Archive for February, 2013


how do they know?

I’m surprised now and again by young authors (Jonathan Safran Foer) or playwrights (Annie Baker) who seem to be wise beyond their years. I wrote about this when I wrote about Safran Foer’s story “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly.”

Today, I read an article in the February 25 issue of the New Yorker about Ms. Baker. (And just now noticed, as I was pasting in the link, that the article is titled “Just Saying.” Weird.)

She is talking about a dramatic transformation from her sternly moralistic self at the age of 23, when she realized “. . .that she, too, would make mistakes and hurt people,” and this “annihilated her.”  The article continues: “It’s this crisis in her understanding the helped impel her to make the emotional teachers in her play–the beacons of moral honor–people who are themselves failing in full-fledged adulthood. ‘The story of their lives might not immediately appear to be exemplary or what the younger character would want,’ she explains. ‘But there’s a kind of transcendence and nobility they embody through having not lived the lives they wanted to.'”

She’s 31.

How does she know this already?


Hit me! a.k.a. I apparently can’t do simple math

I’m 4,996 “hits” from 100,000.

I don’t suppose I could entice any of you just to click on random posts from the archives so I could celebrate 100,000 hits before the 3-year anniversary of this blog (February 28)?

I didn’t think so.

I’d offer a prize, but I wouldn’t know where to begin.


This week on NPR

Heard all kinds of Russians talking about the dangers of “homosexual propaganda.” (Really? “Allowing” gay parents to raise children will result in the children being gay? So where did the “original” gays come from? Some Adam and Adam from 4,000 years ago, and they’re all actually not-even-genetically related, but apparently raised by the ancestrally-the-same-apparently-not-secretly-enough gay parents? It makes so little sense I can’t even seem to write a coherent sentence trying to explain it.)

In a story about Yahoo’s new directive that no one can work from home (I bet this went over like a lead balloon — so much for the 21st century/technological/telecommuting revolution we were all hoping for), Melissa Mayer was described as one of the leaders in “Silicone Valley” (I’m sure this was merely a simple Freudian slip mispronunciation.)

Read about Seth McFarlane being sexist/misogynist/inappropriate as the M.C. of the Oscars.

0 for 3 so far, although the weather prediction was spot on.




Well if you put it that way. . .

Interesting take on the controversial “Boob Song” performed by Seth McFarlane on the Oscars a couple nights ago.

Read and watch here.



Really? That’s it? My quest for “happiness”

I am, and have always been, someone who strives to find/feel “happiness” every day. To live in the moment — to the point where I, a 48-year old woman, (with a nose piercing, but only 2 sets of holes in her ears), have seriously contemplated getting this tattoo’d on my inner forearm to remind me to live in the moment:


(This does, actually mean “live in the moment,” not “one order of Peking duck, hot and sour soup on the side.” I know this because I’ve checked.) (Still trying to get up my nerve. Any suggestions? warnings? Anybody out there want to drive me to the tattoo parlor and hold my hand and hang around for the next 30 years and remind me of what a good idea it was when my skin gets all dry and wrinkly like paper and the tattoo ends up looking exactly like it it is actually an order for Peking duck, hot and sour soup on the side? I didn’t think so.)

Anyway. . .

As you all know, I am also dealing with the death of both of my parents, my father a few weeks ago, and my mom last August. As you might imagine, my relationship with them was probably much like yours is with your parents — I didn’t talk to them often enough, my mom was often “disappointed” in me being, well, too much like me, (I’m not making this up), etc., etc., but I loved them and they loved me and they were my parents, and now they’re gone. Despite knowing that my dad died exactly how he would have wanted to — peacefully, apparently in his sleep, perfectly healthy as-far-as-he-knew one moment, and gone the next — I am still so incredibly sad to have lost him. (And it doesn’t do much to reassure me that the same won’t happen to me? Husband? Heaven help us whoever next.)

I’ve also struggled with having to let go of some of my professional dreams, and am still struggling with trying to find time to do the work I need to do to pay my bills, be there for Only Daughter when she needs me to be, and pursue the other things in life that have always tempted or interested me — namely, I want to read more, knit more, would love to take a painting class, and a photography class, would like to try to write an actual book someday, etc. etc.

Yesterday in my yoga class, a class with one of my favorite yoga teachers, and one which offered exactly what I needed (hip openers!) after having missed yoga for two weeks, the teacher did the opening meditation on happiness. She started with the American Indian/Cherokee story a chief tells his granddaughters, about the two wolves which live and battle each other inside each of us. One of the wolves is anger, fear, resentment, frustration, disappointment; the other joy, happiness, contentment. One of the granddaughters asks which wolf wins the battle, and the answer is “The wolf you feed.”

I started thinking about how much of my energy is spent feeding my resentment towards the people who have wronged me, how I should stop feeding that wolf, but how their petty insecurities have interfered with my ability to really live up to my personal or professional potential, and how letting that anger go is like letting them get away with it, and how unfair that is, and how much energy do they ever spend thinking about me and so on, and so on, and so on.

By the time I left, I was all nicely warmed up and limbered up and felt like I had really had a good yoga practice, physically, and was an absolute mess emotionally; nearly in tears before Savasana, barely able to roll up my matt and depart at the end.

I came home, and Only Daughter was here, as it was still her schools’ mid-winter break. I decided that, rather than do our usual, which is her at the computer watching ridiculous ridiculousness on youtube (Dance Moms! Ugh!) and reading her books and me practicing and at my computer answering emails, etc., we would go see a special exhibit at the local museum. So I shower, and we grab a quick lunch, and off we go.

First I park near what used to be one of our area museums, but it’s now part of a local arts college. Of course, I don’t discover this until I’ve fed every single piece of loose change I own into the meter, trying to eke out 90 minutes. We then drive to the correct museum (which has the name of it clearly above the door, a name which does not resemble in any way the name of the museum on all of the billboards touting the new exhibit), and can’t find a parking space. After driving around the block twice we find that someone has departed, so I do an illegal U-turn, grab the spot, manage to find two more nickels in the bottom of my purse, (I’ll get change when we get the tickets), and in we go. . .but the line is 150 people long, and I have piano students in two hours.

Never mind.

The rest of the day is much like this. I won’t bore you with the details, but it did include driving a long way out of the way to go to an arts supply store, doing extensive research in books introducing painting with watercolors, selecting paints, and brushes, and paper, and getting overwhelmed and intimidated and putting it all back.

After a kind of restless but adequate night’s sleep I wake up with the decision (!) that this will be a better day; I will make it so if it’s the last thing I do, gol’darn’it. I will start this day by writing the name of every person who has “wronged” me on a piece of paper and burning it in a foil tray, and that will release me from their hold on me. I do this. And there aren’t really that many people. And I laugh and think, “that’s it? It seemed like so many.” I start to wrack my brain to see if I can think of anyone else, decide I’m utterly ridiculous, and that’s that.

Of course, it’s not really that simple.

I picture this ideal, where there is this part way down deep in the center of me that is strong and confident and good, like a little tiny diamond carat from which the rest of me radiates; and some days I know it’s there and some days I think it’s there and some days I hope it’s there and some days I just can’t seem to find it, or believe that it ever existed.

But I have everything I need, and my husband and children are healthy and smart and strong, and my problems, in comparison to the problems of the world, are pretty small. I know all of these things.  So I make these vows to myself, to be more present, to be more joyful, to be more that tiny little diamond carat and less the dark swirling shadows that engulf it. . .and then my students come and they don’t have their assignment book, or their Etudes book, or they were skiing for the whole weekend and didn’t practice until yesterday; or I will be a better and more patient mom and then I catch Only Daughter eating her fourth snack since school, at the computer, and three of her Tuesday chores not done; or. . .

But today, I wrote an eleven-page paper about a Bach piece that I love and that I will submit for publication. And I got a last-minute gig playing for two gala occasions in area cities this weekend. And I bought myself these boots:

redbootsHow fun/happy is that?

(Alas, I have to wait 30-60 days for them. Not sure why, but I think it’s important not to ask too many questions in cases like this. Of course, my credit card has already been charged.)

(And yes, I know retail therapy isn’t the answer to everything, and that it is not possible to actually buy happiness. But I’m thinking that it might sometimes help. I mean, did you see the boots? They’re red. And embroidered. And the toes curl up in that insouciant manner, almost like a smile. Did I mention they’re red?)


My letter to Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey

(Spoiler alert: Don’t read if it’s possible that you don’t actually know what happened on last night’s Downton Abbey episode and would like to be surprised. If that is the case, you might want to sequester yourself in your basement with some DVDs pretty darn quick, cuz there’s just no flippin’ way you’re going to get through the next few days and not find out that [gulp] died.)

Dear Mr. Fellowes:

(Do they use the Pre- “Mr.” in England? Or is something like Guv’ner? anyway. . .)

Yes, he’s gorgeous.

Yes, he and Mary had a special spark, just the right chemistry.

And then there were his eyes, and his accent, and the fact that it was completely believable that he loved Mary “madly,” despite the fact that she was sharp-tongued and cynical. I was actually coming to like her a little bit myself, seen through his eyes.

But was this really the only way? I understand that the actor wanted out of his contract, but he is, in fact, playing a role, and I find it hard to believe that he’s the only actor in the world interested in and/or capable of, playing this particular part.

It seems to me that you just didn’t want to try that hard. You know, aud-i-tions and all that. (Sigh.)

Yes, we might have flinched for a few seconds at the beginning of the first episode of Season 4 — Who? What? That’s supposed to be Matthew? But we would have gotten over it, much more quickly than we can get over the fact that you have taken the difficulties of childbirth in the early 20th century to extend to the fathers. (To quote one of my favorite bloggers: “Is it not possible for a baby to be born on Downton Abbey and not lose one of its parents?”)

Really. You must do better. There’s something like 4,517,895 hours of absolute crap on television right now each and every week, and we don’t have that much to look forward to. Please don’t push us so far that we resort to watching reruns of West Wing for the third time around.

Thank you,

Your less-a-fan-than-we-used-to-be fans.


spot on, mostly

Been spending the past couple of weeks dealing with life after the death of my dad, following closely on the heels of the death of my mom in August.

Trying to decide the best way to spend my energy; whether I should: continue in the work I’m in, try to write a story or a novel or put together a book of poetry or take a painting class, yoga more often or train for 5K or both, keep blogging or stop blogging, etc. etc.

But here are a few funny moments/discoveries to share.


Valentine’s Morning

Little boxed rose plant sits on Husband’s placemat with a little hand-torn heart and a lovey-note written in pink pen. He is bustling around the kitchen making coffee and pouring cereal and chattering away about what a lame holiday Valentine’s Day is, how pathetic those people are who think they can make up for a year of benign neglect and/or indifference, how cynical the Hallmark company is for creating such a holiday to play on people’s guilt, etc. etc. I sit at my place, eating my eggs, watching him, smiling.

He comes over to the table with his breakfast, and says, “Oh! What’s this, then? How sweet.”





We were discussing the ridiculousness of how we can’t seem to agree in this country that nobody actually needs to be able to go and buy an assault rifle. Husband remembers this little gem from Eddie Izzard. (Don’t ask me about the clothes and the makeup while he makes no attempt to change the clearly-I’m-actually-a-man timbre of his voice. I have no idea.)



And I don’t really make it a habit to include advertisements for pickup trucks in my blog, but this was played during the Superbowl, as my family was sitting around writing the eulogy for my Dad. And it sums up my dad, and what kind of a man he was, quite nicely. I can’t watch it without crying.

A little story first, which basically sums up his, and my, parenting style.

I was probably 10 or 11 years old, and went out with some siblings to hoe one of the potato fields. I, in my infinite wisdom, (and given my propensity not to wear shoes unless I absolutely had to, which persists to this day), went out to hoe barefoot. Of course, I hoed my big toe pretty badly, and limped back with the toe all bloody and crusted with dirt, blubbering and looking for sympathy. Dad takes a look at me, looks down at my bleeding foot and says, “Hoeing barefoot, huh? That’s not very smart.”

Nope. Not very. And you were exactly right, and exactly right to say so. Miss you.



so THAT’s how they do math in Canadia

[Walking to our car from a hockey game.]

Me:  Brrrrrrshivershivershiverbrrrrrrrrshivershivershiverbrrrrrrrr. . .

Husband: What are you doing?

Me: I’m cold. It’s got to be in the single digits. It feels like my head’s going to explode.

Husband: What are you talking about? It’s 14˚ at the coldest; a nice, balmy, Canadian winter day

Me: Yeah, all true, except for that it’s definitely colder than 14˚, it’s anything but balmy, and we’re not in Canada.

Husband: We’ll see what the car shows for the temperature.

Me: Yeah, except it’s in a heated garage, so no pointing at it in the first 5 seconds and gloating.

[Arrive at car. Get into car. Start car. Handy little temperature indicator says it’s 43˚ out. Husband points and gloats. I ignore him.]

[Drive a few miles. Temperature drops. 38˚ 32˚ 27˚ 18˚ 14˚. Husband points. I give him the universal sign for “Just wait a minute.”

This one.

This one.

Not this one.

Not this one.

Temperature stops at 10˚. I point. Husband mutters: Your car’s wrong.]

Me: Okay, maybe not 8˚, but I was still closer than you were.

Husband: Yeah, one degree closer.

Me: I said it was 8˚, you said it was 14˚, how is 10 one degree closer? Is this how you do math in Canadia? (He loves it when I call it Canadia.)

Husband: It’s about how you figure out, not whether the answer is right or not.

Only Daughter [in back seat][did I mention Only Daughter was with us?] It’s dropped to 9!

Husband: Okay, now you’re one and a half degrees closer.

Me: What?

[Temperature drops to 7˚]

Me: Okay, NOW who’s closer?

Husband: I’m on a horse.

(It seems weird that we were at a hockey game last night, but Only Daughter’s youth choir was singing the national anthem, and we were still in town until this morning, and I think Dad would want us to keep on living, and laughing. Not sure how he would have felt about the gaps in Husband’s logic — even Only Daughter wanted to know what Husband being on a horse had to do with anything, especially since, clearly, he was not.)


welcome to the surreal

Found out yesterday that my dad had died on Wednesday. When my brother found him it looked like he was sleeping on his couch.

I guess I am thankful for things — he didn’t seem to have suffered, he was his goofy, grumpy, sweet, funny self right up until the very end. But no warning, completely unexpected. I’m alternating between coping, reeling, and stunned.

Last I saw him was right after Christmas. He had left my sister’s on the day of the family celebration when he had “had enough,” as was his wont, without saying goodbye to anyone except to those in the direct vicinity (I was not one of them), and I thought later, “oh, I didn’t get to say good-bye to Dad.” But it was okay, because there’s always next time.

Until there isn’t.

Every year on the 4th of July holiday there is a big camp out at my dad’s. Everybody who wants to, friends and family alike (I believe that strangers and passers-by would also be welcome, which precludes me from divulging the address), brings their tent or their camper or whatever !!! and camps out at Dad’s. He lived on a river, so there would be tubing, and “corn hole” (google it), and a fair bit of drinking (daiquiri made with the lawn-mower-engine-powered blender anyone?) and cigar smoking and fishing and lots of inventive cooking over campfires, and tall tales spun around the fire long into the night (don’t ask me how I know this). Last summer I had a student at Interlochen Arts Camp performing on the Prairie Home Companion show being broadcast live on the only night I had free, so I sat on stage with my student, and watched Garrison Keillor in action, and didn’t make it to my dad’s that night. Mom and dad were both there.

And now they’re gone.


He was, as my brother put on facebook, the salt of the earth.

Practical, hardworking, with zero tolerance for bullshit in either direction and a sweet kindness toward everyone he loved. He didn’t always agree with you, and he wasn’t afraid to tell you when he didn’t, but you never felt like he loved you any less for it.

This is a rare gift. I wish I had it.

There’s a picture hanging in his extra bedroom that we had made for him many many years ago, with one of his favorite sayings: “It’s a tough life, and it’s gonna get tougher” on it, signed “The toughies” with 8 little potatoes in a piled up little row and each of our names in a potato (we grew up on a potato farm, and yes, we’re all pretty darn tough.) If anyone would have made any kind of suggestion regarding boosting one of his “toughies” self esteem he would have sputtered and scoffed and suggested he/she earned it. Spot on, dad.

He loved a good Polish joke, even more so when we pointed out that he was 50% Polish. Husband had a few he had saved up. Guess he’ll have to just tell them to me, again. (Sigh.)

When we stayed with him he would growl at our dog, “C’mere!” because he loved dogs, and wanted Dexter to come up on his chair with him, and Dexter would growl and prance around and try to decide if he dared or not. Gruff, grouchy, and the sweetest man in the world.

I know this has to happen. But I wasn’t ready for this. Not yet. I haven’t even figured out how I feel about my mom dying yet.

I’m 48 years old. I talk to my dad four times a year. Why does it feel like I’ve been left out in the cold, completely unprotected?

I’m trying to figure out why I’m writing this, if anybody cares to read it, if it isn’t just self-pitying emotional drivel, whether there’s any kind of universal message to it that would make anyone but me care.

I just know it’s like there was a roof over you and now there isn’t, but even that doesn’t make sense. It’s not like I was going to call him tomorrow and ask him for money. Although, I guess if I would have had to, I know that I could have.

And I keep thinking I’m okay, and then I’m not.

I guess that’s okay, too.

Although I can hear him telling me to stop blubbering. Not like it’s doing me any good or anything.

Love you, Dad. Hope you know, knew, how much.

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