021716beamishboy

021716tattoospotting

021716momheart

photos:
1) my beamish boy, 8 years ago when we were good friends
2) spot the tattoo
3) no mas!

Last night as I pulled in the driveway I felt a pang in my heart when I noticed the white Christmas lights on in my son’s upstairs bedroom window. I turned the lights on when he went back to school so his room didn’t look so cold and empty. I really miss him. And I don’t. We are both happy, doing good work where we are; me in Ann Arbor and he in Chicago. But still there is a pull on my heart.

My son started his freshman year at DePaul University in Chicago. He lives on the Lincoln Park campus but takes the El to take classes downtown (13 floors above the Barnes and Noble on the Loop) a couple of days per week. On those days he says he eats breakfast overlooking Chicago as the sun rises. It makes him happy.

The summer before he left was neither fun nor pretty for us. So many fights. Go ahead, join the other hundreds of friends who told me not to take it personally, that he’s just separating, that he will come back. I know all of this. But it still hurt. Deeply.

And when he turned 18 at the end of July he announced he was going to get a skull tattooed on his bicep.

I said, not a skull.
I said, not yet.
I said, wait until you’re 26 and your frontal lobe is fully developed.
I said, wait until you’ve made friends at college.
I said, a skull on your bicep says, f-you! I’m a tough guy and I want to fight you!
I said, okay, get a tattoo but not something that is so negative and scary and visible.

He said, yes a skull, yes on my bicep.

I said, NO.

He said, you have no say, I’m eighteen and can do what I want.

I said, I’m paying for you to go to college so I think I do get a say.

My husband said, don’t tell him we’re not going to pay for him to go to college.

I said, that’s not what I said.

My son got his badass tattoo the week before he left for college.

I didn’t speak to him until two days before he left when he came up to me and hugged me and said, I love you mom.

I said, I love you too, dummy.

He said, whose the dummy who wouldn’t talk to her son the week before he leaves for college?

I said, whose the dummy who got a skull tattoo the week before he left for college?

He said, my skull tattoo is amazing.

So he got a tattoo. No one died. But as a friend noted, after having had the same experience with his daughter, something shifted. Something broke.

Looking back, I think it’s okay. I likely did something that broke my childhood relationship with my own mother at some point. Like when I would blare Elton John’s “The Bitch Is Back” when she intruded on my teenage life. Or any of the millions of other transgressions I made against her.

Now, I have a wonderful adult relationship with my mom. I hope I will be able to have a similar relationship with my son one day. In the meantime, I am getting better at not taking his transgressions so personally.

His first week of college my skull-tattooed son had a Discover Chicago immersion class where they visited different neighborhoods, learned about their histories, ethnicities, etc. He texted me one day and said, three of my four professors have tattoos, I don’t feel so special.

When he was home for break he was talking about getting another tattoo. I said, well I would be okay with that one, pointing to our refrigerator where I had posted a paper heart with a banner baring the word “MOM”. My daughter had made as a label for a gift for me.

He said, that’s actually one I was thinking of getting.

Oh my beamish boy. I hope no more tattoos, but I’m keeping my mouth shut this time.

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072814surfingsealrocks

072814yellowmushrooms

072814goldfishyelloboots

072814bodenskirt

photos:
1) loving my chocolate milk
2) surfer, pacific ocean, golden gate park near sutro bathes
3) yellow mushrooms, noe valley farmer’s market
4) gold fish and yellow boots, japanese tea garden in golden gate park
5) my new skirt

We have had some hard weeks this month. We are still missing our puppy. My mother-in-law is in her final days. And we are dealing with some hard, worldly, issues with one of our children. It is a situation that has grown from a place of goodness and caring, but has put our child in a potentially dangerous and situation. It is a situation that makes me long for normal teenage issues like drinking, sex or breaking curfew. We have been up late many nights lately having long and intense family talks. But at least we are talking. (My advice to you as a parent is to not raise caring and sensitive kids who want to save the world.)

When I am tired at the beginning of a swim workout and have a wave of dread wash over me thinking about how many more hundreds of yards I have left to swim, I tell myself to focus on the 50 yards I am currently on: to concentrate on form; to concentrate on the pleasure of moving through the water; and to just take one lap at a time. It always gets me through the workout.

I am trying to apply the same focus to each day of this hard time: focus on what I can do today; try to set a goal and try to break the problem down to get to that goal; focus on efficiency rather than wasting so much energy on anxiety and worry; and make sure I exercise and laugh, because endorphins always help. As I tell my children, we will get through this. All will be well.

I cannot say that I am happy this week, but there have been things that have lifted my spirits. The top three have to do with chocolate…for its medicinal qualities?

1. Almond Joy ice-cream. Coconut ice-cream infused with almonds and big chunks of chocolate, now available and our neighborhood Washtenaw Dairy ice cream store, an all too convenient 10 minute walk from my house. I’m not a huge ice cream fan, but I find myself with a specific craving this ice cream. No, I’m not pregnant.

2. Small, portable cartons of chocolate milk. They don’t require refrigeration, though they are best cold. I love them after exercising…and with my lunch…and as a late night snack and…No, I’m not pregnant.

3. Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almonds. I have a Ghiradelli bar right next to me as I type. I have never liked dark chocolate, though I know it’s much better for me than milk chocolate. It turns out if you add a heavy does of salt and almonds to dark chocolate, it’s not only palatable, it’s wonderful. (I also like the dark chocolate and sea salt Kind bars.) No, I’m still not pregnant.

4. My kitchen floor is almost done and looking great. My husband has been working his *** off sanding, staining and finishing this ancient pine floor. The project started last November when we bought a new dishwasher that would not fit under the counter, even though it was the same dimensions as the old one. We ended up ripping up the flooring, which needed replacing anyway, and found 3 layers of linoleum on subfloor. Then there was black paper and goo that had to be scraped off of the floor. We discovered not so bad pine flooring that we thought we might paint. Once my husband had it sanded we decided to stain and polyurethane. Now about that harvest gold counter top…

5. Being outside always makes me feel better. My daughter and I took a long bike ride together this week, I swam outdoors at least once, I walked to and from work on some days. This Atlantic article on brain function and exercise, and being outside says being outside and exercising (and the big O for ladies) also increases brain function:
Gym workouts and sunbathing do more for your brain than crosswords and Mozart

6. My first trip ever to San Francisco was great. We packed a lot in in the few days we were there. Including my friend’s participation in the Escape from the Rock duathlon. The food, the shops, the nature, the culture, the easy transportation…I can’t wait to return.

7. The Google Maps App and the Uber Cars App. Both Apps made getting around San Francisco easy and stress free. Uber cars are controversial in some cities because they compete with cab drivers who say Uber drivers are unqualified. Uber drivers have to pass some driving and written tests, so I’m not sure if the cabbies’ claims are founded. I like Uber cars because I don’t feel like I’m getting overcharged because I’m a tourist. You can get a fare quote ahead of time, they let you know ahead of time if it is a high traffic time when fares are sometimes increased, and by how much they are increased. There is no tipping (tip is included), the cars arrive quickly, it is automatically charged to your credit card and they have lots of special offers—first ride was free for us.
Google Maps gives great and specific information for using public transportation and walking.

8. Boden’s printed cotton skirt in Papaya Geo that arrived this week (see above)

9. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
, by Daniel James Brown

I’m almost finished with this book, but don’t want it to end! There is a movie being made of this. It’s being touted as the Chariots of Fire of rowing. Here is a book trailer I found (have never heard of a book trailer before).

10. My husband showed me THIS amazing kickstarter invention. I made a small donation to the campaign so I can receive 100 of these next July. Just in time for my son’s 18th birthday.

Hope you have a good week: 50 yards at a time my friends.

everywhere and nowhere

July 16, 2014

gggg

n-2

yyyy

vv

aaa

photos:
1) our finnegan, november 11, 2001 – july 8, 2014
2) she decided in kindergarten that she wanted a pug and she wanted to name him finny. i’m not sure her dad and i knew what a pug was. took her two years to convince her dad.
3) one of five million photos of finny and his girl
4) puppy brothers: small and young
5) puppy brothers: one still young, but big, the other still small, but old

Last week we lost our faithful companion of twelve and a half years. It was heartbreaking and we are still heartbroken.

We loved that little dog. Every time my daughter saw Finny, she would say, “Finny is so cute. SO cute.” Every time my son saw Finny he said, “Mom, look at how cute Finny is!” and I would say, “Yes, he is cute,” while I continued to make dinner, or check my email. “No, mom you have to LOOK. Mom look! Look at how cute Finny is!” He would persist until I would finally turn and look and affirm. This happened always, forever, multiple times a day, whenever they would see their “puppy brother.”

My husband, who didn’t want a dog, was the one who stayed up with Finny his first night in our house, when he was so, so tiny. And he was the one who, last week, woke me up at 2am to say he was taking Finny to the emergency vet. The kids went with him. I came later when he called me to tell me that we had run out of options.

Finny always wanted to be right by my side, probably because I was the one who fed and walked him. He cried if I went to bed, or the bathroom, or upstairs, or downstairs without him. I went to sleep with him at my feet and woke up with his head next to mine on my pillow, his fishy breath blowing in my face. Gross, I know.

Now when I get up in the morning as I head to the bathroom I hear him whine for me to come back and lift him off the bed, as he often does. In less than a second I realize the whine can’t be from him because he is no longer here: it’s a squeaky door, or the air conditioner or my husband’s snore.

We see him out of the corner of our eyes, and then instantly recognize that it’s not him, but his tan cushion, or a bag, or something else of similar color or size. He is everywhere, and nowhere.

My son came home the other day with his usual bounce in his step and cheerfully told me about his day and then headed down the hall and stopped. “Oh,” he said, startled. “I was going to find Finny.”

My daughter wants to keep his toys, cushion, even his hair around the house, as is, at least for now. She explained a theory, that if the sun explodes, we on earth will have 8 minutes before everything is gone. She feels this way about Finny: that she only has a limited amount of time before so much of him, our memory of him, his presence, all of him, is gone.

I know it will get better; maybe sooner than we are ready for.

what's making me happy this week 03.23.14: kumail, adam and peter

030314museumceiling

030314bellsdiner2

032314pugshadow

032314sadfruit

032114bicarbonite

032314ironicefence

032314lunchroom

photos:
1) i love the glass doorknobs in our house and won't let my husband replace them, even though some work poorly
2) the ceiling of the lobby of the university of michigan's museum of natural history where we had an after hours event
3) a late lunch of jap che and bi him bap with my daughter at bell's diner. you can see us in the mirror and a sign of spring hanging above. i have one just like it at home.
4) i love my pug's shadow. i wish i could get it without the sidewalk cracks so you can really see his curly tail
5) my daughter was in my office and arranged my fruit to let me know how she felt about her organic chemistry exam
6) my daughter came downstairs to excitedly explain an organic chemistry eureka moment to me using her whiteboard, which really just confused me and lulled me to sleep. you can see my pug is alarmed that she is invading our space
7) old iron fence shadows
8) lunch at the lunchroom in kerrytown, loved our bahn mi sandwiches

Walking back from lunch this week I overheard someone say to another person, “We’re lucky it’s so warm out today!” Moments later someone else smiled at me and said, “Nice day!” The same day my outdoor running buddy, whom I have not run with since October, texted me, “Want to run tomorrow morning?”

So by now you have deduced the weather here in Michigan has changed. It’s sunny and…30 degrees outside! No NOT Celsius. That’s good old American 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

You may think we are a sad and uncivilized lot here in the mid western United States. Uncivilized? Yes. Sad? No. We are HAPPY. It’s balmy! The snow is melting! We are on the other side!

Also making me happy this week:
1. The Detroit Tiger’s Baseball home opener is March 31, a week from tomorrow. Ernie Harwell announcing Tiger’s games on WJR radio was the background to my childhood summers. And even though Ernie Harwell is no longer announcing, listening to a Tiger’s game on the radio while making dinner is better than a glass of wine (and even better WITH a glass of wine). Winter is over friends: the boys of summer are back.

2. Kumail Nanjiani. I was thinking of this episode of Portlandia when I was looking into our cell phone plan this week…Anyone who has a cell phone plan will be able to relate, but may not find it funny.

3. I loved, LOVED, Adam Savage’s (of MythBusters fame) story on the Moth podcast about talking to his kids about online pornography. I was a little worried at first…but he nailed it. No pun intended. (Naughty!)

4. What made me happy about these rejection letters to famous people published by Mental Floss (by the way, greatest magazine, a subscription is a great gift for any nerdy person) is that in fact I found most of them to be very kind. May we all be so kind in our rejections.

5. Finally saw the movie, The Desendants. I loved it, despite the fact that I watched it with my mother who made a disapproving noise whenever anyone dropped an f-bomb, and there were about 3,456 f-bombs dropped throughout the film.
I love movies and books that begin with characters you really don’t like at all, and then slowly their humanity and vulnerability are revealed as you watch them evolve into better people.

6. It makes me happy that I finally finished Donna Tartt’s, The Goldfinch. Emphasis on FINISHED. Powered through nearly 800 pages waiting for someone in this book to redeem him or herself. Waited to care about someone. Still waiting.

Yes, I know. I read Stephen’s King’s review in the New York Times where he states, “The Goldfinch” is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind.”

And yes, I also heard NPR’s Maureen Corrigan’s review. “The Goldfinch far exceeds the expectations of those of us who’ve been waiting on Tartt to do something extraordinary again, ever since her debut novel, The Secret History, came out in 1992. Hell, I feel like I’ve been waiting for a novel like this to appear not only since I read The Secret History, but also since I first read David Copperfield.”

Wish I would have read Brit Peter Kemp’s review in the Sunday Times before being seduced by Corrigan and King. “Outdoing even The Little Friend, famously a decade in the writing, The Goldfinch has taken 11 years to appear. These epic gestations are attributed by awed Tartt admirers and devotees of websites such as Donna Tartt Shrine to uncompromising perfectionism. “It’s because of perfectionism that man walked on the moon and painted the Sistine Chapel, OK? Perfectionism is good,” she has stressed. But it’s hard to spot much of it in this ineptly put-together book….Melodrama and sentimentality abound (Pippa, “like a fairy” in a gauzy green dress, is a particularly fey fabrication). Similar-seeming formulations recur. One character is “like an elegant weasel”, another like “an elegant…polar bear”, a third has an “elegant black-clad body like a python”.

For me, alarms went off early on when Tartt uses the phrase, “tugged on his sleeve”. Any respectable high school English teacher would justifiably CHOKE a student who used that cliché in her writing.

7. Feeling happy that I got my irritation with The Goldfinch off my chest. Thank you. And consider yourself warned.

Happy, happy week to you!

New Year BWA bwa

January 5, 2014

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010414spingerle

010414lockerroom

010414puckdrop

010414chocfondu

010414bigfoot

010414wintershadows

photos:
1) a tray of santa cookies, a tradition in my husband’s family
2) driving by the university of michigan stadium (the big house) on a wet winter night. they were getting it ready for the holiday classic hockey game. 100,000 people came into to town on new year’s day to watch the detroit red wings play the toronto maple leafs.
3) spingerle cookies setting overnight before they are baked, my husband made these and they are my favorite holiday cookie
4) the women’s locker room at the ymca in rochester where my mother lives. i know it is creepy to take a photo in a locker room, but i liked the color and the repetition of the mirrors and i was discreet…which probably makes it creepier
5) downtown ann arbor on new year’s eve, the night before the big hockey game. we walked downtown because we were curious about this pre-hockey game new year’s eve party, and we were up for a nighttime walk. smelled like cigarettes, cigars with a twinge of pot. it was like being in a college bar, but outside, in 16 degree weather (-8 canadian) …and college bars no longer smell like this since smoking is illegal in public places
so many leafs fans!
6) we did enjoy our nerdy new year’s eve of a board game, pandemic, along with chocolate fondu….
7) my daughter, ridiculous new slippers and mindy kaling…a well suited trio. i loved mindy kaling’s book by the way. she is a smart, funny and powerful woman in a field dominated by males. and its a very fast read.
8) shadows from our night time walk on new year’s eve. the white streaks are snow flakes falling in front of my lens.

What breaks my heart about a new year is the very clear demarcation of the passing of a significant amount of time. A whole year. We all have a finite time on this earth: a finite amount of time to learn, to love, to laugh, to become better people, to make the world a better place, to find peace, to show gratitude for all that we have…Did I spend my year wisely?

I don’t want to even think about the time I wasted on Netflix, Buzzfeed, Youtube and the raunchy entertainment section of Huffington Post.

(Do you see why my daughter often teases me by calling me Debbie Downer, and sings this song from Rachel Dratsh’s Debbie Downer skit from Saturday Night Live? Or she sometimes does the shorthand two-toned, horn sound, BWA bwa, just to let me know I’m being a downer.)

So I’m trying focus on this shiny, new year. A new year provides an opportunity to be reflective, to bring into focus what is really important or what most needs attention in our lives. A new year provides an opportunity to hit the reset button and to tweak our course in life.

I haven’t quite pulled my priorities together for 2014, as I have been too busy panicking about 2013 being over. Forever. Never to return again. (BWA bwa)

I have some ideas; I’d like to participate in a triathalon, and/or a long distance cycling trip. I also want to get on top of our personal finances. My husband has always taken care of this and I’ve had so many other things to do, that that was fine with me. Now that I have a little more time, I’d like to be more on top of things.

Instead of making a list of things that are rattling around in my brain at the moment, I would like to find a more comprehensive way to think about how to plan a year’s goals so that when it ends, I feel satisfied and at peace.

That may require a personality transplant, or me quitting my job, which is to say, it may be impossible. (BWA bwa)

I will let you know if I find a good framework for this planning process—let me know if you find one first.

I wish you a peaceful, satisfying, love-filled, sometimes raucous, sometimes surprising, sometimes challenging, new year.

what's making me happy this week 10.20.13: the vince guaraldi trio, the house dog's grave, and a dance off
102113fallwalkfinny

102113thankyou

photos:
1) my daughter’s studies
2) an accusatory look from my dog
3) a thank you that warmed my heart

September through mid-December I have a program that runs on Sundays, so I work six days a week. I leave work at 2:30pm several days throughout the week, but that doesn’t seem to make up for my missed weekend day. I developed this Sunday program eight years ago and it is near and dear to my heart. Still, by mid October, this one day weekend begins to get old.

I miss being home. I miss getting things organized for the week, accomplishing home projects and being around my family. I try not to think about it too much.

Luckily there is much in the world to keep me distracted and smiling…

1. A heartfelt thank-you and note and brownies from an amazing young woman.

2. Walking home from work on sunny fall days, kicking up dry leaves as I go.

3. My daughter is on FIRE about her classes this term.

4. The whacking sound the walnuts make when they fall 30 feet from their mother tree and hit the sidewalk. Strangely satisfying. (downside: one hit my little Finny on the back last week and he spun around and looked at me with an accusatory look on his face.)

5. Jesse Thorn’s interview with Nicole Holofcener on his Bullseye podcast. Holofcener is the writer and director of the movie Enough Said, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener and James Galdofini (love all, particularly the women). I loved several things about this interview 1) I love that when Holfcener and Louis-Dreyfus met, they talked about how much they love their children and the heartbreak of their kids going off to college …I get these women 2) the interview was NOT about the death of James Gadofini, thank you for that choice Jesse Thorn 3) Thorn focused on the female writer/director and the lead female character and on women and comedy, again thank you Jesse Thorn. Can’t wait to see the film.

(p.s. did you know that Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s name is pronounced “Lewy” Drefus? Yes, you did? And so did everyone else?)

6. Jesse Thorn’s Bullseye podcast.
I have only previously known Thorn as Bailiff Jesse on the Judge John Hodgeman podcast and was happy to finally listen to his Bullseye podcast. Thorne has a sensitivity that is almost as startling as his outbursts of laughter (at times, seriously startling…and endearing…evidenced at 12:48 in the clip linked above). Looking forward to listening to more.

7. Cast your Fate to the Wind, The Vince Guaraldi Trio:

8. Just so you won’t mistake me for someone with excellent taste in music, this song is also making me happy:
Wake Me Up When Its All Over
It gives me that same temporary jolt of energy that I get when I eat pure sugar candy like Smarties and Nerds because it is the musical equivalent.
I will hate it a month from now.

9. This poem posted on a friend’s FB wall. It made me tear up, which is why I love poetry. So few words to access so much emotion.
The House Dog’s Grave
by Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

10. Jimmy Fallon’s improv dance off with the actor Sam Rockwell—sweet moves.
(I saw Rockewell’s summer film, The Way, Way Back. It was okay. I loved him in Moon, directed by Duncan Jones, who is the son of??? Correct! Davie Bowie!)

A good week to you!

greetings from seattle

October 1, 2013

greetings from seattle

100113tapshoes

100113lego

100113nutcase

100113tutu

photos:
1) homemade birthday crowns
2) tiny tap and ballet shoes…i love that little tummy
3) my nephew’s room…i miss this
4) nutcase (bike helmet) in the evening sun
5) the pink and purple trappings of a three year old pwincess

Guess what…It’s raining in Seattle.

I’m here visiting my little sister and her family. I adore my 3 year old niece and 5 year old nephew. (I adore my sister too!) They are such amazingly capable little people. I spent some time building with Lego with my nephew, and we looked at all of his pokemon cards—things I used to do for hours and hours when my son was his age.

This morning I drove my niece to pre-school and felt so privileged to be doing so. In the car my niece gave me the run down of the instructions of tasks to complete upon arrival: coat and backpack in her cubby, then I sign her in, then she washes her hands and uses the potty, then she gets her name card and puts it on Ms. Judith’s chair, then I read the board to her, then she follows the instructions on the board.

So much to remember! But she helped me through it all. Did I mention she is three?!

My sister told me one day my neice came home and said, “MOM! Do you know we have taste bugs in our mouths?!” My sister asked, “Taste bugs, or taste BUDS?” My niece replied, “Taste BUGS!”

There is so much I miss about my kids being little, the funny stories, the Lego building, reading to my kids at bedtime, problems that can be fixed with a band-aid or hug or book.

But there is a lot I forgot about that I don’t miss…the lack of sleep, (I heard my sister up at 2am this morning, and then again at 6am when she got up for the day), the relentless Saturday schedule of extracurricular activities (though in truth I love going to my niece and nephew’s activities, but I did skip the soccer games in the pouring rain).

I don’t miss the whole process of packing lunches, getting backpacks ready, making sure kids have used the bathroom, have their gym shoes packed, are buckled into their car seats. I don’t miss the evening schedule of making dinner, cleaning up after dinner, getting the kids bathed, in their pajamas, read to, in bed on time, doing the laundry, feeling badly that I didn’t have enough one on one time with each kid and then starting it all over the next day. I forgot how hard and exhausting it all was.

The great thing about being an aunt, is that you get the good parts, without the exhausting parts! I will so miss my sister, and these two little people when I leave. I still have a hard time thinking that it will always be this way…only seeing them once or twice a year. Likely not seeing them again until summer, or maybe next year. The thought of it pulls on my heart strings.

Also pulling on my heart strings… I miss my own big kids! My son just got his license before I left and my daughter was just finishing her transfer application to the University of Michigan. I miss their faces and their own funny stories from the day, though my daughter is still making me laugh every day through texts and emails.