Friday, October 1, 2010


Dear Wren,

I still miss you.  I think about you daily.  Your sons are doing okay.  They're keeping it together and trying to move forward in their lives.  You'd be damn proud of them.  They send me recent photos of themselves standing tall with set jaws and square shoulders.  They try to act like it hurts less..and maybe on some level it does, but in quiet moments on the phone their voices crack.  Your boys miss their mama. 

I would give anything to be able to wrap my arms around them for just one moment, but they're fighting a war no one understands in a land very far away.  We pretend it's only for a brief moment.  We pretend it's not so far away.  We pretend we aren't scared that they'll die in some horrible way in that desert.  But we all know we are lying. 

You're going to have a namesake, Wren.  This is beautiful and precious and perplexingly painful.  It hurts that there will be a baby with your name who will never be cradled in your arms.  It hurts that the only reason she's being named after you is because you died agonizingly.  I try to pretend it doesn't hurt.  After all, a baby is a wonderful addition and she is already so wanted and so cherished.  I love her very much myself, and she isn't even born yet.  Very soon, though, there will be a beautiful baby girl with your name.  For some reason I cannot explain, it makes me ache for you so much more. 

I stifle the tears, push them away, save for a few I permit to fall in the solitude of the shower.  I still miss you so freaking much, how can it still hurt this much?  It's been over three years.  I blame my hormones, PMS, my stressful job, but that's total bullshit. 

Further compounding the hurt is the knowledge that your wee namesake is not going to be the only new babe.  There's a 9th baby due in our family.  Sadie is not going to be an only child for much longer.  I wait with baited breath, hoping with everything I have that the new addition will be our ninth niece and not our first nephew.  For the sake of all of the children, I hope we don't have any boys in this generation.  Doing so will limit our girls. This is a family of unequal valuation and I cannot bear the idea that the birth of a boy will change what the elders tell our bright, darling, precious nieces about their futures.  The sky is the limit for them...but if a boy is born they'll forever play second fiddle to him and he'll have more pressure on him than any human being should.  Give us another little girl so that all my clever, funny little girlies will still feel as special and cherished as they should.  They are EVERYTHING.  Where are you, Wren?  You would have fought for them.  It's hard fighting for them by myself..  I won't give up, but for God's sake, keeping the lions at bay alone is no easy task. 

So anyway, I love you.  I wish so much you could have seen the girlies this summer with me.  Gawd, they're so big.  There is so much you would have laughed at, so much that would have pleased you in that quiet, soft, full of gratitude way of yours.  Gemma still has her attitude.  Sadie has also developed a bit of one, but she is quickly straightened out and very, very funny.  Gemma and Camille are so awesomely gentle and generous with's very sweet. 

Come to think of it...this time last year I was mourning that my youngest niece, my Sadie-Girl was no longer a proper babe, and lamenting that no more infants were likely to be born in our family til the girlies have their own.  Truth be told, I'm terribly excited that there will be more tiny people to rock to sleep on the porch swing of the family cabin.  I just wish you were here to rock them with me, Wren.  There's no denying that you were the baby whisperer. 

It's late and I have to grab a few hours of sleep before getting up for work.  I miss you, dammit.  I hate closing my letters to you..which is so're already dead.  "Goodbye" should only hurt once.  So goodnight, Wren.  If you were here, you'd tell me to have sweet dreams, you'd call me the pet name you had for me and you'd insist that I rest, not to worry so much, and to get my ass into bed.  So I'm going, but I miss you.  I hate that you died the way you did.  I hate that the idea of crawling into bed without having you to stroke my head makes my eyes fill with tears.  Yet I'll go..because I have to be responsible, I have to get up early, I have so much to take care of.  So g'night, sis.  I'm sending you all my love.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When Taking Initiative is a Bad Thing

One of my earliest memories is of being at church in a nursery room while my parents were off elsewhere.  The teen girl who was keeping an eye on me was the only other person there and I played while she sat nearby at one of the kiddie tables.  I have very little recollection of what happened before or after this, but I do know that I somehow got ahold of a pair of scissors and cut off the huge majority of the girl's waist-length ponytail.  I was utterly shocked and horrified when the hair actually came off of her head.  On some level I knew I was cutting her hair, but didn't really understand that it couldn't be reattached until the deed was done.  Honestly, I'm not sure which of us was more stunned.  Ingrained in my memory are the the metallic taste that filled my mouth and the way my stomach dropped to my toes.

I remember seeing that dismembered ponytail in my hand and then opening my fingers, dropping the evidence as she realized what had happened and spun around.  Obviously, she was extremely upset, but she was benevolent enough not to kill me.  I curled into a ball under a different table and cried hard the remainder of the time.  My parents returned to find me that way.  Startled expressions hung on their faces as they looked wide-eyed from me to the shrieking teenager and back again.  That's all I remember...I probably repressed the rest of the memory ;)

Growing up, I'd sometimes run into that girl around town.  She was always incredibly nice and neither of us ever mentioned the day I gave my first haircut.  Even so, I always wanted the earth to open up and swallow me when our paths crossed.  I'm still completely mortified.  The world's youngest barber and I didn't even get a tip. ;)

No wonder my requests for younger siblings were always met with terrified refusals...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cut, Cut!: When Auditions Crash and Burn

I have a love/hate relationship with auditions.  On one level, they are a necessary evil; neither the kids nor their parents enjoy them at all, but they're the only way to decide who to cast in which role.  I can sympathize, as I've tried out many times for various shows, choirs, etc. during my life.  Being on the judging side of the audition is more fun and less nerve-wracking, but it can also be an exhausting, overwhelming challenge.  It is also exciting: actors' enthusiasm is contagious and seeing the kids onstage fuels an addictive anticipation of how incredible the show is going to be when it all comes together.

I love seeing kids nail their auditions, the grins on their faces make my day.  Any seasoned performer will tell you that not every try-out goes as planned, however.  There are occasional rough patches..and then there are things that give directors nightmares.

Here is some advice for parents and kids based on the crazy things I've seen in auditions:
  • A fourth grader who has refused to wear anything but a bathing suit and red, sequined heels for the last 2 months and whose preferred method of verbal communication is barking like a dog probably needs some relaxation and maybe a therapist, not a rigorous rehearsal schedule.
  • Do NOT corner any directors in the parking lot or follow them home after a long day of try-outs to convince them your child is the star they are looking for.  Such behavior will likely result in a restraining order rather than a lead role.
  • Make sure your child learns the lyrics to his vocal piece.  The judges WILL notice if he sings "watermelon, watermelon, watermelon..."
  • If you can't cry on command, don't pick a monologue that requires it.  DEFINITELY don't swipe the cinnamon breath spray from your mom's purse and spray it into your eyes right before you perform.
  • A note from the pediatrician giving "permission" for your child to perform in a highly choreographed show does not change the fact that her broken leg will be in that cast for most of the rehearsals.  When the director points this out, "But she has crutches!" is not an answer.
  • Being cute is great, but being able to carry a tune is mandatory.  Sorry, this is a musical.
  • Adult content in monologues and vocal pieces is unacceptable. graphic dancing is disturbing and wrong.  This is even more true if the child auditioning is FIVE.  The same goes for portfolio photos.
  • Be careful when explaining characters to kids or your first grader may tell the directors that she wants "to be the stoned cat" in Alice in Wonderland.
  • Resumes and portfolios are no place for nicknames, especially if your moniker is "Poopy Pants."
  • Parents: Under no circumstance does the explantion "I forgot to take my anti-psychotics this morning" excuse your erratic or insane behavior.  EVER.
Any questions?  Remember, the audition should be memorable..but not in a way that makes me shudder.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Holy Sexual Harassment, Batman!

Dear Nurse:

I regret having to discuss such a sensitive matter with you, but you've left me little choice.  When asking a patient to disrobe ENTIRELY for an exam, it is uncouth to follow the request with "Let's see if the curtains match the drapes, eh?" 

Furthermore, staring at the discussed area of my body after I undress was unnecessary and kind of disturbing.  Your "I guess we'll never know," was even more inappropriate and added an extra dose of humiliation to what was already an unforgettable fiasco.  Look lady, it's SUMMER TIME.  That which has been removed has zero chance of making a surprise appearance when I'm wearing a swim suit.  Not that it's any of your farking business, thank you very much. 

I may have survived the appointment, but my pride was not so lucky.  By the way, how exactly did removing my pants facilitate the examination of my armpit?

Still mortified,
The beet red patient who officially hates Mondays..and now, maybe nurses

Friday, June 18, 2010

Let's Rephrase the Question

When I was younger I taught at a preschool for a number of years.  This is one of my all-time favorite memories from that time...

The head teacher in the four year old room was a big fan of performing random individual assessments of the kids' learning.  This particular day she had chosen a sweet, wide-eyed boy as her focus.  As this unfolded, I forgot all about the daily reports I was writing nearby and just enjoyed the show.  I'm so glad I did. :D

"Liam," Mrs. Dunne said, placing several felt pieces on the table before him.  "I want you to point to each shape and tell me its name."  He glanced at the the colorful cut-outs before looking back at her with uncertain eyes.  "Can you tell me what this one is called?" she asked, tapping the triangle.  He blinked at her a few times.  "It's okay if you aren't sure, do you have any guesses?" Mrs. Dunne asked patiently.  Brow furrowed, the kid rested his chin on his palm and scrutinized the triangle, square, and circle with intense concentration.  "What are their names?" my coworker repeated softly. 

There was a very long silence before Liam sat up in his chair with a jolt.  "I'm ready now!" he announced, beaming at her triumphantly.  She nodded and returned his smile.  With his little face full of sincerity, Liam joyfully jabbed an index finger toward each shape and identified them in turn:  "Connor, Michaela, and Jacob!"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pick-Up Line FAIL, Casanova

To the cute guy I met at the library:

I was impressed when you confidently struck up a conversation with me.  Our little chat was really enjoyable too.  Casually offering to meet me next week for a bite to eat was a good move.  Your suggestion that we go to Hooters for that bite, however, didn't exactly sweep me off my feet. 

Still laughing,
The flat-chested girl in the biography section

Sunday, June 13, 2010

From the Mouths of Babes - Is that Jesus!?

The best thing about three year olds?  They say the first thing that pops into their heads.  This makes them a source of endless amusement.  Here are some gems (old and new) from my favorite three year old..

To the uncle who attempted to distract her from a skinned knee by talking like Mickey Mouse:  "Excuse me, but did you know?  You are weally, weally stwange." 

To relatives watching a t.v. interview of Sarah Palin: "Turn that lady off, dudes.  She makes me get a headache."  This is especially awesome considering that everybody in my family (except me) is incredibly conservative.  I might have high-fived the kid when nobody was looking.

While chasing down the cat who stole the baby from her dollhouse:  "COME BACK!  Don't eat that, you're s'posed to be on a diet!"

Excitedly whispering to her mom as the pastor stepped behind the pulpit:  "Is that Jesus!?"

Happy new week, peeps.  Hang in there. :)