The incomparable Miss Z.

Yesterday I had to try to explain to my precocious 5-yr-old niece why her Uncle Eli never comes over anymore. This was perhaps the most heart-breaking conversation I've had about my divorce yet, harder even, in some ways, than the things I've had to try to explain to Eliot about our situation.

I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me that she would notice his absence from family gatherings, and maybe the conversation was made more difficult by the fact that I was caught so off-guard.

It began with her asking me about Mumford, our family cat, and I sort of stammered that Mumford did not live at my house anymore. "He lives with Eli and Eliot now, not with me and Eliot in our new house," I said. And a confused look came over her face. Slowly, she came out with, "Yeah. I wanted Eli to be here for my birthday, but Mommy said he couldn't come because you and Eli weren't together anymore and I was like, 'What?!'" She made a face and spread her hands wide to show consternation.

I do adore this girl. She speaks and looks and acts so much like a smaller version of my little sister that it cracks me up. She's sassy as all get out, with a teenager's attitude and stubbornness. She comes up with the wildest sayings and ideas, and sometimes I think she's an absolute sage. She once told me, apropos of nothing, "Well, Rachel...sometimes it's whatever you want, and sometimes it's whatever you don't want." You aren't kidding, girlfriend.

A few months ago she told me, "Aunt Rachel, I just love Eliot so much, it's like he's my boyfriend or something." In truth they act more like brother and sister. They are always overjoyed to see one another. When I pull our car into my sister's drive, Z is out the door before I can even get Eliot's carseat straps unhooked. They immediately embrace and run off to play. Z acts like the big sister, showing Eliot how to jump on the trampoline ("jumpoline," in their vocabulary), or explaining the "right" way to play with a certain toy. But then, it won't be long before they are fussing and fighting over whose turn it is to drive the Barbie jeep. Z will try to physically haul Eliot out of the driver's seat and he, in turn, will get her in a headlock and bite her arm.

When it's time for our visit to end, however, they are back to loving on each other. Z fetches Eliot a chocolate covered granola bar from the kitchen pantry, asking, "You want a snack for the road, Eliot?" They hug and kiss and wave and Z watches from the door as we drive away down the road.

It's easy to forget sometimes that Z, with her mother hen tendencies toward Eliot, her extensive vocabulary, and her surprising insights, is still a 5 yr-old. She isn't just a tiny adult.

So when Z presented me with her confusion over her absent uncle, I said plainly that, yes, it was true that Eli and I weren't together anymore. I told her that Eliot lives sometimes with his Daddy and Mumford and sometimes with me. "Eliot has two houses now. Isn't that neat?," I proposed, hopefully.

She frowned and said, "I don't ever want MY daddy to leave."

And how could my heart not rise to my throat?

I assured her that her daddy wasn't going anywhere and explained that Eli is still and will always be Eliot's daddy and that he loves him very much. "Eliot still has his mommy and daddy," I said. "We just can't live together anymore."

Z twirled a few straggly strands of her long wild hair around one finger and concentrated on it for a moment. She cocked her head to the side and looked up at me.

"Well...why?" she asked, and the look on her face was so childlike, so innocent. Not like the face a kid gives you when he's asking why he can't wear his muddy boots to daycare when he knows perfectly well why. Z was looking at me with blank face, free of expectations, waiting patiently and trustingly for an answer from me that would make some kind of sense.

I didn't have one.

I pulled her little body onto my lap and squeezed her tight to me. I buried my face in her hair and muttered, "I don't know why, SnickleFritz. I just...don't know."

I don't have the answers. Sometimes I wish I did. All I could say when I pulled away and looked her in the eye was, "Well, Z...because sometimes it's whatever you want, and sometimes it's whatever you don't want."


Top Ten Ways to Tell You're a Tourist in NYC.

10. You look up at the buildings rather than straight ahead at where you're going.

9. You cannot figure out the freaking subway system to save your life.

8. You don't cross the street until the "walk" sign is illuminated. Even then, you look both ways.

7. You are struck by the juxtaposition of the elderly homeless man digging through a trash barrel while an impeccably groomed guy in a business suit listens to his iPod while waiting impatiently to cross the street.

6. You say "Excuse me," when you bump into someone on the street.

5. You make direct eye contact with people on the subway and in elevators. And then smile.

4. You get in line at the deli before you know what you want.

3. You will actually pay $6.00 for a Harp at the Irish pub and have no clue that you're getting screwed.

2. You didn't realize that Madison Square Garden is actually a circle.

1. You mosey.


Country Mouse in the Big Apple.

The pace of life in NYC can only be described as frenetic. No matter the time, day or night, the sidewalks are crowded with people who either have, or are good at pretending to have urgent plans. Everyone has a direction and is headed there at a rate of approximately 100 mph. This constant state of purposeful commotion can be a bit overwhelming for a girl from rural Illinois who still insists on pronouncing the word "washcloth" as though it contains an "r."

I am astounded at the pedestrian traffic--the sheer number of people on the street and how quickly the crowds move. Before I can utter, "Excuse me, I'm sorry," to the person who bumped into me with her briefcase or Macy's bags, she's already twelve blocks away.

Car horns are put to entirely different use in New York City than anywhere else I've traveled. Where I'm from, Podunk Town, IL, population 900 (possibly including dogs), a blast from a car horn generally translates to, "Heyyyy, there stranger! Where have you been hidin? I ain't seen you in a coon's age!"  On the mean streets of Chicago, the honking of horns means, "Get out of my way, you jerk! Learn how to drive!" In New York, however, the drivers of taxis and other vehicles begin laying on their horns a hundred yards from the crosswalk as though to say, "I see you crossing against the light and I'm giving you fair warning. If you're still there in the next few seconds and I flatten your ass, you'll have only yourself to blame." It is understood that there is no such thing as stopping for pedestrians. Or even slowing down, really. Because frankly, they should have known better.

During the course of the trip, I chatted up a native New Yorker (because that's what Midwesterners do: we start conversations with random strangers just because they happen to also be reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). He claimed that the hundred yard honk is a fairly recent development. He explained, dead pan, mind you, that years ago, there wouldn't have even been an audible warning. Pedestrians would just be expected to get out of the way. Because, hey, taxi cabs are bright yellow, and he shoulda seen me. Therefore, the laying on of the horn is a courtesy that drivers extend to their fellow human beings, the pedestrians. The city has really come together in recent years. There's a lot of love here.

The frenzied pace of life in New York is not limited to the streets. Indoors, everyone is in just as big a hurry. I used to laugh at the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld because it struck me as so absurd. Now I realize that what really makes those scenes so riotously funny is their absolute truth. One does not get in a line at a deli in New York City without having made up her mind about her order. The line moves quickly, just as quickly as the myriad taxis, and neither the cashiers nor your fellow customers have any tolerance for your indecisive bullshit. If you don't know what you want, don't get in the goddamn line! Don't ask stupid questions and don't hesitate. Otherwise, NO SOUP FOR YOU!

New Yorkers seem not to know the meaning of the words "meander" or "mosey." There are rarely benches along the sidewalks. In fact, there are signs posted along the streets that read "No standing at any time." No standing? Wait, what? Yes. No Standing. If you are on the sidewalk, you must be moving, and if you aren't moving, someone will move you.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about New York. In fact, I very much loved the city. It's so very foreign, so very different from my own origins, and the difference is exactly what I found exciting. What I loved most about the city was its excitement and its diversity. All shapes, sizes, and colors of people speaking different tongues. The city is a roiling cacophony of humanity. The people in the streets seem so beautiful in their individuality, like intricate, never to be repeated snowflakes. All I could do was stare in delight and wonderment.

And then I heard the blaring of the taxi bearing down on me, and I ran for dear life. :)


These feet were made for walkin'

I've been on a blogging hiatus not because I was sick (that only lasted a day, thank goodness), but because I've been on vacation in NYC. :)

I'm back at home, unpacking, recombobulating, and trying to readjust to my normal, more slow-paced life among cornfields.

More stories and photos to come, but for now, here are a few of the places I visited in New York.

 Times Square
Greenwich Village

Coney Island



Like I said, back soon with stories. Wait 'til you hear the one about me on the flying trapeze...


In sickness and in health.

At least I have one constant in my life: Eliot. He will always be my son and I will always be his momma. This is the relationship that truly survives for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health. Sometimes the fact of the permanency of parenthood is comforting and sustains me. At other times, it's downright frightening, and I feel as though I could buckle under the pressure of being someone's parent for THE REST OF MY LIFE.

This morning I woke up not feeling well. I felt like a mountain of food was lodged in my throat and going to force its way up and out at any moment. So despite Eliot's "My tummy is hungry for FOOD!" demands, and his clinging to my back shouting, "Giddy-up, horse! Giddy-up, horse!" I trudged into the bathroom and knelt by the toilet, waiting.

As I stare into the watery, puke-inducing depths of the toilet, Eliot asks, "Whatchyou looking at, Mom? Whatchyou looking at down there?"

"Mommy is sick. I think I'm gonna throw up."

"Oh. You gonna throw up out your mouth, Mommy? You gonna throw up out your mouth, huh?"

(Please keep in mind that this conversation is transpiring with me hunched over the toilet and Eliot still clinging to my back with his arms flung around my neck and his spindly little legs wrapped around my middle.)

Fun for all!

While barfing into the toilet with my son wrapped around my body isn't exactly the way I prefer to spend my mornings, I still can't find much to complain about in it.

He's here. He's always here. He will always be with me; even when he's with his dad, he's with me.

Sometimes he's a monkey on my back, and sometimes he's cuddled up next to me on the couch while I rest and he watches Mighty Machines.

The final divorce papers were waiting for me in my mailbox this morning, just needing to be signed, notarized, and filed. The last page says that this marriage is hereby dissolved, and each party is free to marry again as though they had never previously been married.

Eliot's father is no longer my husband.

But no matter what happens, Eliot will always and forever be my son.

This is what I hold onto and cherish.



I had a minor freak-out episode this morning, resulting in me flopping down face first onto my unmade bed and crying hopelessly.

All because I couldn't hang a picture.

Okay, so it wasn't all the picture. Have you ever been hit with so many disasters and weathered them and weathered them only to be defeated by something incredibly simple, like hitting the "Diet Coke" button on the soda machine when what you really meant to push was "Coke"?

That's pretty much what happened this morning.

The most recent landslide of events began when I got Eliot back from my in-laws last week. For the entire week before that visit, he had been sleeping in his own bed again, with nary a complaint. Two nights with Grandma and PaPa, however, was enough to not only disrupt that pattern, but also make him completely redetermined never to let me sleep alone again. He was having none of the reverse psychology, none of the promises of stickers, none of the threatening, none of the begging and pleading. He was sleeping in my bed, and that was that.

Fine. At this juncture, I am too beleaguered to dig in my heels. He wins. Again. Whatever.

So for the past week, I've been getting little to no sleep due to the toes digging into my side, arms flailing around and hitting me in the face at all hours, and the grinding of little teeth, which by the way, sounds like someone determinedly chewing glass marbles. Oh, the teeth grinding, the teeth grinding! It's worse than nails on a chalkboard, and it occurs directly next to my face. All. night. long.

I also, as I am wont to do, let the dirty dishes build up in the sink until we were completely out of clean spoons and cups. Piles of dishes cluttered the sink, the counter, the stovetop...pretty much every surface area in the kitchen, and they were starting to smell. Probably the smell was coming from the half-full mug of milk that had been abandoned on the counter top three days ago, but I couldn't be sure.

Then, last night, we're sitting on the brand new couch watching Mighty Machines (for at least the twentieth time), when Eliot decides to shift positions in my lap and kicks over a glass of Sprite, which goes splashing and fizzling all over the keyboard of my laptop. Awesome.

So this morning, with my laptop sitting in a frightening state of dis-assembly on the kitchen table, drying out, the keys most likely sticking for good, I decide that by-golly I'm gonna turn this vehicle around! I fill the sink with hot water, throw in the dish soap and start scrubbing my heart out.

With the kitchen debacle addressed, I turn to the blank wall above my couch. I've been waiting forever to hang pictures and artwork because I still haven't found an arrangement for the furniture in the living room that suits my fancy. 

I move framed prints around on the floor until I decide I have an arrangement I like, and I go to hammer a nail into the wall. Unfortunately, I get the nail too high, I hang the first picture and automatically hate it, and that's all it takes to send me spiraling into the depths of despair.

I look around at my cluttered, inadequate, unlovely living room and all I can think is that this is not home. I won't ever have a home again. I'm a terrible parent. I don't make Eliot mind because I'm completely ineffective at discipline and he's going to grow up with this awful sense of entitlement and be a lazy, good-for-nothing, mean, terrible man because of me. And I'll never be able to prove that I tried my best and loved him, because I'll lose all the pictures of his childhood that were on my hard drive because I neglected to back up my files because I am lazy and incompetent. I'll never blog again because I can't afford a new laptop.

Hot tears slide down my cheeks and I make my retreat. I lie sideways across my too-small bed that takes up too much space in my tiny bedroom and attempt stillness. My stomach is in knots of restless, anxious, hysterical emotion and I cannot imagine anything ever being okay again.

Somehow, though, from somewhere, I gather the strength to stand back up. I go back to the living room and look around. I don't like what I see. I go into the kitchen and survey my surroundings there. No food to speak of, and the floor is dirty, but the countertops are clean and gleaming dishes are stacked neatly in the drying rack.

I move back into the living room and pick a flat brown paper bag off the top of a pile of magazines, newspapers and other debris on my desk. I take out two vintage flashcards that I bought in Chicago last weekend at this great store, Four-Sided, and I pound a nail through each, securing them to the wall.

The flashcards say, simply, "Keep Going."

And somehow, I do.


It's what's for breakfast.

Eliot has been on a long kick of eating Poptarts for breakfast. Not all that surprising, considering that his mother has a serious Poptart addiction and finds it perfectly acceptable to eat Poptarts at all hours of the day--they aren't just for breakfast anymore, you know.

Unfortunately, this morning, we were out of Poptarts...so I started listing all the breakfast options. "Do you want toast, waffles, cereal...?"

Eliot pipes up, "Yeah! Cereal! Do we have yucky things?"

Me: "Yucky things?"

Eliot: "Yeah, Yucky Things, with the mushrooms!"

Me: Think, think, think...
"Ohhhhhh, you mean THESE Yucky Things?"

Eliot: "Yeah, yeah! I want Yucky Things for breakfast!"

Mmmm...we do love our "Yucky Things." But he only really wants to pick out the "mushrooms."

My word, this kid makes me so happy. :)


It's official.

I am divorced.

My ten year marriage is legally over, our assets and debts divided up, papers signed. Eliot will bounce back and forth between the two of us like a ping pong ball for the next fifteen years.

It isn't what I wanted.

I thought I would feel a sense of relief, maybe have a lighter step walking out of the courthouse, as though the proceedings would lift the weight of grief off me. But that didn't happen. I walked down the courthouse steps with tears streaming down my face, barely aware of my surroundings. I stumbled to my car and drove back to my apartment in a blur.

I sit here now, contemplating my (and Eliot's) future, wondering what life may have in store for us next. My head knows that this is for the best. My head knows that I will be happier and healthier with my marriage behind me. My head just hasn't successfully conveyed this truth to my heart yet.

I have felt, in the last couple of weeks, like a trapeze artist, perched on the edge of the platform, waiting in darkness for my turn to perform. And today, in court, the spotlight swung to me, and I swung through the air with a determined grip on the bar. I can't see where I'm going. Everything is a blur of colors and faces. I don't know if I'm headed for the opposite platform, or if there's someone swinging towards me to catch me. A large part of me is afraid, terrified to let go.

But I know it will be okay. I will let go when I am ready, and at that point I will not fear the blind flight through the air. Because the net beneath me is made up of wonderful people. Family, friends, fellow bloggers, even the adorable couple who run my local coffee shop and gave me extra whipped cream in my drink today--all are standing there below me with joined hands, ready to catch me should I fall.

But...I will not fall.