Friday, September 29, 2006

bad news

We're off to Georgia this weekend. DH's mom was diagnosed with cancer - probably lung cancer. I want to cry that it's not fair - that his side of the family has been through enough this last year. And no, it's not fair, but it's life. And life just happens. Good friend B's father was just dianosed with Alzheimers, friend Jamie's mom just had unplanned emergency surgery to prevent stroke.

That's just the tip of it. I was going to go on, but it's too depressing.

I've asked the question several times whether this is just a really bad patch, or if this is going to be how life is, now that I'm getting older. I've gotten conflicting answers.

I think I have to go with that it's an especially rough patch. Yes, death is a part of the life cycle, but there sure is an awful lot of bad diagnoses in my circle of friends.

I'm hanging in there though, and am going to stay strong for DH. This is going to be very very hard on him. He is especially close to his mom.

And I am making a promise that I'm going to get back in the habit of trying to WRITE in this blog. I've been simply reporting things, like a journal, and it's getting a bit dull and kind of depressing. So I'm off to Ga for a long weekend and then will be back to plunge into autumn.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


This i-tunes thing is becoming a problem, mainly because I now clearly need an i-pod to keep all this music on. So.

Tonight I've been downloading... I've bought the Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me", "Rock the Casbah" by the Clash, "Take on Me" by A-Ha, "Don't You Want Me" by the Human League, and "Too Shy" by Kajagoogoo. Ya think I'm going through an 80s thing here? You think? (Mare, I miss you!!!)

I can't help it. Despite the identical forward driving beats, the synthesizers and the inane lyrics, they are making me happy. I'm right back there in our little apartment with the fake fireplace made of construction paper bricks scotch-taped to the wall and the mound of smelly old tennis shoes on our porch, conveniently there so we could shoe they guys next door. See, we were too impatient to use phones so when we needed our guys, we'd grab a shoe, aim at their door, and KA-BLAM, fling away. The pile of shoes migrated quite efficiently between our porches and the phrase "Shoe the guys and see if they're ready to go" was actually quite understandable and meaningful.

One night we grabbed some beer and were all sitting out at a nearby park just hanging out. The stars were out and it must have been this time of year - a very slight chill of fall was in the air. Mark made the comment that we should all get back together again in 20 years and come back to this same park. The movie "The Big Chill" had just come out so we laughed and agreed, but the idea of twenty years down the road was unfathomable to us, mainly because that was longer than most of us had been alive at the time.

That took place more than 20 years ago. Gulp.

We never did all get back together - at least not all at the same time. Mare and I have had an ongoing argument over whether that conversation at the park actually ever took place or if I just dreamed it. I figure it's unquestionably real since my memory doesn't include Mark professing his undying love for me, and if it'd been a dream I'm positive that part would have been in there somewhere. Look, he and I both liked Shakespeare!! I had no choice but to have a crush on him, despite the fact that it bordered on incestuous.

Anyway, the thing is, I don't feel so far away from the person I was then. I am totally different in many ways (in so many MANY ways), but the way I feel inside: the insecurities, the excitement in the pit of my stomach, the yearning for ... *something*, the absolute joy at laughing - that's all still there. And this music...this silly music puts me right back there instantly. I've got to say that it's the closest thing to magic or a miracle that I've run across so far.

(Mare, I just downloaded that song just for you. You know - ooh, that song we like? Who sings it?) :-)

God, friends are fun!!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

B-flat happiness

So can anyone tell me why this news story isn't getting more press than it is? If I could have things my way, it'd be on the front page of every paper and headlining every news show.
Torturing innocent people - um. NOT. OK. And initiated by the U.S.? Something I'd think was unbelievable, before about 4 or 5 years ago, I cannot understand why I saw it on page 5 of my local paper and not at all on the TV news. Have we gone nuts over here in the U.S.? Or are we just in a massive collective denial? And what's the difference between the two? I want to grab the shoulders of the U.S. and give them a mighty shake and shout at them to pay attention. I feel like I'm in the midst of a history book, and see the students of the future shaking their heads in amazement at the way we were too stupid to see what was happening. How do you wake up an entire country?

So on that lovely starting note, here's my happy story. I played the clarinet today!! The one I bought for Q still has not arrived (nor has it been SHIPPED yet, but that's a rant for another day). My officemate WONDERBOY loaned Q one of his in the interim, so I rushed home to try it out before the bus arrived. (!!!!) It felt like going home after 20 years. I remembered everything about it from the smell of the case when I opened it to the way the pieces felt as I put them together to the weight on my thumb to the march I memorized for HS band. I sounded, oh, a BIT worse than I did in HS, and my lip lasted about 5 minutes before giving out, but I was able to stumble my way through one of the Etudes that I played for state try-outs. I taught Q how to put it together and what a rudimentary embrasure looked like and he played a few notes. Fun! But O.M.G., it's going to be a loud, squeaky several years in a very very small house.

Here's another happy story: the high temperature today was somewhere in the low 70s. I'm smelling fall and the eminence of ski season.

The kids both had baseball games last night at the same time, at two adjacent fields, so I stood on the hill between the two with Roxy on her leash, able to watch either of my offspring with just a turn of my head. (By the way, E won the game ball for catching a pop fly and zipping the ball to 1st base to start a double play). I was at the highest point in the park, so I could look down and see the playground, and all of the ball fields with the lights just coming on, and the kids who were all colorful in their uniform shirts and white pants, and I could hear the crack of the bats and the shouts from the spectators and smell the air...I looked out at the horizon, which was blue, turning dark as the sun set, and saw rows of clouds off in the distance and listened to the laughter and shouts of all the children playing, and thought: Wow. This is so good. And it was.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

love the one you're with

So tell me, how cool is this?

Q's band director used to be a drummer for the Isley Brothers.

We had the big beginner band meeting tonight at the gym of a nearby elementary school, and the band director for Q's school got up to tell his story. He was a 4th grader on the track to nowhere, but ended up finding music (drummer) through the band program and found his niche and became a leader, and then he went on to tell how he ended up going through college on a music scholarship and how he got to see the world with the Isley Brothers as a drummer. I decided at that point he was either a complete nutcase or was this really amazingly cool guy. Being the trusting soul that I am, I rushed home to check up on his story with google, which proved that, huh, he was right. He really did play with the Isley Brothers for a while. So the dude really is a very cool. :-)


I just got off the phone with Mare talking about beginner band and what we remember and how weird it is that one of my offspring is starting off on the bandkid path. I didn't remember how arbitrary the choosing of an instrument was. I mean, there are clarinet players, there are trumpet players, there are drummers. It's like choosing your name or choosing the shape of your nose. I mean, this is serious stuff. For a bandkid, it's the all-defining factor, and it's chosen on such a whim. Huh. Who knew, at the time. Now, Q has said he's wanted to play the clarinet for several years, so his whim has been pretty well hashed out. (I swear I had nothing to do with his choice. I was pulling for drums or the trumpet or another "cool" instrument). His good buddy Morgan, however, switched from clarinet to trombone pretty much on the day they signed up. That's a big switch. Q's best friend Robert is signed up for clarinet, too, though his parents would have preferred the strings program for him. It's ok though. Q and I will work full time to make him into a stellar bandkid.

I remember my decision to play be a clarinet player was easy. Being the daughter of the banddirector, the girls in the band loved to entertain me, and I absolutely adored Margaret Rush, the first chair clarinet player. I picked that instrument in my attempt to be her. I didn't up being her, but I loved the clarinet and I loved band, and now I get to watch Q start out on his trip. Good lord, but this is fun. I was scoping out the kids at the meeting, wondering who'd end up being the all-state player or the al-most-state player (like Mare and I were), and who'd be the band president. I'll be working the concession stands at football games in a few years. Q (and E, in a few years) will be trying out for district and region band and will be going on spring band trips. BIG SIGH. Fun!!!!

Oh, and totally unrelated, but I have to throw this in, with the whole Isley Brother tie-in. Apparently, I am surrounded by celebrities. Neighbor M told me that she met the guy down the street (who I don't know but recognize as the guy who walks around with his shirt off and is in the running for Mr. Redneck.). She said he ambled down the street this weekend, and responded to her introduction by a grasp of his cut-offs and throwing his head back and telling her "Hi there, m'aam. My name is Earl." I kid you not.

Monday, September 18, 2006

stream o' consciousness rambling/IOW, no coherent subject to this post

Well duh.

I drove down to work this morning, which, you may or may not know, is not an insubstantial distance for me. About, oh, 2 miles from the front gate, I realized that I'd left my laptop at home. So I went into my office to inform WONDERBOY and Gaochen that I was a complete doofus. But such is the beauty of telecommuting. I drove home and put in my hours here in my cozy office, with Roxy sleeping at my feet. I can't do it all the time because I am entirely too social, but this flexibility is DA BOMB!!!! YAY for family-friendly, employee-friendly trends.

I bought a clarinet for my firstborn this weekend!!! After about 5 panicked calls to my poor dad the retired banddirector, I've ordered him a Buffet student clarinet. I had absolutely no idea I was going to be this worked up or excited about Q starting band. Is this why children are so fun? You get to relive parts of your childhood, and then some? Plus, I'm all giddy about Q being the next in the gene pool to be a musician. These gene pools are amazing, magical things.

There's no reason for me to post this picture other than I love my mom and dad like crazy. This was taken this spring over Mother's Day weekend and I forgot to send it to mom. (Sorry!)

Seems my melancholy is beginning to disappear. You know what caused it? (Time for feeling naked now). I got sloppy taking my antidepressants. Yes, I am a member of the masses of folks taking antianxiety/antidepressant medication. I fought it for years. I thought it was a fad and was the realm of yuppie fast-solution laziness (other than those who really needed it, of course). Certainly, I wasn't someone who *really* needed it, was I?

Sometime after 9/11, sometime after living through having cancer (hernia) and M.S. (pinched nerve), I realized that I could continue to deny I had a problem with anxiety or see if medication might help. It's been pretty damned obvious to me in the aftermath. If I needed any confirmation that it helps make my life better, it's these last months when I got sloppy with keeping up with my dosage and ended up in the middle of a multi-month long bought of melancholy.

Modern medicine is amazing stuff.

So now I am excited about the fall. Send along the smell of fires, the leaves being thrown around by the wind, the colors of orange and brown, the anticipation of winter snow. Bring on football and sweaters and pumpkin pie and chili. I'm ready for you now. :-)

Oh, and if you didn't notice in my side bar, my alter-ego Mare has a blog now too. :-)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

hillary would like it here

This "neighborhood village" thing around here is growing and it's just so awesome! My kids and the new neighbor kids next door have audibly "clicked" and are roaming around together like they've been this band of friends forever. ...Only problem is that they tend to migrate to one house or the other without always letting the appropriate parents know where everyone is. All is good - we just like to keep tabs on them. We're so demanding.

Today, the middle-school aged girl, G, came over with 10 year old brother J.
"Do your mom and dad know where you are?" I asked very directly. G said yes, but something about the way she said it made me wonder. I asked her if she knew their new phone number so I could call and check in with her mom but she didn't remember it. So I let it go. (Parenting rule #4. Always trust what your gut tells you.)

Well sure enough, about half an hour later, the dad came over searching for his two lost children. I, being the mature adult that I am, pointed my finger at young G and said "I asked her!! She said! She said you knew where they were!"

I have fallen in G's eyes, I think. I am the ratting-out next door neighber old lady instead of the cool "Miss Jennifer" that she was chatting with and helping to chop carrots with for dinner. Dang. There went my moment of (pre)teen coolness.

Seriously, it's so much fun. On the weekends, kids are coming in and out of my house, wandering to and from the cul-de-sac, eating snacks at various houses, eating dinners at various is becoming a village indeed.

There's resistance from many of the moms. The idea of letting kids wander down the street and over play with friends without the helipcopter parent there is disconcerting. Do you take the 5 year old neighbor home when they show up in the cul-de-sac when the noise from the rest of the gang beckons? Do you follow the 8 year old home and make sure they really go straight there? We (being adults) did this kind of wandering when we were little. Why are today's parents so easily freaked out?

Trust. As the little kids around here begin to grow older, we helicopter moms are having to learn to trust our children and trust the other families. I'm ready for this. I think it's a huge amount of fun. I'm watching my kids build their community and I like what I see. I like having a revolving door and I like needing to have a stash of ice cream and juice in stock for impromptu gatherings. You've always got to have makings for spaghetti and salad in case the so-and-sos from down the street want to stay for dinner. I like my calendar being full of mark-ups to pick up the kids down the street from the bus on Tuesday and let the so-and-sos pick up my kids on Thursday.

Don't know how you do this parenting thing, this life thing, without a village...

Friday, September 15, 2006

totally sucky day


Today was just as horrible as I thought it must be.

The worst was when I was setting up the food at their house for the reception after the funeral, and everything there, EVERYTHING, was a reminder that an 8 year old used to live there. The fridge was full of back-to-school reminders. The pantry was full of kids' lunch snacks. They'd just installed an above-ground pool. Toys and such were scattered over the backyard and throughout the house. The calendar still had entries on it like "John's surgery". There was a picture of the family taken at Busch Gardens a few weeks before, that the mom had put on the counter. How can you know what the future will bring? What things in my life that seem trivial now will hold such emotion tomorrow? What pictures from today that are an afterthought will bring tears to a stranger tomorrow?

Kath and I went to the funeral, then did what we could to help at the house, then left and gorged on Sonic cheeseburgers and wine. I even ordered onion rings.
There is nothing about this that is really OK.

But because we seem to need them, here are some things that can be perceived as good that come from this:

All of the moms that were touched by this are totally into hugging their kids and remembering how blessed we are right now. Other than the perspective of my children who are wondering why I can't leave them alone, this is a good thing.

When I asked myself why I was putting myself through this horror, particularly since I didn't know the family personally that well, really, the answer came amazingly easily.
I am a mother.

There is a connection between mothers and the love that we have for our children that is more powerful than words can describe. When I see another mother hurt, I hurt. I needed to be there to let her know that I understood her pain.

Another good thing: His teachers from grades K-this year were all there for his family. His first grade teacher wrote an eloquent letter to his family which they asked her to read. My children are in an amazingly loving and caring environment that is filled with the most amazing teachers in the universe. I love our school.

It takes a village.

And when a dependent of that village is lost, the entire village loses.

John Phillip Luna - you were a part of my community, and you will be missed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


This is good!

We had a new family move in just next door. They have three children, one of which is a 10 year old boy (connection 1). There's also a 12 year old girl and a 5 year old girl. They're here after living for 5 years in Germany, so there is connection (2). Connection (3) is that they are musicians! The mom "M" has taught violin and asked me for names of local piano teachers for her kids. THEN (connection 4) I found out that they have been looking for a Unitarian Universalist church to join. Good heavens. I had them over for dinner tonight because both of the husbands/fathers in our lives are on business travel and we had an awesome time. Oh, and M also loves red wine (connection 5). Amazing. I opened my last bottle of Blaufrankish from Austria for her tonight, as an indication of my joy at their moving in. Q and their son Jack get along like crazy - they are both intense, sensitive, smart boys, and E and their middle school aged daughter get along so well (E gravitated toward the older girl - why does that not surprise me??) This is all a very good thing. is what it is. This is what DH has been trying to teach me for years, and is something of good value to learn.

Oh, and "new next door neighbors" adore the Counting Crows (connection 6). How fun is this???!!!

Monday, September 11, 2006


I was hoping to have some awesome thing or some incredibly funny thing happen in my life for me to write about in this blog to move out of my current funk. But it's not happening.

My kids' school has lost another child; a third grader. I don't know all the details, but he had some minor outpatient surgery last week, went home, things went downhill rapidly, and now I am going to a memorial service for an 8 year old on Friday. There's nothing that makes this ok. Nothing. My kids didn't know him well - they recognized his picture but didn't know him. Kath's daughter L was in his class 2 years ago, and was a friend. That there is this life here, that we live - that requires that death be here in order for life to continue, I know that. But nothing makes it okay for an 8 year old boy to die.

So I watch my beloved children play baseball and create music and learn, I dance the dance of friendships, I live through the angst of politics and religion and weave my life tapestry and transform my life into my own piece of art by constructing my family, by creating science, by writing papers and building my marriage and building relationships, and ultimately? It is all so out of my control. Children should not die, but they do. If I were really as powerful as I like to think I am, that would never happen.

So when it does, the realness of my powerlessness chokes me.

My life is so good right now - it is. These things remind me of how fragile that is, though. In the blink of an eye, that carefeully created masterpiece, that art, that family, can be crushed, just because. It's essential that we know that, I suppose. But also essential that we don't let it destroy the goodness that is here.

Cripes. I'm down in a 3-sigma section. I'm ready to move back to median conditions, world, okay?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

all choked up

Three events today that have made grown, mature women burst into tears:
Friend Kath's youngest child gets onto the school bus for his first day as a kindergartener. He runs up the steps to the bus, superhero backpack almost bigger than he is, beams at his dad for a picture at the top of the steps, then with a smile that lights up the cul-de-sac, races for his seat on the bus. It's just a blink since I met them at the airport on their trip back from Vietnam to see them coming down the escalator with that tiny, adorable baby with the hair that was forever standing on end. He's their zen-baby. Always happy to go with the flow, and always smiling. I look over at dear friend Kath, who has collapsed onto her husband's shoulder, sobbing, and see that every other mom in the cul-de-sac has teary eyes as a result. (let's all sing and sob together: where are you going, my little one? little one?)
My pre-teen son with the lanky legs and floppy hair and heart as pure and good and loving as I've ever ever ever known sits down at the piano to play "Send in the clowns." So maybe it's all musak and stuff when you hear it on the radio, but when the little love of my life plays it, its beautiful haunting melody drifts through the house and I feel like I'm in a movie. I wash dishes and sniffle and think about when *he* was that kindergartener getting onto the bus and realize that next year he'll be going to middle school.
Then there was the race to the dinner table when I stubbed my toe on the TV tray holder, though those tears were accompanied by a string of curses.


Obviously, I have still not beat this bought of melancholy. The Counting Crows didn't do the trick. Adam D. was in a somber, somewhat pissy mood so all their songs were slow and sad. I still loved the concert, but it wasn't exactly a pick-me-up.

I'm going through the motions and kind of having fun, but it's been a long time since I've spontaneously sung out loud in the van or danced in the living room. I'm just tired and achy and feel old.

Any suggestions for remedies are welcome. I'm living on the edges instead of jumping right in and that's not my normal M.O. and I'm getting tired of it.

Marsha, marsha, marsha!!!!
Bob and wendy whiner...


Monday, September 04, 2006

silver anniversary

Yikes, I've found a new toy that could become dangerous.

My friends celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary yesterday and I wanted to make them a CD filled with music from 1981. So I finally caved and joined itunes, as Mare has been encouraging me to do for a while. Oooooh - what fun!! And so easy to download songs with just a click for "only" 0.99 each. Click click click clickity click.

DH was kind enough to point out that it probably won't reach the proportions of my infamous on-line donation to John Kerry. I don't think I had this blog going when that happened. Let's just say that wine, credit cards, and the internet do not mix well. (It was JUST one extra zero)

Twenty five years of marriage.

I wrote up a little speech for them, relating things that happened in 1981. For example, stamps went from 16 cents to 18 cents. Charles and Diana got married. AIDS was not yet named and was only beginning to be discovered. The internet did not exist. Justin Timberlake was born. We went from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan (aagghh!!!) Blondie was big on the music scene and "Ordinary People" was a hit movie.

That's a long time to be married. And I tried to look at them and figure out what it is that makes a marriage successful. There's patience and commitment and balance, of course, blah blah blah. But what I think is also necessary is a sense of humor and the ability to have FUN. You've got to keep laughing. And that's not limited to marriages. I think that's the key to living well in general. That sense of humor, it's right up there isn't it?

P.S., Speaking of laughing, and to complete my wine/credit-card/internet/John-Kerry-donation story, I was able to speak to a woman at John Kerry's campaign headquarters about my erroneous largess. She removed the extra zero but only after laughing with/at me for a bit.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

glub glub

Well, Ernesto was more than I'd anticipated. We're back from the land of the electrically-challenged, after spending more than 24 hours there. Luckily, no trees moved themselves onto our house or even around our yard, though there were a few down in my neighborhood, and good friends David and Deborah had the top of one tree impale itself onto their home.

Even after the infamous Christmas Eve ice storm of 1998 (14 days without power and a tree on the deck and a two-week old baby in the house) and after Isabel (10 days without power and several trees down without touching the house and a week of constant margarita-drinking with friend Kath), I figured this one - oh, it couldn't be all that much.

Heh heh.

I even took my sweet E out on Friday morning for her hearing test (perfect hearing - yay!! Once we cleared up her congestion, she could hear just fine. She just TALKS VERY LOUDLY). Yes, the van was swerving erratically down the interstate. "It's just a little wind," says I to the the kids. We even went to rent some DVDs, being the optimistic sort that I am.

Two minutes into the DVD the lights went off and so they did stay during the WIND and the torrential rain (something like 10 inches in about 5 hours??) and the WIND and the WIND and the WIND. And I had not checked that we had batteries. I had not shopped for extra water and canned foods and ice. I did, essentially, nothing to prepare. But we were just fine this time. Visions of Katrina did keep running through my head, lest anyone think I may have actually learned not to worry.

So as I now sip the Zwiegelt (Austrian red wine) that my dear husband found for me, in the air-conditioned comfort of my daughter's room (dear son has hijacked my computer in the office), I will relate an interesting conversation I had with son Q last night in the pitch blackness of night after he wandered into my bedroom around 4 am.

Q: "Mommy, I really really want us to have electricity again."
Me: "I know, sweetie. But you know, we think this is so hard and there are so many people in Africa and other places that *never* have electricity. We are really very spoiled.
Q: "But Mom, those people never have had electricity. We miss it because we know what it's like to have it."
Me: "Well yes. That's true. But think of how spoiled we are! We have it all the time and we expect it.
Q: "I don't think we're spoiled, Mommy. I think we're just lucky."

Huh. Take that, you bleeding heart, I-must-place-myself-at-fault-for-the-suffering-of-the-world liberal. He's right, isn't he? The world really doesn't need me to put myself as responsible for everyone's suffering. We are very, very lucky. And I think I am one of the luckiest of all.