Goodbye To All That ( Yes, I stole that from Joan Didion)

Hi! I’m Kelly and I’m so fucking lonely! (grabs ahold of your hand tightly) But don’t tell my husband! I picked this house out in the middle of nowhere and dragged my family to a faux brick colonial with 4 acres and Walden level tree coverage. It’s half a mile to my mailbox, where I get my contact with the outside world through Amazon. Yesterday my only social activity was yelling at dogs to stop barking at squirrels.
It wasn’t always like this. We lived in the city for twenty years! Raised three kids in a neighborhood where guys punched the air and screamed all night about those “sons of bitches!” There were robberies and assaults, terrible traffic, no parking and in the summer everything smelled like hot baked urine. I remember seething while suffering through one of the many daily endurance level gridlock moments, moving half an inch in an hour on 16th street, trying to squeak past triple parked bozos who loitered outside their vehicles to chat. Slapping my steering wheel, I vowed to never miss this slow, soul-sucking agony. Waving farewell to the parking tickets, the crime, the crowding, my leaky old federal row house, I was going to savor seeing this shit in my rearview mirror.

The first week in the woods was paradise. Crickets and frogs replaced roaring sirens. There was ample parking, a two car garage, we were spoiled for choice with multiple high-end grocery stores, and a fire pit where I could set everything I didn’t like ablaze. We bought hatchets, a leaf blower and several more weapon type outdoorsy things that made the Home Depot cashier play a round of ‘Outdoorsman or Serial Killer?’ in their head while they checked us out.

I don’t know if I can point to the exact moment things started to turn sour. Perhaps it was shortly after we started to get wildly thrilling jolts of middle-aged pleasure from scoring sick deals at the big box stores or when we began flagging down distant neighbors walking the lonely stretch of country road we live on to wave manically hoping for a return nod to quench our thirst for a dose of non-familial human contact.

Whenever it happened, it was a swift and powerful Kurtz, Heart of Darkness level descent into isolation and madness. Suddenly there were a thousand biblical level frogs on the driveway. Large angry spiders with mean faces and threatening looking stripes descended from the ceiling and spun six-foot webs in minutes. Deer ate everything and surrounded us on all sides. Foxes had awful sex parties all night in our back woods and screamed like porn stars on helium. The fresh hell of our tree-lined utopia was now clear. We were out of our element.

So, I’m sorry I’m holding your hand so firmly, with it clasped lovingly against my cheek, pouring out my heart, but I need this. I noticed you were wearing a smart Jil Sander smocklike garment with good shoes and I remembered this was the uniform of my people from long ago when I spent my days on concrete streets and my third child was afraid of grass on his bare feet because he had no idea what it was until he visited his aunt in upstate NY.

Now, when a flannel wearing local cocks his shotgun and fires at a row of beer cans, I become instantly nostalgic for getting a gunshot wound the proper way, from being in the wrong place at the wrong time on a city street, minding your own business while eating ice cream.



Filed under city mouse becomes country mouse, DC to PG, i miss the smells, moving to the country from the city, why are there so many angry animals that bite and have stingers

One Week, Three Kids, Two Dogs and a Squirrel That is Clearly Mocking us


To be perfectly frank, I have nothing to say to you.

I have one singular purpose now; seizing any opportunity that might come along that would propel me out of this snowbound wasteland and into the civilized world- or Florida. I’m not picky anymore.

In the wake of a Washington DC blizzard that crippled our transportation, closed our schools and kept us housebound for the better part of a week, I have come to realize that no amount of stockpiled bread, eggs, milk and toilet paper can combat the destitute singularity of a life lived without access to others.

Even my dogs, who at first basked in the undivided attention of a captive family, began slinking off to stare at Benny, the smarmy rodent, who sat in trees just out of harms way and snacked on forraged nuts while openly mocking them and letting his garbage roll carelessly onto the white carpet of snow below.

I took solace in thinking that the heads of the collective school systems would be in a hot radiator warmed basement somewhere yelling from behind some sort of scholarly pulpit that “TOMORROW SCHOOLS MUST OPEN!” and then slamming down a big gavel with finality and purpose….but no.

The emergency message red lettering that usually glows on my computer screen and results in an occasional gleeful day off a few times a year, kept informing me that we were never going back. Ever.

So here we sit, on day seven of our imposed exile. Surrounded by mountains of never-ending white, marinating in the filth of our uncollected garbage, wondering how it might look if we ever blew the power grid or faced some sort of epic planetary crisis without cable or wifi. My husband left our hive of toxic smells and bad karma two days ago to return to the relative sanity and cleanliness of his office, where he probably sits and waits and extra five hours to return home every evening. Can’t say I blame him, I found myself lingering a few minutes too long in front of the chatty saleswoman at the local craft store just to get some human interaction that didn’t involve the sound of clanking dishes or food requests screamed from the top of the stairs.

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Filed under adversity, snow emergencies

Get In The Van

I’m deep into the eighth hour of the marathon road trip that ends with palm trees and clear Gulf waters.

Shiva the destroyer has been my shrill but effective co-pilot on this  one, ensuring not only that I stay awake on the most treacherous  spans of highway but also that my body be made almost entirely of the stress hormone cortisol by days end.

In between bouts of proving that long term exposure to others in confined spaces breeds contempt, we managed to reminisce about a story I’d long forgotten. The tale of the van.


In my mid twenties I had yet to master the art of living well and understanding basic concepts like how to plan for unforeseen accidents and heeding expiration dates on lunch meat- so when a series of bad to worse fender benders that finally culminated in a car crash took away my ability to get from point A to point B, I waited around for a solution to fall out of the sky.

When this didn’t happen, I got a very generous offer from my uncle-the use of his early 80s Ford super van.  I had neither the balls nor the alternate plan required to turn down this mode of reliable and free transport- and so I became a van driver.

At first it felt like a marriage hastily arranged by old timey parents between you and a boy from their quaint European village of yesteryear. It was  as if I’d appeared out of a wrinkle in a future time line to clumsily wrestle with this dark paneled beast and its  purple velvet seating .  The vague superiority complex caused by years of only child syndrome and an inflated sense of self had me taking back roads and parking a mile away from civilization to avoid being found out by the Nancy Drew of automobile shaming.   But then something deep and resounding started happening inside of me every time I turned the key over and listened to the rev of its obnoxiously loud engine that rendered all occupants  unable to communicate with sound-  I began to fully appreciate its lumbering beauty.

What is not to love about rolling up to  the curb  in what effectively could be a fully functioning home?

It had bunks, a low swanky couch, a television, vcr and an eating area.

All you had to do was duck out for a bathroom break and a wash and all your worldly needs were met!


Soon though, like all things I embraced, I came to befoul and destroy them. The van became  sad, untidy, a receptacle of discarded food cartons and dirty clothes. Strange odors stole its charm and made me less inclined to stretch out in the back to watch full house episodes instead of working. Eventually, my car repairs were finished and per my mothers insistence I took my uncles vehicle to get detailed and buffed before handing her back.  Sad to see her go, but secure in the understanding that she would always be there if she was needed. Steadfast and true.

The simple beauty of the van was its unapologetic lack of cool . It served me well in my time of need and gave me something I sorely lack at this exact moment- as I write wedged between two Hardee’s fast food bags and my mothers gargantuan pocketbook- leg room and a crushed velvet body pillow to spoon.





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Bends Over Backwards So You Don’t Have To

Like most people, I prefer it when everything runs smoothly.


That is why, if we were  expressing this moment in interpretive dance, you’d see a small ineffective waif clinging to what remains of the status quo while angry imps, representing chaos and bad choices, hit her with mean words and dust mops embroidered with the word “WRONG”.


Those of us still plagued by old school ideas about raising and educating our kids consider them a set of guidelines that while sometimes suffocating are still better than any sort of idea we might come up with ourselves. They’re a necessary evil, and we tell our kids to buck up and get with the program so that the life machine can swallow them up a little easier when the school system spits them out the other side. And for a while, that worked here in our house as well.


Enter, the dragon. Or more specifically my third child. No core curriculum could interest him. No seat was big enough to contain his energy and more tragically no teacher could tame him enough to make him fit the confines of a classroom. At age four a preschool teacher deemed him “unteachable” and “a danger” and recommended an army of specialists with long lists of credentials. He confounded them all.  People who shouted loudly and forcefully to discipline him harder had no real understanding of what they were dealing with, and made an already strained situation worse with their frustration. In the middle of all this frenetic grasping at straws and last chances up in smoke stood the kid who was the reason for it all, looking at all of us as if we were already dead but just too stupid to fall over.

Cut to six years later, all the educational buffoons and braying donkeys were wrong. The small boy, about whom someone once remarked “he’ll either burn down the world or rule it with an iron fist” is a thriving, intelligent, kindhearted person with limitless possibilities. I used to struggle with the upsettingly tremendous sense of burden I carried with me when making decisions about how to proceed academically, personally and parentally (not a word? FU spellcheck) with my third kid, but now the sigh of relief you hear is deafening. The endless disciplinary hearings and terrifying diagnoses that made up so much of my nightmare fuel back then are distant memories. They’ve been replaced by the pounding elegance and delicate savagery of a boy who made his own way, despite every odd being stacked against him, with sharpened wits and a broad field of vision that enables him to see where he’s going and how he’s going to get there.

I dare say, he’s my boldest creation.

So if you find yourself mired in a pit of parental despair, surrounded by angry “specialists” that just charged you ten thousand dollars for the pleasure of sitting down and discussing the somewhat questionable neuro/psych/edu. test results they got, and what it all means for your poor kids future, remember that from the ashes of this complete and utter bullshit can sometimes rise a little phoenix – and keep ahold of that while you take a deep breath.


Filed under 2015 is the new 2013, am I doing anything right?, average is so much easier, back to regularly scheduled programming, I'm back bitches, kids with issues

1802 Domicile Redux


It’s a riveting concept.

The place where you keep all your things, feed your family and try to establish some sort of orderly routine lest you all fall into the lava pit of chaos where no one gets out alive.

It’s base, if you’re touching it, you’re safe.

Volcanic tantrums, meaningless fights, hilarity, love and hate all  took place  within the brick confines of its walls and you complained endlessly about its shortcomings- but it was where you lived.

So I suppose this is the half assed, semi enthusiastic long overdue love letter to the hundred year old city house with the shitty plumbing, scalding radiators and crumbling foundation.

Three weeks ago, when I walked out of you for the last time it hit me like a gut punch from Manny Pacquiao in his ferocious prime- the tiny people we raised there, the dogs that came and went, the absolute mischief and delight we caused and witnessed, the loud fights,the drunk guys on our porch catching a nap, the bold magnificently unrepentant rats, the hugs, the bedtimes, the recreation of a Santa Claus that came in the front door- because this is the CITY motherfucker. A guy could get SHOT just sliding down your chimney unannounced! These new owners wouldn’t be seeing this history and it needed to go somewhere…

Great things happened at 1802, an infinite variety  of gestures grand and small, growing pains and lots of juice stains on the carpet.  And there it is, the irony of all ironies- the woman who hated that house from day one gets the most crippling phantom pains once it’s gone.  The best surprises, of course, are the ones you don’t see coming- and that house managed to get a stranglehold on me while I was busy doing other things.  It started as a hazy idea, rough around the edges and out of focus, but then in sharpened, came together, righted itself and made it clear. You may like other houses, shit, you may love them and all their splendor, but you will never grow up, out and over a place like me with my uneven floors, my classic woodwork and bad overhead dim lighting.  So own it Duffy, you’ll always have a little love for 1802, no matter how hard you try to fight it.


Filed under 1802 strikes again, city people become country people, don't say I told you so, home, I don't miss the rats, moving

Today I Almost Choked to Death on A Mini Tootsie Roll

The last two days I’ve fluctuated between being kind of sad and then having little mini rage strokes over something that really isn’t that big of a deal. It’s the kind of thing that my parents used to deal with by shrugging and saying “oh well, good luck”, while I, on the other hand, just run the problem over and over in my mind making it sound more like the end of days each time it comes out of the rinse cycle of my grey matter.

To add a little levity to the situation I decided to take a drive to my local market to see the new displays of Halloween candy. I was especially enamored of the large pack of Tootsie Roll “Midgees” and thought about how good it would make me feel to inhale a pack of these in less than 24 hours.

TAKE THAT PROBLEM! I have a rich brown bag of gooey chocolate-like treats that I’m going to enjoy now while I block you out and pretend you don’t exist!

And so I began the ritual of unrolling each candy and gingerly popping it in my mouth to savor it’s chewy legacy. Each time I’d finish one, I’d toss a new one in – conveniently forgetting about how it’s predecessor had stuck to my teeth and almost pulled out two fillings while attempting to chew.

The problem with candy in bulk is that you feel obligated to eat the entire thing or it was a waste of money. And here is where my guilt over uneaten food, my desire to drown my first world problem in sugar and my choice of only my two dogs for company, all joined together to almost become my undoing.

Two Tootsie rolls made one by excessive saliva, cemented my jaws nearly shut and caused a tsunami of tangy tootsie roll flavored spit to drip down the wrong pipe. This triggered a coughing fit, and in my haste to draw in a breath the sludge like substance that had once been the candy slid down the back of my throat and blocked my breathing. During this life or death episode my smaller dog just looked at me cautiously and my larger one snored in the warm sun of an beautiful October day.

My flailing and sputtering around confused and frightened them, and they moved as far away from me as possible.

After about ten seconds, that seemed like twenty minutes in the exaggeration storytelling portion of my head, I dislodged the blockage and gouged out what remained of the Tootsie sludge from my mouth. I wanted to talk to my dogs about how close they had come to just sitting there and watching me die, but became fascinated with the cement like quality of the substance I’d just picked out of my jowls and wisdom teeth. Tootsie Rolls are the superglue of the candy world, and don’t you forget it or you too could be the corpse they find face down surrounded by sad dogs….


Filed under dogs that don't help you when you choke, dying alone and covered in candy, tootsie rolls, your first world problems are really pathetic



One of the most underrated aspects of owning a dog is being able to do simple things for them that inexplicably give them the joyous euphoria they so clearly experience from these small nuggets.

Leave the house for five minutes, and come home to the most rapturous welcome back party you’ve ever seen.

Hand them a treat and they will sit obediently for six hours, frozen in the right position in the hope that there is another one hidden in your pocket that will materialize if they do everything just right.

Now imagine if you have a doggie who is suffering some sort of pain and you are in charge of the meds that will reduce the discomfort. You have just become the Pablo Escobar of the canine world.

I know that outdated drug lord reference is a result of watching Johnny Depp’s “Blow” one too many times and that anyone not born before 1980 might have to google it, but trust me, in his day the guy was really at the top of his game.

Anyway, my expensive, but needy lap dog developed some sort of “degenerative neck disorder” common for her breed and now I have inherited the task of medicating her every 6-8 hours. I’m in a constant state of pain panic, worrying that every time I can’t be there with the pills there will be a horrific scene of sadness and pity. And of course my fears are pretty much right on the money- each time I’ve screwed it up, I’ve returned to a crippled looking ball of wailing dog agony. It’s fair to say that it’s pretty sad.

Therefore, I now come armed with a cabinet full of painkillers and muscle relaxers that would impress even the most serious Drugstore Cowboys (see that? See how I used that?) and my goofy looking puppy floats around here high as a kite and loose as a goose…..

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