Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Week's Best

Time for a wrap-up of some of the interesting things I found on the internet this week.
Here they are, good stuff links. Enjoy!

--All the people are talking about Ello. I haven't checked into it but the buzz is that people are abandoning the Facebook ship to climb aboard Ello. Not sure what to do once you're there? Here's a primer: from Readwrite, How to Ello in 5 Easy Steps.

-- This was good good good. From WritersWrite: 15 Questions Authors Should Ask the Characters in Their Novel. If anything, reading this makes you a better, more aware, reader.

--Click, please don't miss: from modern farmer, Beautiful Chicken hair-dos.

--Seeing someone laugh until they cry, I never say no to a chance for that. Here's a short clip of Bill Hader doing just that to Kristen Wiig while talking about their new film Skeleton Twins.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Falling Asleep to Words

I remember a morning this past summer, when a little girl leaned in against me, her small shoulders pressing close. In the loud raspy force that children think is whispering, she blew into my ear, “My mom tells me to not read and read. So I stop but then when she goes away, I start again. I can't help it. I want to know more stories.”

I nodded knowingly to her, turning my head so we'd be eye to eye. "Yes,” I answered back. “My mom used to tell me the same thing.”

With her eyes wide, her mouth agape, so astonished, she asked, “She did?”

“She did. And I would wait until she went away and then I'd start reading again...”

She was too young, or else I'd tell her, that she will never change. That even when she gets to be as old as she thinks I am, which is from a time where she needs to question me about my life, “Did you have TV? Were there cars yet?” that this will always be.
That if she one day shares her home, her partner will call to her at night from upstairs to put her book down and come to bed, that she needs to sleep.
That if she has children, over breakfast they will ask her, “How late did you stay up to finish that book?”

I want to tell her how wonderful it is to be a reader. That one day, the people around her will begin to see that's who she is. Their questions will change from “Why do you read so much?” to “What book are you reading now?”

I want her to give herself the title of Reader like a crown, with a jewel at the tip of each letter like the points of a star.

I want her to fill in the blank with Reading as one of the firsts under "Your hobbies or interests?" I want her to feel no embarrassment or shame over her love of books, as if it's something she didn't want to be true about herself. When someone asks her what some of the things are that she likes to do, I want her to answer “reading,” just like that, and not stumble for other things to say instead.

I want her to remember how words fill her mind and take her to a place where time stands still. Where turning page after page soon becomes an impatient 11p.m. rap on the bedroom door with orders to put away the book now and get some sleep. I want her to spend afternoons amid piles of books, where each story calls to her, as if chosen especially.

I want her to forever love the feel of the weight of pages in her hands, to look forward to the stories that await on her nightstand at the end of her day. I want her to flutter to sleep with her finger lingering on the last words she reads as one day crosses the thin line into the start of the next.  
If I could have whispered a confidence back to her that day, it would have been to tell her to swim, full and deep, no matter what, in the words that make her laugh, her heart pound, her throat gasp, her mind think, her eyes tear, and that take her into another world.

I want her to always smile, hard -- and never second guess when asked, "Tell me about yourself..."

"Well, I like to read,” is my dream for how she one day answers that question.
 * * *

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Candid Q&A (honest)

Today, I play Honest Interview with myself, answering from a combination of questions that have been emailed and posed to me over the last few years, as well as culled from pretend NPR interviews I do to myself while waiting for my kids in the school pick up line.

Alexandra, your name was an unusual one during the time of your youth, to the point of you squeezing your eyes tight and wishing Dorothy-style to be named Debbie, Francie, or Suzy. How do you feel about your name now?

Great question. I like it now, though it is true that in the third grade, I prayed for Francie to be my name in the morning when I woke up. Some people don't care for the length of my name and shorten it to Al, Alex, Ali, Lexie, it's all fine with me. I even answer to Alexander and Alexandria. I'm not particular that way.

Do you really drink as much coffee as you say you do? Or is it part of your persona?

I have a coffee love. Never a problem, but a definite co-dependence but not in a dysfunctional way. Oh, I mean, it's not like I'd be late for Easter mass because I had to get coffee, or like the school principal made a "general" statement about coffee in church is still coffee in the house of God, or like my husband can never find the Starbucks cards he gets from work though he swears he "put 'em right there." I mean, it's not like that at all.

Do you ever have writer's block?

No, I don't. If I need to find an idea, I log on to twitter. There is inspiration ticking by at a mile a minute there.

If you had a hundred dollars, what would you do with it?

Put it in the bank.

If you could live to be 100 years old, what would your birthday party be like?

I would have my favorite meal of Twinkies, Starbucks double espresso, and string cheese. Then I'd either chew it on my own *fingers crossed* or have one of my kids put it in a blender for me.

What google search brings the most people to your blog?

Can Mexicans wear jeggings.

What's your favorite thing about blogging?

Okay, what's my favorite thing about blogging or what's my favorite thing about having a blog?

About blogging.

Blogging is incredible. It's how I solidify and timestamp who I am. I see it as sticking a flag in it and claiming my ideas, my values, my strengths, my confusion, my muddling through, and my joy in this life. Sticking a flag in your life, and making it yours. Do you want to ask me now about why I love having a blog?

I guess.

Having a blog is the first thing that I've created that I planted, nurtured, nourished, fed, watered, tended, and beamed back at with pride. This blog is that one thing that I've done in my life.

What's your favorite thing about life?

The surprises that happen. The juicy delightful moments that make you laugh out loud and wipe your tears away from how lucky you are. That's what I love.

You have a curious face, may we ask, how old are you?

I've heard that before, thank you. Anyway, old enough to remember when water didn't come in bottles.

What kind of people do you like?

Depends on the person. I can like any kind of people if I like the person.

How do you manage change?

First off, thank you, I'm flattered that you see me as someone who is able to. And second, I don't. My coping default is placing a McDonald's napkin over my face and soothechanting ohmygodohmygod until I can't anymore.

What's been your big surprise information discovery that you found out on your own?

It happened a few months ago. I was in the bathroom putting on my make up and when I stepped back to look, it was then it made sense, why magazines advise against black anything on a face over a certain age. It's because a black line near your eyes looks like plastic surgery stitches. You can't wear black anymore, middle age is the time of the very real subconscious question sitting in the mind of the one facing you, "Is it Maybelline, or is it Dr. Costas?"

Do you have any quick tips on how to make yourself attractive in ten minutes or less?

Make me attractive in ten minutes or you attractive in ten minutes?


A surefire trick I've been using for the last nineteen years is to go five days without make up then on the sixth day when I do put on my mascara, blush, and mystic mauve lip-glo I just look so damn good then. Like I started a multi-vitamin or something.

Gladiator Shoes, a $400.00 hobo bag, or a butter soft red leather fitted jacket?

I live in Wisconsin. Nothing comes before two Target infinity scarves atop each other, Dr. Seuss striped fleece mittens, and the colonial pantaloon.

This was wonderful, Alexandra, thank you.

It really was, wasn't it. I enjoyed this time with myself, too. Thank you.

**To Find Out More about Alexandra, you can park behind her at school pick up time. She conducts her interviews daily, and leaves her minivan windows partially open until mid-November.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Right People for You

Posing by a giant skull, because they get it...

During a sociology class in college, I remember our professor saying that the most successful relationships are those where both parties share the same values.

Like being with people who will pose in front of a giant skull, no questions asked, because they know you like to do things without having to explain. And they even smile while doing it.

Shared values with people who believe you and don't try to talk you out of things. When you tell them you mean it, you don't want store bought cards but a letter from the heart instead -- even though it's more work for them, they give you that letter from the heart instead.
The wondercards

When you share values with someone, you will go to the grocery store when it's cold and raining for ingredients because home-made spaghetti in is what you prefer to a birthday dinner out.

Today we celebrated my birthday, and I spent it in a way that holds worth for me. A meal made by my husband, cards made by my children, and a visit to see my son who is away at college.

We went walking, and I told of how when I was little, my father would take me with him for a Saturday afternoon beer at a corner tavern. He'd place a single dollar on the counter, light up a cigarette, and sip his foamy beer while I sat, legs dangling off the bar where he had set me, nibbling from a foil-wrapped Hershey candy bar. It was just me and my father, and these private times together are a treasured memory. My husband tried to re-create my childhood afternoons inside of a suburban five dollar a glass wine bar instead of a ten-cent-tap city tavern. He doesn't smoke so he puffed on a pretzel stick instead. Our children were mortified, but I was thrilled, and my stomach ached from laughing.

So suave and sophisticated
I knew someone years ago who, when she found out it had been my birthday, asked me, "What did you get?" I told her everything I wanted, a home-made meal, and crayoned cards from my children. She told me she'd be angry if there was no dinner out, and no gifts.

I couldn't believe what she said, and she hurt my feelings with how she thought I had "no gifts." She wasn't the right people for me.

Looking at these pictures, I wonder how she could say no gifts?

Shared values. The most important determining factor in friendships, relationships, with the people we know.

The right people for me are the people right here. The ones who understand, and gift me, with exactly what I hold dear to my heart.

I love you, my family, I love you so very much. Thank you for a wonderful birthday.
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Life is Rewarding, but Challenging

I plan on sticking around for the long run. What that means, is that to be here, as long as I can be -- bar an unfortunate early demise -- I need to make changes.

I like my life. Through the unlikable moments bordering on feeling unsurvivable, still, at this moment, things feel good.

If we want to enjoy life as long as we can, there are some things that have to happen, without question. Non negotiables that are required on a daily basis to have the odds be ever in our favor.

The biggest things of the largest crucial impact over time, are basic (basic does not mean easy, look it up):

Eat right. Sometimes (okay a lot for me) that means saying no to Twinkies, or whatever your Twinkies is. Put the Twinkie down and say yes to nuts, fish, raw vegetables, raw fruit, whole grains, and wonderful water. Keep good stuff in the house as in good for you, and leave the Fig Newtons on the shelf at the store. Not easy, that's why I said "challenge."

Move every day. Without question, you need to exercise, or walk, or play catch outside. Get up and off the buttchair. Everyday, rain or snow or too hot or too foggy or too lazy, you move your body and don't go to bed until you do it for 30 minutes at least once that day. Don't be lazy.

Sleep. Skipping sleep to find more time in the day seems like an easy answer. I know it does, but it's not. Time management in your day, with strict limits on how many minutes you spend where, is the only way to find time. Time Management is another way of saying Discipline. Sleep no less than six to eight hours a night. Go to bed.

Company. Oh, watch who you are with. If you can help it. Keep your group filled with encouragers and light bringers. There will be times when those you know need you, and maybe will be not their usual selves -- if you keep yourself strong, you can be there for them, and lift them back up to being where they want to be. But the ones who bring you down with negative comments or wear you out by always finding the worst in situations... reflect on their place in your life, because it can be mentally unhealthy to talk to some people. You may not have to unfriend them, but you could get busy doing other things that keep you fulfilled. This is hard.

Be a good guardian of your mind. This takes work. There is a lot out there that you really don't need to know about. The one in charge of what you see is you. Be aware but watch your sources and your doses. We need to know about our world, without a doubt, but we don't need to know about every single sick act out there. Take care of your soul -- watch what you read, what you listen to, what your ears and eyes fall on. Do not fall for the clickbait.

Find something that takes you into the zenzone. Faith, prayer, meditation, focus, writing, running, playing with your kids, music, community theatre, drawing, baking, singing. That thing that makes time stand still is that thing that recharges you. Find it and disappear into it. It can be what I do. Don't get out of your bed in the morning until you spend two minutes listening to your breath, and feeling who you are. This is an important one.

You can pull everything together by saying, Pay attention to your life. This takes work, and the challenge is to care about the situations we create for ourselves, with our eyes as wide open as we can. The reality is that we are a sum of our daily activities. There are rewards to the challenge of saying yes to the right things.

I want all the time I can get, because old people tell the best stories.

Should add ten years... 
 * * *

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Other Ex

The right time. The wrong person.

The wrong time. The right person.

A story of a woman and her friend, lost due to circumstances, whether intentional or not, will always be a story seeped in sorrow, strength, pain, conviction. Sometimes the women are reunited, different but braver, less fragile and more determined to find again what first drew them to each other. Other times, we can only remember, wistfully, of a person who once was an important part of our life.

The anthology, My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends, was released yesterday and I am honored to have my story, "Diminished Returns," featured:

Heading toward the table, I saw a beautiful woman. She stood confidently in front of a group of women, her arms over her head in the midst of animated story telling. Her voice, loud, and with gusto from the moment of  being part of the excitement of the women around her. Her adoring crowd, every one there, with their eyes up and sparkling toward her. Each one, hoping to be her friend... 

My Other Ex has skyrocketed to #4 on Amazon in its category. My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends, edited by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger is available on Amazon.

I am proudly giving away a copy. Please leave a comment, and I'll be picking a winner via I will email you for your address.

And thank you, for being here, to share in the joy of celebrating the release of this much awaited work of female friendship.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Best of the Internet

I get excited when I find something good to share with you. I know we all have limited time, so it's hard to limit to only three or four links, because if you're anything like me, you want to click on everything...

So, here is the best of my internet this week:

--From Women Writers, Women's Books, "Can't Find My Way Back Home,"  how to construct memoir. GOOD words, on seeing your way through the murkiness of memory.

--From We Blog Better, "How to Avoid a Google Penalty." If you notice traffic is down, or no google searches coming to your blog, you'll be surprised to find that maybe you've done something that has made you vanish from google searches. Like reposting your content on a bigger site. Here's some ways around that.

--"How to Hold an Unpopular Opinion" from the site becomingminimalist. Terrific read. I am a liberal in a conservative town. How do we not shut down when we feel so different from that which surrounds us. Some great uplifting ways to keep on going.

Happy Sunday, happy reading. (you're all the best)

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

697 Random Things About Me

1.  I like to laugh a lot. Especially videos on youtube about people slipping. On anything. A quick look at my viewing youtube history will show you a lot of reasons I'm going to hell.

2.  I used to be in love with pineapple until I became allergic. I could slam down 15 pina coladas like nobody's business. A fact that many a beau from my past turned into a dealbreaker.

3.  In my youth, I secretly wished to be a horse.

4.  I like to come up with new ways to walk. Sometimes I swing my hips more, other days I try to walk straight without moving.

5.  I love reading big, fat books. "Ox-stunners" as my history teacher used to call them.

6.  I never let my kids get the screen time they ask for.

7.  I'm afraid that in five years we're going to find out that rainbow loom bands are toxic.

8.  Some part of my body hurts every day.

9.  I just decided to make this list 37 things.

10.  I will always sneak out for ice cream. Especially "birthday cake" flavor. I just say I'm going out for a walk.

11.  I have no problem sneaking out to matinees by myself. I just say I'm going to throw the garbage out.

12.  I sneak out a lot. My family finds me missing a lot. (traumatized? maybe. I do hear them randomly shouting MOM??! every now and then)

13.  I like to watch the Twilight Zone every night. I force my children to do it with me using screen time as leverage.

14.  I love coffee but it makes me sick. It's like Little Timmy who ate strawberries every day even though he was allergic.

15. Winter makes me sad. It's like an old lady just giving up. (The maudlin first appears at 59 degrees)

16. I go for a walk every day to stay fit. I have adjusted my idea of fit as time marches on. I tried to do push ups but my kids told me my form was horrible because I was too weak and they padded me on the shoulder and told me to give up.

17. When I wear my squeaky Croc sandals it sounds like birds are following me. I have ornithophobia so it makes for a stressful walk.

18.  I'm afraid of birds and loose dogs. Cujophobia.

19.  I'm not a dog person, per se, is as polite as I can be about it.

20.  Public radio is my friend and I talk to it all day.

21.  My only friend in grade school was Rod Serling.

22.  I can fall asleep anywhere, anytime, anyhow. Just show me a spot. I don't know why children resist sleep. If someone pointed me to a dark corner and gave me a pillow and a blanket you wouldn't hear a wail out of me.

23.  I always sneeze two times in a row.

24.  I make my children try some pretty crazy recipes.

25.  I'm the one who eats all the Oreos from the store. I act like I can't hear when the kids ask.

26.  I fiddle with my hair when I'm worried until I look like Operaman.

27. I dream in color. My husband dreams in black and white. I think he's missing cones in his brain.

28.  When I go for walks I bring along my umbrellas to use as momentum boosters because they're less embarrassing than ski poles. Like my husband says, "This isn't England, you know."

29.  I try to plan the best walking route to avoid as many dogs as possible. And the birds in the park.

30.  People will always be interesting to me.

31. I stare at things and either fall all the way in love or to the bottom of the well grossness with them. Trees: in love. Mushrooms: grossiosity.

32.  If I had had a daughter, I would have named her Pascal.

33.  Patsy Cline will always be my favorite.

34.  Red Skelton will always be my favorite.

35.  I  can't concentrate and don't feel right if I don't have earrings on.

36.  I could eat spaghetti and meatballs for breakfast, lunch, dinner and second breakfast.

37.  I love to play catch.

BONUS: Dimmer light switches make me angry.

Surprise Bonus: Dim lights make me crabby.

Super Surprise: A light switch should either be on or off. Make dimmers illegal.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Rare Bird by Anna Whiston-Donaldson

"... not only was our son enamored with birds, but his first word was “bird” at just 7 months..."

When I was asked to review Rare Bird, the debut memoir by Anna Whiston-Donaldson, I hesitated. At the center of the story is Anna's account of the loss of Jack, her 7th grade son on his first day back to school, when he was swept away in the rising creek of a neighbor's yard. Its obvious content, how a family finds itself working through life after an unimaginable loss, is a story that in itself is heart stopping.

But my dilemma, my challenge, is how to put to words what Anna's powerful work here is.

This is not a sad book.

This is not a book about Anna's son, Jack, and his death.

This is a book about Jack's life and the beauty that can achingly arise out of a parent's biggest fear: the loss of a child. Rare Bird is a riveting read, as I knew it would be, but it is unlike anything I expected.

I need to be clear, this not a sad book. This is not a book full of the drama of grief.

What Rare Bird is, is an amazing story of hope where you think none could exist. It's a story that has to be told, because of its gift of brutal beauty, and because it will save so many who feel lost in life. I didn't put Rare Bird down until I finished it. As I read through the pages, I thought to myself how though this book was given life through Jack's death, it is not full of Jack's death. Rare Bird is about miracles, about surviving something no one can imagine they have the strength for.

Part of me was tempted to do just a one sentence review, "This is a heck of a book." It would have been enough.

Rare Bird documents the days before, and the days after, of life without Jack. With a bounding pulse rhythm to her words, Anna allows us to carry the heavy load up and down through the time that follows. And it feels like a gift to be there for her.

What Anna has done is to allow us to step into her life, and we are changed. We are magically there, in those suspended moments of time following the loss of Jack. We walk with Anna, with Jack's sister, Margaret, and Tim, Jack's reeling and bewildered father. Every reader is alongside, boldly for them. Marching fiercely, lending our hearts and leaning in with our arms, we carry them. I can't think of any higher honor than to have lived through these times with Jack's family.

Anna's book is an exercise in humanity and in the power of presence by witnessing the piecing together of lives into a work of extraordinary, shimmering moments of the courage in the face of overwhelming circumstances.

Rare Bird is a gem of a work. I am proud to be a part of talking about it.

I believe in this work of our lives, of the daily act of loving one another. What Anna writes about in Rare Bird is not to be missed. Her book is something you want to hold in your hands, to savor, and to return to, again and again. 

I am giving away a copy of Rare Bird here. Please leave a comment to enter.

Thank you, Anna, for what you dared to summon, to emerge, glistening from the fire. With Rare Bird, you have given us a powerfully honest and breathtaking view of the unbreakable and eternal bond between all of us. And of you, and Jack, forever.

Anna's book Rare Bird is available on Amazon.

You can learn more about Anna at her blog, An Inch of Gray.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Best of The Internet

September, and summer, have been busy. I've fallen behind with sharing the best of the internet. I want to get back to the weekly links, putting what's out there, out there. There is so much good, also, some pretty cool sites always come my way.

Here's the best of this week (along with some really neat finds via my kids)--


--This blog, ohmygosh, this blog: Sad and Useless humor site. My friend Rochelle found it. And I spent 30 minutes on it though it could have been 30 hours except that, you know, I've started to nod off in my years. Today's feature, "Sad Dads at a One Direction Concert."

--A call for submissions and a writing contest, via The HerStories Project. The editors of My Other Ex and The HerStories Project are seeking submissions for their third anthology, Mothering Through the Darkness: Stories of Post Partum Struggle Details here.

--This is beyond fascinating: How members of The Australian Ballet prep their pointe shoes before a performance. Once they use their shoes, they don't wear them again. It's a must watch. 

--And, finally, this-- The Best of Joan Rivers' stand-up. Joan, you were ahead of your time, and when you broke yourself up with your own punch line, it was my favorite part of all. We'll miss you.

Peace, love, and soak up these last days of what still feels like summer.

* * * 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

When Your Mother is a Tough Broad: A Letter to Melissa Rivers

It was while watching Melissa Rivers co-host a red carpet event with her mother, Joan Rivers, that I first recognized the look on Melissa's face as her mother spoke. Joan was a ball of energy, revved up and spitting out barbs... most of which weren't PC. Melissa slunk down, and Joan went on. There was no stopping her and I watched Melissa wince in the presence of her mother's take no prisoners sarcasm.

Joan Rivers was being the Joan Rivers that the world knew, but at the same time, Joan Rivers was also Melissa's mother, and I could feel the lifetime of growing up with what I had had; a mother who never censored or kowtowed to anyone. No one and nothing was safe from my mother, as was with Joan. You could not describe either woman without the words ballsy, fearless, a force of nature. There were other words, too, like annoying, frustrating, bull headed, stubborn.

I often felt like Melissa Rivers with my own mother. I didn't love it at the time, but I came to love it as my appreciation for what my mother's life was, grew. The out loud way of grabbing life and seizing opportunity, is what I eventually loved about my mother and about Joan Rivers.

Like her, my mother had a razor sharp rapid fire wit and when you were on her radar, you felt the heat. My mother, too, like Joan, was the widow of a man who had killed himself. Just like Joan, again, my mother did what she had to do, never saying no to work as she struggled to provide for six children. Of all the jobs that my mother had to work to support us, none was more important to her than that of mother. I saw that same thing in the way that Joan Rivers loved her daughter, Melissa.

My mother lived without apology. She didn't care who liked her or not, she did what she had to do, without a worry about fitting in with the women of our 1960s neighborhood. She worked at a time when women didn't and in the 60s, when in this city women needed their husband's signature to get a credit card, she talked the bank manager into allowing her one, for the necessity of her children. Never take no for an answer, my mother would have cross stitched that on a pillow if she were to ever sit long enough to be domestic.

Joan Rivers and my mother had an intuition about themselves, a bravery about who they were, resilient when life did as life does -- it was as if  any adversity that came their way just made them that much more sure of themselves. They spoke first, and then took full responsibility for any fall out, not ever seeking out a scapegoat. Both women were serious in their work and lived by a work ethic that was there seven days a week. Joan Rivers once said, "I knew I was funny. And that it was powerful." My mother was aware, too, that she had a brilliant sense of humor. She knew she was quick with a comeback and would press her lips together right before she was about to deliver a sharp-tongued gem... as if to say I can't stop myself, I have to.

To my mother, there was no such thing as a man's world. It was just the world, and she fought for her place in it as if she didn't think any reason existed for her not to. Seizing any and every opportunity, she showed her four daughters to say yes first, and then make damn sure you delivered. My mother had a saying during the 70s with the rise of feminism and Gloria Steinem, “These women, so silly, instead of spending time saying they're going to do something, they could be just doing it.”

I grew to love and admire my mother for the same reason that I do Joan Rivers. And I know I can say the same for the way Melissa Rivers evolved to see her mother through the years. As strong, beautiful, and needing no one's approval. Though there were plenty of times that I, as I would see Melissa do, would cringe from my mother's brazenness and intentional lack of restraint. But underneath everything, I couldn't help but admire her courage and her grit.

Both my mother and Joan Rivers were brilliant stars. When you watched them in their perfect moments of saying just what needed to be said, you felt it: they were irreplaceable.

When I heard that Joan Rivers passed away today, I thought of how I lost my own mother a year ago. And my heart broke for Melissa. 

Because when your mother is a tough broad, you kind of feel like they'll be here with you forever.

RIP, Joan Rivers. Give my mother a kiss for me, would you, and tell her that her daughter misses her.

* * *

Monday, September 1, 2014

Dear College Freshman Child

Yaaaaaasssss... perfect!

Dear Son:

You've been away at college for five nights now. We miss you but are thrilled for this new chapter in your life. I mean, we all knew you were ready for this step, busting at the seams of this parent/child role was something we all felt. We miss you 'round the clock and your siblings left back home really feel the loss of your presence, especially on family outings. They asked me to write you a letter so that you would know just how much life sucking fun you've been missing.

No need for us to go into the Costco trip you missed Friday morning when your dad came home with gas can sized containers of corn oil that we have piled up against the sink, I mean -- those are just incidental happenings.

No, your brothers want you to know about the #deeplife that is going on this Labor Day weekend. Like today.

Today was the day your dad decided to relive moments of his boyhood. Your brothers explained it to me this way, "You have your writing, mom, dad has his days of what once was." And so this is how it came to be that your dad piled us into the family van this morning and set up the GPS, whose directions he ignored most of the drive up (Ms. GPS no longer even pretends to be patient) and we drove the two hours your dad needed to, to get what was once for him the childhood marking of a summer's end.

We went to small town Wisconsin where today was "Cornival Day," so named because three! free ears of corn are promised to everyone in attendance at the Cornival. You know what's weird, Alec? Your dad never mentioned Cornival Day to me. Ev-er. Anyhow, in theory, since there were four of us in attendance (again, we miss you sorely) we could have brought our Trader Joe's canvas bags and had them filled with 12 ears of grilled corn, but since only your dad was interested in end-of-summer symbolic feeding, we just waited in line (like some kind of outer space aliens were feeding us from a truck, but that's just my opinion) for the three ears of the free corn, for him.

Your brother, Xavier, wants you to know that he volleyed back and forth about whether or not to purchase "chips" at a food stand because "chips" for sale on a sign with "chips" written in black marker "quotes" makes for an unsettling description, add to the fact that they came in "all kinds." He paid the 50 cents for the "chips" but ate them "tentatively."

We missed you today. Your father had a grand time reliving Cornival Days gone by, but the rest of us, the three of us, felt out of our realm. I say out of our realm, Auggie describes it as "unbearable air smelling of Spam." 

I was okay with your dad searching out his corn roast memories. Even the full lines at the drive-through liquor stores that we passed on the way into town didn't worry me. Today was an important family excursion for your dad and I think he needed to do this as a way of working through his feelings on you being up and flown. As your brothers said, I have my writing to work through life transitions. I can talk to you like an adult now, Alec, so I'm going to tell you, your dad was working through some shit.

Your brothers were rough on your dad, I'll admit. I knew he was going through some intense thoughtful moments, and maybe your brothers went too far in calling today a "crushed memories and broken corn cob dreams" family outing.

It wasn't that bad. I mean, yes... unfamiliar and something we're not used to. For example, the turkey  sandwiches we purchased were turkey porridge (Auggie called it brain soup for zombies) on store brand hamburger buns BUT all that can be tolerated by simply tossing the wet sandwich away and considering the $3.00 purchase price a donation toward the free cornfestivus corn. 

And there were some unexpected moments of delight -- like Magic Mark who performed magic tricks, silently -- though he wasn't in a mime outfit, while following along and interactively learning with the audience to the DVD Magic For You! that he had playing on a two foot thick TV on a TV tray to his right.

It's all perspective, I explained to your brothers.

Where else could we see Cornival clientele arguing with game booth workers over the number of balloons they popped with a dart, three chances for a dollar, and the size prize they felt they should have received rather than the one they did receive. Life can be a book, or a Twilight Zone episode, that you step into.

You would have enjoyed today's outing, Dear Son. If you talk to your brothers, it was close to but not as awful as they describe it. The "chips" were tolerable. With your dad paying no mind to the chattering of the GPS, we found our way home. Your family survived this Labor Day without you. More than anything, we missed you.

We made your dad happy today, though there was a moment that we caught him wistful -- almost as if he expected someone to recognize him from 40 years ago. But we returned home, no worse for wear.

Although Auggie says that today made him hate corn forever.
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