Category Archives: parenting / family

Out and about

A trip to upstate New York. Hours spent in the rehab wing of a nursing home to visit my father in law. Thoughts about care: his, my sister’s. Unavoidably depressing.


The weekend also featured a 60th bday concert (for my brother in law, who’s in the band). Pretty amazing to get out on a Sat. night and well worth the effort. It was really fun.

More generally, drab weather has conspired with the news in maintaining a grim outlook. Day after grey day of clouds and rain and cold. Day after day of astonishingly bad news.

But! While sweeping out leaves and dirt from the garage on Sunday (because making decisions about STUFF was beyond me and because I needed a job with tangible results), I listened to a freakonomics podcast about the psychology of gratitude. Take away: we tend to notice headwinds more often and more readily than we notice tailwinds. So, notice the tailwinds. Interestingly enough, it’s not the same as cataloging things one is grateful for. Try it. The practice dovetails with attending to white privilege, if that’s something you’re thinking about.

And there was this, too: sitting next to my father in law in his wheel chair, watching the AHCA go down in flames (yeah!), knowing he hates Trump as much as I do (yeah!). And yesterday, there was the morale-boosting weekly teleconference call with my small Indivisible group. We offer each other accountability and support.

The free form appliqué experiment (“keeping to the original idea”) has turned surprisingly disappointing. Turning over the question, ‘why?’

I pinned up two little house quilts last night that may be reactionary. They offer straight lines and recognizable forms — pleasing, even if trite and familiar (or maybe because they’re trite, familiar?).

It’s all a process. I’m curious and engaged.

Could really use a day of sun.

Pick any three

How three become a story.

This morning I found a big pile of finished Soul Collage cards in my studio (what can I say? And also, aren’t there more somewhere? And what happened to the two dozen plus color copies ready to be trimmed and mounted? — This is what ADD looks like).

Years of Tarot reading (and now Soul Collage card pulling) have taught me that while within every single card there is a story to be found, with three cards, the story tells itself.

These three narrate a tale of parenting. Happening right now. There’s the young man being launched! Into the mountains, specifically.

After a bit of a fall (Humpty Dumpty) and emergency care (doctors have more skill than all the King’s horsemen).

Now the three of us huddle close, two holding up the third for the moment. Fluid, shared creativity will outsmart that horned and hulking bully. Bye bye big reptile guy!

(Fluid creativity is also what ADD looks like, PS).

The meaning of the dance photo is heightened by the fact that the image came from a glossy Vail resort magazine that I clipped years ago. We were at the resort while both boys were still in high school. It was a really special, once in a life time kind of get away (courtesy of my brother). D. fell in love with the Rockies during that trip.

There are a lot of “launch” cards in my deck. That I picked the one with a snowy mountain range demonstrates how synchronicity informs the process.

‘Nuff said. Much still up in the air. There and here. I have tons of pictures from our wonderful trip to Charleston and need to figure out how to share them. Reconsidering Flickr: yahoo keeps getting hacked.

It’s fifty degrees here. Hotter, I’m told, in Boulder.

Festive salad and Salem visit

Lost my mojo. In fact, the campaign and election were disturbing enough to convert me from a “woman who yells” to one who cries. I still feel off, but miss my blog peeps, so here I am with a modest offering of food. This delicious winter salad has four ingredients: romaine, slivered radicchio, thin-sliced red onion, and pomegranate seeds. Topped with a mustard/garlic vinaigrette on the tangy side. The red bits look festive, don’t you think?

Good thing it was tasty because for some reason the frittata bombed. Came out like a rubber mat with inclusions of goat cheese. Seriously.

C acted the good sport and came to Salem with me today. Removed a cruddy rug. Got the AC unit down to the basement. Moved the bed and the exercise machine. We shopped for food and wine. Pictures were hung, curtains put up, and a few decorations fetched from storage.

This was AFTER C. bagged up another five bags of leaves for the neighbor who hired him, making a total of 28. Whew! It was the last leaf pick up in our town. On our side of the fence, it went pretty painlessly. The guy I thought I hired never showed and I’m glad because being outside and raking was one of the sanest and most grounding activities of the last few weeks.

9/12

I was meeting with a fellow landscape-volunteer for the elementary school when her husband called. “Turn on the TV. Turn on the TV.” The friend said, “it’s Osama bin Laden”. Believe it or not, that was the first time I’d heard that name (an unthinkable state of ignorance now, with FB, twitter, etc.). We watched the towers go down in real time.K was sent home from work, the office closed. There was the fear of more planes, more death.

Because the boys were young (7 and 5), we didn’t watch the endless replays. We had a camping trip planned for the weekend and were glad to have a reason to interrupt routines, but actually drove down into North Adams at one point to buy a newspaper. A couple of times while the kids bombed around on their bicycles, K and I turned on the van engine and listened to the radio in a state of shock. I remember feeling a sense of kinship with our grandparent’s generation, listening for news about the war, huddled around a radio.

I remember how startlingly blue the sky was on 9/11. A perfect fall day. I remember reading an email from the school saying, “we have not told them.” I remember calling a friend over before I walked over to pick up the boys, embracing her and crying, “what kind of world are they growing up in?”

On Facebook yesterday (it’s 9/12 now), I watched a video clip of tolling church bells on the campus of UMass/Amherst. Not only was it a haunting sound, but the comments rolling underneath gave me chills, especially the ones saying things like, “my son was in kindergarten that day and now he’s a junior at UMass”. And then there were comments simply saying what they were doing that day. Where they were or who they lost. We will all remember.

It took days to find out if my brother was okay. He had been scheduled to fly from somewhere in Europe into D.C. to give a lecture. All the other doctors (sensibly) cancelled, but he was adamant about showing up. He first flew to somewhere in the Caribbean and next to Canada where he rented a car.

My brother, like my son, went to McGill and had crossed that border many, many times without incident. But this was post 9/11. Because he was coming from Europe, he had multiple currencies on his person — suspect. It was a one-way car rental — suspect. And then there was the Irish surname — also suspect given the long and troubled history with bombs (my sister maintains we’re related to Timothy McVeigh, but never mind that).

The police at the U.S./Canadian border thoroughly took apart the car. I don’t mean pulled him over to inspect the trunk and open a few suitcases — I mean, unbolting door panels, ripping up floor mats, lifting seat cushions.

I may have gotten some of those details wrong, but you get the gist.

What I don’t remember — is what we said to our sons, our young and impressionable and fairly innocent sons. What did I say?

 

P.S. That’s a SoulCollage card referring directly to the attacks of 9/11 and also referring indirectly to my maternal grandfather (using magazine images), who came to NYC in 1923, spent decades working in the bowels of ships while raising a family in Park Slope, Brooklyn, before moving up to Newburgh, NY.

P.P.S. The creepiest local connection was that the Boston hijackers spent their final night on this earth in a hotel less than a mile down the road. The place has since been razed and an apartment building sits there now.

P.P.S. A good friend of mine move to Battery Park sometime later and when we visited her, we went to Ground Zero. It was awful. One of the worst things? Looking at the dust on nearby building knowing that it had DNA in it.

Blessed be

Blessed be the infernal yard crew that inspires me to put Angelique Kidjo on full blast and DANCE for 20 minutes.

Blessed be the achy, arthritic hips that still like to move and blessed be the feeling of bare feet sliding across the floor in an ecstasy of rhythm.

Blessed be the gloaming and the rain that falls during the night.
Blessed be Blue Ribbon Barbeque! And a weight loss plan that lets me eat this plate load with gusto and still be on track (Weight Watchers; down 6 pounds).

Blessed be the child that is learning to listen to his gut (even if it requires a trip to the ER for fluids).

Blessed be SoulCollage for making the obvious obvious.


Blessed be the mothers that outwait, outlisten, outhope, and outflex the children in distress, even if it takes a strenuous chanting practice and a ridiculous amount of pacing.

Blessed be the husbands who know how to use chop saws and mitre saws and can measure properly and fix things: rotting things, leaking things, peeling things, essential things.

Blessed be the guardians, seen and unseen.

Blessed be the places we find joy.

how an empty nest is not like a dreaded breakup

IMG_3752I don’t know about you, but I had two relationships in my 20’s that were important, somewhat long-term, that should have upset me greatly when they ended, but did not. There was only relief! As the time for my younger son’s departure for college approached two years ago, I remember wishing that his leaving might follow that pattern: lots of anticipatory dread followed by a sweet sense of freedom.  IMG_9810Alas.Watching my children come and go has not been like that.

Oh, there are compensations… the hallway not littered with 15 pairs of sneakers; the organized coat closet; less towels to wash; a revolutionized relationship with the fridge. I always know where the car keys are. These are not small things!

Then we adopted Finn. Adorable, lovable Finn. Hyper, sheddy, anxious Finn. It doesn’t matter, but I can’t tell if his role is to distract me from the empty nest or to ruin it.

There’s the constant vacuuming. A perpetual sense of disgust about our couch (the slipcover is always untucked and frequently dirtied with paw prints). Furthermore, his needs have kept me tethered to the house, so much so that I’ve taken to referring to last year as “My Year Under House Arrest” (compounded by all that snow here in Boston).  Not exactly the ‘freedom of the empty nest’.

And then of course, there’s my sister.

Even so, my world has radically changed. It’s disorienting. Isn’t something dramatic supposed to happen — a good, long cry? a brand new sense of self springing off the shelf? the resumption of some old, long-missed sense of self? On the other hand, there is the abiding sense of normalcy: this, after all, is what is meant to happen.
IMG_3758These images were in a draft file — posts I keep plundering while our computer undergoes major overhauls. They still feel relevant, though, with that shadowy sense of things slipping out of my grasp. The figure looks determined, her pose intentional, but I cannot decipher her meaning, nor can I tell whether she achieves her purpose or not.

Perhaps she’s wearing ballet slippers and moving from first position to second position. Maybe she’s casting a spell. But mostly, I wonder if she is reaching out to hug someone who is not there.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed dancing my heart out to Uptown Funk this afternoon. It isn’t something I would’ve done with the kids upstairs, don’t ask me why.

our each unique rhythm

winter-bulbs-deemallonThese bulbs were purchased the same day, from the same store and planted within minutes of each other. Small variations in light and containers, but look at the variable growth. This is such a lesson!

We come to things in our own time. Children can mature on wildly differing timetables. How futile it is to indulge in comparisons!
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