Going Forward

by the Coconut Girl on April 5, 2015

My actor friends tell me that the first rule of improv theater is to be affirmative. Lately I’ve been noticing that life is eerily similar to improv, so I’ve decided to beef up my can-do, go-with-it attitude. But pre-beefing, I want to ask a quick negative favor:

Stop saying “Going forward.”

Think of it as an act of world peace brought home in a flat-packed IKEA box. Inside, instead of the usual particle board, mini-wrench, and bag of fluted dowels, there’s only a single sheet of paper. On it is the cartoon IKEA guy who always does his work on a Montessori rug. His voice bubble says, “Going forward…” and there’s a big X through it.

I love that IKEA guy. He makes me think of Dorie Anisman. Remember her? She answered the phones for the Diane Rehm Show until a few years ago. I always loved that Anisman was included in the credits at the end of each broadcast. Why did she leave her job, and where did she go? I think she bailed to Berea because she couldn’t stand one more pundit concluding his remarks with “going forward.”

Going forward, American airbuses will have to be a lot more fuel-efficient.

Sometimes on the radio and in person I’ll hear parents talk to their children in a baby voice. It’s as if Betty Boop dropped in as co-pilot of their larynxes. Donald Trump Jr. is the co-pilot of Going Forward larynxes. Although Don’s trying to make an impression on adults rather than toddlers, the truism holds: you can talk in your regular voice.

Hypocrite alert! I change my voice all the time. But not because I’m trying to sound authoritative to impress someone. It’s because that certain someone has a used casement window that would fit perfectly in my future skyscraper that I’ve already drawn up. If I’m going to build all 108 stories like Don, I can’t pay full price, dig? So I backtrack a bit to my Kentucky drawl. I remember people there who went into deals with no idea how they were gonna go, but the playahs were courteous (and a teeny bit steely but mostly courteous)—and on the fly, they got it done without going forward.


{ 1 comment }

Mixing Things Up

by the Coconut Girl on January 29, 2015

What? New stomach mole?

God, I don’t know my body.

Scratch that! Thin Mint crumb.

*         *         *         *          *

Boozing it up, maxing out the credit cards, hitting the clubs.

Last night someone was out doing those things, but I was home in the tub—eating a tube of Girl Scout cookies, and reading.  It was just so quiet in the house at 10 PM with everyone sleeping.

Paradise was mine until I lost my grip on my book. I tried to save it, and in the process, tossed the shiny sleeve of cookies into the drink.

Please don’t throw up, please don’t throw up, please don’t throw up.

This was my next thought as I listened to my son on the other side of the tub wall moan and sputter in his sleep. Any second now he might burst in on me.  In January, a bathroom can go from spa to sick ward just like that. It’s a shame, because for that first day, everything’s so happy and hopeful. But the next thirty days are all hangover: stomach viruses, strep, flu, and teacher workdays.

I fished myself and the last dissolving Thin Mint out of the tub, and headed to the kitchen to get a mixing bowl in case my son tossed his cookies.

Why don’t guests give mixing bowls at baby showers?  They should. Big bowls are so useful, and not just for getting sick in the middle of the night. You can bathe a newborn in one. And later, use it to make cookies.


Seize the Socks

by the Coconut Girl on January 15, 2015

Chris Martin, the frontman of the band Coldplay, said in a radio interview last year that he never holds back his best material. For him, there’s no rainy day to save a good song for, nor a mythical better album for it to crown. Whatever future opportunity may exist, the song is here, and the time is now.

I feel the same way about the zebra-striped fleece socks I bought last Fall at a big box linen store. There’s no “better outfit” they’ll go with to make me look more asexual. Whatever ensemble I choose, the socks will fully neuter me in it. Perfectly. Today.

My carpe diem approach to wearing the socks was inspired by Martin—and I like to think he’d be pleased to know it. For nearly two months after I purchased them, they languished in a drawer with the little plastic hanger and labels still attached. That’s because I didn’t really want the socks in the first place. Buying them was a beer-goggles type of decision; my judgment was impaired by the potpourri reverse-aromatherapy permeating the store. I had to get away from that smell, and whatever items were in my mitts when I checked out, well, so be it.

It took a bitterly cold day last January to make me willing to wear the socks. Our floors were like ice floes. I donned the zeebs atop two other pairs of dress socks I already had on. My feet became pedal turduckens.

Instantly, I was hooked. I went from being a designer with a decent aesthetic sensibility to someone who’d totally let herself go. In the morning, I forced my freakishly fat, felted feet into ballet flats and experienced warmth I never knew existed. At night, I climbed into bed with the socks still on (see “asexual” above). Stowaways joined me between the sheets: lengths of Washi tape, apple produce labels, and Ninjago stickers from the pediatrician’s office—all cozily adhered to the fuzzy bliss of my sock soles.

With my first zebra anniversary now approaching, I’ve been reflecting on my total abdication of fashion for warmth. I troll through different outfits in my mind, hoping to conjure a jaunty costume that my socks will actually look good with. It’s no use. Swimsuits, power suits, and zoot suits all look decidedly worse with the socks as a foundation.

The only way to preserve some measure of dignity with my zeebs on is to hide them under boots. As I max the PSI on the zippers, I tell myself that it’s okay; everyone’s hiding something. Teenagers have their acne concealer, and those of a certain age have their turtlenecks and hair plugs. Guess what? We all look frigging fantastic. Especially when we notice the little chinks in each other’s armor, take a shallow breath in our Spanx, and pretend that we didn’t notice a thing.




The Dealer

by the Coconut Girl on December 31, 2014

If you snap this blanket, and the whole fringed edge falls over the far side of the bed without touching the wall, then the frozen meat package arriving from your in-laws will contain those delicious twice-baked potatoes.

Some people spend their lives trying to quiet their mental critic. I spend my life being propositioned by my mental dealer.

Like most parasites, he entered my life unnoticed, without fear or fanfare. But he’s ravenous, highly adaptable, and looks like Hell under a microscope. If I do one deal, he wants another. And the stakes only get higher.

In elementary school, skipping cracks in the sidewalk meant a Mad magazine in my mailbox. In middle school, finishing the dishes before the high note in “Evergreen” meant a sleepover at my friend’s house. And in high school, pulling a blue M & M from the bag right after a red one netted me the college acceptance of my choice.

On and on it’s gone, through every stage of my life.

My rational mind knows that these trades hold no real power. But the dealer is a drug I can’t quit. He preys on me in vulnerable moments, like when I’m bored, or hungry. He’s my own personal fast-talking Ronco pitch man who dangles the good stuff in front of me: candy, toys, social acceptance, and career advancement.

It’s exhausting, facing his litany of proposals. Especially because recently he split into two beings, and is using my children as mouthpieces. The deals fly twice as fast. Competing offers are the norm. And my fairness is constantly questioned. The process starts with an innocent-sounding query designed to make me look like the dealer. “Can I have a sleepover if I get my chores done?”  This sounds reasonable, so I say yes. But then I get clocked with “You said she could have a sleepover if she gets her chores done, so why can’t I watch a video if I do my homework?” If I’m not careful, I’ll end up in that dangerous parenting alley where Justice swings her scales like nunchaku. The dealer, her thug boyfriend, laughs in the shadows by the trash cans.

Sometimes the dealer is eerily quiet. I confess that it’s then that I actually seek him out. It’s a pitiful scene. He’s the exposed Oz with nothing in his bag for me, and I’m the greenhorn Dorothy holding my singed broom. I try to engage him; I promise greater patience with my children in exchange for a healed loved one. I offer to trade a donation to his chosen charity for a safe flight home. But the dealer won’t play because his currency is joy. And in those moments, mine is fear.

Since relationships work best when everyone knows the power dynamic and sticks to it, I’ve learned to back off. He has to be the initiator, I get it, I get it. No more of my big asks. I wait for the dealer’s weird requests, and his bouquet of petty prizes. This isn’t easy when it’s the New Year, and I want to broker big deals about resolutions—about being a better person. The reality is, he won’t even give me those me those cool lip balm orbs if I meditate more. He just won’t.

But if I floss my teeth every night just so? Well, maybe he’ll bite on that one.



November 20, 2014

For twenty-five years, clients have hired me after their design budget spreadsheets were already singing on key. I’ve come in, most often as part of a team, to join the middle verse: designing what they’ve dreamed up to build. Eventually, the clients and I find ourselves standing in that realized dream. No matter how big [...]

Read the full article →

Chicken Cutlet

November 5, 2014

Recently I taught my eight-year-old how to bread a chicken cutlet. As a thank-you, he accidentally showed me how to shoot gasoline out of a fuel pump like a firehose. To celebrate our personal development, we flicked crumbs across the dining room table, and talked in English lady voices. They are like Sundays to us, [...]

Read the full article →

The River

September 26, 2014

We went down to the river And into the river we’d dive Down to the river we’d ride –Bruce Springsteeen Vapor rose from the river just yards from where we stood. I saw it reflected in the surface first.  That’s how still the water was, like a mirror that had closed around our legs. My [...]

Read the full article →

Chicken Cleavage

September 8, 2014

Don’t worry about the big bulge on my back; it’s just my eight-year-old son under my shirt. He’s been my Velcro Buddy since school started last week. This close proximity only poses a problem when his SuperGlue Sista (my ten year-old daughter) has her head up the front of my shirt. We just walk sideways, [...]

Read the full article →


July 9, 2014

Along my route home last night, I saw two people standing alone by the side of the road. They’d pulled over to photograph a town-wide rainbow that followed a sudden thunderstorm.  I was inside a home-improvement store when the deluge hit. Rain pounded the metal roof pan overhead. For a moment, the other shopper in [...]

Read the full article →

My Writing Life

July 4, 2014

Blog hops are catching on like wildfire, and I’m so excited to participate in one thanks to my friend and fellow-blogger, Miller Murray Susen. What’s a blog hop? It’s when a group of bloggers post on a common topic in a loose sequence, and then refer readers to other participating bloggers they admire. For this [...]

Read the full article →