Sunday, June 28, 2015

TToT84: I'm in the Denver airport heading home with three days until my next flight...

My goal is to write this in about twenty minutes.

Our vacation to Utah was absolutely fabulous! Among other adventures, we:

1. Hiked.

2. Slid.

3. Zip-lined.


5. Coasted.

6. Got hennaed.

7. Ate and drank.

8. Ski lifted.

I've never been one for extreme sports, but I kind of got into it--perhaps because most of these were fairly tame as extreme sports go, with the exception of the bobsledding, which was on the 2002 Olympic track and gave me a whole new appreciation for the athleticism of bobsledders as my arms shook for a full thirty minutes afterwards. Oddly enough, it was the ski lift that terrified me. I derive a great deal of comfort from being strapped in, I find, and that thing is way too open and airy. I grabbed hold of the bar, set my sights in one place, and did not relax my muscles until I'd reached the top (OK, I smiled in the pic above, but you can see my knuckles). Still can't believe I let my kids get on it.

9. In hypo-gratitude (I think I'm using that right), I am thankful I was not the one who fell off the car on the alpine slide and ended up with burns and bruises all down my right side.

10. I'm headed for my own bed tonight!

Boy Howdy, I did it!

OK, technically I'm posting this the Sunday morning. One extra: we got in at 2 am and I slept until 11am.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

TToT83: A Brief Interlude

Hello, my good friends.

I can always tell when I'm feeling better after having been sick because I get the urge to deep clean. Not just vacuum, mind you--more like wash the windows or some other task that only gets done when you really have the urge to clean.

By the time I started to come around from my strep, we were traveling like mad, so this week in the few days we've been home before we take off again, I've cleaned.

1. The crisper drawers of the fridge are sparkling.

2. The bottom drawer of the freezer de-stickified from melted popsicle from the time someone left the freezer door open all day.

3. All the other basic cleaning has been done, including the washing of sheets and towels.

4. Having worked through that urge, I now feel comfortable living with the relatively superficial cleaning I do week to week.

5. AND...bum, bum, bum, I finally finished painting that corner cabinet I got for $20! Tell me it doesn't look great! You can't.
NOT the final decorating for those shelves, I assure you.

6. There's nothing like staying really, really busy with mindless tasks like painting and cleaning to help you process really terrible news.

7. And then, Brian and I celebrated a night out for our eight-year anniversary! It's not easy, but we've made it this far. Cause for celebration!

8. I got a lot off my chest with some writing about my old hometown this week and was rewarded with some thoughtful, positive feedback. Thank you, friends. That was an emotional piece, and I appreciate your feedback so much. 

9. Tomorrow we head to Utah for a family vacation!

10. I'm already packed.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015


I am fascinated by fire. I can strike match after match, holding each one as the wood warps and blackens, testing how long I can wait until I have to shake the fire out. I love the smell of the sulphur and the way it seems to singe my nose hairs and the way the odor lingers in the air after the flame in gone. It is one of the few situations in which I actually enjoy the thrill of danger.

But I have small children and I can't be setting that kind of example or leave us open to that kind of danger. So I only light matches when my husband's had dairy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Going Home Again

It took a major event and strong sense of what was right to get me back, but I returned to Asheville for the first time since I left in November 2012.

One of our old friends, a man whose heart is solid gold, had a momentous birthday and so we drove the nearly 1000 miles there and back in one weekend to spend 24 hours in our old hometown. The truth is, he's done more for us.

As we drove south on I26, I caught my first glimpse of the skyline through tears--the bank building and the controversially tall hotel dominating the other buildings, the dome of the First Baptist Church and the Art Deco City Hall. I took the wrong exit as I always, always did (because the labeling makes no sense). But the roads were so familiar: I automatically swerved to avoid the bumps and the trees that stretched a bit too far.

And we went to our old house, our sweet tan bungalow that they said was so West Asheville when I had the window frames painted red.

I was married from this house, and I gave birth to both my children in it. Brian and I built the yard together. It is one of dearest places in the world to me. The new owner has let my flowers die and the weeds take over (I'm glad I took my peonies with me), but she's made the front and back porches homey and charming. To my great displeasure, she's painted the inside of the house in neutrals, and she had the hearth I tiled replaced. A professional has repaved the garden paths, and I found a pile of the stepping stones I planted around the side of the house (I took one). But there were raspberries in the back corner, and the blueberries were producing (though not ripe), and the fig tree hadn't died after all! She keeps my vegetable beds active, I saw, and had cleverly rigged up a fence to protect the plants from the vicious and hateful groundhogs. The trees are enormous. The grapevine and the apple tree we received as wedding gifts are bearing fruit.

We couldn't fit in this house anymore, and the yard was too much work. I found I could let it go, reluctantly and painfully. My greatest grief was that Maggie didn't recognize it at all and that we don't have enough sunny room for fruit-bearing plants where we live now (and my wedding apple tree--wish I could have that). But the house is hers, as it should be.

We ate and drank our way through all our old haunts. We stopped by my favorite brewery twice for a growler of their IPA. We went to the fabulous rib place (not the one near our old house, which is still closed on weekends, but the other), and our favorite Tex-Mex joint where I ate approximately four baskets of chips with salsa. We tried a new donut shop down the street from our old house that changed my expectations of donuts forever.

And the party was wonderful. What party wouldn't be with a pond for kayaking and fishing and a grill for cooking and beer for drinking and a campfire for sitting around and singing along to songs played on guitar and drums? And full of old friends who know our whole story. It was heaven. It was home.

All weekend long I wanted to scream at the hipsters, "This is my home, MINE! I lived in this neighborhood when there were still prostitutes; I shopped at these stores before they were trendy; I appreciated the values of this town before every newspaper across America was proclaiming it as a new utopia. It's not right that it's not my home anymore; you don't understand my eminent domain!" I grieve for this town as I would grieve for a lost family member. It was more than a hometown; it was a reflection of who I am.

I miss living in a town where people plant their vegetables in their front yards in beds framed in cinderblocks mosaic-ed in broken mirrors and china; I miss living in a town where bluegrass jams are a dime a dozen and every restaurant boasts locally farmed food. I miss living in a town where every weekend there's a get-together involving beer and campfires and live music. I miss my small community of friends.

Someone gave us a copy of You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe, born and raised in Asheville, as a wedding present. Several wedding guests signed it or wrote messages in it, so we treasure the copy, but I never read the book and don't really know what it's about. I doubt we will ever return to Asheville to live as much as I love it so. I wonder when it will become a place I look on fondly instead of a place whose memory brings me such grief. I wonder if I will ever feel that the DC Metro area is home with its hectic traffic and ambitious mindset. Right now I feel lost, untethered from the beginnings of community here and too far from the home I made.

Friday, June 12, 2015


This summer is gonna be travel heavy, you guys. I mean, we're gonna make the Woodruffs look like stay-at-homers.

We headed out of the starting gate this week with a trip to New Orleans, LA. Brian had a conference, and as much as we would have liked to see some of him this trip, it was mainly a sightseeing trip for three.

The one time I visited New Orleans before was in my single, childless 20s for JazzFest, so this was a very different trip. But let me tell you, New Orleans is a great place for families to visit. Fasten your seatbelts for a post of pictures.

We were rather disappointed the streetcar wasn't running on our section of St. Charles because of road contruction, but the bus system is easy and straightforward and got us to any destination too far of a walk for short legs. Then, when we finally we got to ride a streetcar, it was blase for this seasoned public transportation rider:

I love, love, love that the trees along St. Charles still sport the memories of Mardi Gras. Year-round decor!

Leo was pleased by this, as well. Especially with the fallen ones.

I took an absurd number of pictures of trees. I grew up around trees like this, and I miss them--the ones whose branches are so long and heavy they drag the ground and you can walk right up. All that moss, all that heavy shade.
This one's over 250 years old!

New Orleans boasts a zoo and an aquarium, and I recommend both.

Great variety of animals at the zoo: rhinos, giraffes, gorillas, orangutans, and more! There was even a two-headed snake (birth defect). This horrified me so much I couldn't even bring the children's attention to it.
Two Komodo dragons!

The highlights of the aquarium were the sting ray touch pool and the frogs, according to my children. I liked the penguins and the piranhas (not together), but the kids couldn't be bothered with them.

And during the hot afternoons, what child doesn't love the hotel pool? Leo mastered the skill of scooting around the edge with me hovering nearby. He also learned what happens when you let go of the side and is none the worse for wear.

No trip to NOLA is complete without good food and I satisfied my cravings for gumbo, a muffaletta, and even ordered this extraordinary crawfish dog (made of crawfish and topped with crawfish etoufee, ohmy).

Next up: a quick trip to Asheville for a friend's 50th birthday party and then Utah!

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Thursday, June 11, 2015


First, we hear the quick-soft patter of her feet. Then softly and timidly, "Mommy, are you still here?"

"I'm still here, and I'm not going anywhere." Footsteps retreat.

How many times will she need to check before her eyelids and limbs are finally too heavy to drag out of bed? How many more minutes until sleep triumphs over fear?

Friday, June 5, 2015

TToT81: Streptococcus

I have strep. Again. And it's been rainy and cold all week.

So on with the show:

1. My doctor took one look at my throat and said, "That's classic strep. I'm sending in your prescription." No waiting for results, though she did the swab just to be sure.

2. My pharmacy offers free delivery.

3. Brian brought me a donut.

4. I already feel way better after 24 hours on penicillin. That's the best part of strep--quick recovery.

5. We haven't been able to play outside much anyway because of the rain.

6. The iPad.

7. I read Dear Stephanie in about 36 hours, and it floored me. Still processing before reviewing on Amazon.

8-9. (lethargic dancing with frequent sit-down breaks for the SGV)

10. I did that quiz that Dyanne did with her kids on Facebook. It's probably better with older kids; I don't think mine are really developmentally ready for it. But there are some fun answers and even one or two insightful ones along the way.

1. What is something I always says to you?
M: Good job!
L: Go in bed!

2. What makes me happy?
M: When I poop or pee.
L: Eating supper.

3. What makes me sad?
M: When I do things you don't like.
L: Bonks

4. How do I make you laugh?
M: Playing.
L: I crunch Hippo on Maggie!
(For the record, that does not make me laugh. That makes him laugh.)

5. What was I like as a child?
M: Playing.
L: Food.

6. How old am I?
M: 16
L: 2

7. How tall am I?
M: Big.
L: Bigger.

8. What is my favorite thing to do?
M: Play toys.
L: Sleep in your bed. (#nailedit)

9. What do I do when you're not here?
M: Not play with toys.
L: Go in Daddy's car.

10. If I become famous, what will it be for?
M: Eating.
L: Splash!

11. What am I really good at?
M: Running.
L: Playing toys.

12. What am I not very good at?
M: Telling me not to do things.
L: Crayons.

13. What is my job?
M: Work.
L: Sewing.

14. What makes you proud of me?
M: That you come back to me.
L: Laughing.

15. What is my favorite food?
M: Poached eggs.
L: Pasta.

16. What do you and I do together?
M: Play.
L: Play toys.

17. How are you and I the same?
M: Because we both have shirts.
L: Hippo diaper change!

18. If I were a cartoon character who would I be?
M: Woody!
L: Job.

19. How are you and I different?
M: You have a blue shirt.
L: Hippo poop on my bed!

20. How do you know I love you?
M: You care about me.
L: Sing Sunshine. (as in, You Are My Sunshine and best answer, hands down)

21. What do I like best about Daddy?
M: He listens to you.
L: Dancing.

22. Where is my favorite place to go?
M: Shopping.
L: Go walk.

23. How old was I when I had you?
M: 14.
L: I don't know.

What I love about this is when they're not sure about an answer, Maggie goes with literal and Leo goes with nonsense.

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Thursday, June 4, 2015


My husband is Jewish, and while I grew up with jolly old St. Nicholas, a twinkling tree, and piles of presents in December, he grew up watching that through the window. The Christmas season is a constant reminder of how minimalizing it can feel to be a member of a minority religion.

But he helps me pick out a tree, and he helps me decorate it, and he tones down his grimaces a little when I put out the creche. And, on Christmas Eve, he asks, "Are we going to a midnight service?"

During the service, he usually reads through the Bible and picks and chooses bits of hymns to sing, paying minimal attention; what he loves is the end when every member of the congregation passes a flame one to another, and the church dims the lights, and everyone lifts their candles in the darkness to sing a lullaby to a baby born long, long ago. Because, evidently, that moment is magical to all.