I was shocked and thrilled to discover that I was not just sanctioned to wear make up, but also recruited.  My mother practiced her sales pitch on my little sister and I. Our living room was being visited by the UPS man (for whom I would prepare by spraying myself with Babe perfume) and weekly would deposit carton after carton containing pale pink boxes of things I had never heard of: foundation, toner and my all time favorite: palettes of eye shadow. The eye shadow required mixing with a few drops of water and had to be applied to foundation laden eyelids with a little brush. The brush was a work of art. When you twisted the stem, the brush disappeared inside.

I was hooked.

I convinced my mom to pay me $30 per UPS delivery to open all the boxes, apply her gold embossed label and stack them on the matching pale pink shelving unit in her closet. I went with her on “complimentary facial” parties. I set up the little personal mirrors on the hostess’s dining room table and helped demonstrate to the guests the “upward sweeping motion of application.” I slathered on more face cream than Joan Crawford. It was glamorous. But more than that, I saw women sigh with satisfaction as they welcomed their newly transformed selves. I imagined my parents, sister and I driving around in a pink Cadillac, the sign of a truly successful Mary Kay Image Consultant.

While make-up didn’t get my family a pink Cadillac, it did get me a lot of other things: dates, jobs, an exciting interview with Barbizon Modeling in New Haven (I was pretty enough to pay for classes, not pretty enough to get signed) into college, married and a ten year career as an entrepreneur. Of course lipstick and blush didn’t GET me those things. I got them. Make up gave me the confidence to do it.

It seems that lately, as a woman over 40, I have noticed all kinds of little signs that I need to change, yet again. This time perhaps, from a heavy make-up user to one on probation. Last week my photo was taken in a group. Beforehand, in front of the mirror I thought I looked pretty good: short funky hair, a gorgeous print blouse, aquamarine stilletos and the cherry on top: red lipstick. When I saw the photo I thought, Who’s the old lady, squinting into the sun with neon lips? OH. NO. That’s ME.

It was a startling revelation. How do I go for less is more and retain the confidence, the transformation from the girl, no- woman without a face, to the NEW ME? Someone who is still taking chances, in fact has just recently thrown it all on the line, closing a successful business to go in a new direction, to be a Successful Writer of all things? Don’t I need new lipstick for that?!

In retaliation, I went naked. No mascara, no powder, no eyeliner. It was only one day, but it had results. I realized I looked OK with a little lip gloss and a good night’s sleep.

But I LOVE color. I need it to breathe. My face may have new lines where foundation likes to gather, but SOMEWHERE on my personal landscape I had to find the possibility of transformation, a sign to myself that I will be successful and someday make some money.

So, today I took stock of my body and ended with my feet. I appraised them resting on the coffee table. They looked positively pre-pubescent! I drove quickly (SPF 60 lavishly applied) to the drug store. I found just what I was looking for in nail polish: a deep gloss burgundy.

The name? Rich as Rubies.

It cost $3.99


Teens VS. Toddlers

At a picnic recently, someone handed me a baby. While I held it, they did that slanty head thing and said “Awwww..don’t you miss it?” I looked at the baby, who was pretty cute actually. Warm and heavy in my arms. I handed the baby to the mother and said “Not at all.” I laughed when I said it, so she wouldn’t think I hated her baby. But afterwards I made right for the cocktail table. Just to stop the baby-recall shakes.

That new mother was probably expecting me to say, “Oh yes, I remember when my boys were young. It was just the BEST time.”

But I couldn’t bring myself to lie. A good portion of the time I remember thinking I was in a sinking boat where there was just me, three children under five, one diaper and and empty can of Isomil. There’s a whole block of time, lets call it a decade, that if it wasn’t for photos I wouldn’t remember much at all. Especially once the twins came.

I bought into the magazine-inducing delusion that my life as a young mother should be idyllic. That I could have perfect children who shared in the sandbox, ate the whole birthday cupcake and not just the top and slept through the night. The reality was that taking a trip to buy formula was like a mini-vacation, sometimes my kids ate sand and if the cupcake liners didn’t come off cleanly, they cried.

Thank God there was no Pinterest or Facebook. There was no pressure to make my own birthday banner out of outgrown onesies or feed my baby a vegan diet. Or name my baby Vegan. I only had Martha Stewart Living and learned how to make my own dirt.

Having teenagers is fantastic. I think children should come into the world this way. The doctor could slide up to you in line at Starbucks and say, “Congratulations! Your new son is outside bringing the car around. He wants a Grande to go. Here, sign this paper that says you will spend all your money on ITUNES.” No diapers. No colic. Sign me up.

Recently, Spencer and Parker and I were looking at some of their baby photos. Parker said to me, “What if you forgot which one I was, and I’m really Spencer?” I laughed (a little too loudly) and said “Eat your spaghetti.”

But that probably happened.

All three

Into The Woods

Do you remember when I said I was going to hide in my son’s dorm room? (Never Say Goodbye) That I couldn’t possibly let him go to college by himself?

Well, I’m going. But not with him. I’m going back to college by myself.

Now, first you should know that I went to college already. Although it was lacking in one very important way: I lived at home with my parents and sister, not in a dorm. I feel like I missed something, a right of passage that is necessary to grow up properly. It’s also how I feel about not having gone to my prom and the decision to have C-sections instead of natural childbirth. I feel as though I have not had an AUTHENTIC experience.

They were prudent choices at the time. I thought I was so smart. Why the hell would I go through the pain of passing a butterball turkey through my cervix if I could be completely numb? I realize now that in doing so I was rendered ill-equipped to handle a screaming infant. I believe this is because of the numbing followed with a morphine chaser. After natural childbirth a screaming baby is a walk in the park.

Like I said, I missed out.

So, college. I’m going to graduate school. In Vermont. Remember that classic joke? How do you tell the difference between the men and women in Vermont? You can’t, they all wear flannel.
No. That’s not right. That joke is about Maine. My good friend Kathy is from Maine and she is dresses flannel-free. Although she’s from Camden, so that explains that. But they really do wear a lot of flannel and plaid up there. If you want to see some, go to Sunday brunch at the Samoset resort. The entire town turns up in this elegant resort wearing their plaid flannel pajamas. They’re still there at dinnertime.

Because brunch in Maine means “all day”.

But Vermont. So really I don’t know anything about it. Just the classic maple syrup and very green state stuff. I live in Connecticut which technically is lumped together with Vermont in “New England” but I don’t feel we are in the same family. Vermont is more like Connecticut’s distant cousin who doesn’t shave anything and eats moose for breakfast.

But I may be stereotyping. Maybe they shave their heads.

The only thing I knew to do to prepare me for graduate school in Vermont was to read the Vermont Country Store Catalogue. I highly recommend picking one up. My mother has a copy and I found myself drawn to its cover of comforting plaid, weird food items and rocking chair cushions. My 67-year-old mother handed me the catalogue while sipping tea and wearing a robe that is frighteningly similar, complete with eyelet ruffles, to one found on page 43 and said, “They also have marital aids.” Then it became interesting. I looked on every page but couldn’t find any.

“Maybe they took them out. People probably complained” she said.

I immediately looked at The Vermont Country Store online. They sure have them there. I found one that was particularly interesting. It’s called the BonBon. “Better than chocolate.” Which is really quite amazing.

Then I had questions. First, where do I get a sample?
And then: Why would they take them out of the paper catalogue?

If I was living in the woods in the snow for nine months of the year with no internet and someone took away my ability to purchase marital aids, that would be bad. Maybe that’s why they have bears. To eat the editors of Vermont Country Store Catalogue.

Now that I think about it, maybe this is a horrible idea. They have bears there. Big ones. I could be out, walking on a nature path, feeling all graduate-degree-esque, reading Wordsworth and be tackled by a black bear. Then it would all be over. I’m not prepared for bears. I’m prepared for knowing instinctively that Anthropologie is having a sale before the email comes and for negotiating old people traffic on Sundays like Danica Patrick.

Another thing. I refuse to wear Birkenstocks or tie dye anything. I like stilettos and no tie dye. I’m allergic. Both of them together puts me into anaphylactic shock. I have an epi-pen for it.

Come to think of it. I’m making a note to call the doctor for more epi pens.

Maybe I can use them on the bears.


Photo Courtesy Janelle McCulloch’s Library of Design

But, Seriously…

Surprise! This is not a regular Monday Moment post. This week YMM hit 100 subscribers. In 100 words I am expressing my thanks. I love that 100 of you enjoy what I write and found me, a needle in the blogging haystack. YMM began as a way to brighten the day of my mother and aunt as they cared for my ailing grandmother. I sent them posts via email every Monday. My grandmother past away in December, but I still write the blog, for me and for you. As a direct result, I am pursuing an MFA in creative writing. 100 thanks to you.

For anybody who counted, leave out the “100”’s. Those of course, are numbers.

It’s A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood

Dear Neighbor,

I went looking in the Hallmark store for the proper card to mark the occasion, but there wasn’t one for:

“I Heard Someone In Your House Having Loud Sex on A Wednesday Afternoon”

When I explained my dissatisfaction to the Hallmark lady, she offered the following:

Congratulations! Because, well- maybe it was a celebration.
I’m Sorry! Although, really, that’s one you could send ME.
Get Well Soon! Most appropriate, as you may have had a brain prolapse and not realized that YOUR WINDOWS WERE OPEN.

It’s kind of funny that I don’t know your name, because I know so many things about you!


1. Your builder put up your house twenty feet from mine.
2. We live in the country. You had a lot of land to choose from, so I guess you really like me.
3. You have the air conditioning on when it’s 60 degrees.
4. You don’t mow your lawn.
5. You like tacky interesting exterior lighting.
6. You haven’t discovered curtains.
7. You enjoy many versions of wind chimes.
8. You cook a lot of bacon on Tuesdays and Fridays.
9. You like little whirly-gig yard ornaments. I noticed your recent addition, some that light up. They look like tubular light bulbs with fake leaves. f’ing hideous. Cool.
10. You have a collection of cat figurines. Which I wouldn’t know about, EXCEPT FOR THE CLOSENESS OF YOUR HOUSE AND THAT YOU HAVEN’T DISCOVERED CURTAINS.
11. Your boyfriend likes to plant walnut tree saplings in your side yard. (He says he’s a ‘hobby horticulturist’ but since he planted them on top of poison ivy, I think he may be simply deranged optimistic.)
12. Your front yard has grubs.

Since we are so close, you should know some things about me too.

I like to sit on my porch and read, paint, write and google things. Lately I looked up:

1. How to immobilize wind chimes.
2. How to tell your drunk neighbor to enjoy her Vodka and phone yelling, indoors.

That last one is about my other neighbor. Don’t worry!

And lastly,

3. How to tell your neighbor to tell her twenty-ish year old daughter that while Mommy and Daddy aren’t home at 12:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, her neighbors are. Like me. I am usually sitting at my dining room table, with the French doors open writing essays to submit to magazines that may never see the light of day.

Please tell your daughter that when she brings her boyfriend over they should shut the window.

Or else go have sex in the car like a regular person.

PS. I am sorry to hear your Barry Manilow record collection is missing. I don’t know anything about it.


Let’s Buy Longterm Care Insurance

Me: “So, we need to talk.”
Greg: “About…?”
“Insurance. We need to get some.”
“We have..”
“Long term care insurance, and no we don’t.”
“What the hell is Long Term Care Insurance?”
“When we’re old and we need to go into a home..”
“I’m not going to a home. If I get so frail I need a home, just shoot me.”
“That would look great on my resume. ‘Old lady shoots wheelchair-bound husband.’”
“You don’t need a resume!”
“I think you do. The good places get taken first, I wonder if we’ll need our SAT scores…”
“You think I’ll need a wheelchair?”
“Well, you have a bad back already and you’re only 45.”
“I’m only 44!”
“You look older.”
“I’m starting to get depressed.”
“Seriously, we need to talk about this. Make sure we get into a good place, you know, and not locked up in a basement somewhere.”
“This is the most un-sexy conversation we’ve ever had.”
“Would it help if we were naked?
“Yes!” (Gets up, starts taking off his clothes)
“I was kidding.”
I was excited about this conversation for a minute.”
“Come on, look. This says we’ll need up to $10,000 a month in facility costs.”
Why are your clothes still on?”
“I give up.”
“OK, I’m serious now. Which one of our kids is the most reliable?”
“We’ll just live with him when we’re old.”

“Honey, where are you going?…. Babe?”


Living On The Edge

A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” -Coco Chanel

I like to live on the edge. Brace yourself, these examples aren’t for beginners. Like, sometimes I’ll leave the house for a doctor’s appointment with no time to spare, arrive breathless and with intense focus, lower my heart rate so my pulse is reasonable. Occasionally, I’ll make dinner for five out of half a box of macaroni, a single chicken breast and a shriveled tomato. Well, that’s actually like, pretty frequent. The kids say it’s good. Of course I don’t eat it, so I don’t know for sure. I once waited until a week before a formal event, bought a too small dress and after trying to lose the five necessary pounds to fit into it, bought Spanx on the way to the event and changed in a McDonald’s bathroom. Clearly, I’ve got it goin on.

When one lives by the seat of their pants, there are lots of other edge-living, heart-pounding options. What to choose? There’s Free Solo Climbing where you scale mountains and skyscrapers without safety gear. There’s running with the bulls, you know- in Spain. I’ve heard Big Wave Surfing covered in shark bait is cool. But those all have one thing in common: They aren’t scary enough.

I opted for the scariest option. I sat in front of my hairdresser, locks down to my shoulder blades, gripped the chair and my favorite pony tail elastic and uttered the riskiest four word combination ever: “Cut it all off.”

I’d been thinking about it, like a lot of women do, for years. I’d flip through Vogue and see some gamine model with a short sleek look or after spending 45 minutes drying my long hair, think my next appointment, I’m doing it. Then, last summer, with changes in my life outnumbering my tally of Pinterest Boards, I prepared for The Cut.

Sarah Palin went Rogue, I went Pixie.

After five years of hair growing I’d had it. There was the time and expense and I was weary of monitoring the weather as my hair styling guide.

Hot and Humid: wear it up.

Rainy: wear it up.

Windy: plaster to scalp.

Windy and Rainy: Forget it, just stay inside.

Dry, Sunny with no Wind: OMG! It’s a Hair Opportunity! Curling Iron, Flat Iron, three different styling products and then there was the wardrobe. Hair Up Outfit is VERY different from Hair Down Outfit. I was exhausted.

Pixie Preparation is similar to preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail. Alone. In winter. The only required gear is a steel will, a couple of granola bars, blind faith and a sharp pair of scissors. In my case a razor. As I sat in the chair watching as each swath of hair was felled like a tree, I was surprised that I didn’t feel sad. Instead, the more was cut the more free I felt. No longer tied to what was, my hair like past accomplishments lay at my feet.

“Cut more,” I said to J. my hairdresser.

“Um, are you sure? Maybe you should live with it a while, you don’t want to look, well…butch.”

I laughed out loud. The crazy laugh of a woman with no planned future and her past accomplishments being swept away by a long-haired teenage assistant with a broom and deposited in a dustbin.

She cut more. When she was finished I ran my hands through it. It was spunky, cool and minimal. I couldn’t stop smiling. I walked out of there like I was somebody else; the me I was always meant to be. Untethered and exposed, like I was walking barefoot all the time.

I loved it and I noticed a trend. Pam Anderson, as famous for her hair as- well, other attributes, cut her hair too. Then a friend sent me a Facebook alert: did I know that Jennifer Lawrence stole my haircut?
OMG, I’d done it. Forget the edge, I was living a rock and roll lifestyle. Who else lives as close to the edge as Pam Anderson? Have you seen Tommy Lee? Jennifer Lawrence is frank, funny and can make tripping up the stage in a ball gown at the Oscars seem like a critique on fashion. Come on people, can’t we just wear jeans?

So, what does a living on the edge, rock and roll mother of three do next?

Hell if I know.

Rock and roll, people. Rock and roll.