Brotherly Love

When someone asks me if I have any siblings, I usually joke that I’m an only child. Then I feel compelled to explain that I have 3 estranged brothers; 2 older step brothers and one younger natural brother and that it’s a long (and painful, though I’ll rarely admit it) story.

I always marvel at the sibling relationships I see Dave and my friends have. I knew it must be good. I knew I was missing out on something. But frankly, I didn’t really get it. Until now.

Riley is a little over 3 years older than Aidan. When they were about 4 and 1, Riley was being terrible to Aidan. I remember sitting on the floor of our playroom in Austin watching Aidan desperately try to get his brother’s attention and Riley swatting him away with disdain.

I was overcome with sadness. This was not the relationship I wanted for them. Echoes of my childhood rang.

I stopped Riley and pleaded with him:

This is your brother. This is the only one you’ve got. (Obviously, I’m not as psychic as I think I am.) He is your blood and he will be your lifelong best friend. That guy will always have your back no matter what. Don’t treat him like this. I was terrible to my brother. I feel awful about it. And now we have no relationship.

Riley’s response, his wisdom beyond his years:

Then you should call him. You should apologize.

FUCK! What choice did I have? I had to set the right example for my children. I called my brother in Hong Kong, explained what had happened, swallowed my pride and apologized.

I wish I could tell you there’s a happy ending to that story, but my brother and I continue to have no relationship. The primary reason being that I believe him to be suffering from undiagnosed mental illness.

However, the foundation for that dysfunction started out of the gate. When I reflect back on the constant fighting and true intent to inflict grave injury, I am sick.

But we grew up in a household that only had two potential outcomes; band together and survive or every man for himself. In the absence of nurture, my nature dominated. The mother in me is nauseous to think of that little boy that I tormented and abandoned. My only consolation; hey, at only 2 1/2 years older, I was just a kid too.

So like we all do, you try to do better for your children. Not to be too self congratulatory, but I think Dave and I did a good job of celebrating their individual accomplishments but not lording them over the other child. And we insisted on an all for one and one for all mentality.

Things between Riley and Aidan were pretty good until Riley hit middle school. There are just some evolutionary tendencies that you have to fight through. Even with their substantial age difference, Aidan was almost always as big as Riley, his athletic ability dominating. I think that upped the competition between them.

It wasn’t until Riley hit about sixteen that the alpha male war was over and they could coexist, each secure and comfortable in the spectacular individuals they are. And when Aidan came to the same high school, the love affair was in full bloom. Riley seemed to take true pride in claiming Aidan as “his”.

This past weekend, we all went to visit Riley for Parents’ Weekend. At Riley’s urging, Aidan stayed in the dorms, seamlessly integrating into the student body. After what I estimate to be 20 hrs of straight partying minus a power nap in between venues, I was softly interrogating Riley.

Was Aidan fun?

He’s always fun.

In that exchange is everything I ever needed. If I can’t be a sister, at least I can be the mother of brothers.

There is of course the third wheel that is never a third wheel. Maybe no one was more excited to see Riley than Tyler who leapt into his arms upon sighting.

What a crazy dynamic that relationship overlays; part brother, part party trick, part son I think for the big boys. He was a huge hit with the college kids. What? Your first fraternity party wasn’t at age 7?

But leaving…ouch. Tyler, our tough guy, Mr. Too Cool For School, was inconsolable for over an hour when we dropped Riley off for the final time of our trip.

Brotherly love. What a gift to have nurtured. What a gift to behold.

Window War I

Recently there’s been debate and strong feelings about reclining your seat on an airplane. I would agree that a Full Recline is aggressive. I do, however, believe you are entitled to put your seat back to at least the 90 degree position. Am I the only one who feels like you are forced into a sustained abdominal crunch with my seat in its “upright” position?

But that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about today. My pressing issue is a real life Axis and Allies. A fight to retain my rightful territory. My personal Manifest Destiny. 

Windows on an airplane are not spaced in line with your rows. I think once upon a time they probably were, but now with rows so close together even my 5ft, one and 1/4 inch frame feels smushed. Yes the 1/4 inch matters. 

Now you get 1+ window per seat. The “+” is the issue. 

When we boarded the flight this morning to take Riley to Michigan (insert sobs here), the view from my window was such:

As we waited on the tarmac deep in conversation, troops were apparently moved into position. When I turned my gaze back to this glorious morning I was met with this:

Oh hell no. 

I conferred with my generals. Usually they try to pacify me. Make me try peaceful protest. Seek Congressional approval and all. This time I had surprising support for my campaign. 

The 5 star felt I was squarely on their 30 yard line and could easily move into the red zone with a seat recline. The 4 star was more reticent and was concerned about retaliation. After all they had been speaking Russian. 

I’m in no emotional state to be fucked with so zzziiipppp; up went the window shade. Ahhhh, so much better. 

We took off on time and headed out over the Pacific Ocean, the new day’s sun gleaming over empty beaches.  As we made a sweeping turn back towards the east a hand reached forward PAST my seat back and shut the shade. 

Woman, you are going to long for Putin oppression if this goes on. 

I turned around, flipped the shade back up, glared at the woman… and then weakly mumbled something about being claustrophobic. 

First of all, not true. Second of all, what a sniveling, pathetic thing to say. Forgive me. I’m clearly in a vulnerable state with the changes afoot. 

The win is so much less satisfying having compromised my methods. Perhaps I’ll redeem me to myself but shutting the shades upon landing. 

xo, Kimby

Summer Vacay, Part I

With Riley headed off to college, I felt compelled to plan a last family hurrah. We thought about exotic locales or another European vacation but at the end of the day, we settled on Hawaii.

Settled is hardly the right word but I wanted to mix things up a bit so we exchanged our typical Big Island lounging for an urban experience on Oahu. There will be lounging for the second part of the trip but I panicked that my children haven’t seen Pearl Harbor and that felt like a parenting fail with Riley exiting the nest. 

The trip started off with my name being called as we waited to board the plane. At 8am in an obscenely crowded LAX terminal, I was in no mood. 

Ken was a particularly perky United representative that wanted to confirm that I was in fact Kimberly. Since there was no official arresting police personnel visible, I confirmed. 

Well now I got to spin some prize wheel! And 10,000 United miles are mine! Thank you very much, Ken!

I had to give Ken my email. Because it has “tx” in the address we started talking about Texas. Turns out Ken’s husband graduated from UT a year after me from the school of Architecture. They haven’t been back for a football game in a couple of years but are planning on it this season. Ken is now my BFF. 

And here’s the picture they made us take.

You can see how thrilled I am to be having my photo taken. I’ll be mortified if we’re on some United promotional site. I prostituted my likeness for 10,000 miles. It was worth it. 

I used to be a very nervous flyer, even as a kid. My mom would often put me on a PSA flight alone to San Francisco to visit my grandparents. I had a whole OCD routine that involved carefully studying the emergency card and scanning the flight for infants. Because if there was a baby on board, it couldn’t crash. I had a peaceful, carefree childhood. 

I have completely rehabbed myself when it comes to my fear of flying and only had one morbid thought as I boarded the massive 777, “Will I be stuck at some sort of death check-in with all these uninteresting looking people?”

Thankfully we landed safely and checked into the uber fancy Ritz Carlton. (Thank you Marriot points). We are not beachside. It’s sort of like Miami Beach meets New York meets Tokyo; a cultural experience for sure. We may also be subject to Yen exchange rates because lunch was $150. 

Only one room was ready so while we were waiting all together, the day’s travel took a toll on all of us, if you know what I’m saying. 

In catering to the Asian clientele, our bathroom is outfitted with a state of the art Toto bidet toilet. I’m up first and fascinated by this amenity. The remote seemed detailed but self explanatory.

I activated the stream, heard the motor, but nothing. I figure I need to up the water pressure. 

As you know, I’m not a patient person. It never occurred to me that there may be a delay. 

So now the water is going full blast and I’m pushing a button that says “on/off” but that must have been mis-translated from Japanese because it’s not turning off. And I can’t get up because the water will go everywhere all over the bathroom. So I’m laughing and screaming at the same time until I find a button on top labeled STOP. 

Let’s just say everything can be made better with a warm dryer feature. 

Riley was up next. I think he summed it up best when he exited the restroom. 

“I’m starting to question who won the war. I just let a Japanese toilet shoot water up my ass.”

Signing off from Day 1. 

Xo, Kimby

Another Mass Shooting, Another Rant: Gilroy

Calling for gun control after every mass shooting is the equivalent of demanding pools be drained after every drowning.

The weapon was purchased legally and the shooter was dead within minutes because of the quick response of on-duty police.

Do I believe in common sense gun laws? ABSOLUTELY!! But this is a crisis of mental health and disenfranchisement.

I am so sick and tired of people/politicians and their respective rallying cries. Our society is unraveling. People and ideas are being forced to the extreme for the sake of votes and power. And no one really has the balls to identify the true problems and work on the difficult answers. Spoiler Alert: it doesn’t involve free college or illegal immigration.

We, as a society, are failing at our most basic level; creating community. From tiny family unit to basic human interaction with the people who share your city.

I am saddened by the propagation of hate and I am terrified by its outcome. I am exhausted by the redirection of personal responsibility to media and politicians and wide sweeping generalizations of groups.

I have no answers or stirring conclusion beyond teach your children to swim (metaphorically). Thanks for reading.

PS Sadly this is the fourth time I have written about mass shootings. Feel free to check out

Thank You For Your Service

Gun Control, Abortion, Freedom of Speech, Oh My!

Bullets and Sudafed

Why Are We Celebrating Tiger Woods?

I’m Looking At You Barack

You’re so fucking predictable, America. You’ll fall for any story of redemption. I get it. We are all starved for any feel good news. Even I’m watching cat videos. And I hate cats. My Facebook feed is crammed with feline follies entitled, “Because You’ve Interacted With Videos Like This”. It makes me feel dirty and shameful.

Speaking of dirty and shameful, Tiger Woods was fucking prostitutes and groupies. Remember???????

Do you recall his darling wife, mother of his two beautiful children, moved to rage and teeing off at him and his car. Literally. She grabbed the nearest iron and tried to make his head and fender a dog leg left.

As Tiger’s shameful infidelities were exposed, stories started to surface that Tiger wasn’t the man we thought we married either. Long protected as golf’s savior, the Tiger facade started to crack. This initial fissure gave rise to tales of rude and entitled behavior. Rather than being the golden boy of the tour, people thought he was a dick.

Oh and then he was suspected of using performance enhancing drugs to manage knee and back problems. He sought the assistance of disgraced Canadian doctor, Mark Lindsay whose other notable client was A Rod. Side note: hoping for J Lo’s sake Alex has ditched the peepee shrinkers.

Lest we not forget the DUI? Toxicology reports uncovered a sundae of Vicodin, Dilaudid, Xanax, Ambien and good old-fashioned pot as the cherry on top.

But last weekend Tiger Woods won the most prestigious golf tournament on the PGA Tour, The Masters. It’s a feat to win it once, let alone a 5th time…after a THIRTEEN years hiatus.

But does he deserve a congratulatory tweet from Barack Obama, devoted husband, father and humble public servant? Come back, Barack. We miss you.

Does he deserve a Medal of Freedom? Consider the decision maker on that one…

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Tiger Woods, The Athlete, is the greatest golfer of our generation. Now that he is back playing to his full athletic potential, he may be capable of breaking all records of the greats that went before him. For that, I’m willing to acknowledge and congratulate his athletic prowess and achievements.

But in my book, Tiger Woods, The Man, is a lying, cheating, weak and dishonorable cad. We need to stop celebrating an athletic trophy as proof of a moral redemption. To me, a tiger can’t change his stripes.

Thank You For Your Service

This morning we all woke up to the news of another mass shooting. This one is in my backyard, at a restaurant/bar I have been to. Many of the victims yet to be named will be young people; it was college night, 18 and up. Many of the “regulars” hale from local colleges my children’s school sends kids off to, Pepperdine and Cal Lutheran. I am bracing to hear of families I may know directly affected.

This morning I woke up and showered quickly, made breakfasts and lunches, no two alike because they’re picky little fuckers, and rushed to Tyler’s 1st Grade Class Veterans Performance. 

Sadly, this morning’s event and last night’s tragedy are linked.

I think I’m not alone in this. When I hear of a mass shooting, I am enraged at the gun lobby influence and Congress’ ineffectiveness to put sensible gun laws in place. Well, guys, you’re off the hook on this one.

Today is brought to you by a 28 year old Marine who had previously shown signs of PTSD. He legally purchased a .45 Glock pistol and murdered 10 innocent kids out dancing for the evening and one sheriff sergeant who had devoted the last 29 years of his life to protecting and serving his community.

Today, my 6 year old son sang and danced his heart out. His eyes never left his two grandfathers as he thanked them for their service with awkward choreography and 2 out of every 3 words of the songs.

My dad and father-in-law are proud to have served. One was militarily engaged (story for another time), one was in the reserves. Both voluntarily enlisted and they deserve, and enjoy, the reverence afforded to them on this holiday. I know Tyler was proud to have them in the audience too.

But neither of them give me concern that they have PTSD, that they may harm themselves or someone else. What has changed since they served? I certainly don’t have the answer but I sure as hell know that “thank you for your service” isn’t cutting it anymore.

Tyler and his classmates sang of our freedom and safety and choices. These darling little faces in all shapes, sizes and colors, poetically reminded us of the sacrifice others have made so that we can worship freely, vote, assemble and verbally destroy each other on Facebook. I think we take it all for granted. And I know for certain that our government is not taking care of our veterans. 

I realize we have a lot of fronts to fight right now but I believe veterans deserve better. Better because they served. Better because their families also sacrificed. And if it’s the only thing that motivates us, better because they are bringing the wars back to our shores. PTSD is the root of epidemic levels of veteran drug abuse, unconscionable homelessness and now mass shootings. 

There has been a trend in recent years not to exhaustingly name the shooters. This one should be different. We will come to understand that Ian Long was a victim of his mental illness. I’ll be surprised if it’s not directly connected to his service as Marine. My wish would be for Congress to fund a mental health initiative in his name for veterans. One that provides therapists immediately upon re-entry and with benefits that never run out. That’s how we can thank our military for their service.

Objects In The Mirror Are Actually As Large As They Appear

Dear American Retailers,

I will do anything to avoid walking into a mall. Truthfully, I will do anything to avoid leaving my house. So I do a lot of shopping online. To clarify, I do a lot of ordering online of items I know are absolute necessities because shopping is a waste of time and money.

This week I ordered khaki pants from Gap. One boy needed the same size. Apparently the gaping hole on his ass that he had scotch taped was “out of uniform”. The other boy has grown and wanted a waist size one inch larger. Easy peasy.

The pants arrived and they are HUGE. Tell me how the same size of the same pant from a company like Gap could be off that much. I’ll tell you how. Vanity sizing. It’s got to be because orphaned Chinese peasant children can definitely measure.

Vanity sizing is bullshit. You are making my life a living hell. I order. I print return labels. I take packages to UPS. I wait on exchanges.

This isn’t a one-off mistake either. As an example, I recently ordered a pair of pants that were a double zero and I had to return them because I was swimming in them.  A DOUBLE ZERO! I know that Martha in Missouri is thrilled that she fits in the 00, but I’m here to tell you, Martha, you still have a fat ass even if the slutty store I ordered from says you don’t.

It’s time to stop lying to the public. Any increase in sales you are seeing are offset by my returns costs.

xo, Moi

Senior Baby Pictures

Riley’s school “invites you to participate in this tradition of love by sending us a photograph of your student when he/she was a baby, along with a message.” These fucking Catholics. Don’t they know I’m dying here over the start of his Senior Year?

For some reason I chose today to comb through old photo albums for just the right picture. Here’s the winner:

While I look at baby pictures, I also look at pictures of a fresh young mommy and I know what she’s NOT thinking. She has no idea that she doesn’t get to keep that perfect blue-eyed, drooley baby in her house forever. You may be saying of course. But I’m dead serious. It never fucking dawned on me that he would be leaving me.

I know you’re saying he’s not really leaving and it’s not forever; he’ll be back for vacations and in four years our economy will be a hot mess and he’ll be unemployable and living with us unable to support himself. But it’s different.

Some days I may only have five minutes of conversation with him between school, work and his social calendar. But it’s enough. Because he’s under my roof. In my possession.

And then there are the nights that he blows off friends to stay home and watch Bill Maher or a movie with Dave and me. Or the evenings he lingers at the dinner table long after his brothers have excused themselves to have political conversations with us or bring us up to speed on school and friends and college apps. Or the hugs passing in the hallway or the random sushi dates with just him and me.

But now it’s closing time. He is my horcrux. A part of me is slowly tearing away. It’s time. He’s ready. He should. I probably have about 360 days to live in the present and stop this lamenting.

I have no regrets. For me it was perfect. If it wasn’t for him, too bad. There are no comment cards at checkout. Take it up with your future therapist.

Not My Immigration Story

In an another effort to distract mid-term voters from the issues truly affecting the American public, the Trump Administration has placed the wedge issue of immigration front and center. I’d like to add a story to the those that have personalized this issue. I can’t call it my story because in truth, I was just a witness to it. In reflection, that’s something I am ashamed of. Not that I didn’t try. But that I wasn’t successful. That I didn’t persevere.

For clarification, I am white and the third generation of my family to be born in the United States, California specifically. I have been told the harrowing story of my great-grandfather emigrating from Poland at the age of 12. I have been to Ellis Island and proudly found his name. He was educated and knew enough English to communicate his actual last name and have it spelled correctly as he began his life as an American. Penniless and a child, he overcame great challenges to achieve the American Dream. His progeny continue to benefit.

In stark contrast to Pop’s childhood, my Sunday evenings were ritualized by pizza at our favorite Italian restaurant and picking up our live-in housekeeper at the Winchell’s down on the boulevard. One night, as we left dinner and headed to collect her, my mother prepped my brother and I. Not only are we picking up the housekeeper, but she will have her son with her. He is 10 years old (in between my younger brother and I). Up until this point, he has been living in El Salvador with his grandmother, believing her to be his mother. He was brought here by “coyotes”. He doesn’t speak English.

Door opens, cabin lights come on, mother and son get in the car. That’s it.

Over the next 8 years, the boy lived in a room in my house with his mother 5 days a week. The room was large, but off the garage. We walked through that room to enter the main house. We never knocked from the outside before entering. Our washing machine and dryer were in the room and it also functioned as our family’s makeshift office.

I remember the excitement of setting up our new Apple IIe in that room. I spent hours on that computer. In their personal space. I did ask him a few times if he wanted to try it. Instinctively he’d look at his mother. She’d sternly tell him no with her eyes. Eventually I stopped asking.

The bathroom he and his mother used was actually our powder room. The only shower available for their use was in the ensuite bathroom of my room. Looking back I wonder when he had time to sneak in a shower. It was never while I was home.

Summer breaks seem particularly painful in retrospect. My brother and I spent a lot of time in front of the tv and swimming in our backyard. I definitely asked him if he wanted to watch something with us or cool off in the pool. I remember questioning him directly, but those eyes answering us both back. And so he sat inside.

The boy was shipped off to the local public schools deemed a disservice to my brother’s and my intellect. At some point during high school, the boy was having trouble with some kids at school. To hear my parents tell the story, he was going to join a gang and my father credits himself with scaring him into staying on the straight and narrow. In piecing together the spotty details in my memory bank, I think the boy was being bullied because he was smart and a good student.

My brother and I went to university out of state. The boy went to a state school locally. I have no idea if he continued to live in the room with his mother.

What must he have been thinking all those years? Why did it never occur to me to ask? He never seemed bitter or jealous. We had cordial exchanges, but never conversations. A boy, essentially my age, lived in my home and I had no meaningful relationship to him. We both accepted the caste parameters set by the adults around us. I am ashamed that the situation didn’t bother me at the time, that I didn’t question the unspoken rules and that I didn’t stick up for what should have been his equal rights and access to kid stuff entertainment available in the house he was living. It certainly couldn’t have felt like a home to him.  

I’m sure you’re wondering what happened to the boy. During the Reagan Administration my mother helped the housekeeper and the boy become citizens. I now think about the boy being enrolled in school, an “illegal” and probably without a legitimate birth certificate. But that supposedly substandard public education, followed by graduation from state school led to a incredibly successful career at a major accounting firm. I suspect he’s at the partner level.

The boy (now a man) and I are Facebook friends. But there is still no discussion. Without that modern convenience, I would have no tether.

A boy lived in my house. He had an amazing escape from a war torn country. He lived a life on the outside of privilege. I know nothing of it.

I Invented Diet Coke

I invented Diet Coke. No really, I did.

I was with my soon-to-be stepdad, then-to-be adoptive father, but that’s a story for another day. It was the summer of 1980 and I was 8 years old. He was walking me up to the grill that bordered the pool at our swim and tennis club. The ordering window was high up and in deference to the pixie sized clientele, 3 large, boxed shaped steps covered in cheap carpet stood square in front of the opening. I’d climb on up and almost always order the same thing; a cheeseburger, a Cactus Cooler and for dessert, a half of a cantaloupe filled with lemonade.

I know you have many questions about this order, namely why would an 8 year old consider fruit a dessert. I can only tell you that I was the victim of a persistent and effective brain washing campaign. My husband jokes that given the choice between a brussel sprout and a piece of candy, I would choose the brussel sprout. He’s right. As for the lemonade in the middle, I don’t know what culinary genius introduced me to that palate pleaser, but I highly recommend you try it.

I know you want to hear about Diet Coke but a few more thoughts are flooding back to me. Namely, a cheeseburger outside on a hot day kinda sucks. I remember opening the foil and a wave of steam rising up and enveloping my warm, slightly sunburned face, sticky with layers of sunscreen mixed with chlorine and other delectable molecules contracted from a public pool.  Starving, I would quickly take a bite and the scalding grease would drip down my chin. The ketchup on the burger would have had just enough time to heat up and burn my tongue. I’d take a swig of the Cactus Cooler, perhaps the finest soda in the land, but it wasn’t quite cold enough and the carbon dioxide bubbles would expand in my throat and get stuck above the blob of meat and cheese and bun. And yet, if given the choice for my Last Meal, this would be in high consideration.

Back to my invention…

We walked in silence from the chaise lounges to the grill. I was considering my order. Maybe I’d mix it up a bit. Sometimes I’d substitute a scoop of chicken salad with 1000 Island dressing on the side. The kind that’s so thick with corn syrup and pickle chunks that it has to be poured from an oversized syrup dispenser and clipped off by the sliding metal cover snapping back into place. And for the drink? No distraction there but I did have a fleeting thought that escaped my lips.

“Hey, how come there’s Diet Pepsi, but there’s no Diet Coke?” His retort came sharply, “what do you think Tab is, Stupid?”

Two years later, Diet Coke hit the market. Just the right amount of time for some zealous young Coca-Cola exec to have overheard my idea, pitch it, formulate it through R&D and bring it to market. “Just for the taste of it.” You know, because we already have Tab.

I’ve been back to the club in recent years and the carpeted steps are gone. Some dumbass kid probably fell and the club was sued. Now that’s stupid.