I’m headed for the bottom

We’re on our last day of a two week trip. We have four more hours to drive and then we’ll be home, where construction rages on. Our built-in amenities when we arrive will include a basement bathroom, laundry, hot water, and a single bedroom we’ll all continue to share. Possibly internet access. Our makeshift kitchen will hypothetically still be there, and I’m praying to any Thing any sentient being in any Galaxy has ever believed in, in the entire history of the entire universe, that the construction crew didn’t hit our liquor stash. Because I need some numb time. 

Jesse mostly kept it together in the in-between moments she shared with other people, but whenever we were alone together, Jesse made us miserable. She screamed, whined, tic’ed, and abused Anthony, Nick, and me both verbally and physically. It has been noisy and brutal, especially on the long-drive days when we’re trapped in the car together for hours. Unless you’ve experienced it, there’s no understanding how persistent and relentless Jesse is. There’s no humor to be found in the details, just heartache and a desolate sadness.  

The past few months have been rocky for Jesse, but really all we’ve seen is a continuation of behaviors she’s displayed her whole life, ramping up for one reason or another. This trip took her to a whole new level, and we see no way out of the tunnel anymore. 

From a safe distance, things would no doubt appear clearer. Why are her tics so bad right now, and why is she so abusive? Because of her anxiety. Why is her anxiety so bad right now? Because of the home construction, anticipation of middle school, a noisy brother, vacation stress, food allergies. Maybe she’s pre-pubescent. It’s all so obvious. 

Better parenting would no doubt solve a lot of these issues. Sticker charts! Reward systems! Spanking! Food denial! Firm discipline and clear boundaries! Lock her in her room! Set her free! Exercise! Outdoor time! Give her more love and patience! No electronics!

Blah blah blah. Anthony and I are at the end of all parenting roads that we can travel, and we see no hope. Our only remaining tool is one we’ve hoped to avoid; but I no longer see how Jesse can do anything — like start a new school — without some big changes in her behavior. So the dirty word raises its head: meds. 

I can’t even think about it without falling to weeping. It was one thing I wanted for Jesse so badly: to find a way to avoid dependencies until she was older and her brain and body had more time to develop. Maybe, I fantasized, I could hold her hand and walk with her out of the dark place where her mind resides, and she would never have to rely on meds to get through her life. 

So this moment, when we will almost certainly turn to meds, is the most profound failure for me as a parent. I have failed Jesse in letting her get to this incredibly miserable state. I could do no worse by her. 

I’ve also failed Nick, who watches the melting-down interactions of sister, mother, and father in fear, huddling in distant corners and taking deep breaths with his eyes closed, using tools to calm himself that are well beyond his six years of experience. I haven’t protected him from anything that matters. 

We managed to get Jesse calm enough to drive today. After a hellish beginning, she was actually really good for 2 hours. She only threatened to hit Nick twice, tic words only came out a handful of times, and she didn’t scream or whine at all. So when we stopped for lunch, we let the kids pick some candy in the gas station shop. 

Jesse selected some giant sweet tart thing. Sweet tarts don’t contain eggs, so I said yes without a second thought. As we drove off, she ripped into her treat. A moment later she announced, “this is disgusting!” I resignedly put my hand back and she spit it out, a gooey mess of half-chewed giant sweet tart. 

A few minutes later, Jesse was coughing with a sound I’ve heard before. I looked back and her face was a little splotchy. I quickly checked the label on the sweet tarts, which I hadn’t bothered to read before. Sure enough: EGGS. 

We pulled over at the next exit and gave her a double dose of Zyrtec. Ten minutes later, as we continued down the highway, Jesse emptied her stomach in the back seat. 


Add it to the list of my parenting fails. 

On the up side, we have further corroboration that Jesse’s egg allergy is still serious business. And all that puking and Zyrtec has sapped enough energy to quiet Jesse for a time. Also, a lady cop stopped to help us as we tried to work through the mess. She gave the kids each a stuffed animal for their troubles. How cool is that?

I threatened to take Jesse to a police station yesterday. As we headed down the road after cleaning up all the vomit today, Anthony pointed out cheerfully that Jesse did get to meet a cop after all! Only she was puking, not screaming or beating someone up, when it happened. 

Well that’s something, eh? Maybe things aren’t as bad as I think they are. Especially if I never ever ever have to go on a vacation with Jesse again. Everrrrrr. 


I just spent a week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For seven days, I frolicked, waded, wallowed, and boogie-boarded in the Atlantic Ocean. Remarkably, and despite the ultra-hype associated with sharks this year, I WAS NOT EATEN BY A SINGLE SHARK. 

One day something grabbed my foot in the surf and gave me a good little gash. When that happened (it hurt like hell) the thought immediately crossed my mind that it was a shark, so I cried out and punched about in the thigh-deep water. But then I decided it wasn’t a shark, because when I pulled my leg out of the water nothing was attached to me and my foot was still there. Good news. It was probably just a little crab I had stepped on. 

Another day we drove to the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk. Nick and I sat together for the ranger program, along with 70 or 80 people. About 15 minutes in, Nick got bored, so then he sat on my lap while I (hopelessly) asked him to be patient and quiet. After about 5 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore; Nick’s wiggling, squirming, bony little ass had left my thighs feeling mauled. I dumped him on the chair next to me, hissing at him to be quiet a little longer. 

“OKAY,” he hissed back as he promptly jammed both his hands down his pants. 

He appeared to be manipulating something so I leaned over and whispered, “Do you have to pee? Why are your hands in your pants?”

Nick answered in a bellowing hiss that echoed off the wings of the full-size model of the first airplane to ever take flight. “MY PENIS IS UP, AND I AM TRYING TO MAKE IT GO DOWN, BUT I CANNOT.”

My ears turned beet-red and I slunk loooow in my seat. I avoided all eye contact.

But it could have been worse. Instead of my tiny son giving himself a woody on my thigh, a shark could have eaten a full meal off of it. 

I even let the kids get in the ocean, repeatedly and without me standing hip-to-hip with them. They, too, went uneaten by sharks. Instead they had a lot of fun. 

Here’s Jesse catching a wave.   

And Nick doing the thing little kids do at beaches. I don’t know what to call it. Standing around, I guess.  But they’re happy doing it.   

Lots of beach and ocean happy, no shark bites.    


 I actually don’t have a lot of pics from the beach. I was too busy having fun to take out the camera. 

The sharks I fear are on dry land. They have four wheels and insane minds that make them swerve, race, and behave completely erratically. Large schools of them surrounded us during most of our drive to the Outer Banks.  

These sharks kill more than 30 thousand peeps a year in the USA alone, but we rarely hear about those fatalities in the national news. More than a thousand of those deaths each year are children. I’m more afraid of car sharks than I am of real sharks. 

As we drove away from the ocean and all those water sharks I was warned to avoid, we passed a banged-up car on the grassy center shoulder of our divided highway. Two ambulances, a fire engine, and a couple police SUVs had stopped all traffic on the two lanes going the other direction. Seven firefighters surrounded the car in a bustle of activity. One was leaning into each open door of the sedan, as others hurried about with saws and other gadgets. They were working on someone in the back seat. It looked grim. I wondered who was back there — more likely a child. What story would I hear if Fox national news decided to tell me about this likely fatality? What terrifying images might Fox show me, of massive metal machines hurtling down bumpy roads at insane speeds? 

I kept driving and expressed my gratitude to the universe that my family had not been in a car accident (yet) OR eaten by sharks. 

There will likely be about 40,000 breast cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2015. During the week that I was frolicking blithely in the Atlantic, insolently ignoring warnings about SHARKS and enjoying myself immensely, approximately 770 women died of BREAST CANCER in the U.S.  

I’m grateful that neither breast cancer nor sharks pulled me under this week. 

And on and on. I’m not making light of shark attacks, or minimizing the suffering of those who’ve died from them. I just want to keep my eyes on the right balls when I decide what to be terrified by. 

Life is full of risk, random suffering, and unfairness. It’s also full of fun, beauty, and being-alive-ness. This past week I got to enjoy time and the ocean with loving, playful friends and family who seem to know how to squeeze aliveness out of life.  And also, I wasn’t eaten by a shark. 

Grumpy about the tics

Jesse has had a new word tic for the past 5 or 6 months. We call it Penis. 

Not to be confused with *** Is Fat or I Hate *** (insert any name of someone she loves), Feet on the Table, Kick You, Punch Punch, Lick It, or Touch It Touch It, which are well-established tics that wax and wane. 

It is the nature of Jesse’s tics to seek forbidden terrain. Penis is a new adventure in Jesse’s mental and spiritual journey, and Penis is with us in the car as we make a physical three-day journey from Wisconsin to the Atlantic Ocean. 

Jesse says it at all manner of odd times, a curious expression of her stress. She wakes up and rolls over. “Good morning penis penis penis.” She goes to sleep saying it too, and in the dark she mixes it with loud, reverberating yawps that sound like jungle monkeys heading into territorial battle — or like a miserable child struggling to get a grip on something in her brain that none of us yet understand. 

When times are tough (in her mind), Jesse wanders a room twitching like she’s getting electric shocks. “PP! PPPPHPPHH! PPE PE PE PEE!! PE PENIS!!” She takes a deep breath and tries to calm herself, fails and then croons quietly in her sweet, high-pitched little girl voice. “Penis penis. Penis.”

She mutters it sometimes at taekwondo during stretching. Even as it humiliates her, she seems powerless to control the blurts. Everyone ignores her masterfully there, but at home where we endure it on and on, trying and trying to ignore it and not reward it with attention, it drives us mad and shreds away any remaining armor of patience. All that’s left is a collective raw nerve. 

I’ve suggested different words, like “peanuts.” But apparently not even that packs the right punch for her.

We’ve also tried reverse psychology. One morning we woke up to Penis. I said to Nick, let’s just only say penis to Jesse today. He looked at me in concern and then said hesitantly, “mommy… Nooo…”

We were silent a moment and then Nick spoke. “Jesse?”

“What, Nick?”


For a while Penis manifested in phrases. One day as I took a shower, Jesse popped her head into the bathroom and spoke cheerfully. “Hello hairy penis lady!”

On her third visitation, I snarled, “say it to me one more time and I will take your iPad away for the entire summer!”

She didn’t come back. Shit shit shit, I thought, as I pondered the weight of idle threats. I found her in the bedroom. She looked at me and spoke mildly. “Hairy penis lady.”

I had to send Anthony to her to undo my idle threat and impose a more rational consequence.

Penis shows itself in physical behaviors too, which are very disturbing. Jesse puts her hands to her crotch and mimes as though she’s spraying pee everywhere with what appears to be an absolutely enormous penis. Or she tries to punch or kick Anthony’s privates. 

We’re driving to a beach house that we’ll share for a week with a handful of families. Jesse has expressed a lot of concern that Penis tic will rear its ugly head. She knows peeps will think she’s strange. Maybe they’ll get pissed off. Odds are good that if she gets going, kids won’t want to play with her. Worrying about this ramps up her stress, increasing the probability of Penis taking over her mind. 

This morning, the topic of imaginary friends came up. It occurred to me that Penis is much like an imaginary friend, a mysterious presence in Jesse’s mind that follows her everywhere and manifests in our real world. I suggested Jesse say good bye to her imaginary friend, much like Anthony once did long ago (more on that another day). Maybe Penis doesn’t have to come to the beach house with us. 

Jesse didn’t answer but I knew she heard me. I could tell she was thinking. 

We drove three hours and found a DQ for lunch, in the prosperous hills of West Virginia.  We walked in and Penis started right up as we waited for our food. I asked Jesse to go say good bye to Penis, just go open that door and send Penis out. Penis can wait outside, and you can spend time with her later if you have to, when you’re not with us. 

Jesse glared at me and slowly walked to the door. She opened it and, after a long look at me, stepped outside. I waited a few seconds and realized Jesse was staying outside. 

I stuck my head out the door. “Jesse, you’re not Penis. Penis is imaginary. Leave her outside, and you come back in.” 

“Oh!” Said the relieved look on Jesse’s face. She sat down at the table with me and we had a peaceful few minutes. 

Penis did not re-enter the premises, and then I re-learned a lesson I always forget, perhaps as a survival mechanism. Jesse’s tics are tag-teamers. Before we left, Jesse had put her feet on the table repeatedly, started whining, and also she kicked me incessantly until I was livid. I didn’t have any space in me to praise her for letting go of Penis, and I was filled with the rage of impotence and failure, having watched my supposedly brilliant ploy defeated soundly by Jesse’s issues. 

I snapped at her one last time, my shins and knees aching from her kicks, “stop kicking me!!”

“Why?” She sounded insolent to me.

“This is why,” I answered grimly as I shoved a foot up on her thigh under the table and dug my shoe in. 

“Ooow,” she grunted quietly. She kicked me again under the table and I kicked her hard a second time. I was so pissed off I wasn’t even thinking about child protective services. 

She stopped kicking me.

Still full of impotent rage, I yelled and shrieked at her in a full fit of Snarla when we got back in the car. When she threatened to hit Nick, I snarled, “do it! DO IT SO I CAN PUNCH YOU BACK! Let me show you what it feels like to live with you!!”

I said to my ten-year-old daughter. 

I went on, though the words are a blur in my memory. I’ve never in my entire life let anyone treat me like you do! You hurt our bodies every day, and you put Nick down constantly! I don’t care why anymore! It has to stop! I don’t care why you abuse the people who love you most! Whatever you do to us, I’m going to do to you WORSE!!

My child, my love, my little offspring, for whom I would rip off my own arm if I had to, cringed away from me in fear. And I didn’t feel even a little bit bad about it. 

At least, not until I calmed down about ten minutes later. But her behavior has definitely improved in the 5 hours since. Not perfect, but better. Not as many P-bombs. 

And so I’ve learned a bad lesson. There has to be a better path to helping Jesse overcome her challenges — something better than just being more fucking crazy than her. 

grumpy about the construction project (whatever the weather)

Not even the thunderstorms of the past few days can stop Kurber Construction from doing its thing. Our house took a pounding in rain, but somehow none of it came in the house despite a variety of little holes, and these fellows just keep on working.

Here they are, hard at work.

Eric, enjoying fresh delicately sliced fruits.


Dan, chilling in his head band. Duuuuude.


Talon, chilling on his lunch cooler. Double duuuude.


Kristi, our designer, relaxing with them all.


You would think I could get these peeps some chairs. I might do that today. Regardless, they know how to settle down for a slouchy lunch to recover their energy for the afternoon’s labors. That’s a skill set I need to develop.

One morning I came out of the house with the kids and saw someone on the roof. I knew it couldn’t be Topol, ya ba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dum, because there was no fiddle. It was Erick, having a pleasant conversation on his phone. On the roof, because… why not?


They work steadily and carefully. Here, I think they’re framing up headers for the second story floor. I’m sure they were happy that I was standing under them snapping these pictures. Very safe, exactly the type of distraction that tests their focus and mettle. It’s what I’m here for.


There it is. Floor joists are in.


And at the end of every day they clean up after themselves.IMG_9582

I really didn’t think construction crews did that. But this trio does. KURBER CONSTRUCTION, in case you’re wondering, right here in Wisconsin. Good stuff. Nothing to be grumpy about.

But the day is very young, and I have to spend the rest of it with two little kids and a dog who are still completely flipped out about this whole project. I’ll find my way back to grumpy soon enough.

grumpy about the construction project (random moments in a life of mayhem)

Everything is happening fast. The crew got enough demolition done to lay down floor joists for the addition’s first floor, and then before I could even take a photo of that skeleton, they had the subfloor in. So the space that used to look like this —


looked like this after about a day of work:


Wow. Just like that, it’s all covered up. Erick seems to be demonstrating the wide sitting stance in tae kwon do. Then they framed up the exterior walls for the first floor of the back corner of the addition.IMG_9500 IMG_9503IMG_9506 IMG_9510

You can see the framing for the small windows that’ll sit on either side of my new range in the last pic. It’s all being done so smartly. We still aren’t living al fresco, because no existing exterior wall has yet been torn out. I think they’re planning to finish the new exterior first so our existing home will never be fully exposed to the elements. I had expected it to look more like a gaping two-story hole covered in plastic sheeting. Instead, the plastic sheeting is inside. IMG_9554

They put that in to separate the work space from our living room, which will be untouched. It keeps out most of the construction dust. The plastic is taped in place and held up by extender rods, like shower curtains on end. The opening is some funky tape-on zipper system, so that closes right up whenever you want. It’s great, but now I’m worried about looking in the kids’ stuffed animal bin. ET might be hiding in there.

Our kitchen, which used to look like this… IMG_9018

now looks like this:


Which I consider to be quite an improvement. We’re eating in our makeshift kitchen in the basement, which isn’t so bad. It’s a bit like being in college again.


Except for the fancy gas grill we invested in, which is perfectly fine for cooking gourmet food. Like bacon.


That’s the kind of food we’re eating now. Bacon sandwiches on hamburger buns are the new normal. I think I’ll continue the trend even after my kitchen is done. And, if I use slices of raw eggplant instead of bread, I will finally be paleo and grow strong cavewoman muscles.

We’re trying to keep things as clean as we can in the spaces we’re living in, but it’s been a struggle during the heart of demolition. I feel a sort of muck in my eyes when I wake up. Demolition dust is like ghost smoke, it just goes everywhere no matter how hard everyone tries. The guys put down some thick paper product on the floors to protect them, taping it in place carefully up the stairwell. It turns out the paper is harder to clean than just mopping up the floors at the end of each day after the crew heads home. More importantly, our wee dog was a brat about the papered stairs. She wouldn’t go up or down them. She’d just whine at either end hopelessly until someone came to retrieve her. So annoying. After only a day we asked if the paper had to be down. Erick the boss said no, so I said great, we’ll take it back up over the weekend and I’m sorry you did the extra work. I felt so bad. The guys nodded quietly and said sure. But at the end of the day they had quietly and neatly taken up the paper for me, without any fuss at all.

I hate it when people are thoughtful and nice. It makes me feel like such a grumpy shit.

Why can’t I be like that too? Instead, I’m just feeling crabby and tired on this Monday morning. The kids are hating all over me about the renovation. Every single morning, Jesse wakes up whining loudly. “UUUUGH. WHY??? Why do we have to renovate the house??? Why are you taking everything away from me?” She keeps going, even as I heat up the oil on the hot plate to cook her blessed FISH STICKS for breakfast. Nick has been chiming in too. “Mommy? Can they put the rug back on the stairs? Then it will be soft when I fall.”

I’ve had some low points too.

One day we forgot to leave the kitchen door unlocked. When the crew arrived at 7:00 am (uuugh), they couldn’t get in the house so they rang the bell. I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs in the t-shirt and shorts I was sleeping in. Dan and Talon were standing at the door. They saw me and some strange look passed over their faces before their polite smiles came on. “We are soooooo sorry to wake you up! We could just wait if you want. Seriously, we can just wait outside until you’re ready for us to start. Soooooo sorry.” I shrugged to myself about why they were feeling so bad until 30 seconds later, when I walked into the bathroom and happened to see myself in the mirror. GAH! I jumped back in terror. Eyes half swollen shut, skin splotchy, wild bed-head sticking up all over the place. I was probably drooling. I looked insane.

Another day I was taking a dump on the basement toilet, which is located on the same exterior wall as most of the demolition and rebuild. As I sat, bits of plaster and dirt rained gently down on my head. I almost cried.

But I know it’s all in pursuit of a good first-world cause. Someday soon, I will see my crazy-ass morning face in a beautiful master bathroom mirror that I don’t have to share with the kids (I think), and I will sit my ass on a pristine new toilet to poop.

grumpy about good wine

I found a good-looking bottle of wine at Whole Foods a day or two ago.


What a great name. When I say it, I want to stand with my chest puffed out, my left arm akimbo, my right foot forward and my right arm extended before me, my right hand open and palm up. “ZOLO!!” As I announce it dramatically in my velvet-festooned pantaloons and princess-puff sleeves, my dimpled fedora flies off my head.

This is (or was, until about 8 o’clock last night) an UNOAKED chardonnay. I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded like some filtering must be involved to take the oak out. No. Google this and the winos get all uppity, but when you dig through the rubbish to the sort of information dummies like me need, it turns out not to be complicated. An UNOAKED chardonnay is not aged in oak barrels. That is all. But I guess “unoaked chardonnay” (no autocorrect, no no NO I don’t mean unbaked) sounds more wino-ish than “stainless-steel-vat-aged chardonnay.”

Unoaked chardonnay is better for the world environmentally, because you don’t have to cut down oak trees and ship oak barrels hither and yon to winemaker’s abodes. That’s so awesome. Zolo is proud of being environmentally thoughtful, which is why flying-hat man declares right on the front label that this wine is “sustainably farmed.”


I’m really glad that I could buy this sustainably farmed, sustainably unbaked (damn you, autocorrect, damn you; fine, you win), good-for-the-environment wine.

Thank goodness they were able to ship it to my Whole Foods here in Wisconsin.


grumpy about the construction project (oh sh**, asbestos)

We already have our first unpleasant surprise, at least the first one that’s real instead of mocked up by the architectural review board.

We wanted to knock out a wall. When they took down the drywall they found air ducts in the cavities where we want to have the opening.


The ducts could probably be moved, but they happen to be sheathed in an insulating paper that contains asbestos, according to the construction guys. Well shit. Shit shit shit.

Does this mean we have to put a tent over the house like when they found the alien in E.T.? Maybe I’m over-reacting. More realistically, it may mean we choose to leave those ducts be and we don’t get our opening.

I guess worse things could happen. Like Anthony could make your grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich on the hot plate we’re cooking on these days. I love Oster for making the most practical, cheap appliances for a simple life. This is our cooktop for the next two to three months, and it works great:


But place it in Anthony’s good hands and he does this:


GAH. He flipped the top slice of bread over. The flat bottom of one slice is matched to the round top of the other slice. What kind of human being does that?? I sliced up a fresh loaf of french bread and carefully arranged the slices vertically on a plate so anyone could grab two adjacent slices and easily place them together in the correct orientation.

Anthony made a mockery of my prep work by creating this, this… monstrosity of a sandwich. He didn’t even feel the need to slice off the overhangs and mis-matched ends (very, very carefully, as I would have done) before he ate this sandwich gone askew! The humanity.

I guess I’ll learn to live with the asbestos.

grumpy about the construction project (rubble rubble I’m in trouble)

It started out so gently and innocently. One fellow named Dan hung out late last week for a day or two and took out a few bricks and some siding, in a sort of exploratory sparring match with the house.

IMG_9432 IMG_9430

Then over the weekend we had to empty the refrigerator and disassemble it, so that the construction guys could move it into the basement for us.

Refrigeration is a modern miracle, but when you have to move a fridge, it’s a modern pain in the ass. First I had to empty it, which is kind of shocking. I found stuff in there that I must have bought five years ago or more. I loaded the perishables into a couple coolers filled with ice so they’d last overnight. Then we had to take the refrigerator doors and shelves off, because otherwise the monster doesn’t fit through our old house doors. That process was enlightening and frightening. There was gunk and junk in nooks and crannies I hadn’t imagined existed, and unexpectedly foul muck on every shelf. New single-cell life forms were evolving. I’m sure I heard them say hello, unless it was the distant sound of my own disgusted grunts. Much washing and wiping ensued.

By the way, what do you make of this ridiculous water line into the fridge?


That’s about 10 feet of bent flexible copper. Who does that? No wonder our water dispenser never worked.

Anyway, we survived the refrigerator job, and then two large burly men hauled the fridge downstairs Monday morning. As I re-assembled the fridge, the pounding began. Two children and a dog huddled in on me, blank and silent. Silence is always the definitive sign of true terror, in my opinion, so I knew they were really scared.


IMG_9478 IMG_9482 IMG_9483

These pictures are fuzzy because my hands were shaking, due to the anxiety attack I’m having. All of us – the kids, Anthony, and I — are experiencing some sort of primal emotional yawp as the demolition goes down. I guess it’s hard watching parts of your house turn to rubble, even when it’s on purpose.

It must be some paleo thing.

Speaking of paleo, how many peeps do you think it takes to demolish half of a house? The answer is apparently: three.

The fellow in the photo above is named Dan. He seems really easy-going. (He may not actually be, because he’s venting a whole lot of spleen with the demolition.) He came the first couple days with a cotton head band on, to accompany the sledge hammer. Monday morning I opened my mouth and words came out before I could stop them, because I have the social graces of a flea: “Can I call you Olivia Newton John?” I giggled. It looked like Dan bit his tongue, and then his BOSS, Erick, chimed in. “You mean, Olivia Newton DAN.” Snicker snicker snicker. O.N. Dan handled it well, but today he didn’t wear the headband. I hope it was a coincidence.

Dan, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I was very rude. I don’t think you look like O.N. John. She had chicken legs, and you don’t.

Erick is the boss. He works hard, as you can see in this picture.


It’s good to be boss. You can still smile while the hard work goes on, even when your insane client approaches you snapping madly with her iPhone camera.


Okay okay, Erick’s no shirker of worker. He moved my fridge down, which was brutal. Plus he wears those cool metal-tip boots, which have a sort of cartoonish look to them, sort of like heavy metal Popeye. I want a pair.

The third guy on the crew is named Talon. Or Tallin. I don’t actually know how to spell it. Here’s Talon/Tallin working on the brick wall.


He and Dan work clean and fast and careful, a sort of trifecta of desirable traits in demolition work, plus they’re actually cheerful. Weird. I’m pleased to report that, despite the name similarity, this Talon/Tallin is not a fully weaponized bio-mechanoid space alien known as a Leviathon, nor does the Talon/Tallin ripping my home apart serve as a space vessel to an insane, treasonous Peacekeeper commander on a single-minded mission to kill John Crichton.

Which is all good news. Jesse met these three fellows and wanted to know if Daddy is as strong as them. Anthony answered. “No.”

Economists understand efficiency.

The other strong man I’ve met so far can’t be left out of the cast of characters. This is John, our foundation and masonry guy.


He is perfect – he has the right kind of grumpy written all over him, crunchy outside and marshmallow inside. I said I was taking his picture and he reacted like a runway model, taking off his glasses, striking this pose, and popping me a smile. Awesome. On the few occasions we’ve had a chance to chat, he grumbles about this and that, complains about bureaucrats and politicians, and then smiles a big winning smile and just gets the work done with a jolly flare. What’s not to love. I was told his brother and business mate died less than a year ago, so he’s going on building foundations for other people’s homes and lives while he learns to live without one of his own foundation stones. I can’t be grumpy about that.

grumpy about lady bodies (thank goodness for women’s soccer)

How cool that the US women won the world cup?? Not that I’m super nationalistic, but every time women athletes get a lot of airplay, it’s good for our girls. Athletes don’t have chicken legs. Real women shouldn’t have chicken legs. Our little girls shouldn’t dream of having chicken legs.

Jesse and I recently watched a PBS show on the history of the ABT, the American Ballet Theater. We loved watching the incredible athleticism of classical dancers. They are ridiculously strong and flexible. They do things that are impossible, holding their legs out at angles that would land me in the hospital. The women, who are otherwise tiny, have relatively enormous calves and thighs. They could never be hired by a modern modeling agency. They don’t have chicken legs. Their muscles are real, not ‘scaped. I know the dance world has issues with asking its women to be too skinny, but at least it allows them to have real muscles. 

Watching the show reminded us of Misty Copeland, whose career Jesse and I have followed for a year or two. Now she’s the first black female principal at the ABT. Beautiful athleticism and artistry, sweet intense face, historical significance — what’s not to love?

Some time ago we watched the UnderArmour ad that she starred in.

Jesse was captivated by Misty’s musculature, her strength and balance, her determination, her story. One day recently, Jesse wanted to see that ad again so we went hunting on YouTube. We watched it, and then we looked for some different ads by UnderArmour. We found this one of tough female athletes working hard. They have big thick muscles where they’re needed. There’s nothing delicate about them. 

We continued our browsing and came across an UnderArmour ad with Giselle Bundchen.

Sigh. I know, I know. Don’t hate on models. But let’s face it. Giselle ain’t got the chops.  I mean, I’m sure she works hard, but her motivation is modeling. No matter how much screaming there is about it, modeling. is. not. an. athletic. venture. There is no air-brushing on an athletic field of play. 

The thing about athletes is, they come in all shapes and sizes, even within a particular sport. Think about Venus and Serena Williams – could two world-class athletes in a single sport be any more different physically? Who could ever claim that there’s an optimal body type for tennis after those two?

Models all have to be the same skinny and tall. What matters is appearance, not strength or speed or a particular physical skill or tactical sense. I’m not able to grasp how there’s even a debate about this. 

I tried not to say anything though, as the Giselle ad ran. And I was pleased by Jesse’s reaction. In the ad, Giselle takes some roundhouse kicks at a punching bag, and then she rapid-jabs it. Jesse, who’s actually shown real talent in tae kwon do, offered up a real-time critique as the ad ran. “Those are pretty bad roundhouse kicks, mom. How come she’s only taking one at a time? Why is she waiting so long between kicks? Is she supposed to be good? She doesn’t have good snap. Wow, those are bad punches. She looks weak. Why is she so sweaty?” Jesse was making “WTF?” faces. 

Sorry, Giselle, you’re not motivating my daughter. Women’s World Cup soccer? That’s some serious motivation! Speed, snap, strength, endurance, grit. Congratulations to all the women who played in the World Cup, and an extra congratulations to team USA. 

If you love athleticism and dream of a strong, healthy life for your daughters, and if you dream of a world where your daughters can market their strength instead of their skinny to potential mates (even if they happen to be skinny), check out these awesome photos of World Cup athletes and their muscle-ripped thighs.  http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/7732670

Awesome. As for underArmour, well… I’ve been a fan of their products since their beginning, but now I’m going to be looking around for a replacement. I guess they’re looking for another market niche, but I wish they would try to win that niche without turning to a runway model. They have the power to empower (and pay) real athletes in the sale of their athletic gear. I’m disappointed they moved in a different direction. 

grumpy about the construction project (I am addled)

We filled a PODS container with half of our possessions. We just relocated our kitchen stuff to an alternative site in the basement because major demolition is commencing. We pulled out a wall ourselves. We moved all the beds into one room. We re-arranged much of our furniture to make space for renovations and still allow for some reasonable living accommodations. We emptied a couple closets that disappeared and re-organized all our linens and blankets and Things We Keep In Closets into other closets. The house actually looks remarkably organized.

I can’t find anything.

I am completely addled by all the changes. I am addled, rattled, confused, anxious, and fussy. I can’t think straight. Lately, several times a day, I find myself pacing slowly in the living room, wondering blankly where stuff is. I’m not even looking for anything in particular. I feel like an old dog, aimlessly wondering where my bones are.

Last week I put together a little letter package to send to my mom. She wanted help closing out a little investment account, and the form the financial company sent her after receiving her first form request was — NEWS FLASH — confusing. Why do insurance companies have to dick around so with elders? She sent it to me. I read it and highlighted the spots she needs to sign, wrote her a note explaining things, added a pre-addressed and stamped envelope for her to mail the form in, and sealed that little secretarial package up and addressed it to her.

Then I lost it. I left it somewhere in the house with a mental note to drop it in the mail next time I went out, but that never happened. I have hunted far and wide for that blasted envelope for the last 6 or 7 days. I looked through the garbage. I rifled through what few drawers and shelves remain in the house. I went through all my recycled bags and backpacks. Nothing. I called the company to see what to do next. I found the power of attorney mom gave me and was going to fax it over so I could get on this, and then I got swept away by all the mess of getting things ready for demolition and the architectural review board stress. In other words, I forgot about it.

My iPhone chimed today and I saw the call was from Mom. Bleeeeah. I wasn’t ready to deal with her asking me why I hadn’t come through for her yet, so I ignored the call. But I felt really guilty about that a couple minutes later so I listened to her message.

“Hi Cahla! Thank you for sending me the letter! I really appreciate it and I’ve sent the form in. I know you’re busy with your construction, and that can be very confusing.”

You’re not kidding, Mom.