Don't be jealous




A kitten is great when it curls up between your chin and your chest, purring and cuddling, claws retracted.

A kitten is not so great when you are prying it from the window screens, pulling it down from the drapes, coaxing it out from behind the stove, extracting it from a tangle of power cords.

A kitten is great when you look into his wide green eyes and consider the cat he will become, one who will have about an hour of energy and 23 hours of sleep. When this kitten stops trying to ride his older brother like a horse and learns a little respect, he will be a great companion. When this kitten learns how to control his claws, his countless urges to climb and leap and overturn, and how to use his litter box properly, well, then he will be a joy to behold.

Oh, who am I kidding? He still is.

Pass the peroxide and Band-Aids.


Our cat has mood ring eyes: Sometimes they are green, sometimes they are yellow.

Hey, maybe I'll start a blog


Traffic: I owe it all to these babies

If I had a dime for every time someone said to me, “Hey, you should start a blog,” I’d have a bunch of dimes.

They say to me: “I saw on Oprah/The Today Show/The View this woman who left her job/was fired /suffered from post-partum depression/chewed off her right arm and started writing about it on the Internet. Now she makes like $100,000 a month just blogging,  using the good arm, of course. I wish I could write. I would totally do that. You should do that.”

As I’m listening to these kind suggestions, offered to me because I am formerly of the newspaper business (which hardly exists anymore outside of Hollywood movies) I’m thinking of my humble home on the Net, how it’s remained largely a secret and doesn’t pay me a dime.

Then I explain that I know of whom they speak, the SuperBlogger Queens of the Universe. It’s probably too late in the game to dethrone these tiara wearers, but that’s no reason to shut down my little cobbler shop situated in the back alley of the kingdom.

In spite of a recession of rich ideas, a scarcity of traffic leading to generous ad revenue, this week I observe two years of blogging.

What I’ve learned in two years:

  • Writing and maintaining a blog is work. The more you work it, the bigger the returns. It’s a high-maintenance relationship. Have flowers, chocolates and wine at the ready.
  • Even though I call myself a Zombie , I have no affinity for the flesh-eating undead. I did like “Shaun of the Dead,” but on the whole I don’t care for zombie movies. This does not stop the zombies from  stalking me. In fact, there’s one knocking at my window right now … 
  • My readers all seem to be West of the Rockies, South of the Mason-Dixon Line or East of the Allegheny Mountains. Why? Don’t know. Just glad to have all 10 of you. 
  • Believe it or not, the name MomZombie is a compromise between two earlier titles: Fluffy Chicks in a Basket and the totally emo Bleeding Soul on Edge of Jagged Razor Blade. It all has to do with too little sleep and too much caffeine.
  •  You like it when I humiliate myself. Boy, those stats really skyrocket when I take one for the team. 
  • For more than a year, Grandma Cleavage (see above), was the top search term for my blog. I’ve since purchased an underwire for this site.
  • Latest searches: Zombie yogurt, Zombie Killer Moms, Big Asses in Bathing Suits, Wooden Picnic Table, Herman Munster  in a bathing suit.



    Sorry, I could not find Herman Munster in a bathing suit.

     If you are reading this, thank you.

The daddy long-legs, the ant and the roly-poly


Did you play with one of those plastic bug catchers when you were a child?

I did. It’s how I learned the difference between a grasshopper and a cricket and a praying mantis.

It’s how I learned that spiders are arachnids and not insects.


It’s how I learned that moms do not like it when you bring these things to their attention — inside the house — when they are cooking.*

The tradition is now passed to the next generation. Girl from the East received a bug catcher as a Christmas gift. The other day we dug it out of her toy box, unscrewed the cap and set to work hunting multi-legged creatures in our yard.

Catch of the day:

one oddly graceful harvestman or daddy long-legs (which is an arachnid but not a spider); one industrious carpenter ant; and one hapless roly-poly bug (or pill bug or armadillidiidae. Say that three times really fast.)


The ant zig-zags around the base, up and down the sides, searching for an escape. No doubt in a panic because he stepped out of marching formation. There will be repercussions if he ever returns to the colony. The ant stops only when face-to-face with the daddy long-legs. Each sizes up the other and considers: am I predator or prey? Eventually it stops to wave its antennae and consider the next move.

The daddy long-legs chooses its moves carefully. It steps gracefully and slowly around the jar, stopping often to consider its options. It hovers over the roly-poly several times, sending it into the stop, drop and roll mode.

The roly-poly races around the perimeter of the jar like a marathoner in training. Sometimes it curls into its protective ball, caroming off the sides and ending up on its back, little legs waving, shell bobbing in an exhaustive effort to right itself.  Rather than conserve its energy like the daddy long-legs or eventually stop to strategize like the ant, the little pill bug runs itself to death.

What we learned:

Are you the ant: Always busy and purposeful until something unexpected happens, at which point you initially panic but then calm down and strategize?


Are you the daddy long-legs: Ever patient and calculating? Saving your energy for the right moment, avoiding fruitless pursuits?

Are you the roly-poly: Running around in circles until you’ve expended all your energy, ultimately killing yourself before you’ve figured out what you’re supposed to do with your life?

It’s something to think about.


* I am not one of those moms. But that’s a story for another day.

Top secret

When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.   


— Frank McCourt


“Why are you so secretive about everything?”

My husband asks me this question all the time.

He does it when someone asks  “So, what’s new?”

He does it when I answer, “Oh, nothing …. ”

He wonders why I lock it all up and throw away the combination. Why I write anonymously. Why everything is in code. 

My husband doesn’t wear a wedding band. He wears a decoder ring. For me.


So, why am I so secretive? 

Conditioning. Culture. I’m Irish?

I wasn’t always so reserved with information. But a few blurt -and-regret incidents shut me up.

You learn through conditioned responses what’s acceptable to share with family and what needs to remain in the vault.

The way my husband and I react to new experiences in our lives tells the tale of our vastly different childhoods.

This past Sunday we tried something new. 

Later that evening I heard my husband on the phone. He was giving his long-distance family a recap of the day. 

This is so different from the way I operate.

Here is all anyone needs to know to understand my family dynamic: I had a grandmother who died before I was born. She died young. End of story.

Not until I was filling out adoption paperwork and had to complete several physical exams did I pry a bit to learn that my grandmother had colon cancer. That she was in her 40s. That she had been continuously pregnant for all of her fertile years. I don’t know if one thing has anything to do with the others. I don’t know if she could sing. I don’t know her favorite perfume. I don’t ask.

My father, who was the first-born of the brood, was just old enough to order a Tom Collins when this happened. I understood this was tragic. Not that he could legally drink. But that his mother was dead. My grandfather had a household full of children who needed a mother. This was not the era of  Mr. Mom. Apparently you picked yourself up and moved on. You did not dwell.

Dad never spoke of his mother’s illness or her last days. I once thought the information was withheld because I was young. Later I learned no one knew anything because it was understood that you did not ask. You waited to be told. If nothing was told, you accepted that. They were not told.

This approach has carried on for decades. Things happen in the family. Maybe you hear about them. Most likely you do not. People have married into and divorced out of the family without comment or announcement. People have life-threatening medical conditions and don’t tell their closest relatives. They die, allowing their survivors to uncover their deep secrets, begging questions that never will be answered.

Recently I learned someone in the family had a Facebook account. I asked this person to be my friend on Facebook.

“No, I’m not friending any family. I don’t want you to read what I put on Facebook.”

I’m not surprised.

Sometimes being a grown-up means acting like a baby


It went like this:

Yesterday I read online that a new band I like announced its tour dates.

Tickets went on sale at noon today.

My husband/keeper of the coin is out of town. 

I took an oath never to make online purchases behind his back with community money for crazy things like concert tickets. (I have a history.)

I was nowhere near Wi-Fi this morning.

I did not make it home at noon.

My husband was busy doing grown-up things like working to pay the bills and did not make it home by noon either. We both know that concert tickets for the latest garage band is not a priority right now. (I tend to act like a toddler on too much sugar at concerts.)

I made two phone calls too many on the topic. (Again, that history thing.)

At 2 p.m., tickets are sold out.

At 2:01 p.m. I stand up and do the Herman Munster foot stomp around the house.
Some of this has to do with my Jack White fixation. My husband isn’t in a big hurry to shell out cash to place me within touching distance of Jack White. I tell him it’s about the music, but he doesn’t believe me. (There is some history to this.)

Then I sat down and remembered the NPR broadcast I heard earlier today, as I was racing home to log on to the fan site and simultaneously trying to reach my husband via cell phone. It was about delayed gratification and not giving in to every urge and whim.

Sometimes, taking the grown-up route makes me act like a baby.

The invisible guest


Today I cut some lilac blooms, filled a bud vase with water and tucked the fragrant blossoms inside. I placed the bouquet on the table set for a Mother’s Day lunch. The vase sits in silent tribute to the unknown, but very real guest at our table: my youngest daughter’s birth mother.

Although she is not visible to us and we do not know where to find her (or if she is alive), I have an idea of  what she looks like:

I see her when I run my fingers through my Girl from the East’s quirky, wiry hair that only grows in one direction. I see her when I look into my girl’s wide, ink-black eyes, watch her expressive brows bounce up and down as she talks, and hear her infectious giggle. I see her when I examine my girl’s distinctive ears. These ears are a physical feature that I am certain will help us track her birth family should we ever embark upon that quest.

Not from us, but from her birth parents, come her elegant pianist’s fingers, her nimble dancer’s legs. She is born of acrobats, gymnasts and athletes. Whatever her biological origins, no matter how humble, her lineage speaks of beauty, strength and grace.

I  love my girl more than life.  Most days I just see her. I don’t see the physical differences. It’s only when someone outside the family asks: Is she yours? Where did she come from? that my bubble is burst and I must face the birth mother, who’s always in the shadows.

Without question, I love my Girl from the East with the same fierce devotion as I love the child who grew inside me, my Girl from the West. I mourn the severed bond between my youngest girl and her birth mother. I cannot image holding a newborn and then watching her vanish from my life. I wonder: Does her birth mother think of her? Would she want a reunion? The simple answer would be: of course she does. But this is a conclusion based on my culture. My culture is not the birth mother’s culture.

I used to feel threatened when my girl so easily slipped into the arms of her pretty, young Mandarin teachers. I felt inadequate, feared that my girl noticed the differences between us and wanted the familiarity of a Chinese face, a voice that spoke in tones she knew before her birth. Today, I am grateful that she has so many Chinese-born women in her life.

I had the privilege recently  to meet a woman born of Chinese parents but raised by Caucasians. Later, she found her birth family. What I learned from this woman is that even though her Caucasian parents don’t look like her and couldn’t do much to teach her to be Chinese, they are bound by love. She is grateful to have a link to her past, but would not want a different life.

While it is difficult for us to do, we take time to acknowledge the woman who made it possible for Girl from the East to be a part of our lives. We recognize that this came about through a tragedy beyond her control. While my daughter brings infinite joy to our lives, she left behind a landscape of sorrow.

We know that in the coming years the birth parents, particularly the mother,  will take on an even stronger presence in our home. Our girl will ask pointed questions. We will find honest answers. There will be tears. We cannot hide these parental figures in the closet. They must have a place at the table, just like the bouquet of lilacs.

Why all my bathing suits are black or brown

Thanks to Twitter, I’m discovering new blogs and Web sites. Last week I found this blog and instantly fell in love with its funny, candid author.

She recently wrote about one of  the most embarrassing moments of her adolescence. You’ll have to read it for yourself. (Painful.) This set in motion the squeaky wheels inside my head. It didn’t take long for me to recall the summer of the yellow maillot.


This is Christy Brinkley in Sports Illustrated. This is not me. But I had a yellow bathing suit like this. It didn't make me look like Christy Brinkley.

 That summer, I thought I’d somehow gone to sleep one night and awakened the next morning as a hottie. That’s because as soon as it was officially bathing suit season, I was getting a lot of male attention. Maybe it was my sassy haircut, which looked like the Farrah, only more brownish, less fullish and without the accompanying facial bone structure to complete the look.  Maybe it was my new kohl-pencil eye liner. I’d taken to applying it super-thick to both upper and lower eyelids. I’m sure it made my big, brown eyes smoulder. Maybe it was my new pair of cork-heeled wedge sandals.  I’m sure I looked like the perfect example of  jail bait.

Then there was the yellow maillot, which is some kind of fancy designer name for a one-piece bathing suit. It was designed based on something from Paris and then configured for the JCPenney marketing model.  Still, it was shiny and as yellow as a sunflower. It had French-cut leg openings, a halter top with a wooden ring at the bodice, and straps that tied behind my neck.  

So much attention that summer. At the pool. At the beach. Even at the swimming hole at our cottage. Attention from guys my age and also much older men, who seemed to want to stop and talk to me about just about anything: the weather, ice cream, President Jimmy Carter.

Not until Labor Day Weekend, when I was performing my final underwater somersault at the city pool, did my BFF inform me in no uncertain terms that my bathing suit was TOTALLY TRANSPARENT WHEN WET.

Did you miss that detail? It was see-through. It left nothing to the imagination. It was a free show for all to behold. 

She told me this while I was in a pool filled with hundreds of my peers. I’d have to climb out of this pool, in my totally see-through bathing suit and walk across the pool deck to get my towel. Then, I’d have to wrap myself in that towel,  walk to the dressing room, and tuck myself into a locker and die.

I went home, wore the suit in the shower to see if it was true. It was. I didn’t speak to her for two days.

Why did she wait until Labor Day to tell me? She swore she didn’t notice. She said when the suit was dry it didn’t reveal all. I knew that. I picked it out. 

I thought back to all the attention — especially from the older men. Those dirty perverts! It wasn’t the not-really-Farrah hair or the raccoon eye liner or the high heels. It was my 13-year-old body on display for the whole world to see in that stupid, cheap, linerless bathing suit. Not a soul said a word. Mean girls just stared and gossiped. Horny boys just stared.  I was oblivious.

Years later I would find myself at a nude beach in Spain. I had on an itsy bitsy teeny weeny little bikini. It stayed on. Even though everyone around me was bouncing their naughty bits around in the sand and surf. I could not bring myself to untie or step out of anything. Not even after several cuba libres.

And every bathing suit I’ve owned since then has been a very dark shade.

Yin and yang of motherhood


Mary, who runs the whole operation over at the Mama Mary  Show tagged me on this one. It’s the brainchild of another blogger, Her Bad Mother,who is trying to fly this one around the globe. So, I’ll do my part and then pass it on.

Five things I love about motherhood:

  • The bond of love between mother and child (The privilege of being both a biological and adoptive mother makes me appreciate this one immensely. This connection is taken for granted with a child born to you. I had to earn it with Girl from the East, who came to me at 10-1/2 months of age.)
  • Built-in excuse to play like a child (Think: swings, slides, running through the sprinklers)
  • The awesome responsibility of leading by example and leaving a legacy
  • Holidays are so much more fun with children involved.
  • Getting a fresh take on the world around me through my child’s eyes
  • Five things I don’t love about motherhood:

  • Lack of sleep (I don’t call myself a MomZombie because I like movies about the undead.)
  • The stereotypical mom look: overgrown hair, baggy clothes, practical shoes (Despite my best efforts to fight it, often I’m too tired or busy to look my best.)
  • Pregnancy was an interesting experience, but it didn’t clean up after itself. (I’ll never wear a bikini again.)
  • The disconnect of parental bonding during the teenage years.
  • Expectations of perfection: There is so much pressure on mothers from society, from extended family, from the media, from ourselves to do it all perfectly every day.
  • Since I’ve only connected with two bloggers — who are also mothers — in other countries, I’ll tag them and get on with my day.

    In New Zealand: I Love Retro Things

    In Canada: Tanya at I Should Be Napping

    Oh, and by the way, I’m from the United States, specifically, the soon-to-be Third World State of Michigan.

    Family good; Godzilla bad


     I had a nightmare last night.

    In my dream, Godzilla is chasing Buddhist monks through the streets of Tokyo. Behind the city skyline is a mountain chain of books. Between the Godzilla-stomped city and book mountain is a vast expanse of paperwork and red tape. The valley is bustling with a throng of young Asian women collectively tearing through reams of paper and  tangles of ribbon in search of clues to their past. There may have been something about Thetans in there, too.

    Did I mention I watched “Religulous” last night before going to bed? Did I mention I attended two author visits/book signings back-to-back? Did I mention that I’m not getting any sleep lately? The fact that I got enough sleep to have a nightmare should make me happy. But I’m thinking my brain is in revolt.


    The first book event featured journalist and author Mei-Ling Hopgood, who is on tour promoting “Lucky Girl.”


    Hopgood was adopted before the wave of  Chinese adoptions began in the  1990s.  Unlike today’s well-oiled machine that is the China Center for Adoption Affairs, in the early 1970s, China adoptions were handled quite differently. There remained a seed of hope that a birth family and child could trace each other one day. This is no longer the case.
    Hopgood’s story is unusual: Her birth family found her. She reunited with them in her early adulthood. “Lucky Girl” tells the story of that reunion and how she balances two sets of parents and siblings, one a half a world away. 
    As an adoptive mother of a China-born girl, I have on ongoing interest in adoption outcomes, particularly in cases where a child reunites with a birth parent. It’s nice to hear a happy outcome.

    The second event was a Q & A with Brad Warner,  member of the ODFx (Zero Defects) punk rock band (heydey in the early ’80s, play twice a year now), Japanese monster movie marketer, and Zen Buddhist teacher. Warner visited Detroit to promote his new book: “Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate.”
    (If the name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s taken from a popular commercial for yogurt.)


    I never know what to expect at author visits/book signings. I find my expectations can be pretty high. I’m there because I’m enamored with the author’s work or deeply interested in the subject. Sometimes I end up regretting the questions I ask. Almost always I say something inane to the person when its my turn to get my book signed. During Warner’s talk, I think I learned more about Godzilla movies, the somewhat futile attempt to resurrect Ultraman in the United States, and other monster movie stuff than I did about improving my meditation practice. But that’s OK; I’m still a fan.

    I walked away from both events with a head stuffed full of information. So many questions and ideas were pouring out of me onto the pavement I almost tripped. When I got home, I read a “Dora the Explorer” book about archeology to my 3-year-old girl. Then I watched a movie disparaging organized religion. 

    Either way, it was a batch of brownies added to a stomach already full of cake and cookies. 

    I think my brain threw up.