Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sticky Bras

To understand this story, you must first realize I was counseled out of ballet. Before your mind is set to wander off to the Joffrey or even a first rate ballet school in a big city, come back to the little strip mall in an exurb about an hour outside of San Francisco. It was sandwiched between Donna's Gifts, a purveyor of ceramic poultry statues and Mrs. Grossman's stickers, and a dry cleaner. The discussion happened between my dad and the mistress of the studio after a few "incidents" and I never went back. 

So it is somewhat surprising that I landed a spot in the liturgical dance spotlight dance with Kate, a girl who was still enrolled in ballet. Our Lutheran Youth Choir was poised to tour the Pacific Northwest bringing our unique mix of vocal stylings and halted dance moves to churches that apparently yearned for such entertainment. Unlike our competitors, we mixed in our songs for the Lord with liturgical dance which clearly gave us an edge over other bands of Evangelical Lutheran youth choirs. There was one dance where all of the girls (yes, boys do not liturgical dance)would don flowing shiny taffeta long sleeve shirts with bell shaped skirts. We moved in unison (I imagined) ever so slowly raising our hands in open palmed victory. While the others would join the choir to do an upbeat Swahili ditty with snapping (yes, we were all White...for another blog post), Kate and I would rush behind the alter to do a quick change into tight iridescent turquoise spandex dance outfits that happened to be backless.

 Kate, with all of her extensive dance knowledge, selected the outfit to maximize our movement abilities. The fact that it accentuated her curves and made her skin glow from the interplay with the turquoise fabric was just a cherry on top of the danceability. To be kind, I still believe, they chose to order a a size small for me. I was no where near a size small. When they arrived, I stuffed myself into the costume and the adults were skilled enough to hide their certain looks of horror. My skin splotched with freckles seemed to battle with the color fabric and the spandex did not accentuate the right curves. It was decided that all could be rectified with some sticky bras. Again, I don't think anyone noticed me in this calculous as my midsection certainly extended further than my breast buds. But, sticky bras were procured for the tour by a well meaning adult.

 Our third or fourth spot on the tour was a small church in Longview, Washington. It was a "hot" venue because they church elders had somehow conned the local cable access TV station to film our show for the masses. Naturally, the hormone fog was becoming more and more intense as we all imagined ourselves being "discovered" here. As we prepped for the show, which mostly included looking longingly at the pastor's son with my best friend Karin, the well meaning adult discovered that she had not purchased enough sticky bras. I suggested that I go without, as my washboard breast bone hardly needed the sticker. However, God would not appreciate sticky bra-less girls dancing slowly on the alter in too tight spandex. Instead, she decided that Kate would continue to get two stickers, one for each breast, and the well meaning adult would start cutting the sticker in half for the duration of the tour for me. Yes, my breasts were worth one half of a sticky bra.

 This development only served to set Karin and I off in a frantic giggle cycle that lasted throughout the performance. I won't bore you with tales of the icy stares from our youth pastor or the condescending glances from our other choir members during the live TV performance. After the cameras stopped rolling and the 26 grey headed audience members stopped clapping, Karin and I darted out the side door. I reached into my shirt and peeled off the sticker parts, giggling to hide my shame.  She turned to me and said slyly, "Let's go break store windows." And we went off running barely able to breathe from laughing so hard.

Friday, September 13, 2013


I keep thinking about how different my morning is.  Nothing like twenty six years ago.

Nora quietly woke up slowly.  When I peeked in their room, she turned to me like a sunflower facing the sun.  She stretched.  She flopped back into bed.  I approached her, arms open.  She bounded into my arms instinctively.

I carried her in to our room, she gently patted my back as we moved.  Spencer hardly stirred.

Twenty six years ago, I got myself up on my own.  I was careful to be quiet, as there were so many of my aunts and uncles gathered in the house.  I showered.  I dressed.  Although, I can't be sure.  My heart was numb.  My brain switched off.

I set Nora on the bed.  She smiled and said, "Cuddle time?"  I climbed back into bed and she wrapped her arms around me.

I heard muffled noises from the front of the house.  I dreaded seeing everyone.  I noiselessly stalked into the kitchen.  I thought about breakfast, but I don't think I ate.  Someone motioned for me to say goodbye to my mom before I headed off to the bus stop.  I stepped down into the family room.

"Tomorrow is family day.  Two days in a row," I told Nora and she glowed.  Her long limbs twitched in excitement.  I steadied my heart.  Taking stock to stay in the moment.  Training my brain to stay here.

The room was dark.  Crowded.  Sad.  My mom had been sleeping in a hospital bed near the sliding glass door.  I had not known that the addition of the hospital room meant my mom would soon be dead.  I just thought, I just thought...  I was careful not to wake her.  I bent over the railing and laid my hand on hers.  It was cold.

The light from the windows finally got Spencer to stir.  I try not to think about how important light is to the race to get to school on time as we face the dark seasons.  Dave goes to him and lures him into the day.  He, too, is reminded that family weekend starts tomorrow.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Adventures in (not really) Gluten Free Cooking

Yes, we are gluten free.  But is what I am doing considered cooking?  Probably not.

We ate burgers (gf veggie for the adults, grass-fed cow meat for the kids) every day this week.  Sometimes with a side of gf pasta with olive oil and cheese.  Salad for the adults, frozen peas for the kids.

I am not exaggerating.

I am paralyzed in the kitchen.  I don't think I normally cooked with all that much gluten, but now it is as if my brain is on ice.  Stuck.

On the second (or third?) night of the neverending burger-fest, Dave ran out to get buns.  He meant to get Udi's, but got Rudi's WHEAT buns instead.   Only after they were in our brand, spankin' new glutenless toaster was this discovered.

It was hard not to yell.  One letter separated the toxic from the nontoxic.  Easy mistake, right?  Heated discussions on how many crumbs of gluten could have fallen into our toaster in the span of 2 minutes.  Enough to make us toss it?  Is it possible to shake the gluten free?  Anxiously, we decided to clean it.  I now avoid it.

Last night, I mustered up enough brain power to attempt gluten free pizza last night.  (I used this recipe.)  I created a "surry" with flaxseed meal to approximate the requisite glutenous goodness to make the superfine brown rice flour, tapioca flour and potato starch come together in a ball.  After the "dough" still looked like a pebbled sandy beach, I doubled the surry.  It did come together in this ethereal, temperamental glob.  The yeast seemed to work quite hard to get the heavy mass to rise just a smidge.

As we had to get rid of all of the rolling pins, I pinched out the dough into a circle.  I tried not to think about my stretchy, soft, creamy gluten pizza dough as pieces of the crust broke off.  Parbaked.  Topped.  It looked decent.  I just couldn't bring myself to take a picture.  Hipster food photography, be damned.

Nora declared that I deserved a chef hat.  Dave repeated that he loved it, even though I was on to him that he just can't bear to survive another week of veggie burgers.  Spence told me quietly that he didn't really like it so much.

If this was just one night, one attempt of gf pizza dough, it would be a hit.  But, it isn't.  This is forever. And I want my gluten back.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Dave's in the kitchen throwing away my flour.  The King Arthur Bread Flour, the All Purpose Flour.  The Softasilk Cake Flour.  The smidge of Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flour.

I am two rooms away sobbing, heaving.  

He's chucking my Trader Joe's Garlic Naan, the St. Paul Bagel Bakery Everything Bagels, my malt extract for my homemade bagels.  

We are getting rid of the gluten.  All of it.  Or rather, Dave is.  I am grieving the gluten.

He has packaged up the Cheerio's, the Rice Krispies.  Tossed all of my Morningstar fake meat products.  Pulled the possibly contaminated Ghirardelli Dutch-processed cocoa. 

I want my daughter to be healthy, for her belly not to hurt every second of every day.  I yearn for her blood to hold on to iron so that she can have more energy, to avoid the crank that only malnourishment can bring.  I am just also in denial.  Celiac?  Nora?  It can't be.

Peering into the kitchen, I see him nearing my spices.  Penzy's spices--the Sandwich Sprinkle, the Tuscan Sunrise, and even more small glass jars with pale yellow labels.  Back off.  I already confirmed they are gluten free.

My kitchen has become a hazmat zone.  The sweet jalapeƱo colored walls, the yellow lotus beam.  This room is so core to my identity, a social gathering spot.  The site of many thrown together meals for the dear 9 to 13 pals that will drop by on a Friday night for some homemade pizzas.  And now, I can't even bear to enter it.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mind the Gap

It had been wobbly for quite some time.  There had been long discussions about the tooth fairy and whether she was real.  Was the tooth fairy a girl?  A boy?  Or something else?  Should we find some high speed cameras to document the fairy's arrival?  Or would that scare her off forever?  Do fairies need privacy?  Does everyone have their own personal fairy?  Or is their just one?  

He had just got home from dinner with his best buddy.  Apparently, he ate lots and lots of pasta.  In a foretaste of adolescence, he immediately darted for the kitchen to get some more food.  He came back chomping on an apple.  He gobbled it up and went to throw away the core before he came to get some "large muscle activity" (his words, not mine.)  As he looked in my direction, I saw the gap.

"Spence, you lost your tooth!"  

Where was the tooth?  We retraced the steps.  We dug the core out of the trash can.  (Yes, I realize we should be composting.)  No tooth.  Had a terse discussions about the necessity of digging through the entire trash can to unearth the very tiny tooth.  We decided a note to the tooth fairy would be sufficient.

("Dear Tooth Fairy,
I lost a tooth in the garbage maybe!!!!

Thankfully, she read the note and left the goods. She even left behind a smidge of fairy dust!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Midas Touch

I didn't realize that when we got to this page he was wincing.  It seemed like a fairly benign rif on the King Midas story.  His best friend turned into cheese.  I am not giving anything away by telling you that Tweet, the bird, was restored to his birdlike ways.  Happy ending.  I bundled up the kids with last kisses and shuffled them off to bed.  

As I was attending to Nor for some reason or another, when I turned around to see that Spence was sobbing.  The hard sob where you cannot breathe.  I rubbed his back as he sputtered out "I just can't get the picture of his best friend turned it cheese.  How must he feel?"  I picked up his body from the bed and he curled around me.  I stumbled back into my room.

We cuddled, nose to nose.  His tears dribbled onto my cheek.  I walked him through the story, told him that after bad moments comes good moments.  He was not appeased.  Still struggling to breathe, he sputtered out, "I just keep thinking of you...your you would feel..."  His voice devolved into muffled cries.  I held him tight, told him how after losing my mom I finally got to get this wonderful life now.

I also wanted to say that I was cuddled, loved, listened to, that I was held close in the hearts of those who were left behind.  I just didn't want to lie.  Parenting when your own childhood was a litany of traumas tears at your soul.  Fills you with guilt, makes you think by sharing bits of your life you are fraying the innocence of your sweet babes.  Where's the road map to navigate through this land mine?