The Case of the Missing DNA

The Medium Guy is a junior version of the Big Guy, at least on the outside. Both tall, both lanky, both holding their shoulders like Rodin’s Thinker. Lately it’s apparent that they are like on the inside as well, most particularly because the Universal Translator is growing hot from constant use.

MomBrain: Get up. It’s time for school.

Medium Guy: I can’t.

MomBrain: Get up. <pulls the shade open for light>

Medium Guy: <turns over> I can’t! The ambient light levels are too high.

MomBrain: Get up.

Medium Guy: <covers eyes> STOP! My photoreceptors are overstimulated!


MomBrain does not have to rummage deeply into her purse to find the Universal Translator. This is because she uses it so frequently.

Dr. Science: My tendency to sneeze increases when I’m at home.

MomBrain: Maybe you’re allergic to the cats.

Dr. Science: That’s a hypothesis I haven’t tested properly.

MomBrain: Maybe it’s the cats. Maybe you should test them.

Dr. Science: Perhaps. But I need an independent variable.

MomBrain: The cats are independent.

Dr. Science: Yes, but they are not independent variables.

MomBrain: But their moods are variable. I mean, they’re fickle. So the cats are independent and variable, right?

Dr. Science: Yes. No. Yes. But no.

MomBrain: Coffee?

Dr. Science: YES.

The Gray Badge of Honor

newspaperBack in Ye Oldie Days, our post-breakfast routine included a thorough hand-washing. On Sundays, when Dr. Science made pancakes,* it was sticky maple syrup that had us turning on faucets with our elbows. But every other day of the week it was fingers smudged with newspaper ink that needed soap and water. Back then, we hated newspaper ink. Back then, we held newspapers by the ink-free edges. Back then, we shook our fists against scientists who could send a man to the moon but not invent ink that blah blah blah.

These days, though, our ink-smudged fingers are a gray badge of honor. We are proud to be among the dwindling (and perhaps only) print subscribers in Our Fair City. Dr. Science likes the Sports section. Never mind that he watched the game the night before, that he can look up the box score on the web. He likes reading the sports section with breakfast. He Who Shall Not Be Named likes the comics. And I like the headlines. Plus? There’s something cozy about sharing a newspaper between the three of us. Sometimes we talk and laugh about what we’re reading. Other times we read silently. But we always leave for work and school the same way: with smudged fingers, each of us carrying a reminder of how we started the day, as a family, sharing the paper.

* Scientific pancakes are in the shape of letters, sometimes spelling out short words. Go ahead. Try to make a pancake that spells C-A-T.

The King of Koffee


A giant bag of mystery.

Here at MomBrain HQ, we keep things simple. Short sentences. Pretty pictures. Light and airy spaces. Chocolate chip cookies are in the oven, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the air.

Wait – that  is not coffee. It is Dr. Science, whose coffee intake can be measured only with extremely advanced Scientific Tools. But Dr. Science is no connoisseur. Any caffeine wrapped in a bean will do, unless we are in another country. That is because foreign coffee is too scary. So wherever we travel, we must be able to see Starbucks. Even in Canada, the 51st state, Starbucks is the only safe option for Dr. Science’s extreme caffeine needs.

MomBrain: How about the free breakfast in the hotel lobby?

Dr. Science: Meh.

MomBrain: How about the cute little café on the corner?

Dr. Science: Meh.

MomBrain: How about breakfast at Starbucks?

Dr. Science: SURE!

So yes – Dr. Science smells like coffee. But this is better than smelling like hotel soap, or airplanes, or poutineAnd the best part is MomBrain is never homesick. Because no matter where we are, no matter what time zone or country, Dr. Science smells like home.

MB News: Traffic Report

Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the slow lane,
with a sad face

Live from the MomBrain Newsroom, the traffic report is DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT GETTING IN YOUR CAR. MomBrain knows this firsthand because she just spent eight years driving home from the mall. In that time, she picked off an entire manicure, did car yoga, practiced making a pencil bun, played the alphabet game against herself, and listened to Hugh Laurie’s newest CD (twice).

Fortunately, I remembered something from the Twitter: Someone said the theme from Darth Vader makes traffic jams feel better. AND I remembered that I actually have that music on my phone.* So I hit Play and set it for Repeat. Suddenly I was piloting a Super Star Destroyer. The Force was strong within me. The enemy starships surrounding me were specks of nothing.

Unfortunately my car still didn’t move. Darth Vader’s flagship Executor did not appear from the clouds to rescue me. And the Force had obviously dwindled away. Worse: Darth Vader’s theme song had embedded itself in my Brain like a powerful earworm. (And now you have it, too! You’re welcome!)

In the end, I simply persevered. What else could I do? Darth Vader had failed me. But somehow I reached home without him, with only time and patience on my side.


* This is a true fact. The Little Guy He Who Shall Not Be Named went through a movie soundtrack phase a couple of years ago. We’ve got everything. Go ahead. Try me.

The Cowardly Lion Gets a Spine

MomBrain is lucky, lucky, lucky to have three Wizard-of-Oz friends: one is her heart, one is her brain, and one is her spine.

MomBrain recently took a walk in the woods with her spine: a willowy Eileen Fisher type who makes MomBrain feel like a dumpling. Unfortunately the trails were not dumpling-friendly. “Eileen” strode joyfully over hill and dale. MomBrain whimpered and crawled. Eileen’s dog bounced along merrily. MomBrain’s dog sat in the gravel and dug in. Eileen recounted a two-day backpacking adventure with a thirty-pound pack, bears, and torrential rain. MomBrain debated whether she should drive the little car or the big car for errands.

Yes, MomBrain is a delicate hothouse flower. But this does not stop Eileen from doing her job as my spine. She calls it tough love. I call it smacking me upside the head when I am a cowardly lion.

Cowardly Lion

The original Cowardly Lion from
“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”
by L. Frank Baum

Eileen: Crawl out of the rabbit hole! That idea sucks!!!

MomBrain: Wheeeeeeze

Eileen: When will you stop thinking and start doing???

MomBrain: Wheeeeeeze

Eileen: Let’s go two more miles!!!

MomBrain: Wheeeeeeze

I suspect Eileen did this on purpose. What better way to force MomBrain to listen without talking back? But … Eileen is right. So I have (mostly) crawled out of the rabbit hole, despite the scary sunlight. I have – with a little wrenching – discarded the sucky idea. And I have resolved to stop thinking and start moving forward, even if I wheeze. Next step? I do not know. But maybe knowing isn’t the point.

What’s in a Name?

Pink LisaLong, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, MomBrain wore miniskirts. This is a true fact. Also, she had big hair. So big, in fact, that drunk men would bury their hands in it and use it to tie her to a pole in a subway car. (Okay, that only happened once, but STILL.)

Between the miniskirts, the big hair, and the simple fact that I had lady parts, I needed a “bar name” to give to any drunk man who might possibly want to tie me to a subway pole. I chose the easy to spell “Lisa.”*

Fast forward. I no longer have big hair, and I’d have to be drunk myself to wear a miniskirt. But I’m still “Lisa.” It’s my Starbucks name. My pizza delivery name. My take-out Thai name. I have used “Lisa” so much and for so long that I answer to it when someone yells it in a crowd. In fact, my tombstone will probably say “Lisa: We Hardly Knew You.”


* I also used the phone number 867-5309 and NOT ONCE did anyone raise an eyebrow. Maybe they were too drunk.

Pings and Pebbles

pingPity poor MomBrain. The little thought pebbles rolling around in her head are starting to echo and ping off the inside of her skull. Even the Dog is startled, less by the pinging and more by the fact that we’re starting to speak the same language. For example:

The Dog thinks about: food, walk, food, walk, food, walk, food.

MomBrain thinks about: food, walk, food, walk, food, walk, food.

Dr. Science (the Scientist Formerly Known as Big Guy) thinks about: baseball, brains, Chuck, damn politicians, Nick Hornby, coffee, Ben Webster, calamities that might swallow the earth.

Clearly it’s time to refill my skull; to reinvent (if not reclaim) my life. So. With resolution and beating heart, MomBrain tried to register for a writing workshop at the ridiculously awesome Richard Hugo House. Except every other writer in My Fair City beat me to it. So I am on the waiting list, which means HA HA HA CHORTLE maybe next time. So I will look elsewhere to prep for NaNoWriMo and at the same time STOP THE PINGING PLEASE OH PLEASE ANYTHING TO STOP THE PINGING.

Creative Lightning

The Meaning of Life according to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Meaning of Life
according to
The Hitchhiker’s Guide
to the Galaxy

MomBrain is a salty writer. At least, she hopes she is. Because any writer worth her salt keeps a notebook beside her bed in case midnight lightning strikes.

Creative lightning does not strike often, and it almost always looks brighter at night than it does in the light of day. For example, my own notes are usually the burning equivalent of “Feed the cat” or “Where are my keys?” Last night’s note was different, though. “Glee ship tuna” it says.

I sort of remember writing it. I’d had one of those key to the universe dreams and thought Must. Remember. Or. Die. It made sense at the time – something about going in circles? but doing it in spikes? instead of arcs?

  • Was a ship circling a school of tuna while the soldiers sang with glee?
  • Were gleeful tuna circling a sinking ship?
  • Was a ship called the Gleeful Tuna floating in circles?

I do not know. But I am bereft at losing my own version of 42.

Of Feet and Fleet

Class Ring Star Fleet Academy United Federation of Planets

Class Ring
Star Fleet Academy
United Federation of Planets

MomBrain’s mouth wears a size 8 shoe. I know this because today when I put my foot in my mouth, it fit perfectly. And no, I can’t tell you what happened, because HELLO new reader!

In other news, nothing reveals my rusty Brain more than meeting a cheerful and friendly Alpha Mom who, with a family much like mine, is running her own business, meeting international clients at schwank restaurants, traveling around the country, and wearing expensive, grown-up jewelry. Most telling: She actually brushes her hair. She puts my LinkedIn profile to shame, not to mention my ponytail and Star Trek ring.

But MomBrain did not hang her head in despair. She did not take out her ponytail or remove her Starfleet Academy class ring.  She did not order another Manhattan and dive headfirst for the cherry at the bottom. She smiled, shook hands, and congratulated Alpha Mom on her success. This morning MomBrain brushed her hair and polished her LinkedIn profile.  Next up?  I do not know. But I’m thinking in the right direction, even if I am not moving in it (quite yet).