She could see why Baby preferred Mia. It didn’t matter that Charlie wad the one that had found her, didn’t matter that without Charlie, Baby would undoubtedly be dead on Shuck Street, or, best case scenario be wandering the giant building’s halls living on food scraps and sleeping with feral dogs. It didnt matter that Charlie had introduced her to Mia, cautiously, to protect her.

Within hours of meeting, Baby was trying to sit in Mia’s lap, curling tiny fingers around Mia’s thick black tendrils of hair with curiosity. Mia was instantly and without hesitation warm and motherly. Charlie was mesmerized by her transition into a cooing, baby-talking mommy, all smiles and shushes, delicately pulling Baby’s fine hairs out of her face. She could have sworn Mia’s breasts even grew into more voluptuous, and more comforting, as she snuggled Baby into them.

Drawing in a breath of cool air, she watched them sleep. The orange glow of the dying fire made both of their faces look flushed and young. Mia looked almost as sweet and tender as Baby. Maybe that was the kinship they had. Maybe Mia seemed so young that she felt like a sister.

Baby’s face intermittently puckered as she sucked her thumb in her sleep. A bead of drool collected under her protruded lip. Mia’s hair fell around both of their faces, peaceful while they slept.  Charlie pulled the surplus jacket she had kept for herself tighter around her shoulders.

Had it been a month? The weather hadn’t changed much from hot days and warm nights, but the light hours were shrinking. In a month she had become almost an outsider from the two people she felt responsible for.

It would be getting cold soon. Unless they were further south than she thought. The landscape had turned from a dirty city scape into a trash strewn, barren landscape. They were following an old highway, but in some act of nonsensical vandalism, every sign had been removed. A few had been moved to the wrong location (thankfully it was obvious in each instance.)

And some days, particularly when Baby was cranky, they only made it what she guessed were a few miles. Other days it felt like they covered five times that, alternating carrying Baby every few hours. But as every day became more similar they all started to blur together. It was impossible to gauge how much ground they were covering, and at this point, she wasn’t even sure how much time had passed.

But they were headed in the right direction. The pull of The Compound was stronger every day. Mia swore she couldn’t feel it. But Charlie felt it like a swelling in her chest and throat, sometimes it made it hard to catch her breath. And she thought Baby could sense it too, in ways Mia didn’t notice. It seemed likely that Baby was modified like Charlie. She didn’t want to bring it up, but that would be an issue they would have to deal with as they drew closer to the border.

But for now, she was wrapped safely in Mia’s warm arms. Turning to the sky, she slowlybdrifted into a restful sleep.

Better Parenting Through Humiliation


Well, I almost didn’t go tonight. Anxiety has been at an all time high this last week, for a few reasons, and I spent every moment today talking myself in and then out of dragging my chicken shit butt to this workshop. The roads have been terrible, I was tired, none of my clothes fit, my PMS is welling up like volcano erupting… And of course, did I really want to spend three waking hours drenched in adrenaline pumped, nervewracking, looking like an idiot in front of a bunch of strangers?

Ed and Rose were painfully encouraging, Eddie actually sitting on my bed and giving me a stern pep talk about how it was important to be around those more talented then we are because it urges us to challenge ourselves to do our best and get better. Rosie even gave me a ‘You’ll be great, mom. Here, take my fedora and sparkly scarf.’

In the end what I realized was simple: I have been forcing those two to confront uncomfortable situations and challenge themselves for years. If I didn’t go, they would know I was full of shit. They’d never let me live it down. And more importantly, they might take a cue from me and feel just slightly more comfortable bowing out of opportunities that weren’t easy or familiar.

At least when they flake out later in life, I can feel *slightly* less responsible. I’ll shake my head at them, clicking my tongue, reminding them of how brave I was when facing difficult situations. I’ll wipe away a year of pity and mutter that they must be lazy chickens because of their father.  Not me.  Such a shame.

Anyway, I went, and it was just as bad as I expected. For such a bold and boisterous lady, I turn into a trembling, red-faced, blubbering bag of incoherent mumbles when I’m in front of a crowd. If you took an awkward looking baby giraffe and taught it how to talk but also gave it a drinking problem/anxiety disorder, it would probably still remain more composed and coherent in front of a crowd. I was shaking so badly that I could barely take a sip of my water after I sat back down after doing an exercise.

Hugh is unfailingly supportive, so I have zero idea of how bad I actually am. My imagination promises me that I am painfully awful.

I’ve decided that this week I’m going to make the kids watch me perform improv skits and record me so I at least have some experience and a better idea of what I must look like whilst making a fool of myself. This should also enforce the idea that personal growth requires stepping out of one’s comfort zone. And I think I will be sufficiently uncomfortable in front of even a phone camera enough to emulate the workshop experience. And this is what they get for encouraging me. Now we ALL have to suffer.


Y’all need to pray for me. I have six more weeks of this.

The Chicken Within


Tonight was the Open House at The Actor’s Loft. I got to meet Hugh and hear about all of the workshops they offer, including the one Nick signed me up for as my Christmas gift, The Fundamentals of Acting.

All of the workshops sound amazing, and I’m so excited to start next week, but it quickly became apparent sitting there that I am going to be the biggest fish out of the most water. A whale in a desert.

The screenwriting workshop instructor (Charles) nearly had me salivating as he described the protagonist’s necessary journey through conflict and to glorious resolution that he would be helping the writers to understand. I was literally on the edge of my seat considering sinking my teeth into a good screenplay idea. It felt so natural to consider! My constant state is running storylines through my head for believability and appeal.

The improv workshop sounded fun and interesting and attainable. I know it was a million years ago, but as I described in a previous episode of, I took improv classes in my youth. And they were great. I like to think on my toes and bounce ideas off of a partner.

The actual Acting class sounds so foreign. It became obvious that it’s going to be all new to me. And I realized sitting there that I have an some major insecurities I’m going to have to deal with moving forward. Shall we list the things? We all know I like to list the things:

  • I have the grace of a corpse when I am nervous. My mouth will keep doing the moving and spitting out of words. But my body will take on jerky movements not unlike those of a zombie from literally any zombie movie. You know what I’m describing.
  • I like to think I’m not horribly unattractive. On film, this disillusionment becomes obvious. Whatever beauty or grace I *may* possess is due to skilled chin angling and proper hair swingimg during conversation. This illusion disappears the instant I’m on film. (Whenever I doubt this I let someone try to take a good picture of me. Their increasing frustration as they ‘adjust the angle’ and eventually angrily direct me to do smoky eyes and pout at the lens until they sigh, defeated, and say ‘look how white your teeth are, so… pretty’ is all I need to remind me to avoid the camera.) This class is all about working the camera, my old foe.
  • I know nothing about ‘The Craft’
  • There is A Craft
  • I had no idea
  • Guess I will be doing some homework
  • I have no future in this stuff, at least not in the immediate. I have almost zero time to do anything. I know what a time requirement something like this is. My working availability is at ’20 seconds per bathroom break every six hour’s level right now.

So I guess the biggest actual fears are that I am wasting everyone’s time, and in doing so, I’m going to make a complete fool of myself.

Acknowledging this actually makes it seem far less scary than it did earlier.

I regularly look like and idiot AND waste people’s time. And the sun still rises every morning. So what is the worst that can happen ?



It’s Called ACTING


I have kind of been dreading coming here.  Ugh ugh ugh to the feeling that I’m just waxing philosophical, mommy blogging myself into boring, pointless oblivion.  But I guess that means my life is just boring.  And I don’t post enough for this to be a ‘mommy blog’.  Either way, this so far hasn’t been a ‘Lit’ (as Rosie would say) bit of the internet.  OH WELL.  Go away then.

June is finally walking with some confidence, and it’s great.  She had a play date today with her friend Sydney and they played really well together.  Unless he touched her water bottle.  Gents be warned, this lady doesn’t share her water.  She displayed the same pterodactyl-like screeching abilities as Ari as she defended it.  Poor Sydney.

For Christmas, Nick got me Acting Lessons at the Actor’s Loft in Royal Oak. The last acting lessons I had were at the Civic Theater in Grand Rapids when I was still young enough to be dropped off by my mom.  I honestly have no idea if I was 8 or 15.  What I do remember is the rawness of being a fool in front of strangers, the freedom of needing confidence and finding it by being more brash, more loud than everyone else.  The absolute glory of realizing I was maybe good.

And maybe I wasn’t.  Maybe I was having my Florence Foster Jenkins moment that surely we ALL must have at some point.  Maybe the rest of my group was cringing and holding their breath until we separated so they could congratulate each other on their natural talent while that silly blond girl floundered like a fish out of water.  That part is irrelevant.

What was important was how amazing it all FELT. Playing silly improv games and discovering ‘animal essence’ in this dusty, magical back room buried in the guts of the nearly 100-year-old theater, glowing ochre sunlight flooding the room, life had never felt more perfect.

I went on to get as involved in theater as I could in high school, and until the worst of what I can now easily call at least mild depression hit during my Junior year, I lived for those moments spent on stage.  What a wonderful thing, for people to just enjoy watching you do something you absolutely loved.  (Though now that I have lived on the other side of school performances, it is possible that very few of the people in the audience were enjoying anything.)

Life after school was a quick and hefty whirlwind of early marriage, babies, lots of work, moving, staying afloat, and for me, lots and lots of daydreaming and trying to write (my more accessible but questionably second passion).  But I haven’t ever forgotten the draw of the damn theater.

The very last ‘acting’ anything I was involved in was the 48 Hour Film Project, and that was as a writer.  It wasn’t nearly as fulfilling or interesting as any of my (very limited) acting experiences.

So we will see how this goes.  I’m nervous and distracted with the rest of my crazy life.  I can’t imagine trying to do anything like this for myself now.  This is probably just an exercise in making myself look ridiculous.

But hey, I’ll have something to write about.  So you can all quit complaining.  🙂


Fools, by Neil Simon

Fools, by Neil Simon ~ Maybe 1996?  I was the blonde





I think spiders have been this year’s theme. We had our giant monster spider living on one entire half of the back deck for part of the summer, porch spiders that we watched torture like-sized bugs, and more than a few times I was called into the shower (by Eddie AND Rosie) to kill shower spiders. Yesterday I woke up at 3 a.m. to five swollen, itchy bites along my exposed thigh. If I hadn’t woke up and freaked out in the apropriate manner I would most likely have been eaten alive.

And that little bastard is still roaming around the house. Probably my bedroom. My live and let live philosophy is being tested. A. F.

Not that I have much choice in the matter. We’re talking about something the size of a quarter, at best. And we all know how well I keep track of money.

I want to vow to kill all of the little bastards mercilessly upon sight. But today in the bathroom there was a pale, unsuspecting and small specimen crawling underneath the vanity.

And I couldnt kill him. He just looked so innocent, doing his own thing.

He will probably attack again tonight. I hate being a sucker.


What *Doesn’t* Nikki Manaj Do?

"Mom, your life used to be like an inspired French movie. Now it's like an ABC sitcom." - Rosie

“Mom, your life used to be like an inspired French movie. Now it’s like an ABC sitcom.” – Rosie

We all have those things we are trying to be aware of, or do better at, or get, or accomplish.  (Or maybe we all aren’t – you big lazy slobs who are just *enjoying* your lives can get on out.  Mine is all about the misery involved in bettering myself.)

Most of my friends kick ass at work, or they teach yoga classes, or constantly correct their diet, or read parenting books, or paint, or write poetry, or take pictures.  Some of the people in my life are teenagers, so they just proclaim their misery from angsty mountaintops, as though the rest of us are responsible.  And some of the people in my life are young children, so they just cry and scream and whine with devout intensity, but without making sense.  For example, today’s mantra for nearly an hour from Ari was ‘But I wanted to close the door myself.’


The intensity was overwhelming.  He is a mighty powerful soul with limited power, and trapped in a small body.

Growing as a person comes in stages.  These babies can’t help it.  Watching what June traverses just trying to get across a room, from navigating Ari’s messes and erratic behavior to the ever-changing landscape of laundry and snacks, simply because she needs to know what is on the other side, that tells you all you need to know about how much youthful curiosity drives our behavior.  At least for a couple of years.

And now she’s learning to walk!  It’s an unstable, dangerous looking act.  She has no idea if she’ll be able to do it, every. single. time.  But she keeps trying.  She loves the feeling of those feet on the ground, of seeing everything one foot higher.  Every time she falls on her butt. She’s terrible at it.  It’s pathetic.

But for a week or so now, she tries over and over.  And we all know she will master the skill, but she doesn’t know that.  It’s just something new, and she likes the feeling of it.

I 100% get it.

Rosie and I dug through an old box of memorabilia and pictures the other night, and shit, man, I used to do all kinds of fun stuff that was a little bit scary.  I applied for jobs I wasn’t qualified for, I dodged trains on bridges.  I visited cities I didn’t know with no money or maps or contacts (and this was pre-Google Maps, kids).  I just indulged in curiosity.

There’s always new terrain, friends.  I can’t sit around this place raising kids and painting my nails and reading Martha Stewart Living trying to find new and creative recipes without getting restless.  I don’t care how much ‘but some people have it so much worse’ baloney you read about, there is no grace in deciding to do nothing with your life because you are comfortable.  Imma wobble and fall on my butt and look stupid trying to find new things to do.





Alcoholism is a Hell of a Drink


The most frustrating thing about a three hour drive with a baby and a toddler is helplessly watching your car get trashed.  I’m being real about it – I know it wasn’t in pristine condition before I pulled out of my driveway, but there was unrecognizable mashed orange paste smeared into the upholstery, and June’s white cardigan, by the time I pulled into my mom’s driveway yesterday.  What the hell did I throw back there to keep them quiet?  Beef jerky, Cheerios, snap peas, some chocolate I found at the bottom of the middle console… Several sippy cups… I still have no idea what that orange shit was.

What are we doing here?  My brother was admitted to the hospital yesterday, and not for the first time.  And it wasn’t a car accident, and it wasn’t a fall, and it wasn’t acute bronchitis.  He was so drunk, again, that we had to go find him unresponsive in his apartment, in a *very* unpleasant mess of his own making.  Well, mom had to go find him like this.  It is usually her.

This time he was suffering kidney failure, internal bleeding (and external), and his body temp was so low that the EMTs assured my folks that he would have been dead within hours, without treatment.  A few HOURS.  The length of a movie.

He’s been on fluids and vitamins and Atavan and who knows what else for about 30 hours now, and he is still practically incoherent.

I have a brother, and his name is Jordan.   This kid, this guy, he is this blend of silly and loving and philosophical that is hard to find.  He loves my kids like they are his own.  He loves his family, loves finding connections in everything, people or the world at large.  He’s a busybody, wanting to be on his feet all the time, chatting, even just cleaning house always seems to bring him a modicum of pleasure.  He always wants to be moving.  He’s also blessed; the world just wants to give him things.  People like him.

He has always been in my life.  My bleached out memories of scorching summer days are of him, the two of us running barefoot on hot pavement, scarring up our knees (his were perpetually scabbed, picked at, red and angry looking), eating blackberries behind the house, climbing trees, having leg wars on the living room carpeting.  He would let me dress him in skirts and purses because I didn’t have a sister instead, and then he would let me race Hot Wheels with him on his tracks that never held together.  Sometimes we would make our own paths out of stacks of books.

But nothing ever felt fair or even.  He cried often, and was anxious almost always.  Mom coddled him, not me, dad was harsh on him even when I was the one being rotten.  Where as I couldn’t wait to get away, to leave, he told me recently that all he remembers wanting when we were kids was for ‘someone to tell him what to do’.  I was equally surprised and NOT surprised to hear this.  It made sense.

Is my role here to step in and tell him what to do?  My family, we are a conglomeration of vastly different personalities.  It’s hard to know if I am actually very harsh  and controlling (as perhaps my mother believes) or sound of mind but too wishy-washy (as maybe my father thinks).  I know I love this person, the little punk that used to be mistaken for my twin, with our white hair.  And maybe regardless of whether or not I can get everyone on board, I will need to stand front and center and do what I think needs to be done here.

I may not know what I am capable of, but I’m acutely aware of what I am not capable of, and right now, that’s sitting around and watching my brother kill himself.  Even if I am the bad guy.


So Now It’s Almost November


And I still haven’t been on a boat.  Or made a lot of time to write.


We all know I love lists.  So what have I done since my last post??  Shall we see???

  • Made probably 14 healthy dinners
  • Made like 10 decent breakfasts
  • Hosted a stupid birthday party with 65 people inside because it rained even though there was a 30% chance that it would NOT RAIN (I did a terrible job fyi)
  • Colored my hair twice, for better or worse
  • Hosted my brother and my cousin and her daughter (with varying amounts of awesome (Kimberly, you were the highest amount of awesome)
  • Vacuumed like probably 50 times
  • Given four flea treatments (to cats)
  • Washed and folded at least 20 loads of laundry, not counting kitchen rugs
  • Consumed 5-6 bottles of wine and a bit more beer
  • Kept 5 children alive (with help)
  • Discovered Game of Thrones (Khaleeeeessssiiiiii!!!!!)
  • Yoga like AT LEAST five times
  • And tonight we carved pumpkins and I think it almost killed me
  • Wrote a blog post one time
  • Thought of concrete, real-life actions I could take to progress my life goals
  • Almost did like one of them

As you can see, I have been very busy.  And now I’m going to get some rest before I need to find more tea light candles for the pumpkins tomorrow night.



Otto and That Other Guy


I waited two days to write this down somewhere, and I’m doing it here, now, because though I may not be thinking *entirely coherently*, I’ve already waited this long to make record of a dream that was more beautiful and vivid and is most definitely going to be the basis of the novel that I will actually finish and if I wait any longer or do it anywhere else, it’s going to disappear into an abyss of dirty dishes and cat fur.

On a boat, mostly a sailboat, lived two boys.  Otto and Eric. (Camillo?)  White sun was all they knew: it bleached the wood, it warmed their skin, it dried damp linen.  The sky was blue, the water was blue, sparkling, and they knew each other.

People were told they were brothers, but the men and the women laughed at that.  “You look so different, a sunny almond and a dark raisin, you are like the day and the night.  Maybe your mother wasn’t very honest,” they would say with a wink and a gut laugh.  The boys would watch the women clutch their throats, the men’s belly’s jiggle, enjoying a joke they didn’t yet understand.

Life was bare feet, scampering around barrel-chested men pulling sails, their mother and other women with soft voices feeding them bits of vegetables and oily, delicious fishes, and of course, Anna.  Eric was in love with Anna.  But so was Otto (along with anyone else who laid eyes on her).  She was the queen of the water, dark eyes as big as the sea at night, slim wrists, a smile that was hard to find.  I think they both knew she was Eric’s.


Uncategorized Comments Off on Otto and That Other Guy

Summer is Almost Over


I love the fall, like every other Michigander. It’s that muted, colorful, quiet space where hoodies mix with flip flops, beach days become reflective nature walks, and my house starts smelling like baking cookies and slow-roasting vegetables again. You almost forget that it’s also the begining of a swift descent into six months of freezing bull shit: shoveling, slushy sidewalks, freezing, dark mornings, and wet socks.

Fall is that sweet buffer between long and scorching summer days and seasonal depressive disorder.

The boys raided the community garden when we were at the park the other day, picking all of the ‘cherry matoes’ (in Ari’s words) that they could get from the plants growing into the fence line. We sliced and broiled them with mushrooms and feta cheese that night, though they preferred the taste of them raw, the sweet juices bursting out as the skins split between their teeth.

(I like how the thrill of something can override the unpleasantness associated with it. No way Ari really loves the taste of tomatoes, but he loves that mini explosion in his mouth.)

Before too long it will be hard to imagine food growing directly out of the ground.

But right now, I walk. Miles and miles if I can, checking out the neighbors’ houses, walking over the highway, just being out in it. I hope it’s a short winter.

Contraband Tomatoes


Uncategorized Comments Off on Summer is Almost Over