Going for a Run

by the Coconut Girl on March 27, 2014


Fly Dome

by the Coconut Girl on March 20, 2014

In the kitchen cabinets to the right of the sink, tucked behind a teetering stack of mixing bowls, is a set of metal mesh fly domes. On a hot summer day, they’ll cover a platter of barbeque ribs, a basket of biscuits, and a stand of caramel cake. That’s important, because as soon as you spread a picnic out on a checkered cloth, flies get a text that there’s home cooking to sit on.

The domes have uses in the off-season, too. Now with the weather flip-flopping between kind and mean, I’m going to enlarge one of the domes 200% on my office copier. Then I’ll keep on enlarging it until it’s big enough to fit over my old middle school. I visited the building last week when I was home in Louisville, and you don’t have to be an architect to tell it needs a shield.

For a while, the school can just rest under the dome, no agenda. Then, when the time is right, the wire mesh can serve as scaffolding for scraping and repainting the windows. During the work, teachers and students will be able to see outside just fine. And if giant flies show up, they’ll get a text from the principal to take their compound eyes someplace else.

When I sneaked into the building, it was 4:30 on an after-school Friday. There I discovered that no picnic dome is necessary inside. This is a relief, because an interior dome requires both xeroxing and hammering to fit into hallways and classrooms. Thanks to eighty-six years of unsung custodial care, the terrazzo floors gleam. The oak handrails ahhhhhhhhh. The brass doorknobs wink. “Want a tour?” they asked. But I already knew my way around.




Never Give Up

by the Coconut Girl on March 9, 2014

“You keep saying that.”

My daughter looked at me disapprovingly, as if she were the parent, and I were the kid.

“Do I really? ‘Never give up’?”

She nodded. I set down the 12″ serrated knife I’d just used to saw the top off a children’s acetaminophen bottle. It had the wrong lid, one that belonged to another childproof medicine we own, probably some Target ibuprofen. Who knows how the switch happened, but the result was an impossibly-fused male-female mechanism. My girl held her head in pain, mostly from a virus, but also from watching her newly-vegetarian mother butcher a vessel that oozed red liquid onto the kitchen counter.

“You’ll thank me twice,” I whispered back. “First for the pain relief. Then for the grit I taught you.”

“The what?”

“Grit. Stick-to-it-iveness. Resolve. Remember when you were learning to ride a bike and you kept wrecking and getting back on…”

Actions speak louder than words is a mantra in child rearing. But I also speak louder, in more detail, and with great frequency, just to be sure. Kids don’t always connect the dots between, say, medicinal barbarism and perseverance. Important messages sometimes need spelling out.

I don’t get it when celebrities are interviewed on TV and they praise their stoic parents: “My father never said he loved me, but I knew because he worked hard for his family every day.” What? Dudes, it’s not hard to say “I love you” to your children, even after work. Because they’re your children. Who are you saving yourself for?

Some of the same people who dole out “I love you’s” sparingly are also parsimonious with smiles. I realized this when our neighborhood punk rocker crossed in front of my car at a light the other day. Not only has he never told me he loves me, but he’s also never flashed me a grin. Until—he crossed in front of my car at the light the other day. He actually looked through my windshield, broke through his disgruntled visage, and smiled. I felt like I’d won the lottery. And then I got mad at myself, because smiles are not subject to market laws of supply and demand. One smile from a scowling punk pedestrian is not worth a million bucks simply because it’s rare, and mine’s worth only $0.03 because I’m easy.

Not that I’d say “Be easy” to my children, because that’s not explained enough. Though they’d argue “Never give up” certainly is.



Caught on Camera!

by the Coconut Girl on February 25, 2014

Two guys I work with went off to do a brief project yesterday morning. I handed them my camera to take a specific picture I needed.

When they returned, one of them stretched out the Nikon strap and handed it to me. “Here you go,” he said. They piled into their truck, and I piled into my car. “See you later this week,” I called, pulling onto the highway.

The day was busy, and I didn’t have time to check the photo until last night. It was good.

But the pictures on either side of it that I hadn’t asked them to take were even better. Like the nostril-ly self-portraits, and the view out the driver’s side window. Then there was the image of the snow-soaked ground, featuring a mud puddle and tire—as if the shutter clicked by accident, but of course it hadn’t. The unexpected photos were strangely hilarious, as if the sassy crab from that viral video had made a cameo in my day. Or a classmate had flicked a football-folded note through time, with caricatures drawn inside. I talk to my kids a lot about the right kind of teasing. My work cohorts nailed it.










Lobes and Ukes

February 18, 2014

All the circuits are jammed in my brain. Normally I can toggle between lobes—the right, the left, the drafting, the writing, the mother, the worker. The switch needs some WD-40, I guess, because I haven’t been able to do it for a while. It’s like trying to shift gears without engaging the clutch. “Grind a [...]

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Friend for the Ride

February 10, 2014

  Author Barbara Younger wants to talk about menopause and mid-life. And she does it well, with informative, witty, and touching posts on her blog, Friend for the Ride. I’m honored to do this guest post about taking up karate in my forties. Because I like wearing mouth guards so much. (And also, because I [...]

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Ordinary Love

February 5, 2014

  U2′s lead singer, Bono, looked good arriving at the Golden Globes on January 12. He looked even better when he was up on stage and nodded towards Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay. U2 was collecting the award for Best Original Song, “Ordinary Love,” from the movie “Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom,” [...]

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Walking Shoes

January 22, 2014

“Ma’am, before you start, let me tell you, the wait is two hours.” – Safe Ride Home operator, 2 AM, New Year’s 2014 I. Out So we walked a mile and a half, my high-heeled dancing shoes and I. Three beers over two hours meant I was no good to drive. I started out on [...]

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hips $1

January 5, 2014

The icicle ornaments we just unhitched from our Christmas tree look like Popsicles from the pool concession stand after the color’s been sucked out. As lovely as the glass shafts are, I’m thinking of trading them in next year for actual ice pops–the long narrow ones in the plastic sleeves. The bright tubes would be [...]

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White Christmas

December 25, 2013

The oysters rode a wave of milk out of the saucepan and kerplopped into a mason jar on the stove. It was nearing 8 pm on Christmas Eve. My brothers and step-father sat in the idling Volvo in our driveway. They were waiting, as they did every year, for my mother and me to pile [...]

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