Magic Trick

I learned early to avoid your gaze.
Survival comes from looking down at my feet,
amplifying every stretch of my ankle,
angling my body to the side,
as if the mere act of shifting myself for you
would give you enough space to ignore my existence.
I would agonize over my bangs,
drag them down to cover light, almond eyes.
Hiding in plain sight was always an arduous process.
I used my skin, an atypical artifice, as a Halloween mask
and abracadabra –
I disappeared.

© Laura A. Lord, September 2018


Thank you to MindLoveMisery’sMenagerie for their prompt.

To Watch Him Love

I went through a year of horrendous online dating before I met the man who became my husband. I wasn’t exactly a poster girl for the most eligible bachelorette, but none of my hold-ups were much excuse for the sort of men I met. I was 24 years old and a full time student. I worked part time, lived with my parents, was divorced, and had two children under the age of five. I’m not an unattractive woman, but men weren’t exactly beating down my door to date me. More so, I knew that I needed a companion, not just a boyfriend.

I couldn’t seem to even meet a normal, down to earth man. Things became enough of a joke around the house that my mother would sit up at night and wait for me to get home, collapse on her bed and giggle while sharing all the terrible details of my odd nights out.

There was the man who was allergic to everything. I gave him an innocent kiss after our date, forgetting that I had eaten a piece of chicken, and almost killed him.

Then there was the guy who asked me to hold his belt while in the mall so I wouldn’t get lost.

The man who took the menu out of my hand and ordered food for me like I was three.

The guy who took me to a movie and proceeded to move down to the front row where there was only one open seat to “see better,” leaving me alone.

The man who figured out where I worked and spent an hour walking around the store trying out different women’s lotions before finally admitting he was one of the men I had denied a date request from on an online site.

The guy who took me shopping and then proceeded to tell me how I should dress.

The gentleman who stripped naked in his parent’s living room while I used their restroom.

The dude who attempted to suffocate me on my parent’s couch.

By the time I got around to talking to Mak, I was pretty wary of dates. A whole year of these kinds of dates will do that to a woman. I had a whole safety set-up – complete with emergency friend phone calls lined up and pepper spray.

Mak invited me over for dinner. I had such a good time that I ended up coming home and looking him up on Google and the case search program to see if he had some shady criminal past hiding. There had to be something wrong, considering my past history with online dating. He had a speeding ticket. That was it. Needless to say, I was impressed.

The next morning we had a quick conversation.

“I’m not really interested in playing around,” he said. “I like you. Let’s make this serious.”

If any other man I’d gone on a date with had said that to me I’d have gone running for the hills.

“Okay,” I said.

I don’t know why. I’d hate to chalk it up to some sort of fate thing, but maybe part of me knew he wasn’t a psycho killer. Maybe there was some deeper connection. Maybe I was just really brave.

Within a few weeks he had met my children and included them in our outings.

541497_397525856932511_2036391058_nA few months later was Easter and I was scrawling ‘I love you’ onto an egg and hiding it in the fridge.

“Go get the orange egg out of the fridge,” I told him.

He got up and I heard the fridge door open. After a moment it closed again and he came back to the couch.

Silence.

“Well…” I started.

“Well what?” He asked.

“What did you think?” I asked. It was the first time I’d attempted to tell the man I loved him and he was being completely stubborn about the whole thing.

“It’s cute,” he said.

“And…” I lead him.

“I love you, too,” he said. “You know that.”

By the end of the year he had moved in. We were blessed in our relationship. There hadn’t been many of the big challenging moments. His father passed a few weeks before our wedding, but it was expected, and while we mourned it hadn’t surprised us. Their relationship had been so strained, for so long. It was the first time though that I ever saw him cry – a moment that I think is imprinted in my memory. There is something about seeing a strong man mourn, something heartbreaking and frightening and so real it hurts that one simply doesn’t forget it.

I remember standing by his father’s bed. He sat in a chair across the room from me. I went to him, but he didn’t reach for me. I stepped back – gave him space. I didn’t know how to handle his grief. He took a few moments to himself and I watched him. I watched the years, the pain, the neglect from that relationship wash away. For those few moments there was love.

There hadn’t been many of those bring-you-to-your-knees moments. We didn’t even really fight or argue. We were thankful to have found a companion in one another that shared a similar sense of humor. Laughter got us through any time things seemed to be getting dark.

He stepped into the role of father as if it were all he’d ever known. It was never a look-at-me exercise, but came naturally. There was a gaping hole in our little family25248_108453875839712_7044406_n and he saw it, stepped into it, and never looked back. It was in the quiet way he made that transition that still never fails to amaze me.

He has a silent strength in him. A code of ethics that can’t be argued or even discussed. They simply are.

Perhaps it’s because of his quiet nature that people find him intimidating. Combining that with the sleeves of tattoos and long dark hair, it’s quite understandable. However, anyone watching him drink tea from a tiny porcelain cup with my daughter would realize how wrong they are.

Four years after that first date and I was talking to my brother in California, planning his trip home to visit.

“When is he coming home?” Mak asked.

“The end of June,” I said.

“Good,” he said. “We’ll get married then.”

Proposal. Date set. End of discussion.

I had a month to get everything planned and ready.

I love you, too. You know that.

After our wedding we decided to have a baby. A few short months later and I was excitedly waving those little pink lines around in the air. We were so excited we told everyone.

We were at his mother’s for a belated Thanksgiving dinner when I started miscarrying. My husband had the kids in the car while I stood white knuckled on the phone with the emergency room and watched my father-in-law toss the kids’ toys into their book bags. Hours and many tests later the doctor gave us the news.

“There’s no heartbeat.”

I’d known when I saw her face. I’d been crying since she came into the room. I looked across the room at my husband. I expected him to get up, to come to me. The doctor left and he still sat there for a few moments. In that space between us I watched him break, hit his emotional knees, mourn, and grieve. I watched him as he cared for himself and then he came to me. He put himself behind and cared for me.

For the following days he held me while I cried and found whatever ways he could to make me smile. We found laughter in the darkest moments. We suffered. We healed.

We spent months talking back and forth about whether or not to try again. The entire process had frightened him so badly. I learned to appreciate what pregnancy can do to a man. It’s a terrifying situation, especially for one who tends to like to be in control of things. There is no control with pregnancy.

He couldn’t see what was happening inside my body.

He couldn’t control what was happening.

He couldn’t stop me from being in pain, from hurting.

All he could do was be there and hope that I would heal.

“I’m not sure we should try again,” Mak said.

We were lying in bed, the lights off and waiting for one or both of us to become too tired to keep talking.

481829_525481010803661_775093643_n“We’ve got a girl and a boy,” he started. “You know? Maybe that’s enough.”

“You don’t want one of your own?” I asked.

“They are my own,” he said.

A few nights later we were repeating this whole thing again. It was like a record skipping, playing backwards, flinging all over the place. I never knew where we’d end up.

“We could try again,” he said.

“We’re not doing anything to stop it from happening,” I answered.

“If it does, it does,” he’d agree.

Three months of this back and forth indecision plagued us.

Finally he said, “I don’t think we should try again.”

“I’m pregnant,” I said.

We collapsed against one another laughing. For weeks we were quiet. We were so careful not to tell people too early. We went to each appointment with our heart in our throats. Every test was a negative, dangerous thing. Every symptom I had was cause to worry. We struggled to find joy.

Mak kept warning me not to get my hopes up.

I kept countering that he needed to not think so negatively.

We flew past each other, both of us on separate ends of our own emotional roller-coasters.

“Are you happy about the baby?” I finally asked him.

“Of course,” he said. “You know that.”

I love you, too. You know that.

I am five months pregnant today. A few weeks ago we went to the doctor and we got to hear the heartbeat. The tiny whomp whomp whomp sound filled the room. I was942205_603602919658136_1585711832_n laid back on the bed watching my husband. He didn’t stand up and come to me. For a few moments, he sat there and smiled. I watched him in this moment of joy and excitement and relief. I watched him take that moment for himself and then he came to me.

He kisses me every morning before he leaves for work. He tells me he loves me before we fall asleep. He doesn’t have to say that he loves me. I know he does. All I need are those few moments, where there is space between us and I have the chance to really see my husband. It is in those moments that I get to watch him love.

Mutant Babies and Free Stuff

Yesterday I had an appointment with the doctor for an ultrasound and blood work and all those wonderful things.

 

Yeah…it basically went like that.

babyBy the end of it though, we got to see baby and find out that everything looks good. Baby is healthy and active and looking just right for 12 weeks.

I showed the husband the pictures and he laughed and said it still looks like a mutant. I told him that he wouldn’t be very pretty stuck in water for that long either.

Silly man.

In his defense, the 3D images of the baby were relatively frightening (hence why I am not posting them). Baby will be beautiful…in a few more months when it gets here and we can dry it off and dress it and such things.

What?

You want me to be one of those women who “Ooo” and “Aahh” over little grey film of something I still need help deciphering as to what part is what of this amazingly ever-changing little being?

That’s not me.

I’m not even the happy pregnant type.

I’m the…give me my baby and let me get on with the mommy thing type.

It drives me nuts to keep saying “baby.”

I’m ready to say a name. And we’ve got names picked out. So let’s have some fun with this, since I can’t find out for six more weeks if this is a baby Lily or a baby Tommy.

I want you to guess!

Leave your guess in the comments below and in six more weeks all those who guessed right will win a free ebook copy of my newest book, Perjury.

p1

 

The Dog Bite

*Trigger Warning: Domestic abuse and miscarriage

I was twenty, in college, working two jobs, and living at home.

He was eighteen, rebellious, on probation, and my mother hated him. In other words, irresistible.

We dated in secret. When my mom found out, she kicked me out of the house in an act of tough love. Unfortunately, this only increased our resolve.

I moved in with him and lost myself in the process.

I quit my jobs, school, my family, friends….everything, but him.

He was uncaring. Manipulative. Controlling. And despite intense jealousy, he cheated constantly.

But I loved him, and protected him with tsunami intensity.

tsunamiI had zero backbone and even less confidence. Raging insecurity took over any shred of logic, feeding the belief that I didn’t deserve to be treated better.

Not long after our two year anniversary, we moved into a tiny garage apartment in seedy East Dallas. The owner had a dog who was always tied to a long chain in the backyard.

One morning, I walked through the backyard towards my car when the dog  – not realizing who I was – attacked me. I can still feel his teeth driving deep into my leg.

Later that day, it was clear I’d have to see a doctor. The bite ached and throbbed.

I didn’t have insurance, so I went to a tiny doc-in-the-box. Before administering a tetanus shot, the nurse, as a precaution, asked if it was possible I could be pregnant.

I remember laughing and telling her no way.

I hadn’t had a period in months, and my stomach was beginning to protrude from my far-too-skinny frame.

Denial. Maybe if I didn’t think about it….it would just go away. We couldn’t take care of ourselves, much less a baby.

A week after the tetanus shot, I noticed spotting and assumed it was my long-lost period. Relief is the understatement of the year.

Four days after that, I doubled over in the worst pain I’d ever felt. I popped pills for days to sleep through waves of cramps. I bled tremendously.

I knew what was happening.

After days of bleeding and intense pain, I finally had him take me to the emergency room.

He was annoyed with the inconvenience.

I’d lost so much blood I couldn’t even get out of the car. They had to come get me with a wheelchair.

They confirmed I was miscarrying. He was furious with me for losing the baby. The baby he had known about for all of five minutes.

He left while I had a DNC.

I woke up in a hospital room.  Alone.

Hours later, I was released. He wasn’t answering my calls, so a friend gave me a ride home.

He wouldn’t get my pain medicine from the pharmacy.

So I laid there for days with nothing. He didn’t make me food, or help me to the bathroom.

That was the Last Straw. Something inside me began to boil with rage, and I knew I had to get away from him. I finally believed I deserved better.

It took time, planning, two attempts and an actual covert operation, but I finally left him for good, ten weeks after the dog bite.

The dog bite that led to a miscarriage. The miscarriage that led to rock bottom. The rock bottom that led to ENOUGH.

Ironically, the loss of one life was the birth of another.

It’s been over twenty years since then. I can hardly believe I was ever that girl, which is why I tell this story.

I have a lovely eight year old niece now, and if there’s one thing I want to teach her, it’s to never underestimate your value.

Believe you matter, and protect that belief with tsunami intensity.

 *****

CaptureBeth is a day dreaming introvert who managed to acquire an amazing husband and co-create two lunatic boys. She’s a writer, artist, and recovering crazy cat lady who probably doesn’t day drink at all. Writer B is Me is where she unleashes all the shiz in her brain. Consider yourself warned.

Blog: www.bethteliho.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/elizabeth.teliho

Twitter: @beth_teliho

#YesAllWomen and the Change to Come

I’ve got something amazing for you planned for the rest of this month…

And I’m not going to be writing it.

Nope. I managed to grab some fantastic guest writers to share some of their stories and the changes they want to see made. It’s going to be epic.

And I don’t even like that word very much, but there really is no other way to explain it. So until that begins, check out some of these other awesome #YesAllWomen posts and send some love to the brave women who wrote them!

Sadly, All Women by Eileen over at The Life of a Twenty-Something Drama Queen

Elliot Rodger, Cultural Blame, and Why #YesAllWomen Matters by Natalie over at Lefty Pop

#YesAllWomen…Now What? by Lizzi over at Considerings

Lastly, I have some amazing awesome news for you!

Perjury is out!

download (1)

Hard Copy

Kindle Version

If I had to choose a favorite among all my book children, this would be it. I’m extremely proud of this piece, and after so many months of hard work, I’m excited to bring it to you! As I was doing with Wake Up a Woman…any donation to my Walk to End Alzheimer’s will get you a free Kindle copy of Perjury. Thank you all for your continued support!

I’m the Slut in the Grocery Store

I am your sexy eye candy.

I’m only here for you to stare at, to whistle at, to mumble comments under your breathe like some creepy mustached pervert.

This is obviously what I want.

This is why I came here.

I got up this morning and chose clothing based solely on how I thought you would react.

I was looking for a reaction.

To the guy I met in the grocery store today…is this what you think of me? Because when I walked past you, toting my little shopping basket, you paused in the aisle. Your eyes did an exaggerated roving gesture, full head tilt and all, from my feet to my chest and back down. You never even made eye contact with me.

“Damn that looks good,” you said.

That?

That as in my dress, because you can’t have it. It won’t fit you and it really isn’t your color, dude.

Or that as in my body, because that’s not some thing that you get to just give your approval of, claim like an image you post on Facebook of some car/shirt/pair of shoes/house that you want. My body doesn’t go in that list.

But it’s okay, because I ignored you. I said nothing and kept right on walking.

I went and got the bread I came there for.

Except I met you in the line and you were saying it again.

“That looks good.”

And I ignored you.

And then you said, “Bitch.”

Now, because I ignored you…because I didn’t turn around and give you the green-light to go ahead with your degrading attempt at flirting…I’m a bitch.

slutSo now I’m a bitch who came to the grocery store dressed up simply to tease you into thinking you had a chance, because that’s obviously the only reason I would have for coming to the grocery store and I just knew you’d be here.

I must be a tease as well.

That’s me: the slutty, bitch, dick-tease at the grocery store.

You have said less than ten words to me, but they were powerful enough to put me in my place, to make me feel tiny, insignificant…wrong.

So when I turn and blast you. When I growl out, “Just shut up.” When I practically run to my car and lock the doors and head back home to change my clothing, because I don’t want to go to my children’s school in a dress anymore. When I feel less pretty and wipe off my lipstick, because I worry it makes me look like a slut…

Just know that all you had to say was, “You look nice today.”

And I would have smiled.

And I wouldn’t have been a bitch and you wouldn’t have altered my day in such a negative way.

I would have smiled.

I would have said, “Thank you.”

 Herstory Lesson: Don’t let someone else’s ignorance mess with your identity…or your day.

 

Weekly Writing Challenge

I had to do this one.

Because Rarasaur did the prompt and she is awesome.

Because the prompt itself was awesome.

And because I wanted to take a moment and step outside of myself.

So I tossed myself into some fictional woman. Then I threw that woman into a very real place going through very real things that have never really happened in that place.

Did I lose you yet?

Good.

This entire piece is about being lost. It’s dark and dangerous and it came from that part of my mind that even Norman is afraid of.

Enjoy, while I go coax that hairy barbarian out from behind Ellie’s dressing table.

Operation: To the Teeth

The sun is setting on the century and we are armed to the teeth. The lyrics of Ani DiFranco’s gritty music filled my head, setting the theme song for the backdrop that I was coming to know so well. There’s an order to things. A specific set of gradual occurrences that succeed tragedy, grief, destruction, invasion. Yes, it had been an invasion, as difficult as that may be to believe. That was the first occurrence: the doubt.

            We didn’t feel the ground shaking, hear the pat-pat-pat of machine gun fire, or see the rolling tracks of tanks rip the ground to shreds beneath their tread. I was washing dishes at the sink, staring out the small window that overlooked my backyard, a swing-set, the cornfield. My children were playing in the sandbox outside, performing acts of God and moving mountains with little effort or thought to the consequences. My husband was watching TV.

            That’s how we knew it. The electric flashed and the TV shut off. That in itself wasn’t much to be concerned about. Two birds could sit on a wire and knock our electric out. The flash only lasted long enough to knock the dish out briefly and then the TV was back and blaring. A long steady beep screamed from the speakers and I waited for the words, “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.” Instead, I heard a mechanical voice telling us, the people, to hold for the President of the United States.

            The video feed was not from the Oval Office. There was no comfy leather chair, no stars and stripes to fill the background. There was our President, worry and anger battling for the right to carve lines in his face, to spread from his thin pressed lips and to spiral out from his wide-set eyes.

            Doubt always comes first. No one believes it. The ego kicks in and the first thought is always, “Who would dare?” “Who would do this?” “Why would they want to?” All those questions are followed by the immediate reaction of, “We’ll be fine.” “They’ll call in the military.” “No one can beat us in a fight.”

            This is by far the longest part of the entire affair. The season of doubt washes across the country like a second-coming of the black plague. It eats everyone alive, but takes forever to go away. In its wake, we were left with anger, hatred, and fuel for a fight. The men disappeared. One by one they went off, recruited by their country or simply egging for a fight. Who knew? Who cared? We needed them and they went.

            And now we’re here, and those gradual occurrences are coming at a faster rate. See, once the doubt is gone, once the men have run off to defend their egos, their families, their possessions, their homes, their freedom…everything else falls into place very quickly.

            We’re tossed back into a medieval society, with no electric, no running water, no heat. Our money becomes far more useful as kindling for a fire, or toilet paper. It’s a barter and trade society again and it’s like we’ve been thrown back, back, back. I’ve got the best commodity around. Everyone can take it, but it can’t be stolen. It’s like my own personal Sphinx riddle and it is a tragedy that my daughter carries the same currency.

            Every right women ever fought for is gone. There is no one there to protect them, and so they are victims and protectors all at once. They become prey even as they provide. So we learn our purpose again:

            The men come in broken and we heal them.

            The men come in broken and we feed them.

            The men come in broken and we lie down, spread our legs, and let them break us.

Yes, women have found their place again, but at least we found a system of money that works. So we lose a piece of our soul, but our children are fed. They need to be strong for this world we’re making, breaking.

            I should have done as the others. I should have skirted the cities on my way North. The North has become a beacon of safety, a haven for the lost. I wonder if they’ll have closed the gates by the time we get there. I’ve never seen Niagara. I’ve never seen much of anything. My tiny life in my tiny, rural town was all I had ever known. Finally, after years of staring at the pages of travel magazines, I had the opportunity to see the world around me.

Regardless, I was foolish, but I wanted to see it. I had a postcard shoved in my pocket. I’d grown up surrounded by fields of corn and soybean, by deep rooted forests and gravel drives. I wanted to see buildings that touched the sky, that reached their sturdy fingers up to stroke the underside of the clouds.

            I remember pulling the postcard out and staring at it as we approached. I must have been around the same distance as the person who shot the original photograph. None of it was there. Rockefeller, Chrysler, Trump, Empire. They were all gone. I looked at the crease that was a white bolt of lightning through the middle of my postcard. It touched the top of the World Trade Center and drove right through the middle of the towers. Those had been gone long before today, another tragedy from another time. It seemed a million years ago.

            The purple mountains majesty was blocked by billowing columns of smoke and ash. There were no amber waves of grain, only the charred remains left behind by a foreign army. We never saw it coming and from sea to shining sea lay the remains of capitalism, democracy, America the beautiful.

            I feel a weight shift and briefly, for a moment, I can breathe again. Then there is another weight, and the hair is prickly and sharp as it rubs against my chest. He’s wider and my thighs are crushed down against the cold concrete of a dilapidated Macy’s store. Sweat is beading on his chin and dripping down onto my forehead like some sort of Chinese water torture and I’m floating away again. I’m lying here while men I don’t know are pumping away inside me, pouring their anger, disgust, and hate into me, using me for a moment to feel like maybe they’re in control again. They’re not, and perhaps because I know it, and they know I know it, they push harder and harder every time.

            I have no idea where my husband is. The only men I see are my own countrymen, running and fleeing to the North as quickly as we are. I don’t even know where my President is, or if he even is anymore. I know that I have three more to go before I get a loaf of bread. I know yesterday I earned a scoop of peanut butter that someone had shoved into little baggies. It’s the new drug deal of our century and I keep it shoved inside my bra for safety. I know that tonight my children will eat well and I only have three more to go, or two now. I think this one is done.

            Ani’s words drift through my head and I hear another girl crying nearby. Her tears form the melody to the tune and when a hand smashes my face to the side, holding me to the floor, I sing, “We’re all working together now…to make our lives mercifully brief…”

Weakened

I was asked awhile ago to write for Black Box Warnings. If you aren’t familiar with them, stop trying to look them up…they have since quietly faded out. Over the holidays the site went down, and so while I sit here with my thoughts on the wonderful people that ran that site, and hopes that things will get better for them and they can return soon, I decided to share the post with you from here. I hope you enjoy it, though enjoy might be the wrong word. I hope it let’s you in for a moment. I hope it makes you feel.

That’s what writing it for, right? To make us feel something.

So I wrote about feeling weak. I wrote about the moment when I noticed weakness in others around me.

I learned to cherish weakness, the humanity of that emotion.

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You tell yourself you shouldn’t say anything. It’s too early, and you’ve been here before. This isn’t a new ride for you, but you feel like you’ve been waiting in the line for it forever. Your body’s been craving this thing, this filling. You’ve been striving for it, every ounce of your DNA straining forward, as if it were just out of your reach. But you knew you’d get it, and you did, and now you hold the proof in the little plastic strip in your hand and the plus sign is bright and pink. It practically screams it’s a girl, but it’s too soon to know such things. It’s too early, and you’ve been here before. Besides, they used pink for boys in the past. It could be his son. It could be his boy.

It’s his first anyway. Just because you’ve done it before, doesn’t mean he has. No, he will be excited. He will be nervous and frightened, because he is a good husband, a good man, and a good father to the two mini-clones of his wife that run around the house in the early morning hours with an energy you both envy. He will be proud of you and touch your belly and hold you close for a few moments. He will smile and grab his phone and you won’t even think about it. It’s too early, and you’ve been here before.

His mother is calling you and you know he’s told them. He’s told them all. In his excitement he has leapt onto the digital rooftop and yelled out his news through the Facebook megaphone. You haven’t even been to the doctor yet, but you know, you know. Your body is changing, quickly it seems.

You are older now. Your body has grown soft. Your husband doesn’t complain. He likes the curves and the shape women call womanly, in that snarky tone of theirs. As if any one shape defines a woman. As if this is your definition: your broad hips that are soft on the sides, and the small pudge of a belly that never disappeared after your son had finished pushing the boundaries of your body and leaving the road map of faded white bolts across your skin.

You don’t remember how you told your father the first times. You should remember those sorts of things, but you think hard and cannot. Your father is a silent strength in your world. Words are scarce, but heavy. The memories you hold strongest are the ones where you saw him weakened. It seemed so odd, so out of place. It seemed so fake, that you stood there staring at that man and wondering who he had become, until you realized with a sort of bone-deep fear that he was the same man who held you when you fell apart and there you were, standing there frozen, while they told him his father was dying and you could hear him suck in a breath as if he were inhaling the world. It was a silence so deep before the break that caught in his throat and choked you. It sent you running from the room.

These things you remember, but not how you told him about his granddaughter. The little child he had to wear a mask to see the first time in the hospital. You don’t remember how you told him he would soon have a grandson, but you remember him in the room with you when you delivered. You remember saying, “I can’t do this” and him telling you, “You don’t have a choice.”

It’s that silent strength and you shouldn’t have said anything at all.

But you ran out, your feet scraping on the blacktop, bare in the cold frosty air that seemed to come earlier and earlier every fall. The leaves hadn’t even finished turning and the grass was still green, but there was a chill that seeped inside you and you knew it was too early. He was in his shed working and you said, “I have news” and he said, “You’re pregnant.” Just that, two words, and you both laughed. You smiled and he went back to work, smiling and silent.

You go to the doctor and you see the picture. It’s a peanut in black and grey. It’s a tiny little shape, like a croissant roll wrapped and fluffy. You see shades and a flicker that they point to and say, “Heartbeat”. Such a massive two syllable word. You look at your husband and he’s sitting there frozen, staring at the screen in some kind of wonder. He’s got no words and it’s that silent strength characteristic again and you feel at home and safe, even though it’s early. It’s so early.

You’ve been so sick. You’ve been living in sweatpants and your husband’s big t-shirts. You’ve had to battle with yourself and argue with the image in the mirror to make yourself want to shower, but everything smells bad and all you want to do is curl up and sleep. You are so tired. Your hair is a mess and you haven’t shaved your legs in so long, the husband laughs when he brushes against them. He drags you into the shower. He hands you a razor, like a silent plea to return to the woman he knew before. Something has changed in you, and you know it is different this time. You know it’s early.

His mother has invited you for dinner. It’s a holiday and special, so you shower and shave. He didn’t even have to ask. And you buy a new shirt and wear your new pants, because your body is soft and it’s changing so fast. You do up your make-up and slide in your earrings and your husband stares at this woman and wonders where she has been. You ride to his mother’s with his hand on your thigh, sliding closer and closer while the children are in the back and can’t see what he’s doing, or figure out why you are smiling like that. It’s a rekindling and it’s been so cold. You’ve both needed it for so long.

You’re on the porch later, when dinner is over, the phone clutched in white knuckles. You’ve never seen your father-in-law move so fast. He’s throwing your children’s toys into their bag, while your husband stuffs them in coats, and you are dancing in the cold while your mother-in-law packs turkey in a bag. You don’t even like turkey. And grandma is hugging you and telling you, “You’ll be okay”. Last year you told this woman you loved her, and she said, “You don’t even know me”. You felt sorry for someone who couldn’t accept a little love. Now you are here and you don’t want her to touch you. You don’t want anyone to touch you. You have to protect it and everyone is a danger, because something is wrong, and it’s so early.

If there is something invasive they can do, they do it. You have so many hands on you, inside you, machines that are beeping and blood being drawn. You have a negative blood type, so you have to get a shot. You know this. You know without it, your body will attack the life inside it, like a parasite it is trying to rid itself of. Always so quick to grow, in a body that wants to destroy. You start thinking, what did I do wrong? Why won’t it stop?

This woman, with her short hair comes in and you know, because her poker face is terrible. And she knows it, and blurts it out.

“There’s no heartbeat.”

You know it is real, because your husband can’t move. You are breaking into a million little pieces on their gurney. There is blood on your thighs and that thick, sticky gel on your stomach. There’s an IV in your arm, but it’s hooked up to nothing, and a bruise on your hip that will be there for weeks where they gave you a shot so you wouldn’t kill a baby that was already dead. You’re leaking out and he isn’t moving. Your husband. He’s sitting there and he can’t get up and you know it is real. You know he would come to you, but he’s having his moment. You are seeing him weakened and it frightens you, but you can’t run away and you can’t even go to him, because there isn’t enough of you left to stand up.

You are home and your father walks down the hallway. You’re in the living room, trying to find some channel on the TV that will occupy your children long enough to keep them away so you can save them the fear of seeing their parent snapping apart like a collection of wishbones. Your father, that silent strength. That man of few words. The one who once sucked up the world into his lungs and taught you how to crack. He’s there and he doesn’t touch you. He stands a few feet away and you are very aware that he doesn’t look you in the eye. You are very aware that you have switched places, and he is where you were as a child watching him mourn.

“I’m sorry about the baby.”

Life Hacks for My Daughter

I was sitting here thinking today about all the things I wanted to make sure I tell my daughter at some point. I’m not talking the ooie-gooey things like, “I love you” or “You’re beautiful”. I’m talking the real, down and dirty tricks that I’ve picked up over the years.

***WARNING***

This post may be full of generalizations, profanity, and of course sex. We’ll rate it “R” for Ridiculously Awesome.

1. Ignore every commercial you see for those fancy women’s razors. Skip that department completely and go straight for the men’s. Regardless of what they say, men’s razors always work better.

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Also, it is perfectly acceptable to go without shaving your legs, as long as you are wearing pants and/or the hair is short enough to not poke through your pantyhose.

2. Speaking of pantyhose…it will never be comfortable. Ever. You can save yourself a bit of pain and buy one size up from what the little box-from-hell says you need. Doing this will not, however, pull in nice and tight all the areas you may be wanting nice and tight. For that, you’re going to need Spanx.

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No need to be afraid. Spanx are basically like packing your own sausage.

3. Oh yes, home-made sausage and fresh pasta and God only know what else his mother makes that you never quite manage to get right. Give up. Give up now. He will always compare your cooking to his mother’s, and she will win in almost every category. There is something inside a man’s head that makes him nostalgic for the meals he had growing up (even if his mother could barely manage Kraft in the blue box). There are ways to combat the feelings of anger this will cause you.

– Do not ask for your mother-in-law’s recipes, or to teach you how to make a certain dish. In fact, compliment her always on her food (Wine helps). This will do two things: irritate her and confuse the balance that she expects to be in place.

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– Take comfort in knowing that if you have a son, somewhere out there is a woman who will feel exactly like you when your son says, “It’s not like my mother’s makes”.

– Offer to house-sit for your in-laws and have sex with your husband in their kitchen. Then when you are over for dinner, just think back on that experience and smile. (Pass the wine.)

4. Instead of worrying about his mother’s cooking, focus on learning one meal really well. I’m talking entree, at least two sides, salad, soup, bread, and desert. Master that meal. Work at it until it is perfect. This will be your go-to meal. Your company is coming over meal. Your his mother is visiting meal. Your time to give the husband the credit card statement meal.

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5. Learn to walk in heels. Go out and buy six inch stiletto platform hooker shoes. Put them on and walk on them until you have nailed those monsters. This way you will be prepared for whenever the husband (or anyone else) gives you a pair of heels. If you can master those, you can handle any, and are therefore less likely to spend weeks walking around in your new gift like a drunken flamingo.

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6. Your children will hit an age where they practically become a parrot. And like any wild animal, you either muzzle them or toss food bits at them until they shut up.

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7. Your body is your own, guard it. Until you have children, then anything you might be delirious enough to believe is still yours, isn’t.

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8. At some point, someone in your life is going to offer you drugs. There are certain steps I want you to take before you accept them.

– Look at the person giving them to you…very carefully. Pay attention to detail here.

– Imagine yourself having sex with them in the next hour.

– Imagine your having sex with them without protection.

– Imagine getting pregnant with them.

– Imagine them 50, balding, and changing the diaper of your sixth child on the ripped couch in your trailer, while the rest of your kids are in the backyard shooting BB guns and attempting to tie each other up with duct tape. Oh, and you’re in a floral moo-moo.

– Turn around and walk away very quickly.

* The same applies to alcohol in excess. Except when you grow up. Then flip the image and imagine all your housework. Drink wine until the image disappears.

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9. Finally, before you ever consider some life-long venture with a man, consider these things:

– Sex sucks the first time.

– Sex sometimes sucks the first couple of times. There’s a reason one-night stands normally stay that way. It takes a bit of time to actually learn one another well enough to have amazing sex.

– That didn’t apply to your father and I…and yes, we were a one-night stand turned marriage.

– Your father and I are NOT the role model in this situation.

– All the sex stuff aside, if they aren’t the kind of man you’d want to introduce to your father…best to just let that one go.

– If they don’t treat you the way you see your father treat me, run.

– If they put their hands on you, experience tells me crock-pots can be dangerous as hell. Make your way to a kitchen and it’ll be like running into the Matrix armory.

– If they cheat on you, they will do it again. If you’re the girl they cheated on someone with, they’ll cheat on you, too.

– If their pants sag, I WILL make them a soprano for life. You’ve been warned.

Most importantly…

– If you can’t laugh with them, lose them.

– If you can’t laugh at them, trip them 😀

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And finally, let me just say…

You are not allowed to look at your body and say, “I don’t like -insert body part here-“.

I made that.

With my body.

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You don’t get to not like it.

Love you.