Archive for the 'Love' 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.

 

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.

 

25
May
15

parenting, marriage, and feminism

First, read this.

How American parenting is killing the American marriage.

And then go and join this page.

And think about these things:

1.  Your children won’t like to hear it (I know Only Daughter didn’t), but your marriage SHOULD be the most important relationship you have. Your children will (hopefully) go off someday and have one of their own. In which case, you are left with this person you have ignored for the previous 20-30 years, and shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t have anything to talk about.

2.  If your whole life revolves around them YOU’RE not getting any adult satisfaction

and your children are growing up thinking that the world revolves around them. And that’s not good for anybody.

For example, there is a lot of pressure on parents to go to EVERY sports event in which their child participates. If the parent has to work, the other parents may even make snarky comments such as “I don’t know what x’s father is thinking” or “I can’t believe y’s mother never comes to these things.” (I actually overheard this at one of the few of First Son’s soccer games I was able to attend.) But, in fact, it’s better for the children if the parents stay home. You can express your interest by asking about the game over THE DINNER THAT YOU EAT TOGETHER, but leave the coaching to the coach, and the cheering to the teammates, and let your child have ownership of something that doesn’t have anything to do with you.

They actually prefer it that way.

3. Children need to do things for themselves, fail, try again, maybe even fail again. They need to do their own homework and their own science projects and face the consequences if they don’t (staying in from recess to finish a homework assignment or getting a bad grade gets the message across a lot more loudly than mom standing over his shoulder at the dinner table yelling at him); and clean their own rooms (and live in their own filth if they don’t) and put their own cream cheese on their own bagels. Nobody gets better at putting their cream cheese on their bagel if somebody else is always doing it for them.  Yes, you could do it better, and neater, and faster. But that’s only because you got lots of practice. (Am I right?) If your child is washing dishes and they’re not clean, position yourself as rinser, and silently hand them back to her to wash again. Hire your child to clean the whole house (not his or her room; that should be automatically their responsibility); if it’s not very clean, don’t pay him very much. He’ll figure it out. (I did this with First Son; he actually sent me a text a few years ago thanking me for “teaching him how to clean.” I never really taught him anything, except that it wasn’t the act of cleaning that counted, but the result.) If they’re not very good at something, have them do it more; it’s clear they need lots of practice.

I teach at a summer arts/music camp, and there are always a few campers whose parents come and hoverhoverhoverhoverhoverhoverhover. These campers don’t usually do very well, and often leave before the end of camp. I don’t think it’s because the campers weren’t ready for camp, but because their parents weren’t.

helicopter-parents 4

This isn’t helping. Maybe there should be a camp for parents, called Hawaii. Or A Life.

If you don’t let children fail, they will learn that “failing” is too awful to contemplate, and probably something they can’t recover from. If you hover around them, you’re telling them that you don’t think they can succeed, and their failure is too awful to contemplate. If you let them fail, and give them encouragement to try again and maybe just a wee bit of guidance or advice to help them succeed (but only if they want it, and only a wee bit), they learn about tenacity and optimism and hope. It seems pretty obvious which of these two we want our children to be learning.

4. Most (not all, but most) of the women I know, myself included, made professional sacrifices in the name of “raising their own children.” Most of these same women are still working part-time, in less challenging/suitable/interesting jobs than they could do, and make significantly less money than their husbands do. And all of you women out there in your 20s and early 30s reading this, and nodding, and thinking, well, yes, of course, but that’s a) not going to happen to me, or b) I won’t mind. The thing is, you might mind. I mind. And the effects of those choices may actually impact your professional choices FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. And, in case you haven’t realized this already, YOU CAN’T GO BACK AND HAVE A REDO.

I used to think that feminism meant we all get to choose what we want to do (and be paid the same for it as men), and nobody gets to give us a hard time about it. It’s kind of that, still, I suppose; but I also think we have a responsibility, to ourselves, our spouses, our children, to

  • have work we love
  • make enough money that we could support ourselves if we have to
  • devote as much time cultivating the relationship we have with our spouse as we do cultivating all the others (children, friends)
  • not feel compelled to sacrifice any of the above without asking our (male) significant other to make them of the same magnitude, and
  • STOP FEELING GUILTY

But maybe it’s just me.

 

27
Nov
12

russian novella

russian novella.

 

That’s all.

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.

 

21
Jun
12

We can all, actually, have it all (but who wants it?)

Kristin Howterton posted recently on the underlying tension of gender roles in the pursuit of an egalitarian marriage. You can read it here.

The underlying premise is that, despite our (meaning, mostly women’s) efforts to find equality in both the home and the workplace, many women still feel guilty getting home to see their husbands cooking dinner with a crying toddler on his hip or wonder whether it’s fair to expect that men should PROBABLY contribute to the household chores if their wives are working outside the home.

I know, right?

Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but this kind of thing does not make me feel guilty.

I responded at length, including replies to other commenters.

Most substantially:

I think we all learned the lessons of our childhood, and watching our parents, and have to struggle with these lessons, maybe just a little. But when I read these two sentences:

“When I walk though the door and see him cooking dinner with a crying toddler on this hip, I get a gut check that says, ‘Oh dear. I should be doing that.'”

and

“I think people our age have wised up to the idea that if a woman works, then the husband should probably step it up and help with some of the domestic duties as well.”

I just want to weep.

You think you should be doing that, but he shouldn’t? And the husband should PROBABLY step up? Ugh.

It’s his household as much as yours, his children as much as yours; and even if they’re not “his” children, but, say, maybe even “only” his stepchildren, his marriage to you makes him an equal partner in domestic needs if he wants to be an equal partner in domestic bliss.

I think there are ways people can balance things. I knew a couple once where the mom stayed at home, so the “housework” was her job, but when he was home, the childrearing was shared. That seemed fair. I guess you could do a proportional thing: he works 40 hours per week to her 30 so she does 60% of the housework. I guess you could even divide it proportionally to reflect the amount of money brought in, but I think that’s a terrible idea and think I shouldn’t even suggest it. (The jury will disregard the last statement.) My husband make 50% more money than I do, but my scheduled work time far exceeds his, so he does most of the cooking, laundry, and shopping. I clean when I can get to it. It works for us.

No shoulds, no probablys about it.

Fortuitously, Anne-Marie Slaughter writes in the issue of The Atlantic about “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”

It’s a very good article. It’s long, but worth it. Some of the best stuff is at the end.

Her arguments could be summarized thusly:

Women can have it all, but only if there is a radical paradigm shift, including if men start demanding the right to have it all, too. Meaning that it’s not a sign of unprofessionalism or a lack of commitment for ANYONE to want to take time to take care of their children, their aging/ailing parents, or even, GASP, themselves.

The idea that women who take a different track so as to raise their own children are NOT less ambitious; the realization that one of the biggest challenges is that the hours of a school day continue not to coincide with the hours of a work day (we won’t even talk about the havoc wreaked by snow days and 2-hour delays); the fact that women have to make trade-offs that men do not — these are realizations that can and should trigger real change, change that requires an effort by the majority of us out there, male AND female, or they won’t.

Ms. Slaughter ends with a goal, if not a challenge:

I continually push the young women in my classes to speak more. They must gain the confidence to value their own insights and questions, and to present them readily. My husband agrees, but he actually tries to get the young men in his classes to act more like the women–to speak less and listen more. If women are ever to achieve real equality as leaders, then we have to stop accepting male behavior and male choices as the default and the ideal. We must insist on changing social policies and bending career tracks to accommodate our choices, too. We have the power to do it if we decide to, and we have many men standing besides us.

We’ll create a better society in the process, for all women. We may need to put a woman in the White House before we are able to change the conditions of the women working at Walmart. But when we do, we will stop talking about whether women can have it all. We will properly focus on how we can help all Americans have healthy, happy, productive lives, valuing the people they love as much as the success they seek.

That’s the ticket.

Where do I sign?

18
Jun
12

alone vs. lonely

You can spend a lifetime surrounded by busy-ness and noise and people and feel completely alone.

Husband left yesterday (with the cappuccino machine, which just seems to me to be the Last Straw) and I won’t see him until Friday.

I have so much to do, and I’m busy busy busy doing it, but I know, every minute, that he is 160 miles and 5 days away. Some part of me knows.

Your absence goes through me
like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with is color.

(Merwin, not me. I wish.)

Second Son is in the basement playing his guitar, Only Daughter is at her father’s until tomorrow night, Dexter the Dancing dog is in his “house” for the evening.

I watched Juno and cried, in the usual spot. Can’t find a clip. You’ll have to watch it and see if you can figure out where.

Sigh.

 

09
May
12

Youth, by W. S. Merwin

He always just seems to get it, exactly.

******

Through all of youth I was looking for you
without knowing what I was looking for

or what to call you I think I did not
even know I was looking how would I

have known you when I saw you as I did
time after time when you appeared to me

as you did naked offering yourself
entirely at that moment and you let

me breathe you touch you taste you knowing
no more than I did and only when I

began to think of losing you did I
recognize you when you were already

part memory part distance remaining
mine in the ways that I learn to miss you

from what we cannot hold the stars are made

28
Mar
12

from there to here

The left wing bowed graciously,
after the plane caught its pocket of air
and nonchalantly dropped the LaGuardia runway into its wake
(an hour and a half behind schedule,
not that anyone’s counting,)
and New York City gleamed as if gilded in gold,
the Avenues wearing their red and white stripes
of cars going this way,
and that way;
Central Park all darkness,
the pedicabs and ice skaters long gone home.

The stewardess fills up my water glass
for the fourth time, then sneaks me a bottle of merlot
minutes after turbulence shakes us all like
dice in a Yahtzee cup.

I am 38 minutes away from you,
that “you the singer sings to,*”
according to The Flight Deck,
and despite that promise I make to myself
time and time again,
You know–that promise
not to wish my life away;
It cannot pass quickly enough.

There. It’s 36  minutes now.
Not that anyone’s counting.

 

*Ani DiFranco

12
Mar
12

gusts

the car dances awkwardly with the wind
ducking and grunting and protecting its head
at tops of hills
as I eye the fallen pines on either
side of the road
wreckage from last week’s snow storm

somebody said to me, just the other day,
that they felt they were
peering into the future
and saw bleakness and gray
(like Debussy’s Des pas sur la neige
so I played it in church yesterday morning
each sixteenth-eighth pattern the scuff
of your heel into the snow
the melody your thoughts,
as I explained to Dennis, after)
and I said no
one can see the future
I thought I saw it once
and told myself how I would feel

but now I am your star-struck girl,
with no need to knuckle down

01 Knuckle Down

24
Feb
12

the (not living at all up to the hype) blizzard of 2012

I love the particular quiet
of a deeply snowy day
and that the swirl you met
at the top of the driveway
kept you home today

so that when I awoke you
were just returning to bed
and we lounged there until
almost 10, you snoring
occasionally
while I read my book
(you know, the one I like
but wish I could have edited)
and Hannah came to the
door occasionally to see
if we were going to ever
get up.

We made apple cinnamon crepes
and bacon and drank cups and
cups of cappuccino
and then went back to bed
knees to knees, forehead to forehead
and slept some more
until I snuck out in my thick socks
and drove to get the oil changed
in my car.

I only slid a little at the bottom
of the driveway, and then navigated
down slushed roads as trees dropped
snowballs on me in their passive-agressive
way and the dog in the Kia waved
its tail at me as I passed.

I sit, now, in the “quiet” room,
waiting for new oil and something
called a PCV valve
and ponder the important questions:
whether I can take another nap when I get home,
what I should do with the next twenty
years of my professional life,
what to make for dinner.

11
Feb
12

what then?


there’s a picture you hung in
our bedroom the day I knew you would move in
a black and white drawing
called Lovers
and I always felt that it was us
lovers entwined, not clear
which parts of which body was whose
dark shadows and random letters
and people and shapes in the background
the world around us but us in it
not waving our arms to keep it away
but better because we are in it together

what will you do when you
turn around one day and find us
off our pedestal
feet dirty, asses sore from
when we hit the ground?
oh, that
okay then.

I think you want to live a life
without regret
and I don’t think you can
but that you should try only to
regret that which
you thought about and decided
there was just no other way

life’s a nuisance and a pain and
maybe you’re right and we
would be happier if we could just
live hiding under the bed
somewhere

but we can’t
and we don’t
so what then?

10
Feb
12

Is/Not

Is/Not

A poem by Margaret Atwood.

Seems so obvious, when she puts it like that.

23
Jan
12

when all is said

What is to be done, then,
when we have said what
needed
to be said
and, after saying these things,
know not what
to say
next?
One or both
afraid of the cracks
where
not-love might cast
a looming shadow
x, not loving
this
one
thing
about y,
might this
one thing
not grow, then,
like a
cancer,
the beginning
of the
end?
Once this fabric
has been
rent, torn,
repaired
is it weaker
then,
like a flaw,
or stronger,
like a
scar?
And why do these
things
always reveal how
shockingly
fragile
I am
despite my brave
words and brave
front,
I am
translucent
in direct light,
and always
left
wishing I could
shed
this skin
I’m in,
and be
someone else
I’ve tired less
of?

31
Dec
11

New Years Eve Dinner 2011

First, make Husband an eggnog.

Shake 1 egg, 2 T. sugar, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg and 4 or 5 ice cubes together in a jar. Add 2 c. milk. Shake again. Put 5 ice cubes in a tall glass. Add a shot of brandy. Fill with egg mixture.

Now make yourself a Manhattan.

Put 5 ice cubes in a glass. Shake Angostora bitters over the ice. Add a generous shot of Crown Royal and a 1/2 shot of sweet vermouth. Add 2 maraschino cherries and pour in a bit of the cherry juice. Sip slowly. This is serious stuff.

Put 1 c. of faro in a saucepan, add 3 c. water. Bring the water to a boil, and then turn down as low as you can so it doesn’t boil all over and make a mess on your stove. Cover and simmer (carefully! carefully!) for 15 minutes. Drain the extra water off, cover, and let sit until you’re ready to eat.

Meanwhile, mix 2 T. of black sesame seeds and 2 T. of white sesame seeds in a flat dish. Coat 3 or 4 tuna steaks with sesame seeds. If Husband realizes that there aren’t enough sesame seeds in dish, quickly add more.

Peel and finely chop (slice it one way, then slice it the other way, then chop it against the “grains” you’ve just created) a 2″ piece of ginger that you dug out of the back of the freezer.
Cut 1/2-1 lb of broccolini into 2″ pieces.
Open the package of edamame so it’s ready to roll.
Mix 2 T. canola oil, 2 T. rice vinegar (unseasoned!), 1 T. soy sauce in a bowl or 1 c. liquid measuring cup.

Find out when the 1st period of the hockey game is ending so you can time the rest of the dinner preparations accordingly.

When the 1st period of the hockey game is about to be over, put a wok on the 2nd-largest burner, because Husband will need the largest burner for the tuna steaks.

Add 2 T. dark sesame oil to the hot wok. When the oil is almost smoking, add the chopped ginger.

Throw in the broccolini and edamame and ask Husband to start the tuna steaks.
(He should brown them in hot canola oil in a non-stick skillet, 1 minute on each side.)

Keep stirring the vegetables until they start to brown, Pour in the oil/rice vinegar/soy sauce mixture. When it starts to bubble, add 1/2 c. cashews. Stir for 30 seconds or so until everything’s hot, then turn off the heat.

When the tuna steaks are done (no more than one minute per side!), put them on a board and cut them into strips.

Make a bed of arugula in one corner of a large dinner plate. Top with the vegetables, then the strips of tuna. Serve the faro on the side. Spoon out some of the sauce from the pan and drizzle over the tuna.

20111231-090414.jpg

Serve with a good sparkling white, dry “champagne” of your choice.

20111231-090447.jpg

Watch the rest of the hockey game.

Toast 2012, and each other, and your children, and your life.

It’s all good.

08
Dec
11

older, yes, but wiser?

I turn 47 tomorrow.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m none too excited about this. None of my previous birthdays have really bothered me — no problem turning 30, or 40, or even 45 for that matter, and I find myself in a happier place personally than I’ve been for any of those landmarks, so what’supwiththat?

As I’ve also mentioned before, 47 seems a lot closer to 50 than 46 did, so I don’t think that’s helping.

Why does this matter?

We’re all getting older, and it certainly beats the alternative, but are we all, no matter how sensible or philosophical, susceptible to the clichés of marking our progress professionally, personally, at the decade increments? What’s the difference really between turning 47 and turning 50? Maybe I should just continue as I have been, and get all the angst out of the way now — if I really don’t like turning 47, and admit that freely to myself, will that make it that much easier when I actually turn 50? Is that even it?

I know I imagined myself at 47 in a different place professionally than I find myself now, but that was true for 46, and 45, and 40, so so what?

I’m discouraged sometimes by life: my children sometimes seem to lack the characteristics of discipline, nobility, responsibility, thoughtfulness, which I had hoped to instill in them, (but they’re relatively young yet, so maybe it’s not hopeless); the professional world seems to be filled with people riddled by insecurity or pettiness or hubris; politics grind on as usual while many seem unable or unwilling to see the big picture and actual societal progress continues to be thwarted by selfish self-interest, religious narrow-mindedness, and/or apathy; students don’t really seem to care, even a fraction, as much as I do, or as much as I think they should. But do any of these things have anything to do with how I feel about how old I am?

It does seem to me that every single day is too short. So many things to do — delicious meals to cook and great wines to savor and books to read and projects to knit and friends to talk to and puppies to train and random crap to rant about on my blog and poems to write and movies to watch on the couch with my wonderful husband — and there never seems to be enough time to do them all. I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way: a full life is a life well-lived; but I want to pay attention to all of it while at the same time wishing I had time to take a nap.

And so it flies by.

Happy Birthday to me. 🙂

23
Nov
11

this year’s gratitude

For finding my way through the darkness,
For flashes of insight and joy,
For sadness, and hope from unexpected places.
For strength and struggle, disappointment and pain,
For the reprieves of sunsets,
and beautiful meals and that perfect unoaked Chardonnay.
For the people who enrich my life,
for being heard, and being known.
For yesterday, and today, and,
as far as I know,
tomorrow.
Thank you.

08
Nov
11

feminist financing

I bought my house in July of 2007. Came back from my summer camp job for one night (stayed at a friend’s), signed the papers the next day, collected my keys, and drove back to camp without even going to the house (I didn’t have time). When I did come “home,” 3 weeks later, it appeared that a tree had fallen across the road and some mysterious fallen-tree-removing elves had come and cleaned it up. I waited for months for the bill.

Anyway. This was a big deal for me. I had separated from Former Husband about 8 months earlier, a man I married while in graduate school, and this was probably the first actual adult thing I had done by myself.

Of course this was right before the mortgage crisis really hit. If the bank had looked past my stellar credit rating (I was told it was in the top .1 of the top 99 percentile) at my laughably meager income they wouldn’t have loaned me quarters for the parking meter. But they did. And here I, and Husband, live happily with Only Daughter, Sophie the cat, Bear the snake, and (someone should really name the fish) the goldfish (I don’t name them because I usually kill them. Accidentally of course. This one, interestingly, has lived for a year and a half, and is still nameless). Oh, and maybe-to-be-named-Dexter the puppy who comes home a week from today. (So much for the rule of never having more pets than you have children.)

When I bought the house, I was granted the wonderful interest rate of 6.5% Seemed like a good deal at the time.

Now it’s 3.5%, so we’re refinancing.

And putting Husband’s name on the mortgage too.

These are both good things.

But I feel kind of strange about it.

I “found” the bank guy, but my schedule’s crazy plus I have to keep all this time free to write on my blog, so Husband is doing the follow-up.

He’s been asked for pay stubs and W2s, but it isn’t clear if mine are needed, too, so right now he’s sending his.

I know that this doesn’t really mean anything. He makes enough money to qualify for the tiny little mortgage on this tiny little house, and we will make sure that both of our names are on the mortgage, but a part of me feels irrelevant, marginalized. Not because of anything anyone is doing or saying, mind you, just because.

For the past three years I’ve been trying to convince Husband that this is His House Too, even if his name wasn’t on the mortgage, but I don’t think he ever really felt that way. And now I kind of understand. Because there’s this tiny little voice that’s saying to me, “But it’s your house.” And I can’t figure out where that voice is coming from.

Maybe because it is, really, the only thing of value that I own. My retirement fund is laughable. I do own a Baldwin grand piano that’s 111 years old. And a Prius. But that’s it.

Maybe that’s all it is.

I joke that Husband actually married me for my money, and this is all just of his diabolical scheme to get his grubby paws on my dough.

Ha!

But I think it’s more “feminist” than that. He makes more money than I do, he has a lot more saved for retirement than I do; maybe subconsciously my ownership of the house helps level the inequality a little. I guess I could ask to have my name put on his retirement account (guess I just did), but I don’t think that can be done, and that’s not something I’m worrying about anyway.

Is this a reaction to something that is purely symbolic? Or does it represent something more significant, more important?

In a related story he, laughingly (I found out later; I thought he was serious) suggested we roll in enough to put a hot tub on the deck. I’m angling for a heated driveway so I can get my little Toyota up the hill and into the garage all winter. Shall I open it up for discussion?

31
Oct
11

midlife crisis stage 7 (8? 135? who’s counting?)

As far as I can remember (being too lazy to walk into the other room and get “the book” in order to cite it directly) women go through various “brain” stages, almost entirely dependent upon hormonal changes. (I know, right? So much for thinking we’re “making decisions” or “finding ourselves.” Apparently we’re all just victims of estrogen and/or testosterone and/or progestogens; oh, that’s funny, at first I typed protestogens — Dyslexics of the world, untie! —  is that Freudian?)

So teenage years are rebellious, as burgeoning women fight for freedom and independence and search for sexual identity. (Again, I’m not quoting, I’m “remembering,” and probably citing as much from personal experience/memory as from anything any psychiatrist or sociologist said.)

The twenties are dominated by an ambitious tendency, gradually ceding into “mommy brain.”

In her thirties, a woman is wrapped up in nurturing her children, while perhaps trying to hang on to (by her fingernails, probably, if the first priority is any priority at all) her professional identity.

In her forties a woman begins to look beyond all of the people she has been taking care of and starts to think about taking care of herself.

In her fifties (supposedly, I am despitewhatyouallmightthink NOT THERE YET), a woman becomes quite “selfish” — looking to have HER needs met, and a last sprint/gasp professionally, so to speak, before the retirement years set in.

I don’t even want to think about what might happen in the sixties. I’m having a hard enough time with the fact that I’m going to be 47 in a few weeks, which is a helluva lot closer to 50 than it is to 40 and actually seems a helluva lot older than 46. Just sayin’.

Is this funny? I think so. But maybe that’s just my “Indecision Nucleus” talking. Oh, and btw, women can spell. Snap!

Anyway, I find I’m belying the 50s expectations in that my professional ambitions are waning. Yes, there’s a part of me that is kind of tired of being “mom” (sorry, Hannah) and ready to move on — looking forward to years with Husband and travel and beautiful meals together without anyone wrinkling up his or her nose and asking if it’s “spicy” or why we can’t eat hamburgers like normal people. (At the same time I would likeitverymuch if Only Daughter stopped trying to figure out how to be 18 and was just 10 for at least a little while longer.) But I’m finding that I just kind of want to do my job, be respected and paid fairly for it, and then come home and take a nap on my couch or knit or beat OD at Rummikub or get a dog or something.

Speaking of which, we might be getting a dog.

I’ve found a breeder that I know of and therefore trust who has a new litter of Coton’s — hypoallergenic, good temperament, small, and local, so I can visit and become acquainted with the puppy rather than adopt from a rescue (enough of that, have been on that emotional roller coaster for several weeks now) or buy from someone in another state and have the pup shipped sight unseen.

I’d post a picture, but the breeders aren’t very “techie” so there aren’t any available. Am hoping to visit next Thursday, so will keep you all posted.

Here’s a “generic” Coton”

Can a dog be cuter than this? I didn’t think so.

ANYWAY,  see? I can’t even keep my mind on my “work.”

Ha.

I’m supposed to be planning Friday’s seminar right now.

Instead I’m drinking way better Scotch than I can afford (thank you, Husband dear) and wondering if there are 30 Rock reruns on cable.

So much for professional ambitions.

And the funny thing is, I don’t really care.

Although maybe that’s the scotch.

30
Oct
11

this week from the road, seen from Saturday

the starlings swarmed and swooshed
around their favorite overpass

and the fog drifted in waves across the road
like from a machine on a dark and windy stage,
while leaves flung themselves from branches
and danced around the car

I drove you to the airport Thursday
morning and sometime around this afternoon
tired of the company of my own silence

on my way to dinner with a friend
the moon slipped through a snip in the fabric of the
pale-blue metal of the sky,
the sun having laid its ribbon of pink
along the horizon
and that big oak on the right side
of the road shone with its black shadow light
as a single handful of rain slapped against
my windshield

I used to long to be alone
and now you are always here
glowing like a coal at the center of me

when I put my steak into the pan last night
on its bed of salt and pepper
the flame caught a drip of fat or
a grain of salt, and
seared a thread of my sweater,
I noticed it from the corner of my mind
and then it was gone;

is the edge always, just, right there?

come home

15
Oct
11

soupy sundays, except on saturday, and not soup

Have to go to a conference tomorrow, so won’t be making soup, and won’t have time to post any recipes. Thought I’d post today’s instead.

But first — our day. Husband and I went and bought a couch:

Cuz the one we have is squishy and poorly made and falling apart, and this one was $200 off and we decided that if you only spend $300 on a couch you don’t mind if somebody’s (ahem) piano students climb all over it and stuff.

I really wanted red or purple, but they only had it in “espresso,” so we bought 4 throw pillows, in various colours and embroideries, which cost $90 altogether. Not sure this ends up being a good deal, but you can’t just have a brown couch.

Then we bought groceries. Grocery shopping has been fun since Second Son, a.k.a. Eating Boy, has gone off to college and is eating his money’s worth of (room and) board. We have been spending under $200 every week, even last week, when we bought $96 of wine that would have cost $192 if not on “special”. We call this “saving money.”

This week our groceries added up to almost $300. Maybe partially because we spent/bought so little last week, but we also bought $20 worth of lobster tails and $25 worth of tuna steaks because they were having this aMAzing seafood sale (see? “saving money”); and $12 worth of pistachios because I love pistachios and have decided not to eat gluten for a few weeks to see if I feel better (hypothyroid; it sucks) and am trying not to eat potato chips. We also splurged and bought $7 worth of pine nuts — about a half a cup. Why are these so expensive? And where do these pine nuts come from? Are we negotiating with some really hard-core squirrel unions or something? Are they that hard to grow?  I’m going to sauté green beans in garlic-y olive oil and lemon juice, and then sprinkle 7 pine nuts on top for “flavor.” I’ll let you know if it’s worth it. (It totally was.)

(Do you ever get the feeling that pretty much everything I do, personally and/or professionally, revolves around what I’m going to eat and/or drink next?)(Yeah, me, too.)

Then we came home and raked some more leaves. We live in the forest, and there are a lot of leaves, and there are still a lot of leaves in the trees, but if we wait until they all fall there are too many to rake, so we did what we call stage 1. (Although I did stage .5 yesterday when I raked them all off the driveway so my poor little Prius could make it up the hill without slipping. Wet leaves = snow when you live on a hill.) Husband and Stepson did the front yard, and I did the sidewalk (for the second time today) and the deck and the back path to the compost pile. It was quite windy, so leaves were swirling around me in great wooshes of golden light, and the air is just cold enough to feel crisp and fresh without being so cold to need a coat. Especially when you’re working hard raking. It was lovely. Except for the fact that it felt like I was throwing a half a ton of leaves over the fence onto the compost pile, it was fun. (It probably wasn’t quite that many, but it was a lot. And I’m allergic. And I have a bad back because First Son weighed 10 lbs. 10 ozs. when he was born I’mnotmakingthatup and 30 lbs. when he was a year old but he still wasn’t walking because he couldn’t get his girth off the floor so I carried him around on one hip and walked like someone who has one leg 3″ longer than the other one for a really long time. So yeah, there were a lot of leaves. And I’m a big baby. I like to say “I’m a delicate flower” but Husband usually just snorts before he remembers that he thinks so too. Anyway.)

I have Husband’s permission to post our salmon recipe. This may actually be, basically, why I married him (see two paragraphs above; NOW the secret’s really out!!!) That and his mushroom risotto. And, well, never mind.

The Best (some call it Only) Salmon Recipe Ever

For a 1 1/2 – 2 lb piece of salmon filet:

Chop 1/2 – 3/4 c. olive-packed sun dried tomatoes (the more natural, the better; we do our own; I know, we might be psychopaths)

Chop 1 bunch curly parsley really really fine.

Sprinkle 10 cloves of garlic with a generous amount coarse salt and chop fine.

Mix these three things together and drizzle with olive oil until it kind of holds together.

Stir and cover and let sit for AT LEAST 2 hours.

Put the salmon skin-side down on a piece of foil with the edges of the foil folded up to make sides. Cut through the salmon flesh without cutting through the skin — make a cut down the middle lengthwise, and then slashes every 2-3″ crosswise. Stuff the slits with the tomato/parsley/garlic mixture, and then pack the rest of the stuff along the top of the salmon. (Don’t put this on the portion Stepson will eat, because he will just scrape it all over into a pile in the corner of his plate, and you can’t just throw that away, it’s like $7 worth of sun-dried tomatoes.)

Cook on the foil over red-hot coals (close the lid of the grill) until salmon is thoroughly cooked — 15-20 minutes probably, depending on the thickness of the flesh.

Serve with brown rice (we like organic short-grain) and a lightly-chilled chardonnay.

Apologize to everyone you sit next to the next day because of the garlic aura with which you are surrounded.

It’s totally worth it.

For dessert we’re having Pomegranate Gelato

Mix the seeds from one Pomegranate with a cup of water and simmer over low low low heat until the seeds are pale and soft. (Or you could be a little less of a psycho, and buy the POM stuff.)

Mix 2 c. whole milk with 1/2 c. sugar and 1 1/2 T. of cornstarch. Whisk until foamy. Heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until bubbly and foamy (don’t boil it over).

Remove from heat. Drain the juice off the pomegranate seeds into the milk mixture.

We were pouring brandy off of raspberries after 6 weeks, so we squeezed 3 c. of raspberries through a cheesecloth to get the brandy and raspberry juice, and added that to the milk mixture. If you don’t happen to have some of that handy (ha!), add 1/2 c. of raspberry, cranberry, or cherry juice.

Chill.

Process in an ice-cream maker until frozen.

Put into a plastic bowl, cover, and then put in freezer ~ 1 hr. before serving.

27
Sep
11

travelogue

Drove to a wedding over the weekend — 452 miles there on Saturday, 452 miles back on Sunday. The wedding was lovely, the food was delicious (the filet was like buddah), the bride and groom radiant, and not just because the wedding was outside, in 78˚ sunshine. Unlike our miraculous border experiences on the way there (driving from Michigan to upstate New York through Ontario is the most direct route), the border crossing on the return, at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, was tedious — apparently the 50-minute backup was caused by Ontarionian Buffalo Bills fans returning home. We think this kind of thing shouldn’t be allowed. When you cross into either country you are asked the reason for your visit. If you are going to a Buffalo Bills game you should have to drive around. Or swim. Who knew there  were so many football fans in Canada anyway?

Anyway, here is a log of some of my observations from/during the trip:

I trust no other driver — to stay in their lane, to use their turn signal, not to cut me off. Is this good defensive driving, or paranoia?

I wanted to pull the guy over in the Hummer, with the “Proud of my Son Who’s a Soldier in Iraq” rear-window sticker, and ask if he was being ironic. (Please don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but gratitude and respect for everyone fighting in support of our country; I don’t necessarily have that same respect for the people who sent them there to protect our access to Iraqi oil under false pretenses.)

Husband refuses to eat a single peanut M&M. He can’t get past the iridescence of the shell-coating (“that color does not exist in nature”) to the chocolate/peanutty goodness inside. There might be something wrong with him.

Some bloggers will state that they aren’t really writing a blog to “get readers.” If that were the case, wouldn’t you just be writing in your diary?

Flint is just sad. It was sad in the 80s, and it’s sad now. I had a roommate in college from Flint with a Flint-sized chip on her shoulder. Wonder how she’s doing now.

I comment on how much I enjoy the little “ping” of the pin on the GPS which shows us where we are. Husband asks: If you move the pin with your finger do we get there faster?

Who thought of knitting?

Me, observing highway signs: “Does every highway in Canada actually lead to Toronto?” Husband: “Torontonians think so.”

How strong are the rails on the bridges that lead to and from Grand Island? They look like they were made from reclaimed barn wood. Would they actually stop the car if you hit them, or just slow you down enough so as to more enjoy the fall?

And who named “Grand Island?” A misnomer if there ever was one.

There can also be few “sucks to be you” moments to equal the poor schmuck whose car broke down in the right-lane of the bridge to said Island. 2-lanes of road + 5,000 Buffalo Bills fans is not equal to “smooth sailing.”

We stopped at a rest area just past Buffalo (there is, as far as I can tell, one rest area in Ontario. Apparently Canadians don’t have to pee when taking road trips.) There was a fruit stand with locally grown peaches, plums, and apples. I thought this was a really good idea, and could enjoy my plums even more because I felt so self-righteous for eating them rather than french fries or Tim Horton’s fat globules muffins.

Tim Horton's Banana Nut muffin nutrition information

We saw a lot of these signs:

with different distance designations. I don’t suppose they discuss this with the deer? “So, how far do you think you’ll be wandering this fall?” I especially like this one:

Can you just picture them standing there, waiting for the light to blink?

Driving 900 miles in 39 hours is not fun. That tic in your left eye is probably just fatigue, and not a sign of some looming neurological disaster. My husband drove all of it, and gave me equal billing for navigating. He’s my hero.

Lovely wedding, saw some good friends, and it’s very good to be home.

23
Sep
11

to my husband

Just tracked this down to write in a wedding card

Wish I had had it on our wedding day. I can think of no better vows — just change the “you” to “we.”

The Master Speed
By Robert Frost

No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have a speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will.
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still—
Off any still or moving thing you say.
Two such as you with a master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing and oar to oar.

22
Sep
11

so much for that

So, in the past week I have had about a 4-day midlife crisis, followed by the discovery of Amanda Palmer’s “In My Mind” song and video, which triggered 2 days of feeling pretty goddamn good about myself; a feeling which involved various vows and “realizations” such as “If you want to weigh less you just need to exercise more and eat fewer potato chips” and “It’s really all up to you, and what you do or don’t do is actually a choice in any particular direction.”

So I tackled the piles of crap on my table and did all of my grading and cleaned off my dresser (okay, I was looking for an iPod cord that I still haven’t found, but I did clean off the dresser; I’m really tired of being “someone who loses things”) and captured all of the dust bunnies in the living room and dug out my list of topics I’ve wanted to blog about, including:

an NPR report on the adverse effects on children’s attention spans from watching SpongeBob SquarePants (who knew?) and the benefit of watching shows like Sesame Street (which my more-than-the-average-boy-ADD son could not tolerate) and Caillou (whiny bald child; helicopter and apparently-unemployed parents)

and

there’s some activity in the direction of taxing sugar in sugary drinks and snacks in an effort to turn back the trend which points toward 1 in 3 children being diabetic and 1 in 2 adults being obese by the year 2030 (how about we also get rid of all the excess sugar in even the most minimally-processed foods like yogurt and “healthy” cereals and granola bars, and spaghetti sauce; while we’re at it, how about NO MSG ANYWHERE!!!???!!!)

and

how great it felt to do yoga this morning, including side planks and a pretty long headstand (against the wall, but still) and a kick-ass Pincha Mayurasana preparation pose that I love, where you’re on your forearms with your heels against the wall and you walk your feet up the wall until your body makes an upside-down L and you stay there feeling abdominal and arm muscles you had forgotten you had

(someday I will do this, just like that, without the wall and everything!)

and

there’s evidence that, contrary to popular (and my occasional) opinion, adolescent brains aren’t actually “damaged,” they just evaluate risk against benefit differently, and because the “benefits” they are evaluating are relatively elusive and/or unimportant to most adults, this evaluation still ends up leading to what looks an awful lot like risky behavior.

I even have a probably-not-that-profound-or-unusual revelation that I should stop evaluating my successes and/or failures in terms of what I have or have not accomplished, but in the fact that I have never stopped wanting to learn and challenge myself and grow — that life might actually be more in the seeking than it is in the finding (I know, duh, right?)

And then I go try on clothes to wear to a wedding we’re going to this weekend. And not one of my “dressy dresses” fits.

Of course everything in my husband’s closet still fits — he has suits he bought in the 80s, that, if you overlook the excessive shoulder padding and plethora of pleats, (ah, the 80s), still look pretty darn good. And, they fit him. This isn’t fair. Yeah, he eats way more healthfully than I do, and he exercises vigorously and regularly, and drinks gallons of water every day, and all of this only makes me feel worse because I know what I need to do and I still don’t do it. Okay, so maybe it is fair.

I’ll spare you all the saga of weight lost and found again, and a recounting of each outfit tried on and rejected, although maintaining a certain level of stress, or living and working outside in cold climates (fishermen, Norway) can produce “brown fat,” which reputedly increases metabolic rates. Don’t think I haven’t considered it.

"Think we should head back?"

The discussion about the “shapewear” I was hoping would help was amusing, basically Husband asking me “Is this ‘Spanx’?” and me answering (in between gasps as I tried to breathe while being suffocated by my underwear), “Yeah, but it doesn’t seem to be working very well.”

It is interesting to me what a blathering idiot we can turn into when we feel, as I put it, “old and lumpy.”

I’m also trying to spare myself the 5-year plans, and to remember that not only must we live in the moment (there isn’t really any other option), but that the bitterest irony of all is to look back and realize the person you weren’t happy with being was actually the best version of you you could be at the time.

So, let’s keep it simple: more time on the treadmill, more yoga, more water, fewer potato chips.

A couple of questions, though:

Is it bad to decide to feel good about how you look because the person you love the best loves how you look? Isn’t this supposed to come from yourself first?

Would I look ridiculous if I got a tattoo? I want a little swoosh of stars around my ankle. Maybe something like this.

But I never, ever, want to look ridiculous.

Oh, and tomorrow, I might be shopping for a dress.

06
Sep
11

night

it doesn’t seem to matter
how late I come to bed
or how deeply asleep you are

but when I lay down beside you
you roll to me

and the whole world is there
between your hand and my skin

14
Jul
11

how do you know when the honeymoon’s over?

Last night Husband and I found ourselves home, alone, for the first time in weeks, and we spent the next two hours, yup, you guessed it, unwrapping marvels of modern engineering and setting them up on the counter. There were no passionate embraces, no shedding of garments, no fevered groping amid piles of cardboard detritus and bubble wrap.

Why, you ask? Is this an indication of a loss of passion? Are the flames of love dwindling? Have we grown tired of each other, bored, listless about what was once, not all that long ago, the driving force of our existence?

Well no, not really; at least I don’t think so.

Rather, the phenomenon can be explained by this single act:

Husband just bought a new espresso machine and coffee grinder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are very nice, and very pretty, and very intimidating, and I hope I don’t set the darn things on fire or run the boiler dry accidentally or forget to temperature surf before making my next shots of espresso. (Don’t ask.) (Okay, if you must know):

(Who knew?)

ANYWAY, these “marvels of modern engineering” (I was corrected, firmly, a couple days ago after calling them “contraptions”) came via FedEx yesterday. This was a relief, as the monitoring of the check-in points along the shipping route and the logistics of making sure someone would be home at the pivotal moment was taking up most of our free time.

They are, according to Husband, the best machines available at a comparably reasonable price, with 237 grinding options (I’m not making this up) available on the Baratza Vario grinder and solid stainless steel construction plus some other features I don’t understand well enough to list here on the Rancilio Silvia (we will call her Silvia for short) espresso maker.  (Husband actually launched into a long explanation last night, but all I heard was “Wuh wah wah waaah” like when the teacher talks on Charlie Brown.)

Last night, after the lesson on tamping pressure using a glass and the bathroom scale (I still don’t tamp hard enough, as my espresso comes out in under 15 seconds, and we’re aiming for a leisurely 25), and my ignored Dance of the Seven Veils, I fell asleep while Husband read the instruction manual.

He did wake me at 7:15 this morning. . .

with an expertly foamed cappuccino, followed by a lesson on appropriate grinding (!), brewing, and foaming technique.

Alas.

He is very cute when he’s all professorial, and it was important that I learn how to run the MoME while home without him here as my barista.

I’m now working on my 5th and 6th shots of espresso, this time with milk that I actually foamed (last time it just got really really hot.)

I’m very proud.

I think they send the 2 lbs of coffee for “free” because they know you’ll use up one of them on Day 1 just practicing. Maybe they should include some tranquilizers to counter the effect of AlL tHaT cAfFeInE!!!!

09
Jul
11

sense

I can’t remember how

it ever made sense

to get up in the morning

of a day

that didn’t have

you in it.

26
Jun
11

Say Her Name

I’ve just finished reading Say Her Name, a rambling but effective book written by Francisco Goldman shortly after his wife, Aura, dies while body surfing in Mexico. I found the book, the story, to be incredibly sad.

A photo from their wedding

was included in both of the reviews of the book I encountered, in which they look so incredibly happy, and so completely surprised to be so happy. I get this surprise, though. I feel it too. I went through about the first forty years of my life “making” the decisions I was expected to make, and realizing more and more that I felt like I was walking through water, and now keep wondering when somebody is going to pinch me.

I was thinking, as I was reading Goldman’s book, about how many of these tributes are written after the object of the author’s love has died, and I wonder why no one’s writing them earlier. Maybe the difficulty is the one I fear, the hearts and flowers syndrome, or that no one will want to read it without the empathy-generating tragedy. I guess we all feel a stronger connection to stories that recount stories of sadness and loss; tragedy draws us all closer, hence the interest in trapped-miner and teenagers-in-tragic-car-accident and couple-on-the-way-to-their-honeymoon-when-the-plane-crashes stories. There’s a pull, that could be me, a rush of sympathy, a quiet little guilty thrill that we’re still safe at home with our children in the next room and our husband making us coffee, that this person has suffered unimaginable and irretrievable loss, but at least it’s not me.

25
Feb
11

too tired to fight?

Was in the middle of a long post about the latest Pew Research study, which evaluates 7 recent trends: more unmarried couples raising children, more gay and lesbian couples raising children, more single women having children without a male partner to “help”* them (never mind that this question was not also worded in reverse, nor that the reasons for these absent males were not questioned), more people living together without being married, more mothers of young children working outside the home, more people of different races marrying each other, and more women (again, not men?) not ever having children; and whether people think these trends are good for society.

Have lost interest.

Big surprise: Women are blamed (even, inherently, in the wording of the questions), the question of single fathers or men choosing not to have children is completely ignored, as are the prejudices of society and judges in the juvenile system, imbalances of economic reality for working women, and policies which regiment inadequate child-support; the real questions, reasons, etc., seem to be avoided.

Besides, isn’t it possible that the question itself is self-referential, and therefore moot? If our definition of society includes an expectation of families made up of one man and one woman, married to each other, and 2.3 children, then, by definition, a family made up differently would be “bad,” and a single-parent family is the most different.

Anyway, I had a rant going when I heard this on the radio yesterday, but it seems to have fizzled out. Wonder why. . .maybe I’m just tired of women taking all the blame and beginning to feel that there’s nothing that can be done to change it.

Alas.

*I hate the word “help” when it comes to men’s contributions to the work of the home — as if the work of childrearing, cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc., is the work of women, and men “help.” Who do I help?

27
Oct
10

just don’t mess with “my” Spanish coffee

Apparently there is a new beverage market out there among twenty-somethings for a drink that mixes alcohol and caffeine and is sold in brightly-colored cans reminiscent of Red Bull.

This is considered to be particularly dangerous because a) it is targeted towards young (barely-of-age) drinkers and b) the effects of the caffeine mask the effects of the alcohol, causing those partaking to be unable to recognize how “drunk” they actually are.

According to the story, one twenty-something was admitted to the hospital and found to have a blood alcohol level of .40.

Yikes. That can’t be good.

This does bring to mind a persistent question I have: why is it that it is legal in this country to get married (that is, decide you are ready to decide who you want to spend the rest of your life with, raise children with, etc., etc.) and join the Army (kill! kill! blood and guts and veins in your teeth [blame Arlo Guthrie, not me]) at the age of 18, but aren’t considered responsible enough to consume alcohol until you’re 21.

Just wondering. Maybe it’s just me.

20
May
10

Matter

I’m sure it’s not just me; well, I guess I HOPE it’s not just me, but I have a really hard time sometimes keeping track of what matters.

Does it matter that I scoured my kitchen sink out twice and scrubbed the shower this morning? Probably not as much as it matters that I missed my husband so much tonight that I was impatient with my daughter. It probably matters that I worked really hard this past year and have been frugal enough to have set enough money aside that I can afford not to work again until mid-July, but probably not as much as it matters that there are probably people on my street tonight who don’t know how they’re going to pay their mortgage.

My daughter’s Korean, and has faced discrimination from her classmates who tell her she’s “fat” (she’s 4 feet tall and weighs 45 lbs soaking wet) or that she can’t play their sister game because her skin isn’t the right color. That matters. But no one’s telling her she can’t come to their school, or sit in those seats on their bus; no one’s telling her that she has to have clitoral circumcision or be sold into marriage, or that girls aren’t smart enough to be veterinarians. That would definitely matter.

My sons don’t always want to talk to me, or listen to me, but as far as I know they aren’t using illegal drugs and haven’t gotten anyone pregnant. That matters. Does it matter that my oldest isn’t working as hard as I wish he would so he wouldn’t have to borrow so much money for college, or that my 16-year-old gets straight As while barely cracking a book and refusing to take a single AP course because he doesn’t want to work that hard? This is the same boy who would rather eat cereal for dinner than boil tortellini and heat up jarred sauce for dinner because the latter constitutes “too much work.”

I have a mole on the back of my hand that I swear wasn’t there yesterday. Does that matter? Or is it maybe just a burn or a blood blister or a bug bite that I don’t remember “earning”?

I left my house twice today with doors wide open. Does that matter?

In my former marriage life, I was a completely self-sufficient, independent, capable person. Now when my husband’s away for more than 24 hours, especially if he’s doing something more interesting than I am, I continue to function as a productive member of my family and of society, but I feel like a child.

I guess it matters to me. Does that mean it Matters?

03
May
10

I’m Married to an “Older” Man

My husband (7 years older, a fair bit grayer than me, and NOT Tony Randall), my daughter (9), and I are at Lowe’s looking at tile for our kitchen floor. We’re also looking at wood for floors in adjacent rooms, so there’s a fair bit of traveling back and forth between 2 aisles. I’ve laid out several tiles that we like, and G has turned to go to the wood-flooring aisle to select even more differently-colored samples (we apparently do not have enough already) so that we can line them up against the tile and see how well they “go.” Meanwhile, a young man (30?) approaches, pushing his adorable little girl (3? 2 1/2?) in the cart. (Sorry about the number thing; it’s important to the story.)

She watches G walk away, and with a look of grave concern in her eyes turns to me and says, “Your dad went away.”

Now, I enjoy this just a little, repeat it to G when he returns, have a good laugh, etc. etc. (Okay, I’m not proud of it, but it was funny.)

What I realize (much) later is that his apparent departure was probably a source of great distress to her. She’s at the store with her dad, I must be at the store with my dad; if he goes away, she is/I am alone and vulnerable and that’s a scary thing to a child of her age.  Instead of laughing I should have reassured her; “It’s okay; he’ll be right back.”

I’ve been thinking about this in terms of our dependence and vulnerability, or at least our perceptions of these things, as we move through childhood and into adulthood.  Babies “know” they need something, somebody (if they can be said to “know” anything). Preschool age children want all kinds of independence until you ask them to put on their own shoes or put away their toys, at which point they “can’t do it” and “need help,” but even the most self-reliant are not able to get a job, drive, nor can they cook for themselves as they are not yet allowed to use the stove.

Does this dependence/independence change that much in adolescence? My teenager can drive, but he’s still not comfortable driving on the highway; he’s allowed to use the stove but has certainly never asked if he is “allowed” to pay into the grocery kitty; he doesn’t want me even to talk to him unless he wants to talk to me. Then, even if I’m in the middle of: writing a paragraph, planning a class, a sentence, and can’t acknowledge him immediately, he’s so offended from being “overlooked” that he stomps away in a huff muttering “nobody likes me.” (Maybe it’s a middle-child thing.) You’ve probably all heard of the book, Get Out of My Life But First Can You Drive Me to the Mall?  He knows he needs us still, and it probably, at least partially, makes him crazy.

My 20-year old held me at arm’s length for 9 years. He now, fairly regularly, seeks out, and seems to respect, my advice.

Would I not be as sad, as lost, if G “went away” as this girl would be at the loss of her father? Are we all just on a perpetual cycle from one type of dependence to another, the only difference being that as adults we recognize its worth, and call it interdependence? Maybe interdependence is just another word for dependence without vulnerability.

Then again, maybe “dependence” isn’t the right word at all: I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself, even if I do find my whole day feels much better when my husband wakes me by brushing my back with his fingers, makes the coffee (he does make much better coffee than I do don’ttellhimIsaidso) and poaches my egg. I don’t rely on him for my survival (although sometimes it feels that I do); I would know that even without him I could support myself, drive, use the stove; but I’d be alone.

From the September 23, 2002 issue of the New Yorker, in a review of the poet W. H. Auden by Adam Gopnik:

Being everywhere at once while going nowhere in particular is what poets do, and Auden did it. Where journalists write about what people are arguing about in public, and novelists about what they are talking about in private, only poets seem able to show that what people argue about in public is identical to what they talk about in private, that what we are arguing about is the sum of our own guilts, fears, anxieties, hopes. And only a handful of poets show that what people are talking about in public and what they are talking about in private is always a variant of what they say to themselves when they are alone, and that, Auden knew, is simply ‘I wish I were not.'”

She knew this, that wee little girl in the cart at Lowe’s. And she was only 3.




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