Wednesday, November 28

Nano Beckons

I have 2 days, 3 hours, 20 minutes, and 20, no 19, no 18, no 17 seconds left to write 4,553 words, which would be fine if I had even one--just one--child-free moment in daylight hours. I do not. And, in this month of November, I have: written two profiles, one book review, copyedited a 400-page novel, made my holiday cards (which is only a big deal if you've seen the holiday cards I make), hosted Thanksgiving, planned a Hanukkah party, completed my holiday shopping, and so far, written 45,447 words. So bite me if you don't understand while tonight's blog is paltry. I give you here a little randomness:

  • Does Steve ever think, "For God's sake, Blue, just f'ing tell me what you want instead of making me play stupid games every damn time!"
  • I made chili-topped baked potatoes. Adam sat down and said, "I'm really not hungry." Pie ate six slices of red pepper dipped in dressing. Doodles said, "All I'm having for dinner tonight is milk." Anyone else out there hungry for chili (homemade!) topped potatoes?
  • My daughter is the devil.
  • For Thanksgiving dinner Doodles ate one crescent roll, three crackers with peanut butter, and chocolate cake that was shaped like a turkey.
  • Overheard statement that I decided to not investigate: Adam, giving the kids a bath: "Doodles, don't do that. God made your p*enis just the right color."
  • And actual, true argument between my son and a friend that I had to referee tocoday: "Jenny? Doodles just said that my bathroom at home doesn't have a bathtub, but it does!"
  • Thanksgiving was nice, but things didn't really heat up till Pie, Doodles, and I found the Styx concert on PBS. Even though Doodles ordered me, "Don't sing!" I could help but hum along. Man, Paradise Theater is all an album should be!

Oh, damn! 2 days, 3 hours, 1 minute, and 14... no 13... no 12... no 11...
Gotta write!


Saturday, November 24

For Tara

Day 24 of Nanowrimo (challenge: use ""After so many of years of trying to NOT get pregnant who knew it would be so hard to GET pregnant?! Who knew that there are really only about 48 hours of each month in which most of us can get pregnant? Why didn't they teach us about our fertility limitations during health class? I feel like you're in a club in which I long to belong -- the mommy club"):

“I have a brother.” I sat back down and took a sip of my martini. Not bad. Not the best I’d ever had—just a splash too much of vermouth for that—but good enough. “I have a brother. An older brother.”

“Older brother?” My mom looked genuinely confused. “I never figured for that.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

My mom smiled guiltily. “Well, I guess I used to fantasize a little about your birth mom.”

“You did?” I asked, rather shocked.

“Yes.” My mom laughed just a little. “I pictured her as a very young woman—pregnant with you as a teenager. She’d find us one day and look at what a wonderful young woman you’ve become—”

“Not so young any more,” I interrupted.

“These fantasies happened a long time ago,” my mother teased. ”But she’d look at you in awe and tell me that she did the right thing in giving you up, that she was happy I raised you.”

“This is eye opening,” I said.

“What can I say?” My mom sipped at her wine. “I think there was some guilt in your adoption. It happened so fast, and I knew nothing about the birth parents. I always felt a little like it was too good to be true, like I was stealing you away. I always wanted reassurance that I was indeed the better parent for you.”

“Mom—” I started, but she stopped me.

“No, no. I’m not looking to you for reassurances. Those days were such a blur and so devastating. I spent all those years—so many of them!—trying not to get pregnant. Who knew it would then be so hard to get pregnant? The things your father and I did—”

“Um, do I really want to know?”

She shrugged. “You’re thirty-two years old. Surely you know by now your father and I have sex.”

“Had sex. Exactly twice. Once when you didn’t get pregnant with me and once when you did get pregnant with Jocelyn.”

“Alisa, I’m trying to have a serious conversation with you here.”

“I know. And I know I’m a grown-up. But the idea of you and Dad having sex is still a vastly unappealing one. But go on. I can take it.”

“I tried acupuncture and herbs—which weren’t very easy to come by in the 70s—I measured my temperature and check for discharge. Did you know that there are really only forty-eight hours in the month when you can get pregnant? They didn’t teach me that in my high school health class. I remember when your aunt, Della, got pregnant. She was three years younger than me and she and your uncle Seth had only been married for three months. They hadn’t even been trying! When Jason was born, I felt like there was some secret mommy club and Della got to be a member but I was being blackballed. I wanted in so badly.”

I took my mom’s hand from across the table and gently rubbed it with my thumb. “I know,” I said softly.

“So when the opportunity to adopt you came up, I jumped at it. I didn’t ask questions, didn’t want to wonder why it was all happening so quickly. I just wanted to be a mother. Later, I started to imagine things. Why did she give you up? Did she miss you? Who was she? I guess, I’m just telling you that I fantasized about your birth mother, too, I had pictured her in my mind. Another child never entered the picture. So, what’s this big brother of yours like?”


Friday, November 23

For Karin

Day 23 of Nanowrimo (challenge: use "Does a person make people?"):

How is it some things I remember in such vivid detail, yet others fade away. And it’s always the minor details I remember, the little facts that are so unimportant. I remember my room perfectly: it was a pantheon to gender neutrality. Both my parents were determined that I not be biased by a plethora of pink and dolls and frou frou. I had metal brackets in the walls and plain wooden boards as shelves that were painted green. My walls were a light blue with a thick yellow stripe going around the top of the entire room. Those shelves were filled with Lincoln Logs, Legos, cars and trucks. I always wonder if my girliness today—my love of high heels and pretty lingerie and, yes, the color pink—is just a natural inevitability, a genetic fact, or a reaction to my upbringing. Boy do I remember coveting that massive Barbie head that you could put makeup on and style the hair. Barbie, it goes without saying, was verboten in our house.

The shelves were lined with books—all my favorites, including Amelia Bedelia, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and Nate the Great. But I also held, what I later called, “adoption armory,” the books that my parents and I would turn to again and again: Adoption Is Forever; I Don’t Have Your Eyes; Being Adopted; The Chosen Baby; Is That Your Sister: A True Story of Adoption.

So much of my childhood is lost to the ether, memories I just can’t hold on to that have just slipped through. But one, just one, conversation has stayed with me all those years. I think it was the one where I began to piece it all together, when all the talk of adoption suddenly began to make sense.

Jocelyn would sometimes come and linger over my bookshelf, running her fingers along the titles. She was jealous because I had more books than she did. She liked for my parents to read her my books and she’d pretend she was adopted, too. I remember this one day when she was very young—probably four, so I was five—she quizzed me on the facts of life.

“Does everyone have a mommy?” she asked me.

“I dunno,” I replied. “I guess so.” For some reason this conversation is tied in my mind to the Smurfs, so I’m guessing that while we were talking, I was coloring in a Smurfs coloring book. Or maybe I had a Smurfs doll? I can’t remember. I just remember the Smurfs figuring prominently in this memory. I know I was especially—embarrassingly—fond of Smurfette.

“What about a daddy? Does everyone have a daddy?”

“Yeah, I think everyone has a daddy.”

“Just one daddy?”

“Yeah, just one daddy.”

I’m imagining here that I was coloring the Smurfette pink. Even though they were all blue, and even though my mother did her best in insure it would not be the case, even at the ripe old age of five, I had a fondness for the pastel palette.

Jocelyn thought for a moment before asking, “But you have two daddies?”

I shook my head. “No. Just one daddy.” I colored some more and answered, probably without thought, “Or maybe two. I dunno.”

“So, does a person make people?”

This was more familiar territory. This was something I understood. “No,” I told her. “Two people make people.”

“How does that happen?”

“A special naked hug.”

Jocelyn contemplated this. “A hug? If I hug someone we can have a baby?”

“No,” I corrected. “Mom said it’s a special naked hug between and man and a woman and that they both have to be grown-ups.”

“So Mommy and Daddy had a naked hug and I was born.”


“But they didn’t naked hug for you,” she said.

Put in such plain terms, it kind of hit me. I sat up from my coloring or whatever it was I was doing to think. “No,” I said. “They didn’t naked hug for me.”

Jocelyn then asked the question that has rooted itself into my self-conscious, that has both been completely inconsequential and completely overwhelmed my every action in life: “Then who did?”


Thursday, November 22

The Posting in Which I'm Not Thankful

Today I finished a copyedit job, made two kinds of cranberry sauce, made two kinds of spiced nuts, a pumpkin layer cake (from scratch and no canned frosting, thank you very much), picked up my race number for tomorrow's turkey trot, kept my children alive, and watched two episodes of Project Runway. So I hope you people are at least a little thankful for this blog, because I'm taking precious Nanowrimo time to be coming to you this week.

All right so I'm not going to talk about what I'm thankful for (granted there's a lot of stuff I'm thankful for, but you know, it doesn't really make for very fun reading--it's Tolstoy's old "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way") although I do owe a bit o' gratitude to Jennifer, MTB, Zippy, Amia, Alisa, Chrissie, Daniella, Daphne, and Karin for the writing prompts. However, I'm certainly not thankful for the thousands (okay, hundreds. Okay, the other three of you) who are reading this who haven't helped me in my quest for 50,000 words. You have nine more days, people! Snap to it!

So no thanks from me here. Although I will say it was super cute when Doodles's teacher posted a list of what each kid said they were thankful for and Doodles said, "I'm thankful for trees. And Mom and Dad." He clarified to me later that he was thankful for trees that he could climb.

And what is Pie thankful for? Besides food and music? Um, hard to tell. Pie's in a Veruca Salt phases right now so I doubt she's thankful for much:

The kids had a good ice skating class this week. Doodles got some new skates and was falling on his butt the whole time. I felt badly for him but the teacher assured me it's normal when the kids go from the thick plastic skates to real skates. And Pie had a great time although the teacher said she wants to hide me, because Pie spends the whole class looking for me and, when spotting me, waving. I can pracitcally hear her from across the ice calling, "Watch me! Watch me, Mommy, watch me!"

After class, we had to go to the grocery store for some Thanksgiving shopping. Finishing up at the rink, I told Pie it was time to take off her helmet.

Pie: No, helmet on.
Me: You're not going to be comfortable in it. Sweetie, let's take your helmet off.
Pie: No, helmet on.
Me: You understand that we're about to get in the car and get on the highway. Once I plug in my seat belt, I won't be able to remove your helmet until we get to the grocery store, which will take about twenty or twenty-five minutes.
Pie: Pie wear helmt.
Me: Listen, why don't I take off your helmet now. Because we're going to be out about five minutes and you're going to demand your helmet come off, but I won't be able to do anything about it because I'll be driving on the highway.
Pie: NOOOO! Helmet ON!
Me: Okay, but do you understand that once this car is moving, the helmet is not coming off until we get to the grocery store. You have to keep the helmet on. I can't take it off.
Pie: Yes, helmet on.
Me: You understand.
Pie: Yes.
Me: The helmet will have to stay on.
Pie: Yes.

Anyone care to guess how many minutes we were on the highway before she started screaming, "Helmet off! Helmet off!" Luckily, after ten minutes of this she figured out how to get it off, but Pie was now officially in a bad mood. When I couldn't take the helmet from her hands, she threw it onto the floor and started making her next set of demands.

Pie: I want moon!
Me: Yes, it would be nice. But I don't see the moon tonight. It might be hidden by the clouds. Or it might not be out tonight.
Pie: I want to see moon.
Doodles: The moon is in outer space. It's still on the other side of the earth.
Me: Is it? I think it's just not out tonight because if it were, now would be a good time for it to be visible, considering how dark it is right now. It's night time!
Pie: Moon! Moon! Moon!
Me: Pie, do you understand? I don't see the moon. The moon is not out right now.
Pie: Get moon.
Me: Sweetie, it doesn't work like that. It's science. Earth's rotation. Position of the moon in relationto Earth and sun. Nothing to do with me.
Pie: I want moon, I want moon, I want moon NOW!
Doodles: Let's sing the moon song!
Me: Okay!
Doodles and Me: I see the moon and the moon sees me--
Pie: Nooooo! No moon song! I want moon! No sing moon song! Moon, moon, moon! I want the moon!
Me: Okay, listen. I can't control the moon. The moon does what it wants, when it wants. I have absolutely not an iota of say in what the moon does. The moon does exactly what it wants to do, much like you. I have as much control over the moon as I seem to have over you right now.

Pie has a complete and total meltdown and she doesn't let up until I threaten to go home instead of the grocery store. Yes, my children love going to the store. So many opportunities to make Mommy crazy.

Pie finally settles down. Takes some deep breaths. And then says... "I want star."

And on that note, I'm going to sign off. I should Nanowrimo, but I just don't have it in my right now. Gotta grab a little bit of sleep so I don't fall down midrace tomorrow or midturkey stuffing time. I hope you're all having a lovely thankful Thanksgiving. Stay away from the mall!

Monday, November 19

For Daphne

Day 19 of Nanowrimo (challenge: use "There's no way I'm going to see a doctor about that"):

“Trenton, this is my mom,” I said coldly. I prayed my mom would act cool and not like a gushing idiot fan.

I’m not sure why I was worried. There was really no doubt. My mom turned into a gushing idiot fan. “Oh, my Trenton Locke! What an honor to meet you. I’m such a fan of our work. I loved you in Marlowe’s England and thought your were divine in Jack in Love.” She went rifling through her purse. “I know I’ve got a camera in here somewhere. Can I get a picture with you?”

“For Lisa’s mother?” Trenton said dramatically. “Anything!”

“God, Mom,” I muttered, half under my breath at her. “Is this really necessary?”

“Lisa, I know this is your everyday life, but this is exciting for me!” She finally snagged her camera and said, “Got it!” She handed it to me. “Do you mind?”

Trenton put his arm around her and pulled her close. My mom grinned like a silly sorority girl as I snapped the picture.

“Take a few, just in case,” my mom said.

“Mom, it’s digital. I can tell I got it.”

“Just humor her, luv,” Trenton said.

I took a few more pictures before handing the camera back to my mom. Trenton turned to her, took her hand, and brought it to his mouth. “A pleasure meeting you, Mrs. Friedman.”

My mother had the nerve to blush. “Oh, it’s Helen!” she said.

“Helen, then.” He kissed her hand and then to me said, “I’ll see you on set.”

As he walked away I hissed to my mom, “Do you have any idea what kind of sleaze he is? Don’t you read People or Us?”

“Actually, I don’t.”

“What about page two of the Herald? Even that has chronicled his lecherous ways.”

“I’m sure they exaggerate,” she said. “Anything to sell a paper, you know!”

“Mom, he shtuped the nanny. No ways around it. While the kid was home!”

“Oh please. And exactly what is your 'reliable' source? People? The National Enquirer?”

There was no point in telling my mom that my source was actually me. To my mom, the film world was this remote thing on TV and the actors and actresses these gods who deigned to entertain her. For me, the actors and actresses were the same neurotic, fucked-up people I hung out with on a daily basis. I actually knew for a fact exactly what happened between Trenton and the nanny because I was right there when his wife, well now ex, put everything together.

Cincinnati was an actress as well and she was actually working on one of Gary’s blow-‘em up films when it all came apart. I was going over her wardrobe in her trailer, taking the burnt up outfits and replacing them with ones that were still pristine.

She changed into the new outfit, but she was rubbing her thighs together uncomfortably.

“Is the material bothering you?” I asked. “Perhaps I could get the lining changed.” The pants had to be a special inflammable cloth that wouldn’t easily ignite. They were charred and blackened at the end, but not for real. Gary didn’t really set his actresses on fire, no matter how much they annoyed him.

“No, no,” she said. “Arg! I can’t help myself!” She began scratching herself between her legs.

“Um, would you like me to come back later?” I asked. Cincinnati wasn’t considered the most refined woman. Publicists were forever trying to get her to lay off the drinking or attend some etiquette classes, but her trashy roots kept resurfacing.

“I swear to God—” she yelped. “What did that motherfucker give me!”

I began to piece it all together. “Uh, would you like me to get the crew medic in here? Or find you a doctor?”

“There’s no way I’m going to see a doctor about this,” she said. “And if you tell one soul, I’ll make sure you never work again.”

An empty threat if ever there was one. When you’re sleeping with the director, there’s little you can’t do. But Cincinnati didn’t know about me and Gary. Besides, I saw no need to antagonize her.

It was only hours later when all hell broke loose. The nanny brought the kids to the set. Only she was walking a little oddly.

“What’s wrong with you?” Cincinnati asked the nanny suspiciously.

The nanny blushed. “I don’t know, really. I think I just have an evil yeast infection.”

For someone the press had pegged as proof that natural selection is a myth, she put two and two together pretty damn fast. “London, Berlin, you get inside this trailer right now!” she yelled to her kids as the first thing she found, which happened to be a fire extinguisher, went flying through the air toward the nanny’s head.

One arrest, two days delay of shooting, and a restraining order later, Cincinnati was back onset. And Trenton was out on his ass.


Sunday, November 18

For Daniella

Day 18 of Nanowrimo (challenge: use "it was the day my heart broke into a thousand pieces and I looked over the shattered remains, stunned....")

My mom’s day on the set was kind of boring. We had been filming the scene on the beach right at the beginning of the film. The character Sam, played by Trenton, is just walking beside the surf. It’s an MOS scene (meaning without sound), with only ambiance recorded. To get the timing right, a production assistant read the voice over. Over and over and over again.

By the end of the day, I think my mom was ready to commit hari-kari. We headed to the restaurant to wait for my dad and Jocelyn.

“Oh dear Lord, is it always so tedious?” People not in the film business are always surprised at just how much work is involved in making a film. Every time I see one of those “behind the scene” videos online or as filler on Bravo, I roll my eyes. They capture everyone laughing and teasing each other and just having a jolly good time as they make their wonderful movie. In reality it’s shot after shot of the same scene, with tons of waiting around as the director of photography orders a light moved by a fraction of an inch, as measurements are taken for focus, as film needs to be changed or sound needs to be recorded or there’s a boom in the shot or the actor flubbed the line or….

“Well, my work keeps me pretty busy so I don’t find it tedious.”

My mom eyed the basket of bread of the table. I know how desperately she wanted it but lately she’d been on a low-carb diet. I picked up a piece and began gnawing on it.

My mother sighed. “That was rude of me. I didn’t mean to imply your work isn’t interesting. I actually find it all rather fascinating.”

“No offense taken,” I said as took another bite of a delicious Italian roll.

My mother was practically salivating at it. She and Jocelyn shared the tendency toward roundness if they weren’t careful. I had no such problems.

“I just think if I heard that guy intoning that line in such a dead pan one more time…”

“You mean,” I teased, “’She was gone. Just like that she was gone. Lying there in that bed, she looked like she was just sleeping, but her hand slipped from mine, never to return.’”

My mother joined in with me and we recited together, “’It was the day my heart broke into a thousand pieces and I looked over the shattered remains, stunned....’”

Mom laughed. “Not exactly Oscar-winning writing, is it?”

“You never know. ‘I figure life's a gift and I don't intend on wasting it. You don't know what hand you're gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you... to make each day count.’”

“What’s that from?”

“From Oscar-winning Titanic, a masterpiece of stunning dialogue, if ever there was one.”


Saturday, November 17

For Chrissie

Day 17 of Nanowrimo (challenge: use ""Ok, ok, don't get upset. It's just a little broken."):

“Jon’s kisses are tiny, like little pecks. But Danny’s kisses… well, they’re the kisses you feel down in your toes.”

“Ah, the infamous toe kiss. I seem to recall having one or two of those myself. Toe kisses are worth breaking up over.”

“Believe me, I would have, if Danny would have deigned to date me. But Danny’s not really the dating type. So I just conveniently forgot about the whole thing and stuck with Jon.”

“Until Jon was outside the window and heard everything you had to say,” I added helpfully. I spread the applesauce in a thin layer and waited a moment until Delores brought over a small plastic tub of sour cream. I think layered the sour cream on top of the applesauce, took my fork, and cut off a huge bite. I had to maneuver with my mouth to get it all in.

“Exactly!! So you can see how this might have, sort of, kind of created a little bit of a mess for me. Jon won’t even let me explain. He’s just refused to speak with me since that morning.”

I looked at my plate trying to figure out what to eat next. I had to have the perfect ratio of potato pancake to corned beef sandwich to coleslaw.

“Oh God, you’re doing it again,” Jocelyn said, a disgusted look on her face.

“What are you talking about?” I asked, taking a nibble from my sandwich before spooning up a mound of coleslaw.

“That thing. That thing you do with the food. Why can’t you just eat like a normal person? You eat the sandwich. Lots of bites of the sandwich. Take a break. Then have some coleslaw. Or the potato pancake. It doesn’t have to all be in an nice neat one-two-three order.”

“Easy for you say,” I mumbled as I stuffed a piece of potato pancake in my mouth, one with the perfect proportion of applesauce to sour cream. “If I don’t eat it just right, this table will burst into flames and we’ll die a terrible and cruel death and it’ll all be my fault.”

Jocelyn stared at me a moment. “Have you thought of having the OCD medicated?”

“It’s not OCD,” I said, as I moved on to the slaw. “And it’s how I make earn my livelihood.”

Slurping her soup, Jocelyn said, “Listen. It’s my life that’s broken.” Her voice went up a couple of octaves and took on the quivering tone it always did when she was about to break into tears. “Fix it!!”

“Ok, ok,” I said, eyeing the pickles in the bucket. How should I fit them into this delicate dinner arrangement? “Don't get upset. It's just a little broken. We can make this all better.”

“How?” Jocelyn asked.

“Well, for starters, tell me do you actually want to get back with Jon?”

“We are so the perfect couple,” she told me.

“Yes, but that didn’t answer my question.”

She sighed and picked at her matzoh ball with her spoon. “Well, as I said, he does kind of peck with his kisses.”

“So then go for Danny.”

“Danny is totally unattainable.”

“Nobody is totally unattainable. After all, you attained him once.”


Friday, November 16

For Alisa

Day 16 of Nanowrimo (challenge: use ""We began the day in the sunflower room"):

Jocelyn, though, was always temperamental. Hers was a life filled with daily dramas. She’d storm in and flounce upon the couch, regaling me with stories from school in which she was always the wronged heroine. I’m sure her traumas were real, but they were always out of proportion to the actual mishaps. I remember the tale of one disastrous slumber party her junior year of high school for which I’m sure I never got the true story. I was home during my freshman year at Tulane, and the two of us were sitting at Wolfie’s at 21st and Collins at a table in the back at 2 a.m. I was gnawing on an oversized pickle and picking at a pepper.

We had just left Heather Cohen’s Hanukkah party and I was getting the story of why she and Jon Blisker weren’t on speaking terms anymore.

“So Jennifer Pollock had her annual start of school slumber party. I don’t know why I even went—it’s been lame for years. Her mother treats us like we’re still at North Beach Elementary. You know, we began the day with chocolate chip cookies in the sunflower room.”

I waved my pickle in a bad Groucho imitation and attempted to mimic his voice as I said, “They got a sunflower room? Do you like sunflowers?”

Jocelyn looked at me like I was crazy. “What are you doing?”

I shook my pickle up and down. “You’re supposed to say ‘I adore them. How did you know’? Although it was supposed to be a gardenia.”

“What are you talking you about?” Jocelyn looked exasperated. I had just completed an elective in Jewish American Humor in Film and for it had written a paper entitled To Jew or Not to Jew: Comedy of the Marx Brothers. Got an A minus on it. I was pretty pleased and that was the point I began to complete an actual career in filmmaking.

“It’s from A Day at the Races. You’re supposed to say, ‘I adore them. How did you know?’ and I—as Dr. Hackenbush—would reply ‘I didn't, so I got you forget-me-nots. One whiff of this and you'll forget everything.’”

Jocelyn stared at me for about five beats before saying, “Am I telling a story here or not?”

“Yes, yes,” I said contrite, taking a bite of my pickle to show I had been sufficiently chastened. “You were in the sunflower room. What is up with that? A grown woman with a sunflower room?”

“Mrs. Pollock names all of her rooms based on the motif in which she’s decorated them. She thinks it sounds more sophisticated to say ‘the sunflower room’ as opposed to the sun room. The living room is the beach room. The dining room is the Provence room and the eat-in part of the kitchen is the Tuscany room.”

“Oh dear God,” I said.


Thursday, November 15

For Amia

Day 15 of Nanowrimo (challenge: use the phrase "It was the first time I have met someone who could oscillate so quickly between insecurity and magalomania...."):

“So,” Mazo asked me, “what exactly is wrong?”
The label began to come off in one long peel. I was wondering if I could get the whole thing. “What makes you think something’s wrong?”
After another puff on the cigarette, he said, “Bukowski. You only quote Bukowski when something’s wrong. If you want to keep it to yourself, then don’t quote Bukowski around someone who knows all his work.”

I smiled. “’He made some mistakes but when He created you lying in bed
He came all over His Blessed Universe.’”

“I’d like to think so.” He picked up a glass of amber liquid—a tequila on the rocks.

“How can you drink that stuff?”

“I like it. But what I really like is to pretend its scotch. Now that’s something I can’t stomach.” He took another slug. “So now that you’ve unsuccessfully changed the subject…”

I picked up the Red Stripe and brought to my mouth, but put it down without taking a swallow. “How do you know who you are?”

“Are you looking for a little Descartes here?”

“No.” This time I did take a swallow of the beer. “I mean what makes you you?”

“Me. I make me me.”

I drank some more.

Mazo looked at me curiously. “Who do you think you are?”

“That’s just it. I have no fucking idea. I mean, I know who I am. I’m Lisa Friedman, 31 years old, script supervisor extraordinaire. I am the daughter of Helen and Robert Friedman, sister to Jocelyn Friedman. Girlfriend of Gary Smerling. I have fabulous tits, I’m the most organized person I ever met, and if you gave me enough Post-It notes and an Excel spreadsheet, I’m could rule the world with finesse.”

Mazo laughed. “I have never met someone who could oscillate so quickly between insecurity and magalomania like you do.”

“You mean megalomania,” I pointed out.

“No. I mean magalomania. Megalomania is for small potato folks, like Napoleon. You take it to the next magnitude. Hence magalomania.”

“Very fucking clever,” I said. “Did you know that there’s an actual syndrome called Adopted Child’s Syndrome? People with it have issues with authority, an excessive fantasy life, difficulty learning. They are often pathological liars or steal. Running away from home, fire setting, and acting out, often sexually, are also symptoms.”


Wednesday, November 14

Nano Help, people!

Thanks to Zippy, Jennifer, and MTB for the Nanowrimo words suggestions (Zippy, I'm still working on Gordon Lightfoot). Now how about the rest of you? According to my logs, there are at least 500 of you looking at my blog each week. 500 words would be one percent of my novel! Toss me some words/ideas/phrases and I'll work them in. I have a plot now, which makes this more fun. Help me Nano, people!


Cleanliness Is Next to, Um...?

My son wants, more than anything else these days, to help me clean. "Mommy, can I clean? Can we clean something?" It's a sweet thought. Only I have no idea where it comes from because I have never, ever cleaned anything.


We had a bunch of people from the synagogue over for brunch on Sunday. I don't know them all very well so I thought it was time to maybe attempt a little cleaning. So I pulled out the vacuum cleaner.

Pie looked at it and asked, "What's that?"

I explained, "It's a vacuum cleaner. You can use it to clean the floor."

Doodles asked, "Can I help?" Doodles comes up and holds onto the handle. I put one hand over his.

Then I turned it on. Wails from the little one. "No like! No like!" Pie doesn't know what to do. She wants to hold my hand, but maintain as much distance between herself and the vacuum cleaner as she can.

So I'm trying to vacuum--something I don't know really how to do well anyway--with one child in each hand.

I finish. I take a look. There are still crumbs everywhere. So, if I may quote my daughter, "All done vacuuming! All done!" Housecleaning. Isn't that why God created men? Because God knows, I'm not going anywhere near it again.

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And the Award for Worst Mother Ever Goes To...

The Pie, she's a screamer. She was a screamer as a baby when she wanted to feed three times a night. Dr. Ferber cured her of that. For about a month. Now, at almost 2 and 1/4, she's still a screamer. Only now she has a litany of requests.

Anyone who's read this blog long enough (which I think is just my dad), remembers BATNA. It's the Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement (we used it when car shopping in the years pre-Doodle). BATNA is a concept I had a little difficulty grasping at first, but as Adam pointed out, when it comes to sleep, Pie understands BATNA better than anybody.

First thing you need to understand is how many things Pie has in her crib. Every night there's an inventory. This is a typical night:

7:30 p.m.
Pie: Where's hippo?
Adam: Hippo's right here. Pumpkin bear is here. Pumpkin is here. And look, here's Hello Kitty.
Pie: Trains! I need trains!
Adam goes to get two trains that for some unfathomable reason were actually returned to the train table.
Adam: Here you go. Two trains.
Pie: Water!!
Adam: Your sippy is right here.
Pie: Where my books?
Adam: Here's your animal book. And here's your truck book.
Satisfied, Pie lays down and yells to Adam: Blanket!
He places the blanket on her and can leave.

7:40 p.m.
Pie: Daddy! Daddy! Daddy, I need potty! Daddy, I need potty.
Adam looks at me: Do I fall for it?
I shrug. Pie is still in diapers, but she's been going on the potty about twice a day.
Adam sighs, gives in and gets her. Pie sits on the potty, pleased as punch. After a minute, she pees.
Pie: I peed on potty! [She starts singing the potty song to herself, sung to the tune of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow"]: Pie peed on the potty, Pie peed on the potty, Pie peed on the potty 'cause she's a great big girl.
Pie goes back to bed.

7:47 p.m.
Pie: Daddy! Daddy! Poop on potty! I need poop on potty.
I look at Adam and shake my head.
Me: Don't fall for this one. That never happens at night.
After 15 minutes Pie falls back to sleep.

12:45 a.m.
Pie: Daddy! Daddy! Put blanket on, Daddy! Daddy!
Adam enters and puts on her blanket. Leaves. Closes door.
Pie: Daddy! Close door! Close door!
Adam opens the door.
Adam: Sweetie, the door is closed.
Pie: Okay

Pie: Daddy! Daddy! Daddy, I need Daddy!
Adam: What is it, Pie?
Pie: Shma! Say Shma! [The Shma is Pie's bedtime prayer, which is said, surprisingly, at bedtime]
Adam: I already said the Shma. Go to sleep, Pie.
Pie: Daddy, change diaper!
Adam: Your diaper is fine. Good night, Pie.
Adam leaves and closes door.
Pie: Daddy! Close door! Close door!
Adam opens the door.
Adam: Sweetie, the door is closed.
Pie: Okay

These nights aren't great. But they are better than the nights when we have these conversations:

12:45 a.m.
Pie: Daddy! Daddy! Put blanket on, Daddy! Daddy!
Adam enters and puts on her blanket.
Pie kicks off blanket, becomes more hysterical and makes the same demand.
Pie: Daddy! Daddy! Put blanket on, Daddy! Daddy!
Lather, rinse, repeat until Pie is standing in her crib, jumping up and down inconsolable. We go through stages where this kind of thing lasts for a day or two and then we go back to reasonable Pie. During the unreasonable Pie stage, there's absolutely nothing you can do for her but let her cry. Going in just exacerbates the situation.

During these stages, we just hope she doesn't wake up her brother (who often sleeps through it). If he does wake up, he just comes into our bed, which is somewhat of a relief because then I can stop worrying that she'll wake him up. Backward thinking, I know, but it's the way my mind works.

Okay, so fast forward to last night. Adam is in Orlando for work, which means I'm on kid duty 24/7. For what it's worth, she said her mouth hurt in the back and when I stuck a finger in, sure enough I felt a little molar starting to poke through. Before bed, I give her some Motrin. She actually goes down with no complaints, which I find odd, but choose not to question. When Adam's out of town, I just put Doodles in our bed by default. It makes bedtime easier all around and he's willing to go to bed on the earlyish side when he's in our bed.

Now, Adam and I have different nighttime philosophies. My philosophy is that she who cries, will eventually stop crying and go back to sleep. So when Pie started crying at 2:45 a.m., I did the only reasonable thing--I partially closed my door and stuck my head under the pillow. She just hollered for her father. By 3:05 she stopped. By 3:20 she was crying again. By 3:43 she had stopped. By 3:53 she was crying again. I took my head out from under the pillow but couldn't understand what she was saying.

At close to 4:30 a.m. I went into her room cautiously. She immediately sat up and stopped crying. I heard a rather odd noise. In a most reasonable voice, she said, "Train!"

As I got closer I noticed that one of the trains she had was a motorized one. And it was on. And it was stuck in her hair. The wheels had been set into motion and had wound it's way around her hair and was now stuck. It wasn't painful--no pulling involved--but Pie definitely had a train stuck to her head. I tried to remove it, but couldn't.

Me: Hold on, Pie. I need to get a scissors.
Got the scissors, cut it out.
Me: Lay down, Pie.
She complies.
Pie: Blanket! Blanket! Blanket!
I put the blanket on, but she pushes it off.
Pie: Need train! Need train!
Me: That train has your hair in it.
Pie, beginning to get hysterical: Need train!!
I get her another train. She lies back down.
Pie: Blanket!!!
I put her blanket on, I leave, and close the door.
Pie: Close door! Close door!
I open the door.
Me: Sweetie, the door is closed.
Pie: Okay

She falls back asleep till 7 a.m.

The next morning we're talking to Adam in Orlando and I tell him a train got stuck in Pie's hair. He said, in his biggest duh voice: We'll I never giver her motorized trains in bed.

Gee, thanks. You think you could have told me this before you left town?

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Tuesday, November 13

For Zippy

Day 13 of Nanowrimo (challenge: use ""It was hardly my fault that the kippers were yellow"):

When I got onto the set that afternoon, the star of the film, Trenton, was arguing with craft services.

“They were absolute rubbish! The color was off and they smelled funky,” he said in a clipped British accent. Even when he was talking about old fish, the accent reminded me of Masterpiece Theater and Jane Austen. Which is probably no coincidence, given that he had starred in plenty of Masterpiece Theater. And a few Jane Austen adaptations at that.

The craft services guy was arranging raw vegetables on a plate trying to ignore Trenton. I didn’t envy the guy. Weird British foods for Trenton. Vegan only for Trenton’s costar, Felicity. Chips and cookies for everyone else.

Trenton ran his hands through his short dark curly hair. He was dressed for his part, and was absolutely stunning in his Bermuda shorts. His chest was perfectly developed and his abs nicely rippled. When he smiled—which he certainly wasn’t doing right now—deep dimples pocketed his cheeks. I suddenly became aware that I was staring, so I looked back down at my script to check my notes.

“Well?” Trenton asked impatiently.

The craft services guy looked up. “What do you expect from me here, your highness? It was hardly my fault that the kippers were yellow. This is breakfast in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. Not high tea at Buckingham Palace. ‘Kipper snacks’ were all that was available.”

Trenton huffed loudly and turned. He caught my eye as I looked up from the script, and gave me a little wink, as if it were all good fun, as if he weren’t such a prima donna as to care whether or not he had proper kippers. I wasn’t fooled. But I was still mildly turned on.


Saturday, November 10

For Zippy

Day 10 of Nanowrimo (challenge: use the phrase "Has anyone seen my turtle?"):

I relaxed in my JetBlue seat—I guess indie financing meant indie travel accommodations; no first class on this trip—and tried to distract myself from Port St. Lucie. In July.

Of course, I didn’t need to distract myself. A few moments had passed when I suddenly felt something poking at my feet. “Hey!” I said, pulling my feet up into my seat.
A boy no more than seven years old poked his head up. “Have you seen my turtle?” he asked.

“There are turtles on this plane?” I asked, unsure whether or not to be disgusted. I’m not so much an animal person. Oh, I’m happy to pet the occasional dog in the park and I’ll tolerate friends’ cats, but animals are not creatures with whom I’d choose to spend my time. The idea of a rodent reptile (for all animals basically struck me as rodent like) nosing around my carry-on bag kind of turned my stomach a little.

“Just my turtle. He’s—”

Before he could finish his thought, a tall, severe flight attendant with a bun tightly pulled across her blond hair, dashed down the aisle. She towered over him and a shadow must have cast over the floor he was scouring because he looked up.

“Hey!” he yelled out. “Be careful. Don’t step on my turtle!”

She merely scowled and pointed at the fasten seat belt sign. He began, “I’m just—” but she jabbed her finger in the air menacingly, sending him scurrying him back to his seat three rows up. Straddling the line between sexy and scary, she was the type of woman who in six years could easily appear in his nightmares—or perhaps his dreams, depending which way he floated—dressed in a school uniform or a nun’s outfit, brandishing a ruler.

As soon as the fasten seat belts sign chimed off, the boy hopped back up and began scanning the aisles, attempting to crawl his way up for a turtle eye view.
I decided to take a nap and try to forget about everything. Forget about the film shoot. Forget about Gary in Paris, the most romantic of cities, with me in Port St. Lucie, the most sweltering of cities. Forget about my brother. Forget, forget, forget. I attempted a nap for about three nanoseconds when a the boy got near my row again, calling out, “Have you seen my turtle? Has anyone seen my turtle?” I propped open a slit of an eye to see him eyeball to eyeball with me. “Have you seen my turtle? He’s small and green and he answers to the name Kermit.”

“Isn’t Kermit a frog?” I asked him.

The boy scoffed. “Clearly you have no imagination.”

I tried to go back to sleep but there was just enough turbulence to ensure I stayed awake. I bought a lunch, settled into my seat to watch a couple hours of Cartoon Network, and mindlessly twirled a strand of hair around my finger.

Finally, we landed. I stood up and reached up to grab my suitcase. As I swung it down, I took a step forward, and out sounded a crack that was loud enough if might have been the shot heard ‘round the world. The silence immediately quieted as everyone turned to stare at me,

I was afraid to look down. I wanted to just walk off that plane, with my head held high, and go and work on a movie set, a job that was probably the envy of most of the folks on the plane, folks who are fooled into thinking it’s all fun and games and that we really just sit around and laugh all the time. But instead, I need to know what I had crunched beneath my Doc Marten. Looking down, sure enough, there he was: Kermit. Who knew a shell could be flattened like that?

I leaned down to look at him. “Get up,” I hissed at the turtle. “Get up!” Needless to say, there was no movement.

“What did you do?” scolded an older woman behind me. In front of me was an older man who pretended the whole thing never happened.
Next to me was a college aged boy who commented, “Whoa! The totally weird thing is, I was just debating with my roommates if a turtle shell would crunch or not. We all agreed it wouldn’t because it’s shell is so hard. It’d be like crushing your tooth! But, dude! Empirical evidence! They do crunch!”

I quickly used my foot to scoot the evidence out of the aisle and beneath a seat. I stand uncomfortably, not saying anything, waiting for the line of bodies to move out of the plane. When I do finally disembark, at the end of the gangplank is the boy with a senior-looking airline official. The boys parents are behind him and even they look distraught. The boy has tear tracks on his cheeks and the official has an arm around his shoulder. I can clearly hear him saying, “Don’t worry. As soon as everyone’s off the plane, we can go look for Kermit. We’ll find him.”

I say nothing and just head for baggage claim. Good thing I don’t believe in omens. I don’t believe in them. Right?


Friday, November 9

For MTB--Rated R (or Maybe NC-17)

Day 9 of Nanowrimo (challenge: use the phrase "I have some personal issues that need to be taken care of which are related to my court appointment last Wednesday"):

So there I was, working on Mazo’s first big film. Of course, I knew I was in trouble the minute I showed up on set, and Mazo was nowhere to be found. He showed three days late, mumbling something about some personal issues he had, not to worry, everything was going to be taken care of in Wednesday’s court appointment. I never learned all the details, but it didn’t matter, because he was shooting a feature film and I was in. A feature. A Mazo feature. A feature he’d decided to finance himself, because really, who else would finance a Mazo idea. And that big idea? The million dollar shot? It truly was the money shot: Mazo was making “porno for the intelligentsia.” Meaning he had a real script, with actual plot, but it still all led to a group orgy scene that had me taking notes such as, “String of anal beads has eight balls on it” and “In scene 32a, Male One has his middle finger inserted into Female Two’s vagina.” It wasn’t till much later that Mazo discovered that porn distributors don’t actually care about continuity and there were only about five other guys out there who even cared if there was a plot or not. But by then, it was too late. I was hooked. Not on porn. On continuity.


Thursday, November 8

For Jennifer--Rated PG13

Day 8 of Nanowrimo (challenge, use the word "extuitive"):
Let me step back and describe Mazo: I met him my first week at Tulane. I had just gotten back from yet another keg party after yet another orientation. This was pre-anyone caring how old you were to drink and drinking was pretty much what we did. I was tired. I was slightly drunk. I wanted a warm shower and bed. At just after 2 a.m., I walked into the women’s room with my cheerful green plastic tub of shampoos and soaps and found this student of the male persuasion, standing naked at the sink, shaving. His chest.

“Aloha, amiga!” he called out, waving his electric razor before returning to himself in the mirror. He seemed to be making some sort of design in his chest hairs. On his arm was a large tattoo that I’d later discover was supposed to be the Chinese characters for potent, but turned out to be total gibberish.

“Um, you know there’s a men’s room down the hall,” I said.

“Yeah, but it’s always gunked up,” he replied. “Women are so much neater.”

I couldn’t help but glance at the mess he was making in the sink with the tiny hairs scattering everywhere.

“See what I mean?” he said. “I’m a total slob.”

“I’m way too buzzed to pick apart the gender generalizations you’re making, but could you get out so I can shower?”

He shrugged. “I’m almost done.”

All I wanted was sleep. “What the hell,” I muttered to myself, and went ahead and turned on the hot water. When he made no moves to leave, I just undressed and began to shower.

“I like you,” he said.

“You like me or my boobs?” I asked from inside the shower. The water was making me drowsier and I just wanted to melt down right there and take a nap.

“I like you,” he answered. “Your boobs are a little small for my tastes.”

“You don’t know me.” I picked up the soap and started lathering.

“I can just tell these things. I’m extuitive like that.”

“Extuitive? That isn’t even a real word.”

“Sure it is. It’s the opposite of intuitive. It’s so clear we’re going to be friends, no intuition involved. It’s extuitive.”

“And it’s clear because…?”

“You weren’t the least bit fazed when you walked in here.”

“No,” I answered, rinsing off and letting the water run down my head. “For me to be fazed, you’d have to have a much bigger dick.”

He laughed. “Touche. Now I know we’re going to be best friends.”

And damn, if he wasn’t right.


Wednesday, November 7

That Time of Year...

I have two articles, a book review, and two copyedits due this month. I'm hosting Thanksgiving. Hanukkah is super early this year (December 4th). Oh, and I've got two kids to raise. And Adam has an almost-week long business trip. So what does that mean? It means it's time to get my Nanowrimo on! Yep, it's been a couple of years and my writing juices have felt a little stale, so I'm going for 50,000 words or bust. (Pie, that means "break down," it does not mean "Ming Ming" so get that glimmer of lust out of your eye.)

Now it's your turn. I really have no idea what my novel is about or where it's going (even though I'm 10,501 words into it). Please, please, please leave me a comment with a random word, phrase, sentence, or random idea. I promise to incorporate each and every one into my novel and I'll post the resulting paragraph with it in there (and you won't have to wait till Wednesday for me to post it). So help me Nano my way to 50,000!


Don't Ask Questions You Don't Want the Answers To

We started the day with my charming son poking my stomach and declaring, "Hey, Mommy? You've got a squishy stomach!" It only improved from there...

Me: Hey Adam, didn't you say Johnny Damon wasn't the brightest guy?
Adam: Yeah.
Me: So did you see these reading ads he's doing? [I show him an ad in Runners World that has Johnny Damon in his Yankee uniform reading a biography of Ben Franklin]. He's probably not really reading a biography on Ben Franklin, huh?
Adam: [laughing] No, I would think not. He's also probably not going to be a Yankee soon.
Me: Why?
Adam: For the same reason the Sox didn't re-sign him: because he's getting old and declining and slow.
Me [to Doodles]: That's not nice! Does that mean you're going to trade me? What do you think, Doodles, do you want to trade me for a mommy who's younger and faster?
Doodles: Yes!
Adam: Tell Mommy we're looking for someone who can hit for average.
Doodles: I want a mommy who can hit for average.
Adam: And with a little bit of power, too.
Doodles: And with a little power, too. [pause, thinking] And nicer!

And all before seven in the morning...

Peas from Completely Different Pods

In Pie's classroom, they had color week last week. Monday was red day, Wednesday was blue day, and Friday was green day.

You know of course that Friday morning, I was blaring Green Day. I couldn't get it out of my head. And this, my friends, is where we see the inherent differences in my children's personalities.

Me: Wow, listen to those drums, Doodles!
Doodles: I don't like those drums.
Doodles puts his hands over his ears, walks into the playroom, shuts the door. I discover later that he's doing puzzles in there. Pie runs up to me.
Pie: I love Green Day! Dance, Mommy, dance!!
Pie immediately begins shaking her tush and spinning around.

Can you say lonely guy working in his science lab on Saturday nights? Can you say Mom and Dad getting calls at 3 a.m. to pick up their daughter from jail? Yeah, that's what I'm thinking, too.