Friday, December 11, 2009

Like before. Except not. And better.

I am in love with felt right now. Felt, felt, felt. I made gingerbread men ornaments, retro-inspired ornaments (both courtesy of http://howaboutorange.blogspot.com, where the patterns were free downloads), and now I'm getting ready to whip up some felt-y appliques for our otherwise plain Christmas stockings. I guess the felt obsession was born of the embroidery dabbling I've enjoyed this year. I love it. It's easy to work with. And with embroidery floss as part of the equation, it always looks cute.

I took today off from work. It was something I had planned to do a while ago, and man did I need it. I was busy taking care of loose ends left and right. I whipped up a coffee cake at 6:30 AM and brought some to a morning visit at Grandma's, hit the Post Office and finally mailed out a bunch of Christmas cards, went to the store for a few extra gifts--and where I managed to spend more time chatting with my mom on my cellphone than actually shopping (yep, I was THAT person), and once home hung out with three dogs happy to be warm inside this frigid day, ate a clementine and spaced out--are you still reading this?

And I wrapped.

I wrapped. A lot. I wrapped a lot of gifts. So much so that my iTunes Christmas Playlist of 85 songs played TWICE. Uh-huh.

The only thing missing right now is the tree. There is a fine line between getting your tree too early in the season and getting it too late. If I had a fake tree, it would have been up by now. But I favor fresh trees. Fresh cut trees. Fresh cut trees that my boys have a hand in sawing down in the midst of a lil' mom and pop New England tree farm.

The plan is to pick it out Sunday, no matter what the weather. We might have done it last weekend--maybe--if the kids hadn't been sick. But we keep it up until "little Christmas", on January 6. Three Kings Day. So we need our tree to actually live until then. The last few years, the tree has barely made it. Hence the delay this year. I'm okay with it. It makes the anticipation of Christmas a bit bigger somehow to have yet put up the tree. Everything else is up. Great-Grandma's ancient nativity set, the window candles, the wreath, the evergreen roping and white lights outside. The whole house is ready for a Yuletide rumble. But tonight, while the fire crackles, we've got nothing except the ghost of our tree, unsuspectingly and innocently rooted somewhere in Guilford or Clinton.

So Christmas is coming. I'm *really* looking forward to it this year in a way that I haven't in a long time. What's funny is that I never thought I wasn't excited about Christmas in recent years. I guess this year I'm just looking forward to it even more. It's simpler, this year. Fewer gifts (yes, I know I wrapped all afternoon, but still. I have a huge family.). Quality vs. quantity. No giving into chaotic commercialism. Home made ornaments. Lots of baking. A (home made) advent calendar that the kids LOVE opening each day ("Pick out a DVD to watch tonight!" "Special surprise breakfast!" "Make a Christmas craft!"). Thanks to Family Fun magazine for that idea.

But more than anything, I think I'm just finally having fun with it all in a loose, comfortable way. There is no quest for perfection. My house doesn't have to be "perfect" to host Christmas dinner, which I cannot wait to do! (Ordered the Christmas roast from the butcher today!) There is no concern about buying the "perfect" gift for anyone. Just buying a special gift out love seems to be enough. I don't know what changed, exactly, except my attitude. And I am more than okay with it.

The shopping is pretty much all done, save for one or two things. And now I get to enjoy the next two weeks of anticipation. I have plenty to keep me busy--obligations and appointments galore. But it's all good stuff. There are parties at the kids' school, tae kwon do class, and CCD. There is a Hanukkah dinner at the in-laws tomorrow night, a few hours after a luncheon for the CCD teachers.

And the tree. Sunday night the boys, Ian and I will put up our first Christmas tree since Ian and I were married in March. It will be just like last year--or the year before that. Except...better.


xo

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Togetherness

I've just not been here lately. It's not that I haven't been writing--at least in my head. But I've been busier than usual, and enjoying it. Fully engaged in the here and now of my life. And at the end of the day, the last thing I've felt like doing is writing about my day and my experiences. At least lately. I love to write, to share. But after months of doing it even sometimes more than once a day, I can honestly say that I must have felt a need to just take a break from...thinking...about thinking. Or something like that.

Facebook. That's also taken a little bit of time away from me, because I let it. It also enables me to drop a few links and comments here and there that reflect whatever I'm thinking/feeling/interested in at the moment. It's like Blog Lite. Or even lighter than that. It's filled the gaps that might have otherwise been filled here. Maybe.

It's also enabled me to reconnect with more people than I ever thought possible. I like that about Facebook. I like being able to volley some wit with old friends from my childhood--people I might have likely lost touch with completely if not for the magical interweb. I like staying in touch with friends from my formative summer days at the beach club, assorted classmates from my years at a Catholic girls' high school, and a smattering of current and former co-workers from as long as 20 years ago.

What I dislike about Facebook is that it reinforces the cliquey-ness of some people and groups of "friends". It's inevitable, I guess. And while it hurts no one, it serves to remind me that I have been a clique-less person most of my life, excepting a small group of friends from downtown New Haven that were My Own during the latter years of high school.

Mostly, I was--and am--a bit of a social floater. I have had Renee by my side through most of life, of course. She's my oldest, closest friend. After 25 years of close friendship, it's safe to say she's more of a sister than anything. And I have had several friends with whom I shared interests--and if not interests, then backgrounds, or aspirations, or other commonalities. But I have never, ever had a tight group of, say, a half dozen or so friends who do most *everything* together. I know they exist--those groups of close friends. Like the show "Friends", only somehow more annoying.

Kidding. Kind of.

It's not totally annoying. It's just mystifying to me. After my divorce from my first husband (or "wasband", a term I heard recently and LOVE), I lost several friends who were never really *mine* to begin with. They were his, and I had them by proxy for several years. But I never really fit in with that crowd. And in some ways, though I miss certain individuals, I don't miss feeling like an outsider in a group of people I saw on a regular basis.

With any romantic relationship, there is tricky peripheral friendship terrain to navigate. With Ian, my new and improved husband, I've encountered a new tight-knit group of friends with whom I feel more welcome, but at times still very much an outsider. I knew some of them pretty well prior to dating Ian, but it's different now that we're married. I can safely say they are people I would WANT to be friends with, regardless of the fact that I am married to "one of them". But still...for me...something's missing from the group. I guess it's my own acceptance that I am now part of it.

Because I find groups limiting. (Groups are one step away from mobs. And mob mentalities scare me.) Instead, I have close friends hidden in all kinds of pockets, corners, and shady nooks. I have one or two good friends from college with whom I still keep in touch. One or two good childhood friends that I like to keep tabs on. There are high school friends who are delight to meet up with on occasion. And there are SEVERAL former colleagues with whom I could very easily get a beer tomorrow and pick up RIGHT where we left off, even if it was years ago. I have many, many random friends from around town, most of whom have moved, but with whom I have some kind of strong connection. I have managed to keep in touch with a couple of ex-boyfriends for almost two decades. And I there are many parents of my children's friends with whom I have been delighted to forge new friendships.

What--or who?--remains of that strong group of downtown New Haven friends I had during high school? Unsurprisingly: Just me and Renee.

I could probably spend a fair amount of time and money on my therapist trying to determine why I don't like to be labeled in with a bunch of friends. Or why I wish I was labeled in with a bunch of friends. Or both, cuz it truly is a little bit of both. I'm sure my years in Catholic girls high school during the Heathers era did enough damage in the cattiness department to frighten me away from obligatory camaraderie of any sort. It could also explain why for YEARS my closest friends were men. I had sort of had enough of women's bullshit after four years at Sacred Heart Academy. It took about ten years to recover.

So maybe I really want to be part of tight group, and instead hide it under the guise of being too cool for that. But tonight, as I sat at home watching the Polar Express with Sick Child #1 and Recovering Child #2, it occurred to me that if I had--and kept--the same group of friends pretty static for the past 20 years, HOW ON EARTH WOULD I HAVE GROWN? (This is not to imply that others in tight groups haven't grown. I just know me--and experience in many forms is key if I want to occasionally be reminded to pull my head outta my ass.) And if I constantly sought out people with the same interests as me, again, how on earth would I have grown?? While commonalities and shared interests are helpful, and usually the cause of budding friendships, it's the people with whom I have shared ideology but varied--even opposite--interests and hobbies that have really blown open my world. That's how I grow.

But that's just me.

So tonight the boys and I huddled together with a Christmas movie and ate Christmas cookies (AS IF my ass needs them). Munching away, I lamented the fact that the household illness du jour kept 3/4 of our family from attending the Christmas season dinner that most of Ian's close group of friends attended. Ian was there representing our little family team. And I missed being with them all. I supposed a few of them might have wondered where we were. I like to think so. But if they didn't, that wouldn't have surprised me. Or even hurt me. Ultimately, I was content to be right where I was. I've been here all along.


xo

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fright Night

Okay. Major episode tonight... or lack thereof. That's what makes it notable.

My son Sean, who is almost 8 and who has a severe peanut allergy, tonight managed to eat five tortilla chips at a party. Unremarkable. Except that they were chips made exclusively with peanut oil--highly refined peanut oil. Imagine a slow-motion defensive line tackle, and you pretty much have how I proceeded to handle the situation once I read the ingredients label.

After my initial adrenaline rush, and telling Sean to back off any food for at least 10 minutes so I could monitor him for any reaction to the chips (and be sure it was the chips that caused any possible reaction), I marveled at the situation: Why didn't he get sick--at all? Would he? Technically he could get sick within a 24 hour window, but with Sean he usually gets sick within seconds. But tonight? Nothing. I sipped a glass of wine, adjusted the halo on my costume (ha!), and thanked God for nothing short of a miracle.

I double-checked the list of ingredients on the bag. The fourth of about five ingredients was "highly refined peanut oil". I shook off my panic and walked into another room to talk to Ian. "Highly refined peanut oil--I'm guessing it's processed so much that it no longer has the peanut protein in it," I said. "The protein is what makes him sick, but still... I dunno. I can't wait to call his allergist and ask him about it."

The rest of the night Sean was fine and enjoyed ourselves. I kept an extra eye on him, as I normally do at parties with lots of food. I watched him for signs of any reaction, and asked him ad nauseum if his throat was itchy or if anything bothered him. "Nope! Feel normal as always!" he reassured me.

I tucked him into bed, and we all said our nighttime prayers--including a special one to the guardian angel who watched over my little guy tonight. And then I went downstairs and immediately looked up information on refined peanut oil. What I found backed my suspicion: Technically deemed safe for people with peanut allergies, it has not notably caused a reaction in those with the allergy. And while I don't think it's something he should have, it's good to know that he lucked out tonight in unwittingly eating the highly refined stuff.

So I'll double-check and triple-check on him tonight before I turn in. And I'll definitely drop his allergist a line on Monday. But to say I'm grateful he was okay tonight, when even trace nuts are so dangerous to him, is an understatement. I couldn't stop hugging him at bedtime.

xo

Monday, September 14, 2009

My God...

I've been tapped to teach catechism to first graders in our parish.





I'm just going to let that sink in for a minute for all y'all.





::pause:: ::crickets::






Yep, I'm teaching Sunday school. 'Cept we don't meet on Sundays. This all happened by accident--or wait, there are no accidents. Is it divine intervention? Providential guilt for being a somewhat lapsed Catholic? A big, holy joke? I don't know what it all means, but I do know this: When I'm tapped on the shoulder and literally asked to teach a bunch of six and seven year olds that God is Love, I answer the call.

I had signed up Sean for CCD now that he is no longer attending Catholic school. I want him to have formal Catholic education, to make his sacraments, and to become an adult in the Church. How he or his brother regard the dogma of the Catholic church as they get older is entirely up to them. But for now, I think they need a foundation. Something to go on. A framework full of rich history and amazing stories, peppered with lots of rules. The Church has a long, bloody, corrupt and inspirational past. Kind of like the United States, only older...

When I signed up Sean, I checked off the little box next to "willing to volunteer" on one of the forms. A week later I received a call: Did I want to be listed as a sub, as back-up? Sure! I enthusiastically answered. Two days later I received another call: The first grade teacher is out with a broken tibia for at least six to eight weeks, if she comes back at all after that. Would I be willing to fill in--maybe for the entire year?

Well.... okay.

"Really?"

Really.

So here I am. Me. A 36-year-old mother of two. I have a trailer full of transgressions behind me. I have gone months--years!--in my life without going to mass regularly. I question everything. I am at odds with certain dogmatic teachings. I am not perfect. Not holy. I have been married, divorced, remarried. I swear a lot.

But I believe Gandhi, when he said that if you don't see God in all, you don't see God at all. I believe in the Beatitudes. I believe no one should be thrown out. I believe we all deserve second, third, fourth chances. I believe it is not up to us to judge. I believe we should do the best we can do, and that's going to change from day to day. I believe there is a God. I also believe that there is a one true God, too, and that humans have made up a bajillion stories throughout the years to make sense of it all. And that true God is all love, all good, all light, all knowing, all forgiving, and something we can't possibly comprehend, so how on Earth can we label it?

I am grateful beyond words that I have been asked to teach first grade CCD, as opposed to, say, 8th grade. I believe I can handle (read: not get fired for answering) the questions of this age group as opposed to older kids. Our first class was pretty fun and interesting. We brainstormed. I grabbed some chalk, scratched out GOD on the chalkboard, and said, "What do you think of when you think of God?"

After all, these kids are LITTLE. They're not even entirely sure why they're sitting at desks for an hour on a school night to learn about this enigmatic thing that has to do with a guy on a cross. A bloody, thorny man nailed to a cross who loves them and says "Let the children come to me." I mean, when you look at it that way...

I don't point that way of looking at it out to them. No worries.

Anyway, the kids came up with some great answers: God is in your heart. God made things, like rain, snow, fire, and frogs. God made us. God is our friend--he wants to listen to us and he wants us to talk to him about everything, not just when we want something. God wants us to be good to one another. It went on and on.

I think the kids already have it down. It made me kind of sad, in a way, that they've got to learn the dogma, when they already have a pure understanding of God's love in their big, beautiful hearts. But we need the dogmatic teachings, if only to have the information and knowledge to debate, question, and eventually understand that you can spend a lifetime studying the teachings and miss the lesson entirely.

I do not know how fit anyone really is to teach CCD. I guess that's the point. We're human. We're trying our best to make sense of it all. But in the meantime, let's at least remind each other to be a good friend, treat others the way you want to be treated, and trust that something much larger than us--something we can't begin to comprehend--loves us. Call it God, Allah, Krishna.... Call it the Universe. Call it Nothing and claim it doesn't exist.

I will call it God. My God, who was beside me during my beautifully fraught upbringing as an Irish-Italian Catholic kid from 'Staven. (That Catholic childhood was rich in tradition, history, a lot of talk about the Kennedy's, and a genuine sense of faith and love that has carried me through some dark, dark hours.) The God who cuts through the dogma and is simply a quiet, loving presence in my life even when I forget to thank him/her/it. Even when I have ignored God for so long, he has still been there for me when I needed him.

I have laid down on my back on a bench in the Sistine Chapel, against the posted rules of the Vatican, and stared at the ceiling. How else are you supposed to look at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, after all? All around me, people were sitting and standing, craning their necks. I was the only one lying down. The only one! The guards seemed almost pleased not to see yet another American moron with a camera around her neck, standing and craning. They smiled at me and looked the other way. The Vatican has gotten so used to truly magnificent art, and a magnificent God, that is has forgotten how to look at either of them.

I believe we are spiritual beings having a human experience. I also believe I have a job to do--and that is to teach a room full of tired first graders that God believes in them.

xo

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Go Team

I've been absent from this space for most of the summer. It's intentional as much as it is not. I just haven't been focused on writing. Ideas come; some stay. Many go, but that's nothing new. Really, I've just buckled down and enjoyed the moment as much as possible this summer. Living, not documenting (unless you count posting pics and status updates on Facebook). I've spent hours diving into new and familiar waters--from previously uncharted crafts such as embroidery, to as many delicious moments as possible with my children. I've tended my garden (poor, suffering tomatoes!), read a few books, enjoyed time with my brother and sister, had a few decent nights out with Ian, spent countless hours walking my neighborhood with and without the dogs, spent many moments on the front porch or enjoying a girls night.

In short, for the first time in a long time, I've just chilled and enjoyed summer for what it is.

Maybe I've chilled too much. In a way, I've had no option. Why?

I don't do laundry anymore. I rarely make the kids' lunches for camp. I almost never feed the dogs. And on the off-chance I get to run the dishwasher, Ian puts the clean dishes away faster than you can say "OCD".

Ian usually takes care of these things and more. And it's taken me some getting used to. My whole life--I mean My Whole Life--I've been highly responsible. It wasn't necessarily by choice, but it was what it was. And several hundred thousand loads of laundry later, I'm not sure what to make of having so much of that burden lifted in the year since Ian and I moved in together.

It could be a power struggle about control and domain, if I wanted to be. At another time in my life, I might have started that fight. But really, it comes down to this: Ian, too, has also been uber responsible for most of his life out of necessity. He's also got his own way of doing things. Namely, he walks through the door after a day at work and doesn't stop until he's done every chore he deems necessary that night. Me? After years of being super "on", and never relaxing, I do things at my own pace. I walk in the door with the kids, unpack backpacks and lunchboxes, let out the dogs, and then usually take it down a notch. I open the mail and even -- gasp! -- sit down and read a magazine or play with the kids for a bit. I don't hustle to get things done immediately. But I am usually the one who picks up around the house, makes the beds, vacuums (and grumbles about the dog hair), keeps the yard pretty and the surfaces clean, etc etc. I plan to have friends over and Ian buys the beer. I call in prescription refills and Ian picks them up. I write the grocery list, and Ian goes to the store. I organize, plan, orchestrate. Ian keeps busy. And we are pretty even-Steven when it comes to caring for the kids.

And so for the first time ever, I've totally enjoyed a really mellow summer. The school year starts soon, and with it my new work schedule. Most days I will be going into the office earlier and leaving much earlier to be home in the afternoons with the kids. I will no doubt reclaim some of my domain in the laundry and dishes department as a result. I'm almost looking forward to it. At the very least, getting out from behind my desk for more hours each day will burn some calories. And I'll leave plenty for Ian to do, no worries there. Even if I don't, he'll find something to do. He'll find something that could use some repair, and get to work setting it right so that it works better than ever before.

xo

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hugs and Kisses

Sometimes you just need a hug from the right person.

Today was that day. I was getting ready for work, the boys were watching cartoons, and Ian said goodbye to all of us and left for another day at his job. I heard his truck pull away, followed a few minutes later by little footsteps up and down the driveway. Then the footsteps traveled to the sidewalk. Then I heard tears.

I bolted downstairs to find Nolan bawling on the front porch. "Ian left and I wanted to give him a hug." More sobbing. I mean SOBBING. Break. My. Heart.

Of course Ian had said goodbye, but today, after he left, Nolan really wanted a hug from the guy. So we called him.

"Hi, honey. Are you on the highway yet?"

"Not yet, why?"

I explained the situation.

"Put Nolan on the phone."

Nolan took the phone from me, nodding his head a lot, wiping snot from his face, drying tears and nodding some more, with a few yes's thrown in for good measure, so Ian would know he was listening. He hung up the phone and handed it back to me.

"Well, what did he say?" I asked.

Nolan's voice was light and happy, and he skipped to the front door. "He told me to wait for him on the front porch!" Smiles. All smiles.

So my little Nolan sat there, in the middle of the porch stairs, watching and waiting for his Stepdaddy to drive down the road. He turned back to look at me a few times, since he knew I was keeping one eye on him out there. "He's coming, baby. Be patient," I reassured him.

And there he was. He pulled up in front of the house, stepped out, and Nolan ran to the truck, giving him a great big hug. A big, big, big one. After a few words and another snuggle, Ian was back in his truck and off to work. And Nolan was about 20lbs lighter in his heart.

He came back in the house, ready for a day of camp. Sean was sacked out on the couch, exhausted from waking up (and staying up!) at 3:30. Bad dreams about animal heads growing out of rocks. He was wrecked. Tired. Bumping into walls.

I sat down next to him. Nolan skipped around the house. "Do you feel better now, Nolan?"

"Yep!"

Sean stretched and leaned toward me with a yawn, keeping his eyes on the TV, and draped a sleepy arm around me.

"Love you," I whispered, kissing the top of his head.

"Love you, too."








Never, ever underestimate the power of knowing you can count on someone to be there, no matter what.


xo

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Weighty

Oh, magazines. I love to hate you.

Not all magazines. I love Real Simple...home decor magazines. Project mags. Garden mags. Food mags. But celebrity and "beauty" mags??? No. I do not love them. Especially the celeb mags, for on one single cover they'll proclaim, "John and Kate plus Eight Pounds!" and "Scary Skinny Celebs!" Honestly. Go rot tethered to a mountain with your liver pecked by vultures, publishers. You suck.

I hate, absolutely hate (and I try not to hate anything) that these magazines perpetuate the war women are at with their bodies.

I know, it sounds cliche. It sounds very '90s. Or '70s. Or whatever. But it is this: We are women; we are not static individuals, capable of maintaining a certain slim, wrinkle-free, youthful look until the day we die. NO ONE is capable of that. No one. Slim, maybe. Fewer wrinkles, maybe. Youthful? In spirit, yes, and I hope I have that one nailed down. But honestly, what we have come to expect of ourselves makes me sick to my stomach, makes me glad I am not raising a daughter right now.

Think of a piece of wood, like driftwood, or a tree. Think of how time tumbles that driftwood through the ocean, and makes it soft, pliable, worth collecting--a piece of wood that has a story to tell. No longer full of life but somehow lighter and more beautiful, shaped by experience. Similarly, a tree grows, sprouts leaves, shoots high into the sky, sheds bark, and when it dies--maybe after hundreds of years, in some cases--it leaves a thick trunk full of rings that hint at a time we can only romanticize.

Women.... why do so many of us hate our bodies so? Why do we wrestle with 10 pounds here, five pounds there? If it were concern for our coronary health that really motivated us, I might understand. But vanity is really what keeps most of us motivated to view our aging bodies as failed specimens. For my part, I have had two beautiful children, been through a whole lotta life experience that has been as up as it has been down (like most of us), and what do I see? Lumpy thighs. Yep. Nevermind what I've always told my yoga students ("Don't judge that body! Stop criticizing it! Love it for all that it's done! Love your legs for carrying you through your life! Love your arms for lifting yourself and others from one moment to the next!" etc...). Nope, I judge myself.

Why all this body talk? Well, I'm a good 20lbs heavier than I was about four years ago. What's ironic is that I'm "not heavy", by any standards. I'm still between a size two and four (so I should just shut TF up, right?) Heavier, yes. Heavy? No. And yet, I'm frustrated. It's a combination of things that led to some weight gain: Necessary medication, a more sedentary lifestyle now that I'm behind a (fucking!) desk all day, growing children who no longer need or want to be nursed, held and carried, no longer stressed and wasting away in an unhappy marriage, no longer eating the "single mom" dinners of cereal and wine, finally happy and content in healthy relationship, age/slowing metabolism, etc.... But I look good. I'm not as thin as I was, but I am still fit. As my oldest, closest friend, Renee, recently reminded me, it takes some getting used to that we can be fit and still not be skinny minnies. True. And, for real truth, when I was that thin four years ago, it was an anomaly, a testament to what was really going on inside my head, my house, my marriage at the time. I have always been more of the build I am now. Petite, but curvy. Not stick-skinny. Stick-skinny, for me anyway, is what happens when your soul is dying.

Not to be melodramatic or anything.

But some days I do miss being a size 0, which I was. I'm not going to lie to you about that. It was nice to not ever think about muffin top, for about a year. It was nice to put on anything and have it fit. It was nice I enjoyed that for a year or so, before I snapped back to reality. Before I snapped back to myself, and threw myself a lifeline before I wasted away to nothing.

Not everyone who is thin is miserable. I was, however.

So what's my point, three glasses of wine deep tonight? Three glasses of wine that the Livestrong Calorie Tracker app says I can have because I ate pretty much an egg and berries all day? My point is this: Girls, listen up. We are not the measure of our dress size. If you feel crappy, exercise and don't eat crap. You'll start to feel better, for sure. But don't compare yourself to some other person, some outward ideal. The truth is you don't know that person's story, and their life story has as much to do with their appearance as your experience has to do with your appearance, like it or not. You are not them, and you can't be them. You are you. I am me. They are them. Love yourself for who you are and your story for what it is. Love your legs for carrying you this far. Love your belly, for all of its great big sighs or maybe the baby (or babies) it carried. Love your arms for all that they've reached toward and grasped. Love yourself and treat yourself well. Stay active. Eat "alive", healthy food. Don't overdo it with too much of anything--sweets, booze, deprivation--and you'll find you're the weight you're supposed to be. And love yourself for that. Because some day, on your deathbed, you know you're not going to wish you had worked more in your short go 'round on Earth. But will you wish you had enjoyed life--and yourself--more? Probably. Start now.

I say none of this to be preachy. I say it because I am trying to remind myself that I am not the sum of of my calorie tracking app. (My great grandmother, who walked and drank one glass of wine and much tea every day until she died at 98 was spinning in her grave as I typed that sentence.) I'm saying it because I've lost precious hours of my life lately judging myself for something superficial, stupid. I am beautiful, strong, healthy. I am smart, capable, lovable. I am well-loved, appreciated, and adored by my children, who don't see things or people as "skinny" versus "fat". They only see the arms that hug them, the legs that run toward them, the hands that make dinner for them, the face that smiles at them, the ears that hear them, the lips that kiss them, the voice that says 'I love you' to them, the belly that lets them put their head down to rest, the chest that has a heart beating a lullaby... that, and so much more, is the measure of who I am.


xo

Monday, July 13, 2009

Firefly

After a weekend full of parties, including an impromptu gathering of close friends and family--(including naked babies and dogs) in my front yard, I finally had a quiet moment yesterday. The boys were asleep, Ian was closing up shop before bed, and I was staring for a long time out the back window of our long, narrow living room. The window overlooks our backyard, and I was admiring the lavender and impatiens that have grown so much in the past few weeks. Illuminated by the back porch light, these plants seemed to be in the spotlight, while the shadows of my vegetable garden loomed large, threatening a full takeover of the yard. I wouldn't argue with it.

The window was wide open, and I felt like one of my children, leaning against the back of the couch, listening for crickets that just don't seem to be chirping too much so far this cool summer. "No crickets," I said to Ian, my back to him.

"No?" he asked, half-interested from his spot next to one of the dogs on the couch.

"Nope. Fireflies, though. A few of them."

There they were, those pretty little fireflies, flashing their light before fading into the darkness, reappearing a few feet and several seconds later. I only saw two or three fireflies in all.

"Remember when we were kids it seemed like fireflies were everywhere at night?" I asked Ian, my back still turned.

"Yep." An F1 race was still on. We had DVR'd it. I could tell without looking that his attention had never left the television.

"There aren't so many anymore. They seem to be going the way of the bees...into extinction," I remarked. Hearing myself say this made me sad.

"Yep."

The buzzing of F1 cars on the course in Germany was all I could hear. I leaned closer to the window. Nope. Still no crickets.

I kept watching for the fireflies, but I didn't see anymore. I sat by the window a long time, waiting. Yet not one more appeared. Murphy's Law, I guess. You wait for something and it never comes. But when you least expect it, it appears.

A while later, Ian let out the dogs, shut off the lights, and kissed me goodnight. "I'm going upstairs," he said.

"I'll be up in a minute," I said, tiredly smiling at him. I could barely keep my eyes open.

As he creaked up the stairs in our old, little house, I sat in the darkness, my back to the room. I listened for at least one cricket. I waited for just one more firefly. They never came, but at least for a little while I enjoyed the quiet of the night and the rhythm of my sleepy breathing.

xo

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pedal to the Floor

I sew because I like to create. I also like the immediate gratification that sewing brings, since most projects can be completed with relative stealth, compared to knitting or crocheting, for example. This fact says a lot about me, I think. I am learning to be a more patient person, one who appreciates the process as much (if not more) than the results. But patience is a process in and of itself.

I had intended to write about how my need for the immediate gratification of sewing mirrors my impatience. But instead, I really think it comes down to this: If I can have that immediate gratification somewhere, then I can be more patient in other areas of my life.

I still like to knit, crochet and, more recently, wield the embroidery floss. (There are some great embroidery patterns out there that are more rockabilly than granny.) But I gravitate toward those as a means to slow down--rather than to accomplish something. I have many unfinished yarn projects. This doesn't bother me. Knitting and crochet allow me to leave some things unfinished. Sewing enables me to stitch everything up nice and tight.

In other words, sewing = control and accomplishment; yarn stuffage = acceptance and loose ends.

I have been sewing a lot this week.

Meanwhile, my house has gone to hell. With the kids away with their father this week, Ian and I have blissfully taken ourselves off the domestic track. He finally picked up groceries last night, so we have more to eat than just some cheese and a few rotten grapes. And tonight is a big chore night for me. The boys will be home after dinner tomorrow. Therefore things must become orderly so that they can once again be disrupted.

I miss my little boys. I miss them a lot. Considering they only spend about one night a week (or even every two weeks) with their dad, an entire week without them is a bit of a shock. My routine is thrown off. I'm forgetting things in the morning (coffee, my phone) on my way to work. I have moments of total silence and boredom. This is GOOD! Believe me. I need this. I need to just *be* while the boys are gone. But I'm ready for them to come home. The house has been very, very quiet. The dogs are confused. I miss their little arms and big hugs. I miss their smiles and laughter and silly jokes. I miss running around the yard, tossing one kind of ball or another with both of them. I haven't been able to sit still since they've gone away. I've been walking, running, doing yoga--constant movement. It keeps me sane.

But at the sewing machine I am still. Lost in creative thought. Lost in an artful process that yields something useful and beautiful within minutes. Something I can dream up--and complete. And enjoy. Or even give away.

xo

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Catch It While You Can

How on Earth did Great Grandma make it to 98 without losing her mind? She died 16 years ago this August, and I still marvel at the wit and vigor she had right up to the end.

I've concluded that the hardest thing (for me, anyway) about getting older is not lost elasticity of the skin or a slowly declining metabolism. Those things truly suck, but they're not the worst. It's loss. Period. Lost relationships. Lost people. Memories that intensify with time and relationships that fade.

When we are young, we fully grasp the adventure and vastness of life experience laid out before us. As we age, we limit ourselves, defining where we go by where we've been. I try my best not to do this and to see things from the eyes of a child. Easier said than done.

Because some days I just plain miss people--the dead ones, the ones who moved away/got away/moved on/moved out/moved me. The ones I never really knew; the ones I knew too well; the ones I could have known. And so sometimes I linger too long looking back, instead of ahead. We all know you can't get anywhere that way.

I think of Great Grandma, who buried grandchildren, siblings, a husband, parents... toward the end, she spoke only of people who had been dead for years. Yet, she was happy. Maybe because she idealized those relationships now those people were gone? Maybe because she accepted everything for what it was? Or am I'm just idealizing her now that she's gone.

I know this: Every moment with every person is a gift. I'm grateful for all the moments I've had, and will have. And I do not want to limit myself. Life is still an adventure. It's vast. It's full. It's beautiful, sometimes overwhelmingly so.

Last night I got back on the sewing horse, putting together a few new projects that have been on my to do list for some time. The house was quiet, except for the fans, my sewing machine, and a few neighborhood dogs barking at moths. I was content, focused, creating. I went to bed late, alone. I don't remember Ian coming in from his shift at the bar. I don't remember him getting up for his day job at Yale. I do remember sharing the same pillow with him, however, for the few hours we slept side by side.


xo

Monday, July 6, 2009

It's All in My Head.

I haven't written in a while. Too long. So I'm back today in an effort to dump thoughts out of my head and, hopefully, out of my dreams.

I have always found it funny that we use the word "dream" synonymously with "goal". It lends to the definition that if we can think it, we can usually make it happen, which I believe is true. But real dreams, in the classic sense, are just fantastic little stories played out while we sleep. We cannot necessarily make them happen. Nor do we even want to.

I have recurring dreams. They're not the same story, over and over. Instead, they're of the same person (sometimes, but not usually, people) over and over. Usually, there is no real story to the dreams. Instead, my mind plays out a few select scenes from my life with this person. It's like a collage of photos thrown up on a wall, and I stand before it and mull it over while I sleep, trying to find some message in it all.

They started when I was pregnant with Nolan and, simultaneously, when my marriage was really getting rocky, although at the time I was in complete denial of that fact. It was very odd to me that I would dream of this person, this old friend, no more than a casual aquaintance, again and again, since they weren't someone I usually thought of or spoke to outside of my sleep.

And then life happened. And suddenly, a couple of years later and after divorce papers had been filed, the dreams came back with a vengeance. What they mean, I'm still trying to figure out. Maybe it's nothing. Maybe it's just my subconcious trying to work out whatever it feels is unresolved. Maybe, on some level, I'm trying to create that resolution for myself in my sleep, and this person symbolizes something for me. Whatever it is, I'm tired of this process and I just want it resolved already.

While Ian and I lounged around Jeff and Renee's patio table with them at dinner the other night, Renee mentioned I have always been a very "determined" person. It came up when we were talking about how I once approached Eddie Spaghetti, singer for the Supersuckers, at a show at the Wetlands back in '93 (I think). I was about four drinks deep and chatted him up, trying to persuade him to literally give me his very cool t-shirt off his back. Renee smirked about my persistent nature. "You'd say, 'I want that' and go for it until you got it," she said. "You're not as intense as you used to be, but you're still focused."

Is such persistence a good thing? Sometimes drive is really just an effort to control. Sometimes it is out of sheer compulsion to improve, change, or distract ourselves. And sometimes, it's to pursue a dream, a goal, a thing some might label as one's destiny. But I don't believe in destiny, per se. I believe we create our own circumstances; we make our own luck. Ironic, though. My name, while Gaelic for Mary, is also the name of the three fates in Greek mythology.

My other dreams are straight-forward and conscious: I will write a book "someday"; I will complete nursing school and be an RN "someday"; I will complete my 500-hr RYT "someday"; I will go to India "someday"...and so on. Curiously, though, I have put all of those things on the backburner right now. While school would be a huge financial sacrifice at this point, the main reason I'm sidelining any big plans is time. I want to enjoy this time I have with my children and Ian at this point in my life. The past several years have been in flux, one way or another. They've been turbulent and transient. So rather than distract myself with yet another pursuit (and nursing school would keep me out of the house at least four nights a week, in addition to my full-time job), I want to root down, give all of myself to my family and to me, and simply enjoy some downtime to create, daytrip, roadtrip, and just "be".

And so maybe it's because I have chosen not to pursue anything new right now that the dreams have returned. Maybe...and how many times can I say maybe in a single blog?... maybe I feel a sense of being trapped when I choose to just focus on the now, so I escape in my dreams. Or it could be even simpler than that: when I'm less scatterbrained and full of thoughts and plans, space is created in my head so that it has energy to work out any unresolved issues--primarily when I sleep. And so, like a shaky limb in yoga that will wobble until it depletes its energy and essentially cleans itself free of any accumulated toxins in its muscle, my dreams shake and wobble the same old thought until it's finally gone for good.

Maybe.

I never did get Eddie's shirt. But I do have a cherished memory of that night.

xo

Monday, May 25, 2009

Let It Linger

I suppose Spring could only be considered to linger if its climate extends into summer. It's not summer yet. But unlike other years, I'm not wishing Spring away.

Although the past couple of months have been fraught with emotion on many levels--from my blissful marriage to Ian (aka Best Guy Ever), to the death of my friend and former paramour Patrick, from the sweetness of preschool's Mother's Day Tea to the contentment of long, lazy afternoons in the backyard with friends, family, my boys. Even the past few weeks were spent with me and my friend Mary fighting the City of New Haven to make space for our sons in their rightful Kindergarten on the corner of our block. Now? Victory. They're in. We made enough noise, and they're in. We won the battle, but the New Haven Board of Education has a war--and a mess--on its hands. Unfortunately it's nothing new. But Mary and I were happy to take the fight to the next, more public level.

Through all of it, the messy, but happy past few months, many things have remained constant. I've spent as much time in the garden as possible. My children are an endless source of joy and wonder. I keep finding new and cool crafty ideas that go way beyond the sewing machine. And I've continued to enjoy what feels like a bonus round of a relationship with my grandmother. Grandma was diagnosed with liver cancer--liver cancer!!--just two years ago this August. Her initial prognosis was dire, but she managed to beat the odds. The fact that we celebrated her 80th birthday in late April is, to me, nothing short of a miracle. A true blessing.

We all give our time here a lot of lip service. "Seize the day!", "You only live once!", and "Life is short!" are familiar cliches. I'm grateful to have had this extra time with Grandma. I'm grateful to have had extra time with all of the people in my life. And I thank God every day that I always told Patrick exactly how much his friendship meant to me before his untimely death last April. The irony that his wake was the same day as Grandma's 80th birthday was not lost on me.

But there is one person to whom I wish I could have said goodbye. Rose, the grandmother of my closest and oldest friend, Renee, passed away yesterday at the age of 86. Her death was not unexpected. It was not tragic in the sense that she had lived a long, full life and was prepared to die in the end. But I never got to tell Rose how comfortable she always made me feel--how I loved her cooking, her pizza gain, her broad smile, her cute little laugh, the way she used to lightheartedly roll her eyes at the jokes of her husband Pete, who died seven years ago. Rose was adorable--and little! She was the only adult I knew who was shorter than me. Her home was impeccable and welcoming, and she seemed to know an awful lot about what it takes to make a life--and a household--stay on track. Not that she ever said as much. The answers were instead in the details, in the purposeful and thorough way in which she regarded her role as wife, mother and grandmother.

I hadn't seen Rose in a while--no fault of anyone's but mine. I wish I had taken a few minutes out of my life the past few years to just pop in and say hello. Just five minutes. I could have spared that for the woman who had nothing but an open heart and an open kitchen for me for so many years. When Renee told me that Rose was sick and that things weren't looking good for her, I wrongly assumed (breaking my own rule to never assume anything) that I would have a few extra days to visit her and say goodbye. God has other plans--as usual, right?--and Renee called this morning with the news that her grandmother passed away close to midnight last night.

So...seize the day. You only live once, and life is short. Make the most of it, be kind to others, be kind to yourself, and tell people that you love them. This Thursday I will find myself, again, at funeral services for a loved one. I will find myself again at All Saints Cemetery. I will say goodbye to Rose. I will stop by Patrick's grave and say hello. And later I will come home to my two beautiful boys and loving husband, ready to give them some extra hugs and kisses that have become regular fare around here. Nothing wrong with that.

Let Spring linger. Let Summer linger, too.
xo

Monday, May 18, 2009

Raccoons, Tag Sales, and Spring Projects, Oh My!

Critters have moved into our house. A raccoon to be exact. Most likely it's a female, a mama looking for just the right place to have her babies. Naturally, our pretty, cozy little house complete with children, dogs, turtles, fish, the occasional uninvited mouse and general good-vibes is the perfect place.

Tomorrow, however, Mama will be evicted. Not euthenized--unless she's rabid, which we're sure she isn't. But Mama, and her babies, if she's had them yet, will be moved out of our house and into the woods at the end of our property. The guy we hired to do the job is licensed, insured and, above all, humane. Let's hope this goes well. If so, he'll be able to repair the damage to our house, as well. And then we'll call it a day.

The 'coon means business:



You can see here where she dumped out an old squirrel nest to make room for her new family. She's been busy since, rearranging furniture, maybe.


In other news, I scored a couple of cool items at a tag sale this weekend. First, the very cool WWII helmet, modeled here by Sean:



I'm psyched to show this to my Grandmother when she watches the boys tomorrow afternoon. Her first summer job was attaching the chin straps to helmets during the war. She doesn't talk about it often--not that her job was difficult or traumatizing, per se. But she had so many friends--and brothers of friends--killed in WWII. In her little town of Webster, MA, that amounted to roughly one in every two families, a scene played out throughout small towns throughout the country. Her father served as Air Raid Warden in town, and all I can think of is George Bailey in that same role in It's a Wonderful Life.

I wonder who wore that helmet.

Anyway, another score was this rad Wonder Woman cake tin from 1978:



We're going to break this puppy in with a Father's Day cake, I think.

I also picked up a simple glass pedestal bowl for a reverse decoupage project, which I've already started (pics to come). I'm pretty psyched to try my hand at this one.



It's plain, for sure. But it's the perfect foundation for the ripped up world map I've used for the project. Fun, fun. I'll share the end result with y'all.

Finally, I went to Kohl's in search of what I don't remember, but I walked out with some new jammies for Sean, as well as an ice cream maker.

[Insert host of angels singing here >here<.]




I have been eyeing ice cream makers for some time, and since we eat the stuff almost daily in our house--and since Sean has wicked peanut and tree nut allergies--I thought making our own might be a fun, cost-effective, and relatively "safer" way of enjoying the sweet stuff. Armed with peppermint extract, cream, sugar, milk, and some (reduced fat) Oreos, we're going to churn out some home made goodness tonight...even if it feels like it's about 40 degrees out there.

I've recovered from the four-game little league weekend. Not sure if the kids have, considering I had to wake them up before school this morning. That's a rare treat. I've got a few projects simmering for the week ahead, and I've decided to shelve some kitchen remodeling (i.e., painting the boring old wooden cabinets a kind of chartreuese) until some later date. I need more downtime in the garden, at the sewing machine, with my mod podge, hanging with my boys, or going out for a run. The kitchen can wait. Ice cream cannot.

Happy Monday!
xo

Friday, May 15, 2009

Now. Finally.

Today I'm going to Grandma's for lunch. She'll no doubt ask me to dig up more myrtle, lilies of the valley and primrose to plant in my yard. I'll happily oblige. There is nothing like taking a piece of my childhood garden and planting it in my own at the insistence of my grandmother. Then tonight we have the first of four little league games this weekend. Four games, a birthday party, and a pet fair. I see many hot dogs in my future.

So the vomitous negativity of yesterday has passed. It's not that often that I *allow* myself to feel so totally pissed off. In fact, I've been known not to let myself truly feel a lot of emotion. I tend to bypass it and analyze it rather than go through it. But damn if the past couple of months haven't been an exercise in going straight through the flames of every emotion in the Moira Spectrum. I got married; my last boyfriend (and good friend, still) died; and now this BS with school registration.

But wait! There's so much more--good stuff of which I am proud! First of all, I'm confident this nonsense with school will work out--maybe not right now, maybe not even before the start of the school year. But it WILL work out. I'm also super-proud of my amazing kids. Sean and Nolan are by far the best kids ever. I'm so lucky to be their mom. They keep me grounded in ways they'll never know. I'm also blessed with four generations of amazing people in my family, and I've married into an equally strong family pack--splintered and messy like mine, but still strong.

And Ian. Man, have I lucked out with that one. The guy was just minding his own business, working minimally, enjoying single life with two dogs when I walked in. Now he's living with me, the boys, another dog and working his ass off at two jobs! He and I have something special, and I'm glad I finally allowed myself to enjoy it. I'm also so grateful for the genuine friends that I have. I sometimes cannot believe the sheer wealth of great people who have graced my life. And while a bright light went out when Patrick died, another one was lit somewhere above me--so my world has remained forever brightened by him.

I've got a bunch of projects I'm working on, too. I've got a couple of skirts and bags that I'm banging out on my sewing machine. I've ditched crochet in favor of knitting these days, and I'm slowly working on something--I don't know what it is yet, but I'm working on it--with the bamboo needles that Heide lent me months ago. I've got the decoupage itch, too. Reverse decoupage, to be exact. I need to scrounge up some glass plates and bowls at tag sales the next couple of weeks to get the ball rolling on that one.

I'm also finally putting some scrapbooks together--something I've kind of avoided for the past few years. I'm now ready to weed through boxes of memories accumulated since Hurricane Katrina, roughly the time my first marriage blew apart. I think I've healed enough from all of that to select and save proof of certain moments for posterity, glue them to pretty paper, and label them in a book. I'll decide what story I tell myself about my life. And I can tell you--it's all good. In the end, it's alllllllll good.

Finally, I've got a garden that is really coming together. This makes me so happy. The peace I find in our yard these days is really nurturing. Sean and Nolan love that "there is so much nature back here, Mom!". Although we've got a few years before many of the plants really mature and fill in, the yard is very different from when we first moved in last August, back when it was just a grass-shaped L and nothing more. Now at least 1/2--maybe even 2/3--of the space has been cultivated in some way. And the hummingbird feeder gets hung up today.

So basically, what I'm getting at today is that although I puked up some rough stuff yesterday, I'm really enjoying life and all that it throws at me these days. I can handle anything--I have no doubt about that. Yesterday I enjoyed a long, sweaty run after work. Nothing beats that for me. I absolutely love yoga, but a good run really gets so much out of my system. The kids were with their dad, Ian was out with Dylan, so I enjoyed a single girl's dinner standing at the kitchen counter and a glass of wine before everyone arrived home. My quiet moment in our home--which finally really feels like home, a place where I now know where to find things blindfolded--was precious to me. The flag mounted on our porch blew in a cool shoreline breeze. Birds made some noise in the yard, hopping around the flowers and chasing each other through the trees.

As I listened to the birds, I laughed to myself that the more things change, they really do stay the same. I'm again a homeowner in a tight New Haven neighborhood. I know most of my neighbors. I have a regular route I take when I run. I'm married. I have a garden. But this time, my garden is full of perennials. Sure, I have a smattering of impatiens again. But they no longer line my walkway like they did back in my old house. Now, my garden is all behind my fence, a sanctuary for me to return to each day with the people I love most. The front of the house has a few hanging and potted plants, of course. But whereas "before" I cared more about the curb appeal than the backyard behind my old broken gate, now the opposite is true. Our curb appeal is cute and adequate. But once you get beyond the simple, functioning gate of my little house...well, that's when you're really home.

So, I'm grateful. I'm happy. And I know that no matter what happens, it will all work out. It always has, and it always will. Wherever I go, there I am. And that's where I'm meant to be.

Happy Friday!
xo

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New Hatin' (or, I'm pissed off so I used a lot of "quotations" to get my "point across")

I could have bought a house in the suburbs--if I had more money, or if I was willing to buy a fixer-upper that required at least 100K in repairs and basic updates STAT. I could have moved to the suburbs, I suppose, if I had really wanted to. But I didn't. I wanted to stay in New Haven. So I bought a house in "the Cove" neighborhood, which is a little bit like New Haven Light as far as crime rates go. But make no mistake: It's still New Haven.

And right now, I hate New Haven. Check that. I don't hate New Haven. I DESPISE its nepotism, which apparently is the only way to get anything accomplished in the City--starting in Kindergarten. It's "who you know", and that's that.

Ten days ago my neighbor and good friend Mary and I attempted to register our children--my Nolan and her Sean (not be confused with "my Sean", a/k/a Seany), for Kindergarten at Nathan Hale School, five doors away from our houses. It's the children's rightful "neighborhood" school. It's not a magnet school. It's not some special, private institution. It's the public school down the street from our house for neighborhood kids in grades K through 8.

And we were turned away.

Impossibly long story not made much shorter: The PreK students currently enrolled throughout the city have registration "preference" and are therefore allowed to register for their school of choice. Our children were not in the neighborhood public school PreK program for the simple fact that two years ago we were told it was a Head Start program and our children would not "qualify" for it. (The program at Nathan Hale was changed last year to a "regular" PreK, but no news was made of it and the NHPS website continued to list it as Head Start.)

The issue of this PreK registration preference was apparently a secret to the parents without children enrolled in the city's PreK program.

So Monday, May 4, Mary and I arrived at the NHPS registration office bright and early, and joined the other clueless parents there to register their children for their neighborhood Kindergartens. We didn't get very far. Nathan Hale registration was closed after just two parents enrolled their children. With 52 seats made available to Kindergarten students in that school, this immediate closure meant that there had been only two seats available on registration day. We were then informed that our children would be bussed across town to a Kindergarten holding pen, which has been set up with five classes to deal with the "overflow issue" at the Kindergarten level.

Well, Mary and I got our Irish up over this one. I don't pay taxes for a .09 acre property on that side of town. I pay more than $7k a year for my much larger property here on this side of town, just five doors away from school (on the same side of the street--literally in the school's backyard). I don't care where the "other" Kindergarten is, or how good or "bad" it is. I don't want my son going there when he could walk up the street to school with his friends from his own neighborhood.

So Mary and I began making noise. We made phones calls, sent emails, involved the local paper and were subsequently contacted by many other parents who are experiencing the same thing--or who had experienced the same issue in past years. Our aldermen were angry; this issue is not new and something they've been pressing to change for a while now, to no avail. What's more, the city paid millions to renovate the school not that long ago. Millions were spent and yet neighborhood kids are being turned away! What gives?

Mary and I even met with the Mayor on Tuesday the 5th and asked him as much. He had nothing to offer except diplomatic BS and a promise that someone from the BOE would work with us. Translation? Please, shut up and take what you can get.

Maybe if my father or mother were a judge or police chief or an assistant to some official then maybe things would go a little more smoothly in this department. Maybe we'd be able to fineagle some "registration preference". But the fact is, this is Kindergarten registration we're talking about! Not college! Not even high school. Kindergarten. These children are four and five years old. When I was in Kindergarten (cue nostalgic old timer music here), I was registered at the neighborhood school, where I walked (uphill both ways in bare feet) each day with a gang of kids from the neighborhood. Why on earth is it not this simple to get my children signed up at the school on the FREAKING CORNER?

Planning. That's why. Poor, poor planning. This mayor has spent billions on school construction in thie city, but the beautiful buildings are worth nothing if we can't accomodate all the children in their rightful seats.

Magnet schools are an option--for those interested. I am not one of those parents who is interested in a magnet school at this level. For high school, yes. But not for Kindergarten. If our neighborhood school wasn't particularly "good", then I might consider a magnet. But Nathan Hale is a "good" school. Unfortunately, the City seems to regard our dissatisfaction with the option of magnets as a case of us being picky. Are you kidding me? I don't understand what is so wrong with Mary and I--and all the other angry parents in the neighborhood right now--simply wanting our children to go to the school at the end of our street.

So, I'm angry. I'm really angry. And I'm not alone. I'm angry that we're regarded as unreasonable, bitchy mothers because we've made a stink about this. (Recent communique from the city has not been encouraging.) I'm angry that I spend a ton in taxes for nothing more than garbage collection--because I don't know (nor do I care to know) the "right" people. If I did, it's likely none of this would be an issue. Hell, I'd probably even be employed by the City. Alas, I earn my way through this life. Nothing is handed to me.

I'm just a regular taxpaying citizen. That's apparently not good enough to just get my kid in the door. So I will fight, and fight, and fight, and when they try again to turn me away, I will fight some more. This isn't, as my friend Heide pointed out, a private school on the Upper West Side on whose waiting list my children have been since birth. This is a decent, maybe even just mediocre public school in the City of New Haven. Screw the City for acting like its doing me favor by putting my kids on a bus.

If a society can be judged by how it treats its animals, to paraphrase Gandhi, then the animals seem to have it better than Kindergarteners in this town.

Ugh. Sorry for the negative spewage. I'm just one pissed off mama bear right now. Everything I do is for my kids, especially in the wake of my divorce from their father. I am doing everything I can now to ensure they are educated in a decent school while living in a sub-par "college town". Do I wish I had moved to the 'burbs? No. Do I wish the basic act of signing up my child for Kindergarten hadn't turned into the kind of thing that has me thinking of Silkwood? Yes.

If I had just stayed in a rotten marriage in my old house in my old leafy, liberal and self-congratulatory neighborhood, maybe I could have at least registered my kids at their local school with less hassle. Maybe. If I hadn't cracked and slipped off the face of the earth first.

I guess that's what amounts to options in this town.

Fuck you, DeStefano. You do not have my vote next election. You might run uncontested except by a Green Party candidate, but you still don't have my vote.

x f'ing o

Monday, April 27, 2009

16 days

Today was hard.




The weather was beautiful. The services were beautiful. The burial was so emotional. Throughout the day I was alternately sobbing and at peace with it all. Afterward, we didn't stick around long at the reception. I drove, and I was ready early on to just go home and be kind of quiet here on the front porch.

The last 16 days have been a full circle for me in some ways, literally coming face-to-face with some long-standing fears, anxieties, memories, emotion, and even people who had been sidelined along the way. I made it through. I dove headfirst into it and made it through. Sometimes it was the tight hugs from friends that saw me through; other times it was the silence, alone in the house; and today, in prayer, leaning against Ian's sturdy shoulder at the cemetery, I was reminded that the process of grief doesn't end. You don't "get over" someone dying. You just accept their death. I made it through because there was no other way to get around it, except right through the center of it.

I'm ready to accept this. I wish I didn't have to be. I wish I wasn't missing Patrick, but I do. Everyone who knew him, misses him in their way. Each one of us had a relationship with him as unique as the next. And now that part of the story is over. Life goes on, though. Today is a beautiful day. Ian and I are going to bring the dogs for a walk up the street to the boys' school in a few minutes for the afternoon pick-up. Then....who knows? Maybe tonight we'll take them out for ice cream.

xo

Friday, April 24, 2009

Through It All

It's sunny. It's warming up. And I'm glad to be running again. I've been slow the past couple of days. It seems that when I'm happy, content or angry, I can run very, very fast. But the past few days I've alternated between sad and peaceful, and so my legs have been more like molasses. I'm not complaining. The slower I go the more I time have to smell the blooming flowers, the budding trees, and the fresh cut grass throughout the neighborhood. Allowing myself to feel the sadness helps me move directly through it all, which is the only way to go.

I have at best been distracted this week at work, but I'm managing. And although I had considered NOT going back to school just yet for nursing, I'm now reconsidering that plan for two reasons:

1. A nurse (and mother...and grandmother) I spoke with a few weeks ago at my in-law's house told me that it will only get harder as the kids get older and have more activities and commitments, and;
2. I'm ready.

I've been thinking of how happy Patrick was to hear I was applying to nursing school when I saw him a couple of months ago at our friend Andi's house, where we gathered for a Super Bowl party. I've been thinking about how happy the whole idea makes ME, let alone anyone else. A calling is a tough thing to dispute. Yet, I am so, so worried about the sacrifice of time that I will be required to make. I just cannot pull myself away from Ian and the kids a few nights a week right now. Not yet. So I will start with a very simple prerequisite, I think...something that meets maybe just once a week. And I will go, slowly, from there. At least that is the plan today.

In the meantime, I have extensive little league game and practice schedules for my boys, and I'm looking forward to working on my tan tomorrow while sitting in the bleachers all morning and early afternoon. I am also looking forward to Grandma's surprise 80th this Sunday.... my prelude to Patrick's wake.

I remember two years ago when Grandma was first diagnosed with liver cancer. I was living in my "single mom apartment" at the time, post-divorce, and I took Cee Cee on a long, hot August walk to clear my head on the whole issue. I was headed toward the seawall, when I spotted Patrick, sitting outside the Morris Cove firehouse, smoking a cigarette while working oertime at Engine 16, firehouse that doesn't usually see much action. That's where they send the old and lazy guys in the department.

I stopped. He played with Cee Cee, and I told him about Grandma. He was sad to hear it, and he was sad for me. Her initial prognosis wasn't good. How was I to know she would be one of the few who actually beat the cancer. How could I know she would outlive him?

My present to Grandma, the woman who has everything--in fact, duplicates of everything, is a book of letters I've compiled from friends and family, all expressing how much she means to them and the joy she has brought to them over the years. This week I've sat on the couch, scrapbook pages and letters scattered around me, reading letter after letter about the impact one single life has had on so many. It has been such a healing, beautiful way to accept Patrick's death, and to remember we are all in this wonderful life together. Our job here is to make it all a little easier for one another.

So I count my blessings--among them my friends and family, but especially Ian and my two boys. Ian has been unwavering these past couple of weeks, during Patrick's injury, decline and death. He has been understanding, loving, compassionate. He has been, above all, an amazing friend to me. I'm not surprised. It's who he is. It's his character. But many men--especially newlywed husbands--wouldn't be so understanding of their wives' grief over the death of a former boyfriend. Ian has been wonderful, accepting and respecting my friendship with Pat post-relationship, understanding my need to visit the hospital frequently, and holding me close while I cried and cried after learning of Patrick's death.

In this time of grief, I've found so much solace at home, with Ian. What a gift. What a lucky, lucky girl I am to have Ian by my side, through all of this. I only hope to be so selfless.

Happy Friday. Enjoy some sun.

xo

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Love You, Little Boy

I returned home from work yesterday, putzed around, let out the dogs, and felt scattered. I walked into rooms and forgot what I had intended to do in them. I stared at myself in the mirror, thinking of Patrick. I walked onto the front porch and unfurled our flag, which was twisted and soaked by the day's wind and rain. I stared at the perennials making their way upward after a long winter. I sighed a lot.

And then the sun came out.

It was faint at first, forcing its way out from behind the clouds and eventually lighting up the neighborhood. Patrick, I thought. I looked at the clock. 5:15 PM. Patrick. He's dying. Now.

The sunshine lasted about 20 minutes. Not long after, I found out that Patrick had died around 5:30 PM.

It was devastating. Like a child, I flung myself on my bed and sobbed, clutching a pillow and not caring if the neighbors could hear me. I haven't cried that hard in a long, long time. I miss him terribly. I am heartbroken for his family. But I believe he's now in the best place he can be, probably amused that he actually made it there after all.

My boys arrived home not much later after a day with their father. Their hugs meant the world to me, and they probably felt suffocated by my need to keep hugging and kissing them. Their happiness and sweet, silly personalities were exactly what I needed to properly celebrate Patrick's life. Pat was such a kid--a little boy, in so many ways. And he loved my boys and always asked about them. So I watched them with a full, happy heart as they hopped around with their light sabers and capes, tossing Lego pieces into piles and skipping and jumping (they never just "walk") from room to room.

Later, Ian left for his shift at the bar, his second job that he's held for more than a decade. He knew the bar, Pat's favorite, would be crowded with firemen and other mourners--and it was. I stayed home, boys tucked in tight, and savored the quiet with the dogs as a candle burned on the mantle. There was nowhere else I wanted to be. Renee and Mary had offered to come by and hang out, if I needed company. I didn't, though. I wanted to be alone and accept it all quietly, listening to nothing except the pattern of my own breath.

I am grateful to have ever known Pat, to have loved him and to have been loved so much by him. I miss him. But I can still talk to him, and now he can't interrupt me. I miss that, too, though.

Life goes on. The next several days will be ceremonial against a backdrop of blue and bagpipes. He wouldn't want it any other way, and he deserves it. In the meantime, though, I'll continue to live in the moment. I am the proud mother of two sons. I don't want to miss a minute of this one life I've been given with them.

So, I leave you for now with a clip of my goofball, Nolan. He's four--well, almost five. He's as much like his brother as he is different. And some days when you look at him, you'd never know he was his father's son. Since I know there's no chance at all he's anyone else's son, I find it amusing that he is so...himself. My older son, Sean, is very much like his dad in many ways. Nolan? He barely fell off the Moira apple tree. I love them both more than anything in the world. I love being the mother of these little boys--the engineer and his sidekick, the little spaz.




Love others for who they are and tell them you love them--now. Now is all we've got.

xo

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Home is Where the Love Is

"I argue thee that love is life. And life hath immortality." - Emily Dickinson

I had taken yesterday as a vacation day to be with the boys, knocking around at home while they enjoyed Day One of April break. At lunchtime, my phone rang, and I was told that Patrick had taken a turn for the worse. They never put in the trach; swelling has increased on his brain, nine days into this mess. It is affecting his spinal column. He is dying. The time to say goodbye is now.

My friend Mary, who happens to live about eight feet from me, was also home yesterday with her son. She sweetly took in my boys so I could speed down to the hospital. It was gloomy, cloudy, cold. Saturday's warm sunshine had given way to this grievous climate. It made sense.

I sunk eight quarters into the meter and hustled into the SICU. Off-duty and on-duty firemen milled about everywhere, there to see Patrick, their "brother", one last time. So many trucks were parked outside the hospital that some visitors thought there was a crisis in the building. There was, for us anyway.

I was angry when I arrived. Angry and sad for a life cut short. I alternated between tears and numbness. I hugged members of Patrick's family, who seemed larger than life in their strength and faith in this situation. I felt useless and in the way. But I had to be there, at least for a while. This is Patrick we're talking about. Paddyo. Pat, my embattled ex-boyfriend-turned-friend. Patrick, who is always there for others even when he isn't there for himself, who never misses an opportunity to pay me a compliment or give me a good ribbing, with whom I share a huge number of childhood friends, something we realized much later on in life. (We were likely at many parties together as children.) Patrick, who showed sincere happiness for me and Ian before our wedding, a great guy who cared so much for so many people, proud of his Irish heritage, proud fireman, proud Sox fan. Even prouder son.

Memories are flooding me. But what keeps coming back is last year's St. Patrick's Day Parade. Marching with the firemen, he jumped out of line to hug and kiss me, like he does with all the girls that day. Later, in the post-parade melee, he came back to find me and the boys, and we realized together that my car, which I had stupidly parked on the green line, had been towed. (Hey, I had been to see TWO relatives in the hospital that morning. I was distracted at best. Cut me some slack.)

Pat was merciless. He laughed at me all the way to Rudy's, where we walked with the boys to find Ian (and Ian's car, complete with carseats). I thought I'd never hear the end of it from him on that one. And now I'm sad that I have.

After spending a lot of time with the family yesterday, I finally made my way into Pat's room, alone. There wasn't much to say, really. I held onto his arm and cried. Machines beeped, and Pat breathed heavily through the ventilator. There was no sense, this visit, that he was "in there". All other times, even Thursday when he was so heavily sedated, I felt him. I could sense he was there--maybe a million miles away inside his brain, but still there. Yesterday...nothing. I felt like he was already gone, with God, and God was just giving us a chance to accept it before making it final.

I said what I needed to say, and I had a very hard time leaving the room, knowing it was likely the last time I would see him in this life. When I finally left the hospital yesterday, though, I felt peaceful. I felt strongly that Patrick is okay. He's safe. He's with God. And we have to let him go.

I do believe, like Emily Dickinson, that life is love, and therefore life is immortal. Love transcends life or death. Love survives, unbroken, after years of separation or estrangement. Love is the essence of who we are, the cord that connects me to you, you to him, him to her...it connects our experience. It allows us empathy, sympathy. Love is the common denominator for all of us in this life.

We forget, sometimes, how much we love each other and how much we need each other. And then we are given a chance to remember, in waiting rooms and brightly lit hospital hallways, as family, friends, and even old lovers hold on tightly to each other and wish we could promise to never, ever let go--forgetting it's a promise we've already kept. Real love--not just romantic love, but I mean real, human love--does not die. It does not vaporize after an embrace. It's part of our spiritual nature. And since we're spiritual beings having a human experience, love is the one thing we can take with us from this life to the next. It is the most important souvenier we can have from this trip.

My son Sean, who is seven, recently said, "I don't remember what Heaven was like before I was born. I think babies remember, though. Then they forget. Then we all remember when we die."

Enjoy this journey home, Patrick. There is so much love for you on either side of the river.



Patrick and me, Summer 2006


xo

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Does it Mean to Be American?

So many things...but for today, it's this:


http://www.flickr.com/photos/jglagowski/sets/72157616974299283/show/


Photos of Little League Opening Day by Jeff Glagowski, my friend and personal, professional photographer. I love having a "staff".

There are some great shots of the kids in here along with their best friends. They trump anything I took that day. But then again, I never claimed to be a photographer. In fact, I frequently remind people that!


***

In other news: Sean competed in his first Tae Kwon Do tournament yesterday and received a nice trophy and medal (..."a REAL medal, not some plastic thing", he noted).

On the domestic front, I painted the front door a great "eggplant" shade. Ian put up the gazebo in the backyard. Flowers are blooming. I scored a good sunburn on Opening Day. The kids are off this week for April vacation and I'm enjoying some of it with them. Ian and I will be celebrating our Monthiversary tomorrow--one month already. Crazy. We're celebrating by having our bulk trash pick up! ;o) I'm still wrestling with whether to start the nursing school pre-req process this fall, or if I should wait a while. I keep wavering on the timeline of this one.

And, like every day right now, I'm keeping Patrick in my prayers. He's getting a trach put in today. And since I've just landed a spring cold, it will be a while before I go see him again.

Oh...and Nolan has taken to peeing on a favorite tree in the backyard, rather than come in the house and lose precious outdoor playing time. And both of my boys now refer to each other's nether regions as their "wenis" (wee-niss).

Little boys, little boys....

xo

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sedate Daydream

A friend of mine is in the SICU right now after suffering traumatic brain injury following a fall at work on Saturday. He's actually an ex-boyfriend that became a good friend after we broke up. We've been in touch on and off for the past three years. He calls me on my birthday, sends me random messages and emails, and even sent me and Ian heartfelt well-wishes before the wedding. He's a good egg who has a lot of love for a lot of people. And now it's up to us to repay the favor.

It's been long week for everyone who knows and cares about Patrick. I've been to the hospital a couple of times and I'm headed back there today, looking for that glimmer of light, saying my prayers, cracking a few jokes with him, and keeping the hope alive. Pat is fighter, without question. He's adversarial by nature. How can he not come out of this?

There is hope. He has been squeezing people's hands this week and is now letting go of hands upon command. He has opened his eyes on occasion, too. They've removed the ventilator, since he can now breathe on his own, and they've inserted a feeding tube. He's currently under heavy sedation, and he needs to be. But slowly we are seeing so much progress, day by day. It's encouraging. He might be a million miles away inside his brain right now, but he's in there. I believe it. He can hear us. He can feel us. He knows we are there and that we love him. I don't doubt that for a second.

Last night, while putting my boys to bed, they did their usual prayers and thankfulness routine, followed by the usual, random assortment of questions laced with total exhaustion. The room was quiet and dark, and Nolan turned over on his side and said,

"Mommy, when we're sick, do we just lie in bed and daydream until we get better?"

I smiled. "Yes, I think that's usually what we need to do to get better."


Keep on daydreaming, Patrick. We're ready when you are.

xo

Monday, April 6, 2009

Re-homing the Road

I don't like what's going on at the airport.

Less than a mile from my house lies Tweed New Haven, a smallish airport that caters to a few 727s, several private jets and many small planes used for aviation lessons. The airport doesn't bring much to our local economy, and it is a bit of a drain on our tax dollars. But if we didn't have it, we'd miss it. And if it grows any bigger, we'll complain about it.

It's growing.

Sort of.

The airport straddles the East Haven and New Haven border along the Dodge Avenue corridor, flanked by a large empty field and brook on one side, and the runway and main airport site on the other. After much debate (and derision), the plan to expand was approved. So Dodge Avenue is being re-routed to make way for more runway space, which will be laid in the field by the brook. No one asked the frogs or turtles their opinion of this.

Tweed has remained largely unchanged for as long as I can remember. I grew up just on the other side of the airport, in East Haven (aka 'Staven), and spent countless days riding my bike to the fence on Dodge Ave, watching as planes took off and landed. The large planes didn't come to Tweed until I was a bit older, but as a gradeschooler, I loved the rush of the smaller planes as they flew just feet overhead while I stood with my bike chewing Hubba Bubba, my small fingers woven into the links of the fence, my hair whipped by the plane's tailwind.

Now, the brook has been "protected" by a fence of black plastic sheeting, while graders and diggers and dumptrucks shift, haul, and push the earth around. The field is gone, replaced by an enormous dirt worksite. On the upside, this is total entertainment for my children when we pass the trucks on our way to the grocery store or Sean's tae kwon do classes. "Power Miners!" they yell, since the trucks look just like the latest Lego series with which the boys are fascinated.

Today I skipped out of work at lunch to run a few errands. Along the way, I passed the field and the legion of trucks working to change the landscape of the city line. There were no cops directing traffic today. Instead, the trucks were on their own, heavy with the weight of mud, not sand, as the rain poured, and the brook rose up to find itself fenced in.

xo

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Time Can Do So Much

Well that's it. Ian & I tied a triple knot on the 21st. It's a done deal. And what a long, crazy road it was to get there.

I think of all the times I used to see Ian before we dated--before I was even separated, let alone divorced. The times in the park when Nolan was just a year old were probably the ones I remember most. Hot summer days when I spent many perfect hours doing nothing but picking petals off flowers and running around with my little boys and their best friends on the playground.

Ian would always be there, it seemed, out of the corner of my eye somewhere walking the dogs. He always threw a wave my way. And on the occasional night I escaped from the house for a drink at (where else?) Rudy's with (who else?)Renee, he would always serve me up a water between beers. I never had to ask. We would talk about movies and music, our conversation bleeding into the edges of all the conversations he has with drunk New Haveners while working behind the bar.

Time is such a strange thing. I like to think that some day, when we pass through this dimension into the next and realize that we really and truly are spiritual beings having a human experience and not vice-versa, we'll finally understand the insignificance of time. It's all relative. It must be. If I look back on the past 36 years

holy crap! 36 years!


of my life--and looking back is something I try not to do too often--I see that so many moments paralelled those of others who came along. Close friends I now have were always right there outside the circle, an ex-boyfriend turned out to be the cousin of my childhood best friend, an estranged relative spent summers at the same beach club as I, and so on. At the risk of sounding like a complete flake, I believe that we really are all connected. In New Haven, it's less than six degrees of separation. In fact, you're lucky if it's more than two.

My point? I don't know. My point is, I guess, that this crazy trip we're all on is full of some pretty wacky adventures and lots of heartbreak, and we're all on it together. But what we sometimes fail to notice is that it's full of a lot more love than hurt. We only have to be willing to see it. I forget who said, "You cannot make someone love you, but you can let yourself be loved", but that phrase has been a favorite of mine for some time now. I have let myself be loved--really be loved!--finally. And lo and behold, I can return the favor. Who knew? Certainly not me, when I was in the park playing hide-n-seek and looking in all the wrong places for Ian, who had been right in front of me all along.


***

I heard this on the radio yesterday. Sometimes a song that has been played to death still sounds good when you haven't heard it in a while. This one sure did, even if Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore kind of ruined it for a while:



Happy Wednesday. :o)

xo

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Why Am I Getting Married?

So first, you have to read this. You really do. So here:


http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/fashion/08love.html (just copy and paste the link; I can't get the hyperlink to work today for some reason...)

It's an essay from the Modern Love column in today's New York Times. As I read it this morning with a hot cup of tea, two weeks before my wedding to Ian--my second marriage, after everything I had hoped for once before fell apart in my first--I thought of something my grandmother has said more than once:

"It's not every man who is willing to love so selflessly."

She spoke those words in reference to a cousin of ours who was caring so lovingly for his wife who had Alzheimer's. But it was all I could think of while reading today's essay from a man whose active, athletic, and very able-bodied wife was crippled in a car accident that left her a paraplegic.

What first struck me about this essay was that the author makes little distinction between himself and his wife when recounting the learning curve they've had to ride in the wake of her accident 15 years ago. Her initial fear that she couldn't "do this for the rest of my life," was assuaged by his "We'll do it together."

This man carries his wife wherever the wheelchair can't go. He helps her get into the ocean and float. He has loved her unconditionally and supported her completely. They have traveled and lived fuller lives than most couples, and she has rolled three 26-plus miles marathons in a racing wheelchair. "We know to say 'Yes' to nearly everything because there is probably a way to do it. We know there is happiness available every day, most of it requiring more effort than money. And effort seems like a small price to pay for a day at the beach, a trip to New York or dinner up eight steps to a friends' home."

I choked back tears as the kids ran around with light sabers and Ian cleaned up after breakfast. I can only hope to be that selfless in my marriage. And I am so lucky, because I know I am marrying a man much like the author of this essay.

Cynics question why on earth I would want to get married again. Their questions are valid: It didn't work out the first time; divorce rates for second marriages are even higher; and, well, I have my "freedom" now--why on earth would I want to give that up? they wonder.

Their points are well-taken. And I've definitely had a couple of freak-out moments in which I've wondered, "Crap! What am I doing? What if this doesn't work out!?" If all you're out for is a good time with no strings attached, then marriage might not be for you. But the thing is, I'm not interested in that. Nor am I getting married just to be married. I'm getting married to a man who is perhaps one of the most selfless, caring people I have ever met. He gives and gives, and he still keeps his sense of self, his love of motorcycles, and his general dude-ness (sans machismo). It will work out, because we both WANT to be there for each other. And we have no delusions. We know that there will be dry spells, lame times, and moments when we're disappointed and frustrated. We also know that as long as we're honest with each other about everything, we're going to be okay.

Marriage is not just about sex, romance, and satisfaction. Those things are really important, yes, but they'll vaporize quickly if they're all that's important. If you find the right person--and Ian and I have--marriage will be an adventure through life together, through really good and really bad moments. If you have each other's backs, like the couple in the essay, you'll have everything.

Ian has had my back since day one. We met in 1992, and we were loose friends for much of that time. He served me beers at Rudy's and would wave to me at the park while I played with my kids and he walked his dogs. We always made small talk, and we loved to swap opinions of movies and albums. There was always something so solid and appealing about him. He's a guy who has nothing to prove to anyone. He's secure and confident without being cocky. It's almost like a fluke of nature.

The real test of our friendship, however, came during one our breakups about a year into our relationship. I called for some time out between us, since he didn't know if he ever wanted to get married to anyone ever, and I knew I couldn't go any further with him if he didn't know that--as the mother of two boys who were growing increasingly close to him, I couldn't risk them getting hurt again. I also didn't want him to feel "pressured" into getting married. So a temporary hiatus was taken (the first of two), and I stupidly accepted a couple of dates--one from a New Haven cop (it went badly), and one from some scumbag who MySpaced me. What a mistake.

First of all, I wasn't really interested in anyone but Ian. But I thought I really should just accept the dates and "see what's out there". For the record, I don't like much of what's out there. The cop talked incessantly about his hatred for his ex-wife (some date!), and the other guy... I had three glasses of wine (not a huge amount, especially for me at the time when I could really throw them back), and I found myself passed out and vomiting at this guy's house, where I didn't even remember going. I blacked out on many moments of the night.

For all the millions of times I've gone out drinking in my life, I've never blacked out like that--especially when I've only had three glasses of malbec. Was I rufied? I don't know. The jury's out on that. But something was very wrong. And so I reached for my phone, called Ian, demanded the guy give Ian directions to pick me up, and waited. I must have passed out again, because all of a sudden, Ian was picking me up over his shoulders and carrying me to his car. The guy tried to shake Ian's hand, but Ian refused. So many guys might have chosen that opportunity to start a fight with that jerk. Ian's too cool-headed for that. His primary concern was getting me out of there, no questions asked, except: "Are you done dating assholes?"

"Yes."

"Good."

Dating assholes? More like I was one.

We got back together after that. When cooling-off period number two came around, it seemed more final, until Ian suddenly decided he'd rather rethink the idea of marriage than lose me.

Smart man.

Ian is not just some guy who walked in when I was available. Ian is a friend who became much, much more. He encourages me to have as much of my "own" life as possible, and he loves and cares for my two boys as if they were his own. (Seriously. It's uncanny. And Nolan, my youngest, doesn't even have memories of life without him.) He works his butt off at two jobs for all of us, and he is perhaps one of the most selfless sons I have ever known, caring for his mother who has not always been well. I know that if I found myself in a wheelchair, Ian would be there to carry me up the stairs, find a car outfitted with mechanisms for me to drive, get me a good seat on a plane to India, and bring me into the ocean to let me float, letting me feel the private bliss of being buoyed by the water, but never leaving me to sink alone.


xo