Archive for the 'Life' Category

01
Apr
19

Home is where your….

We put our house on the market today. We actually bought a house in the city where Husband works (an hour away) at the end of November, but, for professional reasons, was keeping pretty quiet about it until recently. He’s been commuting that hour for 11 years, so we thought it was time.

The funny thing is, we were looking at houses on Zillow for a year, and weren’t finding much that we were really interested in. The house we ended up buying I actually saw last April, and sent the link to it in an email to Husband with just the line “This might be the house.” He didn’t reply (I think it was finals week), so I thought, “okay, it’s not the house,” and moved on. Five months later it popped up again because of a price drop. The week I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It did not seem like a good time to buy a house, but Husband did, in fact, think it was The House,* so buy it we did. (*Told ya’.)

As you can imagine, we’ve been very busy. Refinishing the floors in the new house (all oak or pine); decluttering this house; moving the decluttered clutter into the basement of the new house (where we will no longer call it “clutter,” it will, again, be “our stuff”); cleaning up this house. It’s never looked so fine. Of course, if I want to find my extra iphone power cord or my silk robe I’m going to have a hard time because there are four unlabeled boxes in the basement (actually, one of them is labeled “Surgical Stuff and Purple Things” for all you M*A*S*H fans out there) .

But that’s not why I’m writing today. Long intro, I know.

As any of you who have sold a house or bought a house or moved house know, such occasions prompt reflection. About who you were when you moved in and how that compares with who you believe yourself to be now. About the nature and joys and frustrations of fixing up a house and the sadnesses of leaving it behind. About the Christmas mornings, and hockey games watched on TV in the living room, the whispered (or not) fights in the bedroom late in the night, the first days of school and the day you finally quit the job that had been making you nuts for months. About the mornings you rush out the door with BelVita crackers and a banana in your bag because that’s all you have time for and the night you and Husband made a 3-course authentic Thai meal for just the two of you. About the childhood fevers and common colds and hysterectomy and stents and breast cancer and the healing that takes place when people who love each other take care of each other.

When I first saw this house, in May of 2007, I was at the end of a 20-year marriage; moving in with two of my children, barely able to afford the payment and the frugal life I was trying to lead. Shaky, and broke, and hopeful. I had barely any furniture, and many of the walls were an ugly color and there was so much to be done, so much to become.

A little more than a year later, the man I now call Husband (well, to you), moved in. He brought an Aga stove and his grandmother’s furniture, and we embarked on the beginning of a marriage. So much we knew, and so much we didn’t. We knew how much we loved each other, we knew what we wanted this marriage to be. We had no idea how hard any of it would be.

I look back sometimes and it feels like I scrabbled my way up a dusty, rocky mountaintop wearing ripped jeans and falling apart Keds and using just my fingernails for climbing tools, sometimes dangling by not-strong-enough fingertips, sometimes hiding behind a rock in the rain eating the last crumbling biscuit in my jacket pocket and hoping the rescue helicopter would find me soon.

But I also see a life well lived. Meals prepared together and laundry folded together and conversations late into the night. Laughing so hard over a “Shouts and Murmurs” in the New Yorker about Debussy’s La Mer, or reading “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” to a group of friends around our dinner table and trying not to cry. Coffee brought and feet rubbed and shoulders leaned on. Dogs cuddling on the couch and Mahler blasting on the speakers. Nights in the hot tub under beautiful skies at 10˚ below. Beautiful travertine and bamboo floors installed with money I inherited from my Grandma. A bright and light-filled conservatory half paid for with money I inherited when my mom died after a five-year battle with brain cancer. Rooms Husband and I painted, sometimes more than once, and a pizza oven and patio we put in ourselves, proving that married people can work together. My daughter grew up here — she’s 18 and will go off to college soon; a force to be reckoned with, a shining light. A humble home nestled in the woods, surrounded by vinca and perennials and grass somebody should cut more often.

Every room is filled with our lives.

I would like just to take the joy with me, and to leave the emotional cobwebs and struggles of the past buried here somewhere; not in the basement, that would be haunting and weird, but maybe out in the woods, or in some kind of ceremony over the fire-pit out back. Yeah. That sounds like a really good idea.

New chapters, clean slates, fresh starts.

It is time.

 

31
Oct
18

cancer, depression, and (looking for) the light at the end of the tunnel

So according to the National Cancer Institute, depression is “a comorbid disabling syndrome that affects approximately 15-25% of cancer patients.”

Also, apparently, women are more likely to experience depression than men, especially in the transitional period between pre- and post-menopause.

I can’t help but wonder what the percentages are of menopausal women with cancer. Sounds like a lot of really sad women.



I did just get my blood work back from the medical oncologist visit on Monday. At which I cried, more on that in a minute. Apparently I am post-menopausal. Who knew?


Does probably explain the subsiding of the hot flashes even though I’ve stopped HRT, the weight gain over the past couple of years, the moodiness, the lack of interest in….well, just about anything. (Phew! That was close!)

So here I sit, with a breast cancer diagnosis and the best possible prognosis. These details include:

  • Estrogen and progesterone positive—100% and 70%, respectively—which means that my good friend The Tumor, (whom I have named Bobba Fett), had every available surface covered with little seats in which estrogen could rest its weary head and on which the tumor could feed; 70% of it was also receptive to progesterone. This characteristic makes it very vulnerable to blocking those hormones in the body. And apparently it would seem that I’m almost out of them anyway, but not so much so that I won’t have to take Tamoxifen or, more likely given my hormone status, Aromatase Inhibitors, for 5-10 years. And AIs sound like a lot of fun, with side effects like joint pain, loss of bone density, weight gain (yeah, I really need that), vaginal dryness, carpal tunnel syndrome (great for a pianist), increased blood pressure, and mood swings (cuz I’m not having enough of those already).
  • HER2 negative. HER2 is a protein in some breast cancer tumors that seems to make the tumor more aggressive, both faster growing and more likely to spread. HER2 negative means no chemo.
  • Lymph nodes negative—no indication that Bobba Fett has tried to set up little colonies elsewhere in my body, although that is always held out to be possible.
  • Negative genetics for any kind of cancer that is currently identifiable through genetic testing
  • OncoDX score of 17 (out of 100)-–which means it is in the “low-risk” category for spreading, albeit still an 11% chance. Husband likes to point out that that indicates an 89% chance that it won’t spread, but somehow that’s not really where the mind goes. At least not mine.

Apprently once cancer is detected it has been in the body for many, many years; little sneaky sleeper cells lurking around with tiny little time bombs strapped to their  backs.

Bastards.

And most people think that this “best possible prognosis” would mean that I was walking on cloud 9, surround by sunshine, chirping birds, and harp music.


But I’m not.

When I posited the theory that maybe I should be to my medical oncologist earlier this week (right before the tears started) she scoffed, and said, “Pah! It’s still a prognosis, and nobody wants one of those.” The recognition of that, and a prescription for a teeny-tiny bit of Lexapro, has made a big difference.
My bullshit tolerance meter is set to zero. But maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing (equivocation, anyone?)

But I do apologize if I’ve “yelled” at you in anyway in the past few weeks — verbally, via email, or even in my head. I sincerely hope, at some point in the not-too-distant future, that the


sign stops blinking in my head and leaves room for other things. Until then, be well, be safe, get your mammogram, and if somebody snaps at you for no apparent reason, remember, they might have something really shitty going on in their lives right now, and they’re probably really really sorry.

08
Oct
18

how to help

The past few weeks have been quite a ride.

giphy

I mean, I’ve always been a little (🙄) emotional, but sheesh.

CBD drops were helping, until I was told I needed to stop taking them until after the surgery.

One of my dogs ending up with, well, let’s just call it “some gastrointestinal distress” 😬 hasn’t helped.

My lumpectomy is tomorrow.

*Please know that the above cartoon in no way reflects my feelings about my husband. First of all, we don’t even own a La-Z-Boy.

And I am so grateful for all of the messages of love and support I’ve gotten from so many people. The best of which acknowledge the difficulty of the time I’m going through, and/or include specific offers of assistance.

The thing is, while well-intentioned, and appreciated as such, things like “Cancer picked the wrong woman to mess with!” or “You’ve got this! I know (!!!) you’ll be fine!” don’t really speak the truth; a truth we all know. Because cancer is a test you can’t study for, and there are lots of strong women who have lost their noble battles against it.

You want to feel like


but it actually feels more like


I do accept and treasure it all as encouragement. And it might seem odd, but it’s actually more helpful to acknowledge the randomness and lack of control over all of this. As M said to me last night in a text: Cancer isn’t pink, it sucks.


Looking forward to looking back at all this.

26
Feb
17

In case you haven’t laughed yet today

NSFW

But watch it anyway. It’s hilarious.

13
Jan
17

Something lighter

For those of you tired of soap that lies.

20170113-081120.jpg

Who knew?

26
Oct
16

The being of nothingness

In an interesting coincidence, given what I just wrote about last night, I just ran across this in the NYTimes article about Bob Dylan’s silence since having been awarded the Nobel prize:

‘Bad faith, Sartre explains in “Being and Nothingness,” is the opposite of authenticity. Bad faith becomes possible because a human being cannot simply be what he or she is, in the way that an inkwell simply is an inkwell. Rather, because we are free, we must “make ourselves what we are.” In a famous passage, Sartre uses as an example a cafe waiter who performs every part of his job a little too correctly, eagerly, unctuously. He is a waiter playing the role of waiter. But this “being what one is not” is an abdication of freedom; it involves turning oneself into an object, a role, meant for other people. To remain free, to act in good faith, is to remain the undefined, free, protean creatures we actually are, even if this is an anxious way to live.’

And am realizing that all most of us really want is to live (and be loved, respected) exactly as we are. Sure, we could get all “but let’s help make people better people,” but, actually, unless they’re your not-fully-grown children, it’s really about learning how to live with each other, not about trying to conform them into being what you think they should be.

We all just want to live authentically, and maybe, when we don’t, is when we start hurting people, or ourselves.

25
Oct
16

Letting go of s#!t is hard

Have spent a large chunk of time over the past few days cleaning up piles and papers and organizing desks and drawers and cupboards, etc.

Finding myself also in need of shedding the burden of some observations I’ve been carrying around for awhile. Feel free to forward this on to anyone for whom one or more of them seems to speak to directly. I may do the same.

A new category: You Might Not Know This, but…

For example: 

  • You might not know this, but the reason some people don’t say “hello” in a loud and cheerful voice every time they walk into the office is because a secretary in a previous office may have sent everyone an email once, pointing out how busy she is, and how distracting it was for her to have to stop work and exchange greetings with every person who walks in, and could everyone please limit their casual conversations with others perhaps to a different area of the building; so maybe they’re just trying to be considerate.
  • You might not know this, but the day you said “Hell-O” in a very pointed way, I had already said hello, very quietly, so as not to interrupt people at their work.
  • You might not know this, but misspelling or omitting names of participants in programs or brochures or during the official “thank-yous” might make them feel their contribution is insignificant, or cause them to wonder why they work so hard to be so professional and conscientious all the time when so much of what they do will be attributed to someone else, or to no one at all.
  • You might not know this, but I had decided not to charge you for the recital we performed together, but when you sent me a copy of the publicity with your name in size 36 font and your 5×7 picture and your bio and made no mention of a pianist, no less no mention of me, I realized that you did not see us as collaborators and equal contributors, but rather that you were the soloist and I was the hired help, so charging seemed like the logical thing to do.
  • You might not know this, but forbidding an active, full investment from someone with whom you are “collaborating” (in scare quotes, since, if you’re not encouraging an active, full investment, it’s not actually a collaboration at all, is it?) will not only make them feel small, but will prevent you from learning anything from them, and may actually interfere with your own goals, as chances are they have ideas worth at least considering.
  • You might not know this, but in rehearsal, when a collaborator says “we’re not together” it might mean that you actually miscounted and came in wrong, and maybe they were being polite, and considerate of your feelings. And, in case this is not obvious, firing them on facebook is kind of a shitty thing to do. 
  • You might not know this, but the look on my face at that meeting was not impatience or animosity toward you for holding the meeting, but sheer embarrassment on your behalf that other people’s actions had made the meeting necessary.
  • You might not know this, but some people may not insert themselves into conversations or invite themselves along to social gatherings because they were taught not to intrude on others’ conversations, or to invite themselves, and does not necessarily imply a lack of desire for personal interaction or connection; and it may even be possible that your lack of welcome and inclusion had as much to do with a lack of connection as anything else you might want to blame.
  • You might not know this, but it’s not appropriate to pay someone half a salary, or hire them to work 15 hours a week, and expect them to make a 100% commitment. You wouldn’t do it, I can’t for the life of me why you would expect someone else to.
  • You might not know this, but people may not agree with how you choose to do your job, share your ideas (or not), gossip, post on facebook, manage your relationships, or even how to be. But realize that, as they show you respect in allowing you to make those choices for yourself, they probably long for the same respect to be shown in return.
  • You might not know this, but allowing the person who was hired to do the job actually do the job might actually lead to more consistent and professional results than if you encourage your spouse, who has no training or expertise in the area, to express opinions and influence on how the job should be done. Likewise if you replace “spouse” with “person who writes the huge checks every year as a donation to save the organization when yet again the deficit budget fails to miraculously convert itself into a surplus.”
  • You might not know this, but calling to yell at someone about a blog post you hadn’t even read hurts the writer’s feelings tremendously, maybe even more so if the writer was advocating for someone close to you. These feelings may continue to reverberate, including creating a hesitancy to write anything at all, and a lack of trust in your fundamental relationship, which is regrettable for all concerned.
  • You might not know this, but people who feel deeply and are always striving to improve are not necessarily pessimistic, but may in fact be exceedingly optimistic, but find their optimism harder and harder to act on, given the responses this optimism has met in the past. 

I think everyone should read Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” (New Yorker, June 14 & 21, 2010) and pick which sentence best describes them. I used to think it was “You were too injured by things that happened in the distant past for anything to be effortless in the present” but now I think it’s “I was never indifferent to the children of strangers, just frustrated by my own unrelenting optimism.” 

Tomorrow: the linen closet.
P.s. An opportunity for catharsis for you, dear readers, in the comments section: You might not know this, but…

Or maybe a sub-sub-category for parents: …the dishes don’t put themselves away, …the cupboards don’t wipe themselves, …lights don’t turn themselves off, …sometimes it’s nice to do something just because you know it needs to be done not because somebody asked you, …it’s more polite to ask if there’s anything you can do to help with dinner than to ask what is for dinner, or what time it will be served, …the laundry is not actually done by the laundry fairy, …

09
Aug
16

Random Thoughts

Yes, I’m still here.

Waiting till I have something to say I guess.

And now just these:

This world is not a meritocracy. It sucks, but it’s true. Discuss.

There might be something to be said about an unforeseen problem brought on by showing your children unconditional love, as in no one feels compelled to clean the house before your return after a long absence. Creating the psychological need to “earn” love might be underrated after all.

One can definitely gauge one’s fed-up-ness with the world, that is, the state of politics and the American citizenry’s unwillingnessifnotinability to actually Face the Truth, by one’s propensity to take “Cook’s Illustrated” to bed rather than the New Yorker.

Alas.

 

 

 

25
Jan
16

Putting things into perspective

At 3:40 in the morning on Tuesday, January 19, I was awoken by my husband calling to me from the floor. As I sat up and leaned over to respond, he got to his hands and knees and crawled over to the bed and put his head on the mattress, but seemed to be completely unable to come any further.

As he kept saying “I need to tell Sheri” (I’m Sheri) “that I fell on the floor,” over and over again, I worried that he had had a stroke.

Repeated attempts to get him to come up on to the bed failed, so I went out into the hall and called to some friends who had come in from out of town the night before to see if they could come help me. We managed to get him up on the bed, and he was able to look at me and talk and squeeze both of my hands, so I thought maybe it wasn’t a stroke after all. Then he told me that he needed to tell Sheri that he had had chest pains and while trying to take his pulse he had apparently fainted. There was blood on his lip and a split in the skin over his eyebrow, so it seemed clear that he had hit the floor pretty hard.

I called 911, gave him an aspirin per instructions, unlocked the door and turned on the porch light, and went back to sit with him and wait for the EMTs, during which time I made repeated calls (unanswered) to his cardiologist who is also a good friend.

Four people arrived — first, two firemen, who asked him some questions, had him smile and stick out his tongue (no stroke); then two EMTs with an ambulance who took a pulse, and ran a quick EKG which showed a mild arrhythmia but not enough to “require” a trip to the ER, although the EMT recommended it.

Our friends and I thought that would be a good idea, and he agreed, which kind of convinced me this was pretty serious, as he would generally resist such an idea, so off he went in the ambulance, and I followed with one of the friends in our car. The other stayed home with Second Son, StepSon, and Only Daughter.

We spent almost 6 hours in the ER while they monitored his heart rate, and took periodic blood tests for Troponin (sp?), the enzyme thrown off by the heart if there is a heart attack (all negative). He was then sent to the cardiac observation unit, so that they could do one more Troponin test and monitor things for the day.

He was allowed to move around, so we walked up and down the halls for a while, him walking his IV pole. His manner of speaking still seemed different from usual — not as different as in the first few minutes, when he didn’t seem to realize to whom he was talking, but still different — more monotone, at a slightly higher pitch. We observed people of many ages in beds, a young man in what seemed to be a 50% body cast walking (?) down the hall with crutches and family flanking him on all sides. We nodded to the resident who had come and asked him some questions already, heard rumors of the cardiologist’s impending arrival.

Six hours later (now 4:30 p.m.) the attending cardiologist, the resident, two students and nurse appeared in his room, where the doctor reported many lengthy conversations with Husband’s cardiologist friend and between the doctors at the (very excellent) hospital.

Many theories presented themselves, none with clearly obvious affirmative answers. Husband had an abnormal stress test in the fall, but only at the highest pulse rate they were willing to push him to. Perhaps a plaque had broken loose and blocked an artery, but there were no indications of heart attack and he had no physical symptoms of blockage — his pulse was good, his color was good, he wasn’t short of breath, the pain had been in his chest only, not radiating to chin, arms, shoulders, etc. Perhaps the pain had caused a vaso-vagal response, but there had been no moments of dizziness or nausea — he was conscious taking his pulse, then he was coming to on the floor. The attending’s theory was that there had been an arrhythmia, which might have caused fainting. The arrhythmia might be caused by some partial blockages, and the only way to know that for sure was to go to heart catheterization, so that was where we were going. Now.

So we went.

Thirty minutes later he’s in the cath lab, shaved and mildly sedated, and I’m in the waiting room.

For two hours.

And for one of them basically alone, as the routine procedures were over for the day, so the status board was shut off, then the woman at the desk went home. So I sat. And knitted. And texted people back who were checking in. And tried to decide if I had time to go get something to eat (had four bites of breakfast 8 hours earlier or so). And waited.

Granted, midway I did get a report from the nurse that they had placed one stent and were “trying” (?!?) to place another.

Finally he was on his way back. I went back into the pre-procedure room and waited; I could hear him talking to the nurse as they came down the hall, and he actually sounded much more like himself. When he saw me, though, there were a few tears in his eyes, and he reported on the surreal nature of undergoing a procedure on your heart while you can hear them talking about what they’re doing and what they’re going to do next and shouting orders to assistants and you can feel twinges deep within your chest as they run wires and place stents. Four were placed — one in one artery that had a 90% occlusion; three in a very complicated and zig-zaggy artery that had an 80% occlusion. There were pictures, of the before-and-after persuasion, which were fascinating; and a third artery with 70% occlusion that they left as is — he had already been in the procedure for two hours, and many doctors don’t seem to feel that stenting a 70% occlusion is a good idea.

Of course he was then admitted. As the procedure requires them to employ blood thinners, the cuts on his lip and eyebrow reopened and bled, and bled, and bled; the small contusion on his eyebrow swelled to golf-ball size proportions, and the lovely purple eye-shadow on his upper lid became a full-blown black eye. I sat by his bedside and dabbed blood from his lip for hours, and he tried valiantly to keep an ice pack on his very painfully swollen brow.

We slept, eventually, I on a marginally comfortable couch-like structure that “opens” up into a “bed.” By 6:45 a.m. the room was full of nurses changing over their shifts, and then the cardiologist and a couple different students appeared, with news that he would need a stress test, and if he “failed” they would have to go in and stent the one vessel they didn’t get to and if he passed he could go home.

And then the stress test was delayed until the next day because he had already taken his meds.

And then, a few hours later, the stress test was reinstated, because the meds don’t matter, but what? He’s eaten some of his lunch? Stop eating! Fine, a few bites don’t matter.

Stress test, wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait you can go home.

No, we don’t have results, but we have discharge orders.

So he’s home.

And then nobody sleeps. You think sleeping in a hospital is hard, but then you go home and realize that now nobody’s monitoring your heart, and there aren’t nurses a call-button away — just your wife, who slept through the whole thing in the first place until you called for her from the floor.

Not very reassuring.

And now for the point of this whole post.

Some questions.

Why do we get to live where access to this kind of medical care is available to us, just minutes from our house?

What happens to people who don’t live in such an area?

We were in the emergency room for 6 hours, and he was being treated the entire time. The friend who had come with me is from New York city, and pointed out that in NY we might not even have been seen yet.

He had state-of-the art care, within minutes of when it was needed. He needed a heart cath — there’s a doctor there ready to do the procedure within minutes. He needs a stress test, the woman with the wheel chair was in his room before I could even text his family. He needs blood thinners and a lifetime of anti-coagulants that cost $387 a month and will cost us $20 with our prescription insurance and THEY DID THIS PROCEDURE THROUGH HIS WRIST WITHOUT ANESTHESIA — he won’t even have a scar.

How can we maintain our normal work loads to continue to meet our financial obligations without losing sight of the fact that nobody gets out of this alive? That time is our most precious commodity and every single one of us might have a hell of a lot less of it than we think? That yes, life is full of frustrations and disappointments but joy and meaning and relationships are priceless so that we can should must try to overlook/let go of the former and treasure the latter?

Our friends were visiting at what might have been a most inopportune time — in the middle of a work week, while Husband suffers a cardiac “event.” But a snowstorm on the east coast meant that they were “stranded” here for a couple of days at the end of the visit as well, and we enjoyed delicious meals and great bottles of wine together, and laughed so hard last night that our stomachs hurt.

Yesterday I took our friends to a garden center with indoor greenhouses and sculptures and art installations. We walked around and took pictures of tulips and daffodils and cacti, with steamed-up windows and snow visible through them in an interesting seasonal juxtaposition. I watched a half-frozen waterfall through a window that flows to a Japanese garden and studied pieces by Rodin and Degas and Calder. I felt as I do when listening to Mozart — happiness and sadness at exactly the same time.

It all goes so much faster than most of us expect, maybe even than we would want. (I always say that the only way to slow time down is to just be really bored all the time; remember how long Sundays were when you were a child?)

We still don’t even know if the treatment resolved the cause of the problem. We might not ever know. So we live now with a lot of gratitude, and a little more apprehension, a little more care, a little more joy.

IMG_3499 IMG_3501 IMG_3504 IMG_3509 IMG_3511 IMG_3512 IMG_3513 IMG_3514 IMG_3515 IMG_3517 IMG_3518 IMG_3519 IMG_3520 IMG_3521 IMG_3523

 

Sorry the pictures aren’t better – I took them with my phone. Loved the colors though.

 

24
Mar
15

the true milestones

Not marriage, maybe, nor childbirth,
grandchildren, retirement;
No,
not those.

Just a few moments.

The moment that you realize

that the world
doesn’t
owe you anything;

that the one-hundred-percent-right
decision
to Raise Your Own Children
would have Lasting Professional Impact;

that you have a
right
to be happy;

that there is not a single person on this earth
who can learn
from your mistakes;

that you are,
always,
in some ways,
alone,

and that this is,
in fact,
okay;

that it all matters
if you make it.

So make it.

01
Oct
14

God’s plan

You know how, when something tragic happens, there are always people who tell you, presumably to be Comforting, that “it is all part of God’s plan.”

Second Son sent me this today, thinking I might find it amusing.

I did.

Very, very amusing.

God'sPlan

 

 

16
Jun
14

busybusybusybusybusybusybusybusy. . .

As I start this I remember recently reading an article about whether we are actually as busy as we think we are.* Whether maybe we know we’re not actually that busy but it seems important to society that we be busy, so we’re also not actually as busy as we say we are.

I googled “Are we really that busy?” and got article after article after article about how we’re NOT actually as busy, etc. etc. so it must be true.

But anyway. I’ve been really really busy lately. Usually this time of year I have lots of time to sit in the adirondack chair on my deck with a gin+lemoncino+tonic (a “lemony snicket” apparently) and a good book. Not so much this year.

We were very busy in April and May turning this:

Our backyard in early April.

Our backyard in early April.

into this:

Our backyard now. (The perspective is the opposite, but they're the best panoramic I have of each)

Our backyard now. (The perspective is the opposite, but they’re the best panoramic I have of each)

Of course it helps that the world also turned green during that time span, but there it is.

We leveled 500 square feet of dirt, and then spread and leveled (with a carefully calculated 1/2″ per 8′ slope) 500 square feet 4″ deep in gravel, and then laid 5 tons of flagstone one piece at a time; and Husband built the pizza oven.

Lots of work. My back is still pretty pissed off at me, but there it is.

We also had to deal with the fact that Second Son’s car (my old Honda Odyssey) finally gave up the ghost after 13 years of service and 240,000 miles. We drove it, gently (the transmission was going, so there were to be no sudden moves), to the Honda dealer and basically gave it to them in trade for a 2004 Corolla with 96,000 miles on it (a significant improvement, nonetheless). After cleaning out bags of papers and food wrappers and water bottles, and, mysteriously, the steak knife that has been missing from our set for ~ 3 years (our driveway is “dark and creepy” at night, apparently the steak knife was to offer protection; thinking if someone were on the attack it would have been either useless or turned on him, but I guess it made him feel better, so whatchagonna do, especially since I didn’t know about it at the time?), Second Son stood in the parking lot and said his good-byes. I found myself “harkening” back as well — it was purchased in the week or two before Only Daughter (now 13+) came to us from her birth home (South Korea), and has seen us through a lot of life’s changes. More of my life looks different now than the same — divorced, bought a house and moved, remarried, children grown and graduated, different jobs, opportunities, friends. That van was a pretty significant material connector really to what I would call my “former” life. Maybe I should have stood next to Secondo and said a more formal goodbye as well.

He rescued his lego Ninja from the dashboard, we drove away.

Dante? Is that you?

Dante? Is that you?

 

This past week I completed my apprenticeship (hopefully) to become a member of the Royal Conservatory (of Toronto) Board of Examiners. This Wednesday I leave for a 12-day trip to the British Isles to perform with a choir for whom I play. Husband’s unable to come, so I’m traveling with the group and he’s holding down the fort, such as it is.

I find myself with new chamber groups to work with, new performance opportunities, job openings that I may or may not apply for, so the transitions continue.

Have you heard the expression:  “You throw your anchor into the future you want for yourself and then pull yourself along by the chain”? The thing is, (or shall I say the things are):

  • Do you really know what you want from the future? So often it doesn’t turn out the way we had expected.
  • Have you ever found yourself dutifully pulling yourself along by the chain, and The Whole Entire Time nothing in your surroundings seems to indicate that you’re pulling on the right one? Like, “Now just wait one cotton-pickin’ minute. Whose chain is this? Am I pulling on the right one? Is that yours? Where was it this was going again? Who moved my cheese?“)

marine anchor chain

 

It seems that we can spend months and years if not longer chasing things, trying to form our futures into that Future; you know? The Future We Want? And then all of a sudden all of this stuff happens, seemingly out of the blue.

Now I realize that it’s not “all of a sudden,” that all of the things I’ve done and connections I’ve made and hours I’ve spent practicing and trying to be a good teacher and good collaborator have paid into these opportunities.  But it still seems kind of random, and quite unexpected. Good, but unexpected.

Anyway, I’ve been really really busy moving rocks and practicing and pulling on those damn chains. I have a zillion ideas of things I want to write about, but it seems that my hands have been pretty full.

Thanks for sticking around.

I’ll  post some pictures of really old castles and Stonehenge and this drink I’m supposed to try in Scotland (a crabby green something?) as soon as I can.

ttfn!

 

*Being me, I have absolutely no recollection of the source of this article; hence I am unable to link to it. My apologies.

19
Apr
14

empathy vs. sympathy; there really is a difference

21
Jun
13

just lying there, listening

Had several sleepless nights this week; not really sure why for the most part. I have adopted a “move at least an hour every day” policy so I’ve been exercising more, and my legs get a little twitchy, but even when I take extra calcium and they aren’t twitchy I’m still kind of awake half the night.

Lying there listening to the whir of the ceiling fan and the really loud “tuck-tick, tuck-tick” of this new clock/picture frame Husband procured from somewhere and some nights the wind dances through the leaves of the trees over my house in such a way I’m not sure it’s not raining. There’s also this really resonant hoot owl in our woods and sometimes Dexter the Dumb Dog decides that he needs to bark at the grill or back to the owl or at whatever random shadows move outside the kitchen window; Second Son is also a night owl and home for the summer, (except for this week when he has been touring the midwest/east coast with his band, which is kind of cool for him and worrying for me while they drive from city to city through the wee hours of the night) so we hear him downstairs, or moving around in the kitchen.

Anyway, lots of time lying there in the dark, listening, listening, thinking, listening.

I start to write poems sometimes while I’m lying there, but I’m either too lazy or too sleepy to actually write them down, so then I lie there trying to devise mental tricks that will allow me to remember them when I wake up the next morning, but then of course I don’t. Some pretty good stuff, if I remember that much, which I probably don’t.

Stuff about the difference between being in love and loving and which is better and why sometimes you think one is better but then later you realize it’s actually the other.

Stuff about wishing you were better than you are — a better parent, a better pianist, a better person — and then realizing that you are actually usually pretty much doing the best you can (at the time) and that your parents probably were too and that all the stuff that you’ve been spending a lot of time being pissed off at them about you should probably just let go because it’s not doing you any good and it’s certainly not doing them any good and you sure hope that someday your kids will cut you a break and do the same for you.

Stuff about your professional disappointments and who stabbed you in the back and might even be stabbing you in the back still and whether your pursuit of inner peace and Happiness (rather than “happiness”) means they get away with it or just that you get to stop carrying that particular load of garbage around for at least a little while.

Stuff about friendships that didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped, and friendships you’re grateful for; stuff about whether it’s worse to have been overlooked when one friend threw another mutual friend a party and you weren’t invited, or whether you were considered for the invitation list and then expunged; wondering why it matters and then wondering if maybe that can be just another one of those bits of garbage not to be carried around any more.

Stuff about whether it’s “fair” that I get to live in a cozy and humble but comfortable and beautiful home and cook whatever I want for dinner and sip gin fizzes at a cute little desk in the corner lit by a funky lamp bought for me for my birthday by my (now-deceased) mother in Nashville, Tennessee while we were celebrating her birthday, while elsewhere in the world women are raped on buses and child brides are married to men in their 30s in India and the people of Syria kill each other and those guys keep standing on exit ramps with their “Homeless. Please Help. God Bless.” signs and what does “fair” mean anyway and why does that matter so much to me and everybody else?

(Sheesh. Is it any wonder I can’t sleep?)

But the funny thing is, it’s not like I’m lying there all twisted up with anxiety and unhappiness.

It’s just all there, floating around me, while I get to feel lucky and grateful and regretful and sad all at the same time.

So not a poem really. A rant? Maybe.

Maybe I should have just stuck with what I put on my “Not a Guru” blog yesterday.

I’m scared, but I’m grounded.
I’m sane, but I’m overwhelmed.
I’m lost, but I’m hopeful.
Yeah.

I’m sad, but I’m laughin’,
I’m brave but I’m chickenshit,
I’m wrong and I’m sorry baby.

But what it all comes down to,
is that noone’s got it figured out just yet,
but I got one hand in my pocket, and
the other is givin’ a high five.

30
May
13

blisters and dirt

Where I’ve been.

At art fairs, getting blisters on my feet; walking the dog, re-opening old blisters; planting flowers and moving flowers and spraying stinky stuff all over my yard to keep the rats-on-long-legs out of my yard.

deer

Grrrr.

Had a good “rant” going a couple of days ago when I read a “financial advice” column that started with the author advising a young new mother who was considering going back to work to pray about her decision.

Really?

That’s financial advice now? To pray?

Got distracted by dinner preparations or Dexter the Dumb Dog or my gin and tonic, though, so it never got written.

Noticed in the NYTimes that Michele Bachman missed three, count them, three, opportunities to change the world. Or maybe it was just politics. But she didn’t. Alas.

And that Angeline Jolie’s aunt died of breast cancer; further vindication of her (Angelina’s) decision to have a double mastectomy as a preventive measure.

And apparently the newest styles for the summer involve completely see-through white tops for women. Any color bra seems to be fine.

Read a little Rilke (Diaries) and paid more than expected for my “oil change” (the new loss-leader for car dealerships to draw you in so they can lube things and replace things and rotate things. What do I know?).

Since eliminating the ONE photo of the couple playing nude Scrabble on what one can only hope was a nude beach (You won’t find it, so don’t bother looking. Sicko.), I have seen my stats go through a subtle transformation.

Looks like this now:

newestsearchterms

Better, I guess, but I’ve lost 3 “followers,” although I can’t help but wonder why they were hanging around if that was all they were looking for. I do still really like the Versace post. I think it was some of my best work. . .

Maybe I’m just not writing enough. Or timely enough. Or funny enough.

If only I had bought a big metal chicken at Bed Bath and Beyond today. . .

 

14
May
13

the week in pictures

When a student of mine graduates from high school, I always buy them Michael Jordan’s I Can’t Accept Not Trying. I found the book way back in the ’90s, and found it to be inspirational and to resonate from athletics to music to life, as so many things do.

It’s been out of print for a while, so when I need a copy now I must buy them used. I have a student graduating, and an upper-level high schooler moving this year, so I just acquired two copies. Opening them up to write a little note, I discovered this:

dedication

Isn’t that sweet?

The book has never been opened.

Mark’s a loser. Mom clearly overestimated his ability to read, process, and appreciate the messages regarding tenacity, discipline, and commitment contained therein.

Is that ironic?

Actually, that’s not even the case, since Mark never bothered to read it. Mark didn’t even respect his loving and devoted mother enough to READ IT.

Mark’s a loser. Mom’s admiration is misdirected. I’m deeply saddened by the dismissiveness embodied in the fact that this book was sold to me for $1.99 (I paid a LOT more for shipping than I did for the book; is that ironic?), discarded by a thoughtless and inconsiderate young man.

Next.

Three guesses which magazine this is on the back cover of:

yoga thighs

 My letter to the editor:

I am profoundly disappointed by the photo featured on the back cover of the June 2013 issue of Yoga Journal.

I read the magazine as part of an ongoing pursuit of a balanced, meaningful, enlightened life. A reference to, and picture of, a pole dancer does not seem to be in support of this.

I try to overlook the fact that the majority of your yoga models have super-model body types; I try to overlook the ads that feature women who are “skinny” rather than healthy and fit. But this seems to go too far. There are so many images in the media portraying unrealistic body types for women, sending subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle messages to women about how they should look and conveying the idea that women are primarily sexual objects. I would hope that YJ could be one place that didn’t.

I also like to leave the magazine out for piano students, friends, my daughter, to leaf through. This one I feel I need to hide. 

Kathryn Budig is finally clothed, but we have an image of a woman participating in the sex trade on the back instead.

It seems that more thought could be put into these types of things, and some editorial guidance might be more judiciously applied. 

Meanwhile, I will be looking for a different yoga magazine to subscribe to.

Sigh.

***

In pursuit of a balanced, meaningful, enlightened life, I planted some perennials and annuals and a bush and a tree yesterday. I decided, in my infinite wisdom, since I was planting some 4″ pots in the midst of a lot of very persistent ground cover, to use the small planting shovel.

Here is my right palm:

bruised hand

The circles are around bruises (the arrow thing wouldn’t make an arrow).

They really hurt.

I’m a pianist. This was really really stupid.

I could barely stand to push the cart at costco today, and this is NOT a commentary on the sizes of the packages contained therein (although do we really need to buy ziploc sandwich bags 600 at a time?).*

Hopefully next week will be a little less ridiculous.

*We are spending a lot less on groceries.

11
May
13

why I don’t have a problem with mother’s day

Tomorrow is what some consider to be a Hallmark holiday. Ann Lamott hates it. Husband’s not a fan. First Son thinks it’s kind of coercive, and therefore meaningless, like being forced to apologize. Several of my friends on facebook have linked to Ann’s article disparaging it, uttering comments of agreement.

I read the article, thought about it, tried really hard to see her point, and then decided that she was kind of missing it.

Like, a lot.

Yes, mother’s day is probably difficult for women who would have liked to have had children, and for whatever reason, did not. Yes, mother’s day will probably be difficult for women who have lost their mothers (Me! Me!), or who had children and have lost them one way or another (tragic death, estranged relationships).

But is it necessarily true that honoring something that is, in fact, quite important, is dishonoring everybody else?

And just because something might be difficult for some people does that mean it should be vilified? There are tragedies and losses every day, sometimes even on national holidays; do we all avoid any possible reference to any possible reminder to any possible pain?

Husband thinks Mother’s Day is a pathetic excuse for pathetic people who treat their mothers with apathy at best and disdain at worst 364 days of the year, and palliate their consciences one day in May by buying grocery-store bouquets and offering to mow the lawn.

Are you my conscience?

Are you my conscience?

I agree, and think that all children everywhere should honor and appreciate and help their mothers at every possible opportunity.

But still.

There are a lot of people I think of as my “mothers” besides my mom. My mother-in-law for example, who has recently agreed to “adopt” me (thanks, mom!), my sisters, my best friends Jackie and Jill and Yelena and Meghan, my husband, who loves me and nurtures me and seems to always see the best possible version of me there is. I, likewise, feel that I am “mother” to many people — my friends, my husband, my students, my children.

We would all love to be honored and appreciated and thanked regularly; but we’re busy people, and we forget.

Is it really such an awful thing to thank all of those people who have loved us and nurtured us and always tried to see the best possible version of us that there is?

I don’t think so.

I imagine that all of those women out there who don’t have good relationships with their mothers, or whose mothers are no longer with them, or who have never had children, or who don’t have good relationships with their children, I imagine that all of those women have been “mothers” and “daughters” to other women, other people, would like to be honored, and thanked. Let’s broaden the definition, let’s broaden the scope.

And thank all mothers, everywhere.

???????????????????????????????????????

I’ll mow your lawn, if I know where you live.

 

 

12
Apr
13

(trying to) hold on

Some times it’s harder than others.

She gets it. (Ann Carson, I mean. Not the other version of me.)

Sometimes I do. Sometimes I forget.

I guess we all do.

12
Apr
13

more than one way to mourn (shaping, weighing, testing. . .)

Really struggling this week.

Don’t know if it’s the grass-is-always-greener syndrome, or something I should actually pay attention to, but am finding the seemingly constant and often frustrating nature of much of my professional life to be particularly difficult to deal with.

After mom died I quit most of my adjunct work (life’s too short to be an indentured servant), and have been all the happier for it. I don’t know if all of this is telling me I should reevaluate my professional choices thus far, the options I could pursue going forward; or if I should just sigh and realize that this is life and just deal with it.

Anyway, I have this beautiful book by Ann Carson called Nox that I find myself re-reading bits and pieces (or all of it — it only takes about 20 minutes) of over the past couple of years. It’s written as an elegy to her brother, who died mysteriously in Denmark after something like 20 years of estrangement from his family.

It’s very lovely.

Ann is a Greek scholar and author, of a particularly epigraphic and poetic bent.

Ran across this last night:

He makes out of myrrh an egg as big as he can carry. Then he tests it to see if he can carry it. After that he hollows out the egg and lays his father inside and plugs up the hollow. With father inside the egg weighs the same as before. Having plugged it up he carries the egg to Egypt to the temple of the sun. (Hekataios)  

Hekataios is describing the sacred phoenix which lived in Arabia but came to Heliopolis in Egypt once every five hundred years to bury a father there. The phoenix mourns by shaping, weighing, testing, hollowing, plugging and carrying toward the light. He seems to take a clear view of necessity. And in the shadows that flash over him as he makes his way from Arabia to Egypt maybe he comes to see the immensity of the mechanism in which he is caught, the immense fragility of his own flying – composed as it is of these ceaselessly passing shadows carried backward by the very motion that devours them, his motion, his asking.

I can’t decide if I want to, or even can, carry anything “toward the light.”

I am trying very hard to take a clear view of necessity.

I feel very, very fragile.

I wish I could stop asking.

***

I posted this on our private family blog last night, and one of my sisters wrote a really nice note back (thanks, C). We are all feeling it (alas, I am not original; only sad), which I am sure helps. The world is so quick to forget what you’ve lost, or doesn’t have time to care all that much.

Your parents knew you first, so I think you will always feel that, in some ways, they loved you best. They may not have been the parents you thought you needed, but they were your parents, and knew you first. . .

I feel I’ve come unmoored, even though I have lots of people in my life who probably know me better than they did.

It’s so hard to explain — like I’m made of paper, and the strings that held me up have been cut, but I haven’t started to fall yet, but I know I will.

Or something.

paperstar

 

 

12
Mar
13

is it really true?

Two thoughts, as I head off to bed to start reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.

I commented to Husband tonight that the three most loyal and vocal followers on my blog are all men* (and he’s not one of them; guess he hears enough from me in the real world). He replies that he thinks that there are quite a lot of men out there who really appreciate and enjoy women, and that women, often, are not really all that supportive of each other.

While I think this is not true in terms of personal relationships — except for him, all of my truly close friends in my “real” life are women, I do think it can be true professionally.

And this got me thinking about something Ms. Sandberg apparently says in her book (I am remembering this from an interview; perhaps the NPR one I referenced a few posts ago) — that women look around at the few other women around “the table,” and realize that only one of them is going to get promoted, as the token Woman in a Position of Power, so, therefore, the other women are her direct competitors. And not in a we’re-all-going-to-do-our-best-and-whoever-does-it-best-gets-the-prize-GO-Team!!!; but in a we’re-all-going-to-do-our-best-and-whoever-doesn’t-piss-off-the-most-men-by-appearing-to-be-shrill-or-godforbidbossyassertive-is-g0ing-to-get-the-prize.

She wants us to demand a place at the table, to raise our hands, to speak our minds.

But what about when we’ve done that, over and over and over again, and it’s only hurt us?

Then what?

. . .  Guess I’ll have to read the book and find out.

Or maybe not.

*Thank you oldblack, Quieter Elephant, and TEStazyk

28
Feb
13

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?

27
Feb
13

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.

 

 

19
Feb
13

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:

Chineselivethemoment

(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?)

17
Feb
13

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.

hearts

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.”

:-}

hearts

 

 

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.

 

03
Feb
13

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.)

02
Feb
13

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.

Ralphie

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.

21
Jan
13

just do that, then

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151397745507577

I know this, and I’ve done it, but why is it so hard sometimes to remember that it was the right/good thing to do?

I’m remembering it today. And yesterday. Maybe I can hold on to it, then.

09
Jan
13

does less = more?

As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while probably know, I would usually like to weigh a little less* and fit into my clothes better. I oscillate between wanting to live life fully, enjoying good food and wine and meals with family and friends and striving for better habits in terms of eating more healthfully, getting more exercise (yoga, walking, an occasional training-for-a-theoretical-5K every once in a while) and drinking more water (and less scotch). To varying success, all of it.

When I recently realized that I was even “outgrowing” my “fat pants” I decided that drastic measures needed to be taken. I am now 5 days into the 14-day first phase of the South Beach diet — no potatoes, no bread, no rice, no pasta, no sugar, NO WINE or alcohol or any sort. Lots and lots of water.

Today I actually find myself 600 calories under what I’m allowed/supposed to eat, and I don’t even want them. I had kale for dinner (Only Daughter conceded that it “wasn’t awful,” high praise from an 11-year-old gymnast-turned-ballerina. It’s a long story. Another time.) I’ve lost a few pounds, and feel pretty good, and am not actually starving, etc. etc. But I don’t want to do this by starving myself either, because I know then I’ll just put it back on.

kale

At the same time I’m reading Hungry, the book/memoir (if one can call a book written by a 23-year-old a “memoir”) by the “plus-size” (12. As if.) model Chrystal Renn. Here are “before” and “after” photos: before, contrary to the usual arrangement, being when she had managed to starve herself into a 98-lb vacant-eyed, non-menstruating version of her former self, and after being when she had begun to eat again and had returned to a healthy weight, where she now stays and has a wonderful modeling career as a vibrant, healthy, voluptuous woman:

;

crystalrenn

The one on the right is “plus size”? Seriously?

So, I am my usual conflicted self. Am I eliminating carbs and sugar to regain some control over my food cravings and get my body to a healthy weight, or am I succumbing to the pressures of society and trying to conform to a weightmeaningimage imposed upon me by people whose only concern is that they make me feel badly about myself so I buy their product/join their gym?

Husband was not home tonight, so I sat on the couch after a very long and busy day and watched Frasier reruns. Amongst the awful and incessant commercials aired during an hour and a half of television there were 11 commercials for diet programs and/or “diet” foods, 2 commercials for anti-aging makeup, as well as one commercial each for an artificial sweetener, the “Curves” exercise facility, and for Gorton’s grilled fish, “only 80 calories per serving.”

Is it any wonder we’re all so filled with self-loathing? Does makeup really keep me from aging? Is aging such an awful proposition? Is buying processed, pre-grilled fish really a healthy alternative for someone who cares about the food he or she is putting into his or her body? (I should just say she/her — in all of those commercials, only ONE of the “protagonists” was male — and he was having his powdered donut being crumbled into bits by his loving and “supportive” significant other.)

Maybe it’s just me, but the one on on the left in the photo above is clearly starving; the one on the right is vibrant and strong and sexy and alive.

And not that far off from where I am right now.

Maybe if I just lose 5-10 more pounds.

Sheesh.

*Is it Freudian? I actually just started to proof this and realized I had written “I usually want to weigh a little more. . .” Pah.

31
Dec
12

on not looking back. . .

To start with, two stories:

As a self-employed person, I used to collect all my receipts in a folder (which ended up being a small shopping bag), and recording them into their appropriate categories in Quicken around February of the next year for my tax returns. I always started each year with good intentions to record them as they were generated, but you all know how that goes, even without knowing me personally. One year I had decided that I was going to bring them with me during the Christmas holidays so that I could work on them during any driving, and during down time while staying at my mom’s or wherever we were staying. Not even a mile down the road, I realized I had left them on the floor next to the door. We did not turn around.

At the grocery store this past week, on the way to spend time with my extended family, Second Son and his girlfriend realized they had left a game at home that First Son wanted them to bring with them. We did not go back for it.

I don’t turn around, and I try really hard not to look back. (Like Golly in Harriet the Spy.)

nouturn

 

Except when it is part of looking forward.

So what am I looking forward to this year?

I would like to focus more on the joy. My career isn’t what I had dreamed it would be, but it’s a good one, and I’m doing work I’m good at, and I’m appreciated, and I make enough money to pay my bills and live comfortably and eat well and drink good (reasonably priced, but good) wine every night. I have a closetful of nice clothes I’d like to fit into better (a first world problem if ever there was one) and healthy happy smart talented children and a husband I love more than I ever imagined possible. So much joy, so easily forgotten while wallowing in memories of thwarted dreams and personal and/or professional betrayals. What do they matter really? Why do they matter at all?

I’m not lost. I’m right here. (I’m quoting someone, but I can’t remember who. Does anyone recognize it?)

right-here-right-now1

I’d like to eat more healthfully, and do the kind of exercise I need to do more consistently so I have less back pain and more energy. I know how to do this, I don’t know why I forget that this is the body I need to live from not just in. I know this. I would like to know it meaning I do it, not like I merely “know” it.

Know what I mean?

I would like to spend less time ranting and more time doing. Doing something. I have an idea, and now even a perfect potential location, for a community music school. I’d like to stop dreaming it and do something about it.

I’m tired of people doing what they want, taking what they want, without regard to who they hurt; I’m sure it’s not just me. I’d like to do something to change that, and see/encourage more people do the same. I’d like to see everyone behave ethically because it was the right thing to do, not because they thought they would go to jail, or hell, if they didn’t.

Is it enough to wake up every morning grateful?

I didn’t think so.

I don’t have to sell the beautiful leather coat Husband bought me for Christmas and donate the proceeds to charity, do I?

We followed a woman, slowly, today down three miles of 45 mph road, topping 32 mph at the bottom of a decline. (She braked.) She pulled in to the grocery store parking lot ahead of us, a grocery store parking lot renowned for its congestion, both pedestrian and vehicular. We parked, and walked to the doors, and she was still idling in the corner of the lot, trying to figure out where to go and what to do. After we had gone into the store Husband considered going out and offering to park her car for her. I thought she might panic, think he was trying to steal her car (or worse), and scream for help. How does this fit in with my desire to do more good in the world?

What parts selfishness, what parts laziness, what parts fear?

I hate “new years resolutions” because they are so cliché and so easily broken, but these are actually “resolutions” I make on a regular basis. Does that make it better? Or just more pathetic?

Anyway: More joy, more good, more gratitude. Less selfishness, less laziness, less fear.

But I’m definitely keeping the coat.

Happy New Year!

midnighthappynewyear

 

 

05
Dec
12

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Am having a bit of a stressful ride lately, and the next 10 days see the culmination of it all. I try to focus on living in the moment, but I’m finding it particularly difficult not to just wish it were December 15.

In a nutshell, two big concerts to perform in, and one to sponsor/produce. Meanwhile, lots of people either not doing their jobs, or trying to do mine — both situations which cause a lot of extra work and/or stress for me right when I have a gazillion other things I really need to be focusing on; or should maybe just be sitting on a cushion with my palms on my thighs chanting Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. . .

om

I did manage to clear my day today up until around 5 p.m. to stay home and regroup, so I am heading to practice soon (I will not knit. I will not knit. I will not knit.). I did start the day making my famous (infamous?) drunken Christmas cake. Actually, I started it last night, as I macerated the dried fruit in a good dose of brandy overnight. I did a fair bit of sampling of the batter as I prepared it, which means I was actually possibly maybe a tiny wee bit hammered before breakfast. I’m sure the coffee will counteract it and there should be no adverse effects.

It is a great recipe, adapted* from my very battered “Joy of Cooking” cookbook, so here it is:

Sheri’s Drunken Christmas Cake

The night before (the fruit can macerate up to 24 hours):

In a large (8-cup) mixing bowl or measuring cup mix 2 c. golden raisins, 2 c. dried currants, and 2 c. chopped dried figs. Pour 3/4 c. of brandy over and stir well. Cover. (Stir occasionally if you can — once before bed, once when you get up in the morning)

When you’re ready to make the cake:

Bring 1 c. of butter out to put on the counter while you make your coffee, assemble ingredients, etc.

Butter 8 small ! bread pans, bottom and sides.

Preheat oven to 300˚ (275˚ if it’s convection)

Put the butter into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, and beat until smooth and creamy.
Add 2 c. packed dark brown sugar, and beat on a fairly high speed until lightened in color and texture, 3-5 minutes.

While this is beating, I mix the dry ingredients:
3 c. unbleached white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I heap this one)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Whisk together well with an egg whisk to thoroughly blend and “sift” the flour.

To the butter/brown sugar mixture, add:
1/2 c. dark molasses
grated zest and juice of one orange
grated zest and juice of one lemon
Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

When this has been fully incorporated, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with 3/4 c. of brandy in 2 parts, mixing well (on low speed) after each addition. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a couple of times so all of the flour stuff gets fully incorporated.
So: 1 c. flour mixture, mixmixmixmixmixmix, 1/2 of the brandy, mixmixmixmixmix, 1 c. of flour mixture, etc.

Now mix in the macerated fruits, and 2 c. of coarsely chopped almonds and/or hazelnuts. (I suppose, if you really felt it was necessary, you could use walnuts.*)

Divide the batter between the 8 pans (you can make this into one giant cake in a tube pan, but I like to give them as gifts, and they really serve better if you can cut up one loaf and leave the rest wrapped up until you want/need it).

Bake for 2 1/2 hours. At 1 1/4 hours rotate the pans so the ones on an upper rack get traded for the ones on a lower rack. (The JoC recipe says to bake for 3.5 hours, and to disregard the fact that the cakes look quite thoroughly done an hour earlier, but I have found these to come out a bit dry and crumbly, so I have shortened the baking time.)

Leave cakes in the pans to cool on a rack for at least an hour. At this point, if you like your Christmas cake REALLY hammered (who doesn’t?) you can drizzle (slowly) another tablespoon or two of brandy over each one.

To store: Soak a piece of cheesecloth in brandy, squeeze out the excess. Wrap the cake in cheesecloth, and then put into a sturdy freezer plastic bag. If you wrap the cake in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, you can actually age the cake up to a month. If I do this, about once a week I remove the cheesecloth and soak in a little more brandy just to keep the cake moist and discourage any molding. I’ve done this year after year, and the cake has NEVER gone bad.

Here’s how it all looked before I put them in the oven:

You know you're a good cook if your counter is really messy. And my apologies for the beat-up looking cantaloup in the background. And not sure why I got the eggs out. There are no eggs in the recipe.

You know you’re a good cook if your counter is really messy. And my apologies for the beat-up looking cantaloup in the background. And not sure why I got the eggs out. There are no eggs in the recipe.

I wish you could smell how good my house smells right now. Yum.

Yesterday I made candied citrus peel:

candiedcitruspeel

(If you click on the picture it should link to where I got the recipe.)

Okay. Enough procrastinating. Must go practice now. (I will not knit. I will not knit. I will not knit.)

p.s. Is anybody else having trouble with the updated WordPress platform? I have never had so much trouble inserting pictures and having them go into the post where I want them and not having my links disappear. Grrr. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, y’know?

*Adapted meaning brandy has been added beyond that which has been called for, and that I have omitted things I cannot abide: dates (taste like boogers), walnuts (taste like dirt), candied fruits of any sort (taste like candle wax). Don’t ask me how I know these things, I just do.

29
Nov
12

Wildly Low-cost Solution to Clearing Afghan Landmines

Wildly Low-cost Solution to Clearing Afghan Landmines.

Found this on “Quieter Elephant.” (One of my favorite Canadians, which isn’t a worthless distinction, given that I’m married to one.)

Beauty born of necessity. Just hoping it gets done, and that it works.

In a almost-but-maybe-not-quite-related story, we watched Blood Diamond last night. A little Spielbergian-sanctimonious at times, but it really changes the way you think about that particular gemstone. Was wondering if it would help anyone in Africa if I took the tiny diamonds out of my ears.

 

22
Nov
12

cliché thanksgiving thanks

Oldest Son tells me that calling your mom on Mother’s Day to tell her thank you and that you love her is pathetic. That you should thank your mom and tell her you love her just because.

I agree, but I still like it when he calls me on Mother’s Day.

Giving thanks on Thanksgiving is also kind of pathetic — every day should be greeted with thankfulness. As I used to tell my dad when he would complain about getting old:  it beats the alternative.

So in yoga we thank our feet for carrying us through our days, and we thank our hamstrings (Hello, hamstrings!) and our aching backs and our hands for what they carry, and our hearts, for what they carry too.

And when we clean our floors we try to remember to thank the floors and the walls and the roof for keeping us from having to live in the dirt, in the rain.

And when we burn the pumpkin soup (just a little), we try to be thankful for all of the delicious ingredients in that pumpkin soup, and that we have good Calphalon pans so we know they’ll get clean again.

And when our children tease and spar and take 45 minutes to do the dishes we are thankful for their health and spirit, and that they are doing the dishes.

On the day after Thanksgiving 7 years ago I drove with my family to my brother’s for an extended family meal, not having yet told our children that their father and I were going to be divorcing.

Six years ago I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my children and my almost-ex-husband in some kind of weird (pathetic?) attempt to manufacture for my children some weird version of family, which felt to me more like a completely phony and unsatisfying version of “family”; and a few hours after they left I was curled up on the bed in a fetal position, mourning all of the mistakes I had made and how, despite my best efforts, I did not have the relationship I wanted with my children, much less with myself.

So now what am I thankful for?

Well, that the dark days are over.

That we’ve crossed over to the other side.

That everyone’s fine.

That my back hurts, again, but seems to be getting better, and in a little more than a week we’ll have a new hot tub on our back deck (thanks, mom), and that will hopefully help my back problems, and Husband’s knee problems, besides being a wonderful addition to a life that’s being fully and gratefully lived.

For a life that’s being fully and gratefully lived.

For the physical, mental, intellectual, and emotional health of my friends and family.

For jobs that support us, working for and with people who respect our contributions, for food and shelter and kindness.

For a marriage with a man who is thoughtful, and sensitive, and supportive, and who likes, and loves, me as I do him.

He’s going to be embarrassed that I wrote this. But he is the thing I am most grateful for. And, for whatever weird (pathetic?) reason, I want you all to know.

I have it all.

I am the luckiest person I know.

Thank you.

 

15
Nov
12

today’s pinterest

Ok, first, can I just tell you how HONORED I am to be a member of this exclusive club. (gush)

And secondly, so sorry I haven’t had time to visit in a while.

Seriously? Who has the time?

This is kind of “cool.”

Now we’re talkin’.

 

Nobody NEEDS a hammock bed.
This is just the sort of thing that makes me feel more than a little shallow.
I’m going to copy down that recipe for Asian noodles and then I’m leaving. So there.

13
Nov
12

there but for the grace of music lessons go

Only Daughter had her first “orchestra concert” tonight. She actually asked me not to go. She took some violin lessons as younger youngster, and feels that the exertions of the 6th grade ensemble are, in a way, beneath her.

I went anyway.

(As a pointed aside, they’re not. Beneath her, that is. She had 5 teachers in 4 years because they kept moving away or graduating from college or taking so many out-of-town gigs she would have one lesson a month so she learned 1/4 what she should have, and absolutely nothing about how to read music much less how to understand what she was hearing.)

The orchestra did a fine job, all things considered. It was noted that there were approximately 75 musicians “on stage” and approximately 65 versions of any given note at any given time, but what’s a person to do?

One of the directors stood up at the end to thank all of the parents for going that extra mile (really? it’s “extra” now? shouldn’t it just be part of what everyone should be expected to do if they want to be a living, breathing, feeling member of the universe?) to support their children’s efforts to learn to play a musical instrument.

Okay, fine. Thanks are good. I’m fine. Really, I am.

Then he talks about the benefits — to the brain, to the person, to society, to the importance of students learning to communicate that which cannot be said in words; I start to think, okay, so he’s not a total doofus. But no, I “forgave” him too soon.

Wait for it. . .

“Maybe if more children learn to be thinking, feeling members of society, fewer of them would be flying airplanes into buildings.”

Oh. I had no idea. If only the terrorists had had music lessons.

=

 

Idiot.

 

05
Nov
12

But it’s not just that one thing

“I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Romney because of his economic policies (tenuous and ill-formed as they are), and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, ‘My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit an ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country, your healthcare, your right to inherit, the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and your very personhood.’”

It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you “disagree” with your candidate on these issues.”

from Dough Wright, found on “Raising My Rainbow

31
Oct
12

You’ll like it whether you like it or not

A facebook friend apparently clicked “Like” on this picture today, and since I can’t seem to convince all of my fb friends to change their settings to “Friends Only” on all of their posts and comments, it showed up on my fb wall.

This poor young man. What a truly awful thing. I feel such sadness and regret for him, and fear that his father died fighting “for our country” in a situation in which maybe we didn’t belong in the first place.

I would like very much to show my sympathy for this young man, and respect for his father.

But do I need to be bullied into it?

First of all, I find the practice of “Liking” posts or pictures of sad, tragic, horrible things somewhat oxymoronic, if not simply moronic.

And then there’s the last sentence.

Keep scrolling to say I don’t care.

Seriously? Those are my only options?

 

31
Oct
12

Babysitting 101

Yesterday I received an email from my department chair informing me (among others) that I had not completed the participation confirmation for my students. (Is that ironic?) These are college students, mind you, college students, and this would be not the first time, but the second time this semester I had to log in to our faculty center and click into each course number that I teach and then click on little boxes next to the student’s name confirming that they were coming to class and participating fully.

Today Only Daughter brought me her social studies test and told me I needed to sign it, even though she had a perfect score.

Any chance these two things are related?

Now I understand, first of all, that she’s in 6th grade, and secondly, that teachers want to know that parents are paying attention, and thirdly, that parents of students who might not be performing as well on tests might be needing to pay more attention to whether homework is getting done, whether the child is studying for tests, etc.

But would it be too much to ask that teachers encourage students who are doing well by showing their trust, and allowing the students the opportunity to be independent and self-disciplined without the constant checks? Last year I had to initial her planner EVERY SINGLE DAY, whether there was something written on that day or not. Is this how we teach independence and self-discipline?

As a teacher myself, with students of all ages from kindergarten to college, the biggest problem I see is that students aren’t invested enough in their own learning. Some of them do the work so as to be able to say they “did the work,” by which they mean “put in the time,” without any attention to whether anything has been learned or accomplished.

Is this really what we want to encourage?

With a couple of students this week I used an example from earlier years, when I would have First or Second Son sweep the floor. They would sweep, the floor would still be dirty, I would tell them “I thought I asked you to sweep the floor” and they would reply, “I did.” I would then have to point out that the purpose of the exercise was not the act (of waving the broom around over the floor) but the result (the floor is now clean).

Second Son is a natural musician. He played percussion in the marching band in middle school, and could ace every test. His best grade, though, was never higher than a low B, because he didn’t practice. I understand that teachers want students to practice, but presumably this is so that they can master their part. I also think that students who practice and who are less naturally skilled should get some boost to their grade if they perform less than perfectly on their playing tests. But if the student can already perform the assigned skills perfectly, why are we requiring that they practice more? Should the teacher maybe at least make the extra effort to give them something that presented a challenge so that the “practicing” wasn’t just a matter of “putting in the time”? What kind of lesson are we really teaching here?

As a piano teacher I never tell a student how long they must practice every day. I do, however, give them clear guidelines in what and how they should be practicing, and an estimate of approximately how long that should take. I then compare what they have accomplished that week with how much time they claim they practiced, and make adjustments. If they are learning everything in less time, I give them more to work on, or make things more difficult. If they are practicing a LOT and not accomplishing much, we either talk about what their practicing looks like to make sure it’s productive time, or I give them less or things that are less difficult.

The point, always, is what we want to accomplish.

I can’t help but wonder if more college-age students would be more self directed and successful if they grew up with people who cared about and were invested in their success, but only watched over their shoulders when there was a real need. I can’t think of anything that encourages independence more than telling a child that you believe they can do it, and then stepping back and letting them.

Maybe it’s just me.

 

22
Oct
12

New Year’s Resolutions, in October

Heard a little bit of discussion on the Diane Rehm show this morning by various pollsters, including how unreliable the answers to the “Do you intend to vote?” question are. One of the pollsters compared it to how committed people are on January 5 or so to carry out their New Year’s Resolution.

Some of you may have figured out, especially if you read the comments/discussions that ensue sometimes, that I broke a bone in my foot around 8 weeks ago. I would like to say it was a result of something heroic and/or exciting, like tripping over the lead runner in the Chicago Marathon, but actually I just stubbed my toe on the foot of my bed, in broad daylight. Now I’m not all that graceful, and am often doing three things at once while thinking about at least two other, completely unrelated, things, so these kinds of pratfalls are not all that unusual. I even laid on the bed, whimpering softly, for about 10 minutes before I limped out to the kitchen to tell Husband what I had done. Not that I wasn’t expecting sympathy, but these occurrences are quite frequent, and I didn’t want to push my luck. When the throbbing was getting worse rather than better, though, I thought maybe a little sympathy, and, oh, maybe an ice pack was in order.

The stupid thing was that two weeks more passed before I had it X-rayed, including a weekend when we were power washing the deck and house and I walked right off the edge of the deck while looking up at the soffit I was washing. (I don’t know how to spell soffit. I think that’s right, but wordpress is giving me grief. Anyway.)(And the deck is only ~ 3 feet off the ground, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.) Of course I was barefoot, because my toe hurt too badly to wear shoes, and of course I landed on the broken foot, so I’m sure that didn’t help either. So yes, I broke a bone in my foot. The tip of what I’m calling the 3rd toe bone — I’m sure there’s a more technical term, and I’m also quite sure the doctor employed the technical term at my appointment after my X-ray, but I don’t remember it.

It’s this one:

Which means that my foot hurts more than my toe hurts (although the toe looks like someone else’s, like a little sausage, and doesn’t match the other toes), and it has taken a ridiculously long time to heal. I wore an actual shoe on Saturday for the first time in 6 weeks (we won’t talk about the two weeks I was wearing shoes when I shouldn’t have been. What can I say? I’m an optimist.) I managed to walk ~ a mile with Husband each day over the weekend, and my foot is tight and sore afterwards, but at least I’m off my butt, finally. I did have a yoga Groupon which has now expired, and my plans to restart the couch-potato-to-5K thing has been a bust, but maybe I can start next week. . .

I also have started a new juicing plan. I’m hypothyroid, and, while I take Armour thyroid, it often feels like the only result of thyroid medication is that my blood tests show a normal TSH level; I still feel half asleep most of the time, and am always always cold (my temperature the other morning was 96˚). A side effect of hypothyroidism is slow metabolism (it just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?), and I have heard that drinking fruit and vegetable juices as meal replacements a few times a week helps give your digestive system a break and this is supposed to help fire it up, somehow.

So three days a week I’m drinking home-juiced carrot, carrot-apple, carrot-beet, carrot-cucumber-wheatgrass, apple-pineapple-ginger, cherry-pomegranate, etc. juice instead of eating breakfast and lunch. On the days I do so I still have a healthy dinner (although the temptation sometimes is to eat more for dinner than I would otherwise, because, hey, I haven’t eaten all day so I deserve it, right?). I tend to lose ~ .5 of a lb on juicing days and then gain .25-.4 of a lb on non-juicing days, so I’m not really seeing this as an effective diet strategy. Also, on the next mornings, the whites of my eyeballs seem orange. They’re probably not really orange, but they seem orange.

Oh, and I’ve stopped shampooing my hair. =:-O

I have read, on more than one occasion, how bad it is for hair to shampoo it — I mean, think about it! We wash it with this stuff full of chemicals, most of which have been demonstrated to cause cancer in rats (rats with particularly clean hair, but still) and which removes all of the healthy oils and nutrients from our scalp, and then instantly put goop called “conditioner” on it to undo the damage we just caused.

I did “wash” my hair this morning with baking soda paste and then “conditioned” it with some apple cider vinegar. Of course, I thoroughly rinsed the baking soda out first, as I was not 7 and trying to make a “volcano” in my shower. I think I might smell like a pickle, but my hair looks fantastic. (And isn’t the henna-ing still looking nice? I keep thinking maybe I should stop bothering, since I have to re-apply the green mud every month or so to cover my roots, but then I see a picture like this and think, “Fine. I’ll keep doing it.”)

If you haven’t noticed, I’m deliberately avoiding any discussion of the presidential election.

I am also trying really hard to avoid eating the cold sesame noodles in the fridge. Carrot and beet juice just doesn’t have the same zing.

Oh, and speaking of hair this is what we did over the weekend:

Despite my concerns, it seems to have turned out fine, I have earned “hundreds” (I think it should be thousands) of “Mom coolness points,” and she did not get sent home from school.

So there’s that, then.

17
Oct
12

speaking of keeping your eye on the light

Heard Salman Rushdie on NPR’s “The Story” for the few minutes I was in the car tonight. (Yes, I renewed my membership. Yes I asked for the Thank You gift. Yes, I donated $10 more than I planned to alleviate my guilt. Yes, I was raised Catholic. Any more questions?)

Anyway, he was talking about how he really felt a sense of accomplishment in keeping his ability to write books in a way that would not reveal the circumstances in which he was living. To paraphrase*:

I didn’t want to think about the fact that I was living in a small, afraid little world, in which case I would write these small afraid little books; and I didn’t want to think about being bitter or angry because then that would come through and those books would be miserable too. I really pride myself on the fact that someone who didn’t know the circumstances of my life from 1989 to 1998 could pick up any of the books on a shelf that were written by me in that time frame and still would not know that I was living under a fatwa.

What an inspiring example of the triumph of the human spirit and of mind over matter.

You can listen here. I’d listen and actually quote, but it’s past my bedtime.

 

 
*I am paraphrasing. I can’t find a transcript. I apologize if I don’t have it exactly right.

16
Oct
12

this morning’s sunrise

Caught a glimpse of this out my back window as the sun rose this morning, so rushed out in bare feet and pj’s (it was a crisp 32˚) to snap a picture.

Reminds me of life — darkness and light, sometimes at the same time. Always trying to keep my eye on the light.

 

In a not-really-related story, decided to impose my own fairness on the debate tonight by, when the speaker’s time was up but they continued to talk, going “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah. . ” as loud as I could. It really helped.

Have a happy day!

🙂

 

12
Oct
12

do you hear what I hear?

Paul Ryan, in last night’s vice-presidential debate, framed his anti-abortion argument thusly: “According to my religious beliefs, I believe that. . .”

Well, it doesn’t really matter what he says next.

I was actually thinking the other day about how we all kind of impose our own filters on what we hear and read. It used to be that you subscribed to one or two newspapers or news magazines, and you probably would have read at least a little bit into articles on many topics, including some written by people who had a different opinion or belief system than you did.

Now we unfriend people on facebook if their pages become too political or too personal or if they disagree with us on our walls, and we read numerous blogs written by people who think like us. And I’ve been wondering if any of us really listen to people who have different opinions, and also if any of us can even frame an argument in a way that is convincing, articulate, and not defensive.

My argument against Ryan’s is this: It doesn’t matter what your religious beliefs are. 1. You’re running for office in a country that was presumably founded on a basic principle of religion and government functioning completely independently from each other. 2. Your religious beliefs are not necessarily mine, which means you don’t get to impose the conclusions you come to based on them onto me or anyone else.

I was nauseated by his smirking facial expressions, much as I was by Romney’s last week. A friend of mine commented on facebook that she thought that Joe Biden was condescending. So, at the risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw, I can’t help but wonder — do we only see and hear what we want to see and hear?

 

 

08
Oct
12

I’m Not a Mother First, Updated

Tried to re-blog this through the original post, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

Excellent blog post here commenting on an article from The Nation by Jessica Valenti regarding the rhetoric of motherhood here. Some really interesting comments and discussion.Reminds me a little of this post I wrote a while ago.

My favorite bit of the article: “Fathers are never expected to subsume their identity into parenthood the way that mothers are. If President Obama were to tell us that he is ’father-in-chief’ first, America would balk. How could a man be an effective president if he put the needs of his children above the needs of his country?

Yes, we are mothers and sisters and daughters and wives. We’re also much more. And declaring our individual importance as people and citizens does not diminish the depth of love we have for our children or the central role parenthood plays in our lives.

When we tout ourselves mothers first, women give those who would enshrine their dehumanization more firepower and assure that their domestic work will only ever be paid in thanks, not in policy or power. Until that changes, I’m a mother second.”

What do YOU think?

04
Oct
12

ah, autumn

Drove home this afternoon through a gentle “rain” of golden leaves. The whole world seemed to gleam with them.

Wanted to stop and stand in the middle of the street. It was a busy street, and I had 25# of carrots to buy (don’t ask), and, well, it was a busy street, so I didn’t.

This made me kind of sad, how living sometimes gets in the way of enjoying those moments. I have a friend who is a pretty fantastic photographer who takes his (really really nice and not all that small) camera with him everywhere, and is often posting photos he took of the fog catching in the branches of the tree across from his house or the snow drifting across his back field and I always think “Wow, these are beautiful” and “Doesn’t he have to get to work on time?”

Alas.

It did remind me of a poem I wrote for my BFF J____ once a really long time ago. It’s a bit juvenile, I think, and I remember I was experimenting with a kind of chanting rhythm, and the first part is kind of confusing regarding “who” I’m actually talking to “when,” so I’ll just put in the last bit:

. . .I want to stand arms lifted
in fall’s golden shimmering shower
face and eyes and hands and breath in
fiery splendid autumn air. . .

Maybe I’ll drive down there tomorrow, when the streets are less busy, and stand in the middle of the road with my nice-but-not-that-fancy camera and my broken foot in my delightful little “boot,” and take some pictures.

Maybe.

28
Sep
12

a journal of an event too long to chronicle, with none of the dates right except this one

this will be way too long to be a poem, probably
can’t be bothered with the pentameter or the rhyme

five years ago
or so
on my way to see mom after her second cancer surgery
wearing green pants and red sneakers
only daughter asked
you’re not wearing those shoes with those pants are you?

be careful what you wish for
(a girl in my house,
someone to tell me
if my shoes went
with my outfit)

not what they thought it
was
but a “glio”
and then
bc#2

and mascara on husband’s pants
from crying with my head on his lap
(he said he didn’t mind)
(I believed him)

then
DVTs and oxygen

today restacking the long shelf of music
unbending the scores to stand them up against the
shelf above
reminding me of shifting mom in her bed,
nurses at corners counting one two three
while I “mind the feet”

crying in the tub as the water climbs

I am her
her disappointments and her defensiveness and the fact
that what I say is rarely what the world hears
and my attempts to order the world
just
so
without ever ending up really knowing
how I feel
about anything

****

 

just found this in my drafts box

from May 22, so not even the date is right

am not going to edit it, so here it is, in its raw form

25
Sep
12

waiting for mom to die

Husband and I were on our way to a lakefront cottage for a week*. We had rented it the year before, and peopled it with family and friends until we were literally bursting at the seams. We took turns cooking, and drank margaritas and copious amounts of wine, and had a fabulous time. But this year it was just the two of us, a conscious decision that we would alternate this week on a yearly basis, one year with as many people as we could squeeze in, the other just the two of us.

Saturday, our first day, was also the first day of a three-day gig for me at a nearby music camp, accompanying for an international brass competition. Husband loitered in the parking lot while I rehearsed, and then we headed the rest of the way at around 5 p.m. We stopped and shopped on the way, filling our cart with food we would both enjoy, and that we would enjoy even more because it wouldn’t be accompanied by the groans of picky children complaining about our choices: arugula, lots of seafood, sharp cheeses, local berries and corn and tomatoes; lots of good wine, loaves of sourdough. We tucked the grocery bags around and between the duffels and pillows and bedding and board games in the back of my Prius.

The first few days of the trip were quite cool and cloudy, but the sky would always clear faithfully right at sunset, so I ended up taking dozens of pictures as the view changed dramatically (well, it seemed so at the time) every few seconds. On the second night, Sunday, the clouds and water seemed to be competing to see which could display the most and most varied shades of purple, and one bird in particular seemed to be posing for his portrait by zipping back and forth in front of my camera and across the gleaming path laid down by the sun across the water.

On Monday morning, very early, the taptaptap of the coming rain woke us, and Husband dashed out to the deck, naked, to rescue chair cushions and towels. Monday night we made a fire in the hanging fireplace, using wood we had bought for $3/bin from a stand alongside the road. While we were loading the wood into the back of the car the neighbor’s mutt had dashed across the road to greet us, sniffing at our ankles and then the car door. I thought he might get in the car and go off with us, but his owner called him back, and he trotted across the road, no one seemingly concerned about the possibility of any oncoming traffic (there wasn’t any). We then drove to the nearest town, buying food at an excellent Mexican restaurant and beer at the Mexican grocery to bring “home” to eat. At the grocery the owner’s two children played in the store window, their black eyes shining as the younger one peeked out from the cardboard cutout he was hiding behind.

Tuesday was to be our first full day at the beach, as the brass competition had kept me traveling back and forth the previous three days. Monday night Husband had asked me about my “ambitions” for Tuesday, so I had listed them: sleep until I woke up, drink lots of coffee with breakfast, read on the beach, take a nap, swim if it were warm enough, a long walk on the beach before dinner, a good meal and a good bottle of wine with dinner, and then losing at Scrabble by the fireplace after sunset (I only win Scrabble in Pisa). I had managed the first two things, and had just settled down in my beach chair with “Ulysses” (I’m trying, but am mostly just puzzled), when Husband appeared at the bottom of the stairs with my phone in his hand and a concerned look on his face. One of my sisters had called the landline at the cottage, and told him to have me check my voicemail.

It was my oldest sister telling me that mom had taken a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse, was in what the medical professionals called a stage of terminal restlessness, and was about to be sedated. The goal was for her to sleep, and, once sedated, it was doubtful that she would ever wake up. If we wanted even the possibility of one more conversation, or at least her awareness of our presence, we needed to come. Now.

The most recent development had been five days earlier, when, out of frustration with continuing digestive problems, mom had informed this same sister that she wasn’t going to eat anymore. We all figured that, once she had taken a day or two off from eating, her digestive system would “calm down” and she would resume eating at least jello and broth and the other few things that hadn’t been aggravating her stomach.

But all of these problems were actually a result of the fact that she had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma over five years ago, a couple of years after having one mastectomy, and a couple of years before having another. (These two cancers, the brain tumor and the breast cancers, were completely unrelated.) In hindsight, the digestive problems were probably a sign of her system shutting down.

She had outlived the prognosis for people with glioblastomas by around four years. She had long exceeded the protocol for chemo, and had discontinued it more than year earlier, merely because it wasn’t known what being on that type of chemo for that long would ultimately do to/for her. When the brain cancer began to show progression again she resumed the regimen that had been previously effective, but was immediately so tired and felt so generally unwell that she decided it wasn’t worth it and discontinued it shortly thereafter.

(It would seem that, with all of this history, this call wouldn’t have been a surprise. But it was. As one of my sisters put it at one point, we had been sprinting a marathon since May, with no view of where or idea of when we would reach the finish line.)

We decided to drive up, about 100 miles from where we were, so we filled up a water bottle and threw a couple of peaches and a can of almonds into a bag, and headed out. It seemed that our drive was destined to be thwarted by “life is a journey” drivers, and people turning left against a lot of traffic. What we calculated would take an hour and forty minutes or so took well over two, and mom was deeply asleep by the time we arrived.

I sat by her side in her hospice room for over three hours as friends came and went, giving quick hugs and kisses on a cheek or forehead, and ducking quickly out blinking away tears and patting us sympathetically on our shoulders. When we would tell mom that someone had arrived she would move one foot, which we took to mean that she heard and understood, although nobody could tell us for sure. When I was alone with her I sat, wishing I was one of those people who just knew what to say, convinced that she could hear us and would want us to talk to her and around her, but not knowing what to say. When I did speak, I would look at her feet. Neither moved.

When we left that night we drove to a nearby newly-opened, highly-acclaimed restaurant, and Husband and I ate a delicious meal — baked sunflower served on a tomato puree and topped with goat cheese and puff pastry, broccoli raab with lemon, caramelized scallops on creamy polenta with eggplant and tomato chutney, grouper on parmesan risotto so creamy and cheesy I’ve sworn off “healthful” risotto for the rest of my life as a waste if not a betrayal to the spirit of risotto itself. We accompanied the meal with a Sonoma Valley Chardonnay and finished with dark chocolate cake over a raspberry reduction. I felt this topped off the surreality of the day, and we toasted my mom and her life while I savored every bite and felt pathologically guilty for doing so (the story of my life; I’m nothing if not conflicted).

The expectation was that, once sedated, my mom would probably continue in this sleeping state for anywhere from a couple of days to a week or more. Our plan was to drive back to our cottage, spend Wednesday there, and return to her hospice room on Thursday.

I sat on the steps leading down to the water that night and listened to the endless ssssswwsssshh of the water against the shore. The moon was markedly absent, so the stars shone in stark relief against the night sky, and a plane at one point flew directly across the Big Dipper.

Wednesday was a beautiful day. We felt like we were stealing it. We slept in, puttered around, walked a good ways along the beach, picked up a plastic bag full of dead balloons and ribbon and plastic water bottles and other detritus on the way back; then I sat in “my” chair and watched the water. I checked my phone every ten minutes. We cooked a delicious meal, and had just settled in to a game of Scrabble when my sister called. Mom’s breathing had changed markedly a couple of hours before, and became slower and slower, until they — two of my sisters and my youngest brother — realized that it had stopped.

Mom had died.

We actually had gone through many weeks in May quite sure it was just around the corner as she recovered from a brain bleed after she fell in her apartment. It had been discovered early in May that she actually had two large blood clots: one in her leg from ankle to thigh, which had caused severe swelling and pain, and one in the airway between her lungs. We had rallied, and set up a schedule to have someone staying with her until she became more steady on her feet as she started a regimen of blood thinners and breathed oxygen from a portable tank. Blood clots, or what is technically referred to as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVTs), are common side effects of some cancers, as apparently the presence of certain cancers in the body alter the chemistry of the blood and make it more likely to clot. She was moved into hospice after the brain bleed and resulting paralysis on her left side left her unable to get up by herself and required the use of a catheter. Early in August she had regained strength and mobility, was able to walk with a walker, was deemed a hospice “failure,” and moved to an assisted living facility. This move was short-lived, and her return to hospice had just been completed on Monday.

And on Wednesday she died.

We drove back up on Thursday and stocked coolers for visitors and went through dozens of her photo albums to assemble a collage of pictures of her and her friends and family and travels. Back to the cottage Thursday night, up for the visitation and funeral on Saturday and Sunday. The services were evangelical, and disappointing to me as they seemed to focus on the pastor’s vision of what awaited her after her death, (a vision I don’t necessarily share, and certainly without all of his certainty,) rather than a celebration of her life and family. Maybe it’s just me, and my state of mind at the time, and my fate as the sixth of eight children, and my pervasive sense for most of my life that the afterlife mattered more to my mom than I did. I know there were conversations I had wanted to have with her, but chose not to, realizing that they would only try to serve what I needed, probably fail, and probably make things worse between us than they already were. I’m sure this is not only my story, but that of many. I also know there were conversations she had with my sisters about these very things, but she never had them with me.

I know she did her best; we all do. Knowing this, I am still sad that I will always feel that her best left me feeling that something was lacking. I worry that my children will feel the same.

At the burial we released balloons into a gorgeous blue sky, and I remembered all of the balloons we had picked up along the beach.

We drove back to our cottage the day after the funeral, Only Daughter in tow. The owner of the cottage had graciously offered to extend our stay for a few days, as our week had ended up so fragmented and difficult. We drove more than a thousand miles that week, and hadn’t spent more than 36 hours in any one place. We were very grateful.

We spent Monday afternoon, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning at the beach. It was warmer, and lovely, and surreal. Only Daughter practiced her balance beam routine on the deck’s benches; the water warmed enough for us to swim; the sunsets were beautiful.

On Wednesday morning, our last day there, we took one more long walk on the beach. A short way into the walk we encountered a gull, apparently sleeping, but as we neared he turned his head weakly towards us, and then tried to drag himself sideways away from us with a wing. He was clearly severely injured, and we know enough about seagulls to know not to try to get close to help. We walked our “usual” long path, and watched for him upon our return. He was still there, caught in the edges of the tide, waiting to die.

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*This all happened in mid-August. I have just found time, and the frame of mind, to write it now.

18
Sep
12

time, and truth; from “Aubade,” by W. A. Auden

. . .But Time, the domain of Deeds,
calls for a complex Grammar
with many Moods and Tenses,
and prime the Imperative.
We are free to choose our paths
but choose We must, no matter
where they lead, and the tales We
tell of the Past must be true. . .

17
Sep
12

yes, they should

“When I look at nature — the way a sea gull spreads its wings wide as it hovers just above a meal, the way the tide rushes in, bringing shell sparkles and lost treasures, the way the sun rises every morning even when it is cloudy, the way a tree stands proud even when it is wounded, its roots deeper than the trials it endures — I see truth, a truth where there is no need for anxiety because things are as they should be. People should stand strong and say what they really feel, not what they think others want to hear. They should flow with their emotions, like the tide, whether they be happy or sad. They should rise bright with possibility into every day and hover gently near what they want instead of aggressively taking [it].”
~Alexandra Heather
“Surviving the Pain at the Roots,” NYTimes, Sunday, September 16, 2012

07
Sep
12

After Twelve Days of Rain, Reprieve

I posted a link to this once, to RedamancyLit’s page, but I don’t know how many of you actually follow those links, especially when all I write is something like “Exactly this.” or “Yes.”

I have read it over and over, and have a little frisson every single time, so decided it was worth posting again, this time in its entirety.

After Twelve Days of Rain

I couldn’t name it, the sweet
sadness welling up in me for weeks.
So I cleaned, found myself standing
in a room with a rag in my hand,
the birds calling time-to-go, time-to-go.
And like an old woman near the end
of her life I could hear it, the voice
of a man I never loved who pressed
my breasts to his lips and whispered
“My little doves, my white, white lilies.”
I could almost cry when I remember it.
I don’t remember when I began
to call everyone “sweetie,”
as if they were my daughters,
my darlings, my little birds.
I have always loved too much,
or not enough. Last night
I read a poem about God and almost
believed it–God sipping coffee,
smoking cherry tobacco. I’ve arrived
at a time in my life when I could believe
almost anything.
Today, pumping gas into my old car, I stood
hatless in the rain and the whole world
went silent–cars on the wet street
sliding past without sound, the attendant’s
mouth opening and closing on air
as he walked from pump to pump, his footsteps
erased in the rain–nothing
but the tiny numbers in their square windows
rolling by my shoulder, the unstoppable seconds
gliding by as I stood at the Chevron,
balanced evenly on my two feet, a gas nozzle
gripped in my hand, my hair gathering rain.
And I saw it didn’t matter
who had loved me or who I had loved. I was alone.
The black oily asphalt, the slick beauty
of the Iranian attendant, the thickening
clouds–nothing was mine. And I understood
finally, after a semester of philosophy,
a thousand books of poetry, after death
and childbirth and the startled cries of men
who called out my name as they entered me.
I finally believed I was alone, felt it
in my actual, visceral heart, heard it echo
like a thin bell. And the sounds
came back, the slish of tires
and footsteps, all the delicate cargo
they carried saying thank you
and yes. So I paid and climbed into my car
as if nothing had happened–
as if everything mattered–What else could I do?
I drove to the grocery store
and bought wheat bread and milk,
a candy bar wrapped in gold foil,
smiled at the teenaged cashier
with the pimpled face and the plastic
name plate pinned above her small breast,
and knew her secret, her sweet fear.
Little bird. Little darling. She handed me
my change, my brown bag, a torn receipt,
pushed the cash drawer in with her hip
and smiled back.

~Dorianne Laux

My hair gathering rain.

Heard it echo like a thin bell.

All the delicate cargo they carried saying thank you and yes.

As if nothing had happened.

As if everything mattered.

What else could I do?

All of it. Exactly this. Yes.

rainy-night_2406.gif

23
Aug
12

good reminder.

All of this. All of it.

good reminder..

12
Jul
12

What one can bear

It seems like a man can just about bear anything. He can even bear what he never done. He can even bear the thinking how some things is just more than he can bear. He can even bear it that if he could just give down and cry, he wouldn’t do it. He can even bear it to not look back, even when he knows that looking back or not looking back won’t do him any good.




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