Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflections on New Year's Eve 2011

Midnight is closing in, as I sit here in the quiet- all of my loved ones asleep. My house is full of the scents of our Southern New Year - collards, bacon, corn bread... Though we are Californians now, the tradition remains to pass along. I am replete with both anticipation for our annual open house tomorrow and thoughts on riding out the year of 2011.

It seems a good time to reflect on all that has changed this year. I wrote less, but branched out more. I do miss the days of early blogging, when I rushed to the keyboard, adrenaline pumping... Those days are gone, but my passion for writing is still here. The fire is banked, the coals needing a bit of a fresh breeze to stir them. I'm hopeful that 2012 will bring more frequency of words upon the page.

I am conscious of the many blessings in my life - my husband and children, our health, and being gainfully employed.

There have been many changes this year for my family. In the fall I started working full-time, which has brought many good things. I am happy to be earning a real pay check again, and to be a financial partner to my husband. The shift hasn't been easy- it never is. We struggle to find our way, like all couples do, when the family work needs two shoulders leaning into it - to get it done.

It's been a long time since I've made any kind of New Year's Resolutions. This year I find myself wanting those intentions - to be kinder to my husband, to have more patience with my children, to schedule writing and exercise time for myself. My whole being is starved for regular movement, and for eating well. My children are young, and I am not. I want to be here for them, for a long time... It's time to place the health of myself at the top of the list.

I want more face time with my friends. Real time. Dinner parties and meeting for tea, and taking hikes under both blue skies and days that threaten rain.

It was a simple Christmas this year, and I loved it. I envision more of the same with the freedom of less stuff.

This night I dream of new challenges ahead, and good times, better times for all. I am conscious of how much I have and how so many are going without.

Happy 2012! May all of our dreams and resolutions shine through the New Year...and help fuel a world with more love and intention for all.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Mommy, is Santa Claus real?

It's that magical time of the year! Parents of wide-eyed and impressionable children are going fast and furious- making sure that their children are well nourished in Santa Claus Lore... despite the countdown to the TRUTH. JCK is no different. JCK has been getting her exercise trying to slam back that "Santa Claus" crushing SERVE smacked over the net by her two children.

Mommy, is there a Santa Claus?

Mommy, is Santa Claus real?

Mommy, do you sneak out in the night and buy us a bunch of presents?

JCK has been lobbing those balls back like nobody's business.

Well, what do YOU think? (Good volley, JCK)

Do I sneak out in the middle of the night and buy you a bunch of presents? No, I do not.

(Well, this is...TRUE. JCK does not sneak out in the middle of the night to purchase presents. There might be some...sneaking INTO THE KITCHEN to scarf down treats, but no one has to know about that.)

40 LOVE ...for JCK.

But, it's not feeling like JCK is winning. She is truly teetering on the fine-line edge of THE TRUTH, and it is uncomfortable. JCK has prided herself on being honest with her children, barring something that is age inappropriate. However, JCK knows that she is on a precipice now between what is real, what is imaginary, and the complicated parts betwixt the two. Everyone WANTS to BELIEVE...including the large child with silver hair. Will this be the last Christmas for the Santa hold-out?

JCK remembers when she heard there was NO SANTA! from one of those DO-GOODERS in Elementary school. JCK remembers going home and asking her mother and being devastated- devastated...when her mother told her the TRUTH.

Was the worst part that there was NO SANTA or that her parents had misled her? JCK is not sure, but JCK knows that she doesn't wish that onto her children. Yet, she just hasn't been able to let it go...this year. Perhaps JCK needs to believe in Santa more than her children do.

So, this Christmas, as you kiss those sweet little brows or hug your grown-up children, remember that the magic of Santa can come in many forms. At least, that's what JCK is telling herself...

Merry Christmas, to all! And to all a good night! HO! HO! HO!

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

I have yet to find my place

I'm sitting on the sidelines of my own life. An audience member rather than a participant. Removed. Unable to reach the flow of the river, which is clearly moving at a rapid pace in one direction. There's that palpable ache again-it's reach deep into my psyche, yet the bruising is in my heart.

Writing is about the last thing I want to do right now, and the only thing I want to do. There is no in-between, no comfort zone. I am lashed by my own thoughts. Life is marching forward. I have yet to find my place.

If I squint my eyes I can barely make out a turn up ahead. If I could just jump in and ride, I'd be OK. It's the rocking back and forth with indecision and non-action that haunts me.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Then I'll huff & I'll puff & I'll blow your house down...

The last few days have been high on weather DRAMA. Last Wednesday due to the gale force winds in our area, we lost all power until yesterday. It was an "adventure" for the first 24 hours, but by Friday we were tired of darkness and had started to toss out food. We were very lucky compared to many neighbors.

We had a window blow out in our sun porch/play room, and lots of branches and debris over both back and front yards. Many of our friends are still without power, and ...another wind advisory is in effect for tonight. It's been a good practice run for disaster preparedness.

Grateful for:

1) The old 1945 forced air gas furnace keeping us warm
2) The LED powered camping lantern
3) Old fashioned plug-in phone (land line)- no cell phone reception for 48 hours
3) A stove top with gas burners
4) Children who have learned how to play several card games
5) Kids Reading books by headlamps
6) Whiskey stocked
7) Coolers to ice down perishables
8) Emergency radio
9) Brother-n-law & Sister-n-law who let me work out of their home on Friday
10) Gas water heater - nothing like a hot shower to make you believe you can take on the day

Note: these are all homes in our neighborhood.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

the spaces in-between the going and the coming...

Our fall is spectacular this year. Vivid reds and bright yellows overtaking the green. We in the land of nuance, where the change of season often flits by unnoticed. There is no subtlety about this Autumn, a photographer's dream.

The color guard marks the parallel growth of my children, also spectacular and extraordinary. My daughter has lost another tooth - the 8th of tiny little teeth that seem even smaller in hand. My son turned 8 last week. He takes up more room now, footfalls heavier on the floor boards, and his head bridging the gap between my chest and collar bone.

Last week I drank in my vacation in small increments -stopping to breathe in the peace of not being responsible for work. I spent time reading and eating, and sleeping the deep sleep of one without extra burdens.

Today my husband and I returned to work, and the children to school. All of us with obligations to carry out, and routines to follow. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the time off... fingers flexing, but not on the keyboard. It was a true Thanksgiving, and I am left with gratitude for family and for the spaces in-between the going and the coming...

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Sky Rockets

BOY and GIRL were busy watching their favorite “new” show, The Brady Bunch. Unbeknownst to JCK, this episode had Bobby Brady kissing his first girl -causing a vision of sky rockets to blast off in a bubble above his head.

Overheard by JCK’s husband:

BOY (the romantic): I’m going to go kiss Mom and see if I see SKY ROCKETS.

GIRL (the pragmatist): You won’t.

JCK was in her room packing for their Thanksgiving trip.

BOY: Mom! Mom! Bend down.

JCK: (always suspicious of possible launches on her being): Why?

BOY: I want to give you something.

JCK: O.K…..

BOY planted a big smacker on JCK’s cheek.


BOY: Darn it! It didn’t work.

BOY ran out of the room.

GIRL: I told you!

It appears visions of SKY ROCKETS are reserved for JCK’s husband...

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You get beat up and you get chased by girls

I love the conversations I have with my son when I am tucking him in at night. It is a struggle to get to the tucking in get him to stop building Legos, or stop reading, and head to bed. Then, of course, there is that last bathroom stop and..brushing of teeth. BOY manages to drag this out for another 5-10 minutes. Finally, he makes it to his room and flings himself upon the top bunk, and shares what is on his mind - in that moment.

BOY: OOOF!..It's tough being a boy.

JCK: Why is it tough being a boy?

BOY: You get beat up and you get chased by girls.

JCK: Wow, that does sound tough.

BOY: It is...the girls run after me and try to kiss...

JCK: What? They aren't supposed to be doing that.

BOY: Well, they run after me and hug me and squeeze me.

JCK: Who are these girls? What grade are they in?

BOY: Mom, I don't stick around to ask. I'm running for my life!

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

schedule my own intermezzo

Returning to work full-time has had its share of dips and dives. I love the paycheck, partnering as an income earner, and helping my family financially. Sharing the weight of it with my husband -this piece is very good. I feel more empowered, taller, calmer - someone to be taken seriously. For better or worse...I perceive my world as being better.

The challenge continues to be finding the rhythm of my days, fitting in what absolutely needs to be done for our household, and fitting in what I need to keep myself invigorated and creative. That last treasured piece has felt a bit like ruins under my feet. But... I am beginning to salvage fragments, and am determined to create the whole puzzle- even if it looks misshapen. Balance, perhaps not. Perhaps never. Passionate drive, always...yet, so elusive it slides into the darkness.

My children have adjusted well to aftercare three days a week. It is pick them up and have them so happy to see me. They fling themselves upon me, wrapping their limbs around my legs... shouting MOMMY!! at the top of their lungs - faces covered with Happy Dirt, and mouths rapidly moving describing their day. Our evenings are fast paced- dinner, more times than not, is scrabbled together, then baths, and off to bed. The cherished story time often gets superseded by a game or all of us being just... too damn tired.

I'm not sure why I am so opposed to putting myself on a schedule. I know intellectually that my life will be the better for it. Yet, I avoid it at all costs, not wanting to be boxed in. There's that stubborn piece. The one that keeps me stuck, complaining that I don't have time for it all, when what I really need to do is schedule my own intermezzo. Excuse me...while I have a word with the conductor...

"Wisdom Follows" -painting by Chuck Gumpert.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

the full force of a Raging Mother

I used to wonder why I was blessed with two challenging children. And, then I realized that we are all challenged and challenging in different ways. Each one of us flawed human beings, with demons that we exercise and need exorcised. Our children are no exception.

Tonight my daughter had one of her full-out tantrums in which she is so angry that she cannot see straight. She loses feeling of where her body is in space, and rages, flinging herself wildly around.

I handled it poorly. I met her anger force with mine. Not with physical force, but the full force of a Raging Mother.

That never works.

Later, after tears and hugs and tears again, we talked it through. She needs me now. More than ever. To guide her, and provide tools so that she can choose how she reacts to a situation in which she feels she has no control over.

We are both exhausted. But, we are on to something. A plan. One that will help facilitate a conscious negotiation, and not just a battle.

I rubbed her back as I sang to her tonight. It calmed us both. And, I ached with the thought that any of her pain had been caused by me...

Sculpture called "Comforted" at The Sculpture Gallery.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Goodbye, Cali Girl, we shall miss you...

She was a little pup in a pile of pups, yet the only one awake. As I walked up, she climbed over all of her sleeping brothers and sisters to greet me. A blond dog with eyelashes the color of caramel, and beautiful tilted eyes. I lifted her out -only to play with her for a few minutes, I convinced myself. I left the Humane Society an hour later with her in the front seat. When I arrived, climbing out of the car and depositing this small pup on the driveway, my husband said ...that's not a kitten. I had left to pick out a kitten. Minor detour. We named her Cali -setting our sights ahead to a future life in California. That was 14 1/2 years ago.

Cali brought us much. She was young and feisty and a great swimmer. A mix of lab and chow chow, she was what you'd call "a looker." She and our dog, Soul Man, were buddies. He black as night, she golden like the summer hills of Southern California. When our children arrived, she was good with them. Patient, patient...patient. When Soul Man died, she became more social. She liked it when we were outside. She would often wander into the middle of a back yard "pitch and hit" family baseball game, and lie down in the middle of the outfield - right where you wanted to go...

Other than eating, Cali loved hikes most of all. She chased deer and squirrels, and was the best gopher catcher to ever spend a weekend near Solvang.

She left us this night, peacefully, surrounded by love. We will be forever grateful to our lovely friend, and veterinarian who helped her to the next life in the comfort of her home. I like to imagine that there is a Heaven just for Dogs. And, that it looks like the book: "Go, Dog Go!", by P.D. Eastman. Do you like my hat?! Yes, we do...we really, really do! Goodbye, Cali Girl, we shall miss you...

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Weekly Chatter

Like bonbons, the bon mots keep us going...

Earlier this week, GIRL and JCK were headed out of the house for Daisy Scouts. GIRL and BOY had been bouncing off the walls, amping each other up. Finally JCK and GIRL were able to get in the car and drive away.

JCK exasperated: GIRL, why did you get BOY so riled up? That's not fair to BOY or Daddy.

GIRL: Oh, I'm sure Daddy will get BOY unriled.

Upon JCK & GIRL's return, E.K. and BOY were having a creativity contest- LEGOS and Dominoes being the building materials. Earlier in the evening, they had a "Who can Build the Tallest LEGO Structure" contest.

E.K. building a tower.

BOY: Dad, it can't just be tall. It needs to have style.

JCK and E.K. were talking about their 16th anniversary coming up (today.) There was a bit of reminiscing.

BOY (to E.K).: If your name had been Barf Face, Mom would never have married you.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Creativity dying a dusty death somewhere nearby

Today, calling myself a writer feels deceptive. Oh...I miss it! The writing life. The sifting of words to replace the ordinary. The stretching of my brain into creative alleyways. That feeling, like no other, of stumbling down a path that alternates with smooth stones and unknown crevasses. I want it, all of it, and need it. But, for now, my writing life is sitting low. Sometimes it feels like it is just out of reach, patiently waiting for me, and other times it feels incredibly far away. As if that was another person entirely.

My writing muscles grow weak - my life taken over by The Must Do's, and my head cluttered with The To Do's. Creativity dying a dusty death somewhere nearby.

Words, like clothes, get old-fashioned, or mean and ridiculous, when they have been for some time laid asideWilliam Hazlitt

If I could have anything in my life at this moment, it would be the ability to do it all. The adjustment to working full-time has gone well, yet I feel overwhelmed...often. Perhaps, I have to accept that it is the perpetual state of one who works full-time, is a wife and mother, and who has some semblance of a writing career...on the side.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Apparently, moths are now attracted to eau du perimenopause

JCK SWORE, and you know how JCK likes to curse, that she would not, could not, should not write another blog post referring in any way, shape or form to perimenopause. However, JCK lost. Alas, poor readers, here we are... adrift... on a sea of JCK's hot flash sweat. Before you venture further, JCK is giving you an Ally Ally Oxen Free. You are free to go elsewhere and read golden nuggets of wisdom and adventure on a wholesome and informative Parenting Blog. You will not find that here today.

Yessiree, Mr. Wilson, THE CHANGE has begun. JCK would say that the stress of THE CHANGE has turned her hair WHITE overnight, but you know that she would be lying. She will say that humor is of the essence in her home life now. That, and sleep. Oh, good grief, here comes Another HOT there NO MERCY?! Excuse JCK while she strips down.

Where was she? Oh, yes. Sleep and maintaining a sense of humor. JCK, in pursuit of having an open dialogue with her children, talks about THE CHANGE every other hour or so. JCK's son is now claiming to have hot flashes of his own and JCK's daughter asked her just the other day:

Mommy, what's your favorite kind of hot flash?

Yes. She did say that.

They laughed and laughed, at JCK's expense, including JCK - lest you think she is humorless.

In all fairness, the discussion was about a movie and what each of their favorite moments were. GIRL seemed to feel it was a natural leap from movie moments to her mother's heated moments. Ahhh...the segue.

JCK believes she is emitting a new scent. Just this morning a moth started darting at her. Now, during normal circumstances of a moth darting at JCK, she would only be annoyed, but JCK started thinking a little too much and was righteously OFFENDED. JCK knows that moths are not butterflies drawn to flowers and sunlight. Moths are drawn to musty old closets. Apparently, moths are now attracted to eau du perimenopause. And, to JCK. She gritted her teeth and moved on. The moth dead on the floor. Smashed to bits by the toe of JCK's low heeled fuzzy slipper.

JCK is tired now. Most of the time. It used to be that JCK could get by several days a week on 5-7 hours of sleep a night. No more! By the time it is 8:30pm, JCK drops with exhaustion and often climbs into bed. There is many the time when JCK is tucking in her children that she wishes to curl up right to the adorable cuteness. But, she manages to stumble back to her bedroom and tumble into her own lair. Whether it is to protect her sanity or her vanity, and there is no accident that those two words rhyme, JCK's vanity/sanity dictate that she retire to try again another day.

It is to be noted that: JCK's husband would probably want to debate JCK on the definition of "lair" & that JCK absolutely DENIES that she is a poseur.

Last night was a fairly good night. Only awakening once or twice in her own dew, JCK felt fairly refreshed when she awakened this morning. However, her face appeared to have hillocks under her eyes. Not to be deterred, JCK slathered her anti-PUFF lotion under her eyes. It felt so soothing, she spread it over her entire visage. What lovely oil. mmm.... And then, she realized!@#*^!!?? that she had been smearing anti-frizz hair oil all over her face.

Lest you worry, JCK wasn't that upset. You know... one time, one mistake. Happens to everyone. She's always saying that to her children. Except that she looked at the amount left in the bottle and now believes that she may have been putting this on her face for a few days. Perhaps JCK needs a bit more sleep. She'll need all of her energy to run away from the ATTACK moths...

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

I love you more than the Universe

Dearest GIRL,

Last week you turned 7. You said it best...Mommy, I think my body is growing so much because it knows I'm about to turn 7.

I can never express how proud I am of you. Each day you are open to see what you can accomplish. You reach high and usually succeed. Your tenacity and willingness to try it again will serve you well in life. I admire your spirit and how you never give up.

You have an old soul that is visible in your eyes and spirit. You often seem much older than your age. Sometimes I forget... I treasure our conversations and your curiosity about life. You ask lots of questions, and sometimes the answers you receive are not enough. You have to ask more questions until you are satisfied.

You have a fiery temper. Sometimes it is hard to reach you, because you are so angry. But, after you have had your space to cool down, and when you are ready to talk it through, the anger passes. One of the things that infuriates you is when something isn't fair. I wish that life was fair, my love, but it isn't. However, there is one thing I do know. If there is a way to make things fair in a situation, you will do it.

I love how you stand up for yourself, and are not swayed by your peers. If you don't agree with something a friend is doing, you bow out. You are learning how to do this gracefully.

In addition to your writing notebook that you keep in your back pack, you have started keeping a diary. I love how you go to your room, close the door and take the time to write down your thoughts. I hope that you will always take that time for yourself. It is important.

You've assimilated so easily into our new schedule with extended days after school. I wasn't sure how it would be for you, but you've greeted the new change with your usual eagerness. When I pick you up, you run across the field or the parking lot or the cafeteria - wherever you are, you run...shout MOMMY!!! and throw your arms around me. It is the best greeting in the world.

I love how you are not caught up in our media culture. You don't yearn to be a rock star or wear the latest fashions. You aren't afraid to get dirty when you play, and you love to dress up for something special. You are confident in yourself. I hope you will always have it. It is something special.

During your birthday shower at school, you told me one of your friends said, "I like how you are always caring about other people." How lovely that another 1st grader has that perception about you. You have the ability to be friends with everyone. And, that is admirable.

You are busy with many things this year...Choir and Daisy Scouts and Ballet. I sat back and watched you last night at your first Daisy Scouts meeting. You jumped right in with your usual excitement. I took in your beauty - your brown hair flying out as you danced, your swirling skirt and long legs, and your radiant smile. And, I was full.

You are still saying that you want to be a Kindergarten Teacher when you grow up. Whatever it is that you decide to do, everyone around you will be the better for you being in their lives.

I love you more than the Universe, the stars, banana splits, mustard, hot dogs, artichokes, boomerangs and of course up to the moon and back. You are my schnooks, always. I treasure you, and feel lucky every day to have you as my daughter.


Your Mommy

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Friday, September 23, 2011

this was a completely ordinary morning

JCK believes in being candid and open with her children - within reason and when appropriate. At least this is what JCK strives...for. It is to be mentioned that sometimes this plan backfires and gets JCK in hot soup. Speaking of hot, JCK was driving her children to school the other morning when the following ensued.

BOY: OWWW! My foot feels like it's on FIRE! It REALLY hurts, Mom. OWWWW...

JCK would like to mention that this was a completely ordinary morning in the Motherscribe household. Feet on fire, being brutalized by the fierce seat belt bully, JCK's son is prone to exaggeration. JCK has NO idea where he gets it from.

GIRL-- staring at her brother...perhaps a rolling of eyes.

JCK: (Making her best effort to redirect.) BOY, I think you're going to be all right. You can be like me. I feel like I'm on fire all the time now.

GIRL: You do?

JCK: Yes. You know how a woman can have a baby?

GIRL: Yes.

BOY -- Beginning to nod off, but the fire in his foot appears to have abated.

JCK: Well, when a woman gets older, her body can't have babies anymore and her body gets a little wacky and she gets hot flashes. It's pretty weird, because your body feels like it is on fire.

GIRL: Does your uterus blow up?

Nothing like laughter with your children to overcome hot flash entertainment...

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Friday, September 16, 2011

But, before JCK goes up in flames...

JCK is a bit verklempt. Throw in gobsmacked, with a splash of agog, and you get the picture. This would have nothing to do with her turning 50 next week, or that she recently accepted a full-time job the week before her children started back to school. Or, that her husband has nicknamed her, with affection, Woman on Fire - not for her fiery spirit, but more for the fire that appears to rage on and off within her body day & night. Ahhh...the hot flashes. Ain't life grand?

But, before JCK goes up in flames... she does wish to put down on paper that her children have assimilated into the new schedule of three days a week in aftercare with not only aplomb, but eagerness. Indeed, JCK is now greeted with such effusive hugs and exuberant cries that she wonders why she didn't do this...earlier. It helps that her children are in an aftercare program that is run by an amazing summer camp - young counselors who play and engage the children - rather than sitting back and watching them. But, it is more than that. The Motherscribe Household was ready for the change, and BOY & GIRL are happy.

In fact, the person who has had the hardest adjustment is JCK herself. Can she say...Time Management. She wishes she could, but every time she tries to say it ...she's run out of time. So, JCK asks that you bear with her as she navigates this new path. She longs to be here writing more often, but she's being pulled in many directions. She's turning 50 (yes, she did just say that AGAIN), and keeping her chin up, along with other equipment. It's a losing battle, but she's pretending it isn't. The denial will work for a few more days, but then she'll have to smile, tuck her butt in and give a big whoop! After all, she's worked hard to get here...

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th is a reminder of our ability to come together

Today I am struck with the how, why and where's. And what I would have said to my children, had I had children then, on that September 11th morning born of a crisp blue sky, when five minutes before people were going about their day, alive, and then they were not.

We all have our memories of where we were when it happened. I remember I had left for work, and turned on NPR for my commute, as I did every morning. I only drove a few blocks, before turning around and coming home. Sobered, and not clear at all on what I was really hearing, I walked back in the front door and called out to my husband. We turned on the television. And, sat there for hours, watching the twin towers fall again, and again.

I turned 40 eight days later. We had a party. It was a little odd celebrating life and decades lived, when just days before there had been so much death. Although I hadn't been anywhere near the tragedies on that day, I still wondered...why me? Why do I get to be here and celebrate 40 years, and they don't? What is my purpose?

I'm not sure what I would have said to my children had they been here on 9/11. But, I have been thinking about all of the parents who did have to explain this day of tragedy, 10 years ago. And, of the children whose parents did not come home that day. Or ever again.

I wonder about the moms and dads who until that day were like me. Perhaps they worried that their daughter would forget to look both ways before she crossed the street. Or, that their car would be sideswiped at the exact moment that their son was playing, yet again, with his seat belt. Did they worry that they might not be the parents that they yearned to be? That they weren't sure they were strong enough, resilient enough, to see their child with extreme attention difficulties, through his school years. Or, worry that their daughter would later blame them for blatant neglect, their own energy and attention sucked into the child with challenges.

These are my worries today. I am blessed to have them, although I rarely feel that way, getting sucked into my own self-involved vortex.

September 11th is a reminder of our ability to come together in the midst of horrific tragedy, and that there is no community too large. It is the stories we share together that move us. And the Chapter of 9/11 cuts a wide swath, yet an opportunity to reach out to one another.

My children are still young. Yet, I hope that I can share more with them than the death and devastation of that day. Perhaps the purpose for some of us, is to stretch and grow and strain and even breakdown. Because we can... those that died cannot. And, they'd do it for us.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tell me about the week, Mama.

My daughter and I have a ritual. After lights out, I sit on her bed in the dark and we talk about the upcoming week. She likes me to go over each day, telling her what is planned, what may happen, and what could be. GIRL is not big on surprises. She loves her life carved out in orderly pieces, with dashes of spontaneity.

Sunday night was such a night. We were at my mother's house, so she was sleeping in a big bed. I was able to lie next to her, both of us quietly breathing in the dark.

Tell me about the week, Mama.

And, I did.

We arrived at Tuesday, the first day of 1st grade.

Would you like me to walk you to your classroom on Tuesday, GIRL?

Yes, Mommy.

There was a sigh in the dark. Both of us, in synch, thinking very different thoughts.

Mommy, do parents get to stay for the morning on the first day in 1st grade, like they did in Kindergarten?

I don't think so, GIRL.

OK. Then I don't want you to volunteer on Tuesday.

Would you like to have the day to yourself, so that you can tell me about it?

Yes! And, after Tuesday, you can volunteer whenever you want to! But, not on Tuesday.

O.K., my little schnooks.

I kissed the soft baby hair that falls across my daughter's forehead, and said Good Night.

How can this little girl be so wise?

And, then came yesterday...

I was fine until GIRL lined up with all the children outside the classroom, and GIRL's teacher told the parents to give their child a hug and a kiss good-bye. It was time. Everyone knew it, but me. I hugged my GIRL tight, and let go... Then I walked away. She was ready, but my sunglasses didn't quite make it back over my wet eyes...

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Boy deals in facts

While on vacation this week...

Kathleen, a Family Friend: BOY & GIRL, you just get taller and taller every time I see you.

BOY: That's just life.

Kathleen: Are you OK going into the locker room by yourself, BOY?

BOY: I'm a man.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

She is our very own cupid

Our house is filled with her notes. Big ones, small ones. Some full of color, some black and white. Scattering them across rooms, and on doors, she is free with her love...

She hand delivers them to our desks, pulls them out of her camp lunch box, or leaves her thoughts slanting across an easel...

Her mark is everywhere. She is a girl destined to be heard.

What a blessing to have our very own cupid...

Drawing above - GIRL's self-portrait.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

the fullness of homemade, blueberry-banana pancakes in the belly...

As always, I am conscious of the quick passage of time, yet this summer has flown by on new wings of flight. Our days rolling one upon the other to arrive at the end, before I had a chance to savor the middle.

Last night, after a day at the beach, I made blueberry-banana pancakes for dinner. It took forever, having one non-stick pan with a 6 inch circumference, which meant one pancake at a time. It was an opportunity to be frustrated, make something special for my husband and each of my children, individually.

My son was the first up at the pancake bar, GIRL sitting in the living room, mesmerized by an episode of The Brady Bunch. As I stood in front of the stove, BOY would race into the kitchen, throw his arms around me, and tell me I was the best mom in the world. MOM, YOU ARE THE GREATEST MOM IN THE WORLD! He was angling for pancakes, but he also thought I was the best mom in the world because I was making pancakes for dinner. With real maple syrup and yes to whipped cream, Mom...

My GIRL, stuffed with anecdotes of Marcia Brady, sauntered into the kitchen keeping me company while I watched her pancake turn golden. The freckles dancing across her nose remind me of her father -if I imagine him at this age. She is my best companion in the kitchen, bar none. She likes her pancakes stuffed with blueberries, and with lots...of maple syrup.

My husband arrived home between flips of pancakes sizzling in the pan. Covered with the batter of his day, smelling of wood chips and fresh air. It seems his destiny to come home during the witching hour, when anything that can go wrong...will, with a 6 year old girl and a 7 year old boy in their end-of-the-day full throttle battle mode. If love could be willed into a pancake, it would have his name on it in blueberry letters. He likes his pancakes with maple syrup, and always comes back for more.

Then it was my turn. Light on bananas, plenty of fresh blueberries and lots of whipped cream. My belly replete with love for the family that I thought I would never have.

Today is the last day of camp for my children. It has been a summer filled with swimming, tie-dying, archery, the making of fairy wands, and Epic battles between counselors with tin foil armor and kids wielding swords. Every Tuesday and Thursday, they have come home covered in dirt and paint, hair in disarray, their skin pink from the heat. An outdoor summer camp, the old-fashioned way.

In a world in which we are assaulted with bad news on a daily basis, when we face the loss of loved ones, somehow it seems safe to grieve the loss of summer and the fullness of homemade, blueberry-banana pancakes in the belly...

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Friday, August 12, 2011

How do you split up the family work in your home?

Men are contributing more than ever before to family work. Yet, why do women feel like they are doing everything? Perhaps there is truth in both viewpoints, and a middle ground somewhere in between. How do you split up the family work in your home? I'm blogging about that over on the Huffington Post today. Come read. And, share your thoughts.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

BlogHer would not be BlogHer without the amazing conversations

There are those experiences of which you cannot compare, and BlogHer11 was one of those. Over 3,000 women bloggers and writers arrived in San Diego to learn, network, share of themselves and take in their own experience. Elisa Camahort Page, Jory Des Jardins and Lisa Stone, have created an organization that is truly unique. Better yet, they've created a community that supports women as only women can.

This was my 2nd conference, and the growth of attendees from 2,0000 at BlogHer08 in San Francisco to close to 3,600 this year was pretty mind boggling. Yes, it can be overwhelming - and it is. But, it is also an amazing opportunity to set eyes on your friends. Whether it is a blogger whom you've followed for years, or someone you've recently come across, making that connection in person is powerful.

I immersed myself in sessions from Essential Writing & Editing Skills to Success on Our Own Terms: A Discussion with Huffington Post Women, to Owning your Beauty: If We Change the Conversation, Can We Change the Culture?

I sat in awe through the Voices of the Year- a handful of bloggers picked for their amazing writing in the last year. Women who stood on the stage, making us laugh or slaying us with their words.

And, of course there are the parties... After all those sessions, you have to party. You have to...or, you go crash in your room. We partied at the People's Party, nearly tripped on Drag Queens swooping into the hallway during Queerosphere, we Sparkle Corned, we watched lithe men gyrate at the Social Fiesta, we Aimed Low and we ended with CheeseburgHer.

But, my favorite part, as always, was spending time in conversation. Whether it was sitting in the bar into the wee hours, or having a discussion around the table, BlogHer would not be BlogHer without the amazing conversations. And, the hugs.

I am still sorting through the weekend. Moved to tears often, the echoes of laughter are still in my belly, and, yes.... my feet are still sore. It was important for me to go. To feel the energy of so many women, and to know that we have a voice. Which brings me to my favorite quote of the weekend, said to me, of why another woman decided to come:

I've been feeling this movement, an energy, that women are gaining a voice. And I wanted to see it. And, it's real. It's actually real.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

JCK prepares her wardrobe for BlogHer11

JCK is not what you would call a fashion maven. Maven, yes. Fashion Maven...hardly. In the last 7 1/2 years since JCK has had children, things have grown terribly sad in the apparel department. You see, JCK shops at stores like Target and Rite Aid for her clothes. Rite Aid, you ask? Rite Aid, indeed. JCK loves deals, and JCK loves comfort. JCK loves finding gorgeous flip-flops. She figures if her toe nails are polished, and her flip flops are pretty, she's looking pretty good.

Two days ago, JCK had to lean out of her CCZ - Couture Comfort Zone. JCK will be attending the BlogHer11 conference this weekend, and JCK's wardrobe needs to kick it up a notch. Without the garlic. Thank you, though, Emeril. So, JCK spent Tuesday morning going through her wardrobe. She had to empty out a drawer of t-shirts to get to the good stuff. It was still there, just a little rumpled. Kind of like JCK. She dove deep into the back of her closet, discovering all kinds of fun things. Some of which actually could be worn.

Over 3,000 bloggers are expected this weekend in San Diego at the BlogHer11 conference. Women, and a few men, will be descending from all over the country, and beyond. Women who share their love for writing and blogging, and for shoes.... JCK thinks that women love shoes like they love cupcakes. Finding a pair of fun shoes is akin to a perfect chocolate cupcake with sprinkles, and you get to hog it all to yourself. JCK hates shopping for shoes. Because she always develops these infatuations, and has to be torn away from making a scene. So, JCK is planning her clothes around shoes she already has. Even if those shoes are a bit scuffed and dusty.

While JCK rediscovered her closet, she found that she was lacking two important items. A little black skirt and new fishnets. So, JCK took a deep breath and put on a little sassy skirt and sleeveless top, and headed out to find her two essentials. As everyone knows, in order to find fun, funky clothes, you have to dress seriously. Not practical clothes that you put on to pick up your kids from camp. Those most darling children who will be lathered in mud and sunblock. So, with her serious mission, JCK slipped on some of her prettiest Rite Aid flip-flops, the shiny turquoise ones, and headed out.

JCK had a particular store in mind, so she drove there. She had to take a big loop around the block, as it had been so many years since she had visited this store that she had forgotten where the parking entrance was. JCK is a little spatially challenged, anyway. Well, JCK can tell you that it was a good thing she took that extra wide loop around the block, because as she pulled up to the store front...the store was Poof! Gone! Poof! Kind of like the economy and JCK's waistline. Sadly, this threw JCK into a brief tailspin. Quel horreur! Where in the world would she find a little black skirt and fishnets?

JCK debated calling her husband. JCK's husband is what you would call a man of fashion, him of REI ruggedness and Sports Chalet men's briefs. Best of all, other than that JCK gets to see him in those briefs, is that he has a discerning eye for women's fashion. However, JCK restrained herself. She did NOT need help, by GOD, she was a woman! Hear her ROAR. The daughter of a woman who will shop until she drops, she, JCK, had to stand strong. It is to be noted that the shop until you drop gene seems to have bypassed JCK.

Like a bolt of lightening, JCK was struck with a new place to go. Eureka!..said the person in the car behind JCK. There was a hand gesture that JCK could not understand, and JCK moved on. As this story should. JCK was so pleased with herself that she almost missed the turn a few blocks away, but just in time she cut in front of another car and pulled into the parking lot.

JCK doesn't know why, but she always manages to enter this particular department store at the perfume section. JCK doesn't have a problem with perfume, per se. Except she really does. When she walks through this section it often induces a stabbing pain in her temples from the eau de WHY DO YOU HAVE TO SPRAY THAT STUFF ALL OVER ME? She is often besieged by women who want to either spray her or cover her with make-up. JCK is an easy target.

JCK quickly veered off into the men's section, just to avoid Priscilla the Perfumery Person. Then she spotted the women's department, and headed off Mr. Rick I work in Retail, by gasping and thrusting her chin forward. JCK had arrived... Section after section of women's apparel...from classic lines to funky chic, JCK was overwhelmed. She slowly made her way through...each area opening up into another. JCK ran her fingers over the fabrics, and let the material slide over her arm. She felt an OOOOOooo escape her ruby red lips. JCK was this close to rubbing her face all over one dress. As if in a dream, meeting an old lover, her sense memory remembered this feeling.

May I help you? about saved by the sales lady. JCK smiled weakly and told her that she was looking for a short black skirt, something fun, that she could wear to a disco party. The sales lady grew excited.

A disco party! How fun! Is it someone's birthday?

JCK paused. No, I'm going to a conference and there will be a disco party. The saleslady paused.

JCK debated over whether to go into more detail, and she refrained. She could have told her that the BlogHer conference is this amazing place where women gather together to share their passion for blogging -writing on all kinds of subjects. And, where they also enjoy parties. Even Disco Parties.

Yes, JCK said. It WILL be FUN.

I think there are some FUN skirts over here, said the sales lady.

The sales lady then took JCK through so many sections that her head began to spin. JCK's, not the sales lady's. They went through Calvin Klein and Jones New York, they saw sights that JCK had only dreamed of. They saw things JCK had never dreamed of. And, then they arrived at BCBG and JCK was victorious. There it was! JCK's little black skirt. And, they even had it in her size. Better yet, it was affordable. Well, if JCK cuts out fruit from her family's diet for this week.

JCK was whisked into the dressing room, and the little black skirt fit! Hurrah! JCK and the sales lady tittered together, as the skirt was rung up on the register. When JCK brandished her temporary driver's license, the sales lady advised her that she, JCK, should follow-up with the DMV, as they are known for taking months to mail your license to you. JCK smiled. She didn't want to brag, but she and the DMV? Why they are practically Bosom Buddies. The DMV would never, ever take longer than the 2-3 weeks that they had promised JCK. Oh, but the saleslady never know.

You will be glad to know that JCK had only one more stop to complete her shopping experience. She headed downstairs to the hosiery department. At first JCK was terribly frightened that they were out of fishnets. She saw all kinds of interesting sights, like denim leggings and footless tights. Then she spotted them! Right in front of her pointy nose. Black fishnets! JCK made it back to camp in time to pick up her sweet children, and all was good with the world.

JCK is now almost...ready for BlogHer11. She has her suitcase packed, her lap top and cell phone at the ready, and plans to spend time with a few of her peeps. Like her wonderful friend Jenn from Juggling Life. JCK is very excited to be able to spend 3 days surrounded by other people who share her passion for blogging and writing. It's going to be long as JCK can stay awake long enough to put on the black skirt and fishnets for the Disco party...

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

You will not go to jail

This summer has been BOY & GIRL's first experience with day camp. Two days a week they are full up with swimming, arts & crafts, archery, games, dance, hiking, drama... all in an outdoors space with acreage.

Today GIRL made one of those paper contraptions where you fold down the corners and each corner is a different number or color, and you move your thumbs and index fingers to move the various parts back and forth. She asks you to choose a color and she moves it as many times as the letters in that color. Then you choose a number and she moves it again that many times. She calls it her Fortune Teller.

This evening she had us learn our fortunes over and over again.

GIRL: Don't worry, they are all good!

There was... Number 6: You will have a great day.

There was...Number 7: You will win $100.

Not to be missed was...Number 9: You will not go to jail.

And... Number 10: If you go to jail, you will get out the next day.

My daughter...ever the optimist...

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

JCK gets Jiggy with the DMV

When JCK awoke yesterday to another crystal clear blue sky, the first thing she thought was...What a perfect day to go to the DMV! She was more excited than a High School Pep Rally. She bounced out of bed, showered and even put make-up on. Wow, who is this dark eyed woman? She did a little dance in the mirror, happy to get Jiggy With It before heading over to the DMV.

Just a few days past, JCK had suddenly discovered that her driver's license was missing. She had searched high and low, low and high, and high again. No luck. She then spent a couple of fruitful hours madly tweeting essential news bulletins, and wishing that Sawyer would arrive on her doorstep so he could swear for her. JCK believes there is nothing as good as watching Sawyer say SON of a BITCH.

Then one of those amazing things happened! JCK knows that you will never guess. That very afternoon, JCK received a very personal letter from the DMV - a birthday card! The letter invited her to come to the DMV for her very own birthday delight! A renewal license needed to be done in person. JCK thought...why not? She loved her last visit to the DMV. She was sure it hadn't changed in 8 years. So, she made her appointment! All of this was meant to be. It appeared to be a message from GOD.

In her rush to get there, JCK was running a little late in her camp drop-off routine. She walked her children through the camp gates, topped their heads with kisses, hugged them and then flew back to her minivan. Kind of like Wonder Woman, but without the bountiful boobs and cape.

As JCK raced through the neighborhoods, careful to avoid pets and children, she marveled at the luck of hitting almost every green light. She winked at herself in the rear view mirror. Life was good. Damn good. And, what a treat to get to spend her morning meeting new people at the DMV.

The entrance to the Pasadena DMV appeared unencumbered. Just as she pulled into the small parking lot, a wonderful citizen screaming epithets screeched out of a parking space. JCK waved to the fuming, fun loving man, and took his vacated spot. This was a very good sign!

Once inside the building, JCK only had to ask 3 different people where to find the line for people with appointments. Everyone seemed to know where to direct her. So, she took a lovely detour here and there, finally landing in a short line. There was a panoply of aromas. Coffee, perfume, eau du perspiration - a.k.a, that darling skunk Pepe le Pew. JCK was overwhelmed with affection for her fellow man.

And, then! She was next! She walked up to the window in her comfortable flats, nodding at people who were looking at her warmly from the line labeled "No Appointments." JCK spoke through the bullet proof glass to the DMV employee. And, the lady spoke to her. Everything the lady said sounded so musical and clear...blah, blah, blah, the lady said. JCK smiled and asked her to repeat herself. BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. JCK liked the lady's voice sooooo...much, that she asked her if she could repeat it one more time, and JCK tried to stick her ear in the letter slot to ensure better listening pleasure. Eureka! JCK was given instructions to fill out her form and go wait for her number to be called!

JCK went to a counter and fumbled in her purse for a pen. She took her time filling out the form, as the DMV was such a big, happy party that she just knew there would be plenty of time before they called her number. JCK filled in all the blanks, pausing over "hair color." She knew in her gut that she should put Silver or White. Who in their right mind would use the word, Gray? Soooo pedestrian. Yet, JCK remembered that the DMV might not be right brained thinkers, so she wrote GRAY. And, wiped a couple of tears off of her dewy cheeks. Upper, not lower.

JCK then went and asked two different people where the line was for waiting for your number to be called. She was redirected back to where the first person had told her NO. JCK sat down next to the stylish woman, and thought it was only right to tell her that she had been WRONG to direct JCK adrift. Pffft! JCK doesn't hold grudges.

JCK then looked up at the screen where a large sign said "LISTEN FOR YOUR NUMBER TO BE CALLED!!!!" JCK always appreciates exclaiming with exclamation marks!!! After a few minutes JCK noticed that there was no audio, and that this was a visual screen. You had to use your eyes only. Who knew! What a helpful sign. JCK then saw that the numbers were strangely higher than hers! So, she waited patiently for another five minutes, and then decided that she should interrupt someone else at window #12 to ask if her number had been passed.

The man at window #12 had a booming voice, so it was very easy for JCK to hear...YOUR NUMBER HAS BEEN CALLED, MA'AM. YOU NEED TO GO TO WINDOW #16. Oh, what lovely news! JCK then proceeded to Window #16, and was told she would have to wait. Then, the lady at the Appointments Only window waved JCK over. She recognized her! Her, JCK! From just 20 minutes previous. JCK felt special.

JCK was told to wait at the window and the woman vanished for a few minutes. Then she reappeared and told JCK to go to Window #10. JCK hated to bother this nice lady, but had to ask where Window #10 was. It was on the same side of the building! What luck. JCK then went to Window #10. The woman was talking to a man with her words and hands. And, she wasn't saying BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. She was using actual words.

Then it was JCK's turn. JCK thrust her paperwork through the slot, paid her $31 and was told her license would be mailed in 3 weeks. But, JCK mustn't, mustn't, leave without getting her photo taken. After all , getting your picture taken is all the fun! So, JCK was directed to the photo line.

JCK had no problems finding the photo line. It was easy to spot, and extended outside the building. JCK noticed the lack of signage. Perhaps they had forgotten to post it? This is the photo line. It is for people who have all the time in the world. JCK wasn't worried. What better things could she be doing with her time? Her children were at camp, and she DID have all the time in the world.

While standing in line, JCK realized she had a birds-eye view of the latest fashions. Why look over there! A woman with purple spandex tights with glitter. Under a green dress. And, there! A woman with black lace stockings and a white t-shirt. JCK marveled at the boldness of color, the attention to detail. But, JCK didn't want to be rude and STARE.

It occurred to JCK that her brother, who is single, had obviously been meeting women in the wrong places. Why, what better place to meet single women than the DMV. A virtual dating mecca. JCK texted her brother. He was busy on vacation in Florida. On some island, with sugar white beaches and water the color of aqua. Boring. JCK told him what he was missing. He appeared sad.

Suddenly JCK was almost at the photo booth. The time had zoomed by, because she was having so much fun! She noticed a man staring at her. At her, JCK! This man had warm, angry eyes. They seemed to enter JCK's body like bullets. She knew she looked good in her Target T-shirt, but really...didn't he notice the girl in front of her - with tattoos that said Delicious. Apparently, not. Admittedly, sometimes JCK's silver locks make men want to kill. Just ask JCK's husband.

And then she was there! The final destination. JCK was charmed by the woman just ahead of her getting her photo taken. Blushing, like a school girl. She looked like a coed from Bryn Mawr. Ah...youth. Finally it was JCK's turn. She handed her paper marked PHOTO ONLY to the happy man behind the PHOTO window. He was a jolly little elf. He told JCK to smile pretty. JCK gave her cheeks, (above, not below), a quick pinch for color and smiled BIG. The man said, OH, it's a GOOD one. JCK smiled demurely. The man winked. At, JCK!

JCK put on her sunglasses and walked out into the parking lot. Her heart heavy, she realized she would not be back for 8 more years. She tried valiantly to hold it together, stumbling through the oil soaked concrete in her flip flops to her car. Fumbling for her keys, she waved to the man patiently waiting in his car for her spot. He blasted his horn. He was ready to PAARTY at the DMV. How could JCK be so selfish? She pulled out, dabbing Kleenex on tear stained cheeks, (upper, not lower), giving up her precious parking space. The adventure was over, and she'd have to live with it. Her life would never be the same...

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

that loud family that lives on your street

You know those neighbors on your street? The loud ones? JCK knows that you know just who she is talking about. Everyone has that family on their street. That nice family where everyone screams instead of talks. God, help you if your windows are open. Try enjoying the summer breeze waffling through your house, with those SCREAMS tearing at your very being. Over and over again. Yep, that's what JCK's talking about.

Well, JCK's street is no exception. There is a particularly LOUD family that lives on JCK's block. Let's just call them "The Screamers." You can always tell when the kids are outside, because the noise shoots down the hill like a visit from the dark side. Whether it is the fear of Darth Vader or Voldemort suddenly appearing, the echo of everyone on the street slamming their windows shut reverberates back up the hill. The screamers don't seem to care. Selfish. Selfish. Selfish!!

JCK used to think that the worst thing was being next door to a smoker, because you can't open your windows on that side of the house unless you want to snort some tobacco wind. JCK's ears are reconsidering that previous belief. Not that JCK is completely opposed to smokers. There was that one or two season fun show where JCK dated that guy who smoked and had a tattoo. Back when having a tattoo meant you were a sailor. Now tattoos are are common as runny noses on kids without Kleenex. Except tattoos last longer. But, in the spirit of time constraints, JCK must move on.

The SCREAMERS live very close to JCK. So close it is becoming unbearable. Close enough so that there is no room that JCK can go to without the sound of YELLING penetrating her delicate ears. There is an especially loud screechy GIRL. JCK believes this GIRL inherits this tendency from her father's genetic line, but JCK won't go there for fear of neighborly reprisal or uxoricide. Then there is that BOY who throws in an extra explosive YELL to keep up with the GIRL. The husband? Let's just say he has many years of stage training, and his voice carries. For miles.

Lately JCK has wondered if her life of quiet repose on days in which these children are out of the neighborhood is doomed. Because every opportunity that JCK has for a quieter day, in which she has set aside time to spend time writing, is thwarted by chain saws attacking trees next door or her husband's compressor going ON and off and ON for hours on end. JCK would like to point out that her husband's compressor is not a personal thing, but necessary to energize his tools.

As for the LOUD mom? Rumor has it her ancestry is Scots. As in warrior men with meaty calves, hair glinting in the sun, and kilts stirring on the wild highlands... JCK knows in her soul that the LOUD gene comes from that line. Especially since JCK has apparently lost her driver's license. In which case you will hear her WILD bellows and wails assailing a neighborhood near you. All the way from the DMV line...

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