Marriage stinks.

Last night, my husband told me that I stink.

Not as in, “you stink at geometry” (true) or “you stink at being a wife and mother” (debatable.)  But as in, “your person smells offensive.”

I think what he was trying to say was:  I stink.  I stank.  I stunk.  I smelled bad.

We were all lounging on my bed after a long night of violin lessons, swim practice, and Pack Meeting (wherein my nine-year old received his Bear Badge, thankyouverymuch.)  I was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to said nine-year old while my thirteen-year old lollygagged around the covers, as she is wont to do this time of night.  She was stretching her legs and waving her bare feet in my face (as she is wont to do this time of night), and I made an innocuous comment about how her feet stank.  She laughed and said,

“Actually Mom, you’re the one who stinks tonight.”  I laughed back and played along.

“Nope–it’s you, Ms. Stinky Nasty Feet.  Get those things away from me.”  I was sure she was just messing with me until my husband, who was brushing his teeth in our adjoining bathroom, dropped the bomb.

“Actually, Jen, I hate to tell you, but you did smell kind of weird tonight.”

Um.  What?

“What are you talking about?  What do you mean, I smelled weird?  Like weird bad?”

“Yeah.”  This was stated matter-of-factly.

“Like what kind of bad?”  My voice rose with each word, so that bad rang out in falsetto.

“Oh, I don’t know…”  His voice was muffled through the towel he dried his face with.  “It was kind of…medicinal.”



“What does that mean?”

My thirteen-year old chimed in.  “Yeah, Mom, you did smell kind of bad tonight.”  Why was she smiling?

“What do you mean, bad?  What do you mean, medicinal?  And why didn’t somebody tell me?!” Father and daughter both shrugged while son artfully employed my absence from the book to snag my phone and start a video game.  Let him, I thought.  I had bigger fish to fry.

“So what you are saying is that I actually smelled tonight—smelled bad—and I sat through that whole pack meeting with a million other parents, smelling me-dic-inal, and you didn’t tell me about it til now?  Is that what you’re saying?

“I didn’t want to make you feel bad.”

“Feel bad?  Feel bad? How about SMELL BAD!?”  I was stunned.  Here I’d spent the evening beaming as my son received his Den Advancement—I’d even gone up to the front so he could “pin” me, dangit—and the entire time, rather than admiring me (as I’d assumed), the other moms were simply smiling at me as they craned their necks away, pretending to look for someone over their shoulder in an attempt to distance themselves from my fumes.  Medicinal fumes.  (Did that mean I smelled like Benadryl or Ben Gay?  I was still confused.)


“I don’t understand.  I still don’t understand how I smelled bad.  Tell me.”  My husband shook his head as he stared at the mirror and slid a razor over his chin.

“I can’t explain it.”

“But I washed my hair today.”

“That’s nice.  But you still smelled bad tonight.  I’m sorry.”

“This cannot be happening.  I’ve never smelled bad before.  I am not that person!”

“I know you aren’t.  It was just…”—AND THIS IS A DIRECT QUOTE—“unfortunate.”

Unfortunate?  Unfortunate?  No.  I was not born to be one of the “unfortunates.” How could I, of all people, smell?  I shower daily: I wear Powder-Fresh deodorant and Moonlit Path body lotion.  I wash my clothes (regularly!) and use Downy (name brand!) in every load.  I brush, I floss, I chew Orbit Cinnamint gum, I use (semi) professional hair products.  But all of this was nothing compared to the fact that I had always seen myself as one of the clean, smiley, socially aware members of society.  was supposed to be the person who displayed genteel forbearance when somebody else smelled.  (Poor thing, I’d judge silently.  They just don’t know.)  I was the person in control of my breath, my body odor, my life.

Wasn’t I?

And though I cringe to think how my odiferous ignorance may have affected my fan base friendships over the years, even more frightening is the prospect of other “unfortunate” offenses that I never knew I’d given.  Perhaps some of the personal habits I’d always felt so confident about—like my frequently Spanxed-up derriere and even more frequent applications of sunless tanner (who doesn’t like a little glow in January?)—weren’t fooling anyone.  Maybe my “highlighted” (fake) blond hair and “whitened” (bleached) front teeth were merely cheap perfumes splashed over a medicinally-scented body.  Maybe all those times I thought someone was turning their nose up at me (it happens) (kind of a lot), they were really just turning their nose away from me.  Maybe I belonged with The Unfortunates after all, destined to interpret other people’s kindness as approval when really it was just pity.

The only consolation here is that a medicinal body odor often settles (as we’ve all witnessed) on persons of a certain age.  So it might be that I have been a lovely-scented girl my whole life and this new stink is only arriving as part of the general decay of my body.  It’s a twisted condolence, but I’ll take it.  Better to have old-man smell than frumpy-housewife smell.  At least with the former, some wisdom and money are usually attached.  (Which is more than I can say for the latter.)


Bella Voce Part III

With the cooler weather and changing leaves comes, in my world, an even more striking sign of autumn:  the October meeting of Bella Voce.  

In case you haven’t read my blog or just don’t know the inner workings of my heart and soul, Bella Voce is an author series that meets thrice a year in Portland and which, through the kindness of my husband’s business partner and forbearance of many-an-affluent-middle-aged-woman, I am allowed to attend.  (See what I did there with thrice?  I used one word instead of two: thrice instead of three times a year.  It’s the mark of sophisticated writing, trust me.  And doesn’t come off as pretentious at all.) 

The anticipation of taking the rare day off from Life to drive down the Columbia Gorge and sit at the feet of famous writers is, well, pretty much what gets me out of my small-town, big-hair, housewife bed every morning.  And yet today—the day that I should be zooming to Bella Voce for the first time since last May—I am instead sitting here, writing about why I’m not there.  And why, ahem, am I not there?  In short:  I missed Bella Voce because of my kids.

It’s those kids—ooh, those kids!  Those mean, nasty, rotten ‘ol kids.  They make me sign them up for stuff and then they make me pay for it.  They make me drive them everywhere and then drop them early so they’re not seen with me.  They suck the life out of me and then spit it back in my face.  (i.e., Daughter on Saturday Night:  “Can I go to the dance?”  Me:  “Sure.”  Daughter on Monday Morning:  “I forgot to do my homework!  Why did you make me to go to the dance?!”  True story.)

But worse than any of that, those mean, nasty, rotten ‘ol kids make me, sometimes, miss Bella Voce.  Swim meets, violin lessons, cub scouts—all have conspired to make this “I’m a mom first” put Bella Voce last.  Okay, I get it:  on her deathbed, no mother ever whispered, “I wish I’d spent less time with my kids and more time at Bella Voce.”  But last I checked, I am not on my deathbed, so this living mother can only scream, “I WANT TO GO TO BELLA VOCE!”  (I actually did scream that, late last night, but my kids just glanced up from their phones, a little confused, then held out their hands for more Snack Shack money.)  The brood didn’t care that while I was home doing their laundry, the lovely lunching literati would be lunching and literati-ing without me.  Nobody cared that I was missing my Big Day—or so I thought.  Until I got a call from Renee.

Renee is this dreamy woman who works for the dreamy bank that hosts this dreamy event.  I’ve never actually met her, but yesterday she sent an email asking me to call her before the luncheon, as she had a “surprise” planned for me.  Ever the cynic, I assumed this was a form letter sent to all Bella Voce attendees, and that the “surprise” was likely a free money market account or some such Wealth-Management-Super-Boring-Thing.  (No offense, Wealth.  We love you.  Please don’t go.)

So imagine my astonishment when, after leaving her a voicemail telling her I wouldn’t be coming (those rotten kids!) she called me back personally that night.  And imagine my increased astonishment during our conversation which, after standard pleasantries, went something like this:

“Jennifer, we get such a kick out of your blog, and we don’t want you to be a stalker anymore.  So we wanted to invite you to sit at the the Author’s Table tomorrow.”

“Really?”  (small voice, borderline squeaky)

“Absolutely!” (gracious voice, non-squeaky)

“But” (gulp) “I can’t come tomorrow.”  (those…rotten…KIDS!)

“I know.  But it’s no problem, we’ll just have you sit with the author at our February event.”

“Really?”  (squeaky-voice-turns-whimper)  “I can still do it in February?”

“Of course!  I’ll have it all set up for you.  We’ll look forward to seeing you then, and the author will look forward to having lunch with you.”

“I love you, I love you, I love you Ms. Renee from Bella Voce!  And I promise to never again curse my children or regret bearing offspring.”

Okay, fine.  What I really said was:

“Thank you so much!”

Can you believe it?  With one phone call I go from Repressed Housewife to Glittering Member Of The Social And Literary Elite.  (At least, I think that’s what Renee was saying.)  (Wasn’t she?)


And if you think that’s exciting, wait til you Guess Who’s Coming to Bella Voce in February, and whose table I’ll be drooling at  gracing when she does?

I’ll give you three clues:

1)  She’s an Aussie—which makes her automatically cooler than you or me.  (I’m not sure how this works.  It just does.)

2)  She has a dog named Milo and a horse named Butter.

3)  She won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction a few years ago for a story related to a story we all love.  (I love it.  You love it.  Guaranteed.)

And I will love meeting this internationally acclaimed writer in a few short months!  Though I’m sure I’ll manage to make a fool of myself in the process because, as my children have informed me on numerous occasions, “You’re so…cheesy, Mom.

Well, maybe I am, but what do they know about the neglected dreams of a mother’s stolen youth?  What do they know about anything?

Nothin’, that’s what.  Rotten kids.

Life after Life

Don’t ask me what this book is about, because I’ll answer you all wrong.  I’ll try to explain how a young woman, Ursula, is born into a wealthy English family and is allowed the rare privilege of living and dying and living again until she “gets it right.”  And that will make the book sound tedious and confusing–like Groundhogs Day in print–and then you won’t want to read it and you’ll miss out on a fantabulous literary experience and it will be all my fault.  And really, between my looming pile of laundry and the king-sized Twix I inhaled while writing this, don’t I have enough to feel guilty about?

Life After Life is, for lack of a better phrase, just kind of about everything.  Choice, consequence, survival, selflessness, selfishness, love and the lack thereof.  All of this takes place against the backdrop of World War II—London during the Blitz, Germany during Hitler’s rise to power, or the English countryside during both—depending on which version of Ursula’s life we are witnessing.  (My favorite version is the one wherein Ursula becomes BFFs with Eva Braun.  Talk about an audacious author.)

When asked, Kate Atkinson said Life After Life is mostly about “being English.”  But I thought the book was also very much about family, as Ursula is born into the same stable but imperfect one over and over again, and every road she takes leads her, ultimately, back to them.  Through the failures and triumphs of her varied lives, Ursula’s family remains the one constant.  The book doesn’t beat us over the head with this idea; it’s just there, like a welcome warmth through the sometimes chilly pages.

This book is unique and fascinating and superbly written, and it challenges the reader in a good way.  I read more for mood and impression than a linear plot line, so this book worked for me.  I’ve been meaning to read Atkinson for a long time, and now I understand what all the hype is about; whether or not you like the mechanics of this novel, her writing is just fantastic.

Have you read it?  Did you love it?  (It’s okay if you didn’t.  Tell me here.)

Happy Friday!


p.s.  In the interest of full disclosure, I thought you should know that I will be attending a “Harvest Bazaar” this weekend.  It will be the first craft show I’ve attended in at least fifteen years, and the first craft show I’ve attended willingly in my entire life.  (My mom and sisters used to drag me every year.  It was almost as bad as going to the fabric store.)  I even called up my super-crafty sister and invited her.  I invited her!  I feel like Ursula, waking up to an alternate reality.  Maybe choosing to visit to a holiday bazaar is my way of finally “getting it right.”  (Oh gosh, I hope not.)

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