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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.

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everywhere and nowhere

July 16, 2014

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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.

New Year BWA bwa

January 5, 2014

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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.

discordant and antsy

July 21, 2013

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photos:
1) size 11 watershoes left on the patio
2) the cottage, looking in from the front porch
3) the cottage, inside looking out onto the porch where the men are playing a game over breakfast
4) the cottage, doggy doorstop
5) a stealth photo of my son cuddling finny as we watch television in the basement
6) too many days of this weather
7) finnegan finally gets a properly-sized pool

This summer has felt…discordant…just off in some ways. Parenting teenagers has been tricky. Schedules are feeling like tectonic plates grinding against each other. My expectations for everything I will get done in the summer are always too high and unrealistic. In fact, it feels like I am able to get less done during the summer because schedules and needs are unpredictable. And I am antsy for a new direction, one that involves creativity.

Today I am home alone. My husband and daughter are up north at my husband’s family cottage. My son is working all day. So I will try to make progress on a long list of tasks.

Hope your summer is feeling more settled than mine and that you are not, like me, feeling a little panicky about August lurking around the corner…

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someone left this line of pretty rocks for us

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sleeping bear dune in the furthest distance, and south manitou island the dark line to the left of it

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see the fuzzy black dots? not dirt on my lens. flying black insects…with no breeze to blow them away. at least they weren’t biting, just annoying.

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large prints and wee prints

061013yellowbeachflowers

welcomed color on a gray day
(my parents were canadian and i still spell gray, “grey” first)

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a big bouncy dog found my daughter, i love the long shadows

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she has seen many sunsets at pt. betsie

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pt. betsie lighthouse with the lamp just lit

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reading “the autobiograpy of red” on crystal, recommended by my daughter, the sun finally shining

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wild turkeys bigger than my pug. i later noticed the christmas lights on the house. a newer kind. did someone live here so recently? or did they just decorate to draw attention to the antiques store next door?

weekend escape to the big lake

“i won again mom. did you see i used the word “idiosyncratic”? shall I put my can of whup*** away now?”

My daughter and I escaped this weekend to northern Michigan, to the big lake, Lake Michigan, and to Crystal Lake. My husband’s parents have a cottage on Crystal Lake, very close to Lake Michigan, which we have spent time at every summer since before our children were born. As a child my husband spent most of his summers there. He spent so many hours combing the beach for Petoskey stones, he would fall asleep with the pattern of Petoskey stones on his eyelids. I love that image.

It is not always easy for me to spend time at that cottage. Clutter, clutter clutter everywhere…I wish I was wired differently and that such unimportant things didn’t bother me, but I’m not and they do. I haven’t even mentioned the dog toys, crates, hair…gah. And I love dogs.

But it is in the midst of paradise and I am grateful for time there, especially since it is a place my children and husband love. (They don’t mind clutter…believe me and don’t get me started.)

It was a quiet weekend, almost too quiet for us. It was grey and cool. No waves on either lake. I have never seen Lake Michigan with no waves. No breeze in the woods surrounding the cottage. And very few people– that will all change at the end of this week when school is out for the summer.

Still, it was nice to get away together. We walked along Lake Michigan at Empire Beach, sat on the beach at Crystal wrapped up in towels and read and napped, bought coffee and giant soft chewy butter pretzels at the Crescent Bakery, watched the sun set at Pt. Betsie, ate at the Coho Café where our up north neighbor from Virginia was being trained to be a waiter (his family stays up at the lake all summer), and played Bananagrams, which I enjoy less and less every time I play with my daughter.

We plan to go back up north with the rest of the family in July, after my daughter’s job working at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival ends. Hoping the lakes and the air will be a little warmer!

don’t get a pug

February 20, 2013

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Photos:
1. Finny and his boy, winter 2002
2. Finny and his girl, summer 2002
3. Finny helping to pack up Christmas decorations, Jan 2013

Don’t ever get a pug. No matter how cute they are, no matter how loyal they are, no matter how are cuddly they are, no matter how tolerant they are of all forms of degrading attire, taunting and tricks. No matter that they don’t have an aggressive bone in their bodies, and that even at 11 years old they look and often act like puppies. Don’t do it.

If you live with a pug, you and your house will be covered in dog hair forever and always. The dog will shed his body weight in hair daily.

He will cry at the side of your bed because he doesn’t feel like jumping onto it. And when you get up in the cold and dark to lift him onto the bed, he will walk away from you down the hall, because he really wants food. And when you pick him up and bring him to bed, that will be okay with him because he was just checking about the food, just in case. Or, when you decide you will no longer walk down the hall after him, he will come back and cry and scream at your bedside you will ignore him with a little bit of sadistic satisfaction because you will think at that moment that you are the boss. So he will trot over to your husband’s side of the bed and cry. And your husband will get out of bed and follow him down the hall and pick him up and bring him back to bed…every time. Your husband will understand who is boss.

Your pug will rub up against you so vigorously you will laugh and think it’s funny and cute and then you will remember that he is just cleaning the goop out of his eyes. You will never learn.

Because his bark is actually a scream that sounds like the screech of old train brakes, your new neighbor Sam will ask in his strong eastern European accent, “How old is your leetle dog? I think he cannot bark any more.” And you will say “Yes, he is eleven” instead of explaining that he never could.

Your pug will be obsessed with all food, but mostly chocolate. And before you leave town for a work meeting you will throw all of the purchases for your daughter’s upcoming birthday party, including the pound bag of m&ms, into the back of your closet and then you will leave town. Your husband will take the kids out for a bike ride and when they return they will wonder where that empty pound bag of m&ms came from. At 2am your husband will be awaken to the sound and smell of your pug puking and pooping chocolate on the bed next to him. He will wake up the kids and get everyone into the car to go to the emergency vet and he will make sure your pug is okay. He will come home, get the kids to bed, clean up the 12 piles of chocolate mess around the house. A few hours later he will get the kids to school and himself to work and when you call the next evening to let him know you are fogged in at LaGuardia you will wonder why he sounds like he is going to cry.

You will spend thousands of dollars, that could be going to college saving’s accounts or to pay off a car, on pug eye surgery at a huge, fancy special doggy surgery hospital in another town, so that his eyelashes no longer scrape and irritate his bulging eyes.

When you go to sleep with your pug at the foot of your bed, you will wake up with his furry head on the pillow next to yours and his fishy dog breath in your face.

And even though this pug will make you laugh every day, will bring out a tenderness in your huge, teenage son that will make your heart surge, will sometimes be the only comfort that can reach your teenage daughter dealing with the complex passage into adulthood, and whose every cell of his little loaf-of-bread body expresses absolute joy at your return home at the end of the day…I really mean it, Don’t get a pug.