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.