Adventures In Wonderland Wednesday, Aug 24 2011 


Early in the summer when I was focused on the bunnies and birds and new little creatures around me, I caught my rabbit Roger digging a hole in the flower beds below me. I also caught video, of course (which I’ll post later), and it got me thinking about this crazy summer. All I could think of was Alice in Wonderland and her strange little adventures following the rabbit. I did not PUBLISH the analogies that were scampering through my brain at the time partly because I wasn’t fully confident yet that people weren’t going to make all the same drug references that many see in the book and think I was on drugs myself after leaving my husband, house and seemingly normal happy life behind. I also thought I’d let this summer play itself out and see if my adventures or life calmed down for me. Um… not really, but I took notes so here it goes!

I’ve thought of myself as similar to Alice these last few months. I was well raised and taught to be polite. Sometimes my naivety can be seen as childlike and often times my adventures and sense of humor are immature. The bunnies I discovered early in the summer seem to be taking shelter from the heat or simply moved on when some jackhole cleared the land behind my fence. I mean, didn’t someone KNOW that Snow White herself was sitting up in this little castle writing about her adventures with the critters? I have my pictures and I have my notes however so my mind is open to the other things around me now. New characters are being introduced every day and some of them are as wacky and entertaining as the ones in Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or the movies that have since followed. I’ve referred to this summer as starting a new chapter, and with school back in session I feel like we are on to the next.

I’ve tried my best to really find myself this summer, and at times I’ve simply quit looking to find what WAS there and simply see what’s BECOMING. You know how they say when you quit looking for something is when you are most likely to find it? Well, it’s something I remind myself often. When I need courage or strength, I look deep down to find it but discovering new things about myself sometimes takes quiet self observation and that’s usually found on the balcony over coffee or my vanity table/writing desk. Simply sitting down and answering questions from some of those self-help workbooks that aim to get your life, career and finances in order don’t always come easy for me because they stress me out a little. Actually, they stress me out a LOT. When quiet doesn’t exactly come easily around here, that’s when I learn about others especially the kids. I’ve learned more by listening to them than I have talking AT them. I can almost guarandamntee you that I don’t really learn a lot in the midst of the chaos WHILE it’s happening, but I do my best to jot something down here or there throughout the day thinking that an interesting thought or idea may sprout from what we did or did NOT do well. I hope my little baby boos have learned from me too, but only they will be able to tell you that and perhaps not until they are adults. Maybe some of the things they get angry about now that are too difficult or inappropriate to discuss with them will make sense to them later. Maybe they won’t. Maybe all that they will learn from this summer is that not everything can be explained when the same experiences between two different people produce two vastly different perceptions. That’s a lesson itself, isn’t it?

Chapter 1. Down the Rabbit Hole

Alice fell into her hole. I jumped! I went headfirst not merely out of curiosity because that would be irresponsible as a parent to make life changing moves and pull the kids down with me through the twists and turns of some knucker hole. The only thing I knew for sure was that one day a switch in me flipped and the reality I thought I’d been living was realized to be a fantasy. One day while driving down the road, I finally saw my life clearly and knew I was not going to be able to lie to myself anymore. There’s a strong difference I guess between the fictional character Alice and the new real-life me in that I left the fantasy behind. My hole led to a new reality. There was no certainty about the future and there certainly was no money. What I did have was a little apartment leased on borrowed money and a PLAN to spend my summer enjoying the kids because the big changes would affect them, and I wanted to take care of them as I did my best to take care of myself. I also knew that I may never get the chance to stay home with them part-time or full-time again, and I wanted to cherish that time. Of COURSE I knew they’d be fine going to after-school care if a new work schedule left me unable to spend all of our time outside of school together, but you know how you never TRULY appreciate something until it’s gone or you no longer have the daily luxuries you perhaps take for granted? Well, I went into this summer with the kids knowing that it may be my last. (I mean HOME with them – not last as in DEAD – though there were times we could have killed each other I guess.)

Chapter 2. The Pool of Tears

We have a pool here, and we’ve had a lot of tears however I can definitively say that I have not gotten swept away by the current. My current is strong but will not be defined by my past and crying while treading water won’t get me any farther on to future adventures. Why swim upstream?Dry the tears and it’s easier to keep your head above water and swim. Besides, pools are for fun and the kids have definitely had their fill here with tan lines to prove it.

Chapter 3. The Caucus Race and a Long Tale

In Alice’s Adventures, this is the chapter where Alice meets many other animals and birds that have been swept away in the pool of tears and when they reach the riverbank, they decide to race around in a circle with no clear finish line as suggested by the mouse, in order to get dry. Um… no thanks! I’m out of that rat race. I TOTALLY dig all the little real life animal friends I have found here, but I’ve also met and talked with women this summer that want to commiserate. They’ve found themselves alone for one reason or another and want to drown our sorrows over drinks or grow decidedly bitter together because misery loves company. Isn’t that the same as just running in circles? I’ve TOTALLY bitched, don’t get me wrong, but it’s usually to my family because I’ve found that bitches feed off each other and just walk away fatter and madder. Good for Tweedledee & Tweedledum if they choose to do that. I’m happy to not feel so alone when we find something in common, but it’s just not my desire to sit around and bitch or convince people to stand on my side of the river bank and throw stones at the other side. Sitting on the other side is the man who was once my teammate in every way, and we still have to carry these kids together to the finish line.

Chapter 4. The Rabbit Sends a Little Bill

Alice grows, gets stones thrown at her which turn into cakes, eats them and shrinks. Hmmm… I ate cake this summer, and I PROMISE you I DID NOT SHRINK. I mean, I wish that when people hurled stones at you via insults or unwarranted criticisms they turned into little cakes because that would certainly be turning a negative into a positive, but for God’s sake don’t eat the damn cakes! Real life does not always coincide with fantasy here. Again this is an instance though where the Alice character and my own diverge. You know the bottles in the beginning that Alice drinks that say “drink me” and she shrinks? Yeah well I’ve done that too and the Skinny Girl Margaritas & Skinny Girl Sangria do NOT make you skinny. And the more you drink, the more likely you are to eat that box of goldfish that you bought for the kids and the “that’s one snack they like that I don’t so I’ll be SMART and buy those knowing I won’t eat them!” strategy fails. Eating AND drinking makes you grow bigger in REAL LIFE so don’t even try to be Alice.

Chapter 5. Advice From a Caterpillar

OK. This was always my favorite part in the movie because the caterpillar looks so cool and groovy smoking the big hookah, but just DAYS after spotting the rabbit digging its hole in the garden, I KID YOU NOT, I spied some women at the pool smoking a HOOKAH!! They frequently grilled their dinner at the pool and spent hours out there letting the kids play while they cooked, visited, and smoked. I kept thinking how exotic and very cool they seemed and how this just wasn’t something that we would have seen everyday back at the neighborhood pool. I REALLY wanted to go up and see if they had any advice to offer me, you know, because I was sort of having an identity crisis similar to Alice’s and I pictured them asking me very wisely, “Who are YOU?” like the caterpillar. I didn’t do that though because I thought I’d feel a little like one of the nerds from Dazed and Confused asking about their cool bong. As the summer progressed, I decided whatever advice they may give me may not be sound because the kids pointed out one of the moms one day driving the kids through the parking lot to the pool on TOP of the car. My kids pointed out how unsafe that was (SMART KIDS!) and so next time they ask me what those ladies are smoking in that thing I may just say, “DRUGS!! Drugs cause people to make poor decisions like riding on TOP of a car instead of IN it!” Don’t judge me for this either. It was totally cool, but when I have to think of an explanation for reckless behavior then NOTHING is off-limits. My kids are young and impressionable, and I think it’ll work like that egg in the frying pan commercial did for my generation.

Chapter 6. Pig and Pepper

Chapter 6 in Alice’s story is where they introduce The Cheshire Cat – intelligent, mischievous, funny and perplexing with a large smug grin. That’s my son! He’s the living breathing version of the character. So far this summer, he has accidentally spray painted a wall, clogged up a couple of sinks and toilets, attempted to ram passersby with his remote control cars and jet, and frequently hides from us though is easily found by the glow of his Cars 2 light up tennis shoes and night vision goggles. He’s even got the grin!

Chapter 7. A Mad Tea Party

Yep! Been there done THAT this summer! I met some old high school friends in New Orleans this summer for a “Fancy Dinner Party.” I did not know some of them well in high school, but have most certainly determined them to be MAD in a lovely, hilarious, endearing way. Ladies and gents donned fabulous threads and feathered boas while sporting fancy Ivy League sounding names. I was Donatella – as in VERSACE – and cursed every poor lad that thought my name was derived from The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We sipped cocktails and even mingled with the commoners strolling down Esplanade Avenue. I proved myself to be young again by parading through the French Quarter until FOUR in the MORNING with a tiara on my head. WOOHOO!! I can still party with the best of them, and I consider that a jewel in my crown for Miss um… Erica?!?!

Chapter 8. The Queen’s Croquet Ground

We’ve tried all SORTS of games this summer! The kids have loved playing cards and bocce ball back at the house with their dad and from what I hear, chaos has erupted that would rival the scene in the Disney movie. Remember my sweet girl’s Summer Art Camp where she made The Queen Bee, Tetris pieces, board games, and playing cards? Well I can tell you that many times my little Queen Bee has called for the head of her brother, the Cheshire Cat, but he usually managed to escape with a handful of Monopoly money and a mischievous grin.

There were some characters from the story Alice in Wonderland that were eliminated from the movie versions so I won’t carry on with the chapter references anymore. I’m really more familiar with the movie versions now anyway thanks to the kids (even the creepy Tim Burton version with Johhny Depp) Here’s where I think I’ve ended up though now that the chapter, Summertime 2011, has come to a close: I’ve grown in some ways, shrunk in others (YAY!), experienced the highs and lows that come with any new journey and adventure, and I’ve managed to keep my head above water and be excited about what the future holds. I’ve been put through some trials and judged too, but as Alice says in the story everyone grows and that just can’t be helped. I guess I’m not really very quiet about it either so people can come after me like the guards that set off after Alice, but you know what? I can follow suit and call them out as mere cards that can easily be played or change hands with whatever way the wind blows. I’ll bet you that I can take the cards that I’ve been dealt and produce a winning hand at some point too. I just won’t hold up a house made out of them.

The End.

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Bravo to ME & MY Reality! Wednesday, Aug 10 2011 


It’s been basically 2 1/2 months since I have watched cable TV. If you had told me that I’d have gone this long without my Bravo, E! or reality TV fix, I’d have called you all Pretty Little Liars. For most of the last decade, both daytime and evening television have revolved around kid shows with the only time available to watch my own shows being late-night. Even that only came in the last few years when we discovered the wonders of the DVR. As the kids grew, I graduated from Baby Einstein to Playhouse Disney and Noggin. PBS Kids taught me how to craft, like I really cared, but none of that was anything I’d ever sit and watch on my own. Actually, maybe I lie… I’ve TOTALLY caught myself doing something in a room with the TV on for background noise and looking up to see what kind of trouble Zack & Cody get themselves into next. Pathetic! This isn’t quite “The Suite Life” but it is sweet and the apartment transition has been eased by the antics of those Disney twins since the kids see & relate to how similar apartment living can be to hotel living without a big yard separating us from neighboring houses. It’s so social here! (Zero room service here though and I’m pretty sure the kids have tried. Bummer!)

My plan was to save up a little money once I got back to work to buy another digital box, the time killing boob tube recorder, and watch my guilty pleasures again once the kids went to bed. Maybe I don’t really need that box though! Back at the house, that’s what I did nearly EVERY SINGLE NIGHT; I caught up on my shows and would watch all the reality I could handle after everyone was asleep because sometimes the sensationalized reality made my own look better. Shocker!!! Most of the reality on TV while entertaining is pretty negative too. We still watch it though, don’t we, like flies on the wall and talk about the “characters” and the big hot messes that embarrass themselves on TV while preparing their tell-it-all books and spin-off shows. The Real Housewives are tons of fun to watch and have fabulous lives and friends yet inevitably drama ensues when friends call each other Moose and Hefer and pull each others hair out. (God!!! If you didn’t see THAT one you missed out!) Here’s my deal now though: My reality is pretty freaking entertaining ifIdosaysomyself!! At the end of each day now, I make an effort to replay my own day’s episodes of calm, hilarity, drama, TLC & occasional hair pulling violence from the kids. I like to sit on the balcony, listen to the crickets & frogs, and take down notes from the day. I’ve learned some lessons this summer:

  • I’m a Survivor dammit. I’ll outwit, outplay and outlast. I already knew that, but I remember thinking on May 21st – the day the wackjobs said world was “supposed” to end – that nothing is ever really a catastrophic as it seems. I had somehow thought my precious little world would end if I didn’t follow the big house/white picket fence/2.2 kids & a dog route that I had somehow believed provided security in every way. Life goes on and I’d rather be in control of my own strategy in this game. My “perfect” world didn’t end the week after that when I left either just because other people had predicted it would. Wackjobs… all of ’em!
  • My sisters and I have more fun together than the Kardashians and have never gotten arrested for ANYTHING. EVER. YET.
  • I’ll never be a Top Chef, but I can manage to cook with less supplies & gadgets than before. Good knives are important!! I wish, “Please pack your knives and leave” had been running through my head when I packed up and left.
  • I can still cook my own outstanding version of The Soup but I’m glad Joel McHale doesn’t have any clips from THAT meltdown.
  • There are enough inherited OCD traits contained in these 1100 square feet for episodes of Flipping Out every day yet my sense of humor is back so it’s usually easier to handle in spite of the close quarters.
  • I don’t need Million Dollar Decorators to make my kids happy with their rooms. We’ve conquered THAT issue with tape, thumbtacks, posters & candy wrappers. I would’ve been embarrassed for my friends to think I had such poor taste or discipline to have decorated my HOUSE that way. Who CARES!! My kids think their rooms are fancy and EXACTLY how they want them to be.
  • This little apartment looks like a giant art closet, and as my friend reminded me the other day, Tim Gunn would be proud of the way we Make It Work now!

YES! That is a Skittles wrapper taped to the wall because he likes Skittles. That switchplate is also made from a video game cover. Who needs a decorator??

  • I’ve laid low on the social scene I guess partly because the kids are out of school but also because I don’t need or want any drama. I’m stepping back when the drama ensues because I’m just at a point where I don’t have the energy to work very hard at maintaining friendships. I have FABULOUS friends but I’m learning to set better boundaries in order to keep them. Besides, our fairly solitary summer has let me feel a little more independent from EVERYONE without worrying who’s gonna check me, Boo?
  • Crabs are super delicious! I guess that’s not really a deep philosophical observation, but I love Deadliest Catch and I’ve eaten more this summer from our waters than any other. Totally shallow – both me AND the crabs!
  • America’s most DEFINITELY Got Talent! I LOVE the crazies on the stage, I REALLY do, but the three of us have taken some time to actually WRITE DOWN both the serious and crazy talents we recognize in each other. We entertain each other as well, and some day my little ones are going to venture out into the big wide world and share their talents that have been developed and nurtured. I do my best (though admittedly fail at times) to prepare them for the world stage. I can TOTALLY see an E! True Hollywood Story in the future.
  • MY reality CAN be better than scripted reality! Andy Cohen can keep me up to date once a week with the 411 from what I’ve missed on the tube while I pay attention to what goes on around ME. I don’t want to miss things as they happen LIVE especially with my kiddos. Sometimes it’s fun to sit back and just Watch What Happens LIVE.
  • We’re more a Modern Family than we ever were before. We can all be funny and wacky and dramatic and neurotic. We’re not going to be like Leave It To Beaver though; we never were and it’s exhausting trying to be something that you just simply aren’t. I guess the Christmas card will look a little different, but surely it won’t mean any less. My life is often like a soap opera, but I think I can manage to keep the drama in perspective. After all, my name is ERICA and I can do it for All My Children. 🙂

Our Little Miracle Monday, Jun 20 2011 


A month ago I started a new chapter in my life. And though I probably shocked some people, and maybe even myself, by finally opening this book to a fresh new page, I don’t feel the need to go back and re-read or re-live anything. I also don’t feel it necessary to cite all my sources and reasons for anything in order to justify my work to anyone anymore. My life is turning into a great NEW book. I like to read thrillers and inspirational books alike. Not often though do I come across one that is both. Who would’ve thought I’d be LIVING such a story?!?! My eyes have been open to everything around me lately, and “coincidences” often carry a deeper meaning for me now. A big “coincidence” was discovering the little Miracle next door.

I moved my kids into a little apartment hoping that they’d think this place was actually fancy. We lived in a nice big house with great neighbors in a Norman Rockwell-esque neighborhood where kids rode their bikes down to the swimming pool and tennis courts everyday. Dog walkers waved in the morning, and you could judge how late you were for the morning commute by where on the street some of them were. I swear, many of them would walk past a particular mailbox at the same exact time every morning. Gotta love ’em!

The day I signed the lease here, I didn’t tell anyone, much less my kids. My son, ever the observer, looked out the car window on our way back to the house from running errands and stared at an apartment complex which “happened” to be the sister complex to the one we are in now. He said, “WOW. I wonder how much it would cost to live in THERE?!? That’s FANCY!” We’d passed these particular apartments for the last several years and the little guy had said nothing before of the sort. “Boy, just hold your horses,” I thought. “Let’s see if you’re still carrying that tune a month from now.”

The day we arrived, we found a bunny on our walkway. Rabbits symbolize new life, and this one came with a little girl named Miracle next door. C’mon. What are the chances that her ACTUAL name would be Miracle?? She and Master P, as some of us like to call him, hit it off IMMEDIATELY. She, like P, is 5 but with the mind and mouth of a 25 year old. Her birthday is just the day after mine, so I’ll celebrate Miracle when I open my gifts. She’s been a gift indeed and helped me to recognize gifts of my own that have perhaps been with me all along. Maybe they’ve traveled with me from move to move like those boxes we never get around to unpacking. On our 2nd day here, I overheard them on the steps eating popsicles as I sat on the balcony. The conversation went like this:

P: Did you know that you wanted to be my best friend when you met me?
M: Uh-Huh.
P: Why didn’t you just say something then?
M: You crazy, boy!
P: Why??
M: ‘Cause I dittent want to yet.
P: Dittent?? What’s that mean.
M: Dittent. DITTENT! Whatcha mean what’s that mean? I just dittent want to.
{Sigh and Eyeroll}
You wanna go to Prom with me?
P: Sure. When we’re older. You want something to drink?
M: Sure! Thanks!
{and P ran in to ask me if he could bring Miracle a snack and drink.
Over a Strawberry Little Debbie and Cherry Koolaid, their conversation continued.}
M: Mmm! That’s good!
P: Yeah.
{Then came the awkward silence as P searched for something to say. THIS is what he came out with…}
P: So… Um… You know… That’s not really BLOOD in those things.
They just look like it cause the cake and Koolaid are red.
{And he SMILED. And she FROWNED. I figure he has plenty of time to work on his skills with the ladies, right???}

Master P and Miracle have been best buddies ever since. They’ve danced to Lady Gaga on the landing between our apartments, and she’s been pretty good about not taking off to play without P since he’s not allowed to wander as far away as she is. When she does leave our little courtyard area, my little guy patiently (as patiently as a 5 yr old boy can) just sits and waits for his little Miracle. There ya go! I took a leap of faith and discovered a miracle on the landing for all 3 of us. (more…)

My Cinderella Story Saturday, Jun 18 2011 


The symbolism lately has been all around me. Maybe my eyes are just open to it now, or maybe people, places and things are put into your life at a certain time and place for a reason. In my case, right now, I think it’s a little of both. I moved out on my own, flew the coop so to speak, and discovered a little neighbor named Miracle next door and a little yard full of frogs, turtles, rabbits and birds. I often jokingly refer to myself as a princess, but for real ya’ll!! I’m getting dangerously close to becoming the real life Snow White or Cinderella with all my weird little creature friends. They aren’t actually talking to me though or sewing my dresses, YET. And I’m SMACK DAB in the middle of the city here – NOT on some country retreat. I TOTALLY have my own castle here!

The morning my movers were set to arrive, I came by the apartment to turn on the A/C for the guys. Well, maybe I came by to turn it on for me… less sweaty guys = less odiferous guys. When I arrived, a little brown rabbit was sitting on the walkway below the stairs to my apartment. For those who know me, you will NOT be surprised to hear that my first reaction was OOOH!! Photo Opp for facebook!! The rabbit let me walk right up to it and snap its picture while it simply looked at me. By the time I got upstairs it HIT me, and I Googled it to be certain… Rabbits symbolize rebirth, new life & new beginnings. And here was mine. Validation through a bunny.

As the week went on, I sat on my balcony drinking coffee every morning and would just watch my bunny. Sometimes he was inside the fence. Other times he was out just beyond it. But he was always there. The kids got to know & watch him at dusk a few times and named him Thumper. I would’ve preferred Roger and tried to entice them with a demonstration of the dance, but the moves I busted failed to win them over. Thumper it is then. One morning with my coffee, I saw a group of birds swooping at Thumper and tormenting him. He simply paid no mind to their annoyance and carried on with his business. “Bob & weave, little bunny… There ya go!!!” That’s when it dawned on me; some people are like the birds. And those annoying birds are just doing what mockingbirds naturally do – mock and tease. I consciously made the decision to be like the bunny. But I’m going to be like Roger and carry on with my own Hip Hop dance when the birds start to swoop in on ME. Maybe I’ll even vamp it up from time to time and throw a little Jessica Rabbit in there as well. A girl’s gotta live and all.

As luck would have it, and to my friends’ amusement, this is the point in the story where The Birds gathered, re-grouped and focused their attention on me. YES, ME. Who would’ve thought that my new peaceful morning ritual could take such a treacherous turn. Much to my amazement the ring leader bird swooped down onto my balcony railing and squeezed his oily looking feathered self into a little cubby of bars and simply GLARED while his brother Daryl and his other brother Daryl took backup positions from the gutter. Swear to God his eyes were red. Maybe. Or blood shot like he and his band of brothers were still shaking off the effects of a wild bender from the night before. I don’t know, but that’s how I’m picturing him now with his feathers all a ruffle. My first instinct was to close my eyes. After all, perhaps I simply had not had enough caffeine to shock my system into gear yet, and I was simply hallucinating, right?? WRONG. So I did what any other normal person would do. First I snapped a quick picture for facebook, THEN I attempted to shoo him away. My exit was compromised as it was THEN that the foul fowl decided to take up perch between me and the door… on my sweet little thumbprint stamped flower pots that my children made for me!! What was left to do? Nothing I could think of but to document and video the assault as I made a mad dash to the door eventually shutting and LOCKING it behind me for good measure should the bird have THUMBS and be able to actually turn a knob. I escaped, but the bird got the last laugh when he CRAPPED on my railing as my kids watched me cower and run for cover. I then became the BUTT of jokes for the day as I had posted about my escapades on facebook for everyone to see. That’s OK. It was funny, and I’m left with video clips as evidence of the assault.

(more…)