Sunday, October 14, 2007

MEME me up, Scotty



I've been tagged for a MEME about my "writing." I don't really know what a MEME is and I am still only able to refer to my "writing" with quotation marks, but who am I to question the infinite wisdom of Carrie Link? (Plus, it's a nice kick in the pants to re-enter the blog world now that I FINALLY have phone and internet service. Devil, I have met thee, and thy name is Verizon.)

Five tidbits about my "writing:"

1. In the past few months, 85% of my blog posts have been formulated and written in my head only. They have been far more scintillating and witty than the ones I actually post, so I hope you have been able to check some of them out telepathically.

2. I feel guilty about how much I love receiving comments, since I have been so spotty in my commenting on the blogs of others. (I hope you know who you are, and that I love you--and often read you--even when you don't see me.)

3. Like I do with many (most) things in my life, I tend to make my writing/blogging experience more complicated than it needs to be due to my own over-analysis. TT calls this analysis paralysis, which generally annoys me and which I contribute entirely to his male, testosterone-plagued existence, but he does have a point. Occasionally.

4. I spent most of my education and all of my first career reading and analyzing the writing of others, so I do get a kick writing about anything I want...like, stuff other than other peoples' writing.

5. I took a creative writing course my first semester in college, with an incredible teacher who was also a respected editor of The Kenyon Review. I will never forget this definition he taught us: "The only thing that makes a writer a writer is the profound, unshakable desire to do it." So, I'm definitely not ready to call myself a writer. Yet.

I tag Holly because she is awesome and I totally do not get how she does it and need to learn. I would also tag Suzy, because her writing and her journey are as beautiful and powerful as she is, but I am too late because she has already been tagged.

In other news, we have moved and I am deeply in love with all of it: the cottage, the neighbors, the village, the people, the river, the trees, the leaves, the smells, the air, the crickets, and even the spiders (except for those really huge ones). We've only been here for three weeks and are a long way from being settled, and yet I haven't felt this deeply at home in years. Belly is happy and delicious and now wears apricot pigtails.

Love.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

I sing like a Big Mac



As we approach our moving date and Belly and I spend more and more time traversing between the city and our new house, I have realized one of the (many) great benefits of moving to the suburbs: the reintroduction of driving into my life! I always used to be one of the "drivers" in the old days--the friend with the car (his name was Julio from the Paul Simon song), the one always happy to pick other people up and drive places near and far, even though I have no sense of direction. I spent two and a half months driving across the country the summer after college, but twelve years of NYC living made me practically forget how much I love to drive.

I have done some of my best thinking behind the wheel of a car. It's amazing--I couldn't possibly imagine sitting in a chair and just thinking about stuff for more than about 5 minutes. I am way too fidgety and antsy for that, and my brain would just turn into a useless hamster wheel. But take that chair and make it move down the street, road, highway, strip, it doesn't even matter where, and my brain takes off as well. My thoughts can move forward too, from one topic to the next, instead of spinning in place. I wish I could try meditating on one of those moving floor things in the airport...I bet it would be a lot easier. Maybe I'll start picturing my meditation cushion as a moving object, floating across the water or moving through the air! Oh, and I also need to get a meditation cushion.

The other incredible thing about driving "alone" in the car (and by "alone" I currently mean accompanied by no one over 2 years of age): what a fantastic singer I suddenly become. I mean multiple record-deal fantastic. Like, a complete hush would fall over crowd in Madison Square Garden just to catch every timber of my fantastic voice. The unfathomable power of my singing voice (ONLY alone in the car, or else accompanied by like-minded singing talents/best friends) is the reason I had always completely lost my voice by the time Julio and I arrived at school. Nine of hours of pure singing sensation (plus a couple cigarettes) required a few days of recovery.

So I have realized that my singing voice has a lot in common with fast food.
In regular life, they both may leave you feeling...less than satisfied, perhaps even a bit queasy.
But in the car, on the road, they are nothing short of awesome.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Some arithmetic




Or, What I Did On My Blog Vacation (in no particular order).

Went to Vermont with family.
Minus: note to self: do not schedule family trips when two or more women involved will be experiencing PMS.
Plus: had many wonderful times together anyway.

Had a colonoscopy.
Minus: this hardly seems necessary to explain.
Plus: everything was perfectly as it should be.
Super-plus: the poor woman's colon cleanse!

Spent an evening in the Pediatric ER.
Minus: after many hours, everything was fine and it turned out to be a waste of time for all.
Plus: is there any better way to describe a trip to the Pediatric ER than as a simple "waste of time?"

Bought a house.
Minus: a quick glance at our bank account will answer this for you.
Plus: it is nothing less than a dream come true. We are moving to a cozy little cottage with a wonderful literary history, nestled on a lovely street in a town that is basically Mayberry, if Mayberry was funky, artsy, had a great farmers market, and was 25 minutes from New York City.

Got a weird infection and had to go on high power antibiotics.
Minus: stomach was temporary disaster.
Plus: skin was temporary perfection.

Had a new attack of some old anxiety that I thought had been kicked to the curb for good.
Minus: no fun, as any anxiety/panic sufferer will tell you.
Plus: a great reminder that I was in need of a tune-up.
1. Had a lube job: the ratio of coffee and wine to all other fluids required some realignment.
2. Fuel levels needed correcting: healthy food is not only meant to be purchased and fed to others as one shoves errant oreos and pieces of cheese into one's mouth. Healthy food, it turns out, can also be ingested by one's own self every once in a while.
3. The engine was being neglected, left to spin and spin on its own. When my engine is denied some basics--time to read, time to breathe, time to sleep--this is what it will tend to do.

Learned something, again.
Minus: What can be negative about learning something, except for the realization that I have to keep learning it over and over again.
Plus: Learned (again) that plans and promises are not nourishing, they are depleting. I have only the power of now.

"I recommend you take care of the minutes, for the hours will take care of themselves." -Lord Chesterfield

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

rainbows and bunnies

I've gotten a bit off track, but am planning to come back to the blogiverse very soon.

In the meantime, I just had to share one of the happiest, warmest, and most comforting images I have ever encountered, and right when I needed it the most. Enjoy!


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Top of the World




Following a string of typical July days in NYC--hot, humid, sticky, frizzy--Sunday was a gorgeous reprieve. It was sunny, bright, and crisp, with a crystal blue sky specked with just a few white clouds, the kind you'd draw at the top of the paper when you were 6 years old, just to make it clear: this is sky.

After an early morning filled with squeals and giggles and little feet slapping enthusiastically all over the apartment--not to mention 30 minutes of blissful quiet when TT and Belly went running by the water--the three of us took off for one of our favorite places in the world, Central Park. Armed with some toys, a blanket, plenty of snacks (for Belly) and yummy caffeinated drinks (for us), we walked a long time, people watching (Belly) and having a great conversation (us). Before hitting the grass for playtime, we stopped at one of the many places we've never visited until Belly came along, the carousel. First Belly and TT rode together, smiling and laughing, as I whooped and waved frantically, endangering our camera and those around me every time they passed.

Then it was my turn. I carried her--my perfect little bundle in her pink flowered dress, slightly squirmy, wide eyes taking in everything, arms and legs sticky with sunscreen, soft hair warmed by the sun--to a colorful horse and strapped her in tight. I stood close and stroked her back as she continued to look around from this new vantage point, utterly absorbed watching people moving, climbing on horses, gathering tickets. When the bell sounded and the wheels creaked into motion, I ran my fingers lightly through her apricot curls and spoke quietly in her ear, talking to her about what was happening. As we began to turn and passed TT for the first time, smiling and waving frantically at us, camera flying, the following song (below) began to play in that loud, glorious organ music.

The next time we passed TT, I held on to her chubby leg with one hand and waved back at him with the other. I could barely see either of them through the tears that suddenly welled in my eyes, and joy washed through me as I heard the words in my head, the perfect song for a perfect moment.


Top of the World
The Carpenters

Such a feeling's coming over me
There is wonder in most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky
Got the sun in my eyes
And I won't be surprised if it's a dream

Everything I want the world to be
Is now coming true especially for me
And the reason is clear
It's because you are here
You're the nearest thing to heaven that I've seen

I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found
ever since you've been around
Your love's put me at the top of the world

Something in the wind has learned my name
And it's telling me that things are not the same
In the leaves on the trees
and the touch of the breeze
There's a pleasing sense of happiness for me

There is only one wish on my mind
When this day is through I hope that I will find
That tomorrow will be
just the same for you and me
All I need will be mine if you are here

I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found
ever since you've been around
Your love's put me at the top of the world

Thursday, June 28, 2007

In between things


Yesterday the power went out. The quiet was instant and slightly oppressive, the way it feels when the door clicks shut behind you in a sound-proof room. Those first few moments in a sound-proof room can freak you out, with the buzz of silence in your ears and the deafening little smacks of your own saliva threatening to derail you, until suddenly, you get used to it. It's only in these instances that I realize how much NYC literally hums around me at all times.

With the sudden quiet came the familiar adrenaline rush that accompanies that kind of instant shift, the moment between 3:31pm on a Wednesday when everything's normal and 3:32pm when everything appears to have irrevocably changed. Happily, this time the feeling reminded me of the unforgettable block party that was the blackout of 2003, instead of that other day in 2001 when everything changed in an instant, when New York City became a small town, wracked with sorrow. For me, the first few hours of the blackout of 2003 were terrifying, bringing up horrible memories of 9/11, until TT finally arrived after his long walk home from work carrying not batteries, lighters, protein bars, and water (which I had run around frantically buying, heart beating a mile a minute, in between trips up and down the 11 dark flights of stairs to our apartment to fill the bathtubs with water--no elevators in a blackout, and when the tank runs out, no more water) but a 6-pack of Budweiser tall-boys. He was right, I was wrong. Shortly thereafter my dad (unable to go home to New Jersey) arrived from his long walk, suit jacket slung over his shoulder, and we met him outside our building with a cold one ready and waiting. Hours of absolute hilarity ensued--one of my favorite nights after 12 years in this city.

So yesterday the power went out during Belly's afternoon nap, shutting off the Restful Rain ipod loop to which we have made her profoundly addicted, but she didn't wake up. The apartment was still bright but the hallway was dark as pitch, and when I crept out there with my flashlight, looking for news that could only be found in the lobby 11 floors down, I listened to the nervous voices stuck in the frozen elevator, checked on our elderly, deaf neighbor, and went back inside. Heart racing, I started making calls, assessing the situation. I watched people in the building across the street standing up against their windows as I was, talking on cell phones, craning their necks to view the chaos at the busy intersections suddenly without traffic lights. The horns and sirens that I am so used to sounded much louder against the quiet.

TT was stuck in Chicago, so I began to picture how the night would unfold with Belly, in the dark, the intense heat, food and milk in the fridge spoiled, changing diapers by flashlight, inching down 11 flights of stairs in the pitch black just to get some air, and the real nightmare, trying to explain to her the utter and complete lack of music or Restful Rain. I started gathering batteries, thinking of strategies, devising contingency plans. But then the power went back on. There was the AC, the fridge, the lights, the computer, the general electric buzz...I reset a few clocks, and all was normal. It was strangely disappointing.

They're saying the power could go off again tonight. There is a big storm on its way and my stomach is in knots, but I'm not sure that's why. I signed a contract for a house in the suburbs tonight, and wrote a check so big (for me) that I wasn't actually sure of the correct way to word it. I have been dreaming about moving to a house for a long, long time. I love this house, it's small and sweet and perfect, in a great neighborhood in a wonderful town that TT and I have been thinking about for years. I know I'm ready, even though I do wish that we could bring our super and a few of our doormen with us.

The sellers are still aggressively showing this house, so we have to move at lightening speed. I had to print out the contract from email the second it arrived, eyeball it while Belly played with her puzzles, sign it (without TT) while feeding her dinner, and hightail it to Kinkos/FedEx before she melted down or the sky exploded.

I have been waiting for this storm all day. This morning my mom called: horrible thunderstorms are coming, you should finish your errands by noon. Our spooky Irish doorman warned: they say the winds will be 60 miles an hour. The radio cautioned: more power outages should be expected. Then, with the contracts splayed out in front of me, Belly pelting peas, my mom called again: you really need to hurry, honey, they're saying hail.

So tonight we ran through the streets, Belly in her stroller, the sky still blue but the air so humid it felt like the molecules within it were sweating, the atoms couldn't breath. Or maybe that was me. We mailed the contracts and the check, ran home, I put Belly to bed, and here I am. Waiting for something. I usually adore the excitement, the majesty of big thunderstorms. I love the adrenaline rush that comes with change. But not tonight. I don't want to lose power. TT is still in Chicago, and my stomach is a cauldron of swarming snakes. Did I sign in all the right places? Did I pay close enough attention when the inspector described how the water heater works? Will we be able to pay the mortgage? Will I make new friends in this town? Will I be able to see my dear friends in the city as much as I've been saying I will? This new phase of life, that I have been craving for so long, suddenly feels as oppressive as the quiet of a blackout, or a suburban street after 11pm. I know I'll get used to it. I know I'll love it. Just like I love being a grown-up, being married, having a child, no matter how scary or far away these things used to seem.

But tonight a storm is coming, the molecules in the air are full to bursting, and I want to stay safe in the hum of my apartment, and my city, and keep the power on.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ode to Bear


Dear Bear,
Thank you for always being there for Belly, for enjoying the hugs and stroking and rhythmic face-sucking as much as you seem to.
Thank you for being her pet, her pillow, her best friend, her constant companion, every day, every night, and in every situation (except meals and baths).
Thank you for appreciating the fact that meals and baths are too messy and/or wet for you, and for your patience as we sit you in your special place, wave bye-bye, and go about our business at these times. At least you know that after every single meal and bath, you will be greeted like you've just returned from a year-long sea voyage in pirate-infested waters.

Thank you for being made by Gund, and mass-produced. The few months when we thought your position had been filled by an obscure lamb who a) was a gift from an unknown source, b) had her tag brazenly cut off before mommy knew what she was doing, and c) was declining quickly, were tough ones. We purchased lamb after lamb as back-up, and nothing was ever an exact match. A girl only needs so many lambs. But then you muscled in--plump, soft, just the right size--and claimed the position as your own. It was no contest, and she has never looked back. Your doppelganger, and his doppelganger, have now been obtained.

Thank you, dear Bear, for being machine washable. The face-sucking, you may have noticed, can often result in that not-so-fresh feeling.
Thank you also for tolerating the endless baby-wipes on your face, as you are dropped time and time again onto the canine fecal bacteria gardens that are NYC sidewalks. And thank you for never mentioning the time that you were dropped, face first, into a gooey glob of human spit--for intuiting that regardless of the fact that you went immediately into the laundry, it was something I really never wanted to think about again.
Thank you, seriously, for not mentioning the fact that I occasionally (always) give you (or your doppelganger) a loving little pat on the head during the laundry process. It's embarrassing--I mean, I know you are stuffed--but I spend so much damn time with you, and perhaps have read Corduroy one too many times for my own good.

Thank you for always being there, even when you end up in the basket of the stroller, in the trunk of the car, or on the floor outside her crib. You know that soon you'll be summoned back into her arms. You know that there is a very specific cry that her dad and I recognize instantly on the monitor, and that means only one thing: "Regretfully, Bear has been thrown out of the crib in a fit of pique and must be returned to his rightful position immediately."

Thank you for the constant companionship you give her. I hear the way she talks to you, tells you about her feelings and her day. I watch her wave hello to you right up close to your face, even as you sit in her arms. I see how tightly she snuggles you in her sleep, all night long, when all other animals have been discarded and long forgotten. And I promise, I struggle desperately to keep you out of the danger zone when I change her diapers.
Thank you for being her cozy comfort when she's tired, her smile when she's blue, and her sigh of relief when she feels like no one else really "gets" her.

Thank you, finally, for being one of our first teachers, for showing us that no matter how much we may want to be everything to her, we can't be, and that is a good thing. Love like the kind you two share could never be wrong.

Love,
Belly's mom and dad

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Letter From Autism Advocates to President of NBC News Regarding Coverage of the Autism Omnibus Proceedings

This letter has been cut and pasted from this amazing website, where I have learned so much about the dangers of childhood vaccines. It is really worth reading.

"Dear Mr. Capus:

The undersigned organizations are writing to you regarding the concerns among families of vaccine-injured children across the country over NBC's recent coverage of the Autism Omnibus proceedings. In particular, we take issue with the comments Dr. Nancy Snyderman made during yesterday's Today show. While one would hope a "First do no harm" philosophy would have some bearing on the information Dr. Snyderman provides to viewers, clearly it does not.

Dr. Snyderman's ties to Johnson & Johnson, defendants in vaccine injury litigation, are obviously dictating the agenda in her appearances on your network at the risk of the safety of our children. This conflict of interest calls into serious question your journalistic integrity and credibility. NBC's viewers were exposed to a blatant falsehood yesterday as Dr. Snyderman claimed that vaccines no longer contain mercury. This is not the case, and this misinformation has unfortunately given NBC's parents a false sense of security that vaccines are now mercury-free. This false claim puts viewer's children and the unborn at risk of great harm. The mercury-based preservative thimerosal has never been fully removed from childhood vaccines as Dr. Snyderman vehemently claimed. A simple check on the FDA's website would have confirmed this: _http://www.fda.http://wwhttp://www.fda.http://ww_ (http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=ur9hcbcab.0.8t6jcbcab.faomd6n6.2888&ts=S0252&p=http://www.fda.gov/cber/vaccine/thimerosal.htm#t1) .

Mercury is still in most flu, tetanus, and diphtheria/tetanus vaccines--and an array of vaccines still contain "trace" amounts. (The term "trace" must be used loosely as this aspect of vaccine production is not being regulated and there is some variation on what constitutes a trace amount. As children often receive multiple "trace" amounts of mercury in one sitting, cumulative amounts and potential adverse effects are as yet unknown.) While no reputable medical practitioner in this country would allow even "trace" amounts of lead to be injected through vaccines given its known neurotoxicity, physicians continue to allow mercury, which exceeds the toxicity of lead by more than 100-fold, to be routinely injected into humans.

As a physician representing NBC, Dr. Snyderman has failed to tell the truth about mercury-containing vaccines and the known dangers associated with them. There is simply no excuse for such careless and false reporting while this country is in the throes of a childhood epidemic of neurological disorders. During Monday's NBC Nightly News Dr. Snyderman stated, "There really is no science behind the autism/mercury link. Vaccines and the mercury-based preservative thimerosal have not been ruled out as a cause of autism." To the contrary, there are literally thousands of scientific, peer-reviewed studies supporting the extreme neurotoxicity of mercury and the relationship between mercury exposure and neurological injury. The following link provides a copious amount of research which contradicts what Dr. Snyderman told the American public: _http://www.generatihttp://wwhttp://www.ghttp_ (http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=ur9hcbcab.0.5t6jcbcab.faomd6n6.2888&ts=S0252&p=http://www.generationrescue.org/studies.html) The CDC's own study conducted in 2000 clearly shows the agency knew that injuries were occurring to children from mercury-containing vaccines, yet the data was manipulated to obscure the link. Lead researcher Dr. Thomas Verstraeten had this to say regarding the CDC's thimerosal findings: "...we have found statistically significant relationships between the exposure and outcomes for these different exposures and outcomes. First, for two months of age, an unspecified developmental delay, which has its own specific ICD9 code. Exposure at three months of age, tics. Exposure at six months of age, an attention deficit disorder. Exposures at one, three, and six months of age, language and speech delays which are two separate ICD9 codes. Exposures at one, three, and six months of age, an entire category of neurodevelopmental delays, which includes all of these plus a number of other disorders." (Dr. Thomas Verstraeten, page 40, Simpsonwood meeting transcript). The full transcript of this secret, closed-door meeting held by the CDC at, Simpsonwood, can be read at NoMercury.org or PutChildrenFirst.

Many European countries have banned the use of thimerosal/mercury in vaccines for many years. Seven states have passed legislation banning the use of thimerosal/mercury in vaccines and similar legislation is pending in over 30 additional states. If there was no science to back up the dangers of using mercury in vaccines, we wouldn't be seeing such legislative efforts to ban its use.

In her most recent NBC appearance, Dr. Snyderman was asked why parents were filing claims on behalf of their vaccine-injured children, to which she answered matter-of-factly, "money."

This cavalier statement alone goes far beyond contempt and displays an appalling ignorance of the emotional and financial devastation faced by families of vaccine-injured children. This must be addressed by an immediate apology from NBC to all the parents of children suffering from vaccine-induced illnesses. We urge you to speak with the growing number of scientists who have published research supporting a causal link between mercury in vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders, and can provide you contact information for these researchers.

Reporting false information is a disservice to the American people. When it comes to the children and the unborn in this country, we should err on the side of safety, regardless of personal belief, conviction, or backing from the pharmaceutical industry.Based on the misinformation presented by Dr. Snyderman, and the potential for harm this has brought to bear upon children, we ask for her resignation. We will accept nothing less than a full and public retraction of her false statements, along with an apology from your network. We expect an immediate response to our request.

Respectfully,

Advocates for Children's Health Affected by Mercury Poisoning (ACHAMP)
Autism Recovery Resources of Washington (ARROW)
Autism Society of Autism Chapter
Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs (CoMeD)
David A. Geier, Vice-President Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc.
Developmental Delay Resources (DDR)
Dr. Boyd Haley, Bio-Chemist
Educate Before You Vaccinate
Foundation For Autism Information and Research
Foundation for Mercury Injured Children
Generation Rescue
K Paul Stoller, MD, President, International Hyperbaric Medical Association
Kind Tree Productions, Inc.
Mark R. Geier, MD, Ph.D., FABMG, President Genetic Centers
Autism Recovery Coalition
Mercury Free
Mercury Moms Against Mercury
Moms of Hope
National Autism Association
No Mercury
SOAR!
Autism Resources
Talk About Curing Autism (TACA)
TN4 SaferVaccines
Treating Autism in the UK
UnInformed Consent
US Autism and Asperger Association
World Mercury Project

Think Autism. Think Cure. Click here to visit our website_ (http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=ur9hcbcab.0.cnfjh6n6.faomd6n6.2888&ts=S0252&p=http://www.nationalautismassociation.org/)"

Monday, June 11, 2007

Cringe-worthy


Do you ever have those moments when you feel really embarrassed for yourself even though no one (who knows any better) is there to judge you? Like if, for example, alone in your home, you have an elaborate stumble that starts with a simple "oops" but doesn't end until two additional collisions and six full seconds of tottering later, at which point you force a chuckle and make some little joke about how you "meant to do that"...but there's no one there.

Or, let's say you suddenly realize that you are singing some complicated madrigal harmony along with the Peter, Paul, and Mommy CD in a voice that is far too loud and expressive for the venue, which is not an American Idol audition, a highway road trip, or even the shower, but standing at the changing table cleaning a poopy diaper. And this diaper, it should be noted, belongs to a certain poor person who has been forced, with no say in the matter, to listen to what you wish you could call a sweet serenade, but is really more like a full-blown concert. To her butt.

Just wondering. Because I'm beginning to think that perhaps I am not spending enough time with people who count their ages in years instead of months.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Comfort Zones, Part Two

This is the story of why I was feeling much less comfortable about my blog recently, and how I worked my way through it.

1. I've been getting some nasty comments from one person.
2. These comments do not penetrate me personally--it is clear to see that they are about the commenter, not about me or whatever other topics they address.
3. However, it suddenly began to feel really horrible and wrong that this angry person was looking at pictures of my daughter.
4. I considered pulling my blog, sat on the idea for a few days, and didn't like it.
5. I suddenly realized why some people use pseudonyms and rarely post photos.
6. I questioned whether it would remain worth it to keep a blog with no (or in any case, fewer) photos of Belly (pseudonym!). Posting a picture of that little strawberry blond in action really takes the pressure off the writing, you know?
7. I decided it would still be worth it.
8. I wrestled with whether or not I should even mention this change, because the last thing I want to do is engage with this commenter in any way, but decided that I want to be open and honest in my blog. Otherwise, what's the point?
9. I realized that I am in charge of how comfortable I feel writing this blog, no one else. That feels good.
10. Now, there is only one more thing I need to be truly comfortable writing this blog: a new chair! Ouch! It may take a while, but I'm in charge and I will make it happen.

To clear up any mystery, my family's new gathering place that I wrote about in my last post (the house where my parents will retire) is on an island off of Savannah, looking out over the salt marsh. It's wonderful and I feel extremely lucky--mostly for them, but also for the lovely spot! I get so tired of always being 20 minutes away from grass.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Comfort Zones, Part One

I have found my new favorite place.

This is a wonderful feeling, especially because for years my favorite place was kind of lame. I mean, I love it (it was my favorite place, after all), but it wasn't really an appropriate place to visit during savasana at the end of a great yoga class, or to picture during meditation, or to visualize to combat anxiety. That's because it wasn't a lake or the mountains or an endless verdant field...it was my parent's kitchen table in suburban New Jersey.

It's a very nice kitchen, open and bright, yet cozy. And it always houses people I love, great conversation, and many of my favorite foods. As places go, you can't beat it, but it's so un-sexy, and not really meditation-worthy (I visualize...my mom, the table, a banana with peanut butter, where's the magic?). So for years, I tried to change it. I remember lying in a green field at Kripalu, a yoga center in Massachusetts, blissed out on yoga and health food, the soft grass tickling my skin, staring at the sky and trying to imprint the moment in my mind: FOR ALL MEDITATION PURPOSES FORTHWITH, THIS SHALL NOW BE NAMED MY "FAVORITE PLACE." That didn't work.

I gazed across the sparkling water at my friend's family's lake house in Maine. The rich pinks and blues of summer dusk rose from the horizon as the water lapped rhythmically against the dock, the quiet pierced first by the cry of an early loon, and then by the perfect tiny explosions of cold beers being opened at just the right moment. I made my decision--THIS is what I will picture, this water, this sky--and backed it up with photos to take home as reminders. But the next time I needed to go to my place...thump, there I landed at that darn kitchen table.

I have spent years appreciating the beautiful green mountains of Vermont. I have gazed admiringly at the horizons of both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. I have traveled Europe. I spent two glorious weeks traveling Italy on my honeymoon. I spent 2-1/2 months driving across the country in the front seat of a van, for god's sake. I have LOTS of gorgeous, natural, visualization-worthy images in my head, with wonderful memories attached to boot. Why was I stuck at this butcher block table in the middle of New Jersey every time I meditated?

Because being surrounded by my family--new members as well as old--is my favorite place to be. Gazing out at the wonders of nature is my second favorite place. And now my family has a new place to gather in the middle of some truly glorious nature. My favorite people, my favorite foods, my favorite conversations, my favorite place. My family.





May all who read this find comfort in their families as well, either the ones they came into the world with or the ones they have made and loved along the way.

Part Two coming soon.

Friday, May 25, 2007

why her dad calls her Destructo

We just got home yesterday from a 2-week trip down south to visit with both sides of the family. Lots of time was spent barefoot in the grass, and zero time was spent on the computer. It was wonderful, and Isabel had a blast. (Her name sounds adorable south of Virginia, and gains a fourth lilting syllable: Isabayel.)

I have one question. How can someone this sleepy on the trip home from the airport...



...proceed to do this to her room within ten minutes of entering it?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

NPR, please stay strong



Dear producers of the Diane Rehm Show,

I am writing from New York City in support of Monica Holloway, author of DRIVING WITH DEAD PEOPLE.

I was deeply disappointed to learn that you pulled her interview from your show at the request of some of the perpetrators of her abuse. This is exactly the sort of behavior that encourages other survivors of abuse to keep silent, whereas I thought NPR tried to inspire individuals to speak up, to speak the truth, and not to shy away from the tough topics.



This is a tough topic that needs addressing. Monica Holloway is no James Frey. She has 100% support from her other sister, who has also spent years trying to recover from their painful childhoods, if that's the sort of empirical evidence you need. But I would hope that you would trust the clarity of her voice and the honest, human struggle she illuminates so powerfully in her book and her life (as opposed to the apparent ego and posturing of James Frey and his work).

I recently left book publishing after 12 years in editorial and marketing. The media, and NPR in particular, didn't used to shy away from the hard questions and the challenging voices. NPR was always the ideal forum to unite authors tackling tough issues with the readers ready to address them.

Please show your support not only of the book you clearly loved from the start, and the author who touches the heart (and funny bone) of every person she meets, but even more importantly, of the truth, particularly the hard truths, the ones that are so difficult and yet so vital to bring to light.

DRIVING WITH DEAD PEOPLE is an important, moving, deeply honest, and--what's more--ridiculously entertaining, page-turning book. But you already know that. Please continue to be fearless and inspirational in your programming. For countless reasons, the world needs NPR to stand strong now more than ever.



If you'd like to join me and write to the Diane Rehm show, click here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Check out what's blooming in NYC



Jennifer Lauck--the woman, mother, writer, seeker, teacher, healer, goddess--is giving three workshops on the East Coast this spring that are not to be missed. I found the money, the childcare, and the time to sign up for the NYC 4-day intensive, because there was just no way I would miss it. In addition to my many years of experience knowing, loving, and working with Jennifer, I have now had the privilege of attending my first of her workshops this past February, and it changed my life. Profoundly. This blog is only one piece of what that experience meant to me.

Because everyone is healing from something, everyone is searching for something, and everyone has an incredible story to tell. Jennifer's workshops are attended by those who are healing from life-shattering trauma, and those who are just searching for something...more. More inspiration, more connection, more spirit. They are attended by bestselling authors, and by those who are feeling drawn to start writing, but don't even know where to begin.

You cannot imagine the power of this woman. The inspiration, the connection, the spirit in those rooms. I had known and loved her for eight years, I had worked with her and witnessed first-hand the profound impact she and her books had on the world. And yet I was utterly blown away.

There are still spots available. If you feel a stirring of interest as you read this, then I highly recommend that you find the money, the childcare, the time. Details are here.

And get ready to change your life!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's a truce

There are days when New York City really kicks your ass. When you can't get anywhere and can't get anything accomplished. When your apartment feels even smaller than it is and your building feels like a battleground. When it feels like it costs twenty bucks just to cross the street.

Today was not one of those days.

Today, the weather was in the mid-70's, blue skies, lots of sunshine, and a gentle spring breeze. Isabel and I packed the stroller, slathered up with sunscreen, and headed to the park.



On our way out the door, Isabel got to flirt and play with Sixto, our amazing doorman who makes her smile and laugh like crazy. Sixto doesn't just sign for packages--he calls a car when I'm late and can't find a cab, he gives our diabetic cat twice daily insulin shots when we're away, he buys presents for Isabel at every opportunity, and he makes our day brighter every time we see him.

Two blocks from home, I picked up a drink for the picnic. I happened to choose an iced chai latte today, but I could have had a strong cup of Paris-quality coffee, a Kombucha tea, a veggie smoothie, a mango lassie, a shot of wheat grass, a shot of whiskey, a 1989 Bordeaux, a pomegranate margarita...you name it, it is available within two blocks of my front door.

Ten minutes and one very pleasant walk later, and Isabel and I entered one of my favorite places on earth, Central Park. It was packed with school kids on lunch breaks, running with balls and bouncing on benches, their peals of laughter bursting like gentle fireworks into the gorgeous day. The lush lawn near our entrance was finally open, so we rolled in and spread out under a tree in a dappled piece of shade and sun. Belly had a few skittish moments when she first left the blanket--What's all this soft green stuff again? Where are the cement blocks, the metal scaffolding, the cigarette butts? Can a person really touch this stuff?--but then had a wonderful time.



There were friends galore to be made today: Schuyler, Alex, their smiling nannies, three rambunctious Spanish kids with their funny, relaxed mom and her mother, who didn't speak a word of English but had a great husky laugh. Then there were all the other people we didn't meet but got to watch: kids from all over the world, speaking Chinese, Russian, French, you name it, running past people who looked like artists, students, writers, activists, drifters, investment bankers, beginners, old-timers ...you name it. No matter who you were, today was a day you had to hit the park.

After lunch and lots of sunny playtime, we rolled along one of the winding pathways, past the green trees and Victorian lampposts, and into the playground. As we entered, we could feel everyone's happy mood wash over us like the cherry blossoms that blew in the balmy air, and there was one empty swing waiting with Isabel's name on it. She kicked and giggled, turning her body to one side and then the other--there was just so much to look at.



Danny was working the door when we got home, and we smiled and talked about the fabulous weather. Later I decided I wanted to get a few groceries for dinner, so I strapped Isabel on my back and we strolled to the health food store two and a half blocks away. She smiled at people from behind my back, they had everything we needed, and we were back home in 20 minutes.

After Isabel's dinner, we stood looking out the window at the street below like we usually do, watching the taxis and buses and people coming home from work. Belly stood on the radiator and pressed her forehead to the glass. As I leaned in close and kissed her cheek from behind, I thanked New York City for being so magical.

On days like today.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

If you can make it here...


There are days when New York City is the greatest place on earth. When the sun shines on the streets and emblazons the glorious tapestry of humanity that surrounds you, when you stroll through the park or the zoo or Union Square or the West Village, and you can't believe the people, the energy, the beauty, the diversity, the richness, and you stop in a gorgeous boutique or a cute cafe or a dive bar or a great sushi place or a yummy Mexican joint, and you just can't believe how much you love this city.

Today was not one of those days.

Our desire was simple: one errand at Crate & Barrel. The plan was to take the subway to C&B right after Isabel's lunch and make it back home in time for her nap. After that, we'd do laundry. I packed up the diaper bag with all the toys, snacks, diapers, wipes, Purell, gum, money, etc. that we'll need for this one-hour errand, put Isabel in her travel stroller, and we hit the streets.

I read all these other gorgeous blog posts involving houses in the woods or on the water, blooming trees and bursting blossoms, lush green nature everywhere. Don't expect any of that in this post. The streets were gray, dirty, and teaming with people, and everyone seemed to be irritated and/or in a hurry. Including me.

At the subway steps, we stopped. Diaper bag strapped around the chest, little girl gathered into left arm, stroller folded and secured over right shoulder, and we were ready for action. Slowly down the steps, then through the turnstiles: first Isabel in my arms, then me, then THU-THUMP, the stroller bringing up the rear and banging loudly into the sideways pole that had already made its turn.

We worked our way through throngs of people and the train doors closed as we approached. When the next train came, we shuffled on and happily found a seat. It was very crowded, but we are a contained unit of people and stuff and don't really notice.

When we get to the station, we plow our way through the crowd to the door, drag ourselves through the turnstiles (THU-THUMP), and trudge up the long flights of stairs to the outside. We made it! I put down the stroller and the heavy diaper bag (what was I thinking?), strap Isabel in, and that's when I notice: the busy little sock foot kicking underneath her jeans. She's lost a shoe.

These were her very first shoes: high end, lace-up, extra support, expensive shoes that TT wanted to bronze. Which meant: out came Isabel, up came the bag, on went the stroller, back down the steps, and through the turnstiles (THU-THUMP) we went. No shoe. THU-THUMP, back out we trudged, and on to Crate and Barrel with 3 shoes between us.

Now we were in mid-town at 1:00, which means that the streets were packed with a multitude of people with a single purpose: not lunch...smoking. They were smoking regular cigarettes, clove cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hashish, crack--I don't know what they were smoking, but it was blowing in my daughter's face and it was pissing me off. Her little white sock looked so vulnerable in the cold air, against a backdrop of traffic and billows of smoke.

We bought the gift we needed, and headed home. Some guy was spitting on the street just as we exited the store and it missed the stroller by inches. The streets were full of deep craters that made the little sock foot bounce. We made our way through the blocks of smoking people ("excuse me, may I pass you? I'd like to push this stroller in front of your cigarette, if I may, rather than directly behind it") and returned to the subway steps. Shopping bag on wrist, diaper bag on, Isabel up, stroller secured, and down we went.

Again, we watched people file onto a waiting train as we lugged ourselves (THU-THUMP) through the turnstiles, and then watched the train pull away. Fifteen minutes pass, during which Isabel must be entertained with various songs and gestures, made while the shopping bag swats around wildly from my wrist. This child--who cannot be put down in her sock foot, as much as she'd like to be--is getting heavy. The 6 train has been my subway for over 10 years, so it's quite embarrassing that it took the station manager's voice finally announcing the next train to make me realize that we were waiting for the wrong one. THU-THUD--the stroller caught on the turnstile on our way out. "God-damnit" I grunted as I wrenched it over. "Yes, gentleman who is shooting me a look. I did just swear two inches from my child's face. She doesn't speak English yet, so get over it."

We dragged ourselves up the long flights of stairs, and realized that it had started to rain. We didn't care (I'm speaking for Isabel on this point)--we were not going back underground to find the uptown train. So we walked a few more blocks (little sock foot bobbing along, back in the stroller), waited in the long line of people, folded ourselves back up again, and climbed on the bus.

It was a slow, crowded ride, but we made it back to our neighborhood, and went directly to the (crowded) shoe store. We waited until our name was called (poor Isabel was bored to tears and dying to walk around, shoes or no), and then I just held her up and it was pretty obvious what we needed. We got it, waited in line to pay, and went home.

We missed her afternoon nap. We did laundry, which as usual was cut-throat competitive, although we did get lucky because all three dryers were working (this is rare). As the clothes were spinning, we went for a walk in the new shoes. Listen Isabel, this is the din of rush hour traffic. This way sweetie, away from the garbage. Watch out for the dog piss on the sidewalk, honey. Don't pick that up, that's a cigarette butt. No, don't touch that--it's a jagged piece of metal from the heavy scaffolding that has lived over our building and on most of our block for your lifetime and probably for years to come. I don't know WHAT that is, sweetie, but don't touch it.

We have taken this same little NYC walk many times, and on another day I know I would describe it so differently: I would write about all the interesting people who smiled and talked to her, the lonely or elderly people whom she made smile with delight, the weather, the giggles, the many things she got to see, the details we appreciated together.

Just not today.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Blogger Bipolar Disorder

It's already been a week since I posted, which is longer than I like to go. I've decided that I am struggling with BBD (blogger bipolar disorder), sprinkled with a light dusting of OCD and topped with a cherry of this problem.

For example, I had a terrific walk and lunch with the lovely, sparkling, and fabulously talented Monica recently, just days after finishing her unbelievable book, but by the time I got Isabel to bed that night I was so tired that I felt like I couldn't do it justice. You need lots of energy to write about a woman that fabulous and a book that incredible. (Plus I was very irked that I forgot my camera, which didn't help.) So here I am nearly two weeks later and I still haven't written about it.

Or I'll be walking with Isabel in the park and will have these interesting thoughts about life (to me, anyway). I'll get very excited: ooh, that is definitely my next blog post. What a thought-provoking, clearly memorable topic I'll address--perfect. And by the time Isabel's in bed...poof, out the window of my sleep-deprived brain it's flown, and in place of these so-called interesting, memorable thoughts are just some clunkers about our filthy laundry room and why there are only ever 2 working dryers in this 20 story building. Valid concern perhaps, but hardly an interesting blog post.

Or days like today, which isn't funny at all. I was excited to post about Isabel's little first birthday party yesterday, which was a tiny piece of heaven on earth, but I turned on my computer and learned of the horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech, and I'm just too sad to write about it right now.

So, what I've decided to do today is:
1. work on continuing to shed my editorial self and become less picky about my posts (eg. requiring the perfect state of mind, continuing to correct every typo, etc.);
2. pray for the victims of this unspeakable crime, for their families, and for this world that is full of so much violence and kindness, hate and love, all at the same time;
3. post a happy picture of Belly and her Grammy (my dearest mom) at the party.

Love.

Monday, April 9, 2007

A Tale of Two Diets



EARLY MORNING BEVERAGE:
Isabel:
one bottle, half whole milk and half formula, enjoyed calmly while snuggled with mommy
Mommy:
coffee with whole milk, slurped in passing

BREAKFAST:
I:
organic banana, organic raisins, organic oatmeal mixed with organic fruit and flax oil, eaten (and worn) enthusiastically while comfortably seated in highchair
M:
browning remainder of banana, slathered sloppily with peanut butter, scarfed while standing, accompanied by lukewarm remainder of coffee

LUNCH:
I:
Oattios (wheat-free Cheerios), cut green beans, organic cheddar cheese, organic avocado, scrambled organic Omega 3-infused eggs, liquid Vitamin C supplement, organic pear yogurt with added organic blueberries, eaten lustily in highchair
M:
Oattios (off of floor), organic cheddar cheese (several sizable hunks shoved into mouth while standing), organic avocado (licked off knife), slightly stale pita bread dipped into last night's leftover hummus (eaten while standing and talking on phone), large spoonful of leftover icing from I's birthday cake (licked contemplatively while reading blogs)

SNACK:
I:
organic grapes, cut into quarters, enjoyed during playdate
M:
one-third of large fancy bakery cupcake, nibbled delicately while engaged in delightful conversation during playdate

DINNER, PART 1:
I:
cut green beans, organic kale and pear puree with tofu, organic feta cheese, organic sweet potato, organic multigrain with organic fruit, enjoyed with gusto in highchair and followed later by a second snuggly bottle with Mommy in rocking chair
M:
two remaining thirds of large fancy bakery cupcake, shoveled indelicately into mouth while standing, approx. 7 minutes after end of playdate

DINNER, PART 2 (to come):
M:
egg salad sandwich, made from eggs bought, hardboiled, and dyed various colors by M's mother, mixed with mayonnaise and spread on bread. This mixing and spreading will be referred to as "cooking dinner." Will be eaten in front of TV with two glasses of wine, the second of which will be slightly regretted at tomorrow's regular 5:45 am waking.

Is it possible that the same person is responsible for both of these diets?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Happy Birthday Belly

WARNING: To anyone who has never cried at a chick flick, given someone a hug just because you felt like it, smelled the head of a new baby and then went back for one more delicious sniff, or referred to yourself as "feeling sensitive" at some point in your life...READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL.

Today, at 6:59am EST, my daughter Isabel Sofie turned one year old. I knew this would be a big one--I have celebrated the first birthday of several children whom I love dearly over the years, and I have been very excited for Isabel's--but I had no idea just how amazing and intense it would feel. I had no clue that I would be so overcome with emotion and love that it would keep bursting embarrassingly out of my eyeballs as I do simple things like help her open presents or ice her little cake or type on my computer while she naps.

(Less sensitive types, this is your last chance. You can still make it out alive, but I warn you to GET OUT NOW. TT, this does not include you. You know this particular topic turns you into a total mushball.)





Dear Belly,

I don't know how to thank you for coming into my life. I can't find the words to describe how much I love you, and how much my love for you has changed me.

In my life, I have been graced by the vital and sustaining love of my parents, my two sisters*, my best friends, and my husband. The more I have lived, the more I have recognized just how blessed I am. But the love I feel for you has taken everything I thought I knew about love and blown it into a new stratosphere.

I remember the day you came into this world like it was yesterday. It was surprisingly cold outside for early April, just like it is today. And the unexpected snowfall outside our hospital windows felt like a blessing just for you. When snow flakes fell again this early April morning, it felt like the universe was celebrating your first birthday with us--or at least New York City.

Isabelly, you are my idol. Your determination inspires me: from the moment you were born, after hours of fetal cardiac distress, sucking with vigorous focus on several fingers...to now, when you insist on carrying the largest, heaviest, and most awkward toy across the room and will let nothing stand in your way. Your fearlessness astounds me: from every roll, crawl, and step you have taken into the great unknown, months earlier than we've expected them...to now, at the Central Park Zoo, where we have rarely seen you laugh so hard, and where you find no animal too big, too weird, too smelly, or too close. If the petting zoo let you ride them all into the sunset, it still wouldn't be enough. Your silliness makes me so happy I could burst: your squawking parakeet laugh and guttural giggles are the most marvelous music I have ever heard. And your sweetness melts me: your little smile when our eyes meet across the room, the soft clapping of your hands when music starts, and the way you lean into me and let me turn the pages of your books when you get sleepy.

Your daddy and I come to visit you every night before we go to bed: to tuck your blanket back around you, to gaze at your sleeping face, to touch your back, feel your breathing, and take you in. When you are pressed against our side of the crib, we can crouch down and smell your hair. We sleep much better after this blessing, and we love each other more in loving you.

I am a better person since knowing you. Every choice I make has more meaning to me now, and my time is much better spent as a result. I do things I care about, I traffic in the truth, and I am motivated by love. Period.

So I don't know how to thank you. I can only say: happy birthday Belly. I love you with all of my heart. You are my heart.

Love,
Mommy


*EK, I love sharing the experience of motherhood with you. CKS, you are going to be such a wonderful mother some day, and I am so excited to share it with you too.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Swallowing the Red Pill, Part 2

The drama of my last post represented how it has felt to realize what dangers still lurk in the vaccines and flu shot that I have had injected into my baby daughter, regardless of what my "top-level New York doctors" have told me. Isabel is fine, and has a statistically decent chance of remaining that way--but considering that I feed her 100% organic, and I am still not giving her wheat or egg whites or honey or, god forbid, peanut butter (it will be YEARS), it's pretty hard for me to swallow that I have allowed thimerosal (which is mercury, a potently harmful neurotoxin) to be injected directly into her blood stream several different times.

For those of you who are neither fans of The Matrix nor married to TT (whose high testosterone levels mask an inner geek whose favorite movies all come in trilogies), choosing the red pill sends Keanu Reeves into the crazy, dark underworld that is actually "reality"--whereas choosing the blue pill would have left him in the daily world as we perceive it, ignorant and blissful. Morpheus (his mentor) presents him with the choice this way: "After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes....Remember... all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more."

Once you swallow the red pill, you can't go back. I was very comfortable trusting my extremely well-qualified doctors. I respect how important vaccines are to public health. I understand that the reason people don't perceive measles, mumps, etc. to be a threat is directly because of these vaccines, and our continued safety from these dangerous diseases depends on them. What I find very difficult to swallow, though, is the fact that poisonous thimerosal is still being used as a preservative for some of these vaccines and the flu shot (except in CA and IA, where it has been banned--legislation is still pending on this in several other states including NY), along with the fact that children are "encouraged" (read: practically forced) to receive these vaccines so early in their infancy, bundled together in such potent combinations, and regardless of whether or not they are immune compromised with a cold or stomach bug at the time of the vaccination.

And let me tell you, dear reader, it is not the doctors, or the scientists, or the media who is responsible for these transgressions: it is the industry that holds so many of them in its pockets. The pharmaceutical industry.

Please know that although I am now beginning to read, research, and educate myself the best I can, I am NOT qualified to educate anyone else on this topic. What I am struggling with is the heart-breaking end of a relationship: my life-long trust and faith in the medical establishment. I still think New York City has many of the best doctors and hospitals in the world, and I still believe that these doctors are brilliant, valiant, and doing the best they can...but I no longer believe that they are always right, or that they always know more than I do.

I have read this

and this

and this.

I've seen this

and this.

No one can deny the growing epidemic of autism, ADHD, OCD, allergies, and asthma in today's children. I am no conspiracy theorist, but I have swallowed the red pill and I cannot go back. Neither can Isabel, but I vow to protect her with all that I have--which is more of my heart and brain than I have used up until very recently-- and to forgive myself for the mistakes that I have made so far.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Swallowing the Red Pill, Part 1

I think I was a decently healthy pregnant person. I wouldn't call myself vigilant by any stretch: I ate a lot of cupcakes, and after the first trimester I drank a small cup of caffeinated coffee most days and had the occasional sips and eventually glass of wine. I still colored my hair, although I did switch to vegetable dyes. (I started going gray in college, so the choice was basically between hair dye or large doses of antidepressants to cope with my frizzy, 90% gray image in the mirror, so I chose to continue coloring my hair.) But I stayed away from soft cheeses, deli meats, tuna fish, swordfish, sushi (my favorite food), Advil, Pepto Bismal, Aspartame, even peanut butter because of some random, questionable news item I read.

I took my prenatal vitamins, I ate my extra vegetables, and when Belly was born I spent her first days sitting next to her little isolette in the critical care nursery. As her glucose levels struggled to normalize, I tried desperately to breastfeed her around all the tubes hanging from her tiny body and despite pressure from the hospital staff to feed her more and more formula to get those sugar levels in line. But in four and half days she was all better, we figured out our breastfeeding, and we were ready to go.

We gathered together her soft cotton clothes prewashed in Dreft, prepared her super-safe top-of-the-line car seat, had her injected with one of the most dangerous and potent known neurotoxins in existence, and home we went.

To be continued.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Health Food


Nourishing: my two new favorite health food obsessions.
1. Quinoa: Pronounced Keen-wa, this a delicious grain-like thing (I know very little about food and less about cooking, fyi) that is full of nutrients and protein, can be used in place of rice anywhere you might put rice, and doesn't even count as a carb. I learned about it from my far healthier, Berkeley-living, vegetable-growing, organic-food-eating, marathon-running sister who is still completely edgy and cool, but can teach me about healthy stuff when necessary. It is terrific on salads and actually turns them into a meal, to which even my Jets-loving, meat-eating, non-health-food-trusting TT can attest. (He asked me to point out here that he does run regularly, so as not to be misrepresented as a football-watching coach potato.)
2. Kombucha tea: this is a bizarre tea grown from a floating living organism-thing that looks like a huge mushroom and has lots of super-healthy enzymes and probiotic powers. All I know is, drink one and it feels like sonic caffeine on a perfect time-release program with no crash--it lasts literally all day. The gingerberry one even tastes kind of good. Like all good things except sugar, I don't think you're supposed to indulge in this when you're pregnant.

Neutral: tofu.
Yes, tofu is very good for you and as I am now forced to eat it regularly because Isabel eats it all the time but never gets through half the package in the 5 allotted days and otherwise it would go to waste, I have discovered that it can be okay...meaning, it tastes like soy sauce if you saute it in soy sauce, and etc. But I'm sorry, I just can't give this gummy little substance more than a neutral. Maybe it's just me and my horrible cooking.

Depleting (for me, anyway): egg whites.
I know these are supposed to be healthy and I used to like them. However, now that Isabel eats egg yolks 4-5 times a week (I go with what works and pray she doesn't get bored), what am I supposed to do? I eat the hard-boiled whites 4-5 times a week, standing in the kitchen and making silly faces at her as I shove them in my mouth and call it lunch. Just thinking about them right now as I type makes me want to hurl, but fast forward to lunch time and guess what I'll be doing. So while others are free to enjoy their egg-white omelettes and feel healthy and virtuous, on my list they've been denigrated to depleting.

fantastic music



Yesterday we went to a concert and had a total blast. The artist is an old friend from college, and I have been a fan of his music since sophomore year (that's 1989 if you must know). We danced our asses off, rocked the mosh pit, sang every word, and whooped at the top of our lungs after every song.

Now, don't think that my husband* and I have changed our early bird ways: this concert was at two in the afternoon and the mosh pit was 4 feet high, max. And it was AWESOME. Justin Roberts, after years of making amazing music for grown-ups on his own and with the acclaimed indie group Pimentos for Gus (which included one of my best friends in the world Tracy Spuehler--more about her in a different post), began his illustrious children's music career when he was teaching at a Montessori school in Minneapolis (to make money to support his music career). For fun, he began writing some of his own songs for the kids and casually recorded several of them as a Christmas present for friends. Let's just say, they were amazing and it caught on.

Many awards, country-wide tours, one great Today Show appearance and several TV videos later, he has 5 children albums and is a huge success. Here is how terrific these albums are: I have been listening to them for YEARS. My child (who already loves the music) is not quite ONE. This is no Wiggles--it's smart and incredibly fun music that parents love as much as the kids. Great Big Sun, Yellow Bus, and Meltdown are my favorites.


*Henceforth, I will refer to my husband the way I first plugged him into my cell phone when we started dating: as TT. This stands for Testosterone Tommy and was inspired by actual events which, trust me, is a very good thing. That is, if memory serves...we do have a new toddler in the house after all.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Drunken Sailor

What I've been doing the past week:

Hanging out with these two goofballs...




...one of whom is now officially walking at 11 months, i.e. lurching about wildly like a drunken sailor, ready to tumble at any moment and hit her head on the nearest table leg, toy, kitchen appliance, cat, you name it. (The other one has been officially walking for quite some time now, although I've seen him stumble like a drunken sailor once or twice as well.) It's heaven in some ways--she got her first real pair of shoes yesterday and she's so adorable in them it's almost blinding, like staring at the sun--but MAN it's busy. If she's awake, that's it, she takes 110% percent of my focus at every moment she isn't strapped into something.

Do people really have more than one of these things at a time??

Monday, March 19, 2007

sherrybaby

Sherrybaby is a powerful, raw, and wrenching film that I believe does an excellent job revealing what childhood sexual abuse can do to a person, and one of the painful paths on which many victims of this abuse can find themselves. For me, the two father/daughter scenes explain the rest of the movie. And Maggie Gyllenhaal's performance is incredible.

Please stay tuned for more about Vision Casting, LLC and the Blackbird Feather Fund, two bright, beaming lamp-posts for women on this dark and lonely road.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"You better knock, knock, knock on wood."

Many people in my life know that I have a bit of a 'thing' for knocking on wood. Not a casual 'tap on the table' kind of thing. Not a relaxed 'I'll just knock on my head as a joke' kind of thing. More of an 'I'll leave the person I'm walking with even if they are someone I don't know well and am (or was) trying to impress, cross a busy city street against traffic, step directly through the dog poop infested pachysandra circle and knock on an ailing New York City tree' kind of thing.

So, I'm working on it. I'm a bit superstitious about other things too--I don't walk under ladders, I'm no fool, although I make an exception for fire-escape ladders because they're everywhere and I'd have to leave town--but mostly it's all in the same neighborhood: I don't want to jinx things, I don't want to tempt fate.

Although I haven't actually seen "The Secret" yet (I will ASAP), I have been spending a lot of time lately talking about it and thinking about it, and I have come to believe that there is tremendous power in directly asking the universe for what you want, in positive energy, in faith. After years of working on self-help books, you'd think I'd know this, and I did know it enough to talk about it before--but not enough to feel it. Otherwise, why would I be so afraid to say anything positive without canceling it out with a knock?

I have discovered that all of my superstitious leanings exist to counteract any positive thinking I might do. "I haven't had the flu in three years...knock on wood." "My computer has never crashed...knock on wood." "Isabel is very healthy, thanks...KNOCK ON WOOD." And as silly as it all sounds, this way of thinking is a poison that spreads everywhere. One example: I keep a notebook of Isabel's eating and sleeping schedule each day, and usually once she's down for the night, I'll write in tomorrow's date...but I always pause, wondering, is this a good idea? To just assume that she will be alive tomorrow? And that feeling is not good.

So I am going to stop the madness. I am going to realize that people aren't sitting in their houses, car keys in hand, just waiting for me to exclaim that there's surprisingly little traffic on the road so they can scramble into their cars and hightail it to where I'm driving. It's not the case.

If your thoughts play a large part in determining your destiny, which I believe, then I am going to shake off my fear of positive thoughts. I will think them and I will embrace them. I think--no, I know--it will go well.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Twelve Year Honeymoon is Over



Ode to Kitty

He used to be the king,
So it really is a shame.
Now he doesn't rule a thing
And we know just who's to blame.

She's up early in the morning
And sometimes late into the night.
She squawks without a warning.
It simply isn't right.

Life used to be relaxing,
But now his days are long and tough.
Her attention can be taxing
As she tends to play quite rough.

She loves to tug his ears
And smack him on the face.
She plays on his darkest fears
And there is no hiding place.

When he's stretched out in recline
She spreads her arms out wide,
Careens like Frankenstein,
And body-slams his side.

He lurks behind the door
But it is to no avail.
She hurries back for more
And trods upon his tail.

Each night when she finally goes
He accuses and complains.
But despite it all,
I hope he knows
We love him just the same.

Well, maybe not quite as much as we used to.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Striving for Imperfection

A few weeks ago I wrote my first blog post, making the switch from long-time editor to first-time writer. I was chomping at the bit to do it, but still it wasn't easy--I had to constantly fight the editorial impulses that are my second nature at this point, little dams that kept coming down and down, over and over, in their attempts to staunch and correct the words that were trying to pour out of me.

Because I was attending Jennifer Lauck's writing workshop when I began this blog, I had the wonderful opportunity to read my first post and receive her feedback (and the group's), revealing for me quite clearly the yawning chasm of difference between an editor (me) and a writing teacher (her). That night, I revised my piece considerably, and now I am actually happy with it. It fits now, it's just what I wanted to write, and it feels good. EXCEPT: I can't post it. I'm not allowed. I must let that first draft--cluttered with all of those clunky sentences I've cut or changed, missing all of the details and additions that really brought the piece home--sit there like a big pile of dirty dishes, a river of spilled milk, a boil on the face of my shiny new blog.

Because that is part of my work now: to unleash the picky editor in me, to unlock the doors of my own creativity that have been closed for years in service to the creativity of others. I love editorial work and will continue to do it, but I will no longer be defined by it. And I am profoundly lucky to have supporters who are helping to shepherd me through this transition, and who are not afraid to give me the kind of tough lessons I have dished out myself from time to time. Blogs are not meant to be perfect. You cannot post your revision--just move ahead with the next post and don't look back.

Now, one might accuse me of cheating by even writing this post, but hey, I'm not supposed to be perfect, and I didn't mention a single specific change in my revised piece...like how the beginning is totally different and much better now. And so far I am still posting with dictionary.com open at all times in the next window, but it's only been two weeks. Give me time and I'll keep working on letting go.

Plus, Carrie Link is linking to my blog today, and I certainly couldn't have my most recent entry be a haiku, could I? Yikes, that would never do!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Haiku for Belly in her stroller


Busy little crunch
Of Cheerios in your mouth.
For me, pure sweetness.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Simple Pleasures


Isabel and I spent the weekend in one of my very favorite places--the company of women. And on Saturday, dear friends of my dear friend gathered for brunch to celebrate friendship and her nuptials, coming this summer. Her 12-year old son has some change to swallow, but he is happy for her. It's been a long road for this amazing woman.

One of her friends--the beautiful artist friend I have met several times throughout the years--was buzzing with excitement over a gorgeous ring she had been obsessing about and finally bought at an estate auction house the night before. A large rectangular aquamarine sat confidently in a boxy, stacked gold setting that looked perfect with her long fingers. One look at that arresting, watery stone, that lovely muted gold, and you knew there was a rich history there. Although she got a great deal on it, it was not an easy purchase for an artist to make. But there was no buyer's remorse here: her smile sparkled brighter than the ring. She explained it this way:

Several months ago, she was browsing around an herbal wellness store with a friend who is a homeopathic doctor. She was casually sampling various scents when she came upon one that made her giggle and smile automatically. She smelled it again, and then went to put it back down with the others. Her friend immediately stopped her, asking why she would put back something that made her react that way? How could you ignore a reaction like that? So she realized something: the scent of grapefruit made her giggle. And since then, she has made an effort to buy grapefruits and the occasional grapefruit shampoo, or cream, or whatever to make her smile.

This artist makes jewelry and spends a great deal of time with beads. Recently, she realized that aquamarine did the same thing to her as grapefruit: it made her giggle. She thought many stones were beautiful, but for whatever reason the attraction was stronger with aquamarine--it worked with her chemisty, it made her happy.

So when she saw this ring, she fell in love. She figured out the money. She visited the ring, and counted the days until the auction. She wore an aquamarine bracelet to attract the ring to her, to make her hand seem a welcoming home. The old couple standing near her heard the story, and routed for her all the way. And as nervous as she was, she made herself keep bidding and made it happen.

What she didn't say, but I knew, was this: she learned about this auction house because of a heartbreaking family tragedy, and most of the time she spent there was very painful. The day I saw her, yesterday, was the one-year anniversary of this family tragedy--a very painful day. But we didn't talk about that at this bridesmaids brunch. Her finger sparkled with a blue-green light, a talisman that was not about materialism, but survival. Not about jewelry, but about finding strength in beauty and joy in something simple and precious.

I can't stop thinking about this ring and what it represents. How easy it seems but how hard it can be to find and hold our simple pleasures, to gather them around ourselves so they are there when we need them. Today, I was singing and dancing with Isabel to Lyle Lovett's album 'I Love Everybody.' I adore this album. I know every word, every note, every nuance of every chorus. I saw him in concert when he toured for this album, many years ago. And I asked myself: why is this the only Lyle Lovett album I own? How can I have ignored how happy it makes me? So I am going to buy more. And I am going to listen.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Eyes Wide Shut

I usually try to take the very best care of my daughter I can. Usually, but not always. Those moments when I bump up against my own limitations as a parent are certainly not my proudest, but so far they are not consuming me with guilt either. I don't want to passively accept my limitations--I always want to work to grow past them--but I do strive to accept myself in all of my flawed humanity, and I know that my parenting will be as flawed as the rest of me is.

Today I might continue with my work just a few minutes past when I should, as she sits waiting for me, awake in her crib. Just one more email honey, I'll be right there. Or I will reach for a baby food jar because I was too busy watching Grey's Anatomy last night to make her something better. I know this is pretty innocuous, but give me time...it will segue directly into parking her in front of the TV for hours on end as she noshes on fast food. Add a few more years to that and I'll really be ready to screw her up.

But I do try. I am decently careful and picky about what I feed her, what I read to her, what she plays with. I educate myself on what to expect, what to encourage, how to entertain and educate at the same time. But I bumped up against a thick brick wall of my own limitations today.

I am a big fan of Michelle O'Neil's blog and think she is an incredible parent. I've been reading her concerns about the dangers of vaccinations, following her links to more information, reading about it and discussing it like the concerned parent I fancy myself to be. My daughter has been getting her vaccines regularly, and has most of the big ones coming up in the next 6 months.

So I went to her check-up today armed with questions: How much mercury is in these vaccines? Why must they be given all at once like this--can't we space them out? How necessary is it, really, to pump my baby full of so much poison? My doctor, an intelligent and kind young women, respectfully addressed each question: only one infant shot has any mercury at all, and it's almost none; spacing them out just gives the baby more pain and more frequent side effects; most people feel it is a good idea to protect people from these life-threatening diseases.

And instead of challenging her, asking for more details, more specifics, following up in ANY way, I smiled and breathed a big sigh of relief. Phew! Okay, great, thanks for indulging me, see you in a month, have those needles ready! Pushing the stroller home, I realized: I did not ask those questions to get more information or even to protect my daughter. I only asked them so I could feel better. I wanted her to say just enough for me to feel okay about them, to not have to worry about things I don't understand, and I was very happy that that is exactly what she did.

So, limitless love, but limited parenting. Even as I write this, I still feel relieved, I still plan on proceeding with the vaccines just as they tell me too. All I can say is that I will remember this moment the next time I feel judgmental about someone else's parenting decisions.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Tortoise and the Hare

A long time ago but not so far away, a writer was living with one of her best friends. This woman (the writer) had always wanted to be a writer, from the time she was a little girl pouring her heart out in her diary, and she was talented and worked hard (I have read much her writing). Her friend (the roommate) was more all over the place--smart, beautiful, and clearly talented, although it was totally unclear in what. She tended to be too distracted by the details of life and her own mental struggles to do much about it. Also (and this will become important soon), the roommate was pretty set for money, for whatever reasons. The writer, as is often the case with writers, was not.

So they lived together happily, the writer toiling away at her craft (writing, revising, reading, teaching, checking in with her agent who was submitting her writing, getting rejected, writing more, revising again, struggling to come up with her half of the rent, etc.) and the roommate flitting around, cooking, dating, and wishing she had such passion and purpose. One day, inspired in part by her deep admiration for the writer, the roommate thought why don't I take a crack at writing too. So she sat down and spilled out a memoir about her particular mental struggles and how they caused her to lead her life. It was quick writing, quick reading, quite funny, and oddly touching.

The writer was excited for the roommate, knowing how she was always searching for something meaningful to do. She read the material, gave her advice and encouragement, and helped hook her up with an agent. Then, before you could utter the words "six figures"...can you guess where this is going?

The roommate got a huge book deal. It was very exciting, super quick, and for a lot of money. Now, the writer had never wanted anything but good things for the roommate, but this was a bit hard to swallow. Where was her book deal? She was the one for whom it was a life-long dream. Where was her money? She was the one who needed it, who had worked so damn hard for it. Every morning when she woke up and every night when she went to bed, there was the roommate, a sudden walking personification of everything she wanted and could not seem to get. She was consumed with envy.

For someone as kind as the writer is, a person who had taken refuge in the Buddha, this felt particularly wrong, so she went to her Rinpoche for help and he said this: every time you feel envious of the roommate, make her a salad. Do something kind, and caring, and good for her health, no matter how you feel. So that is what the writer did.

Newspapers and magazines announced the exciting book deal, and the collander in the sink filled up with greens. Wow, the publishers are throwing a big book party, something they almost never do anymore. Chop, chop, chop on the broccoli and peppers. It's been optioned for a movie! Throw in some dried cranberries, maybe hearts of palm? The Today Show appearance went great, only Oprah is left! Time to head to Chinatown for the really exotic vegetables--the grocery store is no longer cutting it.

As you can imagine, it was not an easy time for the writer. The thing is, it wasn't all that easy a time for the roommate either, no matter how it looked. She still had these same mental struggles, book deal or no, and with all of the publicity and excitement, she spun a bit out of control, began dating the wrong guy, and got involved in some things that were really not good for her, and that were very difficult to kick once you started. As the writer watched from the next room, wishing desperately that she could help but growing more and more powerless to do so, she learned something. It might take years, maybe forever, to get that book deal, but she had her writing, her passion and purpose, right now, every day. No one could take it away from her, and it was the most valuable thing in the world.

Fast forward to today: the writer is no longer in touch with the roommate, but she very much hopes she's doing well. The writer is finally supporting herself by writing books. It doesn't look quite the way she thought it would--she's left New York, and they aren't always the books she thought she'd write--but she is grateful and happy and talented and works hard, as she always has.

Blessing on all of your writing. It is the most important part.