By Ann Brown
I recently heard that an old boyfriend of mine is getting divorced after twenty-two years of marriage, and he is going to be paying his wife in excess of many, many, many thousands of dollars per month in alimony. I am heartbroken over this news.
I could use many thousands of dollars a month. I shoulda married him. Not that he asked, but still.
I would have made an awesome rich divorcee. I’ve planned for it my whole life. I mean, what young Jewish girl doesn’t stand in front of her mirror wearing a tiara and dream of divorcing a wealthy man some day?
As it is, I married for love. And money. Robin was the wealthiest person I knew in Santa Cruz in 1977. He made ten dollars an hour. I know, right? I slept with him as soon as I could, to get my hooks in him and stake my claim to that ten bucks an hour. I don’t want to brag, but I totally gave him ten dollars worth of sex that first night.
Last night, thirty-three years later, Robin informed me that we need to review his life insurance plan. We are old enough now that a life insurance cost-effectiveness review is in order. Robin took it like a real man as I talked out my options concerning his death and concluded that, financially speaking, I married badly. And Robin agreed.
We considered my ability to woo and marry the ex now, divorce him, get the moolah and remarry Robin. Robin played along like the gentleman he is, but we both knew it was a sham. I am simply in no shape to woo a man anymore. A blind man, perhaps. Who cannot determine shape from touch? I might have a fighting chance. Still, there is that pesky issue of my personality. Ain’t no Spanx for an out of control personality.
I didn’t want to harsh Robin’s mellow but, frankly, what he is worth to me dead is not going to get me far. By my calculations, I am going to need to marry a rich man within a year of Robin’s death. And to get myself in wooing shape? Fuuuuck. The fat farm alone is gonna be at least thirty grand. Not to mention the constant waxing. My undercarriage is a hot mess.
Being married rocks. You never have to shave your legs above the knee ever again. And you can let your weird skin rashes air out instead of covering them up. And you can wear Crest White Strips on your teeth during sex because there’s no kissing anymore. Honestly, I do not understand why anyone stays single.
But if I am going to have to go out on the market again, I won’t be able to let that kind of shit slide. Even to go to the market. Oh my God, it’s gonna be exhausting. I will never be able to catch a rich husband. I’ll be lucky to get a blind hippie with no hands. Who needs a green card. Wealthy men are so picky.
Question to self: are lesbians more accepting of women who are no longer willing to wax or kiss? Are there any super wealthy lesbians in Oregon? I don’t want to have to travel. Am I even in the running to nab me a super wealthy, hippie, non-waxing, no-kissing Pacific Northwest lesbian or am I just kidding myself?
Clearly, the only solution is to up the amount of Robin’s life insurance. But he is onto my game and now he wants to cancel it altogether. He wants to make Alive Robin as attractive to me as Dead Robin. Bless his heart.
by Tanya Ward Goodman
My Grandmother’s death has brought the family together, but my daughter’s loose tooth has given us something cheerful to do. We are united by Sadie’s tooth. When she wiggles that darned thing, we stop thinking for a moment about how hard it will be to sell the house and what a waste it would be to send that antique cameo necklace into a hole in the ground. No matter how we feel about the President, gun control or healthcare, the loose tooth brings us all together. We plot and plan for extraction when wills and accounts and phone conversations with lawyers are the dark alternative.
Sweet Sadie with her big smile and her curly hair is an eight year old in a house full of sad adults. She feeds her virtual Ipod horse and talks to the very real cat. She curls up on the wingback sofa and flips through scrapbooks hoping to find photos of someone she knows. My uncle says we should reach up behind the tooth – get a nail under the raw edge. “Move it sideways,” he says. My brother makes a lasso of dental floss and spends the better part of an hour trying to slip it around the tiny tooth. Sadie chews gum and eats the hardened caramels we find in the kitchen cupboard. She wonders if she started running fast and fell down the big hill, the tooth would get knocked out on its own. When she is tired of grown up conversation, she cries and shouts that it’s not fair to have a loose tooth. It’s painful and keeps her from eating all the things she doesn’t like, though a child at a funeral can get by on only Jell-o salad and soft white rolls. She wiggles the tooth and lets others wiggle it. Fingers yellow with nicotine have touched the pearl of this little tooth. The funeral leaves us soggy with tears and chilled to the bone in the Dakota wind, but the tooth doesn’t come out.
The tooth is wiggly on the plane and in the taxi and keeps my girl awake all through our first night at home. She rages and gnashes and I think perhaps the tight set of her jaw will push the thing right out.
At dinner on our second night home, she asks for pliers. We have guests, but they seem not to mind, so I give her a Leatherman. We watch as she grabs and slips, grabs and slips. Someone suggests a paper towel. Once again this tooth is a project. We’re in it together and Sadie is happy to be right in the middle. There is wiggling and working. There is a ten-minute bout of frustration. Tears are shed. And just when we are all feeling like it should be over, just when we’ve begun to turn back to grown up talk, she pulls it out. Her smile is broad and bloody. The tooth is white and shiny in the black metal pincers.
And then, like that, we’re back on the girl.
By: Danny Thomas
here I am…
sitting on the end of the bed
with a pile of laundry
over my computer.
Everything is looming right now;
Jennifer and I
are occupying the land of loom…
it seems to happen with us a lot.
are we those people…
with the drama,
and the constant crises?
all of us are.
the last six days,
have been intense.
How many parenting and family blogs have that line in them?
How self reflective can I be in one blog?
I started my new job full time.
I haven’t had a full time job in ten years…
The whole time Jen was in grad-school
we got by with me
being a home maker
and bringing in a little extra dough for
beer and wine and whatever recreation..
and food stamps.
I am not one of those people who claims to have put my spouse through
I have very much been in
that’s a big shift.
But that is only one aspect
of our intense week…
all three children
got a stomach flu.
And it lasted for the entire week in ‘Zilla’s poor little belly…
Another reminder how they are all unique,
not just in how they look
with the world…
but even down to their chemistry
and how their guts work…
that the same flu
can sit with one kid for 4 days
and be through the system of the other two
over the course of 36 hours.
But that’s a blog for a different day.
So that’s two aspects…
and a third
it’s the last week of school for Jen
stuff like that…
my point is
We. Made. It
We made it through the week,
and here we are, enjoying the weekend.
We had a great,
special adventure yesterday
celebrating free comic book day.
And we watched a movie together…
And we are
who loves each other,
and who eats well…
gets sick together too
and props each other up
these big shifts in life…
who guide each other
through the looming future.
And sometimes it takes the crucible of hard times,
or the catalyst of big changes
to see that
or be reminded of it.
We are a team
and we do well together
more often than we fail
and that’s worth noting.
It’s worth celebrating.
As a matter of fact,
as often as possible.
I have talked about this blog
being a vessel of positive
that when I started writing it
I made a conscious decision
to use this as a place to
Knowing that there are plenty of trolls on the internet,
and more than enough depressing pessimism.
I am not always jolly
and I don’t always write about easy stuff,
or good feelings…
but I think we can
lead an examined life
that is also a positive one
and that is a goal,
vision of mine…
That my better self
has a sense of humor
about being self-critical
and can be gentle about being critical of others…
and knows it’s necessary,
but also knows…
there is a way
to do it
and a way to reflect
that is helping us to know
we are okay
as much as it helping us
to be our better selves…
I was inspired and reminded of my
commitment to optimism
when I read this blog by Steve Wiens….
I am inspired to start
patting my parent self on the back
I hope you join me.
we are both students of theatre
so that has to be a factor
on some levels,
like many arts,
if you’re doing it right
is a vocation
in my music
and my writing
I work at playing too
and I play at working…
I was in the kitchen…
cleaning the thing
which we can’t decide
whether to call
a griddle or a skillet
so we call it a skiddle…
I was cleaning that
and I heard Jennifer say to the girls.
“You guys are working really well together…
you are playing nice.”
to the older girls
who were playing some math games
on the iPad.
I am just grateful that
I have partnered with
and get to co-parent
who, like me,
sees these things; “work” and “play”
as intertwined or symbiotic, if not actually one and the same…
who takes playing seriously and sees the fun in work.
Not long after Maya was born
I was talking with an acquaintance,
a guy who modeled at the art gallery where I worked.
(I got to meet some interesting characters in that job!)
I was talking about the idea that as much as I had wanted to be a dad
for nigh on 10 years
and that as much as we had prepared
by reading books
and watching movies
and talking to parents
our minds were still blown…
by becoming parents
and the responsibility…
the work of parenting
was particularly mind-blowing
in that it is work… it is Work.
but it is different than any other kind of work
i’ll ever do.
and the difference is ineffable
here I am trying to eff the ineffable…
but these are the places
my mind occupies
when I sit down
or maybe I should say
these are the things
that occupy my mind…
It is a unique work, and a work that relates to art making
in that it is creative
and born out of love,
at least under the best circumstances.
it is a work that most of us who do it
we feel obliged to or inspired to
It is a unique kind of
not free of resentment
but an commitment that comes with a tender reward
that can only marginally be expressed by the joy I feel watching the flicker of an eyelash and last final sigh before the rhythmic breathing of deep sleep settles in… or the ecstasy on the face of a mudcovered child… or the profound fear of watching a ball roll down the driveway, child in tow… knowing that I can’t get there in time and hoping that my voice does the trick… and the relief I feel when it does.
back to the story…
I was talking to this guy
who was not a parent…
But definitely was a dude
with an interesting perspective
a model, working on a degree
in ecology… sustainability in particular…
our previous conversations had ranged from
Carlos Castaneda, to Kurt Vonnegut…
and Pink Floyd to Complexity Theory…
This was in Eugene, Oregon, mind you,
a place where chances are high that your bartender has a PhD in Physics…
or is high on psilocybin…
So this shaggy, brainy male model and I were having a conversation on parenting and he recommended a book to me… the book was The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff…
A book not originally intended as a parenting book… but over time was adopted as one…
Many, many ideas from the book resonated with me, and as I have mentioned in the past, I don’t believe any book or author is a panacea, there is no magic recipe for any family, relationship or person… however… there are certainly lessons to be gleaned and important ideas to share and think about in so much of what is floating around…
So, of the many ideas that struck a chord with me – one of the prominent ones that applies to the ideas bouncing around in my brain today – is the notion that these indigenous tribes that Jean Liedloff spent time with had no concept of a distinction between work and play… they all just did what they could, with the faith that everyone was making a valid and significant contribution…
I should probably go look up that section of the book,
I may be characterizing it incorrectly
but it was something along the lines of they had no separate words for work or play…
We don’t live among the tribes of the Yequana Indians in the jungles of South America, so the reality is we can’t exactly mirror their lifestyle… but there certainly are lessons to be learned, and that knowledge can inform how we approach our work, and our play, and the work/play of raising kids.
By Danny Thomas
It’s St. Patrick’s Day…
We keep trying to make family traditions
for St. Patrick’s Day,
none of them stick.
In my head
it was always
a big deal with my family
We certainly always
ate a special meal.
If not corned beef and cabbage,
then something related.
Sometimes we went to see a film
an irish film
at some art house theatre.
My mom loves foreign films.
And art films.
We went to a lot of independent films
at art house theatres
when I was growing up.
It sometimes depresses me
when our holidays
do not jive with
the holidays I remember growing up.
and St Patricks Day…
I just need to give it time…
let the traditions develop…
let the family grow…
and create relationships…
with each other…
and with other families…
and those traditions will take
it takes work,
and decisive thinking,
on the part of the family,
to create the traditions.
It takes some effort.
And right now
is aimed at other things in our lives.
But there is time…
I keep coming back to this idea,
to this notion
of the difference
how we imagine things to be…
how we hope for them to be…
and the reality that they become.
This thought; that we have an ideal
or an expectation,
and sometimes the world matches it
if we’re lucky,
the world falls drastically short of our expectation.
Does it fall short,
or is it just different
than what we expected?
And wouldn’t it be worse,
to get everything you expect,
and know every bump down the road,
than rolling with
the ups and downs?
As much as it seems nice to have everything in place all the time,
the dreary monotony,
would be relentless.
I am more inclined
to find a way
my rattling cage.
My dad’s birthday is on Thursday.
it’s the first one
since he died.
The thing that
makes me most sad
is not that he doesn’t
get to have another birthday
(he was tired of them 10 years ago)
or even that I don’t get to wish him another happy birthday.
The thing that makes me saddest
is thinking about my mom
who, by default of her partnership,
and the traditions built in around
has had something to do
on March 21st
for the last 50 years
I wish we could be together this
I wish my brother could be there too…
All of us.
But this is another one of those bumps in the road.
This is one of those ways things are different than we expect…
this is one of the ways things change.
And embracing change
the stuff that
with the same
that brings us
By Danny Thomassomething that’s been on my mind
as a parent lately…
as my third baby turns one…
and the others plug along
and go through
all the things a first grader
should go through,
is how different each one of them is,
and how different each of our relationships is…
and I know
it shouldn’t be a surprise.
everyone tells you each kid is different.
and everyone talks about overcoming that expectation.
in the rational mind
it completely makes sense
I have been at a different point in my life
and thus a different person
as each of these children has come in to the world…
and each of them is very distinct
has different needs
and different ways of seeing and being in the world
each of our relationships is ever so distinct.
I can’t fight this feeling
that they should all be getting exactly the same things from me
somehow, by not relating to them in identical ways
and giving them equal and matching gifts,
I am doing them a disservice.
this is all brought to mind, of course,
by the fact that Zuzu,
the baby of the bunch,
just turned one…
and had no real party to speak of.
she got some presents,
some great presents,
that she loves.
and we went out to ice cream
which then led me to realize that
when the other two were turning a year,
not only did they get big(ish) parties…
they had groups of friends,
Lil’ Chaos had been in day care for about 4 months
and was part of a parent/baby group that we went to
as a family on a weekly basis…
‘Zilla had been in day-care from 5 weeks of age…
she was social.
Little Zuzu, all her friends are grown ups, or college kids…
and for no rational reason, I feel guilt for this, and many many other
the kid has more social stimulation within her family than the other two…
she is better than fine.
she is happy and thriving…
but because the parental reflex,
or at least my parental reflex,
I have guilt about this…
reasonably, I know…
they will all be different,
have different needs and expectations…
I guess the challenge is
to get my heart and head in sync
in this matter
to let go of that guilt
let the reasonable self
By Danny Thomas
my one year old
taught me something today
or stirred something
reminded me of something
some primal knowledge
that my body knows
that my heart knows
but that my silly samsaric mind forgets
as we wrapped up
after the shower
she looked up at me
bundled in her towel
and her eyes spoke so clearly,
slow down and hold me, daddy
so I put everything down
put everything out of my mind
put my phone in the other room
and held her…
and I’ll be damned if it didn’t feed us both
in our soul
to our core
as I sat there I thought
how is this something we
how is this something
we need to make time for?
this is the root.
this is the core.
this is how we love each other.
we hold each other.
this should just happen.
there are a million other ways
we love our children
and most of them are the things that get in the way of holding them too…
things that take time away from stillness…
isn’t that just the dichotomy?
isn’t that just the bitch of it?
but we must.
we must make holding our children
a main concern.
holding with intention.
physical tenderness while we let the rest of the world and its worries fall away.
it is good for us all.
the other bitch of it is
it requires not just intention on our part
we must be alert
to those moments
when they ask
not just with their words
but with their eyes
and their bodies
and their hearts…
it means we have to be patient
not just on our terms
when it fits
in between school
and video games…
but when it doesn’t fit…
for reminding me
what it’s all about
and giving me that
in your nursery
sharing that with me
as you fell to slumber
you asked me
just to sit with you
and not rush things
and not be distracted.
You asked me to focus on you
and be still with you
and that was pretty amazing
and a wonderful reminder.
now I need to make sure it happens with your big sisters too.
and your mom.
and the trees.
and the river.
and the sky.
and the moon.
and the mountains.
Somewhere along in the holidays … I think b’tween Christmas and New Year’s
I got really mad at a box of Glad 4 gallon garbage bags… this happens often… about every time I try to take one out of the box.
it is a stupid, stupid piece of product design… there is no way to get out a single bag… not even a way to rearrange the set up so that one can get a single bag without taking out the entire ball of bags… and of course each time you do this the thing gets messier and stupider…
just writing about it, my blood is beginning to boil…
at the time this happened I had been thinking
about the new year… you know self reflection… all that…
I spend a lot of time reflecting on myself…
probably too much,
as I write that it sounds pretty terrible…
let’s call it self examination…
I spend a lot of time doing that –
I don’t wait for the new year…
but putting a year to bed, one can’t help but take a look at stuff
like progress, and growth and goals.
one of the things that I struggle with…
that I have wrestled with my whole life I guess
and that I occasionally focus on, since a very clever therapist
pointed out that this might be a struggle for me,
is this idea of the shadow self.
I have written about it before
and my struggles in that regard…
Robert Bly wrote a great piece about it
and it comes from Jung…
and the idea is that we all have this darker side,
these emotions that have a cultural perception as dark: anger and rage, sadness, glumness that kind of stuff.
The next part of the idea is that, if we try to suppress those parts of ourselves, (this is basically Zen philosophy, I think) they will leak and bubble out in uncontrolled ways.
it is clear, in my life, to those who know me intimately, that I have this struggle with rage, certainly the box of Glad 4 gallon garbage bags is aware.
so anyway, when I was in therapy (I would still be in therapy if I still lived within proximity to my amazing therapist) one of the things we wanted to tackle was this rage… acupuncture really helped, but she also encouraged me to develop a relationship with my shadow self… to find an outlet for or at least acknowledge and accept my anger and sadness… and all those negative feelings.
Not sure if I have.
in fact, coming back to the moment, over the holidays, when I was exploding in the bathroom at the box of Glad 4 gallon garbage bags…
I went to Jen and began a diatribe that went something like this;
“I am done being Mr. Chipper, Mr. Thoughtful, I am going to write about things that piss me off, starting with this fucking box of Glad 4 gallon garbage bags. I have a lot to be angry about, damn it. My dad died of cancer, and not only is there a good chance that I will have the very same cancer, there is a good chance my kids will too, damn it… I am angry about the state of our country, and politics, and culture, and the economy, and the health of the planet…. and that’s just the start, I am writing about my anger damn it.”
She, very wisely, listened and said, succinctly, “okay.”
I have since, thought about it, and decided I was wrong…
When I started writing this blog, I made a decision, sort of a vow… I was not going to use it as a forum for anger, or complaining, or negativity… but as a platform for positivity, thoughtfulness, examination, and provocation… and I am going to stick to that. There are enough voices on the World Wide Web being pissy and shitty and complaining and being negative…
Occasionally I whine about my struggles, or bring up an issue with this or that thing out in the world, but I try to do it in a thought-provoking way, as an opportunity to examine some of my beliefs, or some cultural assumptions, rather than as a way to vent about a product, or a policy, or a person…
So, while I am still searching for a venue for my shadow self… (Maybe I’ll start a separate blog for him…) I am not going to spend a whole blog page complaining about how stupid the Glad 4 gallon garbage bags are; that would be a waste of time, and energy, and just one more crabby voice on the Internet. I would rather talk about growth and potential and questions, and balance and grace.
And here’s the thing, I do get mad, I say, “GOD DAMN IT! “ but, a few years ago, I would have screamed and yelled and torn that box apart or thrown it across the room. So it is an opportunity for me to see that I have grown, thanks for that, Glad 4 gallon garbage bags, I hope you change your packaging soon. And I know I will never buy another box of Glad 4 gallon garbage bags again.
By Danny Thomas
I haven’t written in a really long time
I’ve been “too busy living life”
The thing I have to get into my stubborn or lazy brain
Is that, for me writing is part of living life
So being too busy to do it
Just doesn’t make sense
I’ve practically been too busy to do my paying job
Is busy the word?
Busy cleaning up after sick kids
And being sick
And having medical procedures
And pondering time travel
And thoughts and thoughts and thoughts…
And oh the list…
There is so much on my mind
That writing, putting the thoughts to words…
feels like trying to funnel the sea…
There is this pain and joy and this mixture of them both…
There is time… and changes…
and the bittersweet impermanence of things.
These really are all I want to focus on…
And think about…
And sing about and write about…
And yet part of what makes that mixture exist is the wanting.
So I keep myself wanting?
So that at some point
I’ll have something to write about?
Is that all?
That seems way to simple…
That can’t be it…
There are other things I want.
And too many real, corporeal things, that truly obstruct my ability to achieve fruition…
As a writer,
Hell, as a human.
My wife and I are doing a major re-arrange and purge…
These things usually take three weeks or so…
I mean…the actual shifting of the plates…
The pressure has been building
On a tectonic level
The Feng Shui in our house has never been right.
But we’ve also never had the coinciding, time, gumption, energy, and wherewithal to make the massive adjustments required to settle in… we don’t really have all those things now, but we have crumbs of enough of them to make a go…
We have been in this house a year and a half… and really have never completely finished moving in… the point is, it takes a while…
Stages… planning, talking, re-talking, forgetting…
The frustration and joy of communication.
Then the actual movement comes…
The stairs, the snow, the lost pieces, blocked pathways, pinched fingers, and impossible angles…
The frustration and joy of change and objective action.
I’ve been down in the basement
Going through boxes of books – trying to reduce the stack of kid books by half…
Understand, there is a bookshelf of books in their room… the basement books are “on rotation.”
Two medium size moving boxes full – and two standard book boxes full…
I figure one of each of these is a reasonable reduction at this time
So I am sorting into a purge pile
And a “keep” pile..
Some are kept because I have not read them yet
Some because I’ve read them too many times
Some are tossed because they are too worn
Some kept because their scars are familiar and comforting.
And I came across a handful of books that are “Our family is having a new baby…” type books.
I was stunned… paralyzed.
I can’t even find the right words
To commit to paper
The onslaught of thoughts and emotions…
Get rid of this book? Yes? No? Why?
The flash of thoughts and emotions…
Jen told me she recently had a similar experience while organizing Zuzu’s closet…
The baby blankets…
Are they obsolete in this house?
Why do we keep these things…?
How do we know what we will need or not need?
Why is it so hard to let them go?
By: Danny Thomas
The only thing I can think to write about this week is gratitude.
My gosh, we are blessed.
What brings it to mind at this particular point in time is the fact that
I am being generously afforded the luxury of sitting on the couch and writing this blog by a friend who is holding my baby for me… who has spent the afternoon and evening with my kids… and is still enjoying their company enough to remain in our house, into the evening, and hold a semi-sleeping-sometimes writhing-probably teething baby…
Not only is she enjoying their company, she relishes it.
Thank you, Megan! Thank you universe!
And you know what?
Thinking about that puts me in mind of how, for the last 7 years… or 8… Jen and I have been fortunate enough to have generous, kind, dear, and beloved teachers, caregivers, friends, and family taking part in raising our kids.
From the moment we shared the news that Jen was pregnant with Lil’ Chaos our friends and family rallied around us… surrounded us with good food and good feelings… and we have been fortunate enough to have people in our lives throughout parenthood who have been both open-handed and big-hearted with our family.
I realize that not everyone is that lucky, and that some opt to hire extra-hands… but what a blessing it’s been, even just today to have someone give their time to our family so that Jen and I could take in an afternoon of theatre… do some household chores in the basement, uninterrupted and in relative calm, to have extra hands at dinner and bedtime, and to have someone here now, holding the child so that I may make a batch of brownies and write a blog.
It’s a reminder to think about all the blessings we have, that through life’s challenges and hardships, through all the stress and worry we are carried by the love of our loved ones…
Thinking of the kindness of the people we’ve known… and the people who’ve been brought in to our lives by our children, and those we already knew whose relationships with us have evolved and expanded to include our children too… fills my heart, it fills my heart.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the desperate moments and to spend our days focusing on what we don’t have, on things… and on times we miss or are missing…
But generous people and good relationships have worth without measure, and they keep us afloat, I have been, and will be grateful without end for the kindheatedness we’ve been shown.
This life is full of kindness and generosity of all stripes… these, I believe are moments of grace… little miracles… and they are there to remind us that even in the face of hard times love is the best response.