Janet Jackson’s Got Nothing on Me


My family is in flux. I know this because Sarah’s face is chapped from her nose to her chin. That’s what she does when she’s stressed – she licks a wide circle all around her mouth. So despite it being 85 degrees and the first of June, last night she slept with a swath of Aquaphor and Burt’s Bees all over her head.


I also know we are in flux every time I look in the mirror and the head looking back at me is … not quite mine. I freely admit I have control issues. At one point, when my life was so far beyond my control that there was no salvaging it and I was just sort of ricocheting from crisis to crisis, my control issues manifested in the way I ate. I couldn’t control the massively awful mess that kept coming my way, but by God I could control what I put in my mouth, so I …. didn’t. I didn’t eat. I just stopped, and I felt like I had a tiny bit of personal power again. It wasn’t pretty, and it took counseling and a trainer to stop it, and I swore I wouldn’t go down that road again. So now, when I can’t get control of my life, I take control of my hair.

That’s what I did last week. I made an appointment and told Megan that I couldn’t seem to get my arms around anything else, so we were going to change the hair I’ve been growing out for eight years. We proceeded to take about six inches off, stacked the back and … highlighted it a fairly complete icy white. It’s not quite platinum – mostly because Megan was afraid my hair would fall out if she did exactly what I wanted – but it’s damn close. For the record, I actually like it – and it’s under control FOR SURE.

There are several reasons for this state of flux/lack of control. One is that it’s the end of school, and our summer HAS NO PLANS. I don’t do “NO PLANS.” I don’t do wide open empty spaces of time. A summer with NO CONCRETE PLAN makes me very, very nervous. Another is that our house is up for sale, and it’s stressful trying to keep it clean, evacuate everyone including the yippy pain-in-the-ass dog for an hour in the middle of the day so someone can come inspect it and then complain that it’s too old, the yard is too small, it’s on a corner lot, they don’t like my furniture (which I wasn’t planning to leave for them), whatever. The complaints piss me off, and then there’s more flux. There’s also the small issue that we’re not quite sure where we are going when it does sell, but let’s just gloss over that little detail.

Then there’s the fact that I seem to have misplaced my career. This was both a conscious and a not-so-conscious choice, but I don’t seem to be working a whole lot lately and … I’m not quite sure what I think about that. It’s definitely not under control.

Next up … the garbage disposal gave out this morning. Today. The last day of school, also known as the Day Before the Day When Everyone Begins Partially Consuming All the Things that Are Consumable. Because that’s what they do, you know. Tomorrow they will wake up and start eating. But only parts of their food. They will leave crusts, and bits of ham, and smears of scrambled eggs, and the very end of a banana, and one quarter of a third of a Cliff Bar that SIMPLY COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE JUST BEEN SWALLOWED. And they will stick it down the sink, because that’s what I’ve taught them to do. Then they’ll flip the switch and stare at the sink blankly, wondering why the motor doesn’t come on. BECAUSE THEY WILL NEVER REMEMBER THAT IT DOESN’T WORK.

And then I’ll be up to my elbows in gross wet half-eaten mixed up food trying to keep the smell from emanating while we wait for a repairman to show up. My dad was all, “Get down under there with an allen wrench …” but I pretty much tuned out after “Get down under there.” I knew to try the red reset button. At some point a good Samaritan should just show up and do some of this handyman crap for me. Sometimes I think we skip right over the zillions of places in both Testaments where people talk about helping the widows and orphans, and focus like lasers on the three times Saint Paul mentions gays. Paul also wasn’t crazy about marriage and doesn’t come across like a huge fan of women in general, but we don’t worry about that. Widows and orphans, people. This widow and her orphans need their garbage disposal fixed. And just for the record, Paul, I appreciate your suggestion that the church find me a new husband, but widowhood has NOT left me with idle hands or a gossipy tongue. My hands are very busy applying Aquaphor and my tongue is gainfully employed reminding my orphans not to put food down the sink. And also telling my poor stylist to whack my hair and give me Tori Spelling’s dye job.

See? Control. I need control.

So, yeah. If I look a bit like Elsa from “Frozen” only not quite so glamorous, now you know why. I took control, baby. And I put it on my head.

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Amy Clay

Amy Clay

Amy Clay is the widowed mom of two tween daughters. A writer for more than 20 years (and a mom for 12), Amy lives in Kentucky. She loves monograms, the Derby, the Wildcats, and all things southern. You can read about life in her all-girl household on her blog, “Confessions of a Fairly Merry Widow,” at aclay2005.wordpress.com.

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