Monthly Archives: October 2008

Drifting

I am a terrible friend.  This realization came as quite a shock to me, because I also consider myself to be an extremely loyal friend.  “Loyal to a fault”, I’ve even been told (which always makes me angry).  I place my friends on a sort of elevated plane of existence completely protected by the dubious label “friend”.  Of course, I am not blind enough to believe that my friends “can do no wrong”.  I am completely aware of each of their faults, (and at times are annoyed by said faults), but in the end it matters little, because if any of them were being held prisoner by a Haitian witchdoctor in the middle of god-only-knows-where, I would be on the next plane with another Haitian witchdoctor (a better Haitian witchdoctor) ready for some serious voo-doo.

So, how can it be that I am both a loyal and terrible friend?  I guess what I mean is that I allow my friends to drift.  They are always tethered to me by a thread of shared experiences … and buoyed in my memory by that label: friend.  But I do allow them to drift – some of them so far that I have no idea where in life they are.  Others, so subtly I hadn’t even noticed that I had done so at all.

Tonight, I got an email from an old friend.  She asked how I was doing, and imparted a small amount of news.  Then she apologized for the fact that we seem to have “drifted away” because sometimes “life just goes too fast”.  I have to admit that I was taken aback, because I hadn’t stopped to think of the last time I had actually seen her – and her husband – in real life.  I think about them often, and “see” them in my minds eye whenever I get or send the occasional email.  They are as present to me in my everyday existence as the friends and family I get together with on a regular basis.  But that’s just it.  I assume that the people in my life will always know how important they are to me simply because they bear the moniker “friend” or “family” – or both.  I take these most important people for granted to such an extent that, in some cases, I have not made the effort to “see” them live & in person for years and years.   And the worst part of it all is that I have been vaguely aware of it for quite a long time.  I’ve even written a song about it!  (Which, for those of you who come to see ManDown play, play close attention to the song Gray Bird.) How, you might ask, can I claim to be vaguely aware of something that I’ve taken the time to write an entire song about?  I think the answer is, that recently I had thought I was doing so much better about staying in touch.   I had assumed that since I haven’t had an enormous shift in life since leaving college and entering “the real world”, that my world and the relationships with the people in it had stayed in tact.   That’s right I assumed, and yes, we all know what happens when we do that.  So tonight, I hope that each of you, who I have ever called “friend” or ever referred to as “family” (which, to me, basically amounts to the same thing), understand that you are in my thoughts and in my heart…. forever … whether you like it or not.  And I apolozige if all you ever get from me is a Christmas card or the random email.  You are important to me – and I mean that.

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“What dreams may come”

I have vivid dreams.  They are the kind that are difficult to wake from and leave me wondering what is real.  They are complicated and complete, as if I were living an impossible secret life.  Nearly every night I wade in the most vibrant hues, hear the most beautiful sounds, and feel as deeply and completely as when I am awake – more so, sometimes.  Often they are an exaggerated and accelerated version of my day.  Sometimes they are beautiful and profound; other times, though, they are grotesque and disturbed.  The one constant being that they always they seem so very real – and I remember the vast majority of them.

Last night I walked willingly into danger with the knowledge that the steps I took were likely to be my last.  I felt the very marrow of my bones resonating a kind of fear that made me feel ironically alive.  I knew it was the end and this gave me a strength of purpose, a courage that numbed that part of my brain which might cause me to falter or second guess my motives.  I knew I was going to die.  It was whispered to me in a red flash of eyes, and repeated in a way that insisted that there was no other way –  but I was determined to prevent the deaths of my family, a group of strangers … and well, myself, (if I could), in the process.  In the end I was betrayed, but alive – as were most – and trapped, and then it all became very “Kubrick”.  Not that the outcome really matters, because in the end, I woke up as I always do.   This was one of those dreams, though, that I just couldn’t shake.  The kind that affects my understanding of the human experience and the world in general … & gets me thinking.

Tonight, I am thinking of our soldiers past and present.  I am thinking about what it must be like walking through each day knowing it will most likely be the last.  Marching into Berlin or the beaches in Normandy or Gettysburg or Vietnam or Iraq.  My grandfather would talk mostly of the humor from the days of WWII and Korea.  He once told me that during WWII his camp was shelled – while he was bathing – (as luck would have it the nearest was a dud), and all he could think was that his wife was going to get a notice that said something like “Your husband served valiantly in the European Theater.  Died in the bath.”  No life flashing before his eyes, just that thought “I’m in the middle of a war, and going to die in the bath”.  An old boss of mine, on the other hand, absolutely refused to talk about his service in Vietnam.  At all.  It’s very odd the effect mortality has on life…

I have it easy.  All I have to do is close my eyes and wake up in the morning.  Maybe, just maybe, I’ll dream something profoundly horrible that is so real, it takes awhile to untangle the unconscious from the tangible “real world”.  But I will always wake up.  I have the luxury of waking from a nightmare to live an absolute dream of a life.  Tonight, I give thanks to those who wake from a nightmare to live something much worse…And to those who wake from pleasant dreams to live in danger so that I might dream undisturbed.

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“The road to hell…”

My dad has a saying which he used to (and sometimes still does) repeat to me whenever I’d open my big mouth and say something beginning with the words “I meant to …” or “I started to, but …”  The saying is this: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” – and it haunts me.  It haunts me nearly every day, because, you see, my road to hell is a beautifully paved one.  In fact, it even has rest stops.

My problem is that I get excited about new projects, and they are never small … and they never get finished.  I am so easily distracted, that the old projects get pushed aside to make way for the new ones, which get pushed aside to make way for the even newer ones – and all of their various components are scattered all over the house.  Poor Jeff.  Jeff likes order.  “A place for everything, and everything in its place” – and here I am with piles of clothing in a half-organized closet, boxes and boxes of photos waiting to be put into albums, pieces of artwork left in the scanner, and half-painted oils (one of which he gave up on me finishing, took off the easel, framed it & hung it in the basement.  I look at it every day and say “I really need to finish that” and yet still it hangs, waiting …).  The list of my “great ideas” goes on & on, so I really do have to give my husband credit.  He patiently waits until I haven’t fiddled with something for a while, then finds a new home for it.  I usually go ballistic on him when I realize it: “Out of sight, out of mind!  Now I’ll never finish it & I really, really want to!”, and I’ll grump away somewhere and mutter things like “ye of little faith” or “totally unfair assumptions being made of me” – and then I’ll bang my way on downstairs to get something or other, see that half-painted framed oil, chew my lip and feel really guilty about getting so upset.  Then I hear my dad’s voice “The road to hell…”  Sometimes, I get this flash of a memory of my wedding day, when at the reception my dad made a speech.  It was a lovely and very funny speech – but I remember waiting for him to add in something like “she’s all yours now – muhahahahahahaha!”  But he didn’t.  Guess it would have been a little too much like “the pot calling the kettle black” – you see, I come by it honestly.  As they say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”, and my dad’s tree is trimmed nicely with half-finished projects of his own.  The problem with me, though, is that so many of my projects are meant to benefit someone else, and that’s where I add another mile marker in my road.  (My dad, at least has the efficiency to finish the projects for “other people” first.)

Today I have been reflecting on 3 or 4 of said projects and have set myself deadlines.  I can’t really function unless I know something is “almost due”.   So, I am asking each of you a favor – come December, do me a favor and ask me “are you finished”?  Then, maybe, I can tell the devil to send back that new Jersey Wall he ordered.

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“Food, glorious food!”

You know you’ve turned a corner in your life, when what excites you most is not that new release from The Musical Geniuses, or the new movie by Mr. Popular, or even the latest novel in that series that you just can’t put down.  Instead, what gets you asbolutely giddy is that your favorite local Target has started carrying groceries!  This is when you must now acknowledge something that is beyond adulthood.  I’m not sure what that something is, but you have to admit that you are now there.  I think I was actually more excited, even, than my kids when they saw that there were new “Disney Cars” cars in the toy aisle.  “WOOOOOOWW!!! Mom!! Can I have it, can I have it??”  And as I chuckled and counted out with my son how much money he had left in his wallet, I distinctly remembered thinking “such joy!  Being a kid can be so cool sometimes”.  Then, with new cars joyously added to the cart, I rounded the corner and “WOOOOOOWW!!  Noodle!  Muffin!!  Look at that!!!!” – Food as far as the eye could see – and I don’t mean just bread & chips & that kind of stuff, I mean yogurts and cheeses and ice creams and frozen buffalo wings and jalapeno poppers and LACTAID MILK of all things!!!   *Gasp* Orange juice and tortillas, and vegetables and fruit!!  What made all of this even better?  I’ll tell you what: Target brand EVERYTHING!!!  I got Monterey Jack cheese (which my kids devour) and a box of beer-battered fish fillets (guilty pleasure – I know, I’m weird) for less than half the grocery store price!  And this had me dancing – literally – in the aisles!  People must have thought I lost my mind.  In fact, I’m not sure that I haven’t lost my mind, but at least wherever my mind is, it’s a happy place.  But such is the state of my life these days, as I sit with a big bubble wand tangled in my hair …

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4 Minutes

I knew I was in trouble when the clock read 11:38 and I still hadn’t made it to the car service center.  I needed an oil change – but more than that, I needed my daughter to stay awake at least until we got there.  She usually takes her nap at 12:30, so going out anytime after 11:15 is a risk with the grumpiest of consequences.  If she fell asleep in the car, even for a few minutes, she wouldn’t take her nap when we got home & no one needs a napless 19 month old come 4:00.  I stopped at a red light, turned around in my seat, and that’s when I saw it.  The half-closed eyelids and the thumb most of the way in the mouth: classic nap posturing.  Desperate for stimulus that might keep her awake for the few yards we had left to go, I grabbed the apple juice that I had hidden in my purse (for just such an occasion), and in my loudest voice possible: “Here ya go, muffin!  We’re almost there!”, while thrusting the sippy cup in her lap.

Whew!  That was a close one.  Too close.  I had just gotten around to fretting about the trip home, when the mechanic announced that my car was ready (wow! that was fast!), and we all piled back in to go home.  Amazing.  Everyone was still in a good mood – and perfectly awake!  It was, however, the middle of the lunch rush, and we needed to get to the other side of town – on roads that were undergoing massive road work.  Ugh.  We were never going to make it home before “the muffin” fell asleep.  Well, as it turns out, we almost did, but not quite.  4 minutes.  That’s all.  “The Muffin” fell asleep 4 minutes before I pulled into our driveway.  I still held out hope that I might be able to transfer her safely, quickly, & quietly to her crib so that she barely noticed being woken up by me undoing her car-seat harness (why is it so hard to untangle a sleeping child from these things?!).  Unfortunately, this was not in the cards.  She noticed that Tyrone, Ernie, and “Num-Nums” (cookie monster) had fallen to the car floor & she needed them.  Then her brother had to go to the bathroom, and she decided it was absolutely necessary to study the texture of the brick wall of our house while I tried to balance her, Tyrone, “num-nums”, and my purse, while holding the screen door open with my foot & trying to unlock the door quickly so her brother could go pee “ooohhh, Mom, now!”  So much for a stealth transfer.  It guess it didn’t really matter, because her diaper was dripping wet, anyway & she needed a change before I could, in good conscience, put her down for “naps”.

I tried, though.  I tried putting her down.  She played nicely in her crib for awhile before I gave up & went to rescue her.  It is hard to imagine that 4 minutes is a suitable replacement for 2 solid hours of napping – but alas, evidently, it is.  If only I could get by on just 4 minutes, imagine what could be accomplished…

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“Baby, oh Baby!”

Yesterday morning, I huddled under my covers trying to put off actually “waking up”.  Jeff, who was reading on his iphone next to me, announced that some friends of ours had their baby at 4am.  I think I said something like “Oh.  Great.  Girl, right?  Good for them.  We should send them something.” and rolled over trying to ignore what sounded like our daughter waking up.  It wasn’t until “Mama, where are you??” that I finally gave in & went to rescue “the muffin” from her crib.  That was when our son bounded into the room “Hi, Mama!  I love you so much!  I have to pee!!  Mom I have to pee!  I really, really have to pee!” (all in one breath and without waiting for a response).  So I direct our darling boy towards the bathroom “ok, so go ahead and go.  I’ll turn on the light”, and get our daughter who had evidently soiled her diaper, as the entire room stank to high heaven.  At this point I’m thinking “(I need coffee.)  I can’t wait until she’s out of diapers.  (I need coffee)  I can’t wait until there are no more diapers in my life. (coffee, coffee, coffee…)”  And it’s true.  I can’t wait.  Just like I couldn’t wait until “the muffin” could walk for “her own self”, which thankfully, was around 9 months.  I know what you’re thinking – I’m crazy if I was excited to have a toddler going wherever she pleases, instead of a baby who would stay put.  But once she didn’t need me to take her where she wanted to go, she became a more manageable and much happier child.  I never have been too much of a baby person.  I had to be talked into both of our children.  I love them more than life itself, but Jeff had to campaign for them – and I mean seriously campaign.  He used to make me hold other peoples’ new babies, hoping the darling child might elicit the “awww, maybe I do want one” response.  But that never worked on me, and I never understood how that worked for other people.  I knew I wanted kids … in theory … but the debilitating morning sickness, the waking up in the middle of the night to a hungry infant, the dirty diapers, the actual birth… all of this seemed to be a great argument for not actually having them – and then just sticking to one.  In the end, I am so extremely glad that I am a mother of two, I can barely contain myself – even if I am overwhelmed much of the time… and even though so very much is demanded of me before I have time to make the coffee.

So, tell me why when I open my email this morning and see the picture of our friends’ new baby girl, I go all gushy and say “awww … maybe I do want another one…”  WHAT?!?!  I mean WHAT!?!  What has happened to me?  Why do I suddenly understand this strange maternal urge?  Is it because I do already have two, which is the limit that I myself – not Jeff, mind you – have set?  Is it because I have temporarily lost my mind?  Or are there other forces at work?  Hormones. That has to be it.  The ever evil – I mean important hormones.  I have only recently come to terms with the fact that I am, in fact, over 30.  It was a tough one.  Sometimes, I still try to pretend that I’m 29 … until I catch my reflection in a mirror or a car door or something equally as malicious.  But these “in your 30s” hormones, I suspect, are also the reason for me suddenly having the skin that my teen-age self never did.  I guess I got lucky as a teenager, but as a result, I had no idea what to do about my skin – so I did what my totally nerdy self does with every blessed question I’ve ever had: I did research.  Lots of it.

Anyway, I digress … I was speaking of babies.  In all honesty, I don’t think it’s the actual baby that is the allure for me.  I think it’s the knowing that said baby is a tiny person who will grow into a full-fledged family member.  I never thought I wanted a large family – for many reasons – but now … the hustle and bustle seems very attractive.  The idea of crazy Christmas/Channukahs (we are a mixed family, so we do both), huge Thanksgivings, and all the rest is compelling.  I have this unrealistic, completely Norman Rockwell idea of how life might be with more children, and I have to say that it does have me close to revoking my “twos the limit” law.

I think, though, that – as is always the case with me – logic will prevail & I will come to my senses.  Or I will be entirely overhwelmed in a few moments (seems likely, as the “muffin” who should be napping, is totally awake), and write the idea of another baby off as temporary insanity – or something I shall now dub  “hormonal insanity”.  In the meantime, though, I think I should stay away from that new baby!

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“Death and the Maiden”

Recently, I’ve had far too many causes to think on death. Loved ones taken from my life, and given to the next. I have heard that these things come in threes & I used to believe it. I used to buy into the Rule of Threes, but having just walked away from a fourth funeral in less than a year… not so much. I know you R3 subscribers are probably thinking that I’ve had my 3 and have now stared a new set of 3, so be prepared for another 2 – but I say enough is enough, let’s just leave it at four.

There are many things that come with the death of a loved one, and so many of them are so completely private that it becomes difficult, often, to communicate at all. What do you say to your childhood best friend, when her mother loses a difficult battle with cancer? I wanted to tell her “I am so completely crushed that your mother, who I consider to be a second mother, is gone!” But then, how can I – who has been the “prodigal daughter”, so to speak – dare to even think that I could be at all close to feeling what she probably is. So I go about my tap dancing routine, saying as little as possible in person, (lest I fall into a weepy mess & end up having her comfort me), and send a card with what I wanted to say written carefully out, in handwriting that I can only hope is legible, and in a way that I hope is not misunderstood. But the issue is always the same no matter who it is. The simple truth is that no two people are feeling exactly the same, because we all mean different things to each other. The main point to remember (I think) is that everyone’s grief is meaningful and significant to them, and therefore important.

So now for the big question: “why am I so sad?” Surely my life is better for knowing these people who have passed. A grandmother-in-law who was so meek, loving, and accepting. Two uncles (one from Jeff’s side, one from mine): each was that guy who’d pull quarters from behind your ear when you were a kid, and start every conversation with a wink & a smile. Men who served valiantly in WWII, and yet were so gentle at home. A woman who cared for me and loved me as if I were her own daughter. Such wonderful & happy people and such wonderful & happy memories, and yet … these memories are what makes their deaths so painful. It is these happy memories that are the most difficult. They are the ones that take me by surprise, cause me to catch my breath and fight back a torrent of overwhelming emotions. Random unhappy memories – the memories of feeling unwelcome, unwanted, hurt, ignored, cheated – these are the memories that one might expect to cause sorrow, but actually invoke little. They were an open wound at the instant, stinging for a short while and have long since healed. Sealed safely away in memory, they are actually helpful – they serve to strengthen & guide. It is completely remarkable to me that this is the way it works. –Unbelievable that the legacy of a lifetime of love and humor is heartbreak so profound, it takes years to manage.

My grandmother once told me that a broken heart is much the same as a broken arm or a damaged knee. We all recognize that as a result of such injuries, we will never be the same; yet we expect that when someone loses a loved one, that they move on, and in a few months or a year, that they are as they were before. She suggested that this is not only untrue, but also unfair. I think she was right, but I also think that we are remarkably resilient creatures and have the ability to grow and blossom, even in the midst of heartbreak, if only we allow ourselves the chance.

So what does all of this mean? I guess I mean to beg your indulgence as I sort it all out. Overall, I’d say my life – especially my early childhood – was filled with such wonderful people, that for awhile at least, I may be a little touchy as I’m recognizing how loved I’ve truly been.

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