Monday, June 8, 2009

This One is for Allie

My niece and avid (perhaps only) fan of my blog sent this email message to me this week:

I can't take one more day of disappointment!!! If you've turned your back on the blog world...just announce it already!!!
I love you, even if you don't update your blog.

So I'm taking this opportunity to save at least one person from disappointment (a truly noble endeavor, I think. After all, life is full of disappointments).

I was at a technological disadvantage for awhile in that my laptop only worked at 15 minute intervals before it would die and have to cool off before it could be used for another 15 minute span. I used all my limited computer time to work for the last few weeks. But as fate would have it, I received Allie's plea the SAME day that I got my new laptop.

I have not turned my back on the blog world, in fact I've wondered about all my blog friends:

I've hoped Pseudo is planning to have a relaxing summer working on her memoir/novel. I've worried about her migraines and the stress of the end of the year.

Ditto on the-end-of-year stress for Movie. I've hoped the drama has been a minimum for her lately.

I've wondered if Hollywood has come knocking at Vodka Mom's door offering to turn her hilarious blog into a blockbuster movie (staring Angelina as VM).

I've wondered about my principal friend, Beth, and what is happening in the publishing world with Kerfluffle. I've missed the humorous Austin observations over at The Bean. And I'm sure RockZee is far too busy starting her own advertising co to update her blog. I've wondered what the Idiot has stirred up as late and have missed the poignant observations of Slouching. (notice I'm too lame and lazy to link all these wonderings). There are many others that I have missed, too. I look forward to catching up with everyone this summer.

As for me, I'm a bit stuck at Mile 17. We still haven't found a house...long story. I guess I know what I'll be writing about in my next post!

It's good to be back. (though I hesitate to use the word "back" lest I disappoint certain people, again)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Groundhog Day Theory

I really like this movie, partly because I'm a huge Bill Murray fan. But the real reason this movie resonates with me is the idea that only when you offer the world your best do you get to move on to better things. It's not a great movie as far a acting goes and the plot is not that impressive, but I still love to watch it over and over.

The truth is real life is mundane and it's easy to get stuck in the safety of the routine. The routine is inescapable--I can't NOT feed the kids, clothe them, bathe them, send them off to school. I can't NOT feed myself, shower, get dressed, and take part in the world (though there are days when all this is done at a bare minimum).

My husband calls this last eighteen months of limbo "The Lost Year" (s0 he's a little off in the math). But I think of it as The Found Year. I spend far too much time in my head. Even as a child, I was over-thinking things. This time in Texas has allowed me to find a way out of my head. It has been an extremely healing, healthy time for me mentally and emotionally. I found forgiveness and found a way to forgive. I found a way to be joyful with my family in the midst of the mundane routines of life. I'm finding my writing voice again. However, I've come to realize that all that time in my head, healthy or not, makes for a very self-focused person.

Here comes the Groundhog Day part. Bill Murray's character starts off as a self-centered jerk, but ends up helping everyone in the little town of Puxatony, Pa. It's far-fetched and corny, but they might be onto something. Maybe the only way to move forward in this world is to help others.

I'm not sure exactly what I need to do or who I need to help, but I plan to enjoy finding out. I've been inspired by so many bloggers (one of the best parts of blogging has been all the amazing things people out there do to help one another through this crazy world). I'll let you know how it's going!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cleanslate City, Texas

I am no longer a resident of Limbo. Please forward all my mail to Cleanslate City, and you can start sending those mail order catalogs again. And the real estate ads--especially the real estate ads.

The view is nice here and the air is clean, but I'm sure Cleanslate City will soon be polluted with neurotic angst, doubts and uncertainty. Until then, pull up a chair, pour a glass of wine and enjoy all the possibilities.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Is Happiness a State or a State of Mind?

I don't live in Texas, not really. Yeah, sure my mailing address is Austin, Texas. And I haven't actually left the state of Texas in almost 18 months. Yes, my children go to school here and my husband works here. But really I live in Limbo (and quite happily, I might add).

For the last eighteen months it's been all about questions: When is the house in Connecticut going to sell? What were we thinking moving to Texas? How could we know that we put our house on the market at the beginning of #@$% recession? Should we rent out the house? Should we move back? What's more valuable: a mortgage in Connecticut or a job in Texas?

In the meantime, I've been thriving here in Limbo Land--grew my hair out, love wearing flip-flops year round, on much more stable land brain chemically speaking. Despite the financial burdens, life is simple and relatively stress free. I know, I'm weird.

Except this week has been a whole new limbo, what I like to call Yucky Limbo Land. We have accepted an offer on our house--which I realize should be super good news (remember how weird I am). And it is GOOD NEWS, except that we have to jump through 50 hoops of decreasing size before we get to the finish line. This is the kind of limbo I am very, very bad at. This is the kind of limbo where someone else gets to make all the decision. In my my Limbo, there were no decisions, only possibilities.

Do you see what I am getting at? Have I only been happy here because really it required very little of me? I don't really live here, I just MIGHT live here. And I know that the questions would have eventually worn me out (there have certainly been days like that in the past 18 months), but never having to make a decision was fun. I hate making decisions. I am lousy at making decisions (just ask my husband).

Right now the status in Yucky Limbo Land is that our CT house is undergoing the various inspections and then they will proceed. They will probably ask for us to pay for some repairs. My husband will probably get surly and refuse. The whole deal could fall through. Then I would be back in Limbo. But it wouldn't be the same.

Monday, March 23, 2009

80 Years

My dad celebrated his 80th Birthday this past weekend. That's him sitting in front of the cake as "Happy Birthday" is being sung. That's my oldest sister and me standing in the background, ready to swoop in and cut pieces of cake to pass out to the fifty or so members of the family that showed up for this tw0-day bash.

It was exactly the way my dad wanted it to be. On Friday night he sat around with his children and siblings making jokes and telling old stories. The weather was perfect, the barbecue was delicious and abundant, the jokes were as lame as ever and the stories had been told many times. A better evening could not have been scripted. Even my mother was on her very best behavior.

The party took place in my parents' front yard and most of the action was here under the carport. That's my dad holding court with his brother (standing) and his sisters and one of his brothers-in-law. People drove from California, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and all parts of Texas. Others flew in from Colorado, Washington and San Francisco. As Dad said, "I'm tickled and humbled to have so many people come from so far to celebrate with me."

On Saturday all my mom's sisters and their families joined the party. It was something to see my girls running around the yard and playing games with their second cousins, just like me and my cousins did at my grandparents farm in Oklahoma. And it was the farm stories that I liked to hear best. The continuity and stability of that life is most striking. It's been almost sixty years since my dad left the farm and headed to the northwest to become a logger. Despite somehow ending up in college and then seminary and becoming a minister in Idaho, Washington, Oklahoma, Colorado, Hawaii and eventually Texas, it is the years on the farm that still loom large in his memory.

Dad gave us quite a health scare last spring, but as you can see in the pictures he is doing very well now. In the last year both my parents have started to show the years and suffer the inevitable consequences of aging. There was a poignancy to this gathering, an unspoken need to celebrate before...before the next gathering is for a far different reason. Happy Birthday, Dad, and please know that I am far from being done with listening to the lame jokes and the old stories.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mile 17

Forty days after my wedding I ran a marathon, my first and my new husband's sixth. It was the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, Vermont on an unseasonably warm Memorial Day Weekend in 1999. I have been a runner for a long time, but this was by far the longest race I had ever done. We had trained for it together, our race preparation nearly as important as the wedding plans.

The day was beautiful and sunny and Burlington is a fun, funky little town. My husband's entire family came to watch and celebrate after, as they did the year before when my husband and his sister ran it.

The race started well and I breezed through the first eleven miles, literally I felt light and lighthearted. I was quite impressed with myself, waving like a movie star at my new family members who popped up along the course to cheer us on.

The next five miles didn't feel so great. It felt like someone had poured concrete into my shoes as the late morning sun bared down on us. I trudged along, finally stopping to walk around Mile 16. I don't remember specifically any conversation we had, at least not on my part. My husband may have said something along the lines of "You just ran sixteen miles, you should be really proud of yourself." But that may just be an exhaustion-induced hallucination I was having or maybe he was cutting me some slack because we were newlyweds. We had established pretty early on in our relationship, he's more coach than cheerleader.

I do remember him walking over to a group of his family and saying "Find everybody, we are leaving the course." Maybe that's what did it or maybe it was the goo and Gatorade I had. As I continued to walk into Mile 17, I decided I was not going to walk off the course.

There was no flash of lightening or angels-singing-in-the-background epiphany. The moment of decision was rather fleeting in the face of the two hours of grit and determination that followed. Somewhere along Mile 17 I started running again. I ran, walked, limped and fought the urge to throw up until I finished the race in five hours and eight minutes.

I hold that fleeting moment of determination like a smooth stone in my pocket. It is there to quietly remind me that I can finish what I start. I've been reaching in to worry that stone quite a bit lately. It's not so much that I want to walk off the course, as I'm not sure what course I am following. I have been easily sidetracked by the grocery list and the bank statement and have forgotten that this race of being a mother and a writer is the only one that counts. I started this blog as the journey of a writer and I'm not going to walk off the course.

Stepping away from the blog for awhile reminded me of a time I left a boogie board along the edge of the beach in Hawaii. When I sat up from my suntanning spot to survey the shoreline later, the board had drifted out into the water. I went jumping through the little waves trying to retrieve it, but the farther I went out, the farther away it got until it was a pink dot on the horizon. Things can too easily drift away.

So, I'm back.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Cue the Muzak while I put the blog world on hold for a little while...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ode to Darcie and Duran Duran

Two things happened recently to put in an 1980's frame of mind. This week The Bean had this great blast from the past post about a Duran Duran concert. The other thing is a phone conversation I recently had with one of my best friends from high school, Darcie, a.k.a. Mrs. Simon Le Bon. Darcie is very lucky that all my pictures from high school are still packed away in Connecticut, or I would be able to show the blog world how she had the exact same haircut as the one Simon is sporting here on the cover of Popcorn.

It was great to catch up with Darcie, something we only manage to do about once a year. But despite the lack of actual contact, I always feel a very close connection with Darcie. Maybe because I met my husband at her wedding, but I think it's more because she was one of the few people who really got me in high school. That's not to say I didn't have friends who loved me, friends I still hold dear. But Darcie understood me and loved me anyway. I could always be myself when I was with her--no small feat in high school.

Darcie started her own branding business (don't think cattle) a few years back. Now she works exclusively with one famous chef, hobnobbing with Hollywood types and hanging out in Green Rooms. And while she has been a single mom for a long time, wiping her fair share of noses and butts, I don't think our current lives remotely resemble each other. I will not be skiing in Aspen this year with any famous chef's families.

It was so great to catch up with Darcie and I am so, so proud of all her hard work. But I also giggle everytime I think of her and her Simon Le Bon haircut. Seriously, it was the exact same haircut.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

I don't devote whole posts specifically to my girls often for many reasons. I haven't written much about my Biggest in particular because in some ways she is sacred ground to me. She is such a funny combination of character traits and gene compilation, mere words don't seem to do her justice.

At age 8, she loves math and science, yet she asked for an art set for Christmas because she wants to be an animator when she grows up. She laughs at all my lame jokes. She laughs often and with heart. She plays with her little sisters, calling Middlest her best friend. She can amuse herself for hours. She doesn't given up, although she can be easily frustrated. But eventually she tries again and again, until she succeeds.

When she was nine months old she stopped growing. Failure to thrive, the doctors called it, as it stretched into 12 months and 18 months. Every test was performed, every specialist was seen. She was tiny, weighing less than 18 pounds on her second birthday. But she was thriving, answering doctors questions in complete sentences. And slowly she made her way back onto the growth charts and we made our way out of that dark and confusing time that lacked answers, but was full of miracles.

We call her the Diplomat because she always tries to be fair to both sides. Which one is your favorite? her dad always wants to know. Both, she always answers. Both friends, both toys, both characters, both moments.

She has played and loved soccer since she was three. She has a plan. She plans to play soccer all through school, maybe even in college, maybe even professionally. Maybe the Olympics. Then she will be an animator. Or a teacher. Or an art teacher and soccer coach.

I know she is only eight and the long road ahead only get harder. But I think this one is going to be okay. She may not always laugh at all my lame jokes, but I will always be her biggest fan.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

some Thoughts on books

I am currently reading The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy for work. Roy likes to capitalize certain words for Emphasis and now I strangely find myself thinking Random Thoughts with capital letters. (I do this when I read, take on the author's writing style for all thoughts in My Brain). I'm not sure what I would think of this book if I was Just Reading it for pleasure. The story is strange, somehow simultaneously Vulgar and Beautiful.

The last few books I have read for work have all had Bengali origins, though I didn't do this necessarily On Purpose. Before the Roy novel I read Banker to the Poor, which is the autobiography of micro-credit guru Muhammad Yunus. His lending to the poor had a profound effect on poverty in Bangladesh, as well as other places where his bank model has been replicated. With the mess of our stalwart American banking system I have to believe he has a point: Capitalism for Greed's Sake serves no one, not even the greedy capitalist. Capitalism for the promotion of Better Lives can be a positive, transforming tool.

I also did a lesson plan for The Interpreter of Maladies, the Pulitzer winning collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. I have to say I liked her second story collection better, Unacustomed Earth. Her stories were so beautifully, Profoundly Simple.

Some things--like poverty, aspirations, tragedy, motherhood--Transcend Culture.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Mrs. Robinson's neighborhood, part 2

Okay, I can't get The Graduate out of my head. Pseudonymous mentioned the water imagery in her comment and now I am curious about that. The pool scenes are great. Did you know that The Bee Movie (animated Jerry Seinfeld) does a take on a pool scene from The Graduate? Very clever.

But what is all Mrs. Robinson's anger about? She is really, really angry. Does she love Ben? What was he to her? Why is Elaine interested in him after she knows he slept with her mother? That might be a deal breaker for me.

And the last scene on the bus: Are they sorry they ran away with each other?

Any and all thoughts are welcome!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mrs. Robinson's Neighborhood

We watched The Graduate last night, which I don't think I'd ever seen in it's entirety before. I liked it--all that what-to-do-with-my-life-especially-now-that-I've-slept-with-someone's-mother angst ...until it dawned on me that I am roughly the same age as Mrs. Robinson. Yikes!!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Old Woman Winter

January kicked my butt. It was a long month. I limped to the end with aches and pains everywhere, feeling old and feeble. There were many reasons for this--husband working 80 hour weeks, family obligations, increased work load, etc--but I felt it more than usual this time. I felt OLD.

Monday night I dragged my tired, 40 year old butt to book group, grumbling to myself about my exhausting-never-feel-caught-up lot in life. I got a glass of wine and joined a group of women chatting before the book discussion got underway. One of the women had just returned to book group after being out of it for several months, so we had not met before. This particular group has been going for over six years, but I joined about six months ago.

Robin was catching the other members up on the status of her paraplegic husband who had undergone extensive surgery to put rods in his back a month ago. Except both rods had broken. She matter-of-factly explained that they were devastated by this turn of events because the rods were supposed to allow him greater stability. He had even lined up a series of interviews and the family was looking foward to a "normal" life. Now they were back to square one and the broken rods had damaged tissue and caused a massive infection. This woman was kind and warm and quietly noble.

I turned off the little violens and whimpering voices in my head. I am tired. My body is aging. I do feel overwhelmed. And I am so, so grateful.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Six more weeks? If only!

I'm a big fan of Groundhog Day. I like to think that someone out there has some kind of answers, and it stands to reason that a creature who spends so much time underground would be tapped into some kind of earthy wisdom.

But this year, I don't really care if there are six more weeks of winter--winters here in Texas are not so bad. What I really need to know the groundhog can't tell me. I need reassurance and facts far beyond the weather. So, unless he is coming over to do a few loads of laundry or cook dinner or put a bunch of bankers in jail, I don't find him particularly helpful this year.

Happy Groundhog Day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Superior Moments

I'm a great aunt (no hyperbole, really)! Introducing my great nephew Levi, pictured here with his bevy of beautiful cousins. I remember the day Levi's mom, my niece Allison, was brought home from the hospital and she was so tiny my sister dressed her in a pink doll dress. I can clearly remember the first time she was put into my nine year old arms. Now she is a serene and amazing mom of this little guy. Kinda blows my mind!!

This is Littlest on her way to her first day in school!! We both survived.

My dear, dear blog friend Pseudonymous High School Teacher honored me with an award this week. The blog that originated this award, Scholastic Scribe, started on my 40th birthday (a random yet interesting fact).
I pass this on to a couple of Austin bloggers Rockzee and The Bean. (Not quite five, but two well deserving) They will find the rules here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Career (Mis)Management Monday

Tomorrow is a big day for me, both professionally and as a mom. Professionally, I have reached the point where I feel competent enough in my freelance income generating ability to warrant sending littlest to school two days a week. This may not sound like a big deal, but trust me--it's HUGE. I have the income coming in to pay for her schooling and still help keep the family from teetering over the edge of financial ruin (barely). It feels pretty damn good.

As a mom, in eight years I have been away from my children rarely. There have been a few date nights, one school overnight trip when I was teaching and an afternoon of traded babysitting with a neighbor here and there. I don't say this to get my card punched in the Mommy Martyr Hall of Fame. It was quite deliberate on my part. I grew up with a mom who wasn't there for me, even when she was in the same room. I want to be there for my daughters and have probably gone a little too far in the other direction.

Tomorrow I will drop Littlest off and be child-free for seven hours. Ack! I will get tons of work done (after I cry my eyes out and throw-up). Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fourth photo

I saw this over at only a movie and thought it would be fun.

The rules of the game:

1. Go to the the 4th folder where you keep your pictures on your computer.

2. Post the 4th picture in the folder.

3. Explain the photo.

4. Tag 4 fellow bloggers to join in the fun!

So here is the fourth photo from my fourth photo folder's not too exciting. This is Biggest's second Christmas. This is our first Christmas in our CT house (yes, that is the arm of a plastic chair that was an integral part of my living room furniture at the time). I think we cut that tree down ourselves. Wait, now I remember we got that tree at the locally owned nursery just down the road from us. We bought our first flowers for our gardens there in the summer. Biggest loved it because she could ride around in a little red wagon while we perused the rows and rows of plants outside. We came back and bought our tree from them and the owner had three teenage daughters who worked in the shop. I remember thinking maybe I would have three daughter and raise them in these Connecticut woods...

So now I tag pseudo, beth, kerfuffle and VM (she so loves to be tagged).