Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pantyhose can traumatize a child for life

I don't frequently wear pantyhose. Never been much of a fan really; just couldn't ever really understand the utility of the nude ones. I did go through a black fishnet phase - which I'm kind of still in, to be honest, my feeling sort of being that if I'm going to go through the trouble of wearing them, better make them not just visible but impossible to ignore. This is by the way, the same approach I take with lipstick. I don't have time for barely-there, and to tell true, it just was never my style anyway.

But recently, I had occasion to wear pantyhose. I was presenting at a conference and wearing a blazer. You kind of can't wear a blazer without wearing pantyhose. It's like the PB without the J. Plus, I figured it'd make me feel more professional.

I pulled on my black dress and struggled with the the control-top sand-colored pantyhose (and, by the way, I get their utility now that I need control-top. I TOTALLY GET IT) when Primo walked into my room. He did an old-school double take and then he stared at my legs. The look on his face was both perplexed and horrified.

"What," he ventured, "are you wearing?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, "You don't like this dress?"

"Not the dress," he pressed, "The other thing."

"These?" I asked, pointing to my legs, "These are pantyhose. You've never seen pantyhose?"

He scrutinized my face intently for a minute, trying to decide if I was joking, or if I'd gone totally out of my fucking mind.

"Why are you wearing that? What is it for?" He was waiting for a reasonable explanation.

I didn't really know myself, but I said something about "evening out the skin tone."

"But it looks exactly like your legs without them on," he observed.

"Sort of," I conceded, "Only, you know, polished."

He stood silently looking at me with his eyebrows raised for a few seconds. Then he said: "Mom. You look REALLY creepy." And he left.

I now suspect he suspects I'm a high-functioning lunatic. I guess I can never tell him about Spanx.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Official Now I See You Playlist!!

My memoir, Now I See You, comes out in just under a month, and I've gathered together all sorts of bonus features to enrich your reaching experience or to just elongate it, in case you're not ready to part with my story just yet (I mean, you can always just tune into this blog or read any number of a million essays I've written but, if that's STILL not enough, you'll have these bonus features). They also make the PERFECT fixings to toss into making a kick-ass, epic, BOOK CLUB MEETING!!!! For Nonny's (formerly) secret recipes, and a complete book club discussion guide, go to the special page I built on my website, and to get your groove on, here's the definitive Now I See You playlist, featuring a few songs mentioned in the book, a few songs by blind musical artists and a ton of songs that relate to the very vast theme of light, darkness, blindness, and eyes. (seriously, you'll be shocked by how many there are). Plug these babies into Spotify and you've got yourself a whole night of tunes. . .


Blinded by the Light, Bruce Springsteen
Hit the Road Jack, Ray Charles
I've Got A Woman, Ray Charles
Sir Duke, Stevie Wonder
My Bionic Eyes, Liz Phair
I'd Rather Go Blind, Etta James
Isn't She Lovely, Stevie Wonder
Shady Grove, Doc Watson
Oh Yoko, John Lennon
Ne Me Quitte Pas, Nina Simone
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, Willie Nelson
Con Te Partiro, Andrew Boccelli
Love Is Blindness, Jack White
Dark Eyes, Bob Dylan
Everlasting Light, The Black Keys
I See The Lights, Mandy Moore
I Wear Sunglasses At Night, The Valiant Thivees
I'm Beginning To See The Light, Bobby Darin
I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash
Amazing Grace, Sufjan Stevens
This LIttle Light of Mine, Bruce Springsteen

Friday, May 23, 2014

If you are a parent and you have a pulse you will love this

The new novel Cutting Teeth, by Julia Fierro, had me as soon as I saw the cover: a Raggedy Ann and Andy doll clinging to each other for dear life, looks of quiet desperation plastered across their fabric faces.

Now this, I thought, is a story about parenting after my own heart. 

The debut novel, which came out a little over a week ago, follows the story of four Brooklyn couples who spend a weekend at a Long Island beach house with their young children. There'a the mom who's hiding her OCD and the mom who's hiding her financial ruin, and the mom who's hiding her yearning to escape the sometimes oppressive weight of parenting to return to her art. There's a sexy mom, and a stay-at-home dad, and lots of children, of all varieties. Throw them all together in one house for a weekend and let the drama unfold. Secrets will be revealed, relationships will fall apart - which is great because, let's face it, what's more fun than witnessing personal ruin, especially in fiction?

I cracked open the book and was instantly hooked by an opening chapter in which Nicole (no relation), pushes her four year-old son in a swing while descending into an obsessive spiral of anxiety related to a recent outbreak of swine flu. I'm a big believer that books have to grab you from the get-go (I have three kids and very little time for leisure reading, so if you don't have my attention in a viselike grip from the start, you're out, aug wiedersehen!, as Heidi Klum would say) and this book passed my better-make-it-good-and-do-it-fast test with flying colors.

The book is funny and sexy and thought-provoking and beautifully-written and it's honest, which is pretty much the number one quality I look for in a book these days.  I don't have time for bullshit. I want the human experience laid bare, and I want to be enriched, and entertained in the process. Cutting Teeth delivers, shedding light on the extraordinary experience, both harrowing and joyous, that is parenthood. If I was sand-bound this summer, you bet your sweet ass I'd be slipping this baby in my beach bag.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Shit Chronicles

People complain about the inconvenience of changing diapers. This is something that just doesn't resonate with me. Diapers are easy. Diapers and contained. Diapers are portable. I kind of love diapers. I could do without their expense and the colossal amount of waste they produce, but as far as convenience goes, I have no problems with diapers.

I do, however, loathe potty training. I didn't mind it with Primo but back then I had infinite time and tons more patience, and the luxury of arranging my schedule entirely around him. With Seconda, I remember it being an annoyance but - you know -- unavoidable.

The third time around, I think it is a distinct possibility that Terza never gets potty trained, not because she is averse to it - because I am. I bought her a potty just after she turned one, but only because we are at Ikea and I saw one and I have zero ability to resist impulses to buy things at Ikea, particularly when they might actually be useful. We've kept it in the bathroom, talking about it from time to time and occasionally, she'll sit on it, fully clothes, and all of that is lovely.

But recently, my grandmother, who watches Terza sometimes, has been encouraging her to use the potty (my mother gave her a hand-me-down potty that she purloined from God knows where) and now we're in it.

A few days ago, Terza came up to me and announces, "I gotta go POTTY!" and she's all proud of herself and enthusiastic and so who am I to stand in her way.

"OK!" I cheered, pulling off her pants and diaper.

Obediently, she ran to the potty and sat there for a few seconds I was busy helping Seconda with her homework by this point so details get fuzzy. But soon after I saw her toddle into the bathroom, I saw her toddle out again, and I thought to myself  "I should put a diaper on that kid." Unable to tear myself away from the rousing game of Double Compare required for Seconda's homework, however, I did not. Then, about a minute later, Terza ran over to me and proclaimed, jubilantly, "I did A POOP!"

If this was a scene in a movie, you'd definitely hear the Jaws soundtrack now.

I was filled wij foreboding.

"Where, honey?"

"Over DERE!" She pointed in the direction of her bedroom. Terrifically proud of herself.

"Will you show Mommy?" I asked.

"Sure," she replied, causing the dial on the Cute-O-Meter to nearly fly off.

She took my hand and led me into her bedroom, where it stank. REEKED. It smelled as thought twenty elephants had just moved their bowels in her bedroom.

"Where?" I asked again, mincing my way forward so I didn't accidentally encounter the turd with my foot.

"Hmmmm," she muttered, trying to remember. It was exactly as if she was trying to figure out where she'd parked her car. Then, all at once, she did and she pulled me offer to the far corner of the bedroom, by the window, behind the crib.

Monday, May 19, 2014

This is why I don't sell them to gypsies

My kids frequently drive me to distraction. They're high maintenance and loud and emotional (I have NO IDEA where they get that from). Then, just when I'm ready to sell them to the gypsies, they come out with something like this, and I'm forced to re-consider.

I was sitting on the couch with Primo, watching Terza "play" with Play-Doh (ninety percent eating, ten percent manipulating) and he offered thoughtfully:

'Is it named after the philosopher?"

"Is what named after who?" I asked.

"Play-doh, after Plato," he clarified.

Then I had to grab that big-as-me, super-dapper boy and squeeze the life out of him and kiss his cheek like he was nine months instead of nine years old. These kids, as maddening as they are, they fit this cuckoo family of ours just right.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tears of laughter and tears from the damn humanity of it all

I'm reading a fantastic new anthology which you guys would all love, called When I First Held You, edited by Brian Gresko. The book features essays penned by 22 A-list literary superstars, all of whom also happen to be dads and who happen to have some really funny, poignant, keenly insightful stuff to say about the experience.  There's Lev Grossman, Ben Greenman, Andre Dubus III, and Rick Moody, just to name a few.

It's interesting; I find I'm relating to these essays about fatherhood even more than I typically relate to writing about motherhood, and I'm not sure why exactly. Maybe it's because anything any mother writes feels really charged, and really close, so that I feel compelled to compare myself and my parenting choices, with ones she's made and that's always a very stressful, very stupid fool's errand. Whatever the reason, I'm finding so much in these pages that deeply resonates with me, right from the start, from the Introduction, in which Brian describes, in lovely lyrical detail, the birth of his son, and the first electric, life-altering, cataclysmic jolt of connection he had with the baby. There's tons of laugh-out-loud moments as well, like when Lev Grossman describes how he'd TOTALLY have joined a new dads group, were it not for the fact that he'd rather die first. I've still got a few essays still to go, but as soon as I'm done with it, I"m handing it over to David, who I know will love it, and likely read it in one sitting (he doesn't mess around, that husband of mine).

So, go buy the book and you'll get it just in time for Father's Day. Yes, I just made your life a helluva lot easier, no need to thank me, it's just what I do.

And if you want a little live, sneak peek into the hook (and into my own memoir, Now I See You, which comes out in a little over a month), come see Brian and I read at Pete's Candy Store tomorrow. As Brian promised, "There will be tears of laughter and tears from the damn humanity of it all."

Monday, May 5, 2014

Wanna share a malt, Mom?

My son is now old enough that he makes a very good lunch date. Scintillating conversation. A shared appreciation of interesting cuisine. We have a good time. 

I especially like taking him to some of my old haunts, the cafes of St. Mark's place, where I spent many an evening in my twenties. Afterwards we go to St. Mark's Comics and get comics for him and his dad and it's pretty much the most pleasant an afternoon a person could ever hope to have. 

A week or two ago, we were regarding the menu at one such cafe, when Primo asked me if I'd like to share a malted. 

"They have milkshakes here?" I asked, surprised. 

It was a Moroccan joint so that struck me as odd. 

"Yeah," he went on, "It says right here, 'Single Malt. McClelland's."

I broke out into laughter. It is a testament to what a cool kid Primo is that he doesn't get offended by this. In fact, he rather likes it.

"What Mom?" he asked, mailing himself. 

"Honey, that's not a malted," I told him, "It's a kind of whisky." 

We had a good laugh about that, then we feasted on eggs and hummus.

An absolutely idyllic afternoon with a dreamboat of a boy. In fact, I'm going to do myself a favor and crown that afternoon, "Early Mother's Day" so as to avoid disappointment this Sunday. One can try . . .  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Cure Is In Sight (No, I didn't make that up)

Raising three kids in the city, without a car, I do a lot of walking. More, really, than I feel like doing. Sometimes I feel like Forest Gump, just hauling butt from one location to another, dropping off some of my kids and picking up others and running five thousands errands in between; the running part being far too literal for my taste. 

So, it takes something really special to get me to walk EXTRA. To walk in a circle. 

But that is precisely what I'll be doing this Saturday, at the Foundation Fighting Blindness' Vision Walk. Hell, I'm even going all the way to Queens. If that's not a testament to the intensity of my commitment, I don't know what is. 

Vision Walk raises money (and a lot of it, over $28 million since it's inception in 2008) to fund research to treat degenerative retinal diseases.  So, they're trying to cure blindness. It's kind of a big deal. 

I happen to care about this very much because I have one. A retinal disease, that is.  You may have gleaned this if you've read the synopsis of my memoir, Now I See You, or my recent essay in the New York Times, but in case you're not fully caught up, I'll give you a recap (and then, dude, really go read the essay in the Times, it's funny! and it's the Times!):

I have a disease called retinitis pigmentosa which has been gradually robbing me of sight since I was diagnosed at 19. In point of fact, it's been at work longer than that, but that's the age at which I was clued in to what was happening. The first thing to go was my peripheral and night time vision and now the disease has moved on to my central vision too. 

Yeah, it's not great.  In fact, it's pretty damn ruthless. I'd like nothing more than to see some genius  mad scientist invent some miracle cure than can stop the nasty disease in its' tracks, show the bully who's boss. And the amazing thing is, there are HORDES of genius mad scientists out there, trying to do just that, But they - like everyone -- need money. Which is why the FFB is having a Vision Walk. 

It's a really fun, feel-good affair. Last time we went, I brought my mother and father, sisters and husband, and of course, the kids. I let Primo name the team, which is why we were "The Blazing Furies." He even designed a logo for us, of a flaming eyeball (clearly, the kid needs to work on marketing; the flaming eyeball was a bit of a downer). The opening remarks were galvanizing and it felt fantastic to move together as a group, a big unwieldy, often haphazard (hey, we're visually impaired; grace of movement is not our strong suit)  group. It's a kind of coming together that makes you recognize your own individual strength, and the collective strength we have in numbers.  Plus, it was fun. The kids drank their body weight in free Neruro water. What's not to like about that? 

So, come and walk (and if you're there, stop by the Now I See You table for a free magnifier)  or, if you're feeling a bit lazy (and I hear you, trust me),  just donate to the FFB.  They have the best tagline: "A cure is in sight." For that alone, you should give them a 10 spot.