These Dreams

November 28, 2012

Sophie The Dog is asleep and dreaming about bunnies.
Bunnies live right down the street. This afternoon, Sophie the Quick slipped out the front door and raced to backyard where they live. She promptly got herself stuck behind a woodpile.
Colin and I had to wait about twenty minutes, each stationed at either end, for her to give up her bunny quest and come home with us.
We live in a bunny free zone. All we have in the pet department these days are two cats who find her a little too enthusiastic for their taste. And a fish that only gets attention when bedtime comes and fish custody is discussed.
So Sophie sleeps a lot, and visits a world where she eats more peanut butter than Katy, and after dining, plays endlessly in fields of friendly bunnies.
You know, that sounds like a pretty nice dream.

Monday and Tuesday were a blur this week. So much to do before travel, the lists and the laundry, the checking of fluids and tires, (we were driving,) the overwatering of plants and the list of instructions for the girl next door who kindly offered to fish sit. The list explains,  in a rather lengthy paragraph, that if the fish gets too much food it will die. And that the fish should only eat fish food. We’ve lost a lot of pets this year so I went with the you can’t be too careful approach. Along those lines, maybe I should have actually explained that though her job title is “fish sitting” she should not, under any circumstances, sit on the fish. Here’s hoping.

Right before I left, there was the lingering conversations on the sofa with Sophia the Most Magnificent of Puppies which I won’t repeat here. It would embarrass me and bore you, but in a nutshell I told her we’d be home soon.

By the time I actually got in the car, I was exhausted. I was armed with a rather large coffee, serious sunglasses, two kids who swore not to fight until we’d gone at least 150 miles, a smartphone perched in the passenger seat, mapquest opened, our destination entered, our route laid out. There were snacks, bottles of water, kleenex, a car charger, 14 magazines, one large book of knock knock jokes… Oh my just recounting the preparations for our Thanksgiving road trip is making me frazzled.

And I was. During the first twenty minutes on the road I snarled at the kids twice “How is it you are twelve and you still don’t know how to wear a seat belt”, spent twenty minutes flipping thru radio stations, and fifteen minutes listening to Taylor Swift tell me we are never, ever getting back together. I hung up on my husband when he called me I might run into traffic in Conneticut, I cut off a car full of New Hampshire nuns who were trying to steal my lane.

And then, a thought occurred to me. Out of nowhere. I was on my way to Mountain Lakes NJ to spend Thanksgiving with one of my favorite families in the whole world, the Harringtons. I was on VACATION. I could let the nuns cut me off, I could handle Miss Swift’s cruel rejection, the kids could squabble as long as their battles weren’t going to lead to hospitalization or criminal charges… We are going away for the holiday to see a family that knows my family, warts, and all, and really really wants so see us. They are making up pullout beds, and buying extra cereal, and scrubbing down the guest room bathroom just for us!!!

And in that moment of clarity, I rolled down my window, I leaned out and yelled  “Happy Thanksgiving.” 

Nobody heard me, it was about thirty degrees and everybody had their windows closed.

My kids asked me what was in my coffee.

The rest of the trip was long, very long. We sat in traffic, we played punch buggies, and “do we really have to listen to this song again” and “it’s my turn to sit there” for about six hours.

When we got to Amy’s house, they were waiting for us. They took us for pizza, New Jersey pizza. I am the happiest houseguest in the whole world. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And if you are in the middle of getting bogged down by the small stuff, and the not so small stuff…

Try not to.

PS Sophie, I promise, I will be home soon.

Study Notes

November 21, 2012

    • “I always thought of myself as a somewhat complicated person. Not mysterious, just someone that has a helluva back story, and been around enough years to have accrued quite a few, complications.
      Here is the news of the night. We, I mean every single one of us, are more complicated than I ever imagined. Our bodies are covered with about five layers of skin. All different kinds of skin, with different names, functions, lifespans. We have bones, so many bones, all different shaped bones, and then there are the tendons, ligaments, and the great glorious cord that slides up our spine that, hopefully, delivers intelligence (in the spy sense of the word, data, information, not actual thought out positions on the Middle East) to our brain. I just spent two hours on the cranium, lots of bones involved in brain security, and I need to know the names of all of those bones. And the names of the places where they meet, the rivers that divide one chunk of brain bone from another are called sutures. One of them is called a lamboidal suture and I can’t figure out how I can tie a picture of a baby sheep in with a grey mark on a skull, but I ‘m working on it. There are cavities and cardiums, viscera, planes and positions, organelles, and a complex run by a fellow that goes by one name, Golgi. Not sure how to pronounce that.
      We are all very, very complicated people. My mind boggles at the thought, and the only reason it can boggle safely is because it is protected by all those bones of different shapes bordered by all those sutures, with impossible to remember names.
      Knowing that doesn’t make me feel any safer or closer to passing the test in Anatomy and Physiology next when I go back to school next week.

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This morning I spotted two deer at Cunningham park. They stood in the quiet. They turned and ran, their white tails flared like plumes or flags. Tonight I drove to pick up Colin and heard “Heart of Gold” on the radio. His voice is so hopeful and so sad. I sang along. I love when I sing along with Neil Young. He is the best of partners, makes me sound as if I can carry a tune.
In between, school and mountains of chicken thighs, (made, not consumed, well, not more than two,) swim team. Waiting for Kate to come home. We finally watched Glee, two episodes. The bed was littered with bodies and bowls- Katy, Tue, Thanh and Sophie- The Wondrous Lover of Popcorn, eating even the unpopped bits at the bottom of the bowl. True love in high school, and then the ache that everyone warns about when high school ends and some move on. I had almost forgotten about that.
Today was a little hopeful and a little bit sad. This time of year, when it grows dark early and I wake early, it takes a certain amount of courage to stop and figure out what is going on inside my heart.

Whine and Prayer

November 11, 2012

It started the week before Halloween and I think it’s only going to get worse with the holidays coming.

I went to IParty with my nine year old daughter for the annual search for just the right Halloween costume. I knew when we went I had a limited amount to spend but I’d heard somewhere they were having a Huge Sale, (that intel might have actually come from Katy, my daughter, not a good go to source for the latest in discounts.)

The costumes ranged in price from $20 to $50 dollars, with the lower priced ones were not much more than a polyester sheath accompanied by various cardboard/plastic props.

We don’t have $20 bucks to spend for one night, we don’t have $20 to spend on a pair of jeans right now.

So I checked out Goodwill. I came home with a devil costume, it probably came straight from IParty, plastic trident, plastic horns, a shiny red gown. Katy wasn’t interested; whether it was because she recognized the bag it came in and decided casts offs weren’t going to cut it, or she just wasn’t feeling particularly demonic, I don’t know. Our next door neighbor loaned her her costume from last year. My daughter went out this year as pirate. I had to spring for a $3.00 eye patch from CVS, Thankfully, that was in our budget.

I went to Walmart for candy and spent more on 5 bags of KitKats than I do dinners to last us a weekend. I’m not ready to be the person that shuts off the lights. I parked about a mile away from school that week, saved about $30 on what it costs to park at the garage.

That was Halloween. Now, we are heading,  we are crashing towards Christmas. I have no idea how I’m going to pay for a Christmas tree, much less put many presents underneath the damn thing. I have a twelve year old as well, and twelve year olds have expensive tastes.

We live in a pretty well off New England town. We chose this spot because it’s close to the city, because it’s right in the middle of the woods, the schools are good, the people are smart, there are lots of dogs, and parks,  and there is a really, really big swimming pool in the center of town where we swim all summer under the pine trees.

Most of the time I’m thrilled with our corner of the world. Sometimes it’s tough when Colin watches his friends go off to practice for a basketball league we can’t afford. Or when I had to explain to Katy that a birthday party was out of the question, the best I could do was take her and her best friend for mani pedi’s.

You know what?  Colin points out that he likes having the time to stay on top of his homework and that he can keep his skills sharp at the park down the street.  And Katy swears her afternoon with Tue was the best birthday ever.

Maybe all these tough times have something to do with the two incredibly kind children I get to share my life with. They tell me they know things will get better. They tell me they know I do my best. And when they have given me my faith back, and I’m smiling again, I tell them just how lucky we are to have each other.

Sometimes, all of us telling each of us how lucky we are is not enough. When I feel it’s time, I sign up for a shift at Father Bill’s, a local shelter about a mile away. Sometimes we need to stand behind that counter and see the faces of the people in long lines, standing or shuffling in a line on the other side of the counter.  Some of the people seem permanently broken, they don’t  look up from their plastic tray or the floor or their shoes, they mutter under their breath, or say nothing at all. A lot of them are really, really happy to see us, many of them remember Colin and Katy’s names. They welcome us back and ask how we’re doing in school. Some people just smile as they hold their plates out, meet my eyes, and smile so big and warm, I never feel like my smile is enough.

We need to make sure we spend a lot of times doing whatever we can do this holiday season. We need to make a point of going to Father Bills’s and where ever we can help all year long. My family and I live in a town with a lot of haves, and once in a while I start to feel the stigma of being a member of the have nots. This is a choice that I make, and it is not a choice I am proud of.

I need to be mindful that while I am a part of the this small town in New England where so many have so much, I am grateful that we are welcomed into their midst. Our neighbors  and friends are generous in one more ways than one.

But even more important, I need to remember that I am part of a much larger community. I share this earth with many, many people without homes, or hope of living another month, or carrying the grief of loss. I am part of a family of people that share the world, and we all have and we all have not, and we have all been young, and we are all, (or most of us) going to get old. And I will try to celebrate that for right now, I’m alive and I’m sharing my life with some of the most amazing people I have ever known. And I’ve been around awhile.


Tricks or Treats

November 2, 2012

Last night was Halloween, and we were lucky. Milton, Massachusetts wasn’t forced to cancel it like many of the other towns in our area.

Katy went dressed up as a pirate. This was her third time wearing her nautical ensemble and I am proud to say, Wednesday afternoon all pieces of her costume were intact. (I seriously doubted that the eyepatch would make it longer than a day.)

Colin is twelve. Last year was his last year trick or treating. The year before that, he made the same announcement. Last night, before donning his hat, more Indiana Jones than Freddy Krueger, he announced that this was definitely his last stroll around the streets in search of candy and quarters. He went out with a gang of friends before I even made it home from school. (This was the first time he had made the promise via text message. I will save it. Forever.)

I took Tue and Katy out, this is probably the last year I will lurk in the shadows next to a dancing dog, watching them trip up stairs. Every other house, “Don’t forget to say thank you!”

We finished at about 8, I charged the girls about 3 kit kats apiece and I don’t even want to remember how many Reeses. About fifteen minutes later, another knock on the door. Colin was there, surrounded by five or six other boys, all wearing vague costumes that relied heavily on rubber masks and sweat shirts. I held out our plastic pumpkin, offered what was left of the candy to Col and his friends.

Fifteen minutes later, Colin came rushing in. “Mom, that was so great.” “You had a good time?” I asked. I’m studying interpersonal communications at school, getting quite good at conversation. “You were the best mom we saw tonight.” “Thanks, Col-” before I could continue building on my meaningful dialogue with my son he interrupted- “You didn’t embarrass me at all.”

Oh, the glow I got. And it wasn’t from the full moon.