Thursday, February 23, 2006

Karmedians and other cosmic jokes

Dear Zen Mother,

Could you explain Karma to me? I hear it thrown around a lot in conversation but I’m not sure I really understand it.

Mimi from Amesbury

Dear Mimi,

Well, according to my Eastern Religion for Dummies handbook, Karma encompasses both cause and effect by looking at all your deeds from the past, present and future, including things you have done in previous lifetimes as someone or something else. In other words, Karma is the Sanskrit word for “you’re screwed.”

Before you dismiss this notion as a whole lot of hooey, here’s a recent experience I had with a psychic, or as he prefers, perpetual life coach.

“Is there something I can help you with?” he asked.

“You tell me. You’re the psychic,” I said, elbowing him and snorting at my own humor.

“Yeah, like I haven’t heard that before. OK, Mrs. Z, if you want proof of my clairvoyance, here goes. You left the house with kids in tow at 7:55 a.m. except one of your boys was still in the bathroom washing the dog with his toothbrush. Later you went grocery shopping only to realize in Checkout Lane #7 you were still in your pajamas, flannel with flying pigs – cute. You returned home to work on your next column, due yesterday, but instead turned on the TV hoping you hadn’t missed “Judge Judy.” Would you like me to go on?”

Humbled and embarrassed, I said no. “Umm, could you tell me about my past lives instead?”

I expected him to burn sage, light a candle and fall into a deep meditation or deal a series of Tarot cards in front of me but he simply stared. His eyes became critical and his mouth revealed a disapproving sneer. I straightened up, lifted my chin and crossed my ankles, hoping this would help release my past life as Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn. I waited.

“You were an avocado,” he said, finally.


“A-vo-ca-do.” The word dripped from his mouth like venom.

“What is that…a joke? You think you’re some kind of comedian?”

“It’s not a joke, but don’t worry, you reincarnated as a flea in 504 B.C.”

“Oh, you’re a riot. I suppose next you’ll tell me that I was once a goat.”

“Well, yes, but it took you a while to earn that life. Some of the decisions you made as a flea were questionable.”

“What about my sister?” thinking at least I could get my money’s worth by wallowing in one of her past lowly existences.

“She was Audrey Hepburn. That’ll be $175. No personal checks. I know what’s in your bank account.”

I couldn’t speak. I’d just spent $175 to be insulted and demeaned. I rushed out of the psychic’s office and across the street, reeling from the experience.

“Wait!” I heard him yell. “You forgot your purse.”

He stepped out from the entranceway, tripped and stumbled into a pedestrian who pushed him to the curb where a bike messenger bounced him into the street. The psychic then jumped to his left to avoid an oncoming Mini Cooper…only to be run over by an eighteen-wheeler coming from the other direction.

Hmmm, I thought to myself, I guess there is something to this karma business after all. I walked over to where he lay, picked up my purse and went home to watch “Judge Judy.”

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Junk Drawer

Dear Zen Mother,

My bride and I recently purchased our first home. I was perplexed to discover she immediately designated a drawer in our kitchen as the “junk drawer.” As a bachelor, everything I owned had its place and junk was thrown away. Could you explain this notion to me?

Dan from Newbury

Dear Dan,

The junk drawer plays a vital role in any home. As a newly married couple with no children, your junk drawer looks drastically different from that of a married couple of 12 years with, say, 19 children (my husband insists I only have three kids but that’s impossible).

For example, your junk drawer probably contains an extra set of keys to your Audi, emergency phone numbers for the dog sitter, personalized leather luggage tags from your bank (they love you), extra batteries for your Blackberry, several paper clips and a take-out menu from Joppa Fine Foods.

My junk drawer contains keys of various shapes and sizes. Since none of these keys open any doors in my house or belong to any vehicle, I can only assume they are the keys to Al Capone’s safe, the public bathrooms in the lost city of Atlantis and the back gate to Area 51. My junk drawer also contains the names and phone numbers of babysitters scared away in the last decade, a foam drink holder from my bank (they hate me) and several dead cell phones in need of batteries.

In fact, the contents of my junk drawer are now multiplying like something in a B horror film, spilling onto the kitchen floor, making a left at the back stairs, burping into the playroom and oozing under the basement door. But aside from these obvious aesthetics, the junk drawer also plays a valuable role for the busy mom.

In a world of “Mom, where’s this; Mom, where’s that?” we busy moms can use the junk drawer to catch several seconds of peace.

“Mom, where’s my hairbrush?” I’m going online where no one can possibly see me but my hair needs to be perfect.

“Check the junk drawer.” Mommy’s busy sending an email to I_can’t_believe_my_life

“Mom, do you have any string?” I’d like to trap my little brother in a giant spider web so he can’t reach the remote control.

“Check the junk drawer.” Mommy’s busy writing her novel about a woman with 19 children who slowly descends into madness.

“Mom, I owe Nick thirteen dollars. Do you have it?” Since money magically grows in your purse I’ll be able to siphon off of you for the rest of my life.

“Check the junk drawer.” Mommy’s busy planning her escape by pitching a bottled message out the kitchen window and into the nearby stream.

Unfortunately, we do not live by a stream but when spring comes and I hear my husband say, “What the…?” upon hitting several glass bottles with his lawn mower and reading the enclosed “Help Me! I’m being held hostage by cloying, life-sucking people claiming to be my family,” I’ll simply shrug my shoulders and tip my head toward Grammy Z.

So let your bride have a junk drawer. It may one day hold the key to a little sanity.

Zen Mother appears weekly in The Newburyport Current. Do you have a question or topic for Zen Mother? Send it to She’d love to hear from you.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The British Invasion

Dear Zen Mother,

I have a family reunion coming up and I am dreading it! Any advice to help me survive the weekend?

Sarah from Newburyport

Dear Sarah,

Cry me a river, you big baby. You can’t spend 48 hours with people who love you and are interested in you? Well, Boo Hoo!

I’m sorry; you’ll have to excuse me. Grammy Z, the High Priestess of Insulting Behavior, moved in with us recently and it has been quite an adjustment. We took her in because the kids have grown fond of her the way they’ve embraced the stray dog that hangs around at their bus stop – smells odd, bites sometimes but is kinda fun to have around.

My husband and I, on the other hand, view Grammy Z like the navy blue sock that lives in the back hallway. It’s always there but nobody wants to claim it.

“Isn’t she related to you?” I asked my husband.

“No, I thought she was your relative,” he replied.

Puzzlement abounds.

And then there’s the accent. When Grammy Z drinks (early and often) she adopts a British accent (by way of Trenton, New Jersey) and dons a tiara. She believes her husband is dead (alive and well living in an undisclosed location) and thinks everything is better with Lipton onion soup mix. But that’s not all. Last night, we received a call from Scotland Yard.

“Mrs. Z, this is Inspector Reynolds. I’m calling to inform you that your houseguest, Grammy Z, has been sending naked pictures of herself to Prince Philip. And quite frankly, these are the most disturbing images we’ve ever seen here at the Yard. Her Majesty the Queen would like Grammy Z to stop immediately or we will have to take action.”

I called my sister for emotional support.

“She needs you and you need her. There is a lesson to be learned from this journey and we will all be better for it,” my sister said.

“Well, then, why doesn’t she come live with you? Hello? Hello?

Puzzlement abounds.

I searched out my husband but not before seeing a camera flash from beneath the bathroom door. I tried the doorknob but it was locked. Another flash.

“I’m on to you, woman! You need to stop sending those pictures!”

“How dare you address the Queen in her privy chamber,” Grammy Z yelled back. I continued searching for my husband determined to get a blood sample.

“That crazy nut is from your side of the family,” he said to me. “And I have the proof.”

There it was. An old photograph of me in a tub being bathed by Grammy Z, a cigarette deftly balanced on her lower lip, her tiara sitting askew on my head. I took the photograph and walked upstairs to find Grammy Z giving my kids a bath. The boys were taking turns wearing her tiara as she washed their hair. They were singing “God Save the Queen” and “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” at the top of their lungs. I became filled with happy memories. The puzzle was solved. And later that night, as I pulled bits of onion soup mix from my children’s hair, I realized everyone in the family has something to offer.

Zen Mother appears weekly in The Newburyport Current. Do you have a question or topic for Zen Mother? Send it to She’d love to hear from you.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Calling in Sick

I’m not writing a column today. My head’s in a vise and someone installed wall-to-wall carpeting on my tongue. My eyes resemble those of the dead fish in my kids’ aquarium (Don’t worry boys, Mr. Fish Sticks is just taking a very long nap). My bones crackle when I move and my palms are sweaty.

My husband “the doctor” is not understanding at all. “Get out of the house,” he says.

“You get out!” I say.

“No, no, that’s not what I mean,” he explains. “Activity is good for what ails you. You should do something.”

So I kill him, which is really unfortunate because someone needs to walk the dog.

I call my kids together and tell them to stay out of trouble while mommy gets some rest. This is absolutely the wrong thing to say to children under any circumstance but my head is filled with cotton and there is a little man with a power drill behind my left ear. My kids love it when I’m sick. Their eyes light up and their little cupid lips curl at the corners. It’s their opportunity to do things I would never allow them to do under normal, healthy conditions.

“Mom, can I take fifty dollars out of your wallet, bike down the high speed lane of Rt. 1A with Joey the school punk and shoot paint balls at convertible BMWs?”

“OK,” I mumble from under my pillow. “Be home in time for dinner.”

My husband, eerily resurrected says, “It’s the common cold. You’ll live.”

“There’s nothing common about it,” I say, swallowing half a bottle of Benedryl and chasing it with some liquid Tylenol.

“It’s just the sniffles,” he persists so I kill him again. But this time I wait until after he takes out the garbage.

I crawl downstairs to watch TV but run out of steam halfway there. I curl up in a nice, dark corner of the front hall closet, my head resting on the Electrolux.

A vision of my husband opens the closet door. “Why is it that when men are sick, you women say we are the biggest babies in the world and when you are sick it is the sickest sickness ever?” he asks.

“God, die already. Who are you, Rasputin?”

“Why don’t you put on a coat and go for a walk,” he says.

Still crouched in the closet, I search for his black cashmere dress coat and blow my nose on its sleeve. “Because I’m sick!” I tell him.

My husband pulls me out of the closet and tries to smooth the tangled hair in the back of my head. “C’mon, I’ll walk with you,” he says and leads me to the front door. His arm is steady and his chest is warm. He smells of cinnamon and pine. I breathe in his chivalry and embrace his kindness. This is what I need, just a little TLC from my soul mate. I agree to go but not before grabbing an ice pick from the bar, just in case.

So I am not writing a column today.

Zen Mother appears weekly in The Newburyport Current. Do you have a question or topic for Zen Mother? Send it to She’d love to hear from you.