The Brain of the Family

This just in from Sister K, who just announced that she is the most Shakespeare-illiterate person in the entire world and then proceeded to recite a lengthy monologue from Julius Caesar, which she memorized thirty years ago. My, Grandma, what a sticky brain you have! Clearly we are not from the same gene pool. My own brain, she is coated with Teflon, slick as a whistle.

Flights of Fancy


She heard his feet before she saw them: clomping toward her, an easy size 13, in worn hiking boots beneath frayed jeans. She lifted her venti iced tea to her lips and waited.

“Excuse me, ma’am.”

Ma’am??? MA’AM??? MomBrain, Woman of Mystery, lifted her head just high enough to see his sun-leathered face beneath the brim of her straw hat.

“Is there a Starbucks around here?”

She squinted into the sun and smiled, a slow langorous smile.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know.”

The stranger looked confused, then glanced at the Starbucks cup in her hand. She smiled again as he clomped away.


She heard his feet before she saw them, stepping lightly toward her in worn black leather beneath frayed jeans. She lifted her grande iced coffee black one Splenda to her lips and waited.

“Escuse me, meees.”

Meees? Ah – miss. MomBrain, Woman of Mystery, lifted her head just high enough to see his brown eyes beneath the brim of her straw hat.

“Where eez ze store of coffee?”

She squinted into the sun and smiled, a slow langorous smile.

“Starbucks is on the corner” she said, in her best Marlene Dietrich growl. She gestured with one graceful hand. “Next to the lingerie shop.”

The stranger smiled as she lowered her head and hid her eyes again beneath the brim of her hat. His feet were still for a second too long before they turned to step away.


She felt the cell phone before she heard it, vibrating in her pocket and threatening to ring loudly if she didn’t answer quickly enough. She plunked her Mocha Frappucino down and wiped a drip from her chin, then fished the phone from her too-tight jeans.

“Yes? Hello?” MomBrain, Woman of Mystery, spoke into her ultra-slim Motorola Moto Razr V3 cell phone. She crossed her legs. This was the kind of phone James Bond would give to one of his Bond Girls, assuming she already had a sexy little handgun with a pearl handle.

“Hey, it’s me.”

MomBrain smiled and imagined blue eyes.

“Have you been to Starbucks yet?”

“No,” she said, and glanced at her Frappucino. “What can I get you?”

“A grande iced mocha would be great. And the Little Guy wants a kids vanilla steamer.”

“AND A LOLLIPOP!” shouted a small voice in the background.

“And a lollipop.”

“A grande iced mocha, a vanilla steamer, and a lollipop. Got it. Anything else?” she asked. She reached for her purse and knocked over the Frappucino. Chocolate spilled all over her size 9 Keds.



“Nothing, I just — nothing.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes!” MomBrain held her phone away from her face and yelled. “I’m losing reception! I’ll see you soon!”

She ignored the people staring at her and looked down at her feet as she squished away toward Starbucks.

Random Notes

The Timekeeper … MomBrain made the very horrible mistake of giving the Little Guy a zipper pull with a digital watch on it. It was only a dollar at Target, and who can resist that? But LG is now covered with bruises because he stares at his zipper pull constantly, including while he’s walking. Also, our morning conversations have been reduced to variations of one recurring sentence: “MOMMY!!! IT’S 8:38!!!” followed by “MOMMY!!! IT’S 8:39!!!” until mercifully we are at preschool and IT’S 9:00!!!

Shout Outs … My new stats counter has a time zone map of all the people who click into MomBrain. And hey – there’s five people in Africa! I’m guessing those hits are from Iraq, probably from friends of Navy Corpsman Sean at Doc in the Box. So here’s a big shout-out to the troops who stumble into my little corner of the Blogosphere. MomBrain thinks about you every day.

Help Wanted

Oh. My. Goodness. Somehow MomBrain has agreed to write seven articles, all of them due on June 1. Since the Little Guy is in preschool only 8 mornings between now and then, that means one article a day. Fly, little fingers, fly!!!

How can you help? Thanks for asking! Tell me your best hangover rememdy – just put it in the comments or email me.

Also in the works – an essay I really care about and want to finish, another essay I want to start, 3000 words of a novel that feels promising, and way too many ideas that I have no time to pursue.

The span of my life seems to alternate between periods when I have lots of time but no money, and enough money but no time. Why is that? When will I have time and money together?

Wish List

I wish I could …

play the flute
play the guitar
live closer to family
become a famous essayist
write a column
have more time to read
meet Caitlin Flanagan
live in New York or Boston again
sleep better
eat without thinking about calories
make genealogy trips more often
organize a huge family reunion
run again
swim more often
find time to get new workout shoes
figure out my digital camera
go to a flea market
wiggle my Bewitched nose to clean my house
ski like crazy
drink coffee and tea 24/7
stunt the Little Guy’s growth
be an artist
turn my garage into my very own creative studio
get more massages
get by on 6 hours of sleep or less
speak Spanish
go to Mexico without getting sick
find more time to play with Photoshop
wear a short skirt
read without reading glasses
look for sea glass on a warm beach

What’s on your wish list?

Tourist Information Booth

Greetings from the Land of PMS. I see that you are a traveler. Normally I don’t talk to tourists. I mean – they’re tourists. But you seem like a kind soul, and so I will go out of my way to warn you: Do not speak to the natives. It is not safe.

Citizens in the Land of PMS are often compared to the pod people in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” These were the people who walked around looking all normal, carrying briefcases and walking their dogs and unloading delivery trucks. But one little smile from you and BAM, the screaming starts and before you know it you’re a pod person, too.

So please. Unless you like high-decibel screams, finger pointing and possession by alien forces, just mind your own business and do not talk to me. Thank you.

Winning the Lottery

MomBrain’s ship has finally come in. I have just received email from the auditor of a bank in South Africa. One of his customers died with $18 million dollars in a bank account, and since no next of kin has come forward to claim it, he wants ME to have it!!! All I have to do is respond to the email with my bank account number and they will wire the funds. Yippee!!! Nordy’s here I come!!!

Coffee Capers

If you’ve ever woken up with MomBrain you know my early morning fog is not unlike a drunken stupor. This is especially true on mornings like this, when I rise an hour early because it is the only hope I have of taking a shower, and if I do not shower today the Haz Mat team will surely knock on my door.

Ah, yes. MomBrain in the morning is not a pretty sight. But MomBrain an hour early in the morning is frightening. Of course, the remedy for any stupor (drunken, morning, or otherwise) is caffeine. So that is how MomBrain came to be fumbling with coffee and cursing her other personality, which some people have uncharitably called ANAL. This is because I am very organized, and keep my coffee in tupperware bowls with big fat labels for “Regular” and “Decaf.” (Okay, my tea is also labeled. As are the Little Guy’s toy shelves. Um, and my office shelves. BUT I AM NOT ANAL.)

I know my other personality is NOT ANAL because if she was she would have labeled the bowls instead of the lids. She would have remembered MomBrain’s morning issues and predicted this morning’s disaster, which began when I flipped both lids off and promptly forgot which bowl went with which lid.

Crap. Crapcrapcrap. They smell the same. They look the same. But they are not the same. I NEED CAFFEINE, DAMMIT. And I most decidedly do not need caffeine tonight after dinner. Okay … Plan B. I’ll mix them together, drink twice as many cups, and buy decaf later today. I AM A GENIUS!!!

This is how MomBrain came to be jumping up and down in the kitchen with a large Ziploc baggie full of ground coffee. It is also how she forgot to seal the baggie, which is how coffee grounds ended up all over the counter, all over the floor, all over a freshly showered MomBrain, and all over Miss Kitty. And you know what kitties do when they get dirty – they lick themselves. Our caffeinated kitty is now chasing ghost mice and banging into walls while I debate whether I can brush coffee grounds out of my wet hair before it turns into liquid coffee. Eau de Folgers, anyone?

The Truth About Fishing

The walls around my desk are covered with post-it notes: scraps of shiny, sparkly ideas that line my office like a magpie’s nest. One note bears the handwriting of my fishing partner, Ruth. It says:

5 Truths

Apparent truth

Real truth

Spirit truth

Shadow truth

Fairytale truth


Unsaid truth

It’s a useful way to examine many angles (and the many truths) of one thing: a job, a relationship, a goal, a problem, an unplugged phone. Here is the truth about my messy office.

The Apparent Truth (How does it look from the outside?) — Disaster. Thousands of small pieces scattered in loose piles. On one side of the room, a preponderance of books, paper, magazines, computer, words. On the other side, art. Oogly bits of disconnected stuff that I can’t bear to throw away. Twenty-six yards of ivory ribbon. An old peanut butter jar full of sea glass. Four unfinished wooden boxes. Rubber stamps, colored pencils, chalk, paints. Piles of colorful paper scraps. A shoebox of found images. Thirty-six tumbled marble tiles. A bag of yarn. Ten feet of cork.

The Real Truth (What it is it really like for me, on the inside?) — Comfortable and comforting chaos. I like being able to see everything at once. The rest of my house is spare and uncluttered; everything in cupboards and drawers and closets, put away for the sake of serenity. But in here, everything is out for the sake of creativity. Strange juxtapositions abound. A Peruvian quilt next to a ticking clock. A black and white checkered napkin holding 30 round, colorful marbles. Pictures of Kokopelli tucked into an angels calendar.

The Spirit Truth (If this were serving a spiritual purpose in your life, what would it be?) — A form of worship. I’m not a traditionally religious person, which is code for “I don’t know what the heck I believe but I’m trying to figure it out.” But the one thing I do believe, deeply and without question, is based on one verse in Genesis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” To me, being created in the image of God means we (unlike the animals) have been given the unique gift of creativity, and we’re obligated to use it wisely and well. Squashing my creative spirit is wrong, even sinful, because it dismisses the most important gift God has given me. Conversely, using my creative spirit is almost a form of worship.

At the risk of getting all woo-woo, my messy office is like church for me. Here is where I create. Writing for me is a lot like prayer – an effort to understand, forgive, be grateful, grow. I need it the way I need air and food and water.

The Shadow Truth (What is the dark side, the thing you don’t want to admit you’re getting from this?) — Guilty pleasure. Everything I do in my office – writing, doing art, working on genealogy, staring out the window – feels like playing. I can breathe deeply in here. Every minute in my messy room is an immense indulgence, and it feels like guilty pleasure. Why do I feel guilty? I don’t know, and I wish I didn’t. But it’s hard to admit how happy I am when I’m all by myself playing in the middle of my creative mess.

The Fairy-Tale Truth (If this were in a fairy tale, known or unknown, what would it be?) —The Secret Garden, the story of a girl who is lonely and adrift until she discovers a hidden, untended flower garden. By tending and restoring the garden, she also tends and restores her heart. Now, I wouldn’t describe myself as lonely and adrift. But I don’t know any fulltime parent who doesn’t feel isolated and at times consumed by the world of home and children. This messy room is my secret untended garden. It’s where I remind myself that I still exist, where I can create beauty or just sit among the weeds and look at the sky.

The Unsaid Truth (What remains to be said?) — I want more, more, more. I don’t spend nearly enough time in here, and when I am in here I feel guilty, as if it’s stolen time. I need predictable time, to know when I can shut the door and for how long. I also need to give myself the gift of permission – to play, to be messy, to just be. I have the power to give these things to myself. Why don’t I do it?

And now … your turn. What is your truth?

Musical (Mis)adventures

Our last musical adventure began with a shriek, followed by a haunting melody. But just to mix things up, MomBrain’s music fest last night began with the music and ended with much screaming. This is because I had to relearn the lesson that every beginning musician knows: Thou Shalt Not Chew Gum While Playing.

It began with the garlic – four cloves of it, in the lovely pasta and feta cheese dish I made for dinner. In my rusty musical retirement, I’d forgotten that it probably wasn’t a good idea to eat garlic immediately before singing with other human beings. No time to brush! I popped a stick of gum and ran off to rehearsal.

You need to know that MomBrain is blind before her time. Reading sheet music requires reading glasses. But I cannot see the conductor without peering over the tops of the glasses or removing them entirely. Listening to the conductor’s lengthy directions, I took off my glasses and hung them from my mouth. But then, with no warning, she launched eighteen third-graders into “The Crawdad Song” and I couldn’t see the music. I pulled my glasses from my mouth only to see a long string of chewing gum stretching from the earpiece. I tried to pull the gum off, but now a sticky triangle of gum connected my left hand to my glasses to my mouth. Crapcrapcrap. If we hadn’t been in a church I would have said the F word, third-graders be damned. Four measures of piano silence went by before I jammed the glasses onto my face and willed my sticky fingers to fly, mama, fly over that keyboard!

You get a line and I’ll get a pole
I’ll meet you down by the crawdad hole
Honey! Baby!

End of song. End of all hope. Off come the glasses, and now there’s a wad of gum behind my right ear that is still connected to my glasses. Holy crap, there goes the conductor again launching into “Accentuate the Positive” and I know I’m doomed so I jam the glasses back on and finish the rehearsal wondering if peanut butter really does take gum out of hair, wondering if anyone saw me stretching gum around like silly string, wondering if the conductor will make me write sentences for setting a bad example. I will not chew gum in rehearsal. I will not chew gum in rehearsal. I will not chew gum in rehearsal.