Middle School Run

by Tanya Ward Goodman

spelling bee

I ran in the Jog-a-Thon at my son’s school this morning for a bunch of reasons. I ran because this is the first year in a while that I’ve had two kids at two different schools and the boy’s school is getting the short end of the volunteer stick. I ran because the boy didn’t get any pledges on his fundraising card and I didn’t make any effort to help. I ran because he asked me to run and because I thought it would be what our elementary school principal calls a “memory maker.” I ran because I thought if I made the effort to be with him in this shared activity it might take the edge off the pre-teen anger and sullenness that runs through our house like a lava-mudslide-blizzard-tornado all hot and cold and fast and slow and deadly no matter what.

As you might imagine, in the company of his friends the boy was not as thrilled about our shared Jog-A-Thon experience as he was in the privacy of our kitchen. When I (because I am sometimes dim about these things) jogged right up to him, he shooed me away with a tiny hand movement. With no words, he was able to convey to me that I should either be very far ahead of him or very far behind. I was a little hurt. In fact I might have decided at that moment that I would run more laps than he did. I would crush him. And then I came to my senses.

Why in the world would he want to run with me? I was happy to see him run with his buddies. It was great to see them joking and laughing and doing funny walks. They bounced shoulder into shoulder and poured water on each other. They had a good time.

And so did I. I realized that I was running with a bunch of middle school kids in a way I did not run in middle school. When I was eleven, our gym class was made to run a weekly mile on a dirt road that ran directly underneath a cement plant. It was dusty and hot and I never was able to jog more than a few steps without resting. I was a reader, not a runner. I was an ice cream eater and a daydreamer. The runners were tall, slim girls with long, long legs. I would never be a runner.

But here I was thirty-five years later, running. As I completed each lap, I was given a red twist-tie. Every time I gathered another one, I felt happier. I wasn’t winded. You never know what is going to happen. You never know what you’re going to be capable of doing until you do it. It may seem small, but today, on an asphalt school yard, in the company of the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, I realized that while I will always be a reader, I’m a runner, too. And I was okay to do it alone and to let my boy do his running alone or in the company of friends as he saw fit.

My boy ran a lap or two at my side, dropping in and then peeling off, and it was as nice to have his company as it was to see him speed out in front of me. At the end of the Jog-a-Thon, we compared our lap totals. He finished two ahead of me and I could see that gave him pleasure. A memory was made for both of us.

Tanya Ward Goodman is the author of “Leaving Tinkertown,” published by the University of New Mexico Press.


The Bumpy Road

January 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Family, Kids, Urban Dweller


oh you know…

it’s like this…

here is the path i took to sitting down to write this blog


i put the toddler in her bed

moved the kindergartener from our bed to hers

checked on the suffering of the insufferable 8 year old

and flopped down next to my wife…

who was more exhausted than me

having spent the weekend casting

Much Ado About Nothing…

in addition to the usual stuff…


i started to talk to her,

to explain..

and justify my bedtime actions:

sticking to my guns,

being hardline,

so that i dont get pushed

to the point of

losing my temper.

letting the child

get emotional

and remaining

in control of my own…



my temper gets the better of me


like it did yesterday…


i feel like

a pretty crummy parent


a pretty crummy human being.


i looked up..

knowing that she knew all this,

but wanting affirmation,

of my actions…



or even a reprove.

she was snoring…


I gathered up my stuff…

notes from the week

playlists etc

writing supplies…(the computer)


came downstairs to the living room

went to the cupboard to find

the tylenol pm…


sometimes i go for the stress relief tea…

but sometimes i need a guarantee…


And my head hurt…

and there was a lot of stuff knocking around in there,

likely to keep me awake.


So as I reached up into the basket that holds the various remedies and medicines

my hand hit something sticky… something gooey and grapey.


I pulled down the basket to confirm that indeed…

childrens tylenol had leaked, spilled, upended…

slathering the entire basket with a viscous purplish, graying syrup.


so… there I was – ready to settle in to the evening

and write for an hour until the painkillers kicked in and took me to dozy, drowsy land

and instead what did i have before me but a goddamn



this is the way my week has been…


mishaps and misfires.

misunderstandings and crossed wires.


every time I come up with an on-the-fly solution…

a last minute wrench just fucks the whole situation even further.


i’m not sure what is happening – if it’s the cosmos…

or just a function of being too busy

hurried, harried, hassled…



i could make you a list.


the best example, other than the medicine basket,

is the leotard fiasco…


Wednesdays ‘Zilla has ballet at 6:10.

and Lil’ Chaos has piano at 6:15.

Somedays Jen is not busy,

and we split this up.

Otherdays i attempt to defeat the laws of physics

to be in both places on time.

I don’t know how we thought this schedule was possible…

i think we didn’t realize how often Jen was going to need to be somewhere or doing something.


Some Wednesdays we manage to feed the rugrats prior to all their cultural inculculation,

but more often than not, they get some apple sauce and/or a granola bar on the way,

and a sandwich or a bowl of soup before bed when we get home.


Wednesdays are hard.


This Wednesday had an added layer of complexity which involved Jennifer and I

misunderstanding each other about dinner plans with a friend/colleague visiting from out of

town, and not communicating very well about it.


As a result,

I waited until the last minute to pick Zuzu up from daycare… and neglected to feed the children –

though there was – as per our meal plan – roasted chicken and sweet potatoes available to them…


The latest possible pick up for Zuzu is 5:30pm…

The day care is only a few blocks away…

Much of the year – if we wait until 5:19 to leave the house – no sweat.

If we wait ’till 5:19 this time of year – we are pushing our luck.


Boots, hats gloves, coats…

these things take time to locate and apply…

but are necessary even for a car ride when windchill is pushing the temp to 20 below.


So the Elder two and I slammed out of the house in breakneck speed.

But in a stroke of inspriation I had everyone grab lesson supplies

‘Zilla had checked her dance bag for appropriate contents and it was slung over her shoulder

Li’l Chaos had her piano books…

I grabbed granola bars…

we’d be fine.


We’d arrive at the dance studio

early enough to change ‘Zilla there…

We’d have some time to relax – a few minutes at least.

And then we’d load up, leaving ‘Zilla in class,

to take Li’l Chaos to piano…


We even had time to accommodate Zuzu’s toddler rebellion..

Allowing her a good 5-8 minute protest about sitting in the car seat.


It was a masterful rejiggering of a sticky situation.


You’d think.


But the plan went to shit

when, at the dance studio changing room, ‘Zilla looked in her ballet bag and discovered it was

lacking a leotard or tights…


“What!?-Didn’t you look? I Thought you looked!”


(waitaminute dad, she’s five… she “checked her bag”)


oh well, nothing to be done. had to head home get the leotard – maybe we’d make it.

of course Zuzu was compelled to stage another protest…

my metaphorical tanks mowed her down

the car seat was Tiananmen Square,

I was riot police… with tear gas.

no time… sorry Zuzu.


So… still not having a clear understanding of what our evening plans were, and in need of

re-enforcements with the terrorist uprising in the toddler seat behind me, i frantically attempted

to call my wife…


who had just wrapped what sounded to be a slogging but significant needs assessment meeting

for her department. Needless to say, my frantic pleas were not what she was most in the mood to

hear and thus was not as receptive as I had hoped she’d be to my preternatural howling through

the phone…


she dug deep however…

I heard her take a breath and say, “I will find a leotard and tights for you.”

We had to cut the conversation off – the light changed – it was probly for the best.

But I needed  more…



i needed her to understand – the riot – the leotard – the ruined plan – i needed to know what was

happening – i needed her to jump in and help…


if only i had been as articulate in the moment as i was in that paragraph.


so it was like the leotard

and the purplegraysticky mess

all week


maybe all year…


maybe my whole life…



I have been thinking a lot

of this little bump

in the sidewalk…

it’s about halfway

to Zuzu’s daycare

I have been trying to figure out the

right context

to write about it

and thinking about it a lot.


The thing about it is this…


Back in July or August when we first started walking to the Daycare with Zuzu

She was pretty new at walking…


And that bump was a big deal

It caught her off guard

more than once.

Jumped out

and pulled her to the hard pavement

like a troll under a bridge.


But here is the key point.

On the days she did see it…

She would walk to it

check to see if it was still there

and stand on the fucker.


and celebrate.


Conquer it.


And pretty soon

she saw it more often than she tripped over it.

And so

most days,

had a reason to celebrate,

a little reason,

on the three block walk to school.


Ha! you didnt get me, bump.


And then…

Pretty soon after that

she didn’t even notice it anymore.


And as much as I was sad to say goodbye to those little celebrations…

I guess forgetting about it

is another form of conquering it



And so,

I guess the lesson to learn

from my toddler

is that, as trite as it may sound,

life really is full of bumps in the road

both literal and figurative.

And you will conquer them…

and then forget they were ever there.

They won’t even bother you anymore.

You may take your accomplishments for granted as you move on to new challenges,

but be sure to take a little time to celebrate the things you do right as you go.


Thanks Zuzu.

Once again.


Halloween with the Red Van Raiders

by Tanya Ward Goodman


I was in third grade and it was Halloween. A bunch of people had gathered at our house to eat and drink before heading out to trick-or-treat. My mother was dressed as a gypsy fortune-teller. She swirled around the house in satin skirts and a patchwork vest, dispensing red wine out of a big green jug. My father took one of his sign-painting brushes and painted “5¢” on the bare flesh just under her collarbone. He added an arrow pointing into her cleavage and then painted a half moon on her cheek. She stood very still while he did this.

My father didn’t usually wear a real costume – that is to say he didn’t dress up like a vampire or a clown or a goblin. He wore his standard uniform of paint-spattered blue jeans, cowboy shirt with pearl snaps and Tony Lama boots. Over all of this, depending upon the chill of the evening, he might throw a fleece and leather coat with silver arrows on the collar. He might wear a grey felt top hat or a brown derby or maybe the big black Stetson. In our house there were a lot of hats hanging from nails Dad pounded into the ceiling beams of the living room. There were lots of cattle brands burned into the floorboards. There was a stuffed moose head wearing wire rim spectacles and a big glass cage where our iguana ate bananas and spent all day and night under a 40 watt bulb. What I mean to say is that Dad didn’t need to think about what he was going to “be” for Halloween, because he’d already decided who he was going to “be” for life.

Halloween was a big night for my brother and I. We often started planning our costumes in August. With the late summer monsoon clouds filling the New Mexico sky, we thought ahead to that night in October when the air would be crisp and cold and filled with the scent of woodsmoke. We knew there would be a pot of chili on the stove and a tray of caramel apples. There might be candied popcorn or cookies sprinkled with sugar. There would be empanaditas – the little crescent moon pastries filled with green chile and cheese. There would be the gutting of pumpkins for jack o’lanterns and the salting and roasting of seeds. And then, there would be candy. Free candy. While we planned our costumes, we also planned what we would do with the candy. We strategized. We plotted. We knew there would be trading and stealing and most certainly a fight over baby Butterfingers and miniature Snickers. There would be elation and awe and gratitude for the gift of a full size candy bar. There would be bingeing and hoarding and stomachaches and the inevitable let down that is the first day of November when Christmas is far away and Thanksgiving has only pie to recommend it.

I was dressed as the Pink Panther this year in rosy fur and a paper mache mask that smelled of flour paste and newsprint. I was disappointed that the costume had turned out baggy and shapeless – more like a Pepto Bismol yeti than a panther. The mask was bulky and awkward and made it hard to see. The big muzzle weighed it down and pulled at my hair. With the fur hood over my head and the mask on my face I could feel sweat prickle on my scalp. I wished I had chosen a more beautiful costume. I wished I were more beautiful. I had a big crush on most of the boys trick-or-treating with us. It would not be untruthful to say I had a crush on all boys. I kept these crushes very secret. I had already read my way through the school’s SRA Reading Series. I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit in second grade. I was a smart girl. In my third grade mind smart girls were not boy crazy. They had more serious things to think about.

But I did think about boys. I thought about them the way I thought about store bought candy. They seemed as delicious and mysterious.

One boy was dressed as a Banshee, another as Big Foot. The Banshee was always losing the headpiece to his costume and Big Foot tripped constantly over his huge Styrofoam feet. The Banshee could draw any kind of animal, but was especially good at cats and hippos, which were my favorite. Big Foot had beautiful eyes and a sprinkle of freckles. He had a teepee permanently set up in the woods behind his house. In a perfect world, one of these boys would have taken my hand. In a perfect world, the Banshee’s grease paint would not have rubbed off on my pink fur and Big Foot would not have been so darned interested in my brother’s Matchbox Cars.

Bob Dylan was on the stereo and the grown ups were laughing in the kitchen. My aunt had wrapped herself in an old kimono from the closet and jammed chopsticks into her upswept hair. She rouged her lips. An impromptu Geisha.

“Are you ready?” My father bellowed. “Are you really, really ready?” He used his best carnival voice – the same one the midway ride boys working the Flying Bobs use when they ask, “Do you want to go faster?”

“We’re ready,” we screamed.

“Your chariot awaits,” Dad said ushering us all out the front door.

The Red Van sat in the driveway. This was Dad’s most recent set of wheels and my favorite ever. Dad bought the white delivery van used and had the whole thing spray-painted fire engine red. He cut a hole in the roof and installed a Plexiglas dome on top. Inside, he built wooden cabinets to hold his brushes and paints and added a sleeping platform covered with a thick foam mattress and patchwork quilts. There were velvet pillows and dangling crystals. There was a glass eye glued to the gearshift and plastic dinosaurs parading across the dashboard. Two big doors at the back swung wide and we all clambered aboard.

“Don’t forget your hat,” the Banshee’s mother cried.
“Have you got your feet?” Big Foot’s mother asked.

We had hats and feet and masks and paper bags to fill with candy. What we didn’t have were seat belts or even seats. The adults lounged on the mattress and the kids all crawled underneath the platform. We were squashed together in the dark with the smell of turpentine and enamel paint, wine and caramel. The engine revved and someone slammed the back door shut. We bounced up the driveway and onto the road. The night had begun.

This was no neighborhood to wander in careful groups. There were no sidewalks, no crosswalks, no streetlights and no close gatherings of houses. Trick-or-treating in the mountains meant driving down darkened driveways, up winding roads and rambling for miles in search of a lit pumpkin. We hit the Tiltons, the Mullendoors, the Chesters, the Fullertons. We tumbled out at the Houseman’s to find giant tombstones set up in the front yard and the soundtrack of wolves cranked on the stereo. At stop after stop, my father flung open the back doors of the van and we poured out, shouting and running, up the wooden boardwalks and gravel paths and dusty driveways. We opened our bags to receive chocolate, gummy skeletons, orange jawbreakers, candy corn. We opened our bags to popcorn balls and home made cookies in little wax paper bags. Back in the van, we peeled foil wrapping and sunk teeth into marshmallow and crackle.

“More?” my dad asked.
“More!” we shouted. “More.”

In the van, under the platform, the sway of the road jounced me into the Banshee one moment and into Big Foot the next. What if, what if, what if one of them opened their arms to catch me? My heart beat hard beneath pink fleece. My face felt hot and red under my mask. If I’d been a fortune-teller, I might have painted my lips, made them ready for kissing. I might have had skirts to swish and swirl and long, mascaraed eyelashes to flutter. The Pink Panther costume was for kids. It had been a bad choice – so frumpy and unromantic.

“Have you got your hat?” The Banshee’s mother shouted.
“Where are your feet?” Big Foot’s mother asked.

Dad pulled the van into the parking lot of the Bella Vista Restaurant. I could smell the all-you-can-eat fish and chicken from the parking lot. We teemed up the steps behind my father.

“It’s a restaurant,” I said. “Will they let us trick-or-treat?” I wanted to believe they would and that no one could say refuse my father, but I was also worried that this place with its white table cloths and fancy folk from up the city would not have us.

“Of course they will,” Dad said. “We’re the Red Van Raiders. We’ll take them by storm.”

At the bar, my father ordered a beer and the hostess filled our bags with starburst mints from the bowl by the cash register. A waiter brought a plate of French fries. We jostled against each other, shifting the hot fries from hand to hand. We pilfered wrapped toothpicks that tasted of mint.

My dad draped an arm over my shoulder and raised his beer in a toast.
“To the Red Van Raiders,” he said. “To you, daughter.”

I looked around to be sure that Big Foot and the Banshee could see that my father was the leader of the Red Van Raiders. He’d given them membership in something so great and powerful that a restaurant would give us food for free.

We tumbled out of the restaurant and back into the van, teeth chattering, tongues flapping, elated by our success. All night, we’d been welcomed, heralded, celebrated. Our paper bags bulged with treats, our breath was sweet with sugar already consumed. No boy held my hand that night, but I felt embraced by the world, filled to the brim with sweetness and excitement. Next year I might wear skirts and paint my lips, but for now, this, this was more than enough.


halloween 2nd gradeTanya Ward Goodman is the author of “Leaving Tinkertown,” published by the University of New Mexico Press


A Father and Bedtime

October 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Urban Dweller

By Danny Thomas
487949_10153128667860187_451789761_nits time to write
part of the reason that I have not written recently
is that I have been trying to figure out how to make up for lost time
how to catch the blog up
well it aint gonna happen

here’s the thing

between the new life of working full time at an amazing job,
and having an incredibly busy and wickedly smart toddler,
with two amazingly active and outrageously clever big sisters,
and an unbelievably driven admirably ambitious spouse,
all of whom eat on dishes and wear lots of clothes that need to be washed,
I’m having a slightly hard time balancing all these blessings…
and saving time for a creative life.

I haven’t sat down to write a blog or a song in 3 months.

It’s not as painful as I thought it’d be, I’m too distracted or tired to spend too much time dwelling on it…

What happens is – on the rare occasions when I’ve cleared the decks and I have a bit of me time , I spend it either exercising or with a cocktail and whichever episode of Skins or Louie I happen to be on…

I will just pick one of the bloggable highlights from the last three months…
as a sort of post-cardy attempt at catching this blog up on summer, and back to school and the astounding development of this lovely family…

a few weeks ago I was a little uptight at bedtime…

maybe more than a little…

there are nights when I get wound up
at bed time
largely due to my own choices;
waiting too late to start bedtime,
not checking on the room before we head in to read stories,
(I have a hard time putting them to bed in a cluttered mess)…

sometimes though I get pushed to the edge because it takes
the rugrats far too long to settle…
and it turns in to a game.

with Lil Chaos it’s an ancient pattern that we found ourselves in when she was just a toddler…
It became a power struggle at an early age and there are still some remnants of that struggle hanging on…

at any rate, on this particular night,

I lost it…

I basically jumped right to mutually assured destruction,
I went nuclear..
without sending in ground troops or firing a warning shot…
I came in to the room,
saw clutter,
I was tired,
and began grumbling
and was never able to get myself to zero
so that
when things finally got tidy and I was ready to read
and Lil’ Chaos started to kick and fuss and flop around in her bed

I walked out

and told them they’d have to put themselves to bed.

I’m sure there are plenty of parents who believe a 5 and 7 year old should be putting themselves to bed all the time.

I love bed time these days.

It is our time.

Certainly, Jen will tell you, there are times when I need a break.
When I wish I had the gear to nurse the little one to sleep if she’d have me.
but most of the time, we are reading great books
and chilling
and having interesting chats

it is a good together time
and I feel it is part of the foundation I am setting with the girls for
communication and openness…


not this night.

The thing that sucks
when we reach the “no story time” consequence
is that we all pay the price.

In a big way.

When they lose my help with bedtime,
it becomes a protracted,

This night I was stuck
not wanting to deal with the saga
and wanting to stick to my guns.

my blessed daughter,
Lil’ Chaos,
in all her wisdom,
gave me an out…

as I was storming out,
grumbling about the endless
and socks and underwear
and Barbie clothes on the floor
and the piles of crap on every flat surface…
and the kids’ inability to be calm in bed…

I heard my words,
probably my fathers words,
come out of my daughters mouth…

“Will you stop for a minute and listen to me?”

her clear, calm, adult tone jarred me out of my preoccupation…


“I have three ideas for you Dad, three ways you wouldn’t have to get to this point.”


“Start with smaller consequences; like, say this is the last page or last three pages or something, instead of not reading at all, take away pages or chapters instead of the whole book…”


“don’t let yourself get so mad about all this stuff… count to ten, take a breath…walk out of the room for a minute…“


“and you could just ignore me.”

It worked.

On so many levels – she convinced me – she came up with good ideas…
and also showed me that something is making a connection in there.
That, not only is she absorbing all the crap I spew daily,
she is able to volley it back to me and school me with it…

all three of my kids have had at least one or two moments like this,
in the last few months
showing me incredible levels of development and maturity…
over the course of this big transition…

from summer to fall,
no school to school,
pre-k to kindergarten,
1st to second grade,
at home to full time day care,
part time worker stay at home dad,
to full time worker,
summer “off” to back to teaching.

But lets face it we are perpetually transitioning
life as we know it is an endless tunnel of transitions…
There is not an end “thing” to become…
We don’t transform from chrysalis to butterfly
because it doesn’t stop
until we are dead…

and maybe not even then.

As soon as you think there is some routine to settle in to…
the lawnmower breaks,
and your car needs a new clutch,
and ballet gets traded in for taekwondo,
or something bigger…

At this point I am convinced it is more about
perpetually becoming a butterfly…
or finding your butterfly self in each moment.


Let Us Number Our Minutes

September 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Ann Brown, Family

By: Ann Brown


What with Yom Kippur being just around the corner, I have taken a moment to reflect upon my life. And so, in the spirit of numbering my days, I have gone back and calculated a few things.

I present to you, my Jewish year 5773 in minutes:

Minutes I spent this year telling Robin I don’t want a dog, under no circumstances should he bring home a dog, and fuck him if he gets us a dog: 287.

Minutes it took me to love Phila: 1.

Minutes to forgive Robin for bringing home a dog: I’ll let you know.

Minutes it took Phila to retrieve my brand new Wacoal bra from the dirty clothes hamper and then bury in the backyard when I wasn’t paying attention: 2

Minutes I spent crouched under my bedroom window listening to the gardeners laugh and discuss my bra when they found it under the lilac tree the following week: 45.

Minutes I had to spend hearing them say, “ai yai yai, es por una ballena”: 50

MInutes I died from embarrassment when I looked up the word “ballena” and found that it does not mean “ballerina”, as I had hoped, but instead, means “whale”: 7

Minutes I have spent this year waiting for the fucking printer to print: 5,000.

Before I realized that it wasn’t connected to my computer: 5,002.

Minutes I have spent this year in the cracker aisle deciding between regular Wheat Thins and Reduced Fat Wheat Thins: 1,250.

Pounds I have lost due to eating Reduced Fat Wheat Thins: zero.

Minutes I have spent this year attempting to balance on one foot and put one foot into my underpants and not fall over: 36500.

Minutes I have spent this year figuring out if my bra was inside out or right side in before I wrapped it around my waist to put it on: 365 x 4.

Minutes I have spent this year trying to hook my bra from the back: 400,000,000,000.

Minutes I have spent this morning hoisting my bra around to the back and then up to my boobs after finally just hooking it in front like an old lady: shut up.

MInutes I have spent this year looking for my phone to see if I’ve missed any calls: 10,000.

Calls I have returned after I see I’ve missed them: zero.

Minutes I have spent this year hiding while watching someone I know come to my front door, knock, and finally go away: 30

Minutes I have spent this year doing Pilates: zero.

Minutes I have spent this year looking for rogue old crone chin hairs on my face: a million.

Minutes I have spent this year in front of the bathroom mirror, tucking my arm flab in to see what my arms would look like without the flab: 100.

Minutes I have spent this year doing arm exercises: 1

Minutes I have spent this year worrying about melanoma: 674,344,980,000,000,001

Minutes I have spent in the sun this year: 674,344,980,000,000,000

Minutes I have spent this year in the shower not remembering if I’ve already washed my face: 3500.

Minutes I have spent during sex this year thinking about the new bathroom tiles: 22.

Minutes I have spent during sex this year thinking about my hair: 28.

Minutes I have spent during sex this year thinking about the situation in Syria: 11.

Minutes I have spent during sex this year thinking about sex: 1,000.

Minutes I have spent during sex this year thinking about food: 999.

Minutes I have spent during meals this year thinking about sex: zero.

Minutes I have spent this year ordering the same sleeveless linen blouse from JJill this year because I forgot I already had the exact same one in my closet: 4.

MInutes I have spent staring at my dog today while trying to write this post: 331.


The Fifty Percent Solution

July 31, 2013 by  
Filed under Ann Brown, Family, Urban Dweller

By: Ann Brown


Oh my GAWD. Robin is such a baby.

All I said to him yesterday was, “About 50% of the time, I wish you were dead”, and he cannot let it go. All day long – at the hardware store, at lunch, at the river – he’s all, “really? You wish I was dead?” And then I’d have to go over it again: “Nooooo. I said that 50% of the time I wish you were dead. Jesus. Do you even listen?”

God. He’s like idiot.

We ran into our friend Nancy Levine at the grocery store. We haven’t seen her in a long time. I was about two seconds into my hugging her and Robin breaks us up, taps Nancy on the shoulder and says to her, “Ann wishes I was dead.”

Talk about your mellow harsher. No wonder he has only, like, a hundred FB friends. The man needs to get over himself.

Nancy smiled that smile you give someone when you aren’t quite sure if they are going to set themselves on fire or something. Robin – and I give him credit for this – quickly added, “but only 50% of the time.”

Nancy let out a sigh of relief and said, “Oh. Well, sure. Who hasn’t wished that?”

Frankly, I’m still not certain if she meant “who hasn’t wished their own husband was dead 50% of the time”, or if she was saying “who in the world hasn’t wished ROBIN was dead 50% of the time?” but I kept my mouth shut because either way, the conversation was going my way. Plus, I’ve met her husband. He seems nice enough but after a few decades, I bet he gets on her nerves and she has to work off her vitriol. I see her around the hood, running. Running. In the rain. In the heat. She’s in incredible shape.

During sex last night, Robin was huffing and puffing and he said, “don’t worry. I’m almost at, like, 70% dead right now.”

You know, I am beginning to regret ever sharing my feelings with him. Now he’s making this all about him. “Oh, Ann wants me to die”, “Wah wah, my wife wishes I was dead, poor me”. And I have to keep patiently reminding him: Only fifty percent of the time.

I am like a saint, right?

He looked at me with wounded eyes. He was probably thinking, “what kind of she-devil did I marry? Who talks like this to their spouse?” And then he probably starting thinking about his old girlfriends, none of whom would have ever thought about his death, much less say it out loud. He probably wondered where they are now, and if they might be on Facebook and what their boobs look like. Hah. Dude, we’re all rounding 60 years old. We know what their boobs look like. Let it go. I’m sure they have.

He said, “is it so you can marry another man?’”

Oh my God. I laughed so hard I almost stabbed myself with my pitchfork. Men don’t get it.

“No,” I explained. “Why would I want to do that? Another man? More pee on the toilet seat? Another blow job I have to give?”

“Then why?” He asked.

“Well, because.” I said, “You know. Just because. It would be kinda neat. For a change up.”

He considered that for a moment.

“Couldn’t we just go on separate vacations or something? Do I have to be dead?”

Well, I just couldn’t upset him any more, so I agreed to separate vacations. Fine. No death. It’s a compromise.

Because they say that marriage is a fifty/fifty deal. But I really know what that means.


A Mouse in the House

by Tanya Ward Goodman


The mouse is named “Candy Corn.” He is grey on the top and bottom with a white middle. When we first saw this mouse, my daughter proclaimed in very passionate tones that he was “the mouse of her destiny.”

In the words of Taylor Swift : “Trouble, trouble, trouble…”

“We have a dog,” I said. “A dog that really needs to be walked and fed.”
“But this would be my own pet,” my daughter said. “I would take care of him and train him to live in my pocket.”

Because I’ve recently set some mousetraps in the basement, I worried about what might happen if this pocket training exercise failed.

“We have to talk to your Dad,” I said. I acknowledge that I totally and completely took the easy way out by saying that. I knew for a fact that my husband was going to close down this discussion pronto. As an added bonus, he would look like the bad guy while I would come off as simply non-committal.

When my husband opened our door, our daughter jumped on him.

“Mom said we could talk about getting a mouse. He’s the best mouse. The most perfect mouse…”

My husband wondered if he could come inside before he thought about adding a member to our family. He wondered if he could take off his jacket and put away his bag. He wondered if it could wait until after dinner.

Our daughter grew stormy. The emotional clouds gathered, but they did not let loose their store of tears. A minor developmental miracle. But she did not relent. The mouse was ideal. The mouse was her soul mate, her best friend, her animal totem. The mouse was needed.

My husband wavered. It was hard to remain strongly against the mouse when the movement FOR the mouse was so intense, so heartfelt. We sent our daughter up to get her pajamas on and when she was gone, we huddled.

“Why not?” he said to me out of the corner of his mouth.

I shrugged. We’ve had small pets before. Two hamsters, “FlowersHeartsandStars” and “Sunshine” were short-lived furry friends. Their deaths left me strangely bereft.

“These things hit you hard,” my husband said. “This mouse might not live very long.”

“Mice live for three years,” our daughter called down from upstairs. It must be said, her hearing is very good.
“This is the kid we’ve got,” my husband said.

This is a kid who saves bees from drowning, who rescues mosquitoes from the bathroom and sets them free into the night. She mourns the death of an earwig. She recently asked to clean out the garage in the hope that we might turn up a rat. She’s decided that when she grows up, she’ll find nearly extinct animals and keep them safe until they have babies and then release them back into the world. She wants a horse and a cat and a bunny and a mouse. The mouse will leave the daintiest of footprints on our house – the mouse is basically a fish with fur. Why not a mouse?

My husband thinks we should wait until morning to tell her that her wish has been granted. He wants her to learn the value of patience, but me, I’m the kid who eats the marshmallow right away. Why prolong the moment when we can be the beneficiaries of her complete and total love? Why wait? Besides, what if some python owner buys Candy Corn for snake food? We can’t risk it.

Our daughter’s screams are joyful. Her hugs are fierce.

And our family has one more member.


Sticks and Stoned

July 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Ann Brown, Family

By: Ann Brown


Nina and David are coming up to visit next week. And may I just say, YAHOO.

We have begun planning. Nina emailed this morning to say that all she wants to do is lie around on the back deck chaise lounges and eat sushi. I am exceedingly relieved to hear that because last year, she and David started each morning at 7AM by going to the nearest gym for a workout. Then they wanted to get out and experience all that the Pacific Northwest – and life – offers. That was a long weekend for me.

I am, however, in a water aerobics class this summer so I don’t have to feel like such a workout loser in front of them. But I’ve only had two classes and frankly, the pounds and inches are not dropping off as quickly as I had hoped. Nina and David might not even notice that I have worked out for two hours already this summer. Unless they are reading this post. Which I don’t think they do. Being so busy experiencing life and being at the gym and all. I really don’t know what I see in them.

Last year when they visited, we instituted a new tradition: Morning Fire and Truth Circle. It was mostly just sitting around the back deck, hungover, in the morning, staring at the still-burning embers in the outdoor fireplace and finishing up the hooch from the night before, but I like to give things Capitalized Titles. And calling our new tradition Fell Asleep Drunk In My Own Vomit Last Night On The Back Deck lacks a certain, I don’t know, heft.

Truth Circle needs its fake, weenie, wannabe Native American props. So I found a twig, which we christened The Talking Stick, and reminded everyone of The Rules: One may speak only when one is holding the talking stick. I suppose Native American babies are born understanding this but middle aged Jewish adults needs remediation. Our people is not a patiently waiting for our turn to talk kind of people. We are more of a pretending we are listening to the other person but really just formulating our next comment in our heads sort of folk.

My family had tried using The Talking Stick a few years ago when we were embroiled in a heated argument about using the term, “gypped” (from “Gypsy”. Which is derived from “Egyptian”. So it’s twice offensive). My family tends to interrupt and yell and bang our shoes on the table during polite discussion, so my sister grabbed the kitchen broom and declared it The Talking Stick, hoping to restore Native American grace, order and courtesy to our brawl.

It worked for about three seconds. Then one of my kids realized we have TWO kitchen brooms. And Alia grabbed a spatula. You can see where this is going. In the end, all seven of us were screaming at each other, making our points, arguing everyone else’s points and holding on to our person Talking Sticks – mop, Swiffer, you name it. My Talking Stick was a colander. Which I used to cover the face of the person who tried to talk when I had something to say. Ah, the gentle traditions of the Native Americans.

I know it sounds odd that we would have been arguing over the topic of using an offensive term. I mean, it’s not like any of us was in favor of being culturally insensitive; it’s not like when we had a family fight over whether or not it’s appropriate to interrupt someone in order to correct their grammar. Which it totally is. Because people should know. Yes, they should. Shut up. No, you shut up.

Where was I? Oh, right. Nina and David.

We will probably have to institute The Talking Stick when Nina, David, Robin and I make our daily plans, as there are issues such as which winery to visit and whether or not we’ll use low-sodium soy sauce on the sushi, and the four of us are pretty opinionated. David suggested in his email that we allow filibustering this time but I told him that I am not certain I can stand for eleven hours without leaning against or holding onto something. And then David suggested that I could hold on to his, um, Talking Stick. His exact words were: I’ve got something you can hold onto.

I generally scoff when David works blue, but I have to admit I laughed at his offer. And then I pointed out that he ended his sentence with a preposition.


The Old Ladies And The Sea

July 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Ann Brown

Ann Brown


Sometimes – coming out of the shower and catching a glimpse of my naked self, for instance – a great notion is born. Like, to get rid of mirrors in the bathroom. Or blind myself with an ice pick.

Last week, however, I had a new notion:

A water aerobics class at my friend Andrea’s pool! By invitation only! Members hand-picked by me!

The requirement to join was that each invitee had to prove self-loathing in a bathing suit. And I had to believe them. None of that ersatz self-deprecation hiding some, “I love my big, beautiful body” crap. Self-acceptance bugs the shit outta me. Life is too short to hang with people who are happy with themselves. Or with others. Or pretty much anyone, really.

I told Andrea, “I am going to invite a bunch of old fat women to your pool. You may not come out of your house. Your children will have to be blindfolded. And your husband better not get near any windows or I will kick his ass.”

Now, Andrea’s husband is about as buff as they come. I couldn’t kick his ass even if he were already dead. But Rich is Jewish and Korean. I knew he’d stay away. He knows better than to fuck with a strong woman.

And so it began.

Three of us descended into the shallow end of Andrea’s pool last Tuesday. Two of us came out an hour later, as I was still stuck in the deep end, wrapped around my styrofoam noodle, desperately flutter-kicking my way back, trying to hold onto the fucking useless “shelf bra” that had disengaged itself from the blouson top of my bathing suit when I was showing off by attempting to stand on the submerged noodle so it would pop itself – and me – up in a spectacular Esther Williams-esque finale to the first class. I sort of have a problem with showing off when I am feeling insecure. It never ends well for me but I never seem to learn.

We did a lot of laughing, the three of us that first morning. We did a little less laughing this morning because One Of Us made a careless comment last Tuesday that the workout wasn’t so difficult, so our teacher amped up the aerobics part of the experience this morning and we didn’t have much extraneous breath for laughter. Last Tuesday, the only time things got serious was when Roberta told Helene about the pork won tons at a new Chinese restaurant downtown. I have never seen such a serious look on Roberta’s face. And we’ve discussed the Holocaust together.

I have no idea what the instructor thinks of us. She is a cute young thing; we are, perhaps, the first Jews she’s ever met and we are certainly the least athletic students she has ever had. I would like to believe, however, that we are the most willing students she had ever had, being as she tells us to get on our noodles and start kicking and, by God, we do it. For a few seconds. Until we get tired. Or I think of something funny to say. Or Roberta has to pee. Roberta is the Bad Girl in class. She’s our Pinky Tuscadero, pretty much doing whatever the hell she feels like doing in the pool (I can only hope it’s not peeing). Helene is vying to be Teacher’s Pet, I think. She got all giggly and shit this morning when the teacher told her that she was keeping her elbows tucked in nicely during the arm exercises. She turned around to make sure we all heard that she had been singled out for commendation. Yes, Helene. You are the best student in the class.But watch your back. Roberta could fuck with your noodle.

Shit gets real in old lady water aerobics class.


A Dad Dealing With Change

July 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Urban Dweller

by: Danny Thomas



it’s been way too long since I’ve posted…
I’ve been trying, believe me, I’ve been trying.
it’s a combination of this new life using up all my time and wearing me out,
and the million billion things having this new life makes me want to write about…

but i have been letting these things block me for too long –

I am just going to try let it all out today in any fashion possible organized or not…. and unblock…

with the hopes that I can work to fit writing into my schedule again – even though so much of it is filled now with working…

sometimes the best way for me to deal with a million billion things – especially things as peripatetic as thoughts -

is to make a list,

so that’s what I am doing today to liquidplummerize my writing and get back into a cycle…

some of the million billion thoughts, in bullets… they are almost all contradictory…
• I am finally having to grow up, put the big boy pants on and carry some economic burden.
• it sucks to grow up
• its great to grow up
• its nice to support my family in this way
• it feels good to relieve my wife of some of our economic stress
• its hard to support my family in this way
• it does not feel good to have the pressure of supporting my family factor in to how I feel and think about my job performance
• I am not built to work like this
• I should be making art and music and writing
• I can do anything I set my mind to
• It takes time, practice, learning and patience
• this is a great job with lots of interesting challenges
• its fun and hard and exhausting learning new stuff
• learning new stuff=making mistakes=emotional roller coaster
• I need therapy
• I need acupuncture
• I need a massage
• emotional roller coasters are hard
• learning new stuff, making mistakes, overcoming hardship, enjoying challenges = good things to model for my kids
• working full time makes me miss my kids a lot during the day
• missing my kids a lot during the day makes it easier to put up with a lot of their shit on the evenings and weekends
• we really play hard and relax hard and our togetherness is more together now that i work full time
• it is hard to fit exercise in to this full time work life
• it is hard to fit a creative life in to this full time work life
• it is hard to get the laundry done
• it is hard to keep up with the dishes
• the kitchen floor is gross
• the dining room floor is gross
• the stairs need to be vacuumed
• I can barely read more than 3 pages of any book at night – including Winnie the Pooh, to my kids – before my eyes slam shut.
• it has been hard to learn how to work from home and sometimes hearing my kids in the house and not being able to go to them, or hearing my wife get hassled by the kids and not being able to come to her aid – is like torture
• shifting from part-time, non-profit, artsy jobs for the last ten+ years to a more than full time, corporate, sciencey, start-up job is a major culture shock
• add to that working from home and the work itself…
• this process been layer upon layer of multitudinous learning curves
• I wish I could talk to my dad about all this
• his job 30 years ago was a lot like what I do now…
• he was training people to use computerized accounting systems
• I am training people to integrate accounting systems and put those systems on the cloud…
• cats in the cradle…
• my dad would have a lot of thoughts on dealing with the internal turmoil of being a poet type person who has to “punch the clock” as it were – to make ends meet.
• there are so many things about this job that are great and interesting and unique…
• it is a great fit for a creative person in many ways
• there is so much opportunity to be innovative and imaginative and problem solve
• and work with people…
• and there is also this voice in the back of my head doubting if I can hack it
• and also questioning if it is the right place for me
• it might be the same voice…just…disguising itself…

i am so glad i have my family.


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