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Monday, October 7, 2013

The Year of Big Life Events, a summary, including THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE, and some other stuff

I should call it The Year, in caps, the one that began and ended in a tutu, the one that was so full of Big Life Events that writing seemed awfully trivial in its face. 

I should do that. 

But instead I will just own up to having been distracted, and lazy, and stuck. I will apologize and move on, and forgive myself, because this life stuff is still happening, so much of it, and I don't want to miss one little bit by fretting over my lazy distracted self. 

So here it is, The Year of Big Life Events, encapsulated in one post, one that seems necessary in order for me to move on to writing ALL the other things I want to write!  Bear with me, if you don't want to read about my year just skip this one-- this one is for me.  So I'll have it here, always.

The first time I wore the tutu was for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer which I did in NYC last October. I walked 26 miles and raised more than $2,000. Two things I'll always remember: walking across the Brooklyn Bridge (I just knew I was going to love that), and the unexpected, profound loneliness at the end, when I reached tent city and I knew no one in that enormous crowd. 


The second time I wore the tutu was for the Color Run, which I did in Philadelphia last July.  This run is billed as "the happiest 5k on the planet" and it isn't hyperbole.  I have never had a happier run, and though I did it alone I didn't feel lonely-- I was enveloped in a happy crowd, running, dancing, laughing and getting more colorful by the minute. If there is a color run near you I highly recommend it. It is not a timed run-- so it is an excellent "starter race"-- wonderful for beginning runners and families. Music, popsicles, frisbees and dancing afterward make it a party. 

And between these two bucket list events were a few other bucket list events, and some Big Life Events, and also THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE, which was when David and Alia got married.

Here we are, just after the wedding. They were married in January, in New Orleans, on a streetcar. There were altogether about 20 people. Us, Alia's parents, and some of their friends. Perfect.


I had my husband and my kids together in my favorite city and one of them was marrying the love of his life and it just does not get any better than that. 


So now I have a collection of 5 BEST DAYS and this is the only one that did not involve hospitals, or seating chart stress.  


We spent a few extra days and made more wonderful memories of NOLA; here we are exploring the French Quarter neighborhood where our firstborn lived for a year when his company was doing restoration work after Katrina.

We toured the cemeteries, ate lots of seafood, and one early morning I went for a run along the Missippi. So much fog you could just make out what was directly in front of you. I could hear music playing, a couple of instruments, some singing. As I came closer the musicians smiled and waved.  On my way back I became part of their song-- "Can we get a 'Hey'", they said. So I said "Hey". They said it again. I answered again, and the song followed me as I ran.

On the last day, after the kids had left for the 3 different states they called home, Jim and I went to the Audubon Aquarium . There is an exhibit called Parakeet Pointe, an enclosed area containing hundreds of the colorful birds.  Attracted to my shiny gold wristlet, a blue bird climbed all the way into the bag and pulled out a $10.00 bill. Then she handed it off to a green/yellow bird while she climbed out. You can't tell by this photo, but there was a crowd around me. Everyone had moved to the front of me to watch the birds attempt to steal my money. When the blue one tried to fly away with it, the bill fell and we got it back.  After that I zipped up the bag. Now we understood why the signs said to check your bags and backpacks before leaving the exhibit!

That was January. In May we traveled again, not so far this time, just to a dorm room in Georgetown University, Washington DC.  I'd never had the chance to live in a dorm before, but now for two nights Georgetown allowed Jim and I to stay in one, living the dream. I  liked having him for a room-mate.  We watched t.v. on our laptop, ate take-out, and flashed our (temporary) ID's to the desk guy whenever we came in. I went for a run along the Potomac, too.  But we were there to witness our wonderful daughter-in-law receive her Law degree.  She'd worked so hard, and got married in the middle of it. Did I mention her fb status during the wedding? "brb, getting married". I LOVE this girl! So, congratulations, Alia! (also yay! I have a lawyer!)  Pictured here with Alia is her lovely mom, Julie, and the flowers her parents brought for her.  So thoughtful-- I never think of those details!  But this is one of my favorite photos- it was a lucky shot for me!

Just a few weeks later Jim and I were traveling again-- Do you remember I said this was The Year, in caps, because of how full it was of Big Life Events? I wasn't kidding.  This time we were headed to Los Angeles. Well, Pasadena, really, to witness yet another graduation.  But first we were going to...San Francisco. 

Why San Francisco? Because, one, it's where Monk lived. Two, it's where the best movie documentary I've ever seen was filmed, three, City Lights Bookstore lives there, and four, it's home to the crooked street!

We walked up Telegraph hill. I saw one of the wild parakeets, the subject of the documentary mentioned above. We went to Alcatraz and Fisherman's Wharf and Chinatown and to where the sea lions are.  We rode the streetcars- so much fun hanging on when they're full- flying downhill with traffic whipping past you and you just keep your grip on the pole while gravity tries to pull you out. Wheeee!

But I think Alcatraz was Jim's favorite thing, and I admit I found it way more fun and interesting then I'd expected. 
I think we'd agree, though, that our best day was when we rented bicycles and took a ride across the Golden Gate and into Sausalito.  The view from the bridge was beautiful, although the bridge itself wasn't as wide or pretty as I thought it would be, after seeing the Brooklyn Bridge. It wasn't half as crowded either, so that was a plus. 
But then coming off the bridge we entered a long winding downhill path, where every turn offered another breathtaking view of the San Francisco Bay. The sun and the sailboats-- it's so gorgeous- like a story- I was stunned. Never expected that. Another place I long to see again.  

Then on to Pasadena, for the last of The Year's Big Life Events, the Caltech graduation of our daughter Addison.  We spent a couple of days exploring Pasadena. We tried going up into the San Gabriel Mountains, but it's all scrub instead of trees and I'm a backseat coward on a bare, mountainous road.  Halfway up my anxiety got the best of me (omg STOP! We're going to FALL OFF!), and I asked Jim to please pull over. I got out of the car, picked up a rock, and got back in. We decided to go see the rose-bowl instead.  But I had my rock from the San Gabriel Mountains.

We also went to the Norton Simon Museum, which houses a terrific art collection plus sculptures by Rodin and others, worth a visit.  And with Addie's help we were able to eat abundantly and cheaply--the opposite of San Francisco-- because college students always know the best places. One that I remember is Zankou Chicken , which we had on the eve of my birthday. I liked it enough to buy their tee-shirt.  

The graduation was lovely, with typically perfect June weather for the outdoor ceremony, and we were so happy and I thought I was ready, and then. 
There she was-- all grown up.

My girl, the graduate, the one with the crazy long degree, something about Science and Engineering and Geology.  The one who went 3,000 miles away to college, who lived for two months on her own in Switzerland, who traveled by herself around India, who spent a summer living in Manhattan, working at Columbia. That girl. The fearless one. My daughter, the geologist. My hero.  All. Grown. Up.

And so we're at more or less the end of The Year of Big Life Events.  I'd stop here, but since I summed up a little about my girl I think I'll add just a little bit for my boys, too.

My firstborn is one of my best friends, a supportive cheerleader, someone I can ask opinions of and get good advice from. He's a computer guy and an amazing musician, a writer and a reader.  He's playful and funny, he's just a good guy, and I'm so proud of him and so lucky to have him as a son and a friend in my life.  

My middle guy is wicked smart, a software engineer, who is also playful and funny, he's sweet and sentimental and stubborn and opinionated and always, always interesting. He never hesitates to be helpful and he is always helpful.  He makes me happy every single time I talk to him. He is fiercely loyal and he treasures his family. We've grown to be friends too, and I am so very proud of him and so very grateful to have him.

I am like the lottery winner of best sons.  And daughters. And daughters-in-law.

And now maybe I can get back to writing about things other than my family.

Like the Zombie walk, post to follow...

Friday, August 10, 2012

I'm going to be a mother-in-law! (for Alia)

You are smart, lovely,  funny, easily pleased, highly opinionated, heartbreakingly insecure, thoughtfully fashionable, hilariously disorganized, brutally honest, and a perfectly lovable future daughter-in-law.

Alia, we adore you.   We are lucky to have had real time to get to know you, to see who it is- deeply, and truly-- that had our David walking on air, whistling at breakfast and grinning through dinner all that winter when you and he met.

And then you spent some time with us, disarming and charming and laughing your way into our hearts.  Your laughter comes easily and often and it's what I remember best and love most-- hearing it from everywhere in the house- you laughing, David laughing, the two of you in delight of each other and of being young and in love and together.

I watched you work out compromise, stand up to each other and also back down- a dance you seemed to practice instinctively and well.  I watched you  be thoughtful to each other, and also not so thoughtful, and then thoughtful again.  I noticed you seeing qualities in each other that you seemed to miss in yourselves, and I noticed you finding the best parts of each other to nurture.

I worried some, too, because you are both such strong and sometimes stubborn personalities-- but then you told David he was being insufferable that time, and he grinned (he actually grinned!) and so I stopped worrying.  You can hold your own (and so can he).

As much as we miss having you here I have to also admit I don't miss the unending mess in the kitchen, the tripping over laptops and cell phones, or the mounds of laundry on the couch.  It's your laughter I miss; it's you I miss (and David, too).  It's seeing you convince Jim to put in the ceiling fan I've wanted for 10 years.  It's listening to you and Addie (your future sister-in-law) talk science at the dinner table and being so grateful that you have each other and have both science and a love for travel and an appreciation of all things sparkly in common.  (or maybe the sparkly things is me, not Addie).  It's having you ask my opinion on something, or seeing you work the crossword with Jim, or hearing you admit you get a little selfish when you're tired (who doesn't?).

I hope it is apparent how much we appreciate the depth and scope of your place in our hearts.
Alia, you have wonderful parents who set a great example, and I like to think that Jim and I did a pretty fair job for David too- and I see in you both an ability to love and share and to work out conflict in ways that benefit you each individually and also as a couple.  I see success in your future, and lots of love and happiness, and so much laughter.

So, David- thank you. Daddy and I, and Chris and Addie, are very glad to be welcoming Alia to our family,  and we think you are a very lucky guy.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Slayer Training For Losers

Some of you may know that I'm about 15 days into a 6 week long fitness challenge, part of a team-"Buncha Losers"-competing with other teams for a cash prize and bragging rights.  The team that loses the most collective weight wins the pot, which works out to a nice sum of $500 each.
I suspect most of us aren't in it for the money so much as the chance to develop healthier habits and, hopefully, a healthier body.  In that, of course, we will all finish as winners.  No matter where we were when we started, our trainers are seeing to it that we'll finish stronger, more fit, and having developed a new set of habits with which to continue.

This week, Brian, head honcho over at Inspire Fitness, asked team participants to consider their goals and, for extra team points, write essays describing our own personal "ultimate" selves.  Brian's kinda big on the idea of setting goals, visualizing where you want to be and then living into your vision.

But here's the thing. I'm nearly 52 and I still don't have a freaking clue who I want to be. I mean, I used to. I did. A long time ago.  A long time ago I wanted to be a certain kind of mom. I wanted to be the kind of mom who raised kids that were happy and playful and intellectually curious and fearless and strong and kind and good hearted and interesting to be with.

And, against the odds, I was. I was that kind of mom, with those kinds of kids. And the lion's share of credit goes to the kids themselves, of course, along with a fair amount of luck, and the rest owing to chance and fate and a tiny little bit to my husband and me, and that only for doing a good job of holding our breath while the universe worked its magic and our amazing children grew up.  And left me with my heart overflowing with gratitude.

But. Then.

Boom. I was done. DONE. The road ended; the gate came crashing down.  It's a familiar theme- you've heard it before- but empty-nesting while menopausing?  Nothing prepares you for that shit-- no amount of being psychologically minded, of having things to do or meaningful work or hobbies or a grown up social life-- nothing- nothing prepares you to be done with the day-to-day, on-your-toes, problem-solving busy-ness of active parenting.

It is, literally, depressing.  AND IT'S NOT MY FAULT.  I didn't forget to get a hobby. I just reached a turn in the road that I thought might be interesting but which, it turns out,  I find absolutely AWFUL.

Soooo.  So I spent some time licking my wounds and playing Spider Solitaire and wishing I could fall down a rabbit hole.  Then I took my husband on a Zombie Walk*. Then I licked my wounds some more.  Finally I went for a physical which revealed low vitamin D levels and high cholesterol.  So... I started walking and running a little more, like I used to, taking some supplements, and feeling a little better. Still clueless about who I wanted to be, but the fog at least was beginning to lift.  When I learned about the fitness challenge it seemed like just the right thing at just the right time.

My ultimate self?  Ask me again in a couple of years. For now, I'm happy to be putting one foot in front of the other, to be getting stronger and healthier. I want to have a body that will carry me into my future, one that will afford me the time I'll need for figuring out how to make my second 50 as fun and interesting a trip as my first 50 have been.  I don't know where my path will lead me; travel, writing, art, teaching, ?

What I do know is that I won't be sitting around waiting to find out- I'm going to be out there somewhere, actively meeting the future in front of me.

But there is one other thing--I call the boot camp classes "Slayer Training" for a reason.  I want to be sure that if the Zombies and Vampires arrive, or if the Capitol takes over-- I will be ready.

 *If interested, see my post entitled "Rejoining the Land of the Living (and spending a day undead)", about 5 posts down.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

12 things there ought to be.

1. Treadmills in waiting rooms.
2. Workdays involving costumes.
3. Non-allergenic kittens.
4. Cartoons before the movie starts.
5. Right hand lanes that never end.

6. Public art exhibitions everywhere.
7. Asphalt in pretty colors.
8. Real marauders maps.
9. Sidewalks on country roads.
10. Free grocery delivery.
11. Public science exhibitions everywhere.
12. Actually healthy cupcakes.

Friday, February 10, 2012

You Don't Mess With My Heart (Komen et al)

This post is in part about the Komen debacle;  if you aren't familiar with it, start here. Otherwise read on:

See this? This is my heart. My HEART.

Although this is just one of my three children, for the sake of this post, it doesn't matter which. Let this baby stand for them all. My children, my heart.

I have been spitting mad since I first heard about Komen's disastrous decision, and, like many others on hearing the news, I went promptly to Planned Parenthood's fundraising page to make a donation. In concert with so many, our swift and decisive actions made a difference. Komen is well aware of the magnitude of its mistake; I've nothing to add to that.

But I can't let it go- I'm seething-  and maybe, maybe, I can help shed some light on the depth and breadth of furious response to the Komen decision to defund Planned Parenthood.  Because I am a woman of a certain age.  And I suspect that a great number of the Planned Parenthood defenders came of age, as I did, in the 1970's. 

We were young during a pre-HIV, post Sexual-Revolution decade. Our parents weren't ready to provide education and contraceptives, so Planned Parenthood became our place to go. We trusted them and we counted on them.  And they were there for us.

At first, we went in groups- five or six at a time. We went for contraception, mostly, but we got so much more. We were 14, 15, 16 years old, and here was a place where we were treated with dignity and compassion. Here was a place we could get truthful answers and straightforward advice. Any teenager will tell you that in the world of adults, to be treated in this way is rare.  

We got pap smears and breast exams, condoms and the pill. We got information and advice, hand-holding and occasional scoldings. We got abortions, and we got pre-natal care. Planned Parenthood was our primary caregiver well into our twenties or later, until (or if) we graduated to jobs (or marriages) with medical insurance.

I was 20 years old and uninsured when my first baby was born.  My healthy pregnancy and delivery was due in part to the affordable pre-natal care I received at Planned Parenthood.  Long after I stopped using P.P. for my own medical care I counted on them to be there for my younger friends and relatives, and those who were uninsured.  I assumed they would be there for my own children and my children's children too.

I'm 51 years old now and my children, my heart, are all grown up.  It's been a lot of years since I've needed P.P., but I'll always be grateful for the good start they gave to me, my friends, and our families.  Planned Parenthood, we will ALWAYS support you. 

Lately there have been near daily attacks on our reproductive freedom, our access to health-care, to safe abortions, and to affordable and effective contraception.   It is incomprehensible.  If we have been taking what we have of these things for granted, we will no longer. Let the Komen debacle remind us of our strength, our numbers, and of what we have to lose. 

It was heartening to see women of all ages stand up for Planned Parenthood; to know that there are many more of us than there are of those misguided fanatics- religious and political- who would have us bear children we couldn't afford to feed or face a payday choice between groceries and contraception.

I have good health insurance these days and am grateful that I can go to the doctor whenever the need arises. Grateful enough that I've decided to make a donation to a fund that benefits women each time I use my insurance. Today I had a routine yearly physical. And I will make a donation to Planned Parenthood.  I am on the lookout for a cancer-specific fund to replace Komen on my list of favored charities, and am considering the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  (If anyone can give me a yay or nay on this one I'd appreciate it).

I'm also on the lookout for a good political organization.  I'd like to donate where my money will be used effectively to help shape policy which benefits women and children. Please leave your suggestions here.

I'm grateful to my brilliant children and the brilliant and beautiful people they have brought into my life; all of them (ALL of them) give me hope and a sense of calm amid so much turmoil, amid the public disagreements and vehement disrespect rampant among our so called leaders.  I feel like a child living with parents who don't get along; it leaves me with a near-constant stomach ache.  Or heartache, perhaps.  It's stressful.  I don't need it. 

Implicit in the job of parenting is the promise, the responsibility even, to leave the world a better place for our children. Oh, my hearts, I'm trying!

I think it is inevitable that the uber right who are trying to make or keep bad policy, or to prevent good, will eventually stupid themselves off the radar.  My hope is that we can hurry the process up a bit. Maybe spitting mad is exactly where I need to be. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fuck you Chris Christie (in defense of New Jersey)

You and your "Jersey style" rants don't fool us.  Intimidation is the tool of a bully, and everyone knows the truth about bullies. You think you're big and powerful? You get a rush out of threatening people? Despite your obvious efforts to be otherwise, in truth you are a little, little man.

This power trip you're on?  It won't last longer than last nights pudgy little hard-on.  Yeah, I'm pissed. I thought about taking the high road, but you know what? I'm from Jersey too. Difference is, I don't run around threatening people.  I'm not ever going to run for office. I'm not a politician. I don't pretend to be important to anyone outside my family and a small circle of friends.

You, on the other hand, seem to think you're going somewhere. Get over it. You have no class, no style, no intellect, and no manners.  Successful politicians will dust you from their shoulders the minute they've used up what few crumbs you offer.

NJ is a wonderful state filled with all kinds of people, most of them  kind, caring, and compassionate. You do the state an injustice by pretending otherwise.  I'm sure you've been told by your "handlers" to drop the bully act. Problem is, it isn't an act. You, sir, are a bully.

And we all know the truth about bullies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rejoining the Land of the Living (and spending a day undead)

I'm  beginning to rejoin the land of the living after a long, unproductive, unwelcome, unintentional withdrawal. The adjustments required by an empty nest, aging parents, and impending work and retirement choices are, for some, No Big Deal.  But for me, and presumably others,  it is a sea change requiring major reinvention and the questioning of Every Single Thing I've Ever Done.
Our sold van; the end of an era

This past year is the first that we've had with no kids at home, not even over the summer.  We sold the van. We cleaned out some closests. We were just beginning to appreciate some of the small differences- ordering one pizza, leaving our door open, an empty sink at the end of the day- when Grandma moved in.

Now we have an ugly wooden calendar hanging in our kitchen and a stuffed pink  Laz-e-boy in the living room.  The electrified chair comes with an "Eject" button from which G'ma springs forth when she's finished watching the Joy Behar show.  Also, the wall fell down.

The Wall that Stole my 51st Summer
It was a necessary retaining wall, and estimates to have it replaced were well out of our reach. So we had to build it ourselves. In June and July. During a heat wave. I call it The Wall that Stole my 51st Summer, and I figure the wall owes me a year.   Building that wall was the hardest sustained physical work I've ever done, but it turned out great, and I know I should be proud of it. But I am only resentful.

With an empty nest, a husband scheduled to retire soon, and no real ties to my local community, I had hoped to move. Somewhere far.  Somewhere interesting.  Somewhere G'ma would also like. Somewhere Cheap, most of all.  Start a new chapter. Figure out what I want to be, besides a parent. But I haven't a clue where we can go or even whether it will be possible.

And so I've spent the summer, and most of the fall, in a funk, a pit, a sleepy drowning-ish, gloomy gray space lacking joy, with no real desire to do anything at all.  I recognize depression, I've been friends with it before. I suppose as it goes mine is a mild case, but still.

Asbury Park NJ Zombie Walk 2011
It's so easy to know what to do (get out! get active! spend time with people!), and so hard to actually do it. But I'm making some progress.  I finally wrote this post, for one. I went with Jim to my first (awesome) Zombie Walk.  I'm taking an exercise class.  I'm looking into other paid work. And I'm in the market for a friend or two.  Who live nearby, because I am very, very lazy.  Also, if anyone knows the meaning of my life (beyond raising the best 3 kids on earth), please let me know.  I'm quite interested. And if you live in an Interesting and Cheap place, I'd like to hear about that, too.