Mr. and Mrs. Voldemort retire



Originally published July 18, 2009
See? You can’t judge people by their looks.
I know that, and yet I still haven’t gotten the hang of it.
I still think Mr. Voldemort looks sweet, and tender, and that he would be the kind of husband every woman dreams of.
And Mrs. Voldemort -- well, that’s not the greatest picture of her. She was beautiful and funny and incredibly witty, from what I’ve heard. She was tall, with huge boobs (everyone mentions this,)
 and could light up a room with her one-liners and zingers.
She lived in New York City, by herself, in an apartment in the village, in 1960. Not many women did that. She was a reporter and a fashion writer, and was apparently good at it.
He was, of course, an actor. And very good at it. Charmed the pants off everyone around him. Literally.
And yet here we are, fifty years later.
Together, they’ve created messes that spawn three generations, and that include prison, fraud, stays in mental hospitals, arson, stints with the mafia, identity theft, more prison, child neglect, three marriages, at least five children and maybe seven or eight, and the spending of LOTS of money. 
A game show prize of $50,000, spent in a flash. Alcoholism, and drug abuse, and murmurs of spousal abuse. An episode of America’s Most Wanted. A flight to the Bahamas, where there’s no extradition. A cross-country road trip designed to steal money in five states. Theft in a Paris apartment. Children in foster care in England.
A house burnt down in the Adirondacks. Another in California.
Theft from family members. Rediscovered children.
Polaroids of naked women in the shower. Stepchildren.
Attempted murder. More time in jail. Abandoned children. Children given up for adoption. Mistresses. Moves cross-country, in a fit of pique.
They separated in 1980. Fought bitterly until they finally divorced in 1994. Remarried ten years later.
And now, retirement comes for Mr. and Mrs. Voldemort.
It’s not pretty. But who thought this would have a happy ending? Voldemort does not go quietly, and the missus even less so.
There has been a car accident, and a broken pelvis, maybe, or maybe not. Allegations of guilt, and of blame, and of “He’s mean to me,” or “She’s awful.”
In theory, they’re growing tomatoes and working on plays and fixing up a house. In reality, you couldn’t pay me enough to spend a month under the same roof with them, although it would certainly give me enough fodder for my novel.
But the bad guy has to go out in a bad way, right? It almost wouldn’t be fair to see them live out their lives in peace and prosperity on a little farm.
But man, it’s still hard to watch. Easier to read the summation at the end of a fairy tale than to watch them get old, alone and unmourned.
What was it Captain Hook said to Peter, the good-looking boy who never grew up? “You’ll die alone and unloved, just like me.”
Perhaps the fictional Voldemort had the easier way out.



A month's worth of gluten-free meals, made easy!


Originally published July 19, 2009



OK, this isn’t really EASY. But it’s a lot easier to do all the cooking at once and get it over with.
I’m SO tired of trying to figure out what to have for dinner.
So I thought I’d list the meals we eat over and over again, and how I make a lot of them ahead of time so they’re ready to cook.
Below are 30 meals, in no particular order, that we eat in a given month.
Some are vegan -- some can be made vegetarian. Others are heavy on the meat. It all depends on what’s on sale and what I have in the freezer.
Below the list, I’ll line out how to cook the bulk of this in one day and have it ready to go the rest of the month.
Beef or bean tacos with corn tortillas (meat from the make-ahead night)
Bean soup -- lots of extra veggies
Corn chowder -- made with coconut milk for creaminess
Pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, capers, pecans and olive oil
Meatloaf (from the make-ahead night)
Chicken enchiladas (from the make-ahead night)
Lentil soup (crockpot)
King Ranch chicken (from the make-ahead night)
Fajitas (storebought -- make sure seasonings are GF and use corn tortillas)
French onion soup
Pizza  -- BBQ sauce and chicken
Sausage and peppers
Fish tacos (from the make-ahead night)
Potato soup
Grilled chicken with Thai peanut sauce (from the make-ahead night)
Shrimp marinated in Italian dressing (from the make-ahead night)
Beef stew (crockpot)
Pizza -- whatever meats and sauce you have on hand
Pasta with meatballs (meatballs made ahead)
Sander’s chicken (from the make-ahead night)
Pork tenderloin (from the make-ahead night)
Taco soup
Thai chicken curry over rice
Stir fry veggies over rice
Grilled salmon with rice and veggies
Sausage skewers on the the grill
Pasta with leftover sausage
Egg frittata with whatever leftovers you have
Scrounge night
Chicken cacciatore (from the make-ahead night)
Everything that isn’t made ahead is easy to make on the day of, or to plan ahead that week and have it ready.
If you want to do just a couple of meals, that works, too. If you want to do chicken one day and beef another, fine.
Do what works for you. This is, obviously, a general overview of how to do it. I can’t tell you quantities, because I don’t use them. I can’t tell what kinds of spices, because I change them every time according to what I have on hand.
But if you really need recipes, or this isn’t clear, just let me know and I’ll try to be more specific.
On the day you’re going to cook everything ahead of time, have ready:
Pork tenderloin
Beef stew meat
Ruffles potato chips (trust me on this)
Ground beef
Chicken breasts and thighs
Corn tortillas
Taco seasoning
Enchilada sauce
Peanut butter
GF soy sauce
Coconut milk
GF Italian dressing
Brown sugar
Chopped pecans if you like them
BBQ sauce
Lots and lots of gallon-sized ziploc freezer bags
Regular cooking stuff: Eggs, seasonings you like, canned tomatoes if you like them, carrots and onions, salt and pepper -- whatever you like to cook with. These are, after all, your meals.
I can’t tell you quantities. It’s your family. Do you want to make up six bags of taco meat and that will last your family a month, or will that be a year’s worth and it’s way too much? I do know that if you wrap this stuff well it really won’t go bad for at least two to three months and you probably won’t regret having good meals ready to go.
And you don’t have to do this all on one day -- you could do chicken one weekend, and beef another. But that kind of negates the never having to cook thing, so I do it all at once.
First, the ground beef.
With it, you can make:
Meat for tacos and taco soup
Meat for pizza
Divide into how many portions you want. Make the meatballs and meatloaf the same way: Mix ground beef (and turkey or pork if you like,) with lots of crushed Ruffles potato chips, Italian seasonings, eggs and ketchup until it looks like meatloaf. Make balls out of some, loaves out of some, and freeze in pie pans or on paper plates in ziploc bags uncooked.
When the time comes to eat them, thaw the night before and cook ‘em up.
Take the rest of the ground beef and mix it with taco seasoning (check seasonings to make sure they’re GF.)
It’s your call whether to cook the meat first or freeze it raw. I think it tastes better if you cook it the night you eat it. But it sure is nice to have a couple of bags of taco meat ready to go when your family is hungry.
If you cook it first, leave a bag or two marked for pizza so you’ll have a quick topping.
For tacos, cook the meat and serve in corn tortillas with beans, rice, lettuce and lots of good salsa.
For taco soup, saute the meat, add chicken broth, add frozen or canned corn and a can of tomatoes to the broth, and serve with tortilla chips and salsa.
Next, the chicken, fish, shrimp and pork tenderloins.
Some will be raw and some cooked.
Start a pot of plain rice. You just need a little.
Start some chicken cooking for King Ranch and enchiladas.
Just simmer it in water on the stove until it’s done -- use what you like to eat -- boneless thighs are good, or breasts, or even tenderloins. Use what you like.
While that’s cooking, make up a bunch of quick dinners.
These are EASY.
Take as many pieces of chicken as you need for one meal for your family and put them in a ziploc.
Add a sauce.
You’re done.
Teriyaki: GF soy sauce, honey,  a little lemon juice
Italian: Pour GF Italian dressing over it
Thai peanut: Mix some peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce and a splash of hot sauce. Add a little sugar or honey, too. Use as much as you need to make it taste good, or look up a good recipe -- I just make it up as I go.
Any of the expensive sweet/hot sauces they sell at Whole Foods and HEB: Mango/Habanero or Apricot Brandy, etc. 
Barbecue sauce (Make sure it’s GF)
Label them and freeze as is.
Do the same with the shrimp and the pork tenderloin.
The pork is good with herbs and honey and mustard, or with the teriyaki or Italian sauces.
The shrimp is amazing with the Italian dressing. Or do two and do one with herbs, lemon juice and fake butter or some olive oil.
For the fish: You’re going to use it for fish tacos. Rub taco seasoning on it, put it in a ziploc and freeze. Do a salmon with herbs on top, and maybe honey or a teriyaki marinade, if you like.
Freeze them all uncooked.
When you’re ready to eat, thaw the night before.
All of these are good on the grill or in the oven -- the shrimp can go on the stovetop in a skillet.
For the fish, cook in a skillet or in the oven, flake and serve in corn tortillas with cabbage and salsa, or with a homemade tartar sauce -- use GF mayo and pickles.
For the salmon, simply cook the way you normally would: Under the broiler or in a pan.
Serve everything else with rice, potatoes or GF pasta. If you want to save the sauce when you cook it, make sure to heat the sauce with the chicken so it’s cooked through.
Sander’s chicken:
Take as many breasts as you have people in your family. Pound them flat with a mallet, a tin can, or whatever you have that will work and not damage the breast.
Wrap a little of the rice you just made (season it first,) inside the breast.
Roll it up, and sprinkle on mustard, brown sugar and some pecans if you like them.
Put as many as you like in one pie pan for one meal, and make as many meals as you like.
Put in a ziploc and freeze, uncooked.
Simply thaw and bake when ready to serve.
Chicken enchiladas:
Use the cooked chicken (if  you’re really lazy or in a time crunch, use a roasted chicken from the market. Just make sure it’s GF.)
Shred it, mix with GF enchilada sauce -- easy to make your own, or use store-bought. The best brand is at Sun Harvest, by Frontera. Really good!
Take the saucy chicken, roll it up in corn tortillas that you’ve warmed in the microwave a few seconds to soften, and put in a pan. Pour more sauce over the top.
Freeze a whole set for dinner. We put 12 in a pan for four people.
Really good with beans, rice, salsa and fake sour cream.
King Ranch chicken:
Basically, you’re making a lasagna with corn tortillas and salsa.
The hard part is that you need a GF white sauce.
Here’s how to do it:
In a large skillet, melt some oil or shortening. Mix in a couple tablespoons of rice flour or any GF flour blend. Stir until all the flour is absorbed -- add more oil if you need it.
Slowly add in some chicken stock, stirring the entire time, until you have a thick sauce. Salt and pepper liberally, or it won’t taste good.
In a casserole dish that can freeze: Make a layered dish with tortillas on the bottom, then some chicken, some white sauce, and some salsa or Rotel.
More corn tortillas, and repeat.
Finish with corn tortillas, a little white sauce and Rotel or salsa on top.
Make three or four of these. It’s a pain in the neck to make, and it’s silly to make just one.
And let me tell you: If you can have cheese, this is one of those dishes where it makes a difference. Add it, liberally.
If, like us, you can’t have it: Add salsa and fake sour cream when you eat it and pretend it’s nice and cheesy.
So, that takes care of beef or bean tacos, meatloaf, King Ranch chicken, fish tacos, chicken cacciatore, chicken with Thai sauce (or whatever sauce,) marinated shrimp, taco soup, pork tenderloin, Sander’s chicken and meatballs. 
The rest is stuff that’s crockpot or easy to make in one night:
Corn chowder -- made with coconut milk for creaminess
French onion soup
Potato soup
Pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, capers, pecans and olive oil
Pasta with leftover sausage
Pizza  -- BBQ sauce and chicken
Pizza -- whatever meats and sauce you have on hand
Beef stew
Bean soup -- lots of extra veggies
Lentil soup
Sausage and other quick meals:
Sausage and peppers
Thai chicken curry over rice (just chicken and store-bought curry paste, with veggies and coconut milk)
Stir fry veggies over rice (just a GF teriyaki sauce, veggies and rice)
Sausage skewers on the the grill
Fajitas (storebought -- make sure seasonings are GF and use corn tortillas)
Egg frittata with whatever leftovers you have
Scrounge night
Do you need recipes for these? I mostly wing it, but I’ve been cooking GF a long time.
If you need recipes, let me know and I’ll post them later this week -- this is just to everyone started with some ideas, so we’re not all stuck in a rut over what to eat!



Musings on 15 years


I was never going to get married -- that was a certainty. Men were useful, certainly, and fun, and sometimes they a joy to talk to, and I loved being loved, but marriage was not for me.
I'd seen what it had done to my mother, and I had no interest. Besides -- I had a career, and a life. I was interesting, dammit! I had places to go! I was going to be famous, or at least celebrated in some small circles. Marriage would slow me down.
At first, I was going to be an underwater archeologist. I dove on wrecked ships, took classes off the coast of Maine, was sure I was going to live a life of adventure at sea.
Sadly, I couldn't find anyone to finance that, so I was going to be a regular archeologist, or I'd go into creative writing and pen my best-seller.
 Surprisingly, no patrons arrived to fund that quest, either.
But someone agreed to give me pizza and beer money occasionally, to add to my student loans, if I got a reasonable degree where I could make, like, an actual salary after graduation. So I chose journalism -- there's no money in it, but I could still write, still have adventures, still go off on exotic quests for a story.
My goal was to live in Europe, chase men for fun but never actually catch one, write enough to make money for beer and pizza and drink in the intoxications the world had to offer.
I ended up a copy editor in Galveston, poor beyond my worst imaginings. My rent was $300 a month, and with a car payment and student loans, I ate lots of pea soup, worked at a newspaper at night and waited tables during lunch hour. Not the fantasy I had hoped.
I had dated a guy for years in college, and it pretty much confirmed the worst ideas I'd had about marriage -- if I got married, it would be all about him.
The guy I had dated was a perfect match for me -- a journalist who loved reading, politics and a good debate. He'd had a troubled childhood, too, and we could compare notes on who had the worst parents. He'd talk for hours about his ideas, his plans, his goals, his fears, his thoughts. Then he'd ask what I thought of his ideas, his fears, his plans and his thoughts.
He decided to go off to law school, and we dated long-distance for a while. I think. He might have sort of dumped me before he left, and since subtle isn't my strong point, I might have ignored it, thought we were dating long distance, and then had hysterics that he was sleeping with someone else while he was gone, even though he was dating me when he came home.
Drama, fights, drama, more thoughts, more ideas, more talk about the relationship. Blah, blah, blah.
So I joined a dating service, determined that I'd go out on a few dates to get over the last guy.
The dating service was FUN. A year before the internet hit, you actually had to go to a room to watch videos of guys, and pick out guys you'd like to date from the man library. Hundreds of guys who had paid a ton of money to find a nice girl -- lined up like books on a wall, waiting to be chosen.
First time in, I had 11 guys who wanted to go out. I decided the best way to move on was to say yes to all 11, and by the time I'd worked my way down the list, he'd be a thing of the past.
The first date was a short guy with no manners who said he hated camping and the outdoors and adventure.
The second guy was a creepy musician.
And the third guy was Mark.
Why was Mark at a dating service? He was six feet tall, good-looking, owned his own house, was an engineer and had never been married. He'd never even lived with anyone.
Every bell and whistle went off -- why was this guy not taken? We went on one date, for lunch, and I liked him, but he was a little tame. He didn't know what the internet was and didn't have a computer. I was the web editor for the Galveston newspaper. He didn't know anything about politics. He didn't read the paper, except to follow sports. He'd lived in one house the entire time he grew up, and went to one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school. I'd been to 28 schools.
He was cute enough, though, that I agreed to another date.
And you know what?
He wasn't full of thoughts or ideas or poetry or plans.
Mark just did things. When we went on a date, the evening was planned. He had a restaurant picked out, a place to go after dinner picked out, he picked up the tab and was funny and nice and polite.
Not earth-shattering. Not knock-me-off-my-feet wonderful.
But he got another date.
And he set up a date at the beach, and he brought a bottle of champagne and some fruit and a picnic basket. And there was no drama. And there was no debate, no politics, no competition.
When I finally went to his house, I checked the freezer for body parts.
His carpet had fresh vacuum tracks. He owned his own house, landscaped his own yard, and vacuumed? This was a different breed of creature altogether.
My father had liked poetry, Shakespeare, literature and modern art.
Mark did not read anything except texts on engineering.
He was an Eagle Scout who liked to camp. I didn't know what an Eagle Scout was, though I was mildly impressed when I looked it up.
He had done enough drugs and partying in college that I wasn't worried that he was too rigid, but had stopped early enough that I wasn't worried that he a loser.
He liked dancing, going out to dinner, crawfish boils, going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, loved to travel and was great in bed. Really, what else was I looking for?
Turns out he was at a dating service because it was part of his plan: Get an engineering degree, find a job he likes, work hard, buy a house, and when he turns 30, find a wife. Of course. Why not?
Except I didn't want a husband.
I wanted someone to play with, maybe a companion for a Europe trip, maybe even a friend, but not a husband. Never, ever.
But every time he asked for a date, I said yes.
We started dating in February, and by July, he was a part of my life. I'd started thinking differently about everything. Maybe I didn't want to pick up and go to Europe. Maybe I could just, you know, wait a while.
The thing that fascinated me the most was that he didn't talk about things. He did things. His hot water heater broke, and he didn't call someone to fix it. I watched, horrified, as he took out a saw and cut the pipe away from the wall, and then went and got a new hot water heater and installed.
You can do that?? By yourself? Is that legal??
By October, something had shifted.
I had a talk with my best friend, Christy.
She and I are pragmatic when we are together, and hold nothing back.
"Are you happy with him?" she asked.
Surprisingly, the answer was yes. I didn't know it, but I was falling in love with him more every day.
"Can you find someone better, who can make you happier?"
No. Maybe, if I kept looking, I could find someone who could make me as happy, in a different way, or who would have different strengths and different flaws, but no, I could never be happier.
"Then what are you waiting for? He's not going to wait around forever -- he wants to get married, you've found a great guy -- go for it."
We got engaged on Thanksgiving, and he took me to Paris for an engagement present. This serious, non-nonsense engineer went with me to the Eiffel Tower, and to see can-can dancers, and we ate snails, laughed for hours, and wasted beautiful winter mornings in bed.
And on April 7, 1997, I did what I couldn't believe -- I got married.
We had one year of unbelievable happiness, a year that seemed like it couldn't possibly belong to me, that no one had ever loved anyone this much, or ever been this happy, and surely it was going to end soon in a fiery crash or death or an affair, but I was going to enjoy every second of it.
Eleven months later, one of my best friends, Julia, died at age 29, and I was wrecked. A month after that, Mark's father had a stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to speak. Mark's father had retired early to take care of Mark's mother, who was dying of cancer -- they were both in their early 60s. We took care of  Mark's mom, who died on our second Thanksgiving together.
But we made it through, and I got pregnant with Sawyer, and we were still young and still dreaming of traveling and adventure. We took Sawyer to Italy when he was nine months old, we ate dinner outside on deck, and we still went dancing for fun.
And then, in a three -week span, my nephew, who was 11, came to live with us, Mark's father died, I had a miscarriage and Mark lost his job.
We were lost. No income. An extra child. No new baby. And Mark was lost without his dad.
But you know what? Mark does things.
He doesn't talk about things. He got up, found a job in Virginia Beach, packed us up, started work at a job he hated and persevered. Meanwhile, my mother and sister went to jail. They made our lives miserable, they made my nephew miserable, but we stuck it out.
We lasted three years up there, had another baby, got my nephew on a good path and Mark decided he couldn't work at that company a day longer.
So he flew to Austin, a city he'd always loved, and went to all the engineering companies and said, "I'm here and I"m looking for a job. What have you got?"
And a month later we were in Austin, at a job he loved.
And then we realized, slowly, that our beautiful new baby, this gorgeous, serious child, was not developing the way he should. He was miserable. He was mute. He was, whether we wanted to admit it, autistic. For the first time, our marriage was difficult.
It's hard to talk to each other when there's a screaming child in the room. And there was always, always a screaming child in the room. He didn't sleep. Ever. And when he was awake, he screamed.
Mark and I were on edge, we were grumpy, and we were not feeling the love. We were tired, we were frustrated, and our dreams for our children didn't include a mute, miserable child who would never be an independent adult.
And because I had learned from Mark, and because now I knew, I didn't talk about how to fix it. I just did it. I went out and did research. I found things worth trying. We started a gluten-free diet. And within months, Sander was on the right track.
Since then, we've had another miscarriage, another baby, and our nephew has grown up and joined the Navy. He's served five years, and he's coming home in July.
But Mark and I are still here. We're still married.
And we're nowhere near the same people we were fifteen years ago.
Our dreams are different, and in some ways, smaller.
I don't want big adventures, or to be famous, or to go off around the world on my own. I want my kids to be healthy. I want to do a good job educating them. I want to see what it's like to raise my daughter, now that I've raised three boys.
Mark no longer writes bad poetry for me, and he doesn't bring home roses every Friday night. Instead, the laundry is done, and so are the dishes.
Anything broken is fixed. Anything out of place is put right. I can't imagine picking out his clothes for him, packing his suitcase for a trip or making doctor's appointments for him. I don't even know where he keeps his boxers or his socks.
He arranges his business trips around Boy Scout meetings, gets up with Scout in the morning, brings me coffee in bed on weekends and takes my car to get its oil changed. I've never had to register a car, pay a traffic ticket or fight with an insurance company. That's how Mark shows that he loves me, and it's better than any poem I could imagine.
Mark's turning 50 next year, and we're hatching plans for a trip somewhere fun. Our boys are healthy and happy and, frankly, amazing. It's the best thing ever to watch them grow up.
And our toddler, Scout, makes me smile to think of her, and she loves her Daddy with a fierceness and a passion that makes my heart ache.
When we got married, my uncle took me aside and said, "If you and Mark end up getting divorced, it will be YOUR FAULT. You found a great guy, and he's good to you, and he loves you and he'll never cheat on you and he's about as good as they come. Don't fuck this up."
And, funnily enough, I agreed with him. The best thing about being married to Mark is that we both think we're the lucky one. I can't believe I met someone who can put up with me and who still likes me. He can't believe he met a girl who, well, I think he's still amazed he met a girl, period. I'll take it.
I think, in the end, my friend Christy was right. After 15 years, I still can say that I couldn't be any happier.
What else could you ask for?




A flat-out rotten day


Originally published May 13, 2010
Before you read this, I want you to imagine a little experiment. 
For those of you who have given birth, you already know this -- feel free to skip this part. 
For men and those few friends of mine who are women without children, imagine this: Take a nice, long, soft strip of fabric. Tie it around your waist. Then tuck a 14-pound bowling ball into the front of the fabric, as if you were pregnant. Sit down. Get back up.
Sit down again. Get back up.
Then kneel down. Try to get back up. It’s impossible without something to hold onto. The center of gravity is all wrong. You can’t get from a kneeling or squatting position with a heavy weight at the front of your body.
So. Here’s the story:
We’ve had a long couple of weeks and the boys have been cooped up in the house with a grumpy, tired mother. My pelvis has separated, not completely, but enough that both halves don’t work well together. I am not, shall we say, graceful. I would use words like flop, heave, hoist and flail when describing my movements.
Not pretty.
So I decided to cheer the boys up by letting them pick out some chicks. I was going to get three- or four-month-old hens, so we could have eggs sooner and they’d eat more bugs, but day-old chicks are $4 each, and laying hens are $10-12. Not a huge difference, but when you’re buying a dozen, it matters, and all children love chicks. Great big old pooping and pecking hens, not so much.
So I heaved my way to the car, shooing my old mean cat, George, out from under the van as we got in, and sat for a minute and made a list of errands we had to run, er, waddle, since we were out of the house anyway.
Then I noticed a bunch of cars stopped on the street in front of my house.
They were stopped because mean old George, who's 18, was lying in the street, half-dead. We had just shooed him out from under my van less than five minutes before, so either he got hit by a car in those five minutes and we didn't notice, or he had a heart attack or a stroke right there.
So I ran out to get him and got a blanket from the back of my van and scooped him up, and there was no blood, but it was obvious he was dying -- his mouth was open and he was gasping, and one pupil was bigger than the other. I was sick over it, and started waving the cars to go around me. He was so obviously in pain and miserable that I knew I had to get him to the vet as soon as I could -- I knew he was dying but thought maybe it was something like a seizure that could be fixed.
One of the girls who works in my back kitchen had seen the commotion and came out to help, and I told the boys to get in the van.
Then I handed George to Stacey, the girl who works in the kitchen, and I tried to get up. I was on my hands and knees, and got into a kneeling position. Nothing. Put one leg up, foot on the ground, and heaved. Nope. Got into a squat position. I could squat. I could crawl. I could kneel. Couldn’t stand up.
So I'm standing in the middle of the fucking road with this lady holding my half-dead cat, and I can't get off the ground to take him to the vet.
I felt like one of those poor upside-down turtles that you just know is going to get hit by a car by the time you pull over and rescue him.
Hello.... I need to take my cat to the vet. He’s dying. Legs, stand up please. Now!
We gave the cat to Sawyer, and Stacy tried to pull me up. She weighs 30 pounds. I almost pulled her on top of me.
And it wasn’t a weight thing, anyway. The center of gravity was all wrong, my pelvis was just not cooperating, and I couldn't get the right balance to get up.
So I finally had to crawl off to the side of the road while Stacey went to get a chair for me. I was able to use the chair for leverage to get off the damned ground.
Took George to the vet, where he died within five minutes. The vet thinks he was hit by a car. I don't know -- doesn't really matter at this point.
This was my "single girl" cat. I got him when I was 27 and single and determined that I was going to live alone and be on my own and travel the world, just George and me.
He lived with me in a 300-sq-ft apartment in Galveston and I was crazy about him. I used to come home from my job at the newspaper at 4 a.m. and he'd be there, waiting for me, with a dead lizard in his mouth as a gift. Sometimes it would just be the bottom half of a lizard. Lizard pants, my best friend and I would laugh. He brought lizard pants in homage.
He kept me company in my first garden, and kept the boogeyman away in the first place I lived and slept alone. He ate bugs from the first roses I ever planted. He slept on my bed, among piles of books. I’ve never been so comfortable or cozy.
I’d never had a pet of my own. I never wanted one. I’d raised my three sisters, did auntie/nanny help for my aunt with her three kids, and now for the first time had no one but me to worry about or take care of. 
I got George from the shelter at three years old, where they called him “YaYa.” I came home on my break from work to make sure he was all right. I gave him baths, God help me. I really did. He was all I had.
I named him George because of George McGovern, of course, but also because of the line in the old cartoon, “I’m going to love him and squeeze him and hold him and call him George and never let him go.”
He never forgave me for getting married, and hated me for having kids.
About five years later, when I was in the hospital, pregnant with Sawyer, they put me on an awful drug called magnesium sulfite. It made me loopy and crazy, and all I could think of was that I wanted George to hold and snuggle with me. I begged Mark to go get him and sneak him into the hospital. To Mark’s credit, he didn’t do it.
Lately, I knew he was old. For a cat to live 18 years is a long time, and his bright orange thick fur was looking mangy, and he was getting even more crotchety and mean, and in the last two years he never left a 20-foot circle near my driveway. He just sat and kept watch. Wouldn't come in the house because the kids he hated were here.
But I had him longer than I've had Mark!
And now he's gone.
That's it.
I'm tired and grumpy and I hurt like hell. I’m embarrassed at being caught like a turtle in the middle of the road.
And I miss my cat.
And I wish I could go outside and scoop him up and have him snuggle on my bed to make me feel better.



And baby makes five...


Originally published June 8, 2010
Oh, God. Just writing out the fact that we now have five people that I’m responsible for feeding and taking care of is almost overwhelming. Five people? Really? My cat died a few weeks ago, and I’m sure it was my fault. Who put me in charge of three kids, and what were they thinking?
Anyway, she’s here!!!
Her name is Scout Evangeline Stone. That’s the first time I’ve ever typed it or written. It fits. Evangeline is not my all-time favorite name, but if she hates Scout and has an identity crisis when she’s 13, she can call herself Eve, or Eva, or Angie, or Ellie, or Lina. Or maybe she’ll just hate everyone and go for Crash Panther, and all my hard working plotting to make her life easier will be in vain.
She was 7 pounds, 12 ounces, born yesterday, June 7, at 10:39 a.m.
She is, of course, beautiful and perfect. And since she’s a newborn, she’s also funny looking and alien-like with skin that’s like no color you’ve ever seen, unfocused eyes and funny hair.
But mostly gorgeous and perfect.
Birth story: Mark was supposed to go deliver a speech yesterday in California. I didn’t want him to go. He said it was important, and he’d leave Monday night and be back Wednesday. He’d be gone 36 hours, and the chances of me having the baby were slim.
So he was leaving Monday afternoon.
Apparently, the baby wanted him here for her birth.
At 4:30 a.m., I woke up to feel my water breaking. Weird, oozy, feeling, followed by a “what the hell do I do now” feeling.
Woke Mark up, called the doctor, took my boys to my friend Courtney’s house, (yes, at 5 a.m. -- thank God for Courtney, because they went willingly and cheerily,) and went to the hospital.
Came in, went into labor on my own, started to hurt and within the first minute suddenly the repressed memory of Sander’s labor came flooding back.
Labor hurts. Not a little bit. Not like cramps. Not like, “Ow, this really hurts.”
Labor hurts like someone sticking their hand up inside you, grabbing your guts and squeezing really, really hard while you scream for them to stop. Then they stop for a moment, just to let you catch your breath, and do it again while you scream obscenities and the nurse says, “Oh, just breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth and you’ll be fine.”
There is no pain like labor pain. I’m astounded and amazed that the human race has survived. However, it’s really hard to remember in the middle of good sex, which almost feels like the opposite of labor (if you’re doing it right,) how much labor hurts. 
With Sander, the epidural didn’t work. I had no pain relief, and the labor lasted about 12 hours. I came out of that emotionally scarred. Seriously.
So with this one, I told them I wanted an epidural, and I wanted one that worked, and the doctor took that as a challenge.
He said that since I was a redhead, I needed more pain relief than most, and he’d make sure I had no pain at all. Ten minutes later, I drifted off to sleep. Without pain. In labor.
Complete with little button to press if I needed more medicine.
That was around 8 a.m.
At 10:30 a.m., I came out of my fog to a crowd of  people starting to gather around the monitors, whispering words like “heart rate” “decelerations” “really lasting too long” and “got to get her out of there now.”
Then I heard a phone call to my doctor, with the same words whispered to her.
They did a check. Only 6 centimeters dilated. You need to be ten to have the baby. She wasn’t ready to come out.
The doctor ran into the room three minutes later. Looked at me and said, “We’re having this baby now. Let’s get you ready to get her out.”
She did a check, and I was ten centimeters and ready to push. She had literally scared me into getting that baby ready in under five minutes.
The doctor grabbed a vacuum, said, “I’m going to pull, you’re going to push, and she’s going to be fine,” and at 10:39, out she came.
And then silence.
No crying. No noise.
The crowd of people moved over to the baby.
They looked over at me. 
“She fine, really.”
“She’s breathing. She’s all right. She’s just not crying. Let me try a few things.”
Mark was running back and forth. “She’s fine. She’s breathing, and she’s turning pink. She just doesn’t want to cry.”
More murmurs from the baby table. 
“Oh, that’s not a good sign. We need to get a neonatal doctor in quick.”
“We’re taking her to the nursery.”
Meanwhile, the doctor is stitching up the pieces of raw hamburger meat that ten minutes ago were my quite useful and much-valued sex organs.
She’s trying to fit together the pieces of the swollen edges of meat to put them back in the right places so they’ll eventually function again, so I don’t really want to stress her out, but this is worrisome.
She said, “The baby’s eyes are moving back and forth from side to side, and her arms are stiff. Babies should have curled up arms. It could be nothing, or it could be a lot of things. They’re taking her to the nursery for observation.”
And I held her for a minute, said hello, and she was gone.
A lot things means everything from nothing to cerebral palsy, brain damage, or seizures.
Not impressed.
I finally made it to the nursery to see her once I got cleaned up, and the doctor was looking her over.
The doctor pronounced her healthy and happy, except for the fact that she still hadn’t woken up and still hadn’t cried.
Not impressed.
But I was able to take her back to my room, and coo over her, and have her brothers come to visit her and meet her, and she slowly started to look better and better. 
At 3 a.m., she finally woke up. She looked around, mewed a little like a tiny kitten, and went back to sleep. But I did get to see her eyes and know she was capable of being awake!
And now, I’m not as worried anymore, though I always will worry anyway. She’s bright pink, very cute, and starting to come around.
I think she just didn’t like the transition from womb to room in five seconds flat.
But she’s waking up a little here and there, and doesn’t like it if you change her clothes or her diaper, and I think she’s going to be just fine.
Scout’s a good name. I’m happy with it.
I think she’s going to be a keeper.
And as for me?
I feel like a Dr. Seuss character:
The things I can do! The stuff I can say!
And all because I had a baby today!
I can get up when I sit on the ground.
I look in the mirror and I’m no longer so round.
I can see my knees, my ankles and feet, and you know what’s the best?
I can eat, eat, eat, eat!
I could eat green eggs and ham --
I could eat ten cans of spam.
I could eat a horse, you see --
and another thing -- I’m able to pee!
You know what I did today that amazed me?
I brushed my teeth, with no vomit to faze me.
No more medicine, no more pills,
I feel so healthy, no longer feel ill.
My belly is small(er), diabetes is gone,
pelvis is fixed, nothing is wrong.
I love my kids, and new baby too,
but being pregnant? Well, I’m through.
Yeah, I might be a bit loopy from the painkillers.
But I’m happy. I hated, hated, hated being pregnant, hated being sick, hated having to have others take care of me.
But boy, I love being able to say I have a daughter.
And she’s very, very cute.