Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Do Declare

A house just doesn't seem in the stars for me and Ian. Not right now anyway. Since I feel the need to "blame" something for the fact that we've looked at countless homes, pursued three properties (two seriously), and have secured none, all I can think is: Someone has other plans for me this summer.

So I guess I won't be packing any time soon.

I'm tired. The whole process is emotionally exhausting. This pursuit of the American Dream or whatever it is.

In some ways, it's a relief. I can stay put for another year, just me and my boys, and hope that the right thing will eventually unfold. After all, you can't force these things to happen.

I was really hoping our last offer was going to work out. But we're not surprised it didn't. The sellers have rejected similar, reasonable offers. And Ian and I -- like previous bidders on the house -- aren't foolish enough to pay too much for a house that isn't worth it just because the owners are in too much debt. Sorry. This is bidniss.

So, back to the bidniss of the rest of my life.

I'm still buying that kayak.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Question of the Day

The boys and I zipped along through puddles on our way to school today, a few minutes late because all of us--even the dog--overslept on this rainy Monday. As my mind swirled with highlights of the weekend, like the kids' first little league game, Grandma's birthday, and seeing two houses for sale, Sean piped up from the backseat:

"Mom, do Jedis poop or pee?"

"Wow, Sean," I said. "That is an excellent question. What do you think?"

"I think they probably do, because sometimes they have to take a break from all the fighting and have something to drink. And it's gotta go somewhere!"

"I think you're right, Sean. But maybe because they're Jedis, they can hold it a little longer than the rest of us. What do you think?"

"Yeah. I guess."

Nolan joined the converesation. "Jedis don't eat."

Sean disagreed. "Yes they do, Nolan. They eat alien food and vegetables."

Nolan sat in quiet contemplation. Sean moved onto another topic, and I was grateful for Sean's initial question, which snapped me out of my lame grown-up thoughts and brought me into the reality of a six-year-old. We should all ponder questions about the GI function of Jedis.

Here are two game day pics from Jeff Glagowski. Renee and Jeff wouldn't have missed the kids' first game for the world. Jeff even brought the telephoto lens with him:

Noly runs the bases after his first hit:

Seany readies for a catch. He knows there are usually only ground balls in T-ball:

And this one of my Noly, because it captures my little monkey perfectly (thanks, Jeff!!). He was so excited about his first game:

Happy Monday. :o)


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Family Fires, Rage

Last night everyone from my family gathered at my place to mark Grandma's 79th birthday. It was a really nice time. We ate a ton of food, looked at lots of photos, and revisited some old stories with Grandma's best friends who were there for the occasion. It was a beautiful afternoon overall, and despite the fact that one family member who shall remain nameless couldn't keep her rageful hate of her sister (not me or mine) in check and stormed off over something silly, everyone had a lovely time and carried on as usual. After all, such episodes are nothing new in our family--especially when it comes to this person.


Two important factors of the night, not including self-important drama demonstrated by Exhibit A(hole), were Grandma's mere presence in my living room, eight months after being given a six-month prognosis.

The other cause for celebration is that my first cousin Matt, a sports reporter for the Norwich Bulletin, is alive after his apartment complex in Norwich burned to the ground Friday night, displacing about 150 people.

Here's a pic of the inferno--and that is no exaggeration--from the Bulletin:

Matt had been visiting friends at UConn's spring weekend, and was about to head home when his roommate Tim called with the news. Tim was just going to bed when the fire broke out. He heard a commotion, saw the flames several units away, and ran outside. But the time he was outside, the fire had already spread toward his unit, and he couldn't get back inside to save anything, including Matt's cat.

Or Matt's Ted Williams ball. (Matt and his brothers are huge Sox fans.)

I think Matt is more upset about the cat and the ball than the fact that he's lost everything else: Clothes, Writing, Money, Books, Photos, etc. I would be, too. As his brother Derek said last night at my house, "First I thought of the apartment and all their stuff and I thought: Damn. Then I thought of the cat and I thought: Shit. And then I thought of the Ted Williams ball and thought: Fuuuuuuuuuck."

By the time Matt arrived, the scene from the above photo was what greeted him.

They'll know this morning if their unit suffered more smoke than fire damage. Either way, it will be a miracle if his cat survived that much smoke.

I'm just glad Matt and Tim were not hurt.

So last night, after the party ended and Grandma stood holding her flowers in the driveway of my house, we hugged and cried, overcome with emotion about Matt, our truly insane family member, and happiness over what was still a wonderful party with great people. At 79, she has been my Grandmother since she was 44 years old. I've spent more time with her than with any other family member, my own mother included. In 35 years, she has always known how to hug me and what to say. Last night was no exception.

Certain themes run deep in our family. Grandma's father lost everything when his high-end men's clothing shop burned to the ground in Worcester back in the 40s. He was never the same since. And he was prone to fits of rage.

Last night was nothing new then, in some ways. If anything, it just proved that what matters is people, not things. And we're all in this together--like it (or anyone) or not. And that is the beauty of it all.

Grandma will always show me how to rise above, no matter what. Like smoke, rising up and away from the savage flames. Funny then, how I chose this poem for a little card I put together for her birthday, long before last night's inferno:


by Joyce Sutphen

The second half of my life will be black
to the white rind of the old and fading moon.
The second half of my life will be water
over the cracked floor of these desert years.

I will land on my feet this time,
knowing at least two languages and who
my friends are. I will dress for the
occasion, and my hair shall be
whatever color I please.

Everyone will go on celebrating the old
birthday, counting the years as usual,
but I will count myself new from this
inception, this imprint of my own desire.

The second half of my life will be swift,
past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder,
asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road.
The second half of my life will be wide-eyed,

fingers shifting through fine sands,
arms loose at my sides, wandering feet.
There will be new dreams every night,
and the drapes will never be closed.
I will toss my string of keys into a deep
well and old letters into the grate.

The second half of my life will be ice
breaking up on the river, rain
soaking the fields, a hand
held out, a fire,
and smoke going
upward, always up.

From Straight Out of View by Joyce Sutphen.
Copyright © 1995, 2001 by Joyce Sutphen.

Today Ian and I look at two more houses. Then I will collapse onto the couch with a newspaper for the rest of the afternoon, glad for a drizzly Sunday.


Friday, April 25, 2008

White Trash with Mustangs and Madras

As I contemplate trading one neighborhood for another, I can't help but think of some choice dialogue and scenes from one of my favorite stories--and movies--of all time.

From Coppola's movie based on SE Hinton's book, here's a clip from The Outsiders. This movie was very, very important to me after its release when I was in jr high, as I grew up amidst some rough and tumble people and places in the very blue collar town of 'Staven:

I'm overdue for a night with this movie. I'm overdue for a lot of things.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

This is not a poem. This is.

When it's that kind of day like today in which I start out behind the eight ball, tired and anxious,
hoping and wondering,
when the house I planned to look at tonight is put on deposit by someone else this morning,
when the sunny day is greeted by a raccoon who won't leave my yard,
when the work piles up and the patience slips out under the door when I'm not looking,
when the emissions sticker expires tomorrow,
when the library books are overdue,
when I "enjoy" a night of two pints at a local bar--where Ian and I sat unspeaking and lost in our thoughts of mortgages, square footage and layout,
when the phone rang with news that Ian's brother Al had been hit by a car while riding his bike in New Haven,
when we arrive at the ER to be greeted by Al with a bloodied head and busted legs, just glad to be alive,
when nothing else matters but the people--not the things,
when my little boys greet me at the back door after my trip to the ER and tell me how much they've missed me,
when I sit down to watch a rained out Yankee game,
when the dog cuddles with me on the couch while I drink Wild Sweet Orange tea and wonder what to do with the thoughts in my head

I reach for Yeats.

And although some days I think Yeats is somewhat overrated, I get over myself and pretentious anti-pretension by reading his work. And then I am reminded, as illustrated by the following, that the man understood the soul better than most of us:


When You are Old
by W. B. Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

And paced upon the mountains overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.



Some Things Shouldn't See the Light

Like the racoon who played in my bright, sunny yard this morning. After two failed attempts at getting anyone from the city's police dept or animal control to care about this possibly rabid albeit cuddly critter, who eventually left to play on the posts of my neighbor's fence, I left my house with the kids for the day.

And I brought an aluminum bat with me as I walked out to my car.

Other things should see the light. The following passage is from today's Daily Om. Funny that it arrived in my inbox 16 years to the day that Keith and I started dating.

April 24, 2008
The Direction Of Happiness
Leaving A Relationship

One of the hardest decisions we ever make in life is leaving a long-term relationship that just isn’t working. When attempts at repairing and working out issues aren’t working, it may be time to examine moving on. We are emotional creatures, and when our heartstrings are tied to those of another, separating from that person can feel like an act of courage. It is not something most of us will take lightly, and many of us will struggle with our desire to stay in a relationship that is unfulfilling simply in order to avoid that pain. We may question whether the happiness we seek even exists, and we may wonder if we might be wiser to simply settle where we are, making the best of what we have.

On the one hand, we almost relish the idea that true happiness is not out there so that we can avoid the pain of change. On the other hand, we feel within ourselves a yearning to fulfill our desire for relationships that are vital and healing. Ultimately, most of us will follow this call, because deep within ourselves we know that we deserve to be happy. We all deserve to be happy, no matter where we find ourselves in this moment, and we are all justified in moving, like plants toward the light, in the direction that leads to our greatest fulfillment. First, though, we may need to summon the courage to move on from the relationship that appears to be holding us back.

Taking the first steps will be hard, but the happiness we find when we have freed ourselves from a situation that is draining our energy will outshine any hardship we undergo to get there. Keeping our eyes trained on the horizon, we begin the work of disentangling ourselves from the relationship that no longer fits. Every step brings us closer to a relationship that will work, and the freedom we need to find the happiness we deserve.


PS In other news, Grandma got an excellent prognosis from her doctor yesterday, defying the expectations of everyone. She is doing remarkably well, and I credit her attitude for it. Tomorrow she heads off to meet her college girlfriends (now all in their late 70s and early 80s) for a daytrip.

I love that woman. She called this morning just to tell me that the tulips had finally bloomed. "A stunning red," she said. "Just gorgeous."

Like her.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's So Over

This love-hate relationship has worn thin. I have nothing to prove by living here, by putting my kids through its private schools or public schools, by shelling out more than 6k in property taxes--and for what? For nothing. For parking tickets on Saturdays and condoms on the sidewalk and access to free farmers markets and festivals on the green that are available to suburbanites and New Haveners alike.

I'm burnt out. I'm sick of the smallness and the silly drama and the pathetically small social scene. I have been consistently retreating for more than a year, sliding into my own world with but a few, choice friends and my amazing children. I want to be deeply drinking in fresh air and planting flowers. I can do that elsewhere and not be taxed to death for it.

I'm sick of the hipsters. The aging hipsters. The hipster parents who so desperately need their children to be an extension of their own, enormous egos bloated with the hot air of low self-esteem. I'm so sick of the Yale vs Townie nonsense, the hateful Craigslist postings about the city and its people. I'm so sick of the push and pull in the city's politics, social service agencies, and nonprofits. I'll volunteer. I'll contribute. But I don't really trust anyone with the power to make decisions.

And no matter how much I love this town, for all of its parks and food and hot spots and secret hideaways and open markets and quiet corners and summer beat and rich history and its East Rock and West Rock and all the stories in between, I no longer know if this is where I want to put down roots for the rest of my life.

Last night I sat in Heide's notinNewHaven living room, chowing on green tea ice cream and talking about the big and small things in life, love, work, parenthood. I heard the frogs, the peepers, singing their spring chorus from the huge patch of skunk cabbage on Heide's property. It was a break from my usual routine. It gave me perspective. It gave me a quiet night with a girlfriend. It gave me a chance to have some time alone in my car on the ride home and realize that my gut is a lot smarter than my head.

I don't need to live in New Haven to love--or hate--New Haven.

I think it might be time to exit the vortex. And I might buy a kayak on my way out.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

Accrued Vacation Time Well Spent

In no particular order of importance, this day off with my boys included, but was not limited to:

1. A lazy morning with a surprise visit by Ian, who dropped in for coffee.
2. Picnic lunch at Lighthouse Park. Just me and my little guys.
3. Kickball in the park after lunch.
4. Tag on the beach.
5. Swinging from monkey bars on the playground.
6. Nolan so tired after our day out that he went to bed all by himself because he was "so tired, Mommy". And he slept for almost two hours. I had to wake him up.
7. Sitting on my sunny deck, reading, while Nolan slept and Sean played with Legos.
8. Sitting on the sunny front porch with Ian and the kids before dinner.
9. Hot dogs and beans and AN AWESOME potato salad. Go me.
10. Picking up the kids' new Little League uniforms.
11. Seeing a honey bee.
12. Two tired, clean kids, scrubbed up with bellies full of Ben and Jerry's frozen yogurt, who went to bed without a fuss.
13. My limbs, stronger and more tired from this afternoon's run.
14. The dog, always.
15. This sunburn--yes, sunburn--I'm sportin'.

I took big gulps of sea air today and played outside with my little guys all day. And Sean taught Nolan how to pee on a tree in the park. And each of them found a new crop of shells for our "summer box", which is our special collection of the shells, sea glass and rocks we find at the beach. We usually rifle through it during the colder months. It's a nice reminder that warmer days will return.

And did they ever. Today was spectacular. The boys and I shared a lot of laughs and hugs. And sunny, warm Eskimo kisses.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I'm Just So Tired of Thinking About How Much I'm Thinking

Today was a long day, what with a bajillion dollar corporate merger and all. Late in the day I checked out, ran some errands, and came home to a positively glorious Thursday late afternoon. I shed the work clothes, donned the yoga pants, tank top and sneaks, and jetted out for a burst of running, followed by a cool-down walk with the dog. It felt great, this gift of breath and movement.

The house was too quiet, though. The kids were with their father and due back from their visit after Sean's tae kwon do lesson before dinner. I missed them. Yes, yes. I cherish my "alone" time, which is frequently populated with Ian, the dog, family, chores, etc. But I miss my children when they aren't home. They love spending time with their father, and he is a great dad. For those things--and for their sake--I am grateful. But I am selfish, too: I want them home. I miss them.

After enough water, I headed toward my stash. Several new bottles had been staring me down all week from my wine rack, which Ian stealthily stocked when I wasn't looking. It was a nice surprise, to say the least. But since I make an effort to not really drink during the workweek, I've had to snub the fresh bottles every witching hour after quitting time. Tonight, though, was cause for celebration, if only because the sky was so clear that I could see all the way across the water and past the skyline to Sleeping Giant "Mountain" from the front porch of my house, where I sat with the dog, a magazine and a big glass of Punto Final malbec.

Birds chirped, neighbors called to one another, others walked their dogs while some hit the street for their evening jog. Still others cruised the streets on their Harleys, anxious to make some noise on this perfect spring night. The setting sun was so warm on my body that I almost broke a sweat while reading. The dog sighed and slept by my feet, her black fur hot to the touch in the sun. And then I was treated to the holiest of warm weather sights: A plump, bright bumble bee buzzed by. Even the dog sat up to notice.

I sighed, content in the moment and exhausted with all the thoughts swirling in my brain. There has been a lot of talk about the future lately. Ian and I have narrowed our house hunting scope, and as a result we've found fewer things within our range that are "worth" buying. Still, there are options, now and later. And what happens, happens.

I've been so eager to put down roots, though. And I know I will, when the time is right. Tonight, as I sipped my malbec and waved to neighbors, I concluded that it's just fine right now where me and my little boys live, as much as we would like a place to call our own--and with Ian, too. It's just fine, this view of the water, this street full of strollers and skateboarders and dogs and Harleys, this great big porch just begging for pots of pansies and impatiens. True, they are only annuals. But if that's what I exchange for another year here, that's okay. And if we move? Well then. Aren't we lucky?

Tomorrow I'll cook up a big breakfast for me and the boys before we head outside, ditching my cellphone in the house as we leave.

As for the rest:


So tonight I'm watching the Yanks get viciously spanked by the Sox after last night's awesome game (and subsequent Yankees victory), and I'm thinking:

The thing about baseball is, the old players and fans love to talk about the connectivity of it all. How they all remember who was where when what happened and how, and why it all meant so much one way or another to everyone who shared that moment, whether on the field, in the stands, listening to the radio, watching it on TV or reading it in the paper the next day. Some unexpected play changed the course of this or that game. Some unexpected hero turned a game around for another team. Some small-town kid had a record-setting major league debut and was never heard from again. And another went on to become a Hall of Famer. Entire seasons were altered by war--or strikes. There are curses. There are champions. There are underdogs. There are rabid fans and casual free-ticket game goers. It's just a beautiful thing, how this game connects everyone who pays the slightest attention to it, across time, teams, money, politics, religion, gender. When you're watching a game, you're rooted in the moment, which is part of a rich, varied, complex past. What better metaphor is there for life--or families, friendships, even neighborhoods--than baseball?

And this, because I always gotta lighten the mood:


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sunshine Day

Tomorrow marks a huge merger for our company, and Friday I'm off. The kids are on vacation this week, and we are long overdue for a fun, sunny day together swinging at baseballs and checking out bugs under rocks.

So consider my delight in this:

I do believe my grill will be fired up Friday night.

Spring has officially sprung.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Nothing more, nothing less

I write because it's the only way I know to move thoughts out of my head. I write to make sense of the things around me, the things within me. I write because life amuses me, and I want to share that amusement. I write because I want to give people I love and even complete strangers a window into one little life on this planet. I write because I want to share the good times and bad times, for the record, so I don't forget them. I write because I write.

Today I don't want to write. Today I want to close the curtains on my life, if only for a day, and let the strangers and the friends have a little break from me, from this one little life. After all, if I'm always making information available in this space, then what reasons do friends have to call anymore? Quite simply, I've learned--none.

So today I'm going to share someone else's writing. It is a poem about parenthood by Sharon Olds. It is the best thing I can think to share with you, since the most important thing in my life is my children. Everything else? It's just everything else.

Looking at Them Asleep

When I come home late at night and go in to kiss them,
I see my girl with her arm curled around her head,
her mouth a little puffed, like one sated, but
slightly pouted like one who hasn't had enough,
her eyes so closed you would think they have rolled the
iris around to face the back of her head,
the eyeball marble-naked under that
thick satisfied desiring lid,
she lies on her back in abandon and sealed completion,
and the son in his room, oh the son he is sideways in his bed,
one knee up as if he is climbing
sharp stairs, up into the night,
and under his thin quivering eyelids you
know his eyes are wide open and
staring and glazed, the blue in them so
anxious and crystally in all this darkness, and his
mouth is open, he is breathing hard from the climb
and panting a bit, his brow is crumpled
and pale, his fine fingers curved,
his hand open, and in the center of each hand
the dry dirty boyish palm
resting like a cookie. I look at him in his
quest, the thin muscles of his arms
passionate and tense, I look at her with her
face like the face of a snake who has swallowed a deer,
content, content—and I know if I wake her she'll
smile and turn her face toward me though
half asleep and open her eyes and I
know if I wake him he'll jerk and say Don't and sit
up and stare about him in blue
unrecognition, oh my Lord how I
know these two. When love comes to me and says
What do you know, I say This girl, this boy.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

"You Can't Escape It!"

No, I can't.

I come from a long line of sparkies, and I've been involved with a few firemen, too. For starters, I stuffed my crumbling marriage into the toilet when I became involved with a former neighbor and (married) New Haven firefighter. Then, while in the process of my subsequent divorce, I had a brief, but above-board relationship with Patrick, another New Haven firemen with whom I am still friends. When that relationship waned--and a year later when Ian and I had briefly broken up--I politely turned down dates with divorced dads who happened to be firefighters from other towns. Frankly, it was all just getting ridiculous.

So I went on a date with a cop instead. He too was a divorced dad who happened to shoulder a rather large chip. It wasn't a very good date.

New Haven is a small town. There are far too many opportunities for me to be reminded of things I'd rather forget. And despite the fact that I moved out of my old neighborhood and avoid daily reminders of my transgressions, there are still little tests everywhere. Little coincidences and occasions in which I have the opportunity to see for myself how far I've come in being emotionally detached from the past.

Which brings me to tonight. I had a call from Al, the local alderman who is on the board of the kids' Little League and who is the kids' coach this year. He's a great guy whose father happened to be my marshal when I served my ex-husband with divorce papers. He is also good friends with my cousin Mike, who is president of the Little League. If I need anything--anything at all--I have "people". It's reassuring, but I digress.

The point is this: Al was calling me with the details of this season, including the fact that there are a record five T-ball teams this year, opening day is next Saturday, Sean and Nolan will play on the same team (with Al as their coach), and we're still awaiting uniforms.

"What team are they on this year?" I asked. Last year, Sean played for Jennifer's Ice Cream, the T-ball team sponsored by the local ice cream shop of the same name.

"They're playing for the New Haven Firefighters Local 825. They sponsored a team this year, and it's ours."

My mouth hung open on the other end of the line. I stifled a laugh before saying, "Great! Well...if you need any help with opening day ceremonies, let me know."

"I will. We need coaches, too. Put the word out."

"I will. Talk to you later, Al."

"I'll call ya Thursday."

We hung up, and I texted Ian with the name of the kids' team. He immediately called me, as amused as he was bemused.

"That's ridiculous. You can't escape it! Did you laugh in Al's face when he told you?"

"I like Al too much to laugh in his face. I just sat on the phone with my mouth open, laughing to myself."

Now, it's not a big deal. It's just the name of a team. But for people who know me--or even think they do--it's just a funny coincidence that keeps me laughing. New Haven is a small, small town. It's kind of annoying. But I wouldn't have it any other way. If it were any bigger, it would be boring.


and another one:

Grandma's daffodils are in full bloom, and Nolan picked me flowers today from my mother's yard. Too sweet.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, April 11, 2008

First of 18

[Insert long, low whistle here.]

What a day.

Work was fine. It was work. I've been getting to know some of my new coworkers better, and the sarcastic banter has been kicked up a notch as a result. Two of the most witty people in the building sit right outside my office, so I have no shortage of entertainment throughout the day.

But it was a long day, probably because I went to bed late and was woken up much too early by Nolan, who is literally up with the birds each day. And now, at 8PM, I'm hoping I can make it through the next five innings of the Yanks first of 18 games against the Red Sox this season. So far, no score.

It doesn't help that I'm listening to a lullaby. Ken Singleton, former major league player and longtime announcer for the Yankees, has the best voice. It's smooth and cool and unruffled and wryly amused. I love it. I wish I had a recording of him reading Good Night Moon. I'd listen to it every night at bedtime. I wish I had a special little Ken Singleton box, that had a button I could press whenever I wanted to hear a reassuring affirmation from Ken at a moment's notice. Feeling stressed? Press the button. "Go with the flow," says Ken. Burn dinner? "Mmm...that's looked better but it still looks good to me," says Ken. Having a bad hair day? "It's just a funny looking little pimple," says Ken. "I don't think anyone's going to notice. You still look great. Heh heh heh." The opportunities are endless for his Positive Mental Attitude voice-overs.

Until that moment I crawl into bed tonight (and dream of Ken announcing double plays), I'm parking it on the couch. I don't do this often. I'm always gogogogogogogogogo. But tonight? The kids are with their dad. The BF is at work. I went for a run when I got home. And the dog is sacked out on the floor, recovering from a seizure she had right before I got home tonight. Ah, the joys of an epileptic dog. During happy hour on a Friday, I was busy cleaning up dog pee and frothy spit, two fringe benefits of her occasional seizures. I had no choice but to run after coming home to that. It was the only way I could come down from my day. So I ran and ran and ran until I didn't feel like running anymore, until my sick dog and money and the decision to maybe--maybe not?--buy a house right now was no longer at the front of my brain. I pushed it back. I sweat it out. I took deep breaths. I ran home.

So now, the house is clean, my belly is full, the dog is fine, the turtle is content in his tank, and the Yanks are playing the Sox in a rainy Friday game. And the Yanks are now up 1-0. It's Spring. Baseball is back. And so what if the kids are up with the birds in the morning? We all should be.

Here's a great clip from a great movie. Something tells me I'll be having a similar conversation with Nolan this spring. The kid is not even four and can hit off pitches instead of the tee. Even the Little League Board knows who this kid is--because when he was two years old he was hitting pitches during his older brother's practices, which the coaches let him join because he has such an obvious, innate love for the game. But he's still only three. Three year olds cry. A lot. Especially when they don't win:

Shit! Sox tied it up!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Soothing the Ojo Loco

What is it that makes us, generally speaking, lose it? Lose our minds? Get the crazy eye, the ojo loco?

Sure there are many factors, like a genetic predisposition to mental illness. Or trauma. But what is "trauma" anyway?

The dictionary gives us two categories of definitions:
1. Pathology. a. a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident.
b. the condition produced by this; traumatism.

2. Psychiatry. a. an experience that produces psychological injury or pain.
b. the psychological injury so caused.

I think there is something else that can make us go nuts, something that is not limited to trauma or genetic predispositions or other factors that contribute to losing our shit, to be blunt. I think change is terrifying--even traumatic--for most of us. And, consequently, we avoid it as much as possible. This means that most change comes about out of necessity, when things are out of our control. And almost always, that change comes at a price: Loss. And for most of us, loss is a trauma. It is a shift in things as we know them and like them to be. It forces us out of a comfort zone.

Usually, the loss is that of a lost relationship, whether that relationship has been severed by death or something else. Depending on how close you are to the person, and how much you depend on upon that person and your relationship to them, you're going to suffer a loss when that relationship is lost, or broken, or even altered. In short, the more attached you are, the more hurt you'll be, and the crazier you're likely to get in the afermath.

So we're faced with a challenge: Never get close to anyone again. Or get close and risk loss.

There is a third option, too: Get close and be less attached. That usually means being less needy in a relationship, relying on yourself more than the other person to make you feel good. Because at the end of the day, no matter how great you feel with another person, that person isn't making you feel great. That greatness is inside you. And as Tobey Maguire's character points out in Pleasantville, you can't stop something that's inside you. In short: Don't be so selfish. You already have what you need to feel good, content, happy, fulfilled.

So this is where my mind is at this morning: me and my inclination to flee when things go bad. Is it the human condition? I don't know. I don't typically flee. I fight until there is nothing left fighting for. But it doesn't mean I'd rather get out of the ring.

Anyway, back to the workday. See what happens to my little brain when I get a simple song stuck in my head? Ai yi about crazy.

Happy Thursday! ;o)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

When Time is Not on Your Side

This guy has been an inspiration to me since his talk was first broadcast months ago. If you haven't yet heard of him, read on (and check out ABC on Wednesday night). I read this today after spending several minutes obsessing over things that are really not all that important. I had just asked for a little divine intervention to get me out of my head. Then I stumbled across the article.

From today's NYT:

April 8, 2008

Keeping Priorities Straight, Even at the End

As a professor of computer sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, Randy F. Pausch expected students to pay attention to his lectures. He never expected that the rest of the world would listen, too.

But today, more than 10 million people have tuned into Dr. Pausch’s last lecture, a whimsical and poignant talk about Captain Kirk, zero gravity and achieving childhood dreams. The 70-minute talk, at, has been translated into seven languages, and this week Hyperion is publishing “The Last Lecture,” a book by Dr. Pausch and a collaborator, Jeff Zaslow, that tells the story behind the story of the lecture.

“The whole thing is very strange,” Dr. Pausch said over lunch at a diner near Norfolk, Va. “I just gave a talk. I gave talks my whole life.”

But of course, this wasn’t just any talk. “Let’s not ignore the obvious,” he said. “If I’d given that lecture but I weren’t dying, it wouldn’t have had the gravitas. Context is everything.”

Dr. Pausch, 47, is dying of pancreatic cancer, a disease that kills 95 percent of its victims, usually within months of diagnosis. Except for a pill bottle on the table in front of him, there were no outward signs of the deadly tumors growing inside him. Though he had just recently recovered from heart and kidney failure, he looked boyish, with a red knit shirt and a head of thick dark-brown hair.

Last fall, after doctors told him that he would probably have no more than six months of good health, Dr. Pausch stepped down from his academic duties and relocated to be closer to his family. But he decided to give one last lecture to a roomful of students and faculty members at Carnegie Mellon.

The lecture was not about cancer. Instead, he says, it was simply a father’s effort to digest a lifetime of advice for his children into one talk — a talk that Dr. Pausch knew he would not be around long enough to deliver in person. The children are Dylan, 6; Logan, 4; and Chloe, almost 2.

Although he could have set it up on a home video, he liked the idea that one day they would watch his last lecture and see their dad at work, in his element.

“I’m speaking only to them,” he said. “I didn’t set out to tell the world about how to live life.”

After Mr. Zaslow, a Carnegie Mellon alumnus who is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, wrote about the talk, it quickly became an Internet sensation.

With the clarity of thought that perhaps only a person facing death can muster, Dr. Pausch, in his lecture and his book, outlines his recipe for a happy life and achieving dreams.

He talks of reaching his childhood goals of experiencing zero gravity, writing an article in the World Book Encyclopedia, winning giant stuffed animals at amusement parks and being a Disney “imagineer.” Much of his talk is about tenacity and how he managed to scale the “brick walls” that stood in the way of achieving some of his dreams. Other lessons are those that all parents hope to teach their children — show gratitude, tell the truth, no job is beneath you.

And he urges parents to let their children draw on the bedroom walls — where the young Randy Pausch painted a quadratic equation, a rocket, an elevator and, from one of his favorite stories, Pandora’s box. At the bottom of the box, he added the word “Hope” that a friend later preceded with “Bob.”

Dr. Pausch says he is trying to use his unexpected celebrity to draw attention to the lack of financing for pancreatic cancer research. Testifying before Congress on behalf of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (, he showed a picture of his family. “This is my widow,” he said pointing to his wife, Jai. “That’s not a grammatical construction you get to use every day, but there aren’t many diseases where you know it will be fatal.”

Because Dr. Pausch has outlived his initial prognosis, a few bloggers have begun to speculate that he is not really dying. Doctors at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Pittsburgh have confirmed Dr. Pausch’s diagnosis and treatment.

“There’s nothing to be cynical about in how he’s choosing to approach these last months of his life,” said Robbee Kosak, vice president for university advancement at Carnegie Mellon. “He’s always been very passionate. He’s always very pragmatic. He knows exactly what his priorities are. People like Randy are so rare. We should all be really happy that so many of us have had a chance now to see that it’s possible to live your life with passion and energy and candor.”

Although Dr. Pausch let Diane Sawyer prepare a one-hour special for ABC-TV about his talk and cancer battle that will be broadcast on Wednesday evening, he has turned down movie offers and even declined an approach from a documentary filmmaker. “It was time I didn’t have,” he said.

Dr. Pausch said that his wife persuaded him to write the book, but that he was worried it would take too much time away from the children. Because he rode his bike every day to keep up his strength, he spoke with his co-writer, Mr. Zaslow, by phone on 53 one-hour bike rides.

The real wisdom of Dr. Pausch is that he tries to enjoy every day he has left with his family, while at the same time trying to prepare them for life without him. To that end, he is videotaping himself spending time with Dylan, Logan and Chloe so they can look back and see how he felt about them.

“I’ve always said I only care about the first three copies of the book,” Dr. Pausch said. “The lessons learned are the lessons I’ve learned and what worked for me. But so many people wrote to me and said, ‘This was a jumping-off point to have conversations with my kids we haven’t had.’ ”


Or you can go to McDonald's

Food and architecture: two fundamental things that are, for the most part, completely lost on Americans. As I sift through listings of badly designed homes for sale, I get hungry. But I don't crave a Big Mac.

So I'm sharing with you one of my favorite opening scenes from one of my favorite movies from Ang Lee: Eat, Drink, Man, Woman .

If you've never seen it, you should.


Monday, April 7, 2008

American Dream, Take Two


I had forgotten how painful house hunting can be. Don't get me wrong: I love it. I love looking at houses and figuring out where everything from the kids' beds to the annual Christmas tree will fit in a house's layout. I tend to step back, look at the whole thing, and decided if I like it. If I do, then I pay attention to the more important details: the foundation, electric, plumbing. And in beautiful, metaphoric fashion, Ian is the exact opposite: He zeroes in on the important details before deciding if a house is worth liking. So while he's the basement checking out dark corners with a flashlight, I'm standing in the living room trying to decide where the piano I don't yet have will best fit. Somewhere in the middle, our viewpoints meet.

After the wiring has been deemed acceptable and before I search Craigslist for a decent, "free" piano, we have much work to do. And it's not always fun. It involves money and emotion, negotiating sale prices and deciding, no matter how much we love a home, what our maximum offer will be. It's an excercise in trust--trust in each other, trust in the process, trust that we know our limits and stick to them. It's also an excercise in patience, something I need to work on. Something I need to have, if I'm going to find the right home to purchase for my family in my second tour of marriage and the American Dream.

No matter what, we'll know the house when we find it, not only because we'll like it enought to place an offer, but because at some point our offer--or counter offer to a counter offer--will be accepted.

Until then, I'm glad I don't have too much packing to do, considering I purged so much of my excess "stuff" when I sold my house last year. We all knew this current situation wouldn't be permanent; my basement is full of empty moving boxes, ready and waiting, to prove it.

On another, completely different topic: There are so many movies I've yet to see, and even more I want to watch again (and again, and again). I'm looking forward to a hot summer night when I'll throw this in the DVD player for the thousandth time:

Happy Monday.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

That Wascly Wabbit

I like Avatar. I like Batman. I like a lot of the cartoons my kids like to watch. I'm also sick of them. So I I switched some things up in my NetFlix queue, and this morning the kids enjoyed a Looney Tunes DVD.

I've not found Looney Tunes on TV. Am I crazy? Does it not exist anymore? Do I not know how to follow the TV Guide? Or do I watch so little television that I've forgotten how to find basic programming? Whatever the reason, the kids hadn't watched Looney Tunes until this morning, and it's about freakin' time.

They cracked up continuously. Sean and Nolan are pranksters--little practical jokers with an absurd and sarcastic sense of humor that seems beyond their years. Bugs Bunny's antics are right up their alley. And mine.

Mel Blanc was a genius.

I wish I had the DVD for last week, when my brother and sister stayed the weekend. They would have appreciated it. I saw them last night at Grandma's, where Ian, the kids and I enjoyed some Modern pies with everyone and played a little baseball in the backyard (until Nolan threw an absolute fit that he didn't get Sean out and hurled his ball and glove into the yard and stormed inside in tears. T-Ball should be interesting this year.).

At one point, as we sat around the kitchen table that used to be my Great Grandma's, my sister and Grandma leaned their heads in together to peer out the window at the garden where the flowers are holding their own in the chilly Spring. I had taken photos of the garden yesterday, along with the crocuses that popped up as they have every year in the secret hiding spots I had in the yard as a child growing up in her house. But the image that will stay with me is the tilt of Grandma and Grace's heads as they looked out the window together.

Today, Ian, the kids and I go house huntin'.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Dig Into the Dirt, Get Home

The kids hit the sporting goods store today with Ian to pick up new cleats. It's Nolan's first year of T-ball, Sean's last before Pee Wees next year. After dinner tonight, Nolan couldn't wait to put on his baseball cleats and pants and run around the house, pretending to slide into base and dive for balls. All suited up for a game, he sat with me as we watched the Yanks play Tampa Bay before bedtime. Later, eager to play ball, Nolan cried before bed, "But will it stop raining so we can play baseball tomorrow, Mommy?" Hope so.

Nolan insisted on sleeping in his baseball pants. Hey, man. Why not? As the kids drifted off to dreamland, I pulled out photos that have been neglected and unorganized for three years. Time to get back on the stick and file these things chronologically in albums. I can't move again without these memories in some kind of order. It's time.

I sat on the living room floor surrounded by photos, as the Yanks lost to the Rays--THE RAYS!!!--13 to 4. Oh, the carnage! After about two hours, I had selected all the pictures that made the cut for albums. The rest went back into a great big box that will follow me everywhere, I'm sure.

As the Yanks completed their horrible loss, I took a break from my photos and flipped through catalogs of perennials. If all goes well, sometime in mid-little league season Ian and I will hopefully be buying a house together not far from the ballpark where my kids love to slide into base. Fingers crossed, this will work out, and I will finally, once and for all, be able to lay down some serious roots. I cannot wait to get dirty in a new garden, my own garden, with the help of the kids and Ian. And I cannot wait to see my kids play in their very own backyard again without landlords, however kind, lurking.

The Yanks lost. I closed the catalog and arranged a teetering stack of photos in a safe corner on the floor for organizing tomorrow. Just flipping through them all was somewhat draining. Tomorrow I'll recommence. Right now, I need yoga.

And the Yanks need a kick in the ass! 13-4?? Are you kidding me? I cannot wait for Pettitte to take the mound tomorrow. I've been waiting since last fall for this.

Tomorrow I get a haircut. Not too much off the ends. Then it's a big family dinner at Grandma's, where last fall's bulbs are growing taller by the day.

Before bed, here's this, which is stuck in my head:


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Prolific, Moving Prose

I have scanned about sixty different documents today, I think.

Thank God I'm going to Adulis tonight with Heide and "the men". I so need me some Eritrean two-tomato-gig and tsebhe. A nice follow-up to the kugel Heide surprised me with today, and the quiche I had for lunch at Grandma's.

This makes me feel better, too:


It's Only Natural.

I can't log in to my work email right now, so I'm going to share this with all y'all:

Sean and Nolan rush into the house every day after school and furiously grab their folders out of their backpacks to show me what each has done that day in class. Nolan usually has cute and creative 3-D art projects, as well as number and alphabet lessons that are more advanced than anything Sean did at that age in his old school.

As for Sean, his projects are different. He is in kindergarten, and while there is no shortage of illustrations and little comics that he draws in his free time, there are many more lessons he covers in a day, including writing sentences, following complicated patterns (two birds, three bees, three birds, four bees, four birds, how many bees?), simple addition, phonics, and other things. Yesterday's lesson included a focus on the letter "W", and Sean was eager to show me a workbook page he had completed.

The page featured several pictures of things that begin with "W", such as a walrus, a wagon, a wheel, and so on. Then there were three blank spots where the children were instructed to draw pictures of other items that begin with "W". Sean, ever the abstract thinker, drew Wind, Waves, and the Wild--which was a picture of many trees and grass.

Sean has a keen interest in nature. He is fascinated by all aspects of it, as well as planets and stars, and he is increasingly interested in environmental issues. His little drawings were adorable, but his commentary was even cuter.

"I drew all nature things, Mom. Because I really love nature. And the animals. And the ocean. And I don't like it when people litter."

My little sweetheart. He's also getting into "found art"--picking up random things on the ground (that aren't too disgusting--this often requires my intervention) and creating art out of them. "That's one way to recycle," he noted. Indeed. Just don't pick up that empty dimebag or used condom, kid.

I found two quotes from John Burroughs today that I want to share with everyone. The first one's for Sean:

“Joy in the universe, and keen curiosity about it all - that has been my religion.”

And this is for the rest of us:

“A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.”

And I've got this to brighten your morning. My kids like the Clash. They like the Stones. They like the Cars and Jonathan Richman and even the Kinks. But this is their latest favorite:

Happy Thursday!


Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Let your baby wear this Morrissey Tee only if you want him to get picked on at daycare:

I heart Etsy!

Now get back to work!



I went for a run this morning. Ian had stayed over, so I seized the opportunity of having another adult in the house to watch the kids, and I headed out for a short and fast trot.

The air was cold and fresh, and I could smell the ocean. I left my iPod at home, preferring to listen to the chirps of birds and hum of school buses throughout the neighborhood. My stride was short; I was tired and not making great lengths with my little legs this morning. The wind through the open window in my bedroom last night woke me up several times, and the ringing of my neighbor's windchimes were as eerie as they were comforting at 2AM. I didn't sleep well.

It was while running that I remembered my dreams from last night. They aren't worth recounting in this space. Ian's were far better than my old, tired, recurring dreams with faces and places that my subconscious clearly can't forget. I'm still conflicted about the effect my divorce will have on my children, and I still wrestle in my sleep (and many waking hours) with immense guilt for some of the choices I've made. I recently asked my therapist if it was all worth it--having hurt so many people a few years ago.

"Moira, I'd like to remind you that you didn't act alone. And you didn't even act that badly. And it was all a catalyst for the change that needed to happen in your life. When you came into my office three years ago you suffered from acute, crippling anxiety that was directly related to a miserable marriage that could not be repaired, even after your transgressions. Even after months and months of marriage counseling. And now? You're out of an unhealthy marriage. Your children are thriving. You're working and doing extremely well taking care of yourself and the kids. You've established contact with your father's family. You've reset the boundaries of your relationship with your mother. You're happy. You've learned so much about yourself and how to pay that forward in a relationship with another man. And you no longer suffer from life-crippling anxiety. You tell me: Was it worth it, even if he never left his wife for you?"

Yes. Worth more, in fact.

Anyway, back to good dreams. Ian dreamt last night that I won tickets to see the Yankees and meet Joe Girardi. Now THAT is a dream. I'm not surprised that's where his subconscious took him as he slept. I was near tears of happiness watching the Yanks play their first game of the season last night--and they won 3-2 over the Blue Jays. "Happy now?" Ian asked when the game was over. I was more than happy. I felt normal for the first time since fall.

Well, almost normal. I'm running again, and that's a good thing. More yoga is a good thing, too, as is my significantly scaled-back social life. I have many acquaintances, but few true friends, as the past few years have taught me. And right now, that's fine with me. Quality, not quantity: That's what I'm striving for in every corner of my life these days. I've long been known to say that "life is too short for anything but good wine and vine-ripe tomatoes (or native tomatoes, when they're in season)". Am I wrong?

I returned from my quick run refreshed, awake, and ready for a big cup of coffee after my water. Ian took the kids to school, and I made my way to work. I have three quotes to share with you. And then I'm going to defect into the workday.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” - Crowfoot

“Whatever needs to be maintained through force is doomed." - Henry Miller

“It's hard to beat a person who never gives up.” - Babe Ruth

(Okay. One more from Ruth:)

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” - Babe Ruth


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

No Foolin'

Tomorrow my cousin Joey heads off to boot camp. He's joining the Army. I'm proud of him, because this has something he has wanted to do for a long time. I'm happy for him, because he's happy. And I'm terrified for him.

He's 22. He's a big boy and knows what he's doing. He also comes from a long line of military men. Our Uncle Jack was a Navy Seal--a Special Ops guy. And our grandfather served in the Navy in WWII. Seriously accomplished soldiers, these men. Especially Jack, who played a significant and clandestine role in a few key moments in more recent American History.

It has only been a couple of years since I first met Joey, since my biological father's side of the family was estranged from me for most of my life. But I made some big steps to change that in recent years, and my life is all the richer for it. For purely selfish reasons, Joey's leaving hurts: I wanted to get to know him better, and now he's going away.

But at least my kids will have a new hero. All of us will.

Love you, Joe.