Friday, November 27, 2009

ThanksGiving 09

Last year the boys and I made a small turkey dinner and hung out in our jammies all day. I think at some point I napped and then I worked on a paper about how Little Red Riding Hood is actually a cautionary tale about dating the wrong kind of men. . It was a dull, dreary day for us and this year I decided not to repeat it. I wanted to take what could have been the worst Thanksgiving for us in years and make it the best ever. I refused to focus on what we have lost and do not have and instead told the boys this year we would focus entirely on how much we do have. Once we did that we realized we have so much.

All three of us are healthy. We have no significant health issues.

We have a roof over our heads, a wood floor under our feet and warm things to wear in the cold.

We all have access to education, books, music and culture.

And we have wonderful friends.

So we invited those friends, all of them, to come by and have a meal or a drink or just to say hello. And they came, in pairs and alone, in a hurry and taking their time. With breads and brussels sprouts and delicious pies. They came with hugs and smiles and easy laughter. A generous friend washed my dishes! Nick made a pumpkin cheesecake and Zak showed off his Soccer winnings over and over again.

When I finally got to bed last night it was well after midnight and I was exhausted, I’d cooked for 6 hours and talked for 6 more! I left the kitchen a disaster but its okay, it was worth it. I think we will do this every year on Thanksgiving.

We are making our own definition of family.

Other small things I am thankful for this year. Besides the obvious…

Yellow high lighters

Drawing classes at night

The confidence to be photographs in yoga poses.

Pumpkin Spice coffee


Hampshire tailors

Meeting old friends and making them new again

Wooden spoons

Having windows in my office


5 o’clock working committee meetings.

And my unfailing ability to pick myself up, dust myself off and get the hell on with the business of every day.

What, besides the obvious family, friends etc are YOU thankful for?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Dear Zak,

Today you turn eleven. I wish you wouldn’t. I wish I could keep you small and sweet forever. Today you are eleven and filled with your own ideas and thoughts opinions that differ from my own. It is a bittersweet discovery to find you are becoming your own person and that person is not a reflection of my own thoughts and ideals. I could not be prouder of you for it.

You were a small baby, seven pounds seven ounces but you were perfect. Unlike your older brothers journey into this world there was no blood, no machinery, nothing was sliced or diced. You simply arrived when you were ready and without a fuss.

‘I’m here now.” You seemed to say. “The rest of your life can begin just as soon as you get me a blanket.” Your father cut the cord after it stopped pulsing, when you no longer needed it. His hand shook and I would be a liar if I did not admit I was nervous. You hardly cried for the two days we were in the hospital and I took all the credit for that. You were the perfect newborn baby. Karma loves a good joke. Two months later you began to cry and I do not think you stopped until you were four. You tested my patience repeatedly but still you were my baby, my youngest and likely last, child.

Your brother loved you immediately. Countless times I found him by your basket, by the swing, by the crib talking to you, soothing you, showing you his toys and how cool they were and promising that one day you could play with them too.

You have always been headstrong. You refused to wear underwear for a year. The next year it was a refusal of socks. And then in kindergarten you insisted on wearing the same pants every day for a month. You drove me crazy and you still do but I see myself in you and better still, I see such strength.

Everywhere we go people flock to you. You’re a modern day Prince Charming, handsome and thoughtful. You ask people how they are, you smile at them and pay attention. You take in interest in what other people like and do. These are invaluable traits. Every day you ask how my day was. You still want to hold my hand and you will sit with me no matter who sees.

Today you turn eleven. On the day you were born I loved you more then I could fathom and as impossible as it may seem.. I love you eleven times more today then I did then. With every smile, every giggle, every question and every moment I love you even more.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nogs, please!

My baby turns eleven in a few days. I feel my youth shrivel up just a tiny bit when I say that. Since both of my children have birthdays in the next 31 days and Christmas is coming as well, they share a birthday gift. Last year they got a Wii, this year.. well I have no idea yet. They will have a big pizza party together too.

I still try to recognize each childs birthday separately and this year Zaks falls on the day before Thanksgiving. So yesterday we had this brief conversation in the kitchen.

Zak: “Are we doing anything on my birthday?”

Me: “We will have a cake on Thanksgiving but the night before will be really busy, do you mind if we don't?”

Zak: “Ok but can we have eggnog on my birthday?”

Me: “Sure.. really?”

Zak: “Yea! Can you make it? With eggs from the farm? Can you get nogs? Are they expensive?”


Me: “Of course I will get you nogs, I will hunt them down and pay whatever I have too because I love you.”

Nick: scoffs from the next room.

Me: “You shush!”


Parenting means never missing an opportunity to remind your kid why you are the best mother ever.

To that note.. is anyone there?

Friday, November 20, 2009

The bard and the wooden spoon.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with elgantine.
A Midsummer’s Night Dream

I took the boys to see a Shakespeare show at the Holyoke Public Library the other night. You should have been there! It was incredible. One guy stands up there doing different monologues and sonnets but with these great, amusing little explanations about them. I did not expect my boys to hang out for long but, to my surprise (and swollen parental pride) they did.

At one point the actor paused and asked Nick how old he was. Nick blushed, being the only kid there.

"Uh.. 12?" He replied nervously.

"PERFECT!" The man boomed, making us all jump and chuckle. "Because that is exactly how old Romeo was in this next scene!"

He went on to explain how the balcony scene, where Romeo only sees Juliet, is not really a love scene at all. Romeo does not love Juliet then, he is simply admiring her in a fantastical, hormonal, adolescent way. He is enthralled with her eleven year old beauty and see's her as not a person at all but a piece of fine art, to be cherished and looked upon. Really.. the scene is funny, because Romeo is a bit of a goof in it.

ROMEO [Coming forward.]:
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off.
It is my lady! O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing.
What of that? Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold; 'tis not to me she speaks.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

It was the best introduction to Shakespeare my children could have gotten.

Afterwards they went up to the man and spoke to him briefly. They got some recommendations for which plays they might like and discussed the speeches they liked best. I was disgustingly proud of my boys that night.

Onto the wooden spoon. Before the show began I was speaking with some "Friends" and I remarked, yet again, how I think we need dishes and cups that can be washed. The amount of waste we create at our events with paper plates and plastic single use cups is, to me, excessive and unacceptable. They did not disagree, people rarely do. It would also save us money and who isn’t in favor of that?

I mentioned some of the things I do. I have a set of dishes at work. Plate, bowl, cup, 2 coffee mugs, a set of chopsticks, fork, knife and spoon as well as a cloth napkin. In my purse I often keep a set of utensils made of bamboo for take out occasions. As always, someone was impressed and wished they too could be so dedicated.

And there it is. The great farce.

I am not so dedicated! I still buy Dunkin' Donuts coffee in polystyrene cups and I still buy store bread in plastic bags. Sometimes I forget my bags and use plastic, sometimes I forget my fork and use the disposable one. I am, by no means, environmentally perfect. I am simply working towards a goal. Every now and again I will add something to my list of things I do to save the world and now and again I will forget to do them here and there.

I oppose big box stores but I went down to Ikea last month.

I 'eat locally' but I buy strawberries in February.

I buy used clothing but have a shiny new cell phone.

I started using chemical free, organic make up but.. it comes shipped from Sweden.

For me being environmentally friendly is all about compromises. Sometimes I make them, sometimes the world does.

I can be a hypocrite but only in the eyes of others. People assume since I talk about being green I must be 110 percent green. But I am much more of a pretty sage color with flecks of gold.

I am perfectly imperfect.

I hope no one ever feels like they must be Deep Dark 100 Percent Greenie Green in order to make a difference. Every little tiny change does make a difference and don’t you let anyone ever tell you different.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The one who loves you

When you're all alone and blue
No one to tell your troubles to
Remember me, I'm the one who loves you

When this world has turned you down
And not a true friend can be found
Remember me, I'm the one who loves you

And through all kinds of weather
You'll find I'll never change
Through the sunshine and the shadows
I'll always be the same

We're together right or wrong
Where you go I'll tag along
Remember me, I'm the one who loves you

And through all kinds of weather
You'll find I'll never change
Through the sunshine and the shadows
I'll always be the same

We're together right or wrong
Where you go I'll tag along
Remember me, I'm the one who loves you
Remember me, I'm the one who loves you
-Dean Martin

Friday, November 13, 2009

The littlest things

The littlest things make us happy. No, really. It’s not about your fancy car or your stylish shoes. It’s not about your Mcmansion or your prestigious degree. Right now, in this moment.. none of it matters. Because none of it makes you smile.

What does make us smile are the littlest things.

Last night my youngest son asked to stay at the Laundromat with me ‘to keep me company’.

“I’m just going to read, I really won’t want to talk or play.” I told him, somewhat annoyed.

“I know, It’s ok, I brought a book!” He held up a book I bought him at the school book fair and said he would never read. There he was, wanting to just sit next to me and read it. And read it he did. I never read much of my own book because he kept stopping to tell me about the amazing adventure in his own story.

That made me smile.

This morning I got an e-mail from Terri. She is a really good friend who I hardly know at all but once gave me a phone number that changed my entire life and saved me from years of personal struggle. Yay for Terri, right? Yesterday I returned the favor with a phone number to share a few words of encouragement. She wrote back to tell me how much I inspired her which in turn, inspires me to work harder and do better.

That made me smile.

One of my bosses brought me back a coffee and left it on my desk as a thank you for ..showing up every day I guess? Who knows.. but it made me smile.

List of little things that make me smile

The above picture of my kitchen window.

Lots of compliments on my new curtains!

The comforting knowledge that life goes on.

Knee high socks worn to bed.

Catching a friend in her office by accident and wasting a good 40 minutes chatting.

Shopping for a party dress. (I got one and I love it!)

Being asked how my day was.

Being told I need to get shiny-ed up.

A random offer of “Happy Friday!”

2 o’clock green tea.

Frank Sinatra.

NPR coming in all day long

Jazz after dark

And blog comments!

So I urge you, today, and tomorrow, to pay attention to the little things. Notice when a stranger smiles at you and smile at the stranger who frowns. Our actions are like ripples in a still, clear pond. They create change, no matter how small. Notice all the little things today and tell me what makes you smile?

Friday, November 6, 2009

In response...

My friend (may I call you my friend, William?) William writes a blog called Will for Words. I most recall him from the fifth grade, when he used to wear very high waisted pants and horizontal striped shirts and had really neat hair, perfectly feathered every day. I do not think he liked me very much then but I forgive him his gross lack of judgment.. I was kind of a mess that year.

William recently wrote a reactionary blog about relationships and parenting and other things that made me want to call him up and start talking and explaining and sighing. Instead.. I wrote down all the things his blog made me think and with his permission I am reprinting his post along with my interjections, here.

Over the last few days the posts, real and virtual, of various friends has left me thinking. From many different backgrounds and widely varying circumstances we come, but one thread connects us all. We all are divorced. We all have children we happily devote our lives to. And to a person, not one of us has found the new relationship that we have sought and expected since taking our first new steps out into the world, newly single.

I’m not pessimistic by nature, but after almost as many years divorced as I was married, my perspective has evolved somewhat. My own experience has showed me that either the person I’m with may have trouble understanding their role (or lack thereof) in my children’s lives, or I may not be willing to give enough of myself to them. See, to give yourself to another person, another adult, at least in my mind, means you have to hold something in reserve from your children. They can’t have everything you have to give if you’re giving it to someone else. I’m not referring to some kind of codependent relationship between parents and children, either. All of the people I know—myself included—have healthy, well-developed personalities and independent aspects to the self, separate from their role and self-image as parents and caregivers to their children (don’t try the Dr. Phil junk here, I’ve got a degree in this—literally).

I disagree with the idea that to give yourself to another person is too with hold something from your children. Sadly, I am coming to realize I may be in the minority here.. and everywhere. I left my husband in 2000. Nearly 10 years ago. While our divorce took 6 years to be finalized I have been single for nearly 10 years. I dated here and there but I did not dip my toe into the pool of commitment because I thought, like William and many others do, that to do so was to take something away from my children.

In the past year I have come to realize that I was wrong and, in fact, was not only wrong but my romantic avoidance was more harmful to my children then beneficial. I did not give my children ‘my all’ because I was not the best person I could have been. I was lonely, I lacked support, I had no one to turn to at the end of the day and say “You will never guess what happened today”. I probably, by default, leaned on my children to be that person far too often. Anyone who has met my oldest son can see that he is a mature responsible young man and while that is a great thing.. sometimes I wonder if he has missed out. By focusing too much on them.. did I rob them of their chance to see a healthy relationship? Did I steal away a more carefree childhood? What family dynamic will they have as Fathers when they have no examples to draw from. From the men who have been in their lives and mine they have known divorce, deceit and disappointment. Is this really what is best?

For the record.. I do believe kids need a father figure and I am aware my children mostly lack one and that too has to play a part in my romantic life. Everyone is potentially their role model.

Sometimes it’s not you, though. Sometimes it’s them. In that case I find friends with partners (and I use that term loosely, in some cases) who are unwilling or unable to act in an adult manner becoming of a parent. It’s not always their fault. Being a parent is no easy task, and many people (most?) are ill-equipped for it. If you happen to be in a relationship with a partner who has children, you even lack the benefit of having been there from the beginning. It’s a hard road to walk. Of course, some of you just make crappy choices in partners and it is their fault. But let’s not cast aspersions.

With this I do agree. Have you ever been told what a great parent you are? You smile and blush but inside you feel like a fraud. You know you shouted at your kids over breakfast and you secretly wished for a moment that you were not there, not a parent, not responsible for the dishes, the homework, the bills. Parents have such a hard time being less then perfect but.. does perfect parenting really benefit our children? Are we setting up impossible examples? Why is it wrong to want to get the hell out of dodge now and then? Why is it so wrong to want adult companionship and to want to share your life and your children with a partner? Why can’t we just forgive ourselves for our choices? Why do we punish ourselves and then say it's good for our children? Since when are unhappy, sad parents good for anyone?

As a parent dating is a whole new ball game. It is no longer enough for a guy to be cute and charming. I need to know facts. I need to know if he has a good job, if he is reliable, if he is short tempered, if he likes Saturday morning soccer games and is he patient. Because I have kids that I need to think of. Parents do not get to date for fun like you do before kids.

I think.. I think it is best to be friends with as many people as you can and hope that somewhere among all of your wonderful friends who you already like.. someone clicks. I think I’d like to take the dating equation out of the picture actually. Lets all just.. go about friending and then see if one day someone gives you goose bumps when they walk into a room and you have one of those little moments of.. “oh! Look at the potato masher! I think my hand will fit just right around it’s handle!”

What does all this boil down to? Well, apart from my rambling and inability to structure a clear thought here, it leaves me with the question “is it possible?” Is it possible to start again? Really? I want to believe it is, I really do. I think deep down I do believe it. But I can’t believe it is as easy or as natural or—let’s be honest—as likely as conventional wisdom would have us believe. The Brady Bunch gave everyone of my generation some thoroughly silly ideas about marrying families, and the only time it becomes really clear just how silly that was, is when you look at how twisted all the cast members were and are.

It is possible. People do it all the time but we have to be ready to admit how hard it is and will be. We have to be prepared for the anger, hurt and jealously of our ex’s and our children and.. most damaging, ourselves. You have to be willing to work for it. On the same token we must be more careful, we must consider the repercussions of our actions before we make decisions that will hurt someone and in these situations someone will always get hurt. You have to be ready to be there to hold them and love anthem and work though the hurt together.

I still believe in the fantasy of starting over (at least in my personal relationships) with someone new, reaping the benefit of my knowledge, perspective and experience gleaned from years of work, triumph and failure. At least I want to. But more and more I find myself asking questions about what else I will have to give up, what more sacrifice will be needed to keep the ship afloat and on course. Is there really another chance on the horizon? Or has that opportunity passed me by? Has it passed us all by? I don’t envision a life of solitude and melancholy, and I’m not preparing myself to start a new career as a hermit (right now). I am, however, questioning the dream I have been sold about how second chances will largely resemble first chances but with fewer painful lessons to learn this time around.

We all have those fears. For me personally I was afraid that I would be unable to share myself with another adult after 9 years of carefully not sharing. Even the thimble full of relationships I did have I kept at arms length. While none of what I have written here is directly about my most recent failed attempt at romantic happiness .. I must admit I am glad it happened. I am really glad I went though that (and happily surprised to find myself using a past tense already!) because now I know.. I can share. Now I know that I didn’t lose the ability to care deeply for another adult and still love my children. Now I know that my emotional happiness only added to their lives and took nothing, at all, away from them. Now.. I know.

With any luck, time and fate will prove my fears largely unfounded, and we’ll all find ourselves standing around a lavishly appointed kitchen in expensive clothing, a perfect ethnically diverse group reflecting the precise demographics of the nation, sipping wine and trading bon mots as we cook dinner for our trendy adults-night-in, drowning in our own witty reparté, just like a wine commercial. But at the moment I’m having a little trouble seeing how we’re all supposed to get there.

In my version there is a board game of questionable age and stacks of dusty books and my own clothing, at least, is charmingly second hand but sweet and there will be at least one good natured political argument which will be quickly remedied by another glass of wine and the offering of a well frosted cupcake.
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