We’ve Moved to a New Website!


The funniest thing happened to me the other day.   Let me tell you all about it…

I’m so excited to announce the launch of my new website, Tassie Types!  Please visit me  to catch up on all the latest.  More laughs, more love, more adventures about growing up and growing old(er)…

You’re just my type!


and she lived happily ever laughter…




Lickety Split

So excited to be one of the authors included in this amazing literary journal!  I even got the opportunity to share my story at the Ocotillo Review launch party in Houston.  (Everyone and my mother was there.) 
Hope you enjoy my first flash fiction piece, Lickety Split, about a mother and daughter who stretch themselves to the limit.  

Friday night arrives. Moms huddle in the bleachers wearing matching shirts, cameras posed.  I search the field for my daughter, and sigh when I spot her sitting alone in the stands, looking down at her dance shoes.  Once again she won’t be performing at half time.

“What a bunch of bull…”

“Splits!” The booster president focuses her camera.  “I love this part!”

The award winning Pacesetters high kick in sync then leap and land in a line of perfect splits.

Splits happen, but not for my daughter.  After years of reminding her to sit like a lady and keep her legs together, I encourage her to do the opposite.

“It’s all in your head.” I lie, knowing if there were a hundred dollar bill on the ground, my calcified hamstrings would ignore it.

One game remains.  Her last chance. I suggest hot baths and stretches.  She rolls her eyes. Pilates and yoga. She scrolls down her phone. I promise fresh baked chocolate chip cookies if she’ll practice, a bribe that never failed when she was younger.  But now she’s older with a smartphone and a mom she thinks is anything but.

“I can’t! I’ll tear a ligament!” She storms off into the kitchen.  “And I’ll make my own cookies!”   She picks up the can of PAM and sprays a cloud of cooking oil all over the pan and most of the floor.

“Give me your phone!” I grab it and place it high on a shelf.

“Give it back!” She roars, a demon in a pair of black practice hot shorts.

I growl. “Practice your splits and you get the phone back.”

Fury flashes across her face.  Planting her hands on her hips, she slides one foot forward, lowering her body until it stops abruptly twelve inches from the floor.  A split personality possesses her and she cries.

I soften.  After all, the only thing I stretch these days is the truth.  “That’s better!” I cheer.  “You’re almost there.”

The shrill ring of her phone breaks her concentration and she jumps up.  We skid across the PAM coated kitchen tile, leap for the phone and with a horrible tearing sound and a scream, land in a tangled mess on the floor.

“Mom, look!” She waves her cell phone in the air like a pom-pom.  “I’m doing the splits!”  She rubs her legs in disbelief.  “But I heard something tear.”

“That was my pants.” I clutch my lower back.

Friday night arrives and I lie in bed, a heating pad against my back.  My daughter stops by, wearing her blue and white game uniform and a smile.

“I’m sorry you won’t be able to see me dance.” She hands me a plate of cookies.  “The doctor said if you would do your stretches, your back would get better.”  She pauses.  “The pain’s all in your head.”

I roll my eyes, wave her away and reach for the Advil.  My back is killing me.

And suddenly, I have a splitting headache.


Of Mice and Women



Summer officially arrived the day my daughter, Kristina, came home from college dragging a semester’s worth of dirty clothes behind her. She wanted home cooked meals and movie marathons on the sofa, soul searching conversations and the chance to sleep late in her childhood room. It was also the same day my husband went out of town for work and I leaped at the rare opportunity to give my youngest my undivided attention, to be a mother again.

She plopped down her bags and looked around wide-eyed, as if seeing our home for the very first time. “It looks so big!” She ran her fingertip across the countertop. “And clean. My roommates are pigs!” She skipped over to the pantry and flung open the door. “Do we have anything to eat? I’m starving!” Her eyes lit up when she saw all her favorite snacks lovingly displayed on the pantry shelves.   “Thanks, Mom!” She pulled out a bag of Oreos and tore into the package. “There’s no place like home.”

My heart filled with joy.   I couldn’t wait to feather my empty nest again. We listened to Motown and cooked her favorite dinner, talking long into the night about her hopes and dreams. We binge watched Shameless on Netflix, horrified and humored by the dysfunctional Irish family living in squalor. Finally, we drifted off to sleep secure and safe on matching sofas. Home sweet home.

The mommy-moon ended the next day when I stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee. Still bleary-eyed with sleep, I reached into the breadbasket for the English muffins. Unbelievable! She’s no better than her roommates. I held up the package in disgust. Instead of untwisting the tie like a civilized person, my ragamuffin of a daughter in a carb frenzy had torn open the bag from the bottom and grabbed a fist full out of two of them, leaving their gnarly remains behind. “Kristina!” I yelled at the sleeping form on the couch. “Did you do this? You might live like this in college, but at home we don’t act like animals!”

My daughter slunk into the kitchen with a scowl on her face. “What are you talking about? I didn’t do that! Besides, I like bagels better.” She dug around the breadbasket for the brand new bag of Everything bagels I’d bought just for her, pointed to a huge hunk torn out of the side of the package, and glared at me accusingly. “Really Mom? I thought these were for me!”

It was then we heard a rustling from the darkest corner of the pantry followed by the tiniest of squeals. We dropped our baked goods, screamed in unison and dove at the pantry door, slamming it shut.

“Mom! Do something!” Kristina was already frantically scrolling down the screen of her phone. She thrust it at me.

The Orkin lady who answered was painfully calm, no doubt from years of dealing with hysterical women. “What makes you think you have a rodent issue? Have you seen droppings?”

“No, I haven’t seen droppings.” I flung open cabinets with my free hand, searching for a sign of an infestation, not really wanting to find one. I threw the muffins and bagels into the trash, repulsed at the sight of them. “But something has attacked our bread!”

“Let me see.” Her tone was unconcerned, like a woman who had all the time in the world and kept her bread products in the refrigerator. “How about next…” She paused. “Thursday?”

From the corner of my eye I saw a flicker of movement from under the pantry door. I screamed into the phone in response.

Kristina and I sat on the kitchen table. She threatened to move back to Lubbock while I left manic messages on my husband’s phone. Finally, after what seemed like hours, the doorbell rang and I ran to the entrance, never happier to have a visitor, even if he was carrying a clipboard.

I needed a hero. I needed Hercules with poison pellets and steel traps to purge my home of the pests within.

Instead, I got Willard.

I read the name on his starched white shirt and examined the man before me. His skin was mousy brown and his nose twitched slightly as he looked up at me. I outweighed him by at least fifty pounds.

“May I come in?” He spoke with a mild stutter and had already slipped blue paper booties over his shoes.

My heart sank. This man couldn’t kill a fly. I felt the need to protect him, to feed him, but then I remembered I was never going into my pantry again. I told him about my bread and he shook his head. “Don’t you worry. These things happen. We’re going to take good care of you.” He disappeared into the pantry and shut the door behind him.

Kristina and I returned to our perch on the table, trying to ignore the crashing coming from behind the pantry door. “I’m staying at Emma’s tonight,” she informed me.

Willard emerged, a triumphant look on his face. “I found some droppings. They’re large so I think we’re looking at more than mice here.” He pointed to a collection of chocolate colored morsels on the pantry floor.

“I thought those were Oreo crumbs,” said Kristina.

I leaned my head down as far as I dared. “They look like chocolate chips to me.”

Before I knew it, Willard was in the utility room, pulling the dryer out from the wall. “We have to figure out where they’re getting in.”

I watched in horror as he squeezed himself into the tiny space behind the dryer where all the lost thongs live. The humiliation was too great. I leaned over to Kristina and whispered in her ear. “If he asks, we’re telling him we’re house sitting for a neighbor, got that?”

Seconds later he called out to us. “Here’s where they’re getting in.” He pointed to a pile of droppings on the floor next to a lacy black pair of panties. “Mice are stupid, but rats are smart.” Willard crammed wire mesh into a hole he found by the vent. “We have to trick them into coming into our traps.” He held up a small white sticky board. “When they try to get out, this trap will stop them in their tracks.”

I mentally compared the paper-thin piece of cardboard he held to the bite mark on the bagel. This flimsy film of flypaper wouldn’t stop a flea, much less what I was sure was a raccoon size creature in my pantry. It was like no mousetrap I’d ever seen. When I was younger, I remember my dad putting a Cheeto on a contraption that would snap a mouse’s head and kill him dead. But that was in an era when husbands didn’t travel and the world hadn’t decided to build a new and improved way of solving an age-old problem.

Kristina poked her head behind the dryer. “I don’t get it. How does that kill the rat?”

Willard hung his head as if he hated this part of his job. “It doesn’t kill it. The rat gets stuck on it.”

“Then what?” I demanded. I cursed my husband under my breath. Where was he when I needed him? No doubt living it up at some Holiday Inn bar while my daughter and I battle Bubonic plague at home.

Willard looked up at me, his eyes full of emotion. “Then you call me. I’ll give you my direct number. I’ll come back and…” He hesitated and lowered his voice. “Dispose of it for you.”

His calmness was contagious. I trusted the little man and allowed him to hide thirteen traps throughout my home. He made his way up the stairs, pausing every now and then to scoop something up into his gloved hand. “Droppings,” he said.

“All this time I thought my carpet had black specks on it.”

“Your carpet’s white.”

I walked him to the door and fought the urge to embrace him. Gone was the timid man who had entered my home an hour ago. In his place stood a confident killer. Don’t leave me to run this rat race alone! Stay! I’m really not a bad housekeeper.

He paused on the porch and handed me his card. “Call me anytime. except Sunday. I don’t work Sundays.”

I felt flushed as I watched him swagger out to his van, on his way, I imagined, to rescue another damsel in distress. His skin took on a bronze tone in the sun and I watched the bulge of his bicep as he pulled a pair of dark sunglasses out of his pocket and put them on his face. Before my eyes he transformed from a mild mannered mouse catcher to the Ex-Terminator. He turned to me and his voice dropped an octave as he spoke. “I’ll be back.”

I almost felt sorry for the rats.

A long weekend dodging droppings and dying rats was not what I had in mind for Kristina’s first few days of summer. Still, I was thankful to not have to face the rodents alone. My daughter would give me moral support and a strong shoulder to scream on if the nasty little creatures decided to brave the light of day. We would get through this tough time like families do, together.

Just then, Kristina came barreling out of the house holding a duffel bag. “I’m out of here!” She waved at me as she hurried to her car. “Sorry, Mom, but I didn’t sign up for this.” She threw her bag in the backseat, jumped behind the wheel and screeched off before I could beg her to stay.

I forced myself to go back inside. What are you, a mom or a mouse? It would be dark soon and the party in the pantry would be in full swing. But this was my house, after all, and this roach hotel had a no vacancy sign. It would take more than a tiny little mouse problem to scare me out of my own home.

First, I would make myself something to eat. I tiptoed to the kitchen so I wouldn’t wake any mice and stared at the pantry door. Cookies and crackers and chips called my name. I heard a faint rustling from inside. Suddenly, I wasn’t hungry anymore.

Woman loses 30 pounds in one night by cutting carbs on the new Ratkins Diet. Call your exterminator for details. I settled for a bottle of water from the fridge and went into the family room. I figured a little Shameless would help me forget my own problems so I settled onto the sofa, tucking my feet up under me to be safe.

In the middle of episode five, my husband called. “So, how’s the rat problem?”

I rolled my eyes. The carefree sound of his voice grated on my last nerve. “Come home and find out, if you’re so concerned.”

He poked the bear. “I’ve been telling you for years to get rid of the clutter.”

I cut him off.   “Good night! Sleep tight.” How dare he insinuate the furry little things had invaded just to nestle in my collection of old magazines and bags of slightly too small clothes. Hope the bed bugs bite!

I was considering hurling my phone across the room when I got a text from a number I didn’t recognize.

Just wanted to check on you. How are things at the house?

Suspicious, I typed back. Who is this?


Willard? I sat up straighter and fluffed my hair.

Have you heard anything?

I smiled to myself. Not a creature is stirring. What kind of woman flirts with her exterminator? I was as shameless as the characters on my TV, and just as desperate.

Around midnight I turned off the TV. Clearly, I was worried about nothing. The little incident in the pantry was an isolated event and my fears were foolish. It was time for bed and I rose from the couch.

Then I heard it. The domino effect started with a thumping in the pantry, followed by a crash. Then a metallic clang rang out from the utility room, like something was caught in the tiny space behind the washer and dryer. Upstairs in the loft something dragged across the carpet, trapped and frantic. The squealing and screeching of tortured rats almost drowned out my screams. These were sounds of Nutcracker proportion and I envisioned man-sized mice wielding swords, fighting for their lives. I ran to my bedroom, slammed the door and stuffed a bath towel under it.

Willard! I punched his number into my phone. Willard? I held my breath, waiting for a response, but there was no answer. I looked at the time on my phone. 12:06 AM. Sunday.

Willard’s day off.

I got into bed, covered my head with my blanket and squeezed my eyes shut. Somehow, I got through the night. The next morning with the sun streaming into my bedroom window, I could almost believe the night before was just a dream. I put on shoes, crept across the room and put my ear against the door. Silence. I cracked the door open and waited. Stillness. I went into the kitchen to investigate.

I glared at the pantry door. It’s time to face your fears, pack- rat to rat- pack. I grabbed a carving knife from the wooden block and inched open the door. Not a mouse was in sight, but at my feet laid one of Willard’s white sticky boards, stained and covered with droppings. The message was loud and clear. Stick this in your trap, lady!

Willard said he’d never seen such a sight in his life, and he’s been in the business for 30 years. He’d also never worked a Sunday before but he showed up in his church clothes and discreetly disposed of five unwelcome guests. Three perished behind the dryer, the blind leading the blind in a futile escape. One met its maker upstairs near a pile of Kristina’s unwashed laundry. Finally, the overweight ringleader that masterminded the invasion was stabbed to death in the dark corner of the pantry. Willard said he was missing his tail.

I signed a ten-year contract with Willard and we text often between visits, just to keep in touch. We’ve grown to be friends as people often do when they’ve shared a traumatic event. In fact, I’m inviting him over for Thanksgiving dinner.

I can’t wait for him to meet my husband.

He’s been a real pest lately.














My sixteen-year-old daughter is saving her toes for marriage. She announced this to me the day before she was to leave for Greece to attend a youth group camp at the Ionian Village. She had begged me for years to let her go on this priceless adventure to explore her heritage and discover herself. She insisted she was independent, mature, and responsible enough to leave the country without me.

This did not mean, however, that she was ready to pack for herself. She sat on her bed wearing mismatched socks and a scowl while I barked out the list of required items, checked her suitcase, and frantically scavenged through her drawers and the bottom of her closet.

“Long skirts for visits to the monastery. Check.” I began. “Modest one piece swimsuit for free time at the pool. Check,” I continued as she rolled her eyes. “Sandals for the beach and shower…” I paused, rummaging through ballet flats, pumps and a pair of combat boots, and looked at her expectantly.

“No way,” she announced, her eyes daring me to challenge her.

“It’s required.” I pointed to the list. “You’ll be in Greece. It’s summer.”

It was bad enough I was sending my youngest daughter across the world for three weeks to a camp where cell phones were not allowed. I was sure her ADD would flare up and she would forget her Euros, her passport and how much she loved me. I had seen Taken too many times and my greatest fear was that she would be kidnapped, sold into the white slave trade, and never seen again.

My daughter’s greatest fear, on the other hand, was wearing sandals.

When she was in first grade, I bought her a pair of pretty pink sandals with posies on the top. She put them on immediately, pirouetted through the house, and refused to take them off, even at bedtime. The next morning she skipped onto the school bus proud to show off her new sandals to her classmates. That afternoon, she slumped off the bus, wearing socks she’d borrowed from the nurse. It seems a fourth grader with a future foot fetish pointed out her fatal flaw. He noticed that instead of toes that descended from tallest to shortest like the Von Trapp family, my daughter’s second toe stood out defiantly like an exclamation point.

“I’m a freak of nature!” she cried. She flung the offensive sandals high into the air before storming into the house. I watched them plop into a puddle, float for a second, then slowly sink into the mud.

She researched reconstructive toe surgery that would beautify the line of her toes, giving her perfect little piggies. She considered binding her second toe to stunt its growth until the others could catch up. She threatened to chop off a half inch from each offending digit with a pair of yard clippers. Finally, she vowed to never again show her toes in public to spare herself future humiliation. Only her husband, if any man would even want to marry her with that deformity, would ever lay eyes on her naked toes.

But she was older now.  “You’re being ridiculous!” I argued with my teen, stomping my own familial foot for emphasis. “Be thankful you have ten toes, at all! Stand up for yourself and be proud of who you are.”

“You don’t understand! You never understand.” She sobbed and I hung my head, defeated, agonizing how my smart, beautiful daughter could be so shallow.

I looked down at my own feet, freshly pedicured in Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot polish wearing bejeweled sandals that shouted for attention. But it had not always been this way. I flashed back to my own youth and long forgotten feelings of inadequacy crept back. I remembered a young, insecure version of myself, standing barefoot by the pool, curling my toes under my feet so no one would see them. When I was her age, my mother’s well-meaning words did little to comfort me either.

“We’re going shopping,” I announced, determined we would make a quick purchase and finish packing.  My mother taught me long ago that shopping cured everything. I was confident the perfect pair of sandals would save my daughter’s sole.

I cajoled and pleaded with her in the car on the way to the mall. She finally agreed to look at the sandals, possibly purchase a pair, but she would not try them on in the store, and would not guarantee she would even wear them on her trip. When we walked into Sun and Ski, she pretended an interest in Yeti containers while I browsed the sandal selection.

A young man approached and asked if I needed any help. I looked up at him, catching my breath. He had curly brown hair, a twinkle in his eye, and the intoxicating smell of new shoes. He was built like a Greek god in a pair of Nikes.

“My daughter needs some thongs,” I stammered. “For Greece.” I saw her dive under a rack of hoodies from the corner of my eye. “For her…feet.”

He smiled and I melted. “Where is your daughter?” I pointed to her sneakered feet peeping out from beneath the rack. I watched incredulously as he parted the clothes, reached for her hand and led her to a chair. He removed my daughter’s shoes and measured her feet. “Wait here while I find you some sandals,” he said and disappeared before she could protest. She gave me a murderous look and flipped me off with one of her middle toes.

“I can’t believe you’re making me do this,” she hissed. “I don’t even want to go to Greece, anymore!”

“I can’t believe how ungrateful you are!” I hissed back. “Anyone would jump at the chance to go on a trip like this!”

She could deal with prince charming all by herself. Already he had returned, balancing a mountain of shoe boxes in his muscular arms. He kneeled at her feet and gingerly reached for her ankle. I cringed. She glanced at me, mortified, her eyes begging me to come to her aid as he slowly rolled down the cuff of her sock, but I stepped away, lost in my own thoughts.

How I would appreciate another opportunity to go to Greece. I had not been since I was her age, when my father was finally able to take off work so we could go on a family trip to the village where he had been born.

I remember my parents making us visit one boring museum after another when all my sister and I wanted to do was to lie out on a beach, flirt with Greek boys and swim in the cobalt sea. We must have looked at a thousand Greek statues when I made a life-altering discovery. Each statue, every statue, had second toes that stood out defiantly from the rest. A placard on the wall informed us that this anomaly was a sign of aristocracy and beauty to the ancient Greeks. Elated, we took photos of the statues and compared their strong, grounded feet with mine. We snapped shots of me barefoot behind the statues, and laughed that I was following in the footsteps of our great ancestors.

We finally had the chance to lay out by the pool at the hotel our last day in Athens. For once in my life, I stretched out unselfconsciously on the chaise lounge. For the first time, I did not try to hide my toes under the rubber slat of the chair or cover my feet with a beach towel. I was a cosmopolitan woman of the world, feeling the pleasant sensation of the Mediterranean sun on my bikini-clad body. I closed my eyes, finally at peace with myself and the toes God had given me. My sister with her normal toes was almost jealous of my authentic Greek ones.

I was drifting off to sleep when suddenly I felt a pinch on my right second toe, like a bird had swooped down to bite it, mistaking it for a worm. Startled, I opened my eyes to find a man at my feet sporting a hairy chest, a Speedo and a leer.

“I love your toes!” he exclaimed in perfect English. “Beautiful girl, beautiful toes!” I blushed from head to toe under my Grecian tan as he walked away.

I sat up and looked at my sister in the next chair. My greatest nightmare had come true. A strange man had not only spotted my Achilles toe, but had the audacity to violate it with his hand. Had he grabbed a huge hunk of my bikini bottom I would not have been more mortified. My sister and I stared at each other in horror, mouths gaping open, sharing a silent scream like only teenage girls can do. Then we howled with laughter.

I should have kicked him in the face. I should have lectured him on boundaries and proper pool etiquette and reported him to the authorities. Instead, I fantasized marrying this man who had worshipped my toes, bringing him back to America where I would live happily ever after enjoying foot massages and open-toed shoes.

My daughter interrupted my thoughts. “Mom, which ones do you like?” She smiled broadly as she examined her feet. Wearing a Teva on her right foot and a Sanuk on her left, she paraded up and down the aisle for me as the salesman looked on, nodding his head in approval. He stopped her and got down on one knee to adjust a strap, his fingers lightly grazing her toe, a look of appreciation on his chiseled face. She gazed down at him, clearly head over heels.

I pulled out my credit card and handed it to the boy. “We’ll take them both,” I said, winking at my daughter.

She wore the Tevas out of the store, no longer afraid to put her best foot forward, and we hurried home to finish packing. Today she bought new sandals. Tomorrow she would travel to Greece and explore a new world. Soon she would be off to college, and like me would tiptoe down the road to self-discovery. Perhaps she would find something more valuable to save for her husband.

But for now I was happy to foot the bill.












IMG_1316The morning before my birthday, I limped to the bathroom mirror and examined the face staring back at me, bleary eyed and tired. Getting older was nothing to be afraid of, I told myself, but my reflection certainly was. I tried to ignore the dark circles pooling under my eyes, and the tiny wrinkles crinkling around them, and focus on the positive. Happiness is a choice, and true beauty comes from within, I reminded myself. A wonderful weekend awaited me. I would welcome this birthday as I had the 51 others, celebrating with friends and family who would confirm that I was only getting better with each passing year.

My thoughts turned to what I would wear. I would need a little something for lunch with friends, certainly a happy hour, or two, and a romantic dinner with Wes.

Wild, wild Wes, who with his velvety voice and rugged charm had lassoed me in, but not quite tied the knot. This could be the year, our year, I dreamed.

I turned to walk away and gasped. Over my shoulder, I caught a glimpse of my profile and froze. My heart pounded and I faced the mirror again. Everything seemed to be in order. I turned to the other side this time and my mouth dropped open. I tentatively touched the side of my face and pushed it up an inch, then let go. I touched it again, more firmly, raised it two more inches, then released it. Right, left, right left. I whipped my head from side to side, viewing my face from every angle. My bottom lip trembled as I made the horrifying realization that somehow, in the middle of the night, someone had stolen my chin, and as a result, my face was currently residing on my shoulders.

Crying only made the situation worse. My face was falling, and until someone invented a push-up bra for facial cheeks, the only thing that seemed to prop it up was a huge, albeit fake, smile.

So I smiled. All weekend.

I smiled when I called my best friend who told me she was going out of town  for a romantic weekend with her husband, and would not be available for lunch, happy hour, or to hold my face back for me as I threw up too many margaritas and memories. I smiled when my daughter informed me since it was prom weekend, I would need to be available to drive her to a hair appointment, manicure and pedicure, and to meet 30 of her closest friends for photographs, where she would refuse to pose for one picture with me, even a non- profile one.

I smiled when the man I had been dating for five years revealed he had joined a gun club that very morning, and would be busy shooting all day, but would try to find time for a casual dinner late that night.

I smiled when I learned my sister had chosen to celebrate my nephew’s graduation the next day, which unfortunately, was also my birthday, but I was welcome to come. When my own mother could not meet me for shopping because she was washing her hair, I accepted the inevitable. This was one birthday I would have to face alone.

Somehow, I got through the day, put on my fuzziest pajamas, turned off my phone, and smiled myself to sleep.

The next morning was no better. I woke to a pounding on my door.

“Happy Birthday, Peaches!” Wes cried as I cracked open the door, my foot firmly placed behind it. “Why didn’t you answer your phone? I’ve been calling you all night and this morning. I have a big surprise for you!” I was tempted to hold a grudge a little longer. After all, he had stood me up the night before, but his country smile wide grin was hard to resist, and I stood back so he could enter.

“Look at that big smile!” he said as he engulfed me in a huge, one-sided hug. “And I was afraid you were mad at me.”

“I am mad at you,” I said through clenched teeth.

“You know how much I love you” he began, taking my hand. “I’ve been planning this for a long time, but I wanted it to be perfect. I know you like big, shiny things, and I’ve been shopping for just the right one…” He dropped to his knee in the middle of my kitchen, and my heart skipped a beat. “Will you… Look at that! My shoelace is untied again.” He stood back up, ran outside, and with an exaggerated flourish, came back carrying a huge, metal, red and gold, yard rooster, with happy birthday balloons tied around its neck.

I resisted the urge to kick him in the cock-a-doodle.

“I know we’re going to your nephew’s graduation party today,” he continued, “but I want to take you out for your birthday after.”

I looked up at him expectantly.

“Maybe we can grab a burger, or something.”

My face froze into a steely smile. This would be the last birthday I would waste with this man. This may be how they celebrate in Nebraska, but in Texas we party until the metal rooster crows. I don’t care how many things he repaired around my house. He would not be able to fix this, no matter what tool he pulled out of his belt.

Somehow, I made it through the day. I smiled as I congratulated my nephew, ate a piece of non-birthday cake, and agreed when my family suggested we celebrate my birthday real soon, like next year. I smiled until Wes and I were the last ones left at the party, and my cheeks were sore from overexertion.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I have one stop to make before we get something to eat,” said Wes, as we settled into the car. “A customer wants me to give him a bid on a restaurant renovation.” My shoulders drooped, and I relaxed my face, tense from hours of false bravado.

“Chin up”, I said to myself, then remembered I no longer had one. The day could not possibly get any worse.

We pulled in to Uptown Park, and started walking towards a collection of boutiques and restaurants. Wes paused, confusion shadowing his face. “Wait here, baby, while I run in to see if this is the right place.”

I sat on the ledge of a fountain, and clutched my purse as I watched a group of twenty-something punks walk past, eying me, each with one hand on his cell phone, and one holding up the seat of his pants. It would be just my luck to be mugged on my birthday and shoved into the fountain, while Wes ambled aimlessly from shop to shop, I thought. I could see it now on the ten o’clock news. Fifty-something divorcee pulled from depths of Uptown Park fountain, suffering lacerations to the face and a severe concussion. Her maniacal smile led officials to believe drugs are involved.

The hairs on the back of my neck sprang to attention as a late model black Cadillac with darkened windows slowed to a stop by the curb near me and the door sprang open, loud music booming from within. Just when I had convinced myself I was about to be the target of a kidnapping, or worse, I recognized a Bruno Mars song. Suddenly the twenty-somethings broke out into dance, spinning and gyrating in unison to the beat, Marry You blasting in the air. I breathed a sigh of relief as I spotted a young girl smiling beside me, and realized there was nothing to fear. I was just witnessing a flash mob. Some rapper’s girlfriend was clearly getting a proposal she could not refuse. At least someone’s day was going better than mine.

I longed for her youth, the anything is possible expression in her eyes, the defiant thrust of her chin. I envied the decades of happily ever after she had ahead of her, the birthdays to be celebrated instead of feared.

I looked up and saw a figure in the distance walking towards me from one of the restaurants. My heart soared. My dear friend said she was out of town, but here she was before me, laughing. Before I had time to think, my daughter emerged from behind her, cutting prom weekend short to be here. Then they all appeared, one by one, grinning from ear to ear at my confusion, and when my parents, my brother and sister, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, and all my close friends had gathered around me, Wes walked through them, holding a huge bouquet of flowers and my heart. He got down on his knee. And this time it was not to tie his shoe.

I nodded yes, pulled him close, and broke out into my first genuine smile of the weekend. The big cock may have been from Buccee’s, but the big rock was not. Suddenly the future was bright.

And I would not have to face it alone.

Listen to Your Mother! Mother’s always write.


We’re doing Mother’s Day a little differently this year, and you’re all invited.

As a freelance writer and single mother of three, who is guilty of threatening to write about my children without changing their names, I was delighted to discover in the Houston Writers Guild newsletter that Listen To Your Mother was accepting submissions.

It was if the show had been designed just for me, and at the point of my life when I could appreciate it most. With my last child filling out college applications, I had reached the bittersweet end of a stage of my life I would miss terribly. Motherhood is laughter, and tears, and failure, and hope.

The Listen to Your Mother live storytelling show gives us a voice to share these experiences. I cannot imagine a more fitting way to celebrate motherhood than to showcase real stories about real women and the people they love.

Listen to your mother. You might learn something. After all, mother’s always write.

Baby Steps



My daughter and I have a love-hate relationship. She loves to interrogate me at length about my past, her favorite subjects being my most embarrassing moments and the opposite sex. She lectures me on being an overprotective parent and tests how high she can raise my anxiety before I detonate.  She feels I should be honest and thrilled to share my most private thoughts with a 16 year-old who promises not to utter a word of what I confess on Twitter, Instagram or to her best friend, Madeline. She, on the other hand, hates reciprocating. If I dare ask about her day at school, she stares at me vacantly, retreats to her room with a bag of Goldfish and slams the door.

When she announced one day after school that she had big news, my first reaction was shock that she was initiating a conversation with me. At last, I thought! An A in Algebra, a perfect score on the dreaded SAT, perhaps she was being inducted into the National Honor Society.

“Yeah, so I’m having a baby,” she muttered as she walked by me, checking her text messages. “Do we have any food in this house?”

“What?” I shrieked, glaring at her tummy. “How did this happen?”

“I don’t know why you’re freaking out,” she said. “It’s my life that’s totally screwed.” She grabbed a bag of Oreos from the pantry and headed towards her room.

Panic overcame me as I raced after her. “What are we going to do?” I cried to the locked door. My daughter could not even remember to charge her cell phone, much less take care of a baby.

“Please open the door!” I yelled, trying to make myself heard over Lana Del Rey. “We need to talk.”

She shoved a piece of paper under the door.

“Child Development Assignment,” I read with teary eyes. “Students will learn proper parenting skills by adopting a computerized baby for a three day period. Student will learn the proper care of newborns and infants, including their physical, mental, emotional and social development.”

I wiped my nose on my sleeve and whispered a prayer of thanks.

She brought home her 10- pound bundle of toy the next weekend. “Isn’t she cute, Mom?” she gushed. “I named her Evi. She has her own car seat, diaper bag and milk bottle.” She smiled down at the infant, proud as any new mother and rocked her in her arms. “Want to hold her?”

“Uhm, sure,” I answered and she gingerly placed my new granddaughter in my arms.   I peeked at the plastic face. “What a…doll!”

“Can you hold her while I go to the bathroom? Just be careful with her!” she warned eyeing me suspiciously.   “Support her head. She’s very delicate.”

I forced myself not to roll my eyes at her instructions. Babies are actually stronger than we think. I recalled the time my older daughter fell off her changing table and hit her head on the corner of the bedroom wall, leaving an egg shaped hole in the sheetrock. She was unharmed, never brought an illegitimate baby home, computerized or not, ended up graduating high school with honors, and was currently a freshman in college.

Evi whimpered and I reflexively began to jiggle her in my arms. I unwrapped the pink blanket and peered into the tiny face. A shiver ran through me as I was met with a vacant stare. The whimper turned into a wail. I was clearly having a difficult time bonding with the new addition to our family.

I examined the screaming infant. She was hairless with perfect toes, clearly taking after the other side of the family, and odorless. I smiled as I recalled my sweet babies born with full Elvis sets of hair and adult sized eyebrows, smelling faintly of pee-pee perfume. I bet this baby made perfect poop pellets. No explosive diarrhea for little Evi.

“Mom! Do something!” my daughter screamed from the bathroom, shocking me back into the present. “If she cries too long I get an F!”

“Me do something? You do something!” I cried in frustration as my daughter burst from the bathroom holding her iPhone. “And you better hope there’s an app on that phone for how to be a good mother!”

She snatched the baby from me juggling her phone and the milk bottle. It occurred to me that as accepting as society was becoming, the only thing deterring a teen today from an unwanted pregnancy was the inconvenience of holding a baby and texting at the same time. When I was younger, there was no practicing motherhood with maybe babies. Sheer terror discouraged me from coming home pregnant, never mind the fact that I had never had a boyfriend. In fact, death from parental wrath would have been my first choice of punishment. It was more merciful than banishment to a remote village in Greece where I would be forced to lie that I was a widow, wear black for the rest of my life and raise my baby in shame.

My daughter held the bottle to Evi’s lips and instantly the crying was replaced with small sucking sounds of contentment. “See, she just needed a bottle,” she explained, suddenly an expert on motherhood. “It’s easy. Next I’ll burp her.”

See how easy it is doing that on two hours of sleep wearing cabbage leaves in your bra, I thought, as I retreated to my room. You wouldn’t be feeling so perky if little Evi had been pulled out of your body with an angry pair of forceps after 12 hours of labor. See how many Instagram selfies you shoot when your stomach takes on the consistency of an underinflated waterbed.

That night her friend Madeline came over to see her precious “niece”. The girls took great pains to feed and bathe Evi and change her perfect little diapers. They took her to the park and for ice cream and posed her for a thousand photos in each of her outfits. Auntie Madeline even offered to sleep over to help with the nightly feedings. The three fell asleep watching movies, one big happy family. It was all fun and games until 3 AM when the girls were exhausted and baby Evi wanted to play. I put a pillow over my ears to block out the crying, which by now was not only coming from the baby, and willed myself to go to sleep.

The next morning my daughter stumbled down the stairs wearing saggy sweatpants and a baggy, wrinkled t-shirt, her hair frizzed into a massive mane around her face. She squinted at me from behind a pair of crooked glasses, dark circles rimming crescents under her eyes. She had aged 10 years overnight. She looked manic, menopausal, murderous. She looked… like me. I could hear Madeline snoring from the couch upstairs.

“Rough night?” I asked.

“I literally hate my life,” my daughter moaned. “Babies suck.” She rested her head on my shoulder. “I did everything for her, fed her, burped her, changed her diaper but she just kept crying. I can’t go anywhere this weekend. I don’t get why anyone would even want a baby. What do you get in return?”

I pulled her to me and rocked her gently in my arms. “Poor baby,” I crooned. “It gets better.”

We did not dare go to church that Sunday. Neither of us wanted the whole congregation to think one of us had just given birth. I could imagine the scandalous whispering in the pew. “I noticed the mom had packed on a few pounds, but I just thought it was middle age spread… Isn’t that the girl who’s always on her phone? She seemed like such a nice girl. It must be the mother’s fault…”

Instead we stayed in and watched old home movies, laughing until we cried.  My daughter made fun of my perm and shoulder pads, while I grew melancholy watching her take her first steps across the TV screen and stumble right into my arms.  We took turns holding Evi one last time.

“Motherhood sure is tough,” my daughter decided as the movie ended and she looked down at the peaceful baby in her arms, “but I almost hate to see her go.”

The shrill ring of her phone broke the mood and I watched her face light up as she recognized her big sister’s voice.

She glanced at me. “Yes, she’s sitting down. Why?”

I waited expectantly through the pregnant pause that followed.

“You have big news?” she asked.   “What is it?”

Adrenaline took over and I bolted from the room.

No news is good news. The life I was born to lead in a secluded Greek village high up in the mountains was long overdue. I would catch the first flight out. I could play a convincing role of a grieving mother.

And black, after all, is so slimming.



First Dance




“His name is Kole.  His name is Kole,”  I repeated to myself silently, as the two got into the car and settled themselves comfortably, too comfortably, I feared, into the back seat.

Kole, Kole, Kole,”  I insisted under my breath.

I glanced at him in the rearview mirror. He looked nice enough with his shock of black hair and freckle splattered cheeks. I caught a whiff of cologne, certainly not after- shave, his face more boy than man, and smiled smugly. I could take him down. If necessary, one well-aimed bump of my hip could bring him to his knees.   I examined his slight build and corrected myself. Physical violence would not be necessary. My purse could flatten him, both straps tied behind its back.

I knew him. As soon as my daughter uttered his name months ago with her petal pink lips, the research began. All it took really was a few phone calls to a couple of well- connected mothers, and I was armed with his life history. I knew him, but he did not know me.

“I am Greek!” I wanted to scream and shock that confident smirk off his face. “We make soup out of genitals and serve it to our families at Easter!” I shuddered, recalling how my own father would make an elaborate show of pulling his guns out of a gleaming glass case he kept in the living room when a boy would have the audacity to come to the house to pick me up for a date. One by one he would lovingly polish each gun with a rag, his white undershirt stained with sweat. As a result, I had many first dates in high school, but never a second.

Where was my dad when I needed him? As a single mom, I appeared docile. I baked cookies. I served brownies and joked. But inside, I seethed and plotted. If only the poor boy could read the thoughts behind my carefully made up face, he would flee from the car, race back to the safety of the school and not look back.

It started off innocently enough, as things always do.

“There’s someone I want you to meet,” my precious 15 year-old daughter announced one day. She inhaled deeply and breathed, “Kole.”

“Coal?” I pronounced, the name bitter on my tongue. Like the piece of carbon Santa brings a bad boy for Christmas.

“Cole with a K,” she answered sweetly, dreamily.                   “K-O-L-E.”

“Kole.  Oh…” I corrected myself.  Like the Greek word kolo, the body part you sit on.

And so, it started. She thought he was perfect, Kole with a K, an aspiring musician, and I just thought he was one letter away from being an ass.

“I really like him, Mom,” she continued. “We’re going out.”

“Where are you going?” I demanded, knowing full well my daughter’s whereabouts at all times. I knew where she was 24 hours a day: school, church, basketball practice, in her room doing her homework, never remotely near anyone named Kole or his kolo.

She rolled her eyes dramatically. “We talk. We text. We sit together at lunch. Everyone knows we like each other,” she explained, as if to a two-year-old.

I breathed a sigh of relief. A crush, I thought. Puppy love. Nothing would ever come of this…

“He wants to take me to…”


“You didn’t let me finish…”

I pulled out my trump card. “Not until you’re 16.”

We ended up compromising. They were going out without going anywhere, and I pretended that was acceptable to me.

I made a few attempts at being a modern mom. I picked him up occasionally so they could study at Starbucks, two huge backpacks resting between them in the backseat, an impervious fortress.

Months passed and the inevitable happened.

She turned 16.

Outwardly, I celebrated. I threw a huge party for her and 30 of her closest friends and showered her with gifts.

Inwardly, I wailed. I tore at my hair and cursed my predicament.

She cornered me the day after her party.

“There’s a dance,” she began. “I want to go with Kole.”

“No,” I answered without thinking.

“But you promised! I’m 16. I’ll be getting my driver’s license soon.”

“No,” I stammered, but her excitement was contagious. After all, I had been young once, in love, bursting with anticipation, glowing with the warmth of a new romance.   I scrutinized the mature, responsible young woman before me and fought the urge to be like my father.

And that was how I found myself in this predicament, driving this car, one eye on the road and one focused in the rear view mirror, spying on the young couple huddled together in the backseat, sitting shamelessly close, thighs touching, when there was clearly enough room for three full-sized strangers to spread out.

“How was the dance?” I asked.

“Oh, it was so much fun!” she gushed. “We danced all night. The band was great. Everyone liked my dress.”

I watched her in the rear-view mirror tug self-consciously at the bodice of her first strapless gown.  Kole loosened his bowtie.

The hairs on the back of my neck sprang to attention. Something was not right. I changed lanes unnecessarily so I would have an excuse to look over my shoulder into the dark back seat.

It was then I saw it. His hand rested ever so lightly on my daughter’s pearly white, perfectly shaped knee.

“That’s my knee!” I wanted to shriek. “I gave birth to that knee! Get your grubby little hand off my perfect little knee or I’ll show you what a knee’s good for, you little…”

I calculated in my mind, 15 minutes, 12 minutes if I sped home. Twelve minutes of his feeling up my daughter’s knee. Rage blinded me as I fought the urge to pull over, drag him from the car by the neck of his shirt and kick him in the kolo.

I talked to distract them: death, war, the famine in Haiti, the earthquake in Chile. If only I could keep his dirty little mind, if not his hand, off my daughter’s knee. I glanced at the clock glowing on the dashboard. We had more than a ten minute drive to Kole’s house when the crisis hit; my daughter rested her beautiful head of curls on Kole’s shoulder, and closed her eyes.

“Look out!” I screamed, swerving the car violently. Her head flew left, then right from the sudden motion.

“Mom! What the…?”

“A dog!” I lied. “I almost hit that dog! Whew, what a close call. Could you imagine Kole scooping up that poor little poodle? He’d be ringing doorbells all night in his tuxedo, trying to find its owners.”

I turned on the radio to a Christian station and raised the volume to gospel proportions. I peeked at them in the rear view mirror as a chorus of nuns sang the Lord’s Prayer in soprano. Minutes went by. I had just turned onto Kole’s street when I saw him turn towards her, leaning closer, his pursed lips dangerously close to their mark.

Without thinking, I jammed on the brakes in the middle of the dark road. “This one’s for you, Dad,” I cackled to myself as the car screeched to a stop.

“Ow!” Kole cried, as his neck snapped forward, then back from the sudden halt. He clutched the back of his head as the pungent aroma of burned rubber filled the car.

“Mom, what’s wrong with you?” my daughter cried. “Kole, are you ok?”

“Cat! Didn’t you see that black cat in the middle of the road?” I fibbed with conviction. “The only thing worse than having a black cat cross in front of you is hitting one. We all would have had bad luck!” I quickly pulled up in front of Kole’s house, parked the car and immediately turned on the interior lights.

“Thank you for the ride,” he said in his best Eddie Haskell voice, rubbing the back of his neck where the whiplash had grabbed him.

“Anytime Kolo,” I cooed.

“It’s Kole,” he said resignedly.

“Of course, Kole,” I over pronounced. “And I do hope your neck feels better soon.”

I suppressed a smile as I watched him limp unsteadily up the front walk and enter his house. I turned to my daughter and patted her gently on the knee. “You never forget your first dance,” I whispered to the breathtaking princess in the back seat.

I pulled out carefully into the street. We took the long way home; there was no rush, and we did not hit a single animal along the way.

Splits Happen


Friday night arrives and I sit with the others in the sacred section of bleachers beside the band and directly in front of the 50- yard line.  We are a formidable bunch with our matching royal blue t-shirts and dark sunglasses, cameras posed for that perfect action shot, camcorders whirring in anticipation.  The girls march past us, buns bobbing, and I search hopefully for my daughter, then exhale when I spot her once again sitting alone in the stands, looking down at her jazz shoes that have yet to dance on the field.  Another failed try-out and once again she would not be performing at half-time.

I mutter under my breath, “What a bunch of bull…”

“Splits!” cries the booster president beside me as she clicks furiously at her camera.  “This is my favorite part!  Aren’t they amazing?”

I nod in agreement.  I had not missed one performance.  The Pacesetters are award winning, their toes practically grazing their ears as they high kick in sync to “Living on a Prayer”, then leap and land in a line of perfect splits.

Splits happen, it seems, just not to my daughter.   And that is how I find myself after years of reminding her to sit like a lady, cross her ankles, keep her legs together, encouraging her to do just the opposite.

I try reasoning with her the next day.  “It’s all in your head.  If you set your mind to it, you can do anything,” I lie, knowing full well if there were a hundred dollar bill in the parking lot, my hamstrings would shrivel into knots before letting me pick it up.

There is only one game left, I remind her and I have yet to capture one photo of my daughter on the field.  I suggest hot baths and stretches.  She rolls her eyes dramatically and taps out something on her phone.  Pilates or yoga will increase her flexibility, I counter, just to have her record me at an unflattering angle so she can send her friends video vines of my double chin.   I promise her fresh baked chocolate chip cookies if she will only practice, a bribe that never failed to produce when she was younger.  But now she is older with a smartphone and a mom she thinks is anything but.

“I can’t do it!  I’ll tear a ligament!” she cries and storms off into the kitchen.  “And I’ll make my own freaking cookies!”   She picks up the can of PAM for emphasis and sprays a cloud of cooking oil all over the pan and most of the floor.

“That’s it!  Give me your phone,” I order, grabbing it from her hand and placing it out of reach high on a shelf.

“I’m waiting for a call.  Give it back!” she roars, a demon in a pair of black practice hot shorts far smaller than any lingerie I wore on my honeymoon.

I take a deep breath and speak slowly, as if addressing a rabid dog.  “Practice your splits and you get the phone back.”

She stares me down, fury flashing across her face.  Planting her hands defiantly on her tiny hips, she slowly slides one foot in front of the other and with agonizing precision, proceeds to lower her body until she stops abruptly 12 inches from the floor.  Then a split personality possesses her and she begins to cry.

I feel instantly guilty at her unexpected show of weakness.  After all, the only thing I stretch these days is the truth.  “Look, that’s better,” I cheer.  “You’re almost there.  Just try to hold it one more minute.”

The shrill ring of her phone pierces her concentration and she jumps up.   We dash across the Pam coated kitchen tile, skidding into each other, leap for the phone and with a horrible tearing sound and a scream, land in a tangled mess on the floor.

“Mom, look!” she cries, waving her cell phone in the air like a pom -pom.  “I’m doing the splits!  I’m doing the splits!”  She rubs her legs in disbelief.  “But I definitely heard something tear.  I hope I’m ok.”

“That would be my pants,” I guess as I clutched my lower back and struggle to get up from the slippery floor.

Friday night arrives and I lie in my bed propped up with a pile of pillows, a heating pad set on high against my back.  My daughter stops by my room on her way out, hair sleeked back in a bun, wearing her blue and white game uniform and a broad smile.

“I’m really sorry you won’t be able to see me dance,” she says as she hands me a plate of freshly baked cookies.  “The doctor said if you would do your stretches, your back would get better.”  She pauses.  “You know the pain is all in your head.  You could get out of bed if you set your mind to it.”

I roll my eyes at her, wave her away and reach for the Advil on my nightstand.  My back is killing me.  And suddenly, I have a splitting headache.