Friday, June 3, 2016

Where it's at. And embarassing facts about me.

Sometimes my daughter gets crazy mad at me.  And it's usually because she's talking to me and my mind is somewhere else.  

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the feeling that I'm missing out on something.  That there's something going on that I've not been invited to and that by missing out on all the fun, people are forgetting I exist.

That's a real truth about me. And it's weird and it's sort of embarassing.  Because, as my therapist likes to remind me, everything isn't all about me.

When two people get together and don't invite me, it actually has NOTHING. TO DO. With me.

Can you believe that? There are times when people aren't thinking about me at all!  Does that mean I'm forgotten? That I'm not important? That I don't exist?


So, when I'm so caught up in worrying about that, the truth is, I'm not present in my own life, with the people who happen to be right in front of me. Like my daughter. Trying to tell me a story and I am just floating away, wondering what might be happening somewhere else that I am missing out on.

Good gravy.

Sometimes I can feel floating above myself wondering what else there is...  me glazing over... not present.  And then I realize it and it's almost as if I can feel my spirit sucked back into my body and there I am, right behind my own eyes.

And it's glorious. 

There's green grass and new porch chairs and growing things and the beautiful brown eyes of my daughter...there with me at that moment telling me a story.  THAT is my moment. THAT is my right now.  I need to get back to that far more often.  Don't we all?

Sometimes at night, I put my book down and start mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. Fucking Facebook.  Just there to remind you of things that you aren't doing.  Pictures you're not in.  Experiences you aren't currently having.  Things that look all shiny and great and amazing, without the gritty stuff.  The real stuff.  Facebook, while useful for staying in contact with people far away, with being in the know about upcoming events and now....things you can buy (what?), is just packaged, shelf-ready, buffed and shined up life.  Real, but not.  And anyway, it certainly isn't where you are right now, is it? 

So right now I'm going to post this so people can read it.  To Facebook of course.  And then later I'll check to see if anyone did.  But in between, I'm going to try and suck my spirit back into my body, take a walk and really see what's in front of me and be where I am.


It's where it's at.

So why is it so hard to be in it sometimes?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sometimes you just have to shake it up.

So this fall, I'm leaving the job I've been at for the past twelve years.  I'm leaving this job and the salary and security that goes along with it and going back to school.
Sometimes you just have to shake it up, is how I figure.

I have shaken it up in my life two times in a big way and both of them led me to amazing places, people and experiences.  I think always know it's time to shake it up when I get too comfortable. 


This time I got so comfortable being comfortable that I forgot to shake it up until two things happened.
1. Tad reminded me that it's time.
2. I got uncomfortable.

So. I think I've known for a long time that it was time to shake it up here we go.

The first time I shook it up was when I left home, at the tender(ish) age of 18 to go to college.  I walked around whitewater with a long hippy skirt and a ministry t-shirt and knock-off birkenstocks and smoked cigarettes.  I pretended I was cool until I realized it was a lot cooler just to be me.  I studied hard and found out that I was actually pretty good at school, contrary to what my high school experience told me.  I didn't call home for a month just to prove to myself that I didn't need to.  That shake up left me stronger, braver and smarter than I was before it started.

The second time was when I left for the Peace Corps.  I was having such a good time in my easy job, my house full of parties and drinking and all-hours fun.  And I realized.  This isn't doing anything for my growth. I better get out of here and get uncomfortable.  So I moved to Estonia for two years. And I made friends and had experiences that changed my life entirely.  I grew inside like a wild crawling vine.


Here's shake up number three.  I feel pretty ready.

I love to imagine future me, remembering this limbo period, before I started... knowing what I will know then.

Circa shake up #1, 1993

Shake up #2, 2000
AND shake up #3, 20

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Yesterday I had my first mammogram.  Being excited about female-based rights of passage (getting your first period, buying your first bra, your first mammogram, your first time not apologizing to someone at a picnic that it's raining...) I felt a little celebratory.

All in all, it was really not a big-deal experience (she says blissfully unknowing, whilst the people at the breast center get ready to pick up the phone to call her back and tell her to come in for more tests or a biopsy or something!)

So the mammogram technician was really nice. She thought it was cute that I was going out to dinner with some friends right afterwards to celebrate.  I approached the giant machine, my eyebrow raised.  How am I going to.. I was thinking until she said "It lowers down."  Which I was thankful about, worried I was going to have to haul my endowments onto the table a good half foot out of my reach!

After she took the third picture, she goes, "Okay, let's do that one over.  You had a big chunk of arm fat stuck in that one."


Big chunk of arm fat?

I mean, who says that to someone?

I laughed, throwing back my head like Julie Andrews.  A little arm fat never bothered me!  I'm SO beyond arm fat.

Seriously though.  Can't she have come up with some euphemistic way to say it?

Like: Let's do that one again. I had your positioned wrong.  OR....  Oh let me take this picture over. You're so beautiful, it confused the machine!

I mean for real. What if I were totally sensitive about my arm fat? I could have been sent into a downward spiral of poor body image!  But lucky for her...and me...I'm not.

The other day when I was trying on swimsuits, my sweet daughter, watching me change, her eyes meeting mine in the mirror, said, "Mom. Why am I so skinny?"

Whatever people.

Ah, but the first mammogram is done and out of the way. I walked out with a smile on my face and me and my arm fat met some friends for tacos!

Monday, May 9, 2016

This is what I'm dealing with.

 Here is a note I wrote to my children one morning when I left for work before they woke. 

I was letting Coen know that he had his math homework to do--a computer program called ALEKS.  Sometimes he does it right when he gets home, to get it over with. Sometimes he likes to wait and do it in the kitchen amid the smells of my cooking, talking to me between problems. 

He doesn't love doing it, but he takes responsibility for it.  Sometimes I think he does it just to please me....

Now, when he was in first grade, he had math worksheets he had to bring home and do occasionally.  I would sit with him and often he would cry in frustration and I would do my best to help, counting on my fingers beneath the table.

Once, on a particularly frustrating night of homework doing, Tad took Coen out behind the garage with his worksheets and a pack of matches and together they burned it. I imagine Coen smiling with glee like a maniac and Tad giving him a conspirator's smile, his eyes sparkling.  The homework going up in smoke, ember and flame in the dark alleyway.  A father/son act of defiance.

Coen was bursting to tell me when he came in. 

"You BURNED it?!" I asked incredulously.  Then to Tad, "How is this HELPING?"

So here, next to my note is the one Tad wrote. Another act of defiance. 

So there we are. Me, helping Coen with homework, making sure he does it.  Tad telling Coen it isn't necessary.  And somehow we make it work.  I hope he's learning to work with his community and question authority all at once. 

But you see..this is what I'm dealing with...a note next to mine, poking fun of the system I'm trying to figure how to help my kid into...  nighttime sky and secret fractions into ashes, sparking into the night. 

Ah well...what an interesting world my children are growing up in....

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ms. Cool.

Oh to be super cool and composed.  To not allow my emotions to betray me.  


I am a person who's every emotion shows on her face.  I do not have a poker face. In a game of poker, I have a full house face and a flush face, and a face for whatever it's called when your cards are no good.  Yesterday one of my friends was talking about how hard it is to be vulnerable and I said, "Unless you're me.  Then you just fly your blimp over the city with today's specials and a big sign that says LOVE ME!"

Yesterday, I was frustrated with Tad.  As you might know if you've read this blog before... Tad and I are on quite different ends of the introvert/extrovert spectrum...

And so I am constantly happy to be surrounded by him (and anyone else that haps by), whilst occasionally, he simply needs some time to be inward, alone and quiet.  So I find myself in the position of being in the same house with someone who isn't totally available to me.  When this happens, I think to myself: I got this. I can do my own thing. Leave him alone. No problem.  Picture me here wearing sunglasses and a beret, walking around snapping my fingers totally nonchalantly. It's cool. It's casual.  Whatevs.  

And yet.

He walks past me and I want to scream: PAY ATTENTION TO ME! Yeah, I'm just an open faced sandwich and that's all there is too it.  Look at me... a melty, gooey mess of cheese and pickles and a grand desire to be loved that I can't really hide.  

So, I went to pick the kids up from school and I saw Tad out of the corner of my eye on the playground.  And I thought, I'm just going to ignore him.  So I walked past and didn't look his way. Though I could see him approaching out the corner of my eye.

"Hey Ms. Cool." He said.


He hugged me and he acknowledged, in the words only Tad can, that he's been a bit absent.  So I hugged him back, went out to the car with the kids and quickly pulled the two page note I'd written him off his car seat.  We'd talk about all that later.

Yeah. I'm not cool. But that's okay.  I think I'd rather be a blimp-flying-open-faced sandwich and ME than try to be something I'm not.
This is me, trying to take a selfie with Poseidon. Decidedly uncool.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

What we believe...

I know we all believe in different things, beings, spirits.

But maybe if you look closer, we all believe in the same things.

I don't have a religion, but I have faith. I don't have a church but I have spirituality.  I believe in a higher power some call God, some call Gods and Goddesses, some call self, some call the Universe, Divine Creation, all those names, all those things.

I believe in kindness.

I believe in love.

I believe in the existence of an energy all around us that is far more than what we can see and touch with our hands and our mouths, more than what we can taste and smell and even see with our eyes in our heads or our brains' sensations of the world around.

Sometimes I ask for things, as I used to ask God when I was a catholic girl on my knees, my red bedroom carpet, burning under my skin.  Sometimes I don't ask but somehow ask anyway through frustration or anger or plain old joyfulness.  Sometimes I see someone passing by and I think I know what they need and try to give it.   The Universe seems to hear me and give me what I need. Even if it's something I don't want.

I guess all I'm saying is that I can sort of feel the world turning right now. And for those of you that believe in this sort of thing, Mercury is about to change directions and really zip us around the other way.  But that's okay.  I'm trying to be ready for it, meditating... I picture myself floating in space, running on Mercury like a log rolling contest. And when it changes directions, I'll be on top and just go with it...not get rolled over.

I'm ready.

I believe in me.

The world is coming alive again and I am feeling the buzz of it around me. The presence of all that we can't see.

I believe in so much I can't put words to...and I do you.  So do you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


I was driving down Hawley Road the other day and I passed the Spring Hill Cemetery.  There was a man, standing at a grave site, grieving.   I was at the red light and I felt him before I saw him. I turned my head and there he was. I swear, I could feel his grief flow off him in a wave and hit me square in the chest, leaving me speechless.  I turned off the radio and let it in.

Oh, man, there is just something about grief.  It's hard and it's difficult, no doubt.... but it's also so soul filling.  Grief, whether I'm feeling my own or someone else's, it makes me feel really really alive.  Grief means that there was something that you loved...and even though you lost loved it enough to grieve for it. That's powerful.

And now spring is coming and it's warm outside.  I have gone for a walk during my lunch break both yesterday and today and oh, the feeling emanating off the people in the street--the joy in the sun and the warmth--it is all around!  And that same wave of feeling hit me again yesterday from a man on the corner. He fist bumped the guy on Brady Street playing his guitar and I didn't just see the smile on his face, I felt it.

Whether it is as heart breaking as grief or as heart leaping as joy.... It is a wonderful thing to FEEL.

When I was living away from home, I remember the extremes of the pendulum swing of my emotions from aching homesickness to elation so strong I was moved to squeal.... it was a time in my life I'll always most the feeling of being alive.

In the daily routine of work and being a parent and running a house and driving a car, refilling water bottles and packing lunches....  sometimes those extremes get dulled.  But if you open your heart and eyes and mind and let the world around you move you a little; put on your headphones and listen to a song that makes you orbit; really look at someone you love while they tell you something...  it can fill you up, make you feel.


Late winter sunset on 55th Street

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Today I was walking from a meeting and I put my music on.  I was feeling pretty glad because the meeting I had just left was full  of people who feel passionate about our shared work and I felt warm and connected.

Girl with Faraway Eyes by the Rolling Stones was the first song to play and it made me smile.

That song has the capacity to somehow bring me back to two places at once.  Or rather, more aptly, it takes me back to one place at once: Me.  But the two places I go first are these:
1. I am ten years old in a loud, smoky tavern with my parents.   The music is loud and I feel warm and surrounded and it's one of those good nights when it's just fun and I don't want to go home.  I like to fancy myself as a girl with faraway eyes.
2. I am twenty four years old and in Tad's apartment when we're first becoming friends.  That song comes on and I see Tad smile over at me from across the apartment and I can tell by his look, two things: He thinks I have faraway eyes. And he knows I fancy myself as someone with faraway eyes and he's laughing at me/with me with his own eyes.

So there you are and I'm walking down 6th and Wisconsin, listening to that song and smiling, and a man walking past me stops and says "What are you smiling about?"

This man is a complete stranger.  He has gray hair and a knit hat and a big sweater. He's wearing a backpack and he looks kind of hippyish and he's got a nice friendly energy so I stop.

"I'm listening to a good song." I tell him, popping the ear bud out of my right ear. I leave the one in my left and I can still hear Keith Richards and Mick Jagger faintly in my nearly deaf ear.

The man sort of looks back and notices my messenger bag. "Do you ride--"
"--What the bus?" I interrupt him.
"No...I was going to say a bike."
"I do ride a bike." I say. "But only when it's warm out."
"Do you live in Riverwest?"
"No. The west side."
He looks surprised. "The west side!?  Boring!"
And for some reason, I take my mitten off and smack him in the arm with it.  "The west side is NOT boring!"
He laughs and I tell him whereabouts I live and we talk about the Times Cinema.  He lives in Riverwest. Obviously.

So we talk awhile and then I smile at him and he smiles back.
"Have a nice day." I say.
"You too!" He says, pointing at me.

And we walk in seperate directions.   I put my right ear bud back in and now it's Leonard Cohen singing "Passing Through"

And I keep smiling as I walk.

Connection is so good.  For a lifetime, for an hour or for a couple minutes.  It just is good.

And if you're down on your luck
and you can't harmonize
get a girl with faraway eyes
And when you're downright disgusted
and life ain't worth a dime
find a girl with faraway eyes... 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Sometimes you feel so much so big it's just something else entirely...

The past few days have been weird...just big feelings...Mercury in Retrograde....longing....sadness....happiness all swinging from a pendulum that makes me laugh as quick as I cry.

When I lived in Estonia on the island of Kuressaare, there were weekends I would go for entire 48 hour periods without talking to anyone and my loneliness was big and the journey of my thoughts was miles deep.  One of those weekends, I walked to the school where I worked and on my three-mile walk home it began to rain.  That cold, wet, February rain...and by the time I got to my apartment I was soaked to the skin and freezing. My too-long pants were full of stones and when I unfolded them they dumped all over the hallway of my tiny dark apartment and I collapsed in a heap and cried so hard that you would have thought the biggest tragedy of life had befallen me.

After a while I realized that was how hard I was crying and just over a bit of homesickness and freezy wet weather... and suddenly I was laughing so hard and so hysterically.... I stood and saw my face in the hallway mirror and almost pointed in mockery and laughed some more.

Going from laughing hard to crying hard is one really inexpensive and natural way of feeling ALIVE.

Yesterday I cried all day long.  Today I feel joyful.  I love strong feelings whether they be horrid or wonderful because I love to feel wide awake and alive.

I decided I wanted to learn this Regina Spektor song on my ukulele.  But this song makes me cry big tears every time I listen to it and sure enough...every time I sing it. So there I was again, trying to learn this song and crying as soon as I got to this part:

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else's heart
Pumping someone else's blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don't get harmed
But even if it does
You'll just do it all again

And there I was again crying and then laughing immediately after, at myself trying to sing a song wholeheartedly that was making me cry...all alone in my house while my kids played next door with the neighbors.

Give this song a listen. And cry. Or laugh. Or both.  Or just hear it and know your own heart is pumping blood and you are alive.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

And they grow and they grow...

I remember the days when I would have paid someone $10,000 a year just to get my kids out of bed, into clothing, fed and into the car for the drive to school.  I imagined myself there in the car, sipping my coffee, listening to a mix CD, waiting to receive my snowpants and boots clad children who would be ready to go--backpacks on, fuss free, in the car.
But alas, I didn't have $10,000 to spare and so I had to drag them out of bed and coax them through breakfast. I remember being like...
Put your boots on.
Put your boots on.
Here are your boots. Put them on.
Put your boots on!
Good! You're putting your boots on. Thanks for being such a good---
Why is that boot back off?
Put your boots on!
Why are you upstairs??? Come down here right now and PUT YOUR BOOTS ON!!!!! 
I remember slamming out of the house with the bags to put in the car, hoping upon hope that when I got back in their em-effing boots would be on already.  I banged my way out there, swearing up a storm and then remembered my wonderful neighbor next door who had raised twelve children (God bless her soul) could probably hear me.

I remember those days.

And then those days are gone just like that.

Today I get my kids up with one little shake. Sit on the edge of the bed. And that's it.  I go downstairs and get breakfast on the table and they get their own clothes out. And they get dressed themselves. And when it's time to go, they complain, yes, they still do. But they put their boots on.

And I make jokes.  "I didn't create the school start time.  I don't know what you're complaining to me for!" And we laugh. And we get there on time.  Fuss free.

It is lovely.

Tonight Tad made a video and we pretended we were having a cooking show as we made chocolate chip cookies after dinner, just because. We played Crazy Eights while we waited for them to bake and my kids made jokes that were hilarious and nuanced and weird and I felt just awestruck that we were all just hanging out.

And I know there are teenage years to come.  And it gets harder.

But we're in a sweet spot now and I like it. 

I don't mourn my childrens' babyhood.  I don't wish for those cooing, suckling creatures back.
I don't mourn their toddlerhood.  I don't wish for their chubby cheeks and dimpled elbows.
I try not to mourn those years or last year or yesterday.

We are marching on with time...and I think I'll just appreciate tonight...tonight.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The opposite of pomp

This year, I left many pissed of people in my wake, decorating for the holidays before the prescribed time.  I decorated at work the day before Thanksgiving and at home on November 30th.
I love the holidays. I love the feel of my office and my house all twinkly with lights and dangling baubles--snowmen and santa claus and reindeer.  The warmth that surrounds a Christmas decorated place is a magical thing. 
But to do so before December starts, before even our day of turkey and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes and pumkin pie.. Well.... that's just deplorable according to some.

And now it is January 3.  Tomorrow school begins again.  Tad and I go back to work and the snow is no longer the white, fluffy thing of a winter wonderland--just another something sparkly to look at from the cozy warmth of your decorated house.  On January 3rd it's just cold and dirty and it makes you late for work.  It's a hallmark of the winter that will surely now last until sometime at the end of March and crop up again in April just when you thought it was over....

This is the day that marks the end of the holidays for me.  So I got up and made myself a cup of coffee and sat down in front of the tree to begin to UN-deck the halls. I was just holding the tenth taken-down ornament in my hand when I heard a noise from the other room.

"What are you doing?" Tad asked me in alarm.

See, as much as he wished to delay the tinsel draped yuletide season, he doesn't want to see it end.  Nor do my children.  It's like this every year.  I want to put it all up earlier than everyone and I want to take it all down earlier than everyone. 

But the decking and undecking of the halls have a thing in common.  Two sides of the same shiny golden wrapped chocolate coin you find in your stocking:  they are tasks that need to be done, scheduled in with all the other tasks that need to be done.  And I find a certain practicality in WHEN those tasks get done.  I decked before rightly I should have because it FIT INTO MY SCHEDULE... I had TIME to do so.  And so here we are. Tad is reading; the kids are watching Sunday morning television.  I'm ready to tick this task off my list of things.

But alas.  I sit here blogging because Tad convinced me to wait just a bit longer--to let the sparkly centerpiece of our living room remain for just a few more warm and cozy hours.

And then winter truly begins.