Bewitched and Bewildered.

February 27, 2013

Tonight, after I made our salad, I looked at the naked avocado pit on the counter. I asked my daughter if she’d seen any toothpicks.

Her eyes narrowed- “How many toothpicks do you need?”

“Four should do it,” I answered.

“Ok, I’ve got a stash in my room.”
Moments later, this beautiful creature presented me with exactly four toothpicks. Katy wouldn’t tell me where they came from, or for what reason she stored them in secret upstairs.
And so continues the mystery that goes by the name of Kate. I wonder what she would have said if I’d asked for twelve toothpicks, or twenty.
I’m thinking the mighty seed would be tucked into the bag of scraps intended for Miss Debbie’s chickens.

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My kids had mid winter break last week.

My brother had chest pains and had two stents put in his chest; my mom says having two stents put in his chest at 48 is no big deal, the surgery was non invasive.

I got a C on my BioMechanics quiz on Tuesday, my attempt at diagramming the muscles in the upper thigh was pathetic.

My mother in law, currently suffering from the early stages of dementia, was found to have breast cancer at her last checkup. Five minutes after she left the doctor’s office, she told her daughter they needed to go out and celebrate “another perfect checkup.”

When my husband told me this, I started to cry, but then I remembered I was late picking up my best friend’s kids from the school bus. They didn’t have a break this week. So if I was late I couldn’t use my own kids as an excuse. And I  didn’t want them to see me crying because then I’d have to explain the whole thing to them and I’d cry more. Or they wouldn’t notice me crying

And I’d cry even more after I dropped them off.

My daughter went to camp. My son, he’s 12, in seventh grade, didn’t want to go to camp. He said he needed time at home to relax. I let him stay home, but made him put clean sheets on my bed, and walk the dog, and fold clothes, even Katy’s clothes, which always end up on the floor. Every morning before I left, I told him to feed the animals. I’m not sure what he fed them. Each night, when I got home, Sophie, Michael and Bijoux all seemed more anxious than usual. So, I’m wondering, did he feed them, or did he just listen to obnoxious music all day and they aren’t used to having him around. Maybe they have an afternoon napping club and he messed them up. So I fed them really large dinners each night.

Other than the C, school was good. Katy had fun at camp. Colin seems more relaxed, but he also announced this morning he is suffering from a severe cold. So I don’t know if he’s relaxed or weak from fever.

Thank God we went away for a weekend. Thank God, I saw my friend, and had a conversation outside of what’s for dinner, or what’s for lunch or whether the special socks are dry. Thank God, there were movies, and time to talk without any agenda, bigger than small talk, but smaller than meaningful… just conversation. And then home, and a drop off of luggage, and we deposited ourselves at another friend’s house for the Oscars. Chicken wings, and skits about boobs, and Captain Kirk as the voice of all wisdom…

And home by 9:30. I’m packed for the gym in the morning. Colin and Katy are ready for school There is milk for their cereal. There is cream for my coffee. There is coffee.

I am at the age where normal, daily life is going to be interrupted by horrible, horrible news. And I need to move forward thru my normal daily life because I am lucky enough to be in the middle of one. My prayers go out to the world, and soon enough, I know, I will be asking that the world pray for me.

Happy February Vacation Week. We are a little closer to springtime tonight and a little  closer to death.

Are you an optimist, a pessimist or just plain disgusted with poorly executed transitions?

I’m a little of both, but figure this will pass once the sidewalks are clear and I get a good grade on my midterms.

 

 

This was one of those weekends.

Friday night was a workshop at our church about conflict run by  Reverend Eric Dawson and his wife, Tammy Tai. I wish I could do it justice, I can’t. I will say ages from 6 to 65 were present, there were snacks, and games, and laughter. I think we all walked away with a heightened awareness of what they referred to as our “escalators”- factors that intensify our responses to conflict. My escalator is when my son gives me the dead eye stare, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but if you have,  you know what I’m talking about.

Today was easy, for me anyway. The day started with an extended dog walk. My friend invited someone that doesn’t usually join us on our morning stroll. This newcomer brought her dog, a puggle, and before we even got to our spot, this puggle had pooped all over the back of my friend’s car. It didn’t bother me, it wasn’t my car, and I experienced that wonderful moment -“thank God my dog didn’t poop all over the back omy friend’s car.”  It was not our usual dog walk on a Saturday morning. But the snow falling made the world look pretty. It wasn’t cold. I needed the exercise, and so did Sophie, the most amazing of dogs. She’d never poop in a car. Right after we brought her home from the pound I took her for a ride. She waited until I got to our destination to throw up. And she didn’t even know me that well.

Saturday afternoon I spent home with kids. We watched Glee. I talked about canceling my plans. They talked me into going out. I blew dry my hair. Is there anything more boring than blowdrying hair? My hair is shoulder length and thick so it takes a long, long time. At the gym I read magazines while I wave the dryer around. At home all we have are National Geographics and Sports Illustrated for Kids. Not entertaining material for vanity projects like making curls fall into long straight waves. And my blowdryers old, so it’s loud. If I turned the radio up, the neighbors would think my kids were having a party.

So I sucked it up, dried the hair, put on the dress and went to the party with one of my favorite people in the world, Julie Baker. You’ve probably seen her on Twitter, or Facebook, or out on one of her sweaty walks. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have gone.  It was snowing, and I like to stay home in bad weather, and I’m lazy, and there’s that hair thing I mentioned… I don’t blow dry my hair for a night at home with my kids.

We went to the benefit, Dances for Hope, a cause that helps St. Judes Hospital. We volunteered at the door. We were responsible for checking people in, figuring out who merited VIP status, who ranked as a sponsor and making sure they got the appropriate wrist band. The power, the responsibility… Actually, not really. People seemed pretty honest, I didn’t meet any gate crashers. Just checked off the names and gave out the bracelets.

And then, since our service entitled us to VIP status, we went upstairs for cocktails and snacks. Free cocktails and snacks are pretty exciting to me, I’m currently a little “cash poor,”  (meaing we’re broke, but doesn’t that sound so much better? It implies that I have property, or stock, or something other than cash, but I’m everything poor. For the record.) So I gobbled down crab puffs in filo, and bread pudding in cups, and salmon in paper whenever the waiter came by. I was drinking rum and diet coke and I didn’t want to make an ass of myself. It was a benefit. And I wanted to dance without wobbling.

The first dance was the Wobble. That was pretty stupid. Nobody knew it, myself included, but it was short. After that, the DJ played a million songs. Why do they always have to mash everything up? Aren’t there any songs out there that merit being played from point a to point z? Maybe it’s helpful when trying to satisfy the Michael Jackson demographic simultaneously with the Pitbull Jay Z crowd. It was fun dancing. It got  a little intimidating when all of the professional dancers came on the floor. Did I mention there were professional dancers? And that they came on the dance floor? 

I wish they’d stayed on the stage, and gone somewhere else to boogie afterwards. I don’t mean to sound like an ass but when I get on the dance floor I don’t want to look over at a professional being amazing. I want to glance at some idiot swaying out of time and a couple doing a waltz and a whole bunch of girls laughing and trying out the macarena.

It was fun, even with all the Fred and Gingers showing their stuff. And then it was time to go home. Kids were waiting, and dogs needed to be walked. 

Actually the kids would have been thrilled if I’d stayed out. And the dogs were sleeping. But it was time.

 I’m home now. Tomorrow is the science fair. Monday is the JFK Library. In between, there are meals, and laundry and showers and dog walks and a million other details; if I listed them all I’d never, ever get up in the morning.

Ten years ago, I never liked getting up in the morning. I hated it; I’d sleep until noon. Now I do. I think it is truly the best thing I can say about my life… I like waking up to my life.

But this was one of those weekends. I think tomorrow I will have to sleep in.

Fishing

February 12, 2013

I’s been about a week since my last post on WordPress. I wrote about my fear of developing Alzheimer’s disease; my father died from complications of early onset Alzheimer’s when I was in my 20’s. It was dark, intensely personal, (too much so, according to my mom) and lacking in  humor, attempted or other wise.

About three days ago,  I realized it was getting to be that time. I try to update my blog about once a week; .(I really hate the word blog, and “blogging” sounds like something dirty people do in the back rooms of convenience marts or shoe stores). I really wanted to write something light, to balance out the melancholy reflections last time out.

So I started looking for something to write about. First up, and the obvious choice, was the blizzard, “Nemo”, “Snowmaggedon”, “The Storm that was Badder than the one in 1978″… I live just outside of Boston, about two feet of white powdery stuff fell on Milton. I considered devoting a few paragraphs to shoveling. This is all I got- Shoveling is hard work, and no matter what is on your feet, your socks get wet. I was going to write about the joy of having a few days home with the kids. They spent a lot of time complaining about not being able to go sledding, and asking for more hot chocolate. When I made them hot chocolate- the homemade kind, fancy dark chocolate mixed with brown sugar, honey, a pinch of salt and vanilla- they’d fish out the marshmallows and leave the half drank cocoa on any available surface. Where, more than once, they knocked the mug over. It’s fun to mop up cocoa in wet socks. Definitely couldn’t fill a few paragraphs of the joy of being stranded at home with two clumsy, culinary challenged, ungrateful children. Even if my favorite bliss is being wedged in the middle of their solid, sweet little bodies while we argue about who gets the remote.

So I crossed the blizzard of my list of suitable subjects for this time out I started  scrutinizing  everything I did for potential material. Looking for a pair of sweat pants… A piece about cleaning the closet! Rubbing Sophie the Most Wondrous of the Canines? A rambling ode to the joy of loving a dog. Making sloppy joes? What about a stab at the comedy that the sauce is called Manwich? Girls like sloppy joes too. This girl likes sloppy joes a little too much. As a matter a fact, how about something about what happens when I’ve been stuck at home to long and it’s hard to zipper up my favorite pair of jeans. Everybody wants to read about somebody else getting not able to squeeze into pants.. Except I don’t want to write about that. It’s not too personal, it’s just embarrassing.

So instead of publishing an essay about snowstorms, or puppies or the need to not eat too many sandwiches, I just wrote about what I am choosing not to write about. At this time.

If I don’t think of something by next week, I might revisit the singular joys and pitfalls of  cleaning the closet.

Thirty Something Years Ago

February 2, 2013

In the course of a conversation with my supervisor the other day it came up that I’m no longer working on Mondays. I asked her- “Why can’t I work on Monday?” She looked at me, puzzled. “You said you wanted Mondays off, when we made up your schedule. Three days ago.” I have no recollection of asking for Mondays off, what would I do without work on Monday? Go to the spa? Mow the lawn, Clean out the closets? I can’t afford a spa, it’s the dead of winter, and I’m tooi scared of what’s inside my kids closets to actually look inside them.

That night, a fellow swim mom called me. She wanted to know if she was still picking Katy up for swim team that night. I didn’t remember her offering to take my daughter to swim team.  I didn’t remember talking to her at all last week. Of course, I didn’t hesitate, I’m always happy to let someone else drive my child around.

It didn’t occur to me until later on, after Katy was at swim team, and my son at a friend’s house doing homework, that in the course of a week, I’d pretty much misplaced two  entire conversations, one about my job, and one about my child. It scared the fuck out of me.

Thirty years ago, I was 16 years old and was standing outside the Mountain Lakes Club, in Mountain Lakes, NJ, waiting for my dad to come out of a business meeting and give me a ride home. It was his first day back after an extended absence. He’d been sent to a hospital, (this was before the days of rehab,) to be treated for alcoholism.  He was there for thirty days. Before he’d been sent away to deal with his addiction to russian vodka, he was a big shot, in charge of the American division of a company that imported raw cocoa That morning was his first day back, the big executives from Switzerland were in town.

When he came out of the front door, his eyes were down. He was carrying a briefcase like it weighed a million pounds. “Dad, what happened?” He looked over at me. He looked over at me, but it was like he didn’t see me. His eyes stared in the direction of the tennis courts, they never moved from the tennis courts. “I can’t… I couldn’t- I had to leave, Julie. Something’s wrong.”

“Dad, what do you mean? You’re sick?… Did you have a drink? Do you need to go back?”

He shook his head. I don’t think he ever stood up straight again. My father, my charming, handsome, funny father, the man that all the ladies wanted to sleep with and the men wanted to drink with, was gone. He put his arm around me, and we walked to the fancy company car. We drove home in silence. A week later, he was tentatively diagnosed with early onset Altzheimer’s. He was fourty four years old.

So when I find myself in the middle of a week with pieces missing, it takes my breath away.

It took me a long time to recover from the journey my father and I took, his descent to a place where he tried to stab his health aide. Where he smoked endless cigarettes upside down. Where they had to strap into bed at the nursing home because he was always hopping in with the ladies.

He really didn’t know any better.

After he died I spent about twenty years making a series of incredibly bad choices.

And then I got pregnant. And then I got pregnant again. Long, long story short, I have two children now, one is 12, a basketball star and a lover of animals. My daughter is nine, she likes to slow dance with me in the morning, she writes songs, she makes me laugh more than anyone.

My father’s illness came close to destroying me, I can’t, can’t can’t get that disease. I can’t.

Tonight, I’m making Spaghetti Bolognese. I brown three different kinds of meat first. Then I dump it all in a colander lined with paper towels to strain out the grease. I chop onions and shallots and garlic together, real fine. Add the mixture to the meat back in the pan. Then I pour in tomatos, and an old jar of spaghetti sauce, and a box of special tomatos from Italy. (They are in a box, they must be very fancy.) I don’t follow a recipe, I don’t cry when I chop the onions, I know just the right moment to add the cream, and to boil the pasta.

Tomorrow, I’m going to the gym at 9 for a cardio class. Then I’m going to church. Then, a long walk with some friends and some dogs. The Superbowl. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.

If I move really fast, and I pray really hard, and I surround myself with my family and friends, and I start paying attention- I’ll  make notes in my phone, I will actually use the calendar from the bank, I’ll buy a book about Mindfulness, and another about nutrition.

I’m scared. I’m not scared of having the illness, well, I am, but that’s not the main thing.

I don’t want to tell my kids. Like he told me. Because I never recovered from those moments in the parking lot in Mountain Lakes, NJ, thirty something years ago.

I can’t do that to my children. And I won’t. Because I am going to be fine. Period.

The spaghetti sauce is done, I can smell it. I will put on the pasta, and salt the water, and take out the plates. Katy likes milk, Tue, her friend, only water. With one cube of ice. Colin asked me to make a plate for him to eat later.

As long as I can remember the important things, I’ll, we’ll be alright.

Post script  An hour after I wrote this, I was going thru the voicemail on my phone. Remember the wonderful swim team mom that had arranged to drive Katy? The arrangements I forgot and confirmed I was on the path to dementia? She’d left me a voice mail I’d never listened to. And the conversation about working on Mondays, well, I may not remember it, but it was a damn good idea. Monday off. Maybe I can’t afford a spa, but I can sleep in, go to the gym and spend a really long time in the sauna.

I’ll be allright, and on special occasions, amazing.