My Hot Water Bottle

Alone in Ireland, I discovered one at the foot of my bed under the neatly made covers.  My friend had abandoned me for a boy earlier that night, leaving me raw and vulnerable in a strange place.  Our host, having no idea when her foolish guests would return from the pub, kindly kept our beds warm with a hot water bottle.  I crawled into my bunk, brined in betrayal, and as my toes slid down the sheets her thoughtfulness climbed up my body, melting away my loneliness, making a way for rest.

Stuck down my underwear every day for weeks, my hot water bottle helped liquefy the hormone and reduce swelling in the injection site at the beginning of nearly all my pregnancies.  Romance was dead but the work got done.

Pressed against my lower back and dressed in my son’s pajama shirt, it loosened my hips and kept him close while bearing my daughter into this world.  My firstborn as a measure of comfort for my second.

Comfort Measures

When my first husband left me alone in the Bronx, a friend sent me a cloth heart, weighted and scented, to place on top of my own which was wild and empty.  The heaviness calmed me and after my panic attack this April, I remembered that feeling and have been placing a hot water bottle on top of my heart ever since.  It grounds me and brings me nearer to sleep.  As I roll to my side and pull the water bottle close, it satisfies another need; nestling the baby I will never sleep with again.  It eases this unhappy notion with a gurgle and a squish and a 98.6.  I am lulled once again only this time I get to sleep through the night.

Thank you for always being there Hot Bottle Water.  I love you.  I wish you could read.

Biking Montreal: At Night With Kids


Now that darkness is faster upon us, I bike at night with my kids.  This happens every Friday after swim class and more often if we play late or run too many errands.


Like most mothers, my willingness to take risks plummeted once I became pregnant and when I decided to exclusively breastfeed, it flatlined.  Riding my bike at night through Montreal is frightening – and sometimes exhilarating – but mostly frightening.  I am most afraid, day or night, or tipping over and skidding/sliding into traffic.  I’m also scared of being “doored” and flipping over my handlebars, same for hitting a pothole.  Basically I have separation anxiety – I’m terrified of anything separating my body from my bike which carries my babies.  The darkness amplifies all my fears and sends my hyper-vigilance into overdrive.

One of the first times I rode at night it was very windy and a strong gust set us on tip.  I was certain we were going over. (What is that? Physics?)  I knew I could call my husband and with more confidence and skill, he would ride that bike home instead of me.  But then what?  That can’t happen every windy night in Montreal.  In winter.  I had to pedal through the fear so I just did it.  I’m just doing it.  It is just another thing I need to get used to, another thing I need to conquer and so I do.  And it still scares the hell out of me.

My kids might not remember these days but I know I’m leaving an imprint somewhere in their developing brains (what is that? anatomy?) about perseverance.  In the meantime, in the here and now, Arlo and Farrah travel a bit farther and reach a little bit higher, fearlessly.

City Kids


Why Some 19-Year-Olds Shouldn’t Have Babies

Lisa Bagchi:

It’s Veterans Week so I’m sharing favorite posts from the past. This 2012 story is more motherhood than Army, but it felt right to end this week on a light-hearted note. I hope you enjoy. Thanks for catching up with BPS and thank you to all who serve.

Originally posted on Black Panty Salvation:

But others are perfectly suited to do so.

Back in 1990, I baby-sat my fellow soldier PFC Carson’s two young daughters.  Carson was a good pal of mine.  We did lots of horsing around in formation and out in the field, and I probably grilled him constantly about being married and having kids.  He was 22 to my 19.  His eldest girl was named Lisa so of course hers were the stories I liked best.

He and his wife went out one night and I volunteered to watch the girls.  I seized any opportunity to be off post and I figured the kids would be in bed quickly and I’d get to watch a lot of tv alone instead of in the barracks’ common room.  I’d also raid the fridge and cabinets because I was 19 and in the Army.

Everything was absolutely fine until it wasn’t.  The baby, bless…

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“Make arrangements for someone to take your baby.”

Lisa Bagchi:

It’s Veterans Week so I’m sharing favorite posts from the past. Here is Paula’s story from her time in the Navy. Thanks again Paula!

Originally posted on Black Panty Salvation:

Welcome to Veterans Week here at BPS.  Every day I will introduce a fellow Veteran and share her story of military service.

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Paula and I were high school classmates more than 25 years ago.  Today Paula is a mother of two, Zakk and Ridgely, a phlebotomist, and a platinum blonde ballsy bombshell.  Paula is also a Veteran.

Paula with her children, Zakk and Ridgely. Photo by Angela Anderson. Zakk, Paula and Ridgely. Photo by Angela Anderson.

Here is her story:

When did you enlist in the Navy?  Where were you living and why did you join?

I enlisted in January, 1993. I had graduated with a BA in Philosophy in June, 1992. I was living in Columbus, Ohio working at Sears Portrait Studio and Cacique. I believe it was a Wednesday when I went to see a recruiter with a friend of mine, Bill.  I was not planning on joining – I just gave Bill a ride –…

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Veteran Status: Part I, Basic Training

Lisa Bagchi:

For Veterans Week, the one that started it all:

Originally posted on Black Panty Salvation:

Veteran Status:
A Five-Part Series on My Life in the Army


Basic Training

Private Krzycki, Lisa A.

United States Army Basic Trainee

Fort Jackson, South Carolina

August, 1989- October, 1989

After high school I went to Eastern Michigan University for one year and lost my oh-this-is-what-freedom-tastes-like mind.  Out of money and nowhere to go, I joined the Army.  I enlisted for three years instead of the usual four, finding that one extra year just too much of a commitment.  I was 19.  For the next couple of months I did nothing but work the day shift at an auto-parts factory in Howe, Indiana and then run in the afternoon.  I listened to Prince on my Sony Walkman and ran and ran and ran.  My recruiter never told me that I’d be timed on my running, he only said there would be a lot of running…

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“We Poured Our Heart and Soul Into that Country”

Lisa Bagchi:

It’s Veterans Week so I’m sharing favorite posts from the past.

“One year later I am still going at it. I am First Sergeant of a Field Artillery Battery. What a wild ride, What a great opportunity.”

Debbie’s Story, 2014:

Originally posted on Black Panty Salvation:

Welcome to Veterans Week here at BPS!  Every day I will introduce a fellow Veteran and share her story of military service.

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Debbie and I are childhood friends, the same-aged daughters of two very close friends, our mothers.  Debbie herself is now a mother and grandmother living in Colorado, working as an eCommere Operations Manager for a major IT company and enjoying hiking, volunteering and traveling.  Debbie is also a Veteran.

  Here is her story:

When did you enlist in the Army?  Where were you living and why did you join?

I joined in 1988 in Monroe, Michigan.  I was a senior in high school – I joined the Delayed Entry Program in January and shipped off to Basic Training in July after high school graduation.

I was a bit of a tomboy growing up with my brother and my cousins. I grew up running through corn…

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“I Wanted Chipotle for Lunch and I Left With a New Life Plan”

Lisa Bagchi:

It’s Veterans Week so I’m sharing favorite posts from the past. Here’s Kaylee’s story from last year, with a quick catch-up first:

“So a year later and the biggest updates to my story are shortly after this interview, I realized that AIT Love TYPICALLY doesn’t work out. It didn’t for me so I am divorced now. I also got a car, so that’s made life easier, and I moved to a shop that is on shift work which means I have the most unpredictable schedule ever. I work four days on/two days off so the days I work are never the same and every 28 days we rotate hours as well. Right now I work 2200-0600. PT (Physical Training) is typically right after, and then I go to bed around 0800ish.. If I’m lucky and there’s not some last minute training or whatever.

Things have been chaotic these days, but I still feel like the Army is the best thing I have ever done and I’m grateful for all of the opportunities it has provided me since I joined.”

Thank you Kaylee. Army Strong!

Originally posted on Black Panty Salvation:

Welcome to Veterans Week here at BPS!  Every day I will introduce a fellow Veteran and share her service story.

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Kaylee is my 19-year-old cousin and recent Army enlistee now stationed in Hawaii. What does a new soldier’s life look like in 2014? Can you tweet from your barracks? Do the Humvees have GPS on board? Is the chow hall gluten-free?
Let hear about this Brave New World!

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Here is Kaylee’s story:

When did you enlist in the Army?

Originally I was enlisting early 2013 but I put it on hold for a year after getting engaged.  I planned to join after our wedding in Summer, 2014 but things changed and we broke off the engagement.  I was at Fort Sill, Oklahoma for Basic Training by the end of March, 2014.

Kaylee and her family. Kenna, Karissa, Kaylee, Robert, Tracy and Kloe. Army Strong!

Where were you living and why did…

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Temporary Blindness

Pink eye is so common you can get antibiotics for it without a prescription.  Arlo had it first and then I got it.


I am 45 and that was the first time I had pink eye so I got it again a week later (or it never actually went away).  The second round was much worse, taking both eyes.  Here is a 7am-11am progression:

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You’ve probably had pink eye.  It sucks.  My eyes burned and my head throbbed all day long.  This happened to be the morning Arlo was home from school because of a teachers’ strike.  Also, Farrah Star.  I am a person who does not get “sick days” because I am a caregiver so this also makes me a Public Health hazard.  If you are wondering why you now have pink eye, look no further – if you can – I am Patient Zero.

The day after I took these photos I prevented our bike from tipping over using only my shin.

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This hurt very badly.  I should have went home immediately to ice it.


Instead I took Farrah to the grocery store and after coming home and unloading all the bags, I finally sat down and took off my boots.  Imagine my surprise/not surprise when I had to peel my sock out of the bloody crevasse.

I immediately texted my husband for sympathy and then posted on Facebook for sympathy because I am still a little bit human.  Then I carried Farrah upstairs to change her diaper and fight over socks and read stories and fill the humidifier and nestle and nurse and never once did I put on my life jacket first.

I don’t even know how you do that.  I am the life jacket.

I’ve been getting some heat lately about giving everything (read: too much for too long) of myself to my kids which is weird because I am required to give everything of myself to my kids even when gouged and blind.  It is the promise and privilege to my occasional pain.  It is whole.  And it is why this resonated so deeply with me, right up my crevasse:


Stay healthy Dear Readers, as if your very life depended upon it.

Temporary Blondeness

For years I have been waiting to go gray so I could go blonde.  I’ve always wanted to try platinum and thought if I was going to dye, why not dye blonde?

Gray has refused to bloom but a mid-life crisis conveniently arrived so I stopped waiting.  Color me blonde.

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I can’t explain the physical and emotional transformation I expected from going blonde and as I type these words I have to chuckle because hair is dead.  I do believe changing your appearance can manifest different feelings but the only thing I feel is uncomfortable.  That’s still me there but what’s on top of my head?  Superficially I know it’s wrong because it’s so golden and as a Deep Winter that color has no business framing my face.  I’ve never spent so much time criticizing my skin or fretting over my appearance and fuck that because TIME (see “mid-life crisis” above).  I’ve never worked this hard on my eyebrows and I am someone who once owned Courteney Cox’s Exclusive Eyebrow Shaping Kit.  (It was the 90’s.)  I could star in a remake of “Roots” and it would be just as miserable and take just as long.

It’s been a slow year, personally.  I take responsibility for not setting goals but I also take satisfaction in settling my family into a new city, new country, new life.  That shit has been work.  My going blonde was nothing more than a grasp at metamorphosis now that the cocoon is intact.  It was a feeble, impulsive and expensive mistake because I emerged not transcendent but distracted.  There’s nothing more important to me than time and this is not how I want to spend mine.  Pick, pick, pick.  It’s also not the mother I want to be; of course I have moments of self-doubt and humanity, but when my kids see me in front of a mirror I want them to know I’m there to adorn something that’s already beautiful, just as they are, as you are, as we all are.



Blonde is not for me and now I know.  Bucket List, Check!  I have a feeling that silver is going to suit me very well one day and probably sooner than I expect.  Until then I look forward to shaving my head again and starting anew.  Metamorphosis pending.

Kindergarten Compromise

My son’s teachers go on strike today.


Arlo loves school and he is doing well.  His French is skyrocketing.  He is cared for and caring to others.  Most of all – best of all – Arlo is happy.  I hope the opposing parties can quickly reach an agreement.

I feel like I am living a fairy tale on school days.

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We hustle our bike up leaf-covered streets in the mornings, flanked by brick and metal and murals.  We arrive at school and my child bounds up the stairs, cheeks pressed with the compromise of tinted Chapstick and the stubborn insistence of his little sister.  He disappears and the doors close, embracing him.

Afternoon pick-up is a drama that unfolds with such anticipation and adoration it should be streaming live.  We parents huddle around those doors, tick-tock, tick-tock, chatting about mornings and chasing babies, pulses quickening.  The bell rings and I salivate.  He appears and we lock eyes.  We smile.  We wave.  He is released from his teacher’s hand and bounds down the stairs.  I kneel to receive his embrace; he asks if I brought a snack.  This is our holy reunion.

Change is coming to school just as sure as moms bring snacks and leaves become snow.  I hope school stays open, peacefully and to everyone’s satisfaction, so the fairy tale can continue.


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