Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Battle for Halloween

He gets the 4th of July, I get Halloween. He gets to light things on fire and cross his fingers that the dogs don't chew a hole through the wall, and I get to make a Dr. Horrible costume and explore haunted houses on N. Portsmouth St. with the thousands of people that all of a sudden seem to live in our neighborhood. He gets to spend too much money on garbage that makes noise, and I get to spend $10 on candy that will somehow stay in my house until all of eternity goes by and a new world begins and then my $10 candy is an ancient, preserved, sticky relic (that the kids will still want to eat).

But this year he asked if he could have them for Halloween. I, of course, don't want to be without the kids on my second favorite holiday. They make it more interesting. I dig in to the folklore of the jack-o-lantern and they give me interesting eye-rolls. I romanticize El Día De Los Muertos and they romanticize the sweet breads. "Grown up" Halloween, with its turn-everything-hootchie parade, just doesn't hold the same appeal. My boobs are happier near my ribs than my chin, thankyouverymuch. And if the glue that holds on the millions of fake eyelashes that come out at the witchingest of witching hours isn't actually a slow but pervasive virus that causes duck faced selfies in dimly lit dive bars, well then I guess it's back to the drawing cauldron, because that shit is doing something.

I really wanted to say no to him. I wanted to spend another spooky, sugar-crazed, hot-glued, magic-pony-rainbow-kitten costume holiday with my little monsters ... before they outgrow it all and start trick or treating as "freshly dead freshmen". (If they pull that crap I swear to all that is unholy I'll tell all the neighbors not to give them candy. Wear a damn costume, heathen children.)

But when their dad and I split up and we were sorting out the custody agreement, we included a caveat. It wasn't written in stone. We didn't spit in our palms and shake on it. But it felt right. Way more right than spitty hands. We each had our set holidays with the kids, and some we would share, but if a holiday came around and one family had made plans that would make incredible memories for the kids, then that would need to be considered, and should be permitted to disrupt the agreement.

And well, his Halloween plan was a good one. There would be travel. Adventure! There would be meeting new sorta-step cousins. More family! Our family has gone through some massive metamorphoses over the last 4 years and we have changed into something intricate, complex, interesting and beautifully functional. A chance to meet an extension of that family would be more valuable than the promise of a pixie stick at the end of a neighborhood hike.

So I hmm'ed and haw'ed, because these are words I've been told to use when discussing deep thought. I consulted Cransky, who was as bummed as I was at the possible lack of spirited children on the most spirited of nights. But I couldn't shake that caveat. And I knew I shouldn't shake that caveat. And the more I thought about it, I knew I didn't even want to.

I sent their dad a text and said, "Okay. You can have them on Halloween. But we get to take them to the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie AND the next Star Wars. Also, you should give me a case of beer, because that's what friends do."

He replied, "Deal. And thank you."

I won't have my kids on Halloween. But I can still sew hotglue staple buy them costumes. Those costumes will make it into the third costume bin that is routinely mingled on the basement floor with the contents of the first and second costume bins. They'll show up on my kids, the neighbor kids, friends, on the dog, and on the family's baby mannequin mascot, Napkin. And in this, everyone wins.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Like A Mom.

Do you ever just FLIP OUT on your kids for no reason other than they're being TOO happy?! Cause I have. Yep.

I'm not proud of it. I just simply don't understand it. They will be absolutely content with each other at the dinner table, cracking each other up, not hitting or not not-hitting-but-kinda-hitting, not tattling, not asking me for anything, just genuinely enjoying each other's company while I quietly eat my own slice of Papa Murphy's Take n Bake white pizza.

And then it's like they violently jerk off the cap to a severely shaken-up carbonated beverage of elementary school giggles and it gets louder and louder and then I shout "STAWWWWWWWWP!" and they totally don't stop. Well, they do. But I know it won't be contained for long. They'll burst out again with fart jokes and juice through their noses and I know that nothing I say will let the gas out slowly and avoid the inevitable toppled chair or accidental gut punch from a fit of unbridled maniacal childish laughter.

Of course I suppose that nothing might come of this mealtime funtime at all. It's quite possible that nothing requiring a first aid kit or a time out would happen if I could just ride out this manic burst of sibling energy. If I could just enjoy the joy they've all of a sudden unleashed within a very small space, at a particularly high volume and at a specifically mealtime-ish time. But I try again. And again.

"Seriously. Calm down."
"Okay, stop now. Eat your dinner."
"Guys?! Calllllm down." I say out loud to them/myself.

And they do for a second. A split second. But their eyes are focused on each other's and no one's blinking and their cheeks are getting pinker, and then the boy ejects another enormous belly laugh, spraying the table in pizza and fruit salad. And I stand up LIKE A MOM and shout again "STAWWWWWWWWPPPPPP!!!!" and it must've been that extra "PPPPP" I added for emphasis, cause it worked. And then the proverbial bottle broke and the boy started crying, "I just can't stop though!" And he cries a sincere tear and somehow, simultaneously manages to restrain an uncontrolled smile that was visibly trying to break free, to spur another raucous bout. He was hung up between high strung happy and first day of fourth grade exhausted. And I was too.

I relented. And they did too, a little. And it was all just so strange that I would've let this benign rowdiness bother me so much in the first place.

But you know what? I remember my parents did this too! My big sister and I would be sharing a moment at the dinner table. A loud moment. A moment where we couldn't chew our food for all the laughs that filled our mouths. And I'd watch as Dad's teeth clenched around his fork, and Mom's hair welcomed another strand of gray.

Is there a name for this? What do I call this dash of logic-defying-parental angst I seem to have bubbling beneath the surface of every jovial pizza dinner? I'd like to be able to put a stawwwwwpper in my own frustration and see where the chaos takes us. Because I bet where it takes us is far more fun than putting on the brakes, and likely covered in carbonated sweetness.


back to school bottled up energy spews forth at dinnertime



Sunday, August 3, 2014

How I Wrecked This Dress.


It started with a wedding. 
A long, long time ago. 
When emerging 90's youth explored life
outside of Nirvana
and found it in the arms of The Dixie Chicks,
before they got the boot.

The dress came out of storage once or twice.
Once for Craigslist.
Twice for a yard sale.
Back in the box it went.

And so I got myself a tree.
With a dog in the background, please.


And then Lo! There was color.
And it came in 4 packets.
Which came from Collage on NE Alberta St.
Next to a store with really great cards.
And necklaces.

NO MESS!
they say.
DISSOLVES in water!
they say.


And because I believed them, I got out the kiddie pool.


And this brought forth a smiling child.


I boiled the cauldrons 
to heat the pool
so that the dye would set.

And somewhere in this story I became a witch.


And then we made the water blue.
And stirred it with a broom handle.

Because we're witches.
With a flowery broomstick.



Then Ophelia, as the Wedding Dress is now named it seems,
was laid in the kiddie pool,
forever stained.




She was gently coaxed into the dye.
By the blunt end of the flowery broomstick.


And the dye began to set.

The girl child stirred the dye bath.
The boy child came to help.
But left quite quickly
to go play MineCraft instead.

I added more hot water while she stirred.
And stirred.
And stirred.


But Ophelia wasn't turning blue.
She was turning lavender.

And we were excited.


And Ophelia emerged a new woman.
Not wrecked at all actually.

Just more colorful.


But look! They could totally be sisters.


So this non-wrecked dress that once was worn by a slightly less dimpled witch
back in the summer of "we survived Y2K"
took a deep breath and stretched her long zipper,
and endured the forceful tugging and fussing as the witch and her Cransky
struggled to zip her closed.

But she was finally on. And she was lavender. And it was 80 degrees outside 
and there was a bear in a tuxedo nearby, 
which could only mean one thing:

Fancy Party!

More photos can be found here: http://on.fb.me/1lpZfJ6

How to Wreck Your Dress, Fancy Party Style


You will need:

1 discarded wedding, prom or bridesmaid dress
1 plastic kiddie pool
4 packets (or more) of fabric-appropriate dye - I used iDye Poly in Blue
1 stirring stick
latex gloves lest you want blue fingers
a way to heat water

I did this on a hot day. So with the hose characteristically left out on the lawn,
the water inside it was pretty hot. My assistant filled the pool until the 
hose water ran cool. Then I began filling with pots of boiling water from
the stove. The directions would have preferred I did this whole process on the stovetop
so that the water was at a boil. But! Wedding dresses don't fit on the stovetop.
When the pool was full enough to cover the dress, we added the packets of dye 
and color intensifier and my assistant stirred. 
Then I opened up the dress as full as possible and laid it in so as to avoid
any fabric sitting in the dye bath longer than other parts (which would
lead to darker staining in spots -- which happened anyway and I don't care).
Then we stirred. Pushing the dress pretty vigorously around the pool while
I continued to add hot water from the stove.
We stirred for about 30 - 45 minutes. 

Then I turned the hose back on and began to fill/overflow the pool with cool water,
dumping it into the grass while rinsing to get any excess dye off.
FYI - the dye did NOT turn my lawn blue. Sad face.

I hung the dress from a wooden hanger in a tree to dry.
And then a week later, wore it to the 2nd annual Fancy Party,
and remembered how very itchy tulle can be.

The End.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Listen Here. The LTYM videos are live!

300 people saw this live in Portland. Thousands of people saw it live across 32 cities nationwide. And my mouth blabbed it wide enough for millions. I shouted the news so loudly that people hid my posts on Facebook and rapidly scrolled past my tweets (yes you did). I spammed my own damn self and dreamt in hashtags: #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM #LTYM

And then it happened on Mother's Day. We scrambled onto a modest and lovely stage at The Alberta Rose Theatre and then we opened up our hearts and souls and let the words pour out on behalf of motherhood. On behalf of you. On behalf of your mom. On behalf of my mom (who sat in the audience as I timidly spoke about her vagina).

hi mom! hi clarry! thanks for coming! and for birth and all that.
Now YOU get to watch our stories any time you want. Why? Because of Internets. Because of YouTube. Because of an incredible LTYM team that knows that the power of stories is only unleashed when told to an audience.

So please, Listen Here. Grab your coffee, tea, beer, wine or strawberry margarita and have a listen to the talented Portland cast of Listen To Your Mother. And please visit the other cities too. Good stories come from everywhere. Great stories come from your mother. 

Watch the whole Portland playlist here (14 stories) or scroll through them individually on the Listen To Your Mother YouTube channel.



And a huge thank you to LTYM video sponsor CollegeSavingsChillout.com by T. Rowe Price!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Boobs, butts and bikes.

Last night at 10pm I received a phone call that my 6 year old daughter was too spooked from scary stories to stay overnight at her friend's birthday party. So I threw a sweater on over my sun dress and hopped in my Subaru. I cruised along comfortably, making good time to rescue my damsel in distress, but then this:


I was met by a barricade of buns and boobs, vulva and penises. I called the birthday party mom and said "I'm on my way, but it may be awhile, there's car-stopping flesh all over Portland," and I watched as a family bike flew by, filled to the bucket with happy children and a bare-it-all daddy, stand-up pedaling his brood through the hood. When I finally traversed the bareback bike riders and recovered my pj'd little one, I told her, "I would have been here sooner, but right now there are 9,000 naked bike riders that are a little in the way." She didn't flinch. I said "You see, when you're naked, you get noticed. It's a good way for bike riders to say 'Hey! Look at us! And pay attention to us! Don't nip our buns with your cars!" She said "Will we see any?" I said, "Maybe."

Then I headed us home, re-routed twice, and then we came across a couple of full moons on MLK and I said "See? There's a few fleshy stragglers there." And she said, "That's cool." Then I took the side street I always take as I head to North Portland via Interstate, and then BRAKES: there we were, blocked in all of a sudden by a swarm of peach fuzz, bushy beavers and floppy phalluses. I couldn't get through. I couldn't turn around. In the buff riders and walkers were on all sides of us, like cows on a country road, and my daughter pointed and said "I like her pink fuzzy jacket" toward the woman who wore only a pink fuzzy jacket.

I pulled the car over, my daughter's head resting against her princess pillow just inches away from a chatty couple of leafless lovers. I was overdressed. Truth is, I would have been among the au naturel masses had the ride been on any other night. But instead, circumstances had me feel exposed in clothes, encircled by the fit and the flab, the exhilaratingly exposed. When there was a break in the bare-bottomed bustle I broke free, flipped the car around, and strode back up the hill from whence we came, in the wake of a buff butt busting ass running straight up the same hill. And then we emerged, the scary story from the birthday party a distant memory, replaced instead by this:


Thank you, Portland, for loving the skin you're in.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Listen To Your Mother Came To Portland

Listen To Your Mother came to Portland. 

I know. I was there.


32 cities across the country each produced a local show that featured 90 minutes worth of stories that were honest, shocking, raw, inspirational, validating, familiar, hilarious and new. Over a thousand stories that took the stereotype of motherhood -- any stereotype: soccer mom, adoptive mom, stay at home mom, sitcom mom, hippy mom, absent mom -- and tore them open to reveal a unique portrait of human life.

We did that. We wrote and edited and auditioned and rehearsed. We overcame the urge to just "drive this car around and skip the audition altogether". We practiced pausing, 8 seconds, before beginning to read our piece, so that ultimately, the stories could be produced for YouTube so that anyone -- anyone -- could watch them. Dissect them. Interpret them. Listen to them.

We agonized over finding local sponsors. We sweat bullets over ticket sales. We spammed our own social media feeds with promotional efforts and hashtags: #LTYM #PDX #MOTHERSDAY #ISANYONLISTENING #DIDYOULEAVE #IPROMISEYOULLLOVEIT #HELLO?

We neglected our other writing habits. And found temporary refuge in publicly postponing all other interests until possibly June.


 We cried. We laughed while clenching kegels until our earlobes ached. We spent a lot more time on Instagram. There was a general sense of We going around. Connected nationally with 31 other Director/Producer teams. Google Hangouts were a thing. The Laura to my Mary, Carisa, overwhelmed Facebook chat on more than one occasion, pinged it into temporary hibernation, and we had to result to good ol' fashioned SMS texting. We were constantly dialed in, and it was exhilir ... exhal ... exhausting. And the richest, most beautiful, most life-changing thing since childbirth or eating sushi for the first time.

Somehow during the course of a little more than half a year, I became inspired, motivated and brave enough to take more control over carving out the life niche that would best suit my own life story. I left one job after almost 8 years. And then 3 short months later, I announced that I was leaving that job  too, to work independently at this thing I call mamoré. And so I worked that still-new job, and my own new independent project, simultaneously, in the month leading up to the show.



Then I had the anxiety dream to bite all the nubby fingernails off of your anxiety dreams.



And then we were in The Green Room, waiting to tell our stories into the microphone. Into the video camera. Into the ears of whomever might listen. And we knew we had sold tickets but we still prayed that people would actually show up. That they would think that our Portland show was worth an hour and a half of their Portland time. That they wouldn't have gotten distracted by the Grilled Cheese Bus just up the road.



And then they came.

They DID.

YOU came. And you listened to our hearts as we strummed them across the flat words of the laminated pages, flayed open on the podium, a different tone, each one. And I believe that you not only listened, you loved. And if I believe that, that you loved a bit bigger during those 90 minutes (orrrr slightly longer), then I, by the stars above, call that a resounding success.




THANK YOUS

First and foremost, thank you to Carisa Miller. For cosmically connecting with me as my soul sister. For fretting with me but never frowning at me. For throwing zingers at me when I was about to collapse under the weight of my own addiction to upheaval. For directing a beautiful show in our phenomenal city.






Second, thank you to Ann Imig, mother of it all. I am quite confident that it was in part because of this experience that I am now working independently, supporting the stories that I love the most. You have given me a foothold to launch myself over the fence I'd been straddling and into the sparkling pool on the other side.







To Melissa, Stephanie and Deb, for your coaching, your grooming, your gentle-yet-appropriately-firm tsk-tsking over my newbie mistakes, for your presence, kindness, talent and support.

And to these guys. Johann Leiter and Tracey Whitney, our show photographer and videographer. They put their faith in this project, in Carisa and I, and in YOU, Portland, and they captured each moment with the clarity of the day itself. My future memory is forever indebted.

Thank you my love, Tim Scott, for holding me through the anxiety dreams, for not finger-wagging too hard when I lumped a DIY gift project onto my plate, and for taking our beautiful rehearsal photos.

To our local sponsors. Gah. Loves Yous Guys. I hope all who are READING THIS RIGHT NOW will go give them a likey-loo. And then I promise to never EVER say likey-loo again. Thank you to Womens Healthcare Associates (my midwives through both births!), Zenana Spa (my post-show unwinding oasis), Crafty Wonderland (my pre-show shopping adventure), Radio Room (my new bffs and after-party host), Bolt Fabric Boutique (my constant inspiration to maybe someday though it's not bloody likely take up sewing but I could possibly become a fabric collector ... ), and Toro Bravo Cookbook (because honestly, have you eaten their food?).

To the LTYM National Sponsors, Chevrolet and BlogHer. Without them, this would all still be a twinkle in Ann's eye.

And finally, without these voices, there would have been no song. Just a lonely, buzzing, gangly microphone.

Leanne Goolsby - 

is a native Oregonian who calls Portland home, single mum to human son Tabor and puppy son Thunder, first-time homeowner, pseudo-designer, runner, writer, sewist, chef. Constantly in the middle of approximately 53 semi-finished projects, Leanne has what could only be described as a messy, beautiful, imperfect, brilliant life. For those wishing to see an overabundance of adorable puppy-and-kid pictures, DIY projects, and general musings, Leanne can be found on the internets via her website, Lea Camille.


Jessica Peyton Roberts -

is a Higher Education Consultant and Director of Aim High Writing, where she works with parents and students to find the right college, financial, and scholarship options to fit their family’s needs. She is married to her best friend, Ben, and is Pet Mom to three rescue animals – Mercury the Dog, George the Cat, and Gloria the Kitten. You can find her writing about succeeding in school, along with an occasional photo dump of her pets, on her blog.




Tracey Barnes Priestley - 


enjoys a career as both a writer and life coach. A former syndicated columnist (Juggling Jobs and Kids), her debut novel is Duck Pond Epiphany. Always ready for a new adventure, Tracey currently writes and blogs about the good, the bad, and the ugly she, and countless others face, on her website The Second Half.  Married to the dearest man and the mother of three amazing, and all grown up, children, Tracey lives in the redwoods of northern California with her recently retired husband and their loyal mutt, Bella von Doodle.




Melissa Sher -


Melissa Sher, her husband, and their three boys moved to Portland a couple of years ago. (No, they don’t mind the rain.) Melissa’s writing has been featured frequently in the Huffington Post, New York Times’ Motherlode column, Chicago Tribune, and on bathroom stalls all over this beautiful country. She was also named to the Babble 100: Top Bloggers of 2013 (and her mother wasn’t even one of the judges!). You can read her on her blog, Mammalingo; or just go outside and yell as loud as you can. Even if she can’t hear you, it will feel good.


Jenny Forrester -


is mother to a 20-year-old world-traveling college student who is thriving despite having been raised on stories that began with the phrase, ‘When I was a kid…’ She has been published in Nailed Magazine, Small Doggies Press, The Literary Kitchen, Hip Mama Magazine, Penduline Press and Indiana Review, among others. She won the Richard Hugo House New Works Competition and was runner up in Indiana Review's 1/2K prize in 2011. She and Ariel Gore co-edited an anthology called The People's Apocalypse. Jenny curates Portland's all-female and female-identified Unchaste Readers Series.


Nadia Martinez Chantry -

Mujer, madre, maestra. Nadia Martínez Chantry lives in each of these roles, moment by moment, day by day. She is sustained by a ukulele playing partner, her supportive parents and sister, and wine drinking friends. A Portland native and mother of three young sons, Nadia spends the majority of her time listening to stories of monsters and fire trucks, singing about animals, pillow fighting, and validating injustices, such as, broken toys or skin and being chosen last. Nadia is a survivor with a simple daily goal; to find, amplify, and honor her own strength as a woman, a mother, and a teacher.

Renée Butcher


is a writer, teacher, autoharpist, and proud native Portlander.  Forever an eastside girl at heart, she is now blissfully living out her second act on the left side of the river with her high school sweetheart, and claims six daughters as the inspiration for much of her creative work.  In her spare time, you can find Renée writing love songs about cowboys, exploring the moss-covered nooks and crannies of the Pacific Northwest, and making music with her talented singer-husband.  An expert plate spinner, she is also the founder and driving force behind The White Shield Project, a work-in-progress dedicated to collecting and preserving the stories of the Portland Salvation Army White Shield Home, where she was born.  Read her at The Good Hearted Woman, where she writes about food, music, books, and good vibes.  




Sage Cohen -


writes books and poems, essays and love letters, strategic marketing campaigns and thank-you notes. She is the author of The Productive Writer and Writing the Life Poetic, both from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World from Queen of Wands Press. Her articles about the writing life have been featured in multiple editions of Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market and Writer's Digest magazine. Sage believes that we are shaped not by the experiences we have but by the stories we tell about those experiences. She offers strategies and support for writers online, at The Path of Possibility and for parents navigating divorce at Radical Divorce.


Meghan Yow - 


is a local-ish newbie blogger who spends her days making ridiculous messes in her kitchen, dancing like an idiot, and singing terribly at the top of her lungs all in the company, and for the enjoyment, of her three little stinker children and her awesome stinker husband. Her mission in life is to be a rad-tastic mom, wife, daughter and friend. She has an absurd attachment to glittery things, books, and mismatched socks. You can follow her budding blog Glitter and Goldfish, and even check out some of her wares (if she has been in the crafty mood) at her Etsy shop, Oh Pick Me.

Deb Stone -


Deb Stone’s work has appeared in The Oregonian, Portland Tribune, Portland Upside, and Clackamas Literary Review, and her essay “Waiting at Windows” is in the forthcoming anthology Stepping Up: Stories of Blended Families. She has been a birth, foster, step, and adoptive parent to over thirty children; a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for another two dozen abused and neglected kids in Oregon foster care; and has twenty years experience providing training to child advocates, social workers, and parents. She is currently seeking representation for her recently completed manuscript, Mother Up: A Memoir.
Clarissa Moll -


is mama to four spirited kids and wife to a handsome silver fox. In her former life, she worked with college students as a public speaking instructor and competitive speech coach. These days, she provides communications expertise to small non-profits, speaks to groups, and negotiates inter-child diplomacy in her domestic kingdom. Clarissa can proudly identify most dinosaurs and has a not-so-secret crush on Robert McCloskey. She and her family make their home in the Seattle area.



Nikki Schulak -


With 10 years of psychotherapy under her belt, and menopause right around the corner, Nikki Schulak is finally coming into her own.  Her writing has been featured in hipMama Zine, The Yellow Ham, Errant Parent and Bellevue Literary Review, and she received an honorable mention in the 2012 Sports Poetry & Prose Contest at Winning Writers.  Her essay "On Not Seeing Whales" was a notable selection in Best American Essays 2013; she strongly prefers Ambien over Lunestra, tagalongs over thin mints, and the aisle seat over the window.  Her self-published books, The Emperor's New Jump Rope and My Midlife Thong Crisis are sometimes available at Powell's.






Let's. Do. This. Again. Portland.


I'd just like to point out that this is the appropriate usage of comic sans. 





Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Just one thing.

If my 80 year old self could travel back in time and share one word with my present self, I'm sure she'd say this:

Hydrate.

However, if she were allowed to say just one more thing, I'm hoping that she'd say this: