May 24, 2003

permission to become......beautiful

This is a post I want to be able to come back to.

Maybe you'll get why. But if not, give me this one. This one is for me. Message to myself: Let yourself.

My mother has been, is, always will be, was born, and has worked hard to remain beautiful. Stunning. At any age, she has surpassed the looks, caught and held the gaze, of her peers, her contemporaries, knew how to be beautiful, knew how to make her beauty work for her. Blonde, slavic, full Czech, in her 20s and thirties she was Mia Farrow breath taking. At 70, she still is.

And there were other parts of her too, the softer parts, no lines, the creams and potions, the vitamin e capsules, pricked with a pin, gel in a tiny porcelin dish on her dresser, for just under the eyes, magnificent in the daylight, my mother. Petite, like a doll, flapper flat and thin, with proper manners and grace I never seemed to learn.

Yes me.

Those are the Dimino genes, she'd say. My curves and blooming and puberty hitting at 11. Me shapely and developing early, me at five already knowing I would have some chest.

I can't tell if, though something has nagged at me this year, if she, maybe unconsciously, fed me, draped me, over did it with me--was that from love, the overabundance of food and toys and undershirts? Or was it something else.

I remember being in the pediatrician's office at 13. Him saying, in his 50-something Italian Macho way, "If you lost 20 pounds, you'd be Miss America." I remember the panic setting in, my mother in the examining room with me. And I can't quite hit on what was swelling inside that panic. Besides myself. I do remember some of the thoughts that came to me, flooded my 13-year-old brain. Things like:

I'm not allowed to do that.

I don't want that kind of attention.

I can't achieve real beauty, slavic beauty. I have the wrong genes.

Why would I want to be a ditzy miss america?

Why wouldn't I?

What do I do?

What should I say when I leave this room, to her?

Why is my face so red?

Just some thoughts. Like those. Rushing and pushing their way from somewhere in my groin up past my forehead, pulsating. Oh God. Why did we have to come here?

So over the years, the decades, the 20 pounds doubled, and doubled. And while I never felt particularly "ugly," I journeyed through my adolescence and early adulthood remaining in my place, the place I had learned to love and receive love, a place where I fit with the side of the family that was my father, whom I missed so, him thick and strong, those Dimino genes. Yes. Okay. I'll keep those. But how far do I have to go to fit that mold. Like Aunt Marge, may she rest in peace, needing a cane to carry her plumpness around? To be a good girl, do I need to be deny my physical beauty? Agree to decide it isn't Beauty? Beauty that is not flapper thin, blonde, petite, or especially attractive from a Magazine-Media point of view? Or from my mother's point of view? I didn't know. Sometimes I still don't know.

I know I can think of myself as genetically challenged.

And I did that. Have done that. Although I found in my husband someone who saw into my beauty, appreciated me, even with my genetic challenges, which he didn't see, which I saw, still--finding that in someone else does not change how you feel about yourself. You take yourself, as they say, with you.

Just this last year, I've set out on a journey that I've chronicled pieces of here--you hear it, don't you--you read it in me, in us, in our love and language, in our agony and breathtaking vulnerability--I know you do. In the end, opening our skin and becoming vulnerable to one another is the only way to get inside. You gotta get in to get out.

So, where is this going? What has moved me this week, to write this?

I think that for the first time in my life, I'm giving myself permission to be beautiful. The way I see beauty. Me. I. The way I see it. I'm learning to see it. And maybe it won't be Magazine georgeous, and maybe it won't be thin, and maybe my beauty will be, more, well, challenging than the norm--to the norm--and maybe it won't be. I don't know. Because I've never, not ever, until this year, looked at myself through my own two eyes.

I'd never seen myself until I came here.

But I am starting to. And being here--finding my voice--that's a big part of why, of how I've come to not fear my own mirror. Put down hers. Stop judging based on genetic code. Start relishing health, start accepting that it's okay to get better. It's okay to live. For me.

For Me.



that strawberry tongue

Jenna's still on her medicines for the strep. She's been doing great on them.

Today I checked her throat outside in the daylight. It still looks like crap. Her tonsils are the size of small boulders. Her pediatrician wants her to see an ENT because she snores and has recurrent strep infections. One thing she mentioned is that they would probably want to do a CAT Scan of her adenoids. (i lost all that plumbing long ago for similar reasons.) I'm reluctant to make the appointment. I don't want to hear them tell us anything about CAT scans or surgery.

So I'm starting to pump the anticeptic mouthwash again, echinacea in her water. If anyone knows of kids' vitamins that actually taste good, please leave me a comment. I've done Flinstones, Rugrats, Bubblegum Vitamins. She gags on all of them... I'm also going to start searching online. Maybe there are some simple procedures these days--laser or something? To deal with this kind of thing. You'd think so, something that can shrink tonsills of kids who are unfortunate enough to have big germ trapping ones.

The part of this that concerns me, in addition to the exhaustion of recurrent strep on MY part, because I think in time she'll outgrow this--say when her throat grows big enough to actually FIT those boulders--is that she had some serious sleep apnea this last episode of strep. One night I slept with my head on her back so I could nudge her when she got silent for too long. The doctor said, that's the strep because her throat was swollen, and since she had a bad sinus infection she couldn't breathe through her nose.

But a couple of the doctors asked, "Has she always been a mouth breather?"

That's what they called me at her age. A mouth breather. I remember the term. I remember wondering, uh, what else are you supposed to breathe through? I remember feeling like I was doing something wrong, this breathing thing. What exactly did they want me to do?

In truth, yah, she does breathe a lot through her mouth, but only when she sleeps. I think it's more out of habbit, because of these stinking sinus infections, than anatomy. Call it instinct. That's what I think. BUT THEN, her daddy does have sleep apnea. I know it's a serious thing, something to be watched.

All of this is to say, I'll be googling up a storm on alternative, new, cutting edge, and less dramatic ways of coping with strep, tonsilitis, and the like. I hear they are less hasty to do surgery these days than they were in our day, so maybe there are new, more advanced, techniques to try, and maybe we should just schedule a visit with an ENT to find out what's new and different.

Ideas, thoughts, web finds, atlanta-area specialist recommendations, and coping mechanisms welcome.

economic indicators that matter

Shelley's got a job.

I have clients.

That's all you really need to know, if you've been following our sagas, to get the feeling an economic upturn is in the air.

You heard it here first.

(Shhhh. Don't tell Ginsberg. He'll just rase interest rates. Must get out of debt first.)

He's Taking His Alter to the Altar!

DID you hear?

Finally RageBoy is making an honest man of Chris Locke, and it's about damn time. How long could these two go on, living in sin? Pretending. Splitting. Dissociating. Jeesh!

The time for integration is NOW!

As Billy Idol has been known to sing, ever so sweetly with his drug-induced-stroke-like grin, "It's a nice day for a borderline wedding."

We at the Sessum household couldn't be happier for these two lovebirds. Sure, they've fought over the years. A few bloddied noses. A gun shot wound here and there. But hey, what do you expect from such a passionate pair?

Be sure to check out the boyz gift registry on And give until it hurts.

Last one to the night vision scope is a rotten egg!

May 23, 2003

13 Things I've Blogged Lately that I Wouldn't Say in a Job Interview

So I'm getting some. Clients. A few. That's good. They're getting to know me, know I'm good at what I do, trying to figure out who *is* this woman and where did she come from.

I say, "If you want to view my portfolio..." or "If you can't remember my number..." just go to That's what I say. I tell them to go there.

Let's see. There's me looking all teenage mosaic-like, George in his locks. There's a click through to our rather demanding five-year-old child. There's plenty of mentions that George is in Europe, which means I'm here doing what-------taking care of our five-year-old child. There's this caption: we live online and it shows. OH yah, there's my portfolio link and testimonials, and of course links to our various blogs.

Blogs where we talk about some, um, unseemly things sometimes.

There's this blog, for example.

Not only is allied linked pretty prominently off, the place I'm sending clients, but it's also the primary search result of the 7,000 hits that come up on Google for my name.

I've been thinking a lot lately about blogs as calling cards. About when you're out on your own freelancing, mostly people search you up on google, mostly what they find is: me here. being who I am.


Is that good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It could. But so far, I'm doing what I do anyway, even though the things I write here wouldn't exactly be what I'd say in an email to a prospective client or in a job interview.

Some recent quips of mine from this very blog demonstrate the edge I think I'm walking in talking about myself outloud. And yet, although I wouldn't say these things directly to a prospective client or employer, should I care if they read them in this venue--a venue very different from an interview setting? Should I care if they read things like:

"I have this tendency, being pretty smart, of having little to no common sense at times. I tend to do six things fast and almost perfect rather than plan, think, do it once the right way. tomato sauce cans and stuff."

"I have a fucking voice mail in the middle of the road!"

"And that is where survival turns to damage, where screams dream about crackling silence, where cameleon changes are practiced and honed. That is where I lost myself to her mirror."

"I really need to make a lot of money because I'm pretty sure I could do without this whole work-a-day world altogether."

"I am sorry I do not have a penis."

"It's been a while since I've attended an actual in-person, around-the-table meeting. I wonder what people's eyes look like that close up? Do they still blink?"

"Clindimycin smells exactly, and I mean exactly, like cat shit."

"I'm not sure if this is the 16th or 17th time the ambulance has come for our next door neighbor."

"Jenna started throwing up again, fever back up to 103..."

"I still haven't washed off the last throw up yet."

"suppository where it's supposed to be. all is right with the world."

"I shared it with my therapist via email, who I was supposed to see today except that strep intercepted me."

"I say now, more and more, you know what? Fuck off."

Whatever else, this is me. This is my voice home.

It's not exactly the best first impression I could make in all settings. And I'm pretty sure it will turn some people off. But today, when corporate loyalty to employees is at an all time low, I think the biggest risk for bloggers is in *not* being ourselves out here. I don't want to work with anyone who comes to me, to my business, expecting me to be someone I'm not: a color-phobic conservative, for example. I'm not. And maybe it can save a lot of interpersonal hoopla for that to show right up front. Don't care to work for that type. Might as well bill myself as such.

So maybe blogging helps us select clients--and clients select us--based on something more honest, more risky, and ultimately more meaningful than a job interview.

It's one thing to lose a piece of business or a client. It's another thing altogether to lose oneself.

So here I am.

Come and get me.

Pomp and Circumstance

Jenna reads aloud during her Pre-K Montessori Graduation.

Hi Gabie!

Tomato Sauce Can Head

quick notes--been busy and sicky. and you? OH good. that's good to know.

Here's the thing. People who know me really well will tell you that I'll be the death of me yet. Huh? No really. I have this tendency, being pretty smart, of having little to no common sense at times. I tend to do six things fast and almost perfect rather than plan, think, do it once the right way. tomato sauce cans and stuff. that was the day, when I explained to a friend how I nearly killed myself by reaching up with a wooden spoon to knock a 64 oz mother can of all tomato paste off the top cupboard shelf and into my waiting arms. Except it missed. My arms. And it missed my temple by maybe an inch. I was writing headlines in my head: New York Woman Killed By Can of Contadina. Duh. All I had to do was take the time to pull the chair over and climb up to get it. But the spoon was there. And so was I. Next thing I knew kabloooie.

With that in mind, it might not surprise you to learn that I often leave things on the roof of my van. Ask Jenna. Ask George. How many times I've been half way down the street when I hear the crash of another coffee mug hitting the pavement, crash, "Oh mama! Not again!" the five year old says. I think she will never make that mistake. Do as I'd like to do, not as I do.

We've lost lots of mugs that way. One time a bag of prescriptions, which a neighbor found in the street, and because they had our name and address on them, kindly brought them by.


With that in mind, it might also not surprise you, or maybe it will, that on the way home from Jenna's pre-K graduation last night, we'd traveled about 12 miles, sometimes at 45-50 miles an hour, up hill, down hill, and as we rounded the corner off the main drag where we live, I heard the kathunk. kathunk, slap.

"What was that?" Jenna and I said at once.

And then it hit me.

Oh no.

I remembered me outside of her pre-k graduation, I remembered opening my purse, putting her graduation certificate in the car, pulling out my T-Mobile Sidekick, and, are you ready, yes you're right, putting the Sidekick on the roof of the van.

"Oh Jenna! You know my phone? I think I left it on top of the car!"

"Oh mommy!"

Oh dear.

We turned the car around on a side street, and drove back to the intersection where we witnessed the kathunk heard round the world.

I'm scanning the pavement of the main road, the side road, see cups, lids, straws--was it my diet coke or someone else's that landed there from the roof? where, where, where is it!? Is it crushed? And why did Danger make that Sidekick the color of pavement? Didn't they KNOW?

Then I see it. Sitting there. In the road. Oh no. Cars. Oh no. Traffic.

"Jenna, wait here!"

"Do you see it mama?"

"I think I see it."

Nobody behind me, so I park, jump out, dance into the road where I see the little gray square I think is my sidekick. Feeling sick, I edge closer, drivers now looking at me suspiciously.

Right at the edge of the road, right in the path of turning tires, but *just* off to the left, yes. That's it. Oh no--the screen is flipped open. closer. OH NO Its face down. closer. OH NO, I pick it up.

The seam where the unit snaps together is wedged apart, and I instinctively squeeze it together until I hear a snap. I slowly turn it over to look at the display, not wanting to, headed back to the van, can't wait to know, flip, IT'S STILL ON! IT'S NOT SHATTERED! My voicemail is open. I have a voice mail.

I have a fucking voice mail in the middle of the road!

Back in the drivers seat, I'm turning it over this way and that way, left and right, over and under. Looking at all the scuffs and scrapes.

"Is it broken, Mommy?"

"I don't know yet. I don't think so. Not really bad. Beaten up, but I think it's still working."

I call voice mail. The phone works. There's a message. I listen to it. It's a call from a potential client asking if I can come in to meet with them the next day about a project.

And I'm laughing at the absurdity of it all.

I would have never gotten the message if that Sidekick wasn't made to take a licking.

And I mean a LICKING!

You've got mail.

Email's working. It's coming in, little pre-messages scrolling across the top of the display.

Oh thank you thank you--IT'S STILL WORKING! IT'S STILL WORKING!

So, my Sidekick is now officially beat to shit, scraped, scuffed, and not completely joined at the seam anymore. But, more importantly than any of that, it's still working and delivering what I need REALLY REALLY when I need it.


I'd like to say my tomato sauce can days are over. I'd like to say I couldn't have easily been run over retreiving the sidekick. Leaving Jenna in her seat, watching in horror as her mom is wiped out by a passing semi. I'd like to say I'll start listening to the little voice in my head that suggests, quite often, "Don't do that. Just don't do that."

I'd really like to.

Maybe I've learned.


May 21, 2003

maybe i need to post

my blog has been acting kinda flukey. i dunno. i upgraded to blogspot 25. maybe i'm somehow in progress of being migrated here or there or nowhere.

is anyone having trouble getting this blog to come up? I was all yesterday.

okay, off to take jenna to school. we are late. big surprise. medicines have been taken. we're outta here. more later.

i think i'm getting sick.

i had a massage yesterday.


more later.

May 19, 2003

step down

You have to understand that my mother does love me.

And I love her.

Everything in between is where we went wrong.

Not everything. That's not right at all.

Because different days I tell myself different stories, and sometimes within the same day I tell my self seven or eight or seventy eight stories. The place of story diversions today, the place where what I think the problem comes to rest, you know, this spot, no that spot, no over there, is the effect my father's death had on us all. That's the place I've hung my hat for a very long time. Today I was thinking about that hat hook again. Most of the day.

And why not. It's a big hook, the death of your parent--her spouse--a large ripe hook on which to hang a hat. Only recently, this year, did it even occur to me to look backward and forward from that hook, to look at the hook closely first, to notice how tarnished the brass was, take the hat off, turn the hat over, look at the brim, the underside, the smooth spots your thumb makes, rubbing cotton to a shine lifting it on and off your head.

And then I look at the wall that holds the hook, not just the scuff mark, but the wall, and then the adjacent door, and what about the light on the ceiling, look at the globe, and that bulb, I didn't see that before, and before long you're inspecting the entire house, room by room, looking for you're not sure what. The last thing you knew you were hanging a hat on the hook. And a voice says:

Don't forget the basement.

That's what I stepped down into this year.

Lots of reasons why. And none. All at once. Why would anyone choose step down? It's not something one chooses to do. Usually. We spend a lifetime looking up, climbing up, that's what we're supposed to do: up is good, down is bad, up is heaven, down is hell, like that.

But what no one ever told me was the secret of stepping down, not until Helene Cixous and her three steps which go not up, but down, because down to, coming to that place and then taking another step still downward, into excruciating pain, into shards of what you thought was so, to watch it all disolve, to marvel at the colors pooling from the slick that was all your life counted on--that's it. That's the place. And you can marvel at it. The magenta, the turqoise, and the deep deep black of it. There is beauty in it. If you live through it.

There's only one direction in the faces that I see
It's upward to the ceiling, where the chamber's said to be
Like the forest fight for sunlight, that takes root in every tree
They are pulled up by the magnet, believing they're free
The carpet crawlers heed their callers:
"We've got to get in to get out
We've got to get in to get out
We've got to get in to get out"

So back to the hat on the hook. I bought a book today called The Loss that Is Forever: The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father and how happy was I to see the title of the first chapter, The Language of Loss, and Maxine Harris' immediate leap into language--into a child being, first and foremost, "at a loss for words," when confronted with a shock so earth shattering that aftershocks ripple across the tundra of the psyche evermore.

I'd like to tell you more about the book, but I just got it. I've only started it. But I will tell you. Later.

That's not exactly where I meant to go, to my father; it's habit you know. I meant to go to my mother just now. About how that moment changed her. About how the sudden and unexpected death of her own father just three weeks after my father's was a thunderbolt of damage she never--not really--grieved, she never--not even now--recovered from. How none of that was her fault. How hard she worked to raise the three of us in the aftermath of tragedy.

I wanted to tell you those things. About how she was, you understand, my everything once our world exploded. My life depended on her.

And hers mine. Breath, words, and being. Everything.

And that is where survival turns to damage, where screams dream about crackling silence, where cameleon changes are practiced and honed.

That is where I lost myself to her mirror

And I lost me.

Okay, not lost really.

I've been waiting in the basement all this time.

"You've got to get in to get out."