Due to Extenuating Circumstances

Adventures in Unplanned Parenthood


With the voting climate as it is right now, it seemed like a good time to bring forth some good old-fashioned flag-waving, true blue sacrifice for our country. I probably shouldn’t be telling all of you this. If I looked through the paperwork we signed I’m sure the government told me to keep this private, national security, lives at stake, something something no, we don’t get what’s up with Trump’s hair either, but seriously this is a secret. But, as a proud mama, I have to brag just a little. My son is going to be hired by our Army as a WMD: a Whippersnapper of Mass Distraction.

He’ll be put in key diplomatic strategy meetings, and then he’ll do what he does right now, 24/7. He’ll pull himself up on furniture then scream because he can’t get down. He’ll be sitting and watching the Wiggles and if one of them is wearing a costume he doesn’t like he’ll scream for hours. Doesn’t like the pants Daddy put him in? Scream. Daddy runs to the bathroom? Scream! Mommy took his empty Cheerios bowl? Double scream, because now mommy is a jerkface AND there’s no Cheerios. Mommy comes back with more Cheerios? This is a time for earth-shattering, top-level screaming because if Mommy had a clue she would have saved the inevitable heartbreak and brought the box to the bowl, not the other way around.

He gets himself turned around in his crib and screams. We put him on his back, tucked in, just like he likes but then we leave again; screaming. He rolls over and back again–Doppler effect screaming! Would you care to guess what happens when he wants yogurt but with CINNAMON, dammit, not FRUIT? Well, ordinarily fruit is delicious and he would like it. But now right now, get cinnamon because BABY ANGRY. Feel the need to SCREAM. YOU WON’T LIKE ME WHEN I’M SCREAMY. Sometimes I hear my baby but I see this:



I’d ask my friends if this is normal, but none of them with kids can hear anymore. I have a friend with three boys that gave up and decided to use baby sign language. Not for her kids, they talk just fine. She and her husband use it because their hearing is never coming back. Mac and I seek television programs we’ll enjoy that aren’t in English because then the subtitles roll merrily along and all we need to do is keep the “I’m mad because I’m mad” screams from escalating to “I might actually have a problem here” screams.

I reckon Baby could be deployed to lots of countries that value silence and decorum. See, in Brazil, I’d bet ten minutes of wiggling and dancing while you scream isn’t inappropriate, it’s part of the health plan to keep people sane and good-natured. But let’s pull this out at a meeting calling for high and strict levels of decorum. Your Russians, your Japanese, your Liechtensteiners (who are solemn because nobody ever remembers to spell their country correctly), imagine taking in this adorable child, who is renowned for his cuteness and lovability,  and letting him scream every time one of the diplomats wants to make a point. We can cut summits down to two hours, and half of that is drinking coffee and waiting for staff to put on The Wiggles again so the weapon can be diffused and sent to his nap with Norman the blue elephant and his favorite blankie.

I don’t even accept this is a phase anymore. He’s just going to scream, often, randomly, at unbelievable decibel levels every day until the day Mac and I have both gone on to our great reward. That reward will be sound cancelling headphones and a thanks from the US government for asking what we could do for this country, and answering President Kennedy’s call with the loudest human being ever created.

Don’t worry! You can thank us for our patriotism, too. In writing, please.


An ode to the airport wheelchair drivers

I’d like to take a moment to sing the praises of somebody many of you will never have met: the people who wheelchair you through airports. Or, more precisely, you may not have truly seen them. Let me explain. I have gotten to know a few of them pretty well. I even know one guy’s name, but I won’t give it here because I didn’t ask permission.

One of my close friends, let’s call her Kit, was born with a serious spinal condition. She is, in the true meaning of the word, a genius. I can’t tell you what her government job is, but when she sees the Oval Office on TV shows like Scandal she can tell you exactly how many things they got wrong. She texted me awhile back saying she felt very embarrassed to use the wheelchair drivers at the airport. If anyone should be embarrassed, it’s Charles Darwin. To put one of the most brilliant minds our country has to offer in a casing that can’t walk 100 feet was REALLY DUMB. We want this brain to be mobile. We WANT this brain able to do its thing anytime, anywhere. Having this brain in such a fragile casing is like creating an egg only instead of a yolk there’s a nuclear weapon inside. We shouldn’t have to worry one wrong move costs our nation untold misery.

But I digress. I fucking love the wheelchair people. Believe it or not, by the time I’ve ridden in the car, gone through ticketing and checked my carryon (I do NOT do luggage. Nothing. Nada. A purse is almost my limit) there’s no way I’m taking off my shoes and coat, giving up my cane, walking through the silly machine, finding my gate, using the bathroom then boarding. Sweet baby Buddha. This sequence of events would be performed without a wheelchair if you threatened to take away my lifetime’s supply of chocolate but not for anything less. So, I ask for a wheelchair.

Airlines may suck at a lot of things but let me tell you, I haven’t ever been let down by a wheelchair driver. They meets me at the airport door, stop for anything I want (bathroom? Of course. ATM? No problem. Pretzel because all other food makes me want to puke? One Auntie Anne’s coming right up). I don’t think I could take Baby alone, so when Mac has Baby, we all get to load up in the little golf cart and whiz through O’Hare or National.

My favorite guy at O’Hare is a man with an obvious intellectual disability. Doing this job right takes his full concentration and he’s very careful to do it right. Somehow there’s a weird cloak of invisibility (sorry, J.K. Rowling) that can envelop people with disabilities. In my temporary status as a person with mobility issues I see it now. I’m pretty sure the perfect murder involves looking disabled. Nobody sees you. Their eyes glide right on by.

I’m thankful for the airport wheelchair drivers of the world. Next time you see one, really see one. Trust me, for the people who need them we really, really need them.

And Kit– don’t be embarrassed. They’re putting food on the table in an honest job and you KNOW you can’t walk that far. Besides, honey…nobody sees us. You know they don’t.

A blanket apology to my elders

Every young person has done it at least once in his or her life: looked at someone who is getting older and thought “Haven’t you been communicating since your 3rd birthday? Just how hard is it to tell walk into the room and tell me you’re looking for TV remote?” Or your keys. Or flamethrower. I don’t know how you live your life.

But now, as karma is wont to do, I have been unquestionably castigated for my arrogant ways. My brain has been accelerated by about 20 years and I will never, ever laugh at somebody’s senior moment again so help me deity.

Regular readers (I love each and very one of you! You don’t know how important you are to me. On a scale of “I’d spit on you to put out a fire” and “I’d donate a kidney to you” you are so much closer to kidney than you’ll ever know). Anyway. You know I have some mobility issues that have increased considerably since Baby came home. My back and front finally formed a union and they have made sure everything goes on strike. A recent MRI showed enough significant damage to my lumbar region and a disc that I’m looking at one surgery this spring, if not two.If the one in back doesn’t solve the issue they’re going through the front to monkey around some more. As I’m sure you can imagine, this has made things like picking up a squirmy little bundle of cheeks and giggles more painful for me than I can really tolerate without help. I’m now on a prescription painkiller designed to be used for long term “management of moderate to severe pain.” So! Great news! My new specialist is trying to do right by me and relieve the pain that has been genuinely impeding every facet of my life. Now here’s the bad news.

One of this drug’s primary side effects is short term memory difficulty, particularly with words. Let me get rid of medical jargon and boil this down: I CANNOT FUCKING TALK. I’ll be in the middle of a story and I need a name, or the place, or the damned punchline but poof! It has vanished like a wisp of smoke.How does somebody who teaches and writes for a living forget the word “communication?” I looked right at Mac and told him I was having such terrible, uh, uh, AAAARRRRG. I made a motion where I pointed between the two of us really fast. He says “communicate?” YES DAMMIT. I’m having real troubling communicating with my doctor about this surgery. Lest you think I’m  cherry picking a single time, here is a list of ways this has happened to me in the last week:

  • I needed help feeding the baby. You know, with the’small shovel we put in his face.”
  • I’m currently trying my hand at writing fiction for fun. This had been enjoyable until I had to press “Ctrl F” to use the search function to remember my main character’s first name. It simply would not get from my brain onto the keyboard.
  • I was remembering the day a Jewish friend invited us for Shabbat dinner. She served delicious…delicious…Google “Noodle meal for Jewish people.”
  • My son couldn’t find his– damn. Damn. Mac, where is the car with a big mouth to lift dirt? Right. The bulldozer.
  • I forgot the name of a man my husband worked with for 8 years. “Head of the Department” came out as “the chief of professors.”

It’s mostly limited to words, but other great stuff happens too. I really need to take my pills. Oh good, here they are. Wait. Are they there because I knew I needed them now, or because I just took one on autopilot? Looking up “overdose of painkiller XXX” revealed we are super sure I don’t want to be guessing on that one. Pill box, stat. I wash clothes, put them in a basket and ask Mac to carry it upstairs. I forget to hang it up right away. Next day…good morning! I should do something that will be useful around here today. So I do the dishes, vacuum if my back will let me, and take the basket of our dirty stuff sitting in our room and promptly wash it. I bet I have underwear I have washed 3 times in a row. Mac has had to explain plots of TV shows we saw just last week.

Three days ago I needed some water to take one of pills. I needed water, then to get in bed, takes meds, and rest or I was going to be in very bad shape in the upcoming hours. This is a real picture, not staged, of how I handled that.



I don’t have a clue which glass of water I made first or why I went back into the kitchen then got another one. None. At all.

The funny thing is, I don’t think any of this is serious. Everybody in the Borden household is eating, we have tons of help with Baby, and I’m very aware of my med schedule to be there for him when he needs it. I’m not a Roy Lichtenstein incident. I’ve never said “Oh my God! I left the baby on the bus!” If you don’t know that painting you should. It’s wonderful.  Although we don’t ride a bus.

Do we?

So, in conclusion, I apologize to everyone I have ever mocked for not getting your brain in gear when it really should have been. I now know it’s a little wiring glitch, is all.

I owe you. I hope you don’t expect to be greeted by name.


Standing Orders

Baby has decided he simply will not crawl. This is a thing he politely declines, thank you all the same. However he’s pretty interested in standing, which of course will lead to walking. He understands the essential mechanisms required; he can put his right foot under his butt, use his arms to creep up the couch, then heave himself up so he can support himself on the cushions of the couch. The problem, as far as I can tell, is his left foot. It keeps rolling inwards.

I thought it would help if I gently pushed his left foot onto the ground and gave him something fun to reach for as an incentive. First I tried a cute song where I sing as I softly push his precious little toesies into place. Failure. He has a big yellow truck he likes to push around so I set it on the couch and we try standing again. Right foot planted, hands balanced on the couch and… nope. Left foot caves and he falls on his butt. Try again just the same and…no good. Maybe the truck isn’t a good enough incentive? I put the remote up there. Like all humans born male, he feels an instinctive gravitational pull to anything that will control a TV. 75% of the way there…damn. Complete mission failure due to insufficient support on the left. By now he’s frustrated and I figure the last thing he needs is pressure. So we abandon the game and I run to answer the phone.

When I come back, he’s crying. Oh my goodness, what’s wrong? Did I push him too far? Is he frustrated? Is his left ankle too weak? So I try to comfort him and move on with our play session. This is weird though. He really is crying and now he looks like he means it. So, crying cessation checklist please. Hungry? No. Teeth hurting? No. Nose running? No. Diaper wet? No. Well, wait. That’s weird. His diaper is dry, but he’s stopped crying. “Are you hot? Does that feel better, if we have a little Naked Baby Time?”

Sure enough. I peel off his pants and onesie and set him back in his play area on the floor. But. Malaise. Not crying, but not happy. I press his favorite buttons on the yellow truck. Meh. I put the fuzzy red football in the truck and make it vroom around. Meh. Let’s put on Daniel Tiger! You LOVE the opening song! Meh.

Good Lord, kid, you have got to work it out yourself because I really need the bathroom. In the 37 seconds I’m gone I hear him make some babbling sounds, then a giggle, then hysterical laughter. What’s this ridiculous magic? What have you found that Mommy couldn’t provide in the last 45 minutes?

I come out of the bathroom, drying my hands on my hair because (let’s face it) that’s where my recent beauty regimen is peaking at the moment, and I see the source of my son’s delight. He is in his diaper, with the nearest trashcan completely upended, and he is eating dirty Kleenex. There are bits of soggy tissue on the carpet, in his hair, around his mouth, up his nose, on the cat, and strewn around the couch cushions.

My son, whom I am lovingly guiding towards a fulfilling future of reaching milestones at appropriate times without undue pressure, will not stand for a fun song, a truck or a TV remote. But he will stand to take bits of snotty Kleenex out of his mouth and grind it into the couch cushions.

I’ll say this for myself: I did replace the tissue he was eating with an unused one. My child might be naked, knocking over trashcans and eating garbage while I watch Daniel Tiger and drink Jameson’s Irish Whiskey straight from the bottle, BUT. By God, my son will be eating a CLEAN Kleenex before he grinds it into my couch cushions, thank you very much.


Master Borden’s Terrible, Horrible…

Master Borden’s Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Cold

I was right in the middle of pondering major life decisions, like should we actually go out to that French restaurant we like for Valentine’s Day? Should I buy a new fender? Do I need to start worrying about calcium?When–eeeeeeeeew. What the hell was that?

Whoa. Baby has had the sniffles before. He’s even had colds before. But not like this, this one is…how to explain? This cold evokes many of the most disgusting and graphic words our language has to offer, including mucilaginous, a gooey, secretion-like drippy oozing that sounds exactly like what it means. I’d also including honking, wheeze-snoting, nasally bulbous seepage, and whine-sputum.

What bothers me the most is that this cold is just like taking the car in for repair. When I actively seek to help a symptom, it immediately goes away. If I stick his old nemesis the snotsucker into his nose, NOTHING comes out. Why? It’s up there? I can hear it rattling around in there. If his head were clear, you could see the shifting tides of mucus in his poor little sinuses. But no. I remove nothing. The only upside is that it tickles his nose, so when I put the bulb down, he can sneeze a great big watery goop all over my hands, face, and (if he’s really lucky) dinner. Then of course he remembers “dinner! We were eating!”

I don’t have to tell you what he reaches for next. I tell myself it’s no worse than the French eating snails and try to move on with my life. My gross, gross life.

In terms of pathos, by far the time I feel the most sorry for him is when he wakes up from a nap. He’s so congested, and fussy, and has stuff dribbling out of so many more holes than he’s used to. This makes him cry. And it’s a sad, little snuffly cry like “why don’t you make it better? Mommy?Whhhy?” Not a big shouty “why?”, a tiny “what have I done to deserve this? w-w-why” that would melt the heart of anybody, including horrible world leaders. I’m thinking of recording this cry in several languages and deploying it against war-mongering despots.

I’d write more about this, but Baby’s eating Cheerios, and unless General Mills recently came out with a Jelled Cheerios, Premoistened for Your Convenience! I need to find the snotsucker. It’s the only thing that makes him sneeze, which makes him feel better, which makes me feel better, and also reminds me not to book a French restaurant for Valentine’s Day.

The Molar Express

It’s 2:45 Saturday morning. I’m attempting to calm down to go to bed after another one of the Imes Borden’s favorite nighttime activities; a visit from the Tooth Bastard. The Tooth Bastard is the ugly, paunchy, beer-gutted uncle nobody likes to have over from the Tooth Fairy family. The Tooth Bastard comes at 2 am and sticks a dental backhoe in your kid’s mouth, excavates a nice big hole, then uses a pair of rusted ice tongs (pictured) to pull the tooth out by bracing the molar and pulling it through the recently broken gum surface.tongs

This is the most plausible explanation for the noises I heard at 2 am, when Baby started screaming in a way I haven’t witnessed since I scarred him for life with that Oscar the Grouch washcloth.

I can completely believe that the pioneers kept alcohol in the house for “medicinal purposes.” You didn’t hear Baby screaming. Trust me; rubbing his gums with whiskey, followed by a shot (just one ounce, we’re not lushes) would be the most humane thing I could do for my child right now. Also, his diaper was absolutely sodden, which to my mind is further proof the Tooth Bastard exists. If you saw the Tooth Bastard in your bedroom with a back hoe and ice tongs wouldn’t you wet yourself?

At dinner tonight I had noticed Baby has his first back tooth coming in. You don’t appreciate precisely how big a back tooth is until you sit down and have a good think about how one of those icebergs has to shove itself through your gums and take its place inside your mouth. It must make the baby so damn mad at me. Think about it– to the baby, we’re nothing short of deities. We make light appear when it’s dark, we make food appear when there’s hunger, we punch one series of magic buttons to hear Grandma out of a rectangle machine and another series of buttons to make Daniel Tiger pop onto the TV. It must seem pretty mean that we refuse to fix the teething thing. After all the pictures he’s tolerated being in and all the new outfits he’s posed in, the fact we won’t kick the Tooth Bastard in the nuts must seem lackadaisical at best.

So folks, we’re going to make this one interactive. In the comments below, please leave your best suggestions to help a teething baby! We’re going to draw the line at shots of whiskey for the baby. But not for us, so keep those label recommendations coming.

The Bitch is Back

Coming from our “nobody’s perfect” corner of the Internet, I have to talk about the  woman I’m a constant bitch to. Come to think of it, I hope she’s only the one, but I know I must have my blindspots like anybody else. The thing is, my mother raised me with all of the usual cornerstones of good friendship: the Golden Rule, If You Can’t Say Something Nice…, If You’d Enjoy Receiving It It’s a Good Gift to Give, and Those Who Live in Glass Houses etc. It isn’t that my mom failed. It’s not my mom’s fault. It’s completely my own. I look down on this one particular mommy and I am ruthless.

Her kid can look a little worse for wear. Oatmeal crusted on his face, crud gluing his hair together, boogers. All my other friends, I’m willing to chalk it up to a bad morning, in a rush, woke up late, whole family has a cold. It’s bitchy to hold some people to a higher standard but I admit I do it. It bothers me when her kid looks gross.

Going to her house is not a nice experience for me a lot of the time. I know it’s not fair to compare BC and AC (Before Child and After Child). You’d think that as I watch my own baby smearing rice cereal into the rug or throwing Cheerios at the cat it would remind me that houses are for living in, not showcasing. Nope; inner bitch could not care less. “When was the last time a vacuum appeared on this floor? Is anything coming out of that kitchen sanitary? Nice bathroom, Typhoid Mary.”

The worst though, is my SAHM (stay at home mothering) scale. If you aren’t going to return to the workplace, then taking care of your house and child IS YOUR FULL TIME JOB. This is the one I can’t keep to myself. There are plenty of people in the world who have legitimate reasons for needing daycare or help with housework. This woman IS NOT ONE OF THEM. Not only is she failing to bring in money, she’s actually costing twice what she should: the loss of her income PLUS the money to pay daycare three days a week. If your major achievement for the day was making dinner (in a gross kitchen) then eating it on TV trays (kitchen table is filled with useless crap) you are probably not a good bargain for your spouse or your kid(s).  The coup de grace is her husband having to do things for the baby that she said she would do. He works all day then plays Superdad nights and weekends. On my SAHM scale, there aren’t enough excuses in the book for this one. Either you’re pulling your own weight or you’re being pulled. She’s dead weight.

So, in an effort to quit being quite such a mega-bitch, I asked a friend why this woman bothers me so much. She broke it down into three main categories.

  1. Children don’t look like ads for Baby Gap all the time. If I can have compassion towards people with actual problems, can’t I lighten up a little on things like a toddler having peanut butter on his pants?
  2. The house. When I go to visit Robin or AJ, do I care if their house is messy? Of course not. I’m there for good company, not the damn Parade of Homes. They have children who might be charitably described as compact tropical storms: they’re high impact, loud, and leave a trail of devastation everywhere they make landfall. If I can enjoy their company and their children, can’t I do that for everyone?
  3. Finally, the SAHM scale. I have a friend in Atlanta named Lindy. Lindy makes gorgeous food, has three kids who look like a catalog cover, lives in a Better Homes and Gardens house, and she’s even nice to boot. But Lindy still has problems. She still has serious stuff to get through. If I pay attention to her whole life, rather what I see on Facebook, I know there’s no such thing as the perfect SAHM. If I found out tomorrow Lindy had a terrible misfortune, would I quit being her friend because she wasn’t doing homemade gourmet food every evening? If, god forbid, her husband got sick or she got seriously injured, would she be a different person if the kids went to daycare for awhile so she could be at the hospital? Hell, no. I’d stand by her and offer to help, not make bitchy and snide comments about the need to jettison some dead weight so everybody else can be happier.

So, time to cut the cattiness. Yes, her kid can be a mess, her house can be gross and I need to have more compassion for why her son is in daycare. She’s not a bad mom, she’s a mom facing serious challenges and my support would get everybody so much further than assuming she’s a bum who won’t take responsibility for her own kid. If Robin, AJ and Lindy wouldn’t get cut down, then she shouldn’t either. Excuse me, I have an apology to go make.

Let me find a mirror.

Reasons My Baby is Crying

One year old edition:

  1. He is not allowed to stick his head in the living room trash can
  2. I won’t let him eat splinters the cat has scratched off of the baskets that were supposed to be a tasteful and low-budget place to put away toys in the living room
  3. He waved a plastic spoon at the cat, the cat tried to catch it in his claws, and it scared him. Which then scared the cat. I now have a crying baby and an actual, substantive scaredy cat in my living room.
  4. The baby isn’t allowed to throw Cheerios at me while I’m trying to feed him food that contains anything other than Cheerios
  5. The Cheerios are damp because he drooled on them
  6. The Cheerios are missing because he threw them on the ground
  7. We’re out of Cheerios
  8. Mommy left him alone to put on pants that can be seen outside the house so she can BUY MORE FUCKING CHEERIOS WHAT, DID YOUR BIRTH PARENTS BUY YOU STOCK IN GENERAL MILLS?
  9. Daddy can be heard on the stairs but not seen.
  10. Daddy can be seen in the kitchen but isn’t talking directly to him.
  11. Daddy is looking at him and talking to him but he wants the cat.
  12. He’s not allowed to eat paper towels
  13. He’s not allowed to suck on the ends of computer charging cords
  14. He is only allowed one episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood a day, and that’s 7/8 more of an episode than Mommy can handle without doing something more stimulating, like sticking her hand in a Veg-O-Matic
  15. He wonders why his train stops rolling when it hits something
  16. He stood up using the bottom of the couch for support then got scared of heights
  17. He smelled his own fart and got angry
  18. He saw a picture of himself on my phone then got sad when the screen went blank
  19. “Rock Out Elmo” fell over and it looks like he’s having a seizure
    • OK, I’ll give him that one
  20. I came in from shoveling snow and directly went to put my cold hands in his pajamas to change his diaper.
    • OK, I give him that one, too.

Iowa, one year later

Dear Iowans,

I generally enjoy your state, although I can’t claim any regular or lasting contact with it. I have fond memories of high school speech tournaments in Ottumwa which is famous for being the home of fictional character Radar O’Reilly and a Breadeaux pizza which tasted liked youth, enthusiasm and freedom when I was 15. My cousin got a very nice doctorate from one of your schools and she seems to being doing quite a bit of good with it, so well done there. You supported us for 3 weeks when the Baby came barreling into our lives at the speed of light. You probably shouldn’t put the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino on your postcards, nevertheless we have great memories of completing our family there. You even have a baseball movie about you, which is a very nice feather in your cap and it should feel good that you made the last ever Kevin Costner movie that wasn’t an hour too long or needed a budget concerning Kevin’s vanity CGI hairplug requirements.

You’re pretty liberal for a place as close to Nebraska as you are. In 1869 you had America’s first female lawyer. You were ahead of us on gay marriage. Your 2013 Miss Iowa was a fantastic lady named Nicole Kelly; she had one arm. That’s progressive, and, full disclosure, Nikki was Mac’s student and she let him wear the crown and everything. You need to be confident in your masculinity and genuinely be liked by your students to wear Miss Iowa’s crown with a smile on your face. He had fun and Nikki has helped lots of people born with disabilities, so thanks for that.

On February 1st you’ll caucus, Iowa. It’s America’s first real litmus test on who is going to be primetime and who’s left in the dust of election history. As you prepare, I ask you for this, as a humble Nebraskan who is the mother of a son born in your great state:


Please remember that this is the little boy that Donald Trump dismissed as being lesser. Trump said we can’t be sure what kind of person he’ll be because he was born of Mexican residents currently residing in the US. Donald Trump thinks he knows something about how this little boy will behave, will dream, will think, will act because he is of the same blood that brought us Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Guillermo Del Toro, Anthony Quinn (yes, really!), Octavio Paz, Pancho Villa and Salma Hayek.

I’m not asking that all of you vote for a Democrat. I strenuously believe in the economic values upheld by the Republican party; without them, people like Mac and I would tax everybody 87%. We’d have three protective social policies in place for every human in the US, plus some very nice programs for cats, dogs, hamsters, under-appreciated plants, foods that are no longer trendy and a Medicaid equivalent for unhealthy looking goldfish. There needs to be balance for the system to work and that makes sense to me.

Iowa, can we agree balance doesn’t involve tracing Muslims? It doesn’t require policing breastfeeding? Should balance look like shaming the overweight, making fun of the disabled or infantilizing women? Can we shake hands on finding a conservative candidate who isn’t actually a radical in expensive sheep’s clothing?

Iowa, your Mexican-American son needed you a year ago to guide him to my loving arms. You were so generous you let him come to Nebraska when you could have selfishly kept such a superior baby for yourself. He needs you again. This time, he needs you to fight for the right to be a fully invested, flag waving, America loving, real-live nephew of his Uncle Sam. Please vote for somebody that lets my son proudly be the American in Mexican-American.

Thank you, Iowa.



Falling Slowly

I’ll warn you now, if you have yet to see the 2006 movie Once, you’re about to have it spoiled. If seeing it was not on your current list of Must Do’s, you’re safe. You have made a terrible error in your priorities, but you’re safe.

Once is one of my all-time favorite movies. This is really saying something. I hesitate greatly to give that title to any movie because so many films have meant a lot to me at different times, for different reasons. I think most people are that way with books, movies, TV shows, songs. There are some you can’t shake, but the best and brightest might change over time. Why is Once one of my favorites? For those that know me well, the next sentence may suffice: it’s an independent film that is as much a love letter to Dublin as any other point it serves. But that isn’t the real reason. The real reason is much more personal than that.

Once is the story of Guy and Girl. Guy plays the guitar on Dublin’s main shopping street. Girl has immigrated from the Czech Republic. She is younger, and she has a daughter by her husband who can’t really understand her passion for music, for a beautifully crafted piano, for life. Guy and Girl share stories of former loves, make (literal) beautiful music together, and then spend one epic weekend recording their best hits so that Guy can move to London to start a music career.

I love that Once was done on a small budget and that many of the “extras” are people who blundered onto the set. I love that it has been turned into a beautiful stage show, with imaginative use of a single space and insanely talented musician/actors. I love that it does not have a happy ending; it has a grown up ending. Husbands and children do need to be considered. Fantasies of running away and starting a band are usually just that: fantasies. I love that in real life the Guy and Girl DID fall in love (albeit with a rather large age gap) and their dreams of a small film with original music came true. I love that they later broke up, because as painful as it must have been, not all fairy tales last forever. I love that they won an Oscar for Best Song with “Falling Slowly.”

Most of all, far and away most of all, I love that this movie is about a man who is pursuing his dream, trying hard to make it come true, a man who won’t give up, a man that everybody knows has it but he hasn’t been able to show it, a man who is 36. A 36 year old man that just hasn’t gotten there yet. When do we quit trying? When do we accept that if we were truly good enough we would have “made it” by now?

Glen Hansard had a group before this movie, and his songs had been on the Irish charts, but he didn’t truly find an international audience until his mid 30’s. He’s a voice in the industry now, moving along through his 40’s in a world where you need to be young (and beautiful) or lucky or exceedingly talented (with a break) to get enough money to make art. He bet long odds on his talent. Do you know how many people I’m friends with that are exceptional actors, directors, writers, singers, dancers, that aren’t working? Or they book a few jobs a year and spend the rest of their time doing whatever it takes to make it to the next gig? Do you know how many of them give up? How many gifted performers you’ll never see in anything because they couldn’t find the right break at the right time? They burn out. They tell themselves it’s better to kill it themselves than watch it fall slowly until it smashes to pieces. Or, like me, they take a few commercial jobs a year and hope like hell for the chance to make some art. When the art gets swallowed in nepotism, unannounced pre-casting, insistence that actors brought in from New York are necessarily better than actors in the Midwest…it doesn’t take long to suffocate hope.

Today, after an exceptional audition, an exceptional callback, even personal notes from people present congratulating me on a great audition…I got the official notice my dream job went to someone else. Another woman will stand in front of thousands this summer. She’ll wear the costumes and say the lines. She’ll look out and see the faces I’ve imagined for 20 years.

That’s why I love Once so much. It’s why I’m watching it now. Great music, unknown talent, daring film making, and a grown up ending about giving the 36 year old The Break. I’m still Falling Slowly, unwilling to kill The Break on my own. I volunteer to keep falling.


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