Thursday, October 29, 2015


I played dress-up with my grandmother's hats as a kid, and with her minuscule doll-size size five shoes. She was a pip. My grandfather called her The Busy Bee. A firecracker. "Though she be but little, she is fierce!" Shakespeare said. 

She threw the best parties. Cocktails, piano.  There was always something doing. People got together more often back then. They weren't too picky. 

It was my job to gather all the coats -- among them, the ladies' perfumed and sumptuous furs -- and plunge them onto the upstairs bed. 

She died in October, 1994 and that Halloween my sister and I dressed as scuba divers. We put on our flippers and found we could not walk down the street except backwards. That's how it felt to be without her. She loved me.

My grandmother had some veiled fascinators, lost to history now, of course, like her shoes. One that I liked especially was black velvet with a puff of polka dots on chiffon. It was du trop! It was everything that I was not. Sophisticated. Fast. Elegant, but not stuffy. A little trampy. A little campy.  

Something you might wear thigh-highs with and watch the Rocky Horror Show at midnight with the other elegant fast tramps who were at heart wholesome as all-butter biscuits that you hadn't yet had the pleasure of meeting. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Estrogen All Over The Place

I'm in that Dante-ian circle of hell called perimenopause where the provoking demons are Migraine Headache, Dry Eye, Muscle Tension, and Mood Swings. Their henchmen are The Anxieties. 

Ever since my doctor told me, "Your estradiol is shit," I have been on an estrogen patch. 

These are round stickers the size of the Scratch-n-Sniff strawberry ones I used to collect in a photo album in the '80s except these ones are expensive and a transdermal delivery system for ovarian hormone and I have detected no scent.

Except the scent of despair (or is that you, demon Mood Swing?)

They're not working. I have a headache so ferocious at the back of my neck I feel like it needs a name. Giovanna. A real haughty bitch. 

So I'm considering canning all hormone replacement and going full-fledged crone. It's Halloween season. Witch season. Season of not-the-maiden. 

So the timing is good for me to have one of my servants tuck an ostrich plume into a red coronet of fabric on my head.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How To Tie One On

Remember how earlier this month I told you running (the action of a runner) was going to be My New Thing; I was going to get all rocky mountain high on running

[John Denver's 1985 ad for Raisin Bran.]

Well, sweethearts, Mama lied to you. Mama's knees and Mama's neck bones commenced to braying and howling and yipping like a beagle puppies being poked with a stick. 

My New Thing is going to be scarves

[Michelle Phan shows you five ways with one scarf. Full disclosure: I had to stop watching at "halter top."]

I have been fingering the scarves on the rack at my local Savers,
testing the woven fabrics for the ones that are 100% silk and -- incredible! (as one must feel in finding an early folio of Shakespeare) I have found some. Squares as well as rectangles. 

You have NO IDEA how proud this would make my mother, she is a dedicated member of the international fabric cognoscenti.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Keats' Ode to Autumn for Suburban Mothers

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! 
Close bosom-friend (considering a breast lift) of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
Jo-Ann Fabrics with no-sew Halloween costumes that are E-Z

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 
(What are you menu-planning For Thanksgiving?)
With a sweet kernel (zesty corn bread, maybe?) 

To set budding more,
And still more, coupons for 5% off at the Target pharmacy -- 
Where you get your prescription(s) filled.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store 
Of New England college guides? With the Yale pages dog-eared.

Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor (or the kitchen floor) 
with a splitting migraine.

Reading The Atlantic with patient look, 
Thou watches the last oozing hours by hours

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where is lacrosse?
But really, how many of these kids will play professional sports
As a career? 

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, --
You are still what the 19th century would call a handsome woman
Though you have nasolabial folds, there is Botox for that
And the deep-set wrinkles on your forehead between your eyes.

Full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn
Or is that you yelling:  The kids' can pack their own damn Backpacks!

Hedge-crickets sing -- reminding you 
You should call the exterminator, and while you're at it, 
The gutters need their pre-winter cleaning too.

The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies
And you Tweet the Apple Blossom recipe meme 
With the hashtag #Middleage #Carbovore.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Milkweed Puff Pastry

Milkweed Puff Pastry is my version -- in my 40s --  of Blood Sugar Sex Magic. Remember the Red Hot Chili Peppers? 

I'm consumed by pastry. Nature walks. The fate of the dwindling number of the overwintering Mexican monarch butterflies.

I talk to trees. Probably in the near future I have a feeling I am going to put on a muumuu 

and it won't be ironic. There won't be a line break. It'll be what I'm wearing. 

As I've already said of triceps, having them  -- let them go the way of the dodo, and the adorable quaint cabinetry of the library catalog. I will flap my wings.

What a Prufrockian fuss I make over frangipane. ""Do I dare', and 'Do I dare?'" And the answer is yes if the quest is Îles flottantes.  

I so totally don't need to click on that.  I use phrases that include "the development of the crumb" with my bifocals perched on my nose, uneuphemistically, while my daughter plays the ukulele.

This is no laughing matter. Look at my frown lines. I don't know how much time I have left to get it right is what I think 

as I collect the cattails from the swamp and arrange them -- ikebana-ish -- in a tall glass vase. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mother Goddess

This is how I don't arrive anywhere anymore. On a chariot pulled by oversized lions.

Mush, lion darlings, mush!

Instead, I ungracefully unfold myself from a Hyundai while brushing crumbs of a scone off my momjean jeggings like that bronze lady the Anatolian mother goddess Cybele (above) probably never does.

[The worship of Cybele. As told by Lucretius]

It's 10 AM and hey -- where are the cymbals and drums announcing that I am about to have my bath and use my loofah to exfoliate?

Where is the person assigned to write a poem about me and my many wonderful attributes, namely mercifulness, and also fierceness, on papyrus? Where are my adoring minions? Where my Egyptian cotton bath towels? Where are my worshippers?

This is the cheap modern plastic tchotchke mother goddess shite, America, with the bogus lack of lions, towels, and you know, worship.

I don't even have a soundtrack. There is no one here with sweet voice and lute. Perhaps that's an oversight and you'll send someone soon?

Okay fine. I guess I'll have to hum Killer Queen to myself.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

To Include In Your Fall Poetry

The leaves changing color.

Fall, how pretty it is. How very, very pretty. So pretty, in fact, that you are writing poems.

Umber. Ochre. Orange.

Geese flying in a V formation

Fall as a metaphor for metamorphosis 

Fall as a metaphor for death

Fall as a reminder you better giddyup and smell the roses because like the geese  -- something something rhyming couplet that ties these ideas together  (remember, this is your poem, I can't do all the work)

Pumpkins: why do they mean so much to Americans? In other cultures they are squash and quite frankly not that big a deal. What's the deal with pumpkins?

Warm spices, but not the usual ones. Surprise us!


References to cider, a woolen scarf, apples, abundance, and  gathering all get you extra points so I say go for it  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Things That Are Scary

I have never visited a "haunted attraction," or watched a horror movie all the way through without hiding behind my grande-venti huge popcorn with a gravy-boat's worth of "butter flavoring" with my eyes closed, and the thumb of the hand not holding the popcorn (this is already sounding disembodied) lodged in my ear so I can't barely hear whatever scary music. Jaws.*  Psycho.*

* Sharks. Whatever. What I am scared of is dark water.

* Violins scare me. All the stringed instruments.

I read Pet Cemetery in high school and then, of course, we went to my grandparents farm* and there it was...a l'il olde 19th-century cemetery on the property of all the families that used to live on that farm that somehow I had failed to notice all these years and now was noticing all the time. I couldn't not notice it.

* Abandoned farms. Especially if they were 19th century hog farms in the south. 

* Hogs scare me. 

* Honestly, the south  -- 

Being scared, quivering* rodent-like, is something my brain* does for me, unannounced, chronically. An anxiety disorder is the only thing I have in common with Scott Stossel, the editor of The Atlantic. 

* The word 'brain' is kind of hideous.

* 'Quivering' -- oh god. I need a pacifier like a baby. 

Research shows that anxiety is actually an adaptive behavior. A little neuroticism can be good for you. * Cro-Magnons who were scared of dark water, stringed instruments, and hogs traversed the Alps, avoided Ice Age predators, and then became my maternal ancestors. My paternal ancestors were coloring themselves blue with woad.

* But I'm too scared to believe anything. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Runner's High

I am doing this new thing called running. The action or movement of a runner.

Dawn of humanity, big brains, bodies built for long distance, evidence found in skeletal remains, good for our cardiovascular vasculature  -- blah blah blah.  I want to run because I want to get high.
What good suburban mother doesn't occasionally want to shake it off?

I semi-started already. I bought leggings.  I don't look cool in them, but that's not the point is it? The point it to get high. On my own cannabinoids.

The journey of a great lush high begins with that first step out my door, according to science.

Looking left and right for any neighbors who might witness me and shudder to see a middle-aged mom in leggings "running," the action or movement of a runner, something I haven't done willingly since I was ten because of the uncomfortable jiggling and gravitational pulling, plus, you know, the exercise of it. And I have to be back in time for bus pick-up.

But there's nothing like desperation for motivation.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The History Of My First Bras

Age 11. Newman's. Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. 

The training bra section is located right next to the registers, and the windows, and incongruously, boy's belts. I linger for one hot flat New York minute. Then move on to sweater vests.

Age 12. Again, Newman's. 

My mom buys a Jockey For Her Three-Pak for me while I am at Little's Shoe Store up the street, trying on Mary Janes and focusing all of my energy on whether I want black patent leather, or matte black leather. I want matte black leather.

Age 14.  The Pussycat, a lingerie boutique for middle-aged women. Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. (Victoria's Secret still does not yet exist.)

I purchase a flight of Playtex soft cups. No, my mother purchases them. Then she and the shopkeeper tell me about about the weird cone-shaped bras of the 1950s when they "were girls" and they say the word "nipple" like it's just a normal everyday word and I want to die.

Age 18. Monroeville Mall, Pittsburgh. 

-- Victoria's Secret is at the Monroeville mall!  -- They have push-up bras! Someone is spreading these rumors.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Weather Event

Nothing so focuses me as an opportunity. To get my knickers in a twist. Adrenaline. Weather events. I take after my paternal grandfather. He fed himself on the milk of Pepto-Bismol.

I am shortly to go to storm-prep shopping with a Shopping List of Hysteria on which I have written: Tuna. Bottled water. Wine. Generator (but only if on sale). Vogue. The thickest issue I can put my paws on.

Meteorologists are calling Joaquin "erratic" and "uncertain" in its "cone." Men. Ha. I'm more uncertain about the waterproofness of my new suede clogs, which is dunderheaded and petty and a first world problem. I would be rearranging deck chairs on Titanic.

I am a conehead.

Gird Up Your Loins, Elizabeth! is something I have never said until I found an extremely helpful picture of how to do it. That's what's been missing. Not the desire, but the how. The DIY.