Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zinnia (by Laurel Hilton)

And here we are at Z. I have been delighted to host the Write On, Mamas! for this year's A-Z Blog Challenge: 25 of our wonderful Mamas and one fabulous honorary Mama - Steven Friedman, our lone, brave and talented Papa. I hope you have enjoyed the diversity and talent of our group and thought I would leave you with this:
 
Alphabetical blogs can delight everyone, frequently giving helpful inspirational kindness. Literary memoirs, novels, occasional poems, quite randomly shared teach us vivid writing; x-rated yield zilch.

Thanks for joining us.
Photography by Mary Allison Tierney


I never paid much attention to Z before I named my second child Zinnia. I have a funny thing about letters, kind of an obsession. I’ve spent most of my life pretty comfortably occupying the two middle letters of the alphabet – L and M as the first letters of my name and surname (maiden name). 

L is for love, lemons, lions, licorice. M is for monkeys, magic, marshmallows and mystery. In classrooms, when they lined you up alphabetically for a game, to take class photos, or to go out to recess, I was sure to be right in the middle of things. I was a shy child and wanted the least amount of attention paid to me as possible. Being neither first, nor last, suited me perfectly.

But then I allowed Z into our little family of letters. At the farthest reaches of the alphabet it seemed so exotic, alien and maybe a little lonely. Poor little Z, only one playmate, Y, on one side of you and even then, how charismatic is Y anyway? I practically smothered my daughter with my anxious feelings. 

What had I done? 

She would always be last picked in alpha order. 

Would other kids alienate her because Z was so unusual? 

What cool things start with a Z anyway?

It turns out that Z is so much cooler than I could have imagined. Z is for words that just zing off your tongue like zipper, zap, zippadeedooda, and zany. It is the height of intellectual style like zeitgeist, and a Jazz Age icon, Zelda Fitzgerald. It is for a wonderful Zen state of mind, and for zydeco music, a fusion of Creole and Cajun influences using washboards, fiddles and accordions.

It brings me back full circle to my little Zinnia. She is the essence of what it means to be Z― imaginative, colorful, full of wonder, spontaneity and utterly original. 

 
Laurel Hilton is an essayist and journalist whose work has appeared on KQED’s Perspectives, Mama Monologues, Examiner.com, and Uptake.com, to name a few. She’d like to spend more time stringing words together than consumed with the hierarchy of letters.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Y Are You Here?

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.

Photography by Mary Allison Tierney
 
It's a fascinating question that humanity has asked throughout time. It seems too simple to think we are here just because the cells and molecules came together that way; just a giant accident. It's a never-ending debate that I'm sure I won't be able to answer in a blog but I do have some Ancient Wisdom about that question that I'd love to share with U.

You see, there is wisdom about your soul that is held in an etheric library which we call the Akashic Record. Every person has a Record. Everything you've been and done, place you've lived in this lifetime or another, every reason your soul has for coming to Earth is all recorded in this Akashic Field. Each person does have a reason for being here. We actually have many reasons and they are written in your soul's library.
 
When your soul decides it wants to come to Earth again it actually makes a plan. The way the Masters of the Akashic Record show it to me looks like this; 500 Souls come together in a giant auditorium and start looking for other souls to share their Earthly experience. One soul says to another "Hey, I'd like to have some kids when I come to Earth. Last time I wasn't a very good parent and I'd really like to finish that old Karma and be a loving parent this time". The other soul says "I know, I was one of your kids. All those beatings made for a lousy life so let's finish that old Karma and I'll be a happy kid and you'll be a great parent so we don't need to experience that pain again". They make a soul contract and 20 or 30 years later it comes to fruition.
 
Now it's anyone's guess if these two souls had a happy family. The odd part about us humans is that once we come down into these bodies, we forget all the contracts and reasons we had for coming. The energy is dense and Karma isn't always easy to complete. But we keep trying, sometimes it takes us 700 lifetimes to get it all right. But we're strong, bright Souls and our main reason for Being is to remember that. To be the Light and the Love so we can heal ourselves and those around us. So if you ever wondered "Y am I here?", the simple Truth is: To Be the Love. If you can remember that in the hard times, it may make life a bit easier.
 
Lisa Barnett is an internationally known Teacher, Consultant and Founder of Akashic Knowing School of Wisdom. She is a clear channel of profound divine wisdom through the Akashic Record, as well as an Energy Master and Spiritual Teacher.  Lisa brings more than 20 years of teaching, spiritual counseling and energetic healing to her clients and students who span several continents.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for eXtemporaneous (by Robyn T. Murphy)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.

Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

I climb in bed knowing I’ve volunteered to write 2-300 words for the Write on Mamas A-Z Blog Challenge. In the almost-asleep realm that is half-thinking and half-dreaming, I hear the familiar Seinfeld riff. And I am Jerry Seinfeld, on set, reading a directorial note from Larry David.

In one minute I have to ad-lib a stand-up segment on a letter - but I can choose only from J, K or X, as all the other letters are taken. And then, I am on-stage in jeans and a blazer, in front of a live studio audience with cameras rolling. I put on my best not-even-trying-not-to-smile face.

" . . . and I said, well, you know, J and K - I understand why they didn't get chosen. But X? What's wrong with X?

X is nothing like Q. Q is all needy and pathetic, with U next to him all the time. X - he stands on his own, brings his own lunch, shows up on time.

Why shun the X?

And look at R. R is all high and mighty - you know, “restricted” movies, “Rated R”. Fuh! X is all over that. X doesn’t even need to stand for anything, and he still trumps R.

X is a kiss. In fact, X is hot - a Roman ten - and you know those Romans! In Australia, you put four X's together and you've got a can of beer.

And he’s a team player. When X gets together with E, things get interesting. Ex-girlfriend, ex-wife, ex-pelled. That's a lot of material.

If I was a letter, I'd be an X. Think about it: Give it a couple of numbers and it multiplies!

It's a really cool chromosome that you don't want to argue with. Once, it had it’s own files; It's got its own factor; it's own ray . . . its own Generation for Pete's sake. Not to mention the whole marking-the-spot thing.
  There’s just no good reason . . . to shun the X."

“It’s a take!” someone yells.

In the almost-awake realm that is half-dreaming and half-thinking, I hear Larry David tell me, “That was pret-ty pret-ty good.”

Robyn T. Murphy is an Xpat from Australia, a Gen X-er, who finds writing an Xcellent medium for her tendency to Xaggerate. She writes and ruminates from her home in Xquisite Marin county. You can find her at www.robynTmurphy.com

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Weather (by MJ Brodie)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.

Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

What do you do when the weather never changes? When every day is sun-baked, blue skies stretch to infinity and a quilt of heat envelops you whenever you step outside your door? If you’re me, you start to go slightly mad, that’s what.

Or at least I did in my first summer in California. Having grown up in Ireland, where the weather is an endless source of speculation, it unsettled me to suddenly find that weather reports were irrelevant. Weeks would go by without anyone mentioning ‘the weather’.

Would the weather be nice for our picnic on Saturday? Of course it would. It would be the same as it always was: sunny, hot and dry with no chance of rain, temperature somewhere in the 80s, maybe even the 90s.

Every morning I would look out the window, wondering whether today could possibly be as hot and dry again as yesterday and if so, how on earth my neighbors managed to have flowers bobbing about their front yards. The answer came to me late at night when I would hear the whoosh of their sprinklers starting up like clockwork around 1am, as regular as the weather itself.

As regular as the weather. That’s a phrase you would never hear in Ireland. Weather there is as impossible to predict as your own fate. It can snow in April, it can rain thunderously in August, it can be mild and sunny in January, there can be storm force winds in June. Your best bet, however, is to assume that it will rain because Ireland, of course, is famously rainy.

On those perpetually sunny days, at the height of California’s summer, the lack of weather left me feeling cast adrift. There was something cruel about the endless sun beating down on my light-haired head, like an inquisitor shining a bright light in my face to break my spirit.

My only relief was to take trips on the weekend to coastal towns, where it’s cooler, where there is weather, to try to hide from the sun. On the hottest weekends, we would make our escape and hide away in the banks of Pacific fog, refugees from weather-free heaven. ‘Oh, look’ I would say to my husband excitedly ‘it’s only 75 in Half-Moon Bay, ’75 and foggy’. Maybe I’ll need to wear shoes!’

MJ Brodie is a recent arrival to California from Ireland (via Germany, Belgium and Scotland) and has slowly adjusted to endless sunshine and positive thinking. She has always written and blogged, having worked professionally in marketing and communications, and is taking postgraduate courses in writing with Berkeley Extension and Stanford. She is also a member of Write On, Mamas. A mother of one, she blogs on literature, politics and sometimes parenting at A Fresh Eye. You can follow her on Twitter @suilnua.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Verna (by Steven Friedman)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.


Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

Verna died more than two years ago and there have been waves of sadness and grief rushing up against a shore fortified by the blessings of life—friends and family pitching in with play dates for Maya, picking up Miguel from baseball practice, watching Maya in the afternoons, inviting us to holiday meals and barbecues.
Amidst our recovery, I wonder about how the kids are processing their mother’s death. Maya, seven years old, had one year of play therapy at hospice and another several months of private counseling with a young woman who brought her polished stones and helped her articulate her loss and grief with Barbie dolls and role playing so she could continue to heal.

Miguel, 15, a freshman in high school, is quieter about his grief, rarely mentioning Verna and the enormity of his loss. He just doesn’t do death well. He refused to continue having me read Old Yeller to him when he found out the dog dies at the end. He asked to stay with a friend when Verna’s death was imminent.
Over the past few weeks he’s had to take pictures for his photography elective, something he’s done in the neighborhood, around town, even on vacation, choose two per topic and then upload the polished versions to his personal blog, Miguel’s Photography.
Photo by Miguel Friedman
He asked me recently to look at his posts. There was one picture of pinkish roses, similar to the double delights that were Verna’s favorites, besides which he wrote: “While we were at a butterfly farm [outside Delray Beach], we came upon some roses. My mom, who passed away in 2010, loved roses. So when I saw the roses I just had to take a picture. I took it in honor of my mom.”

Miguel’s words and photograph brought tears to my eyes and made me ache for Verna and love Miguel even more. Miguel used his picture (in place of too many words) to say that Verna’s death still hurts and honor her memory.

Steven Friedman was widowed in 2010 and has two children. His book, Golden Memories of the San Francisco Bay Area, was published in 2000 and went to a second printing within six months. He has written for Rethinking Schools, the Marin IJ, KQED, the Northern California Jewish Bulletin, and had essays published in two anthologies. One of his essays placed second last year in a national writing contest. He is working on a memoir about his family's cancer journey, It's Not About the Breasts. And he's in love again.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Underwear (by Jennifer Van Santvoord)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.
Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

My son thinks that wearing underwear is optional.  He is four, so for him most articles of clothing are optional.  But in my house underwear is non-negotiable:  Unless you are taking a bath or a dump, your Fruit of the Looms must stay glued to your bottom.
But let’s face it, as hard as we try to institute rules with our children, they are trying equally hard to break them.

On a typical morning, I will hand my son everything he needs to get ready for the day:  shirt, pants, underwear, socks, shoes.  I then calmly ask, “Sweetheart, can you please get dressed while I get your sister ready?”

And the usual response to my request sounds something like an animal dying in the wild:  “Noooooo!  I don’t want to get dressed!  I want to plaaaayyyy!”  After much dramatic display, he finally starts removing his pajamas.

I return to dressing my daughter, and just moments later, I find my son totally naked with his day-old underwear stretched over his head, covering one eye.  He is running around yelling, “Mommy, look at me, I’m a pirate! Arrr!!”

 
I am already nauseated by this spectacle - his hair marinating in yesterday’s butt grossness- when he plops his bare butt onto the rocking chair, wiggling it wildly into the fabric:  “Mommy, Mommy, this feels cool!”

The day ends with a similar scene:  My two-year-old daughter declares it a clothing-optional dinner, stripping down to her diaper.  “Dahpuh off, dahpuh off!” she demands.  My son follows suit, and as he starts to pull down his underwear, I yell, “Underwear is non-negotiable!!  You can take off the rest of your clothes, but underwear stays on!!”

Sometimes I wonder who’s in charge in my house.  I’m pretty sure it’s not me.

Originally from the Northeast, Jennifer  now lives in Marin County, California with her husband and two children.  She writes a blog, Miles From Perfect, about her search for the perfect town to raise her children, and realizing how imperfect she is as a parent along the way.  She has also written articles as a guest blogger for various parenting blogs.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Thanks (by Leslie Lagerstrom)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.
Photography by Mary Allison Tierney


For those who know me, I am sure you are surprised that I didn’t go with the ‘T’ word that has been at the center of my world for the last ten years. As a mother of a transgender child and a staunch advocate for that community, I’ll admit that was the obvious choice. But I wanted to devote my post to ‘Thanks,’ because it is a word that is never said enough, and a sentiment I find difficult to adequately convey.

This would be especially true in our family’s case, as we have found ourselves on a path less traveled. A path that some days feels riddled with hurdles and landmines, but yet has allowed us to experience the absolute best of humankind.

People like my son’s science and English teachers, who made their classrooms sanctuaries of safety at lunchtime when Sam was afraid to eat in the cafeteria.

Parents with children like ours, who lend support when the stigma is more than we can bear…who offer advice as we traverse the public school system with a child whose mind and biology do not match…who share amusing stories that only those in our ranks can understand, proving time and again that laughter truly is the best medicine.

Family members that circle the wagons to safeguard Sam’s physical and mental well-being.

Friends who use the correct pronouns without being asked.

And the neighbors that always greet us with empathy instead of sympathy in their eyes.

How do I possibly express the gratitude that runs so deeply through my veins for these and so many other gestures of kindness great and small? By extending heartfelt thanks over and over again, and hoping with every fiber of my being that they understand.

Leslie Lagerstrom is a proud mom of two children, who is a writer and advocate. In 2011 she created the blog Transparenthoodwhich chronicles her family’s experience raising a transgender child. Believing the time is now to change hearts and minds, she volunteers to speak on a national basis, most frequently appearing in front of medical and teaching professionals.

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Siblings (by Mary Hill)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.
Photography by Mary Allison Tierney


One warm spring evening, when my younger son Oscar should have been practicing his lines for the class play or working in his vocabulary book, I allowed him and his older brother to shoot hoops after dinner. I figured these rare moments -- when Oscar is willing to join in typical play, when Abe is willing to adjust the game to Oscar’s level – are way more important than the class play and vocabulary words. I didn’t know if Oscar’s teacher would agree, but something told me she would.

They headed down the kitchen steps through our box-filled garage and out to the street, bubbling with excitement. I heard Abe tell Oscar that they were going to work on the “catch and shoot” to help Oscar in his lunchtime basketball games. Oscar’s low tone and slow processing speed make him neither fast enough nor coordinated enough to play on a real basketball team, but with help he can play in the informal school league.

After a few minutes I snuck downstairs and peaked out at them from behind a tall stack of boxes in the shadows of our garage. It was one of those warm evenings where the light settles on the neighbor’s house and casts a pink glow. The sky was painted with pink, orange and purple bands and I felt the tension of the day melt away as I watched my boys.

Oscar stood patiently while Abe positioned his arms. “Here Oscar, point your right elbow toward the hoop and keep your forearm straight. Put your left hand under the ball and just barely touch it. That hand acts like a guide as you shoot.”
 
“Ok, Abe!” Oscar giggled, hopping from foot to foot. He didn’t argue. He didn’t scream or stomp his foot or tell Abe he was wrong, like he did two summers ago when Abe tried to teach him how to putt at one of those tacky seaside mini-golf joints. Oscar had insisted on scrunching his body awkwardly over the club, elbows sticking out, as if holding a microphone. When Abe tried to correct his grip he yelled and flopped to the ground. He didn’t want help.

But something had shifted and Oscar was willing to listen that night on the street. He smiled and nodded while Abe demonstrated how to flick his wrist to maximize backspin. Abe’s voice was light and animated and Oscar glowed from the positive attention. I just wanted to stay hidden among the boxes, memorizing that moment.

Mary Hill is the mother of three, a writer and a medical and educational advocate for her middle son who was diagnosed at birth with Prader-Willi syndrome. She writes about raising a child with special needs and his two so-called typical siblings in between soccer and baseball games and all those darn medical appointments.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Ripples (by Maria Dudley)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.
Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

It was a rather ripply spring, that spring when I was fourteen.  It wasn’t just because of all the sailing I had been doing that season.  The breeze on the San Francisco Bay certainly did cause the water to ripple as my dinghy cut through the small waves.  Every Sunday my junior sailing program met for the day for instruction and racing.  I had been doing this ever since I was ten. 

But that spring was different.  I know it sounds silly, but do you remember that feeling when you had your first crush?  Ripples going through you, like little electric currents?  His name was Seadon, Swedish Seadon, another fourteen-year-old in my sailing program. 

After a long day of sailing, the two of us wandered into the small boatyard after it had gotten dark.  (Our parents were still lingering at the bar of our yacht club.) The halyards clanged in the breeze against the metal masts of the boats parked on their trailers.  The stars twinkled above us.  He led me behind one of those boats, and pulling me closer, kissed me. 

Ripples.


For 20 years, Maria Dudley has been an elementary and middle school teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She recently opened up her own business, offering writing classes to home schooled students.  She finds that most of her own writing gets erased from the whiteboard she uses in her classroom, but hopes someday to submit her stories somewhere.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for knowing when to Quit (by Dorothy O'Donnell)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.

Photography by Mary Allison Tierney
As I watched my 10-year-old skip down the Victorian-lined street in San Francisco, I blinked back tears. She’d just spent the day visiting a small school for kids with learning differences. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen her come out of school happy.

If you asked me a year ago if I’d ever send my child to a private school, I would have laughed. We weren’t private school kind of people. I equated them with snooty over-achievers, blah uniforms and hefty price tags.

Besides, we lived in a community known for its great public schools. The one my daughter had attended since kindergarten was among the best. I’ll always be grateful to the staff there for helping me recognize that her behavior and attention problems weren’t normal.

I wanted to believe that with their support and a tutor, she could make it in public school. And until this year, she was—barely. Within weeks, the increased workload, large class size and organizational demands of fifth grade left her floundering and depressed.

At first, the idea of calling it quits with her old school in the middle of fifth grade seemed insane. But as we headed across the Golden Gate back to Marin that afternoon, my doubts started to evaporate like the wisps of fog floating over the bay. My daughter bubbled with tales of the new friend she’d made, the small classes where teachers had time to help her, the kids who didn’t bat an eye when someone laughed too loud and long at a silly joke.

By the time we pulled into our driveway, I knew in my gut that my daughter belonged in that little school in the city. And that it would be crazy to let her struggle a second longer.


Dorothy O’Donnell is a freelance writer from Marin, California. She used to think training for marathons and triathlons was hard. Then she became a mom in her forties. Although she’s written about travel, health and business, these days her main focus is writing essays and a memoir inspired by her toughest, and most rewarding, endurance event--motherhood. Her work has been featured in the Marin Independent Journal, Mothering and on KQED radio.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Proximity & Prevail (by Michelle van Kriedt)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.
Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

He calls it “when your numbers are up.”  Most of us simply call it “dead.” But “he” happens to be four and half with an emerging appreciation for the linear and rational. One day I’ll explain – try to explain – that sometimes being dead isn’t limited to how I frame it now.

A question about the Pixar movie, Up prompts a conversation along these lines.

With a concerned tone and woeful eyes, my son asks, “Mommy, why did the man’s wife die?”

“Sweetheart, she was really old and so her numbers were up.”

Curiosity about why a classmate’s older brother (a child) died  prompts this dialogue.

“Mommy, why did Pilar’s* brother die?”

“Sweetheart, he was really, really sick and so his numbers were up.”

Driving in the car listening to music provokes this exchange.

“Mommy, who is that man singing on the radio?”

“Bradley Nowell, the lead singer of the band Sublime**, he made really, really, really bad choices, so he’s not alive anymore.”

“He made bad choices and so his numbers are up.”

“Yes, sweetheart.”

“I won’t make bad choices.”

A deeper than usual breath, followed by “I know, sweet-man.”

Just like I know my son will make bad choices, I know that one day, in the wake of a tragedy, like the horrific bombing in Boston this week, I will be among wobbly parents faced with the responsibility to explain something – not only nonlinear and irrational, but evil.

“Sweetheart, we co-exist with bad guys, some people are the pestilence of Planet Earth – it’s terrible, but true. But, you know, the good guys outnumber the bad ones and so that makes us good guys even more powerful and strong.”

For as long as bad guys have used poisonous words, perilous threats and even, tragic proximity, it has not stopped the good guys. The good guys will prevail.

*Name changed
**Sublime song on radio was not R-rated

Michelle van Kriedt is a native Michigander who lives, loves, works and writes in Mill Valley, CA, with her husband & son. Her dual mantra is Family-Meaning. Tweets in between can be seen at @carmelmichelle.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is for Outside (by Annie Yearout)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.

Photography by Mary Allison Tierney


Getting the Kids Outside – Sometimes There Isn’t a Green Hilltop in the Alps for You, Julie Andrews and Your Brood to Play On

My son’s schoolyard playground doesn’t have a blade of grass. Not a single, foot-stomping, bee-hiding, soft-landing cushion of Ma Nature’s finest carpeting….

No grass.

It’s all blacktop.

Hot, hard, odorous, steaming blacktop.

But that doesn’t stop my son and friends from hooting with yahoos!!! and wild and free abandon when that recess bell rings. Because, it’s still: Getting Outside.

I think to myself: Outside doesn’t just have to mean running around with backpacks on a gloriously, green hilltop in the Alps of Nature spinning and spinning and singing fa-la-la and doe-a-deer like Julie Andrews in a long skirt….

Creative play and imagination combined with small moments of nature’s gifts happen Outside on the hardtop, too. Fresh air wafts into the kids’ noggins as they bend their bodies into contortions on the swinging bars and smack that ball out and over our heads and into the street.

Hoppety-scotchety, jumppety-jump, four-square, tag-you’re-it!

All while the tree branches from the house next-door bend over the schoolyard fence, hovering over the blacktop, creating shade, and sprinkling their greeny leaves on the kids below. A black feather wafts from a nearby, sneaky crow who’s ready to pounce on the spilled bag of cheesy puffs . The school garden, small and mighty, struggles in it’s over-lovedness from tiny Kindergarteners pulling at its roots. Ouch!



Gifts large and small from the Outdoors can be found everywhere – on a green, grass mountain-top AND city street. Not just in Julie Andrew’s skirts.

So…. Get Outside!

Annie was recently voted Top #3 Outdoorsy Mom Blogger in the Universe for her blog OutdoorsyMama: Honest, Adventurous, Positive Parenthood with an Outdoorsy & Humorous Twist. She currently writes with the Write On, Mamas! and gets daily affirmations from her 3 kids, husband, and hiking shoes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for No! (by Cindy Ash)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.

Photography by Mary Allison Tierney


Every year we travel to South Carolina to spend a week on the beach with family. This year we will be able to drive rather than fly to our destination. My kids agree that ten hours on the road in our own car beats the daylights out of flying the red-eye. Nevertheless, I am under no illusions as to how that day will go.

The day before we leave I’ll pack the car with snacks and DVDs and iPods. The children will spend that day in their cushy seats in my air-conditioned minivan, on what ought to be their dream day of sacking out with electronics, at least arm’s length away from any other warm body.

On the road, I will answer, “No, we are not there yet,” approximately 732 times. The question will be asked for the first time sometime before lunchtime, even though they know we won’t be arriving at our destination before 4:00 in the afternoon.

We all have our “barefoot in the snow” memories of childhood travel. Mine involves riding in the bed of a pickup truck, with a two-inch thick foam mattress below and a camper top above for safety, on the way home from Helen Keller’s Alabama birthplace in complete silence while I taught myself to fingerspell the alphabet in American Sign Language. My mother, the seventh of nine children, remembers piling into the back of her father’s 1959 Chevy sedan with all of her siblings.

Sometimes I worry about the memories I am costing my children by making life too easy for them. But that’s when I’m at home. On the road I’m really just looking to reduce the number of times I hear “Are we there yet?”

Cindy Brown Ash is a lifelong writer. She took a hiatus from writing when she realized that her fiction required a better insight into human nature to become something worth reading. Motherhood has corrected that deficit, and Cindy is now writing as much as the children permit to make up for lost time. She has participated in the Mama Monologues with the Writing Mamas, and maintains a blog, Simply Richer Living, which aims to bring cohesion to the idea and practice of living a simple, productive, sustainable home life.

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Moving (by Paula Chapman)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated, but would be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog so the author will read your comment. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.

Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

Thirteen years in the same house. I have never lived in one spot that long in my life, and find myself itching to move onto the next place. A house and yard is easy to leave behind, but what isn't easy are the relationships made during that time. Parents of my son's friends who are now some of our best friends. Neighbors who we might not see everyday but are always there if you need them. Co-workers who lend a sympathetic ear over coffee. The writing group that offers a short creative retreat from life's responsibilities once a month.

For the first time, my excitement about moving will be colored with nostalgia about what we leave behind. No more elementary school fund raisers. No more big birthday parties for the kids in the backyard. No more speaking at LitCrawl with the Write On Mamas. No more shorts and flip flops during fall and winter (after all, we are moving from Marin to Minneapolis). Despite all of this, I am excited for the change. My son has never lived near family in his short ten years and can't wait to hang out with Grandpa and Grandma and his cousins. We can't wait to give him that opportunity.

Paula Chapman was a journalism major, spending many years in the world of corporate communication before taking a detour into the world of finance. Today she enjoys writing personal essay and memoir and has performed some of her pieces at LitQuake and The Mama Monologues.

Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for Kite (by Angelisa Russo)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated, but would be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog so the author will read your comment. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.



I didn’t want to be on earth any longer.  We had received the devastating news that after doing the cooling cap therapy, nothing had changed.  “I’m so sorry,” Dr. Tannenbaum’s words repeated “There’s no brain activity”.  Lofty hopes, prayers, and wishes had been replaced with the hard and heavy reality that you were going to die.  I wanted it to be me, instead.

J took me to the Berkeley Marina that day in her car.  I couldn’t sit with myself in the hospital or in our apartment any longer.  I probably requested to be taken there, although I don’t remember.  What I do remember is feeling the uncomfortable weight of my body against the worn leather interior of her old green Volvo station wagon.  My post-partum body still looked very pregnant with you.  After all, it had only been a week since I birthed you.  I crouched into my soft empty belly, sobbing.  Wishing that you were still in it, where you had been kept safe.  Knowing that you weren’t even on that NICU hospital bed anymore, but just floating.  Preparing to be free completely.  Your father and I would have to decide when and where.  Soon.

“Do you want to get out and get some air?,” J asked.  I shook my head, no, still crouched. “Do you want me to open a window?”. I continued to shake my head.  I heard her opening the moonroof and looked up to see blue sky with pillowy clouds moving by.  I decided to let my weight come down into the seat by pressing the button to lower it.  I lay on my back, extended, looking up at the sky that I hadn’t looked at in quite some time.  My focus had been singularly directed on you on that NICU bed, on you getting better.  Now, I lay flat, surrendering to that sky, crying still but looking up.  As I let go, a flapping green kite flew by my small rooftop screen.  It hovered there, came down, almost touching the glass, as though it wanted to come inside with me.  I stared at it, my tears turning to laughter, until the winds picked it up and brought it higher once more.

Sofia's first kite Sofia's kite Sofia's kite2

Angelisa Russo lives in Sherwood, OR with her husband, Mimmo, and their two small children, Sofia (4) and Gabriele (2).  In between running their Italian restaurant, Da Mimmo, and raising the kids, she tries to find time to write.  She is working on a memoir about her firstborn son, Salvatore, who lived for 10 days and touched their lives forevermore.  Pictured here is her daughter, Sofia, at age 2, flying her first kite at the Berkeley Marina.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Java (by Mary Allison Tierney)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated, but would be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog so the author will read your comment. Thanks and look forward to reading your blogs.

Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

It started in the early 80’s, in high school.  I was, from the very start, not a Mr. Coffee girl.  Pouring hot water over the grounds, watching the paper cone fill, saturate, the boiling bubbling cauldron settle then sink as  the brown elixir dripped into the glass. A science, a drug.  This is way before you could stand in line and order a skinny double nonfat and swipe your card.  A sincere coffee snob was born, complete with stomach cramps and grinding teeth.

San Francisco was the perfect environment to fuel my growing java snobbery.  Visiting foggy frozen North Beach, a typical Arizona college student wearing shorts in July, I delighted in my first cappuccino at Mario’s Cigar Store.  This was what adulthood feels like.  Sitting at a little cafĂ© table across from the vanilla cake spires of Saint Peter & Paul’s, sipping my cappuccino, my goose bump covered knees notwithstanding, watching the old (to me) Tai Chi faithful in Washington Square Park.  I kept the New York Times on my lap for warmth.  The smell of ink on newsprint, the baking foccacia, the squeak of the electric bus, bag laden Chinese women duck walking by my table.  I sat until my cup was empty. I would have ordered a second if I’d had the money.
 
Mary Allison has been published in The Sun magazine and the Marin Independent Journal and is looking forward with dread and gusto to starting her fourth NaNoWriMo novel in November. Mary Allison is a novice surfer, a diligent trail runner, and a 4-time Dipsea Race finisher. She tries really hard to read one long New Yorker article each week, not just the cartoons.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Inconsolable (by Mary Allison Tierney)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated, but would be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog so the author will read your comment. Thanks and look forward to reading your blogs.


Photography by Mary Allison Tierney


I have him a quick hug. I couldn’t say a word or look at his face. After he pedaled down our driveway, I stepped into his abandoned basement dude lair/ recording studio and consoled myself by immediately attacking his room.  His mattress, which lay on the floor, was surrounded by balled up dirty socks, just stepped out of boxers, a wet towel, dirty coffee cups, plates, a spoon, a Trader Joe’s peanut butter pretzels bag, and all the boy-in-a-band detritus: guitar strings, picks, cords, loose change, a broken pencil, scraps of paper, and a receipt for a burrito.

His backpack and guitar in the baby blue gig bag sat next to the bed. I went to move the back pack and could hardly lift the thing.  It stood on the ground as high as my hip and I dragged it into the guest room.  I distracted myself by purging his room. He had attached most of the his pictures and posters with duct tape, so lots of plaster came off with them. After a full day of pulling it all off, vacuuming and moving out the furniture, his brother and I went to the paint store, excited to choose the color of his new room.

I was to fly up to Seattle in two weeks. He was pedaling 900 miles to college and was wildly unprepared for this, but there was no stopping him. I got Bike Tour updates almost daily, where he camped, what he was seeing. He was with a friend and sometimes my update came through her parents via ATM debits. I worked very slowly, patching and repainting each wall.

A few days before I was set to fly up to Seattle, I learn what was making the backpack so damned heavy: his beloved chrome studded black leather biker jacket, the leather hiking boots he wore on his NOLS Alaska trip, black jean cutoffs patched with black leather, a half dozen black metal band shirts, several missing sleeves, all reeking of BO as they had been pulled from the floor or hamper and stuffed into the backpack, Cannibis Corpse sweatpants, and seven mismatched wool socks (none clean) and four pair of boxers. And of course his laptop and charger, all the essentials to start college.

Appropriately, it was raining in Seattle, raining as we drove to Olympia, and raining the next morning. Having survived his Bike Tour, he insisted on riding his bike from the hotel to his dorm, but didn’t want me to come inside.  I insisted.  It resembled a luxury prison suite. I’ll never know if another mother was more successful making it cozier. I never saw that room again.  Or him, until Thanksgiving.

He stood me up for dinner, texting to say he ate with people he’d met, which was great, but I was disgusted. No teary hug goodbye, or final dinner and I never met his roommate. It was pouring rain the next morning as I drove to the airport and the radio was all Pearl Jam.  The Pacific Northwest feeds on itself.  Even though I was pissed at him, I was very much missing my son. I don’t know why now all of a sudden I expected some smarmy John Hughes scripted take-the-kid-to-college scenario, but I felt gypped.  Parenting sucks.

Mary Allison has been published in The Sun magazine and the Marin Independent Journal and is looking forward with dread and gusto to starting her fourth NaNoWriMo novel in November. Mary Allison is a novice surfer, a diligent trail runner, and a 4-time Dipsea Race finisher. She tries really hard to read one long New Yorker article each week, not just the cartoons.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Hysterical Hypochondriac (by Pamela Alma Weymouth)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated, but would be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog so the author will read your comment. Thanks and look forward to reading your blogs.

Photography by Mary Allison Tierney


This week my children's school sent home a little blue sheet warning that my sons may have been exposed to Slapped Cheek Syndrome. Symptoms include a ruddy cheek rash (thus the name) fever and typical flu-like symptoms. In rare cases, it leads to childhood arthritis or connective tissue auto-immune diseases; it is contagious to adults, in particular women, ie. mothers. (My children for some reason, always chose to only throw up on me—always sparing their dad, my ex.) If that’s not enough, there is no cure, no medicine, no vaccine—absolutely nothing to do but become hysterical. Because they are most contagious in the one to four days prior to symptoms manifesting, it’s probably too late for us already.

Last week when our neighbor’s grandson dropped by, I noticed his dirt smeared four-year-old hands were covered with small reddish pustules; I asked his grandmother if he had poison oak. “Oh no,” she said. “He’s just gotten over Hand, Foot and Mouth disease.” I rushed to sanitize my hands like someone who’s just invited over a leper. It’s not like my children haven’t already had Hand, Foot, Mouth (which I used to think only struck barn animals), it’s that I’ve been sick for the greater part of the last six years, since birthing twins. People tell you for the first three years that if your kids are sick a lot, “Don’t worry, it will make them healthier later!” Someone obviously made this up to keep people from sending their babies down the river in little woven baskets.

I spent the greater part of this winter carting around the most recent diseases my children had brought home: Strep throat, Bronchitis, The Plague. After nursing my boys back to health while I crawled across the living room, I thought, this is it: I’m almost forty-five, I’m single, and I’m going to have to write the Great American Novel from my bed like Proust, only without a nanny or a chambermaid.

Next week, I imagine the school will send home a paper that reads: Your child has been exposed to an ancient virus that will make their limbs fall off. After waking you up twenty-five times each night for the next fourteen days, you will be able to glue their limbs back on, but your own limbs will not be reparable. You might want to invest in a wheelchair or a spot at the closest cemetery.

Pamela Alma Weymouth writes a humor blog on parenting and divorce for The Huffington Post. She has won awards for her fiction and essays from Glimmer Train and Traveler’s Tales. Her writing has appeared in Best Women’s Travel Writing 2009, Marin Independent Journal, and Hot Flashes: Sexy Little Stories and Poems I & II. She earned her MFA at University of San Francisco. She has taught writing at The Writing Salon & Berkeley Extension. She is writing a book called “Surviving Twinland.” She lives in The Bay Area with her twin boys and three hens named Birthday Gang, Zeke and Tango.

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for Garbage (by Janine Kovac)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated, but would be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog so the author will read your comment. Thanks and look forward to reading your blogs.

Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

I never thought about garbage trucks before I had boys.

I never stopped to admire how the green trucks really do look like mechanical dinosaurs.

My heart never jumped to hear a double-axle vehicle backing up one block over.

I didn’t put the bins out the night before and think, “Tomorrow is trash day!”

I never woke up at 6 a.m. to draw the blinds and wonder which trash collector I’d see. Would it be the one who makes his baby food from scratch? (“I don’t know how long it’s been on that shelf,” he told me. “And besides, how hard is it to smash a banana?”)

I didn’t rearrange my day to make sure that I’d be home for the recycling truck at noon.

Or drive half a mile out of my way because I knew it was trash day in that neighborhood.

I certainly didn’t have a favorite kind of garbage truck (the ones that lift the garbage overhead and dump it in the back).

Or a second-favorite garbage truck (the ones that have little arms to pick up commercial dumpsters).

Or a third-favorite garbage truck (the ones that churn garbage in the back).

And since I never thought about garbage trucks, it never occurred to me that one day I’d draw the blinds on Wednesday morning and be the lone fan waving to the trash collector who makes apple-sauce from scratch because my sons—at the tender age of three—had moved on to jet airplanes.


Janine Kovac is the program coordinator for the Write On, Mamas and database architect for the literary festival Litquake. If she writes something she likes, she posts it here. And if she doesn't, it goes here.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is for Doggy Does Facebook (by Marianne Lonsdale)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated, but would be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog so the author will read your comment. Thanks and look forward to reading your blogs.
 
 
Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

I’m not sure if my family’s Facebook habit is getting out of hand or if our doggy love has gone over the deep end. But Kashi, our oh-so-adorable white fluff ball of a dog, has more friends on Facebook than I do. He hit the 200 mark weeks ago. I don’t even look at the count anymore – why make myself feel like a reject? I’ve been on Facebook way longer than he has. His profile picture is awfully darn cute. He is irresistible while I, apparently, can be easily resisted.

Not only that, but his friends actually pay attention to what he’s doing and comment on it. I’ll post something that I think is sure to grab interest or be worth a chuckle and I get zip comments. Kashi posts something pithy like “Wish I had a chewy treat right now” and ten friends pipe in with what they’d like to give him.


Kashi

Don’t even get me started on how many girlfriends he has. “Wanna play with me this weekend?” his bud Indigo asks. And some cute little mutt who goes by the name Poppy Fluff Flower pretended they were married for awhile to keep other bitches away. His pleading dark eyes shine a light into the vulnerability behind his machismo. 

We left him with his sitter this weekend. We were barely out of town when on his page is posted “The family just left!  Time 2 party!” He was sacked out when we returned Sunday evening. He’d obviously seen plenty of action during our absence. Hardly glanced at the new winter sweater and anti-itch shampoo we brought home to him. And today his post says “So tired from the weekend. Just gonna sleep all day long.” Me too buddy, but I still made it into work. Get a grip, or a stick or a bone or something.


Marianne Lonsdale lives with her husband, Michael, and son, Nicholas, in Oakland, California. She writes personal essays and short stories, and is now focused on developing a novel. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Literary Mama, Fiction365, The Sun, and Pulse.

Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for Existence thru’ Exercise (by Cynthia Rovero)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated, but would be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog so the author will read your comment. Thanks and look forward to reading your blogs.


Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

One day an image crosses the television screen of your dream body. You look at yourself in horror and wish for a miracle cure that can give you the same sexy allure. Having tried all kinds of touted miracle cures, I have decided to live with a much simpler solution, such as shutting my mouth when that extra helping is staring at me in the face. I also push myself out the door to join in with the many feel-good exercises. In doing so, I find myself losing weight, feeling sexier and, best of all, enjoying better health.

E - Cynthia Bike
The epitome of learning to enjoy what I have is celebrated exponentially with every new step I take in this direction. Yes, there are pitfalls to trying to maintain a positive outlook within a mass media society. Still, for my health the choice to continue on this path of eating veggies more and junk food less works. Also, continuing to go out into the world, where I can enjoy the physical exertion of bike riding, swimming, and walking is a huge plus. Most of all I adore the look on my hubby’s face when my healthier attitude pays off in weight loss. Then, I too beam with pride at how far I have come from giving in to unhealthy temptations.

Cynthia has enjoyed creative writing for 30 years. Over the years she took writing classes to hone her skills. Sharing her thoughts has helped to keep her fulfilled in life.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Dog (by Lorrie Goldin)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated, but would be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog so the author will read your comment. Thanks and look forward to reading your blogs.


Photography by Mary Allison Tierney


My husband and I are cat people, but our daughters failed to get the memo. Despite a menagerie of two felines and an assortment of rodents, the lobbying for a dog began in earnest when Emma, our eldest, was in second grade. In between constant replays of "Homeward Bound" and "Milo and Otis," Emma vowed to take care of all things puppy if only we would grant her wish. She even promised to pick up poop.

We're bad parents: We said no. So Emma brought out the heavy artillery: Begging. Whining. Pitching fits. After a solid year of this, our firm "no" turned squishy. Not only did we fail to hold the canine line, we also failed Parenting 101 by caving in the face of her atrocious behavior (unsurprisingly, this soon became our m.o. for dog-rearing as well).

Of course, I was the weak link. If it had been up to my husband, we never would have accepted even one of those "free" goldfish foisted upon families at school carnivals. But after Emma went to work on me, I went to work on Jonathan. On a long, romantic hike I outlined why we should overthrow reason and do something crazy, like get Emma a dog for her ninth birthday. "Besides," I concluded my pitch, "Maybe we could surprise ourselves and let in new love."

Jonathan, who pays attention to research saying that marriages fare best when husbands agree with their wives, knew he was doomed. But at least the birthday girl was thrilled with the promise of a puppy as soon as we got back from our summer vacation.

Button
Upon our return, we headed straight to the Humane Society. Emma was in heaven when she saw their brand new litter. Who knew that Rottweiler-Pit Bull puppies could be so cute? Still, it was not the mix I had in mind, even though Emma saw no need to look any further. This time, I did not cave, resolutely removing my screaming, betrayed child from the premises while simultaneously saving my marriage.

Fortunately, the next day there was an ad in the IJ for a litter in Woodacre. We knew we'd found our puppy as the mellowest little black-and-white guy yawned and waggled his tail. Thus Button entered our lives and our hearts.

Emma and her younger sister, Ally, were enthralled as Button waddled up and down the stairs after them. They were less enchanted by his needle-like puppy teeth, and spent Day Two climbing into the lower branches of a tree to avoid his nipping enthusiasm. Many days thereafter they ignored him completely.

In his intemperate youth, Button chewed through one sofa, a set of seatbelts, and two pairs of Jonathan's glasses. Neither girl picked up any poop, either.

But one promise was kept: We could, after all, let in new love.

Lorrie Goldin is a closet dog lover and mother of two grown daughters. She is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Rafael and Berkeley. Lorrie's writing has appeared in the New York Times' "Motherlode" blog, skirt!, Underwired Magazine, the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Marin Independent Journal, and Harlots' Sauce.