It’s been a rocky, rough first week-and-a-half of school for one of my children, who is in the throes of arguing with the reality of homework. Too many occasions at the dining room table I surmised she’d be lucky to have a job at Wal-Mart when she grows up, because she is barreling toward academic ruination at the ripe old age of ten.

Here are some snapshots from the week:

Her crawling around on the floor, homework pages abandoned atop the table above.
Her curled in a chair, legs in the air, singing a made-up song with the refrain, “homework should be illegal.”
Her admonishing Hillary Clinton to DO something about it.
Me vainly explaining the concept of time passing.
Me restraining myself from doing her homework for her (as yes, I’ve done in the past).
Her unable to hold her head up in order to see the page that surely 99% of her classmates had already completed.
Me timing her.
Her suddenly needing to pee.
Me emailing the teacher.
Her not being able to work without a snack.
Me reading the teacher’s response. He will keep an eye on it, but lady, it’s only the first week of school.
Me screaming.
Her sobbing.
Me letting her know I’ve never felt more helpless and incapable as a parent.
Her telling me that I’m a good mom, except when I yell.
Me choking up.
Her wiping her face, doodling, still not remotely interested in completing her assignment.
The clock ticking.


I haven’t had a drink since Valentine’s Day. I swore off alcohol because drinking radiated shitty consequences like a rock dropped in a lake. For one thing, I lost all my resolve to stick to my calorie count (1800 if you’re curious). So I’d overeat. The alcohol itself has extra calories I don’t need either. That’s two. Drinking would undermine my training efforts in a few ways: if I left my workout till the evening but drank instead, I skipped my workout for the day. If I drank too much, the following day’s workout suffered or didn’t happen. Then, once I started Googling the effects of drinking, to, you know, shore up my resolve, I learned that it lowers testosterone—that muscle-building hormone. As a woman of 47, I can use all the T I can get. Naturally of course. That’s just the vanity aspect. The other thing alcohol gave me was regret and mental anguish. I’d say and do things drunk and tipsy that I would never do sober. Who needed that kind of stress? And the kids didn’t like the way I acted. My son called me an alcoholic. (I told him he drove me to it.)

I’d started drinking more and more. More margaritas. More Chardonnays. More often. I thought after a while that maybe the kid was right. Maybe I was an alcoholic. So I stopped altogether, being the boss of my own rock-bottom rather than daring a worse rock-bottom to hunt me down. And most of the time I didn’t miss it. Some of the time I missed it mildly, and on a mouse’s pawful of occasions, I missed it with a red-hot fever.

Like last night.

So I said fuck it.

And I drank bottle of hard cider.

Then I drank a few sips of the Manhattan I made for Bryan. He asked. It was good, if I  say so myself. I use those Morello cherries from Trader Joe’s.

And I had a few sips of Prosecco, left over from my book party.

I had wanted that first blush, that glow, that in-love feeling where finally, all would be right in the world and no amount of my kid’s homework-avoidance could touch me.

And I got that glow, especially when I went outside, because for the first time in our long, hot summer that barged into fall, it was Gorgeous out.

That combination of tipsy plus gentle breeze, multiplied by Friday night with burgers on the grill… Well, it equaled SUBLIME.

But time moved on (as it does), the weekend grew into an indisputable fact, and the Prosecco did not complement my hamburger. My little glass of sublime had morphed into a big glass of this-ride-is-over. I dumped my drink into Bryan’s and felt a sense of triumph. The desire I’d so hotly felt left me as quickly as it came, and it infused in me a sense of empowerment, where before I’d been drowning in a sea of helplessness.

The night darkened and cooled, and the neighborhood kids found their way to our house and screamed through the yard. Bryan lit a fire and the dogs situated themselves on available laps, jockeying for affection under the navy-blue sky. I cleared the picnic table and made a pan of brownies. When they were done, I topped my square with a scoop of (low-calorie/high-protein) ice cream, cracked open a can of cherry seltzer and kissed the top of my daughter’s head.

And I was relieved not to crave more than that.