Animal Instincts

As I slather SPF50 onto me and my kid, I scan the area and get my bearings. It’s a large, fenced-in saltwater pool at the country club with verandas and cushioned seating along three of the four sides. Along the front there’s a snack bar. My knees weaken at the unfamiliar landscape. It’s like someone dropped me into the middle of the zoo without proper equipment—feed for the lions in Lilly Pulitzer.

The scent of saltwater wafts into my nose. Everywhere I look, there are women and children. The men are on the golf course with my husband, fighting like chimpanzees for their territory. A win solidifies status of smarter and stronger.

When it comes to situations where I’m thrown into the mix with new people, I normally try to blend in. I learn to dress like them, talk like them, be them. It’s easier than being myself. I’m a chameleon.

It’s a defense mechanism I learned from bullies in junior high. If I hadn’t worn the crotch-hugging jeans Mom bought on clearance, I wouldn’t have looked too poor. If I would’ve left my poetry journal at home, it wouldn’t have been stolen from my locker and plastered all over school. I had to blend into the mint-green junior high walls and disappear.

At the pool, I wonder who to trust. The moms who dress to match their kids in bright flamingo-like colors, all with perfect hair, strutting from tennis to swim? Or the moms with oversized expensive beach bags who sit on the sides laughing like hyenas? Or maybe the moms with fresh bundles wading in the baby pool, cleaning their kin like protective elephants?

 “Mama, I want to swim.” Morgan yanks my thumb and startles me from my thoughts.

I’m standing under the veranda at our table in the far corner of the pool, doing my best to shrink into the shade. My head lightens to the point of passing out, so I sit on the wooden bench for a moment and collect my breath. No matter how much I want to be like Morgan who has no distrust for strangers, I can’t get out of my head and just be myself.

I glance over to the snack bar, where a small dazzle of women have gathered like zebras at the watering hole, clear plastic cups in one hand and tugging toddlers in the other. I know the color of the drink they are sipping. It’s most definitely white wine. A bar at the pool—great idea!

“Let’s get a snack first, okay?” I ask her, adjusting my cover-up. 

“Okay!”

We walk hand-in-hand to the snack bar. I smile and nod at the women—my new pack. 

“Hi,” I introduce myself and my daughter as I order my first Pinot Grigio at the pool. They wave and welcome me into their circle. I puff my chest as I prance to them, realizing I’m not a chameleon after all. 

I’ve always been a zebra, looking for my dazzle.

How to Eat a Spam Sandwich

The year is 1953. Your husband is out at the bar. Again. The house is clean. You’re hungry, but the pantry is empty.

Clip on your best earrings because you love a good piece of jewelry, even of the costume variety. Apply some red lipstick. Spritz some floral perfume. Slip into your trench coat and pearl-dotted gloves. 

It may only be Toledo, and it may only be the grocery store, but you never know. Elvis could make an appearance in produce. 

Plus, even when money is scarce, it’s important to always look your best.

Begin your one-mile walk downtown.

At Tiedtke’s Department and Grocery Store, add Spam, Kraft American Cheese, and Wonder Bread to your cart. Pay with change from your pocketbook. 

Head home, sandwich ingredients in hand. 

Once there, open your bag of bread and can of meat. Add slices of each straight to a warmed skillet with a bit of butter. Let your ingredients sizzle and brown before flipping. While the Spam is cooking, place a piece of cheese on top of one piece of bread. After both sides of bread and meat are cooked, smoosh the slices of toast together around the Spam. Open a can of peaches for dessert. 

Leave your dishes … On purpose.

Apply some rouge and settle down to watch the latest wrestling match. You know it’s scripted, but you love watching those muscly men like Buddy Rogers duke it out in the ring. Take your first bite, savoring independence before your husband returns, blitzed and ready to argue about a woman’s place. 

*Photo taken in 1953. It’s Danielle’s grandmother and great aunt, likely just before they headed out to Tiedke’s.

Thunderclap Night

Ethereal love races

Through electric fingertips

Satin sound

Whispers

To the deepest soulparts

Iridescent lightning

Brightens darkened hearts

All in a single second.

Photo by Jonathan Bowers on Unsplash

Why Hypoglycemics Should Always Have Snacks

“The bee attacked me.”

But before he did, I rolled down my windows in a frantic attempt to shoo him outside. It was September. Why on earth were bees still attacking in September? They were supposed to be dying for God’s Sake, not invading my car full of healthy lunch snacks of carrots and goldfish crackers, mom juice of every color and dinners to cook by necessity rather than a pure love to stand in front of the stove chopping stuff—hello you beautiful bag of frozen nuggets!

But before I shooed him, I devoured half an egg salad sandwich. It was one of those sandwiches that come wrapped in plastic and have the little sticker on them that says, Made fresh in store daily! Doubt it. Those sandwiches probably came on the truck with everything else, right next to the big ass tubs of Amish macaroni salad. 

The sandwich was tasty though. Only because I have hypoglycemia and that pretty much means if I forget to eat I turn into a beast willing to gnaw at my own arm if I don’t eat food like immediately

But before devouring my sandwich, I buckled in my daughter. The little one of course, because my oldest can buckle herself. Plus I left the big one at home because when she comes shopping, she literally asks for ALL THE THINGS. 

And even before that, I forgot to bring a snack with me. This is key. Because while shopping, right around the junk food aisle, my legs started trembling. Beads of sweat formed along my hairline. Nausea swirled in my gut. I envisioned tearing open a bag of Doritos and ravaging them like a rabid dog.

I shook my head to erase the fantasy, then grabbed my little egg sammie on the way to the register.

So after I loaded the car with groceries and one small child, I climbed into the car, turned the car on, put the car in drive and put my foot on the break because that’s what hypoglycemics do when their blood sugar drops too low–stupid shit–then I unwrapped my Made fresh in store daily! egg salad sandwich and shoveled it into my mouth.

Just as I wiped the last bit of mashed egg from my chin, I noticed a bee swarming around the passenger side. I rolled my windows down and flapped my arms to shoo him out, but the little jerk refused. Maybe he was mad that I didn’t share my sandwich. He got closer and closer to me, zipping back and forth, up and down, until he stopped to hover in front of my left eyeball.

At that point, I opened my car door screaming, “BEEEEEEE!”

I left my daughter buckled, because my flight response kicked in. I was all like every woman for herself! 

And after I jumped from the car, I noticed the strangest thing. My car was rolling very slowly toward a row of parked cars in front of me. A Beamer, a Mercedes, and a Landrover. There was also an old Honda Civic, but that was the least of my concerns. 

At first, I thought something must’ve happened to my car. Why else would it be rolling away from me with my child, my nuggets, my wine, and a jerk of a bee still in it? That’s precisely when I remembered putting the car in drive.

So, like Matt Damon in Jason Bourne or maybe Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, I dove back in and shoved the car’s shifter into park. 

“Are you okay, Ma’am?” I turned to look over my shoulder, ass and legs still dangling from the car, to find a man in overalls with a pipe hanging from his lips. His eyebrows were sewn up in concern.

I stood and straightened my shoulders, glancing back into my car. All traces of the stinging asshole had disappeared. For the shortest moment, I wondered if I’d imagined the whole thing, if maybe my spiraling blood sugar had reached new lows causing me to hallucinate the little bastard. No matter. It was still the best excuse I had. 

I adjusted my messy bun. “The bee attacked me.”

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Butterflies and Bubblegum Lipgloss

My nextdoor neighbor slash best-boy-friend and I were playing in his backyard after school one day in fifth grade. Trees shaded us from the April sun. I sat on the swing and pumped my legs toward the branches of the tree above. He stood in the treehouse, teasing me for saying Fila like filet. Honest mistake for someone who has never owned a pair of name-brand shoes. But kids with money don’t get it.  

“Wanna kiss me?” he asked as he climbed down. He hopped onto the ground beside me with a thud.

“Huh?” I asked. He knocked the wind from my lungs with his question. 

“We should kiss. Ya know, just to see what it’s like.” He shrugged.

He was kind of cute with his curly brown hair and emerald green eyes. But did I like him, like him? Maybe? Maybe not. I hadn’t really thought about him that way until smack in the middle of that moment.

I kicked a rock beneath my feet and thought about running away from him. Last year, in fourth grade, that’s what I would have done — ran from the boy. Any boy. All boys. But so much changed in fifth grade. Girl friends in my class were curious. We stopped running and started batting our eyelashes. First and second kisses were all the rage at recess. The butterflies. The fireworks. The goosebumps. I wanted to share in those conversations with a story of my own.

I stood, and my knees slipped like spaghetti. “Sure,” I said. Afterall, our parents were rooms away, inside their kitchens making dinner. No one would ever know.

He leaned in to the left. So did I, so he adjusted and leaned to my right. He pressed his lips to mine and, before I could decide whether I liked it or not, his braces scraped my bubble-gum-glossed lips. Eww. And Ouch. But mostly Eww.

I nudged him away. No fireworks. No feeling at all.

“You’re blushing,” he laughed.

“Whatever,” I said as I wiped his drool from my chin. “We should stay friends.”

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

How To Paint Your Own Cabinets

Make sure your house has plenty of ugly cabinets — ones with years of grease stuck to them. This is crucial for steps later on. The more cabinets, the better. Your first apartment in Brooklyn with four cabinets won’t do. 

Once you’ve got the cabinets, pick your color at the paint store. This will be a hard decision. If you have kids, give them lollipops to keep them busy for five minutes because you think that will honestly be enough time to choose. But there are at least twenty shades of light gray. Some with red undertones, some with blue. Spend a half-hour looking at all of them while your kids run amok in the supply aisle. Roll your eyes when your oldest asks you to buy her the purple paint roller, because you half knew she’d ask for something. She always asks,whether it’s a toy at Target, gum at the grocery store, or a purple paint roller at the paint store.

Finally, choose a grey based on the name, because they all look the same and your hypothetical kids are testing your last sliver of patience.

With your paint, brushes, rollers, and drop cloths in tow, head home.

Don’t plan your attack on your cabinets. Only reasonable people do that. Instead, dive right in. 

Remove all the knobs and drawer pulls and set them aside to donate. Brass might make a comeback, but this shade of fake gold will not be in your house. Still, tossing it would be wasteful. Someone else will love it.

Remove all twenty-two of your cabinet doors and all eleven drawers. Lay them in various places throughout the basement and the garage. Don’t buy tripod-stand-things to paint on, because that would make it easier on you. This needs to be the most difficult labor of love you’ve ever attempted.

Sand both sides of all the doors, all drawers and the fronts of the cabinets, then clean them all with wood soap. The cabinets and doors from around the stove will need an extra washing or two. They will be completely caked in grease. If you paint without cleaning, the grease will seep through and turn the paint brown. Then you will have to complete the sand/wash/paint steps all over. This process should be hard, not impossible.

Soak all the hinges in a vinegar and water solution, then scrub them with S.O.S. Pads and let them dry. The hinges are exposed, also made of brass, and purchasing new nickel ones would be the easy and expensive way out. You need to paint those too. Spray paint all sides of all forty-four hinges in batches. Ten at a time. Vinegar will linger on your skin, which somehow reminds you of your favorite drink. 

So, drink wine. Lots of it, because it calms your anxiety about the unfinished project.

Over the next two months, apply six coats of paint to each drawer front, cabinet front, and both sides of each door. Before breakfast, after putting your kids on the bus, after dinner, and before bed. Steal every moment you can to paint. 

Put off hanging with friends, getting out of the house, exercising, and pretty much anything else that brings you joy. Despise the paint, the color you chose, and anything that gets in the way of your mission to finish.

Develop pain in your right hand. Tell yourself it must be arthritis, because you’re approaching thirty-six. Don’t admit that it’s because you are painting all the freaking day.

Eventually you will finish. When you do, stand back and marvel at what you’ve done. All the days, all the paint, aches and bad days have ended. The kitchen looks bigger, cleaner even. It nearly killed you, but damn it’s beautiful.

Be proud. You did it on your own.

Lesson in Murder

They exchange secrets. Women dripping in diamonds and designer labels smirk at Jane. Formality meant they had to invite everyone, even her, to these events. She didn’t fit.

Jane gulps her glass of merlot.

Soon, this cavernous house will spill with wine-stained bodies.

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

Bit by Bit

Tonight, my daughter is having a sleepover with a friend. It’s not her first sleepover. She’s had several this year. But this pang in my heart, loss of breath in my lungs, gets no easier with time.

I worry about her, miss her laugh, and wish to hold her while she’s gone.

It’s not any different from the first time she slept through the night with no need for milk or snuggles at three a.m.. And just like when she didn’t need me to catch her at the bottom of the playground slide anymore.

I’m sure it’ll be the same or harder when she goes on her first date, drives the car alone with her new licence, or moves into her first apartment.

Little by little, she grows up and away.

And bit by bit, I have to let go.

Knowing this, I look forward to tomorrow when she sails through the front door sharing sleepover stories about the brownies they baked and the front walkover she finally had the courage to complete. I’ll bend to smell her coconut shampoo.

At least for now, she still lets me brush her hair.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

How To Hit A Deer With Your Minivan On Moms’ Weekend


  1. Drive four hours with your two best friends to the mountains for some kid-free mom time skiing on the slopes.
    1. Make sure you leave the dads with enough frozen peas and baby carrots. If you don’t, the kids won’t eat their veggies and you’ll be freaking out for two full days instead of letting your messy bun down.
  2. When you arrive at your tiny condo at the bottom of the mountain, light the fire and drink too much wine. This won’t work unless you all drink, so fill all red plastic cups and blame it on the switchbacks and fog for needing a little something, something, to calm your nerves.
  3. Go to bed at four in the morning, because nothing good happens after two a.m., and you want – no need – to remove yourself from motherhood and be nothing good for the night.
  4. Wake up at ten a.m. when your husband calls to see how the slopes are. The lifts opened one hour ago and you’re in no shape to be getting out of bed just yet. At this point, you know you won’t be putting sticks on your feet and sliding down any kind of hill. Not gonna happen.
  5. Eat all the vegan brownies and Tylenol for breakfast with Mom 2. Joke about how you’re all too old to be drinking that much and going to bed that late. Lay back down until the Tylenol kicks in.
  6. Plug your ears when Mom 3 wakes up and barely makes it to the toilet to puke. She’s obvi a total rookie.
  7. Once you’ve all showered, go to the top of the mountain for greasy lunch. Burgers, sweet potato fries (because they’re healthier, duh), and Bloody Marys all around. You choke down the Bloody Mary. It’s not that you want to drink, but hey – hair of the dog, amirite?
  8. Decide to go tubing to salvage what’s left of the weekend.
  9. In the minivan, aka The Swagger Wagon, share funny stories like, “And once, my daughter confused a pantyliner for a giant Band-aid.” You’re a mom after all, and you can’t ever fully leave your children at home, even on a moms’ trip. It’s okay, though, because this is what you needed. Not the booze or skiing, but a weekend with your friends full of fun.
    1. Hear Mom 2 gasp, interrupting the laughter.
  10. See a deer jump in front of your moving tank, slam on the brakes, get a new understanding via personal experience for the term “deer in headlights.” That fucker won’t move.
  11. Connect with her eyes, illuminated by your car’s front end just before she turns in a too-late-dumbass attempt to run away.
  12. Only hit her in the butt going ten miles an hour before she scampers off, uninjured into the woods. Pull over and cry for her with your friends.
  13. After you pull yourself together, finish driving to the tubing hill.
  14. Once there, laugh, careen down the hill, act like a child.
  15. Have fun. Have so much fun.
  16. After tubing, eat a pile of chips and salsa and tell dirty jokes with your friends because the best cure for a hangover is laughter and carbs. Always more carbs.

*Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Red

A holiday toast to my husband:

Brighter than the shade of rubies in my ears, deeper than the scarlet smeared on my lips, richer than the aged merlot in my glass, is the love my crimson heart carries for you after sixteen Christmases together.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash