Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Vision, Not the View

When we moved back to New England five, almost six, years ago, we had to refresh our knowledge on the local political topics. One that was – and still is – getting a lot of press is an offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound, off Cape Cod. The project is called Cape Wind.

There are small wind power projects around the area – a town a bit north of us has one and is installing a second. There’s one along the highway into the city that looks really cool at night when they light it with colored lights. They are well-designed, sleek windmills, and I think rather interesting to look at.

The windmills of Cape Wind will be in a shoally area miles from shore, and they will generate 75% of the electricity needed by the Cape and Islands (Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Elizabeth Islands, including Cuttyhunk) – among many, many other benefits. They have had favorable evaluations from numerous environmental groups, aviation groups, and the Army Corp of Engineers. They have funding to build – and a decommissioning plan for years in the future. It’s not a perfect project (is there such a thing), but it’s pretty darn good, and we have to start somewhere. I think this is a good place to start.

But they are still stuck and can’t go anywhere. Mostly because of political maneuvering around regulations and permitting by people who think their views are going to be “ruined.” A senator from an Irish-American dynasty who typically champions the environment and a losing presidential candidate among them. Ahem. Tensions remain high around the issue, especially on the outer Cape and on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Sadly, like many issues, this has become a somewhat divisive one - a rift you can see daily represented on the backs of cars zooming up and down the highway to Cape Cod.

In the summer of 2004 we were extremely fortunate to take the kids on a trip to Ireland. We have friends there – friends we met while we lived in the south – and we had a great time. While in County Clare we stayed in a cottage overlooking the Atlantic and the Aran Islands. It was stunning.

There are windmills on the Arans, and along the coast of County Galway. It didn’t ruin the view at all. If anything, the rhythmic nature of the turning arms contributed to the calmness of the scene. Really. I wondered what the hell all the fuss was about back here.

When we arrived home, I decided to try to do something and drafted a letter to the Irish-American senator mentioned above. But I didn’t send it. I don’t know why, really. I had plenty of excuses – months old baby, going back to work, all that. The letter sat.

Over the next year, I met a person who was and is very active in supporting Cape Wind. He has been the interim rector at our church – Father B.

Watching Father B come into our fairly conservative old New England congregation and turn so many opinions around was inspiring. Even the crotchety old sexton now has a Cape Wind Yes! sticker on the back of his van. While competently performing all his other duties as a parish priest, he was able to convey eloquently how he feels that supporting this renewable energy source was a part of his spirituality and completely meshed with his religious views. I can’t begin to summarize all that here, but trust me, it was inspiring.

I took out that draft of a letter and started a little online research to revise it. It was then I found articles written by Father B that use the title I use above – that this is about “the vision, not the view.”

What a perfect way to summarize, I think.

I finished that letter (a darn good one, I think) to the senator and mailed it off. Of course, I haven’t heard anything back. I didn’t expect to. But I was and am glad to be a voice in supporting what I think is right. I also wrote a personal note to Father B saying how much his efforts impressed me and I was glad he was with our church. Nice guy, that Father B.

The botton line is that we need projects like Cape Wind, and we need them now. And we need more Father Bs and more yous and more mes to support them.

In an interesting twist, Father B is due to leave our parish in March. We are coming close to finding a new permanent rector and there’s another parish that needs him….on Nantucket.

(Also, if you get a chance, check out the article on Samso, Denmark in the February, 2007 issue of Outside magazine. The carbon-negative talk gets a little overdone, I think, but reading about the economic implications of the turbines was fascinating. People living off the revenue generated by a single windmill – that is, requiring no other income! Can I put one in my backyard?)

Monday, January 29, 2007

If Anyone Says I Have a Case of the Mondays, I Will Smack Them

I had one of those weekend that sucked for no real reason. Consequently my Monday morning feels suckier than usual.

So what did I do this weekend?


Friday evening...made dinner...got the kids to bed...finally booked a place for a some skiing over winter break...watched "Vanity Fair" (which sucked).

Saturday....made breakfast...waiting online for TWO HOURS for baseball tickets, then got crappy seats to our third choice game...had major conflict with M...made lunch...settle S for a nap...did manage to row for an hour (12, 314 meters, or 7.65 miles)...returned a pair of mislabeled ski pants...bought dog food...made dinner...helped C and his friend get some music off iTunes (having forgotten how funny Weird Al is to preadolescent boys)...watched "Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby" while folding laundry (it was okay).

Sunday...made breakfast...made it to church, even staying for the annual meeting...made lunch...settled S for a nap....rowed again (6000 meters, or 3.7 miles)...went to the grocery store while husband and kids when on a short hike with some friends...made dinner...scrambled to help M with a project for school...more laundry...managed to forget to watch "Jane Eyre" on Masterpiece Theater, even though I had been looking forward to it for a week..

And that was about it. It was one of those weekends when I felt like I am losing my identity as an individual.

So I sit here wondering what the hell it is I want to be when I grow up. How do I figure it out at make it happen? Meanwhile the to do list for everyday life is a mile long.

To paraphrase David Byrne and Talking Heads, "Well, how did I get here?"

Friday, January 26, 2007

Just Can't Go There

Over the next few months, expect more posts relating to C's illness four years ago. I am trying to head off what happened last year, when, during the approach to the anniversary of his illness, I became extremely angry, almost debilitatingly so. I must process this in a more constructive manner. For my sake, for C's sake, for everyone's.

For the last day or so, I have been remembering reaction to C's illness, specifically the reaction of friends after the worst of it was over.

We were extremely fortunate to have the support of many family and friends during and immediately after the illness. However, there were some people - people to whom we had been quite close at one time - who somehow didn't get called or whatever during the crisis. That wasn't intentional. My brain wasn't exactly working right.

Immediately after C came home, we decided to apply our efforts to raising money for the hospital as part of a fundraising walk. Ironically, my husband and I had discussed participating prior to C's illness, but now it meant so much more to us. We took out the Christmas card list, wrote a letter about what had just happened and about the walk, and sent it out.

After the letters went out, we had many, many calls and cards of support, and significant financial contributions for the walk. It was a lovely outpouring. I'm still touched by it, and so pleased we could give back to the hospital so soon after they did so much for us. (And we continue to participate in the walk every year - more on that in May or so.)

Interestingly, we realized that there were several couples/families from whom we never heard a word. People we had been close (or closer) to. And in each case, C's illness seems to have been the catalyst to the relationship becoming a Christmas-card only relationship, in spite of later attempts at further contact by us.

It's sad, but I think I understand it.

What happened to C was beyond scary. Facing what happened means accepting the impermanence of life and how fragile it all is. It's a hard thing to think about. And thinking about it, for some people, means accepting that fragility in one's own life. I can see how one would not want to go there. The idea that a healthy, active 7 year old boy could be struck down so quickly and critically by (probably) a germ that is around us all the time...well, are you squirming in your seat thinking about it? I am.

So we have let these relationships go. It's sad, but it's okay. I respect them. Perhaps, if it I had been in their shoes, I would have reacted similarly. I don't know.

There are also a few people who think that we should be over this whole illness thing already - and have said some truly dumb things to that end. Hey, there's not one who would like to be "over" it more than me, but, as I have learned, it just doesn't work that way.

I am thankful everyday for the life and health of C, and the life and health of everyone in my family - but C's illness changed us. I remember bringing him home from the hospital, looking at the family pictures on the wall, and thinking, "Who are those people? I don't know them."

In addition to the process of recovery for C (some aspects of which took years - and some bits of which are ongoing), we had to heal as a family. We had to build a new foundation as we grieved for the innocence we lost when the code was being called in the hospital. And grief is a process. For months my husband I both cried every day. We felt fragile for so very long even as we need to be strong for our boys.

We don't dwell on this at home. I think we've done a good job of moving the kids and the family forward. It may seem like I focus on this issue all the time, but I really don't.

Clearly, I am not "over" it, much as I or others might like me to be. But like the friends with whom we have lost closeness, I respect the situation. For them to understand why it is not "over" would mean that they would have to face and understand what those weeks in the hospital and the process of C's recovery have meant.

And I don't wish that on anyone.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

One of the guys I work with is not a native English speaker. English is his third language, I believe, after Russian and Hebrew. 99% of the time, it's not an issue. In fact, often his communication skills are better than most of the native English speakers in the office.

But every once in a while, he confuses a word or two.

A couple of years ago, this guy sent an email to several of us about a change he needed to make on the test systems. At the end of the message, he tried to write, "Sorry for the inconvenience."

What he actually wrote was, "Sorry for the incontinence."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Science Fair Season

(My, I'm chatty the last few days!)

Yesterday M brought home an entry form for the Science Fair. C should bring home an entry form today. Although we've been talking about potential topics for months, it's decision time.

Last year C won 2nd place in his division with a project on engineering the Hagia Sophia, demonstrated with cantaloupes (er, musk melons). M won third place in his division with a project on hurricanes. Two years ago, C won 2nd place with a project on steam engines, including a steam engine made out of balsa wood, copper pipe and a candle.

This year, M thinks he wants to do something on black holes. C is still considering. Extracting onion DNA, perhaps. Or some thing about the coliseum in Rome (did you know it had a retractable roof? C says it's the basis of design for modern retractable roof stadiums). My husband brought out some back issues of Make to give him some ideas. Do you know that magazine? Geek heaven.

I scoured the forms and attached information page to figure out whether there would be "winners" this year. Yes, looks like there's something to actually be won. The first, second and third place winners in each category (experimental, illustrative or technology) receive small trophies. The honorable mentions receive medals. Everyone receives a certificate of appreciation and participation.

A couple of months ago, all the families that participated in last year's fair received letters from the district coordinator. This letter included a survey about whether we, as participants, wanted there to be trophies. That is, did we want competition as part of the fair.

It seems that after last year's fair, a parent, who did NOT have a child participating in the fair, approached the district coordinator after the fair and said that she felt that it was wrong to have it be a competitive event. That no kid should receive anything other than a certificate of appreciation. Participating should be its own reward.

Oh please.

The coordinator said that she would be willing to look into the issue and survey participants, but before that could happen, this parent went to the PTA to complain that they should not support the purchasing of trophies for the Science Fair because it was unfair and everyone should just get certificates. She managed to make a pretty good stink about it before anyone directly involved had a chance to respond in a constructive manner.

Again, let me reiterate: this person did not have a child participating in the fair.

The Science Fair in our town is a completely optional event. It takes place on a Saturday in the spring (usually a beautiful Saturday when everyone would prefer to be outdoors), and relies on volunteers from the community - not just schools - to make it run. There's a research institute in town that offers significant support with financial contributions (the PTA pays for only a portion of the cost of the trophies and certificates) and by encouraging staff to be judges. It's well-done. If anything, it could use MORE support from the school community.

I immediately wrote an email to the district coordinator that said essentially this:

"My boys enjoy participating in the Science Fair, and they enjoy the competitive nature of it (and that's not just because we are three for three for trophies). The competitive aspect of the Fair pushes them to try a little harder, be a little more creative in their thinking and stretch themselves. I don’t think they would be as interested in it if there were no trophies for which to compete. Sure, there’s the possibility they will be disappointed, and it’s my job as a parent to help them manage that possibility, as well as learn how to be gracious winners if they do well. I’m not afraid of that task.

Competition is a part of life. While I do not want it to overwhelm my children and dominate their activities, some is healthy. And I think in this small arena, it’s good. I prefer it be introduced at the younger grade levels in the context of the Science Fair rather than on the soccer field or baseball diamond (given some of the sports-crazy fathers in town).

Yes to trophies."

This person who is so bent on removing competition? She'd better be consistent and be asking to remove all competition. In that case, there would be no entries to go to the state level for the Reflections program. Classrooms competing for a pizza party by how many boxtops or pennies they bring in? That would have to be out, too, I think. What about the competition to draw a cover for the school directory?

After receiving that letter, I called my friend N. Her kids have been more consistent participants in the Science Fair and have the variety of results to prove it. She also thought it was silly and said her husband also wrote an email to the coordinator about it. We're both pleased to see there is still some competition in this year's fair.

Now, back to focusing on kicking some Science Fair butt.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Psst! Did you hear….

Did you play that game as a child where everyone sat in a circle, then one person whispers something in the ear of the person next to them, and that whispered thing is passed by whispering around the circle? And the funny part was how the whispered thing changed through the group?

A few years ago, there was an incident in town where a man in a car tried to follow a teenage girl home. The girl was smart and aware and went to the closest trusted house and called the police. The police stopped the man, questioned him (read: put the fear of God into him), but let him go as he had technically done nothing. The man was (is) a local. Eyes are on him.

Shortly thereafter a series of emails went around town. One woman had the presence of mind to email the police department and ask if it was true, and if so, what can we do. The police were responsive and supportive. Overall, though scary, it was a reassuring series of emails. We knew our police department was on top of things and we were reminded to talk to our kids about safety.

I think I received email on the topic seven or eight times. What was most interesting/amusing/disturbing was how the story of the actual incident was embellished.

By the time I received the last email, someone had added, “I heard that when they stopped him, he had kitty porn in the car!”

No, I did not spell that wrong. That is what it said.

What happened next did not win me any fans around town. I emailed back and said, “Disturbing as it may be, “kitty” porn is not illegal. However, had he been caught with “kiddie” porn, he would have been arrested on the spot. Let’s please keep our focus on the greater lesson here and not embellish what is already a scary thing. We need to talk to our kids about safety and be aware as a community.”

And people in town want to cut our education budget??

Snow in the Southwest

More than we've had in this area of New England this winter!

Enough, even, to build a snowman!

January Blahs

UPDATE: Apparently, I am not alone.

Don't know what it is, but I can't seem to shake the blahs for the last week or so. Among other things, I'm getting pissy really easily.

Speaking of being pissy, a note to the woman in the new Range Rover in the grocery store parking lot: If you have to make a 5-point turn to get out of your parking space, you clearly don't know how to drive the damn vehicle and so clearly SHOULD NOT BE!!

My exercise has sucked lately. Sucked. Distances I was able to row two weeks ago feel hard and exhausting. I have no idea why. I am eating healthier now so in theory it should be better. But it's not. Maybe I need to go back to Christmas cookies.

It's finally cold out. This is both good and bad.

I can't seem to get on top of the house. For several months there we were doing well with keeping things tidy, if not clean. But since mid-December or so, it's like a permanent disaster zone.

Received an email yesterday from a local friend. It was a bill of sorts. On New Years this friend invited our family to meet them and other friends of theirs at a local Chinese restaurant. We said we'd stop by for a few minutes as we had other plans. We did just that. We were there for 30 minutes, maybe. Ate exactly one scallion pancake, two crab rangoon and three chicken wings. Paid for our own drinks. Our bill for our "share" of the food is $30. Excuse me? I expected to contribute, and was told don't worry about it on that evening, but then THIRTY DOLLARS? For one scallion pancake, two crab rangoon and three chicken wings. The others were there for several hours. Ugh. I hate this. But I should have known. This happened a couple of times before, but years ago. We'll probably just give it to her to make nice, but avoid any such situation in the future.

Had to put a new set of tires on my car on Friday. Ouch.

Don't get me started on work.

If anyone sees my motivation anywhere, could you please return it?


Friday, January 19, 2007

Denny Doherty, RIP

From CNN today comes the word that Denny Doherty has passed away.

Denny Doherty was a member of the Mamas and the Papas in the '60s, but I will remember him most fondly as the Harbormaster on Theodore Tugboat.

When C was very small, Theodore Tugboat was a show on PBS. Produced in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, it was about the inhabitants of the Big Harbour (note that Canadian spelling). Theodore was similar to Thomas the Tank Engine, but - I think - far more enjoyable and appropriate for young children. Where the inhabitants of the Island of Sodor were grumpy and crabby, Theodore and his friends were mostly soft-spoken and kind. I used to enjoy watching the show with C because we both were calmer at the end of the half hour.

Doherty, as the Harbormaster, exuded a certain gentleness without being smarmy. (Meanwhile, the American narrator for Thomas is...George Carlin. Fitting, I guess.) Doherty was perfect for the role on many levels, including because he was a native of Nova Scotia and the characters and locations in Theordore were based on his childhood home. That brought a certain extra fondness, I think, that came through in his role. (I also loved that there were strong female characters.)

C used to make us sing the Theodore song to him as we were driving places. I can still sing it from heart:

Theodore, he's a tugboat and a friendly tugboat, too
Oh Theodore likes to do that things that friendly tugboats do
Pushing and a pulling in the great big harbor
In the great big world its so much fun
So many brand new things to discover
Waking with the sun gotta get the job done
Oh Theodore, and Emily
Foduck, Hank, and George and the Harbormaster, too...(ending musical flourish)

When we moved south we were disappointed that Theodore was not on the local PBS station. I had my brother-in-law tape numerous episodes for us. We watched those over and over and over. M, once born, became a fan, too, and now S likes to watch the tapes.

We went to Nova Scotia for a vacation several years ago and spent a couple of days in Halifax. They have a tugboat there decked out at Theodore for harbor tours. We took the boys out on the boat and they had a blast. It's one of my favorite memories from that trip.

Theodore Tugboat ceased production about five years ago. We were disappointed. We were sad that a really good children's show couldn't make it. Instead we get insipid shit that grates every nerve (big purple dinosaurs and flying dragons - don't get me started!).

When I told C this afternoon about Denny Doherty, he was sad. He said, "Oh, so now Theodore really can't come back."

For Denny Doherty, the Harbormaster, a moment of silence please.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thursday Night Tears

So here I am watching Grey's Anatomy, managing to remain fairly detached. Poking around the the Web.

Then George's father dies, and Christina approaches George. After a brief exchange come these lines:

George: I don't know how to live in a world where my father isn't.

Christina: That doesn't change.

Someone pass the tissue.

Suburban Code

There are certain understandings among the women in my town. One has to do with Tupperware-type parties.

You know, the type of “party” that is really meant to sell you something which you may or may not need. Tupperware, Southern Living at Home, Mary Kay, just to name a few.

The understanding is that, unless you are going through a major financial crisis or the cost of the items is utterly ridiculous, you will, if invited to such a party, purchase at least one something. A token. It is further understood that you are not to be invited to more than a couple of these parties per product line in any given year, unless you are an enthusiastic devotee.

I have adhered to this code, and I have some crap to prove it. Heck, someday in the future, I may need the support of these same women in my own business venture. I appreciate what they are trying to do.

In October I received an invitation to a Mary Kay party. An acquaintance in town had just started selling it and her neighbor was throwing a party to help her along. I responded that I would come. I went. I made a small purchase (sunscreen).

A day after this party, I received an invitation to a Mary Kay “skin care class” on a Friday morning November – same seller, different neighbor. As it was an opportunity for S to play with a friend, I agreed to go. This time I bought some lip balm.

I have subsequently received invitations to two additional Mary Kay parties. Same seller. Four parties in four months. That is so against code.

I also received several phone calls from this seller, telling me about some “great new products” that are "just up my alley."

I have done my duty. I have no interest in the line, but have purchased my token

Enough already. Were it not for other aspects of suburban code, I might say something. As it is, our children ride the same bus, our husbands are friendly, and it’s a freaking small town. I did create some convenient excuses not to attend the later parties.

But I’ll tell you what. This Mary Kay seller went straight to the top of my list for people to hit up for donations for the walk we do for the hospital every year. I’m sure she’ll make a nice contribution.

Just wish what I spent on that sunscreen and lip balm were tax-deductible!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Weather Update

Regarding this post.

The high was 21 today. Farenheit.

I'm not saying I like it this cold, but I can deal with it. We need it. And I did choose to live here.

If it holds, the cranberry bogs (just flooded, to protect the plants) will freeze and we can go skating.

Yeah, That Was Silly, and The Best Cooking Show

So. No suggestions for a new bag. I'm not surprised. It was a silly topic.

As it happens I found cool little number at TJMax this morning. While it doesn't address my desire for color (it's black), it's sleek, modern, and made of buttery soft leather. I've looked in vain for a photo of it on the 'net, but I did find a site for the company in Spain that makes it. Lupo of Barcelona. I got an excellent, excellent price on it. TJMax is awesome (and sister store Marshall's).

Of course, this evening comes the news that the computers of TJMax and Marshall's parent company were hacked and an unknown amount of customer information, including credit card data, has been compromised. Great.

We've been through this three times in the last year with other companies. Please no. Please not again.

I've decided the firmly stick my head in the sand on the above issue and talk about my favorite cooking show: Good Eats.

Ever watched Good Eats? With the quirky, geeky host Alton Brown? Science mixed with tasty grub.

Now, I enjoy cooking, but I enjoy watching cooking shows even more. Ina Garten, Giada Delaurentis, Emeril, Paula Deen. Well, Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee, not so much. But I watch A LOT of the Food Network.

From Good Eats, I finally learned to make good pancakes. Before Good Eats, I was trying to make donuts apparently (see "Flap Jack Do It Again"). I make pretty good fried chicken ("Fry Hard II: The Chicken"), cinnamon rolls ("House of the Rising Bun"), and many other things, all thanks to this show. I have started to collect the Good Eats DVDs and have been known to row to certain episodes for "motivation" (see "Art of Darkness III").

If it's on Good Eats, my there's a chance the food in question will cross my children's lips. A few days ago, C even said he'd be willing to try okra ("Okraphobia").


I almost took his temperature to see if he was ill. This is the boy who will not ingest potatoes unless they are in the french fry or chip form. No mashed potatoes. No latkes. No au gratin.

Last week C also wrote a letter to Alton Brown to ask about possibly purchasing a prop from one of the pie episodes (see "A Pie in Every Pocket"). I don't know if he'll ever really get a response (or if acquiring this prop is at all realistic on his allowance), but he had a lot of fun writing the letter and asking.

It's truly a show we all enjoy. So - if you haven't seen it - go find it....you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Evening Ramblings

WARNING! This post is completely, totally fluffy.

Part One

I need a new bag.

Perhaps "need" is to strong a word. "Really want" is more appropriate. I'm just bored with the bag I have.

I currently am using a medium zip tote from www.seatbeltbags.com. The color is a limited edition acquired last spring. I think it was called "Seashell" or some such. It's silver and pale gold webbing.

I like the bag well enough, and would consider something like the messenger bag, but for color options. I like to go beyond the basic colors. I don't know about the prints being offered in the seatbelt bags right now. I kinda like one of the new limited edition colors (Cherries Jubilee), but not enough to jump on it tonight like I would need to, and it's a little pricey for the actual size of the bag. Maybe I just need to go in a different direction for a bit. I could use something slightly roomier, too.

I've done the Vera Bradley route. Not looking to go back, but not ruling it out either. About five years ago Vera Bradley had a great silk plaid special edition bag that I loved. But it did not wear well. Generally speaking, Vera Bradley is so overdone in these parts. I'm not a Stepford Wife.

Kate Spade bags are pretty common here, too. Her bags have become cliche, I think.

I used to like Coach bags and would use bags for years at a time. I don't like the new Coach stuff. Too trendy. I did like their poppies bags about a year ago, but the cost was rather out of reach, and I wasn't the only one who took notice. They were a limited edition and were snapped up quickly.

I think this bag by Pia Wallen is just stunning. But can't justify it in leather (2650 Swedish Kroners = $378) and wool felt isn't what I am looking for for spring.

I had a bag by Brooke Lovett a while back - pink houndstooth "Tuesday." I like the size of the "Monday" bag, perhaps in brown velvet with pink lining. But not exactly spring-like, either.

I've used one of these Harken bags made out of sailcloth. Fine, functional, but not quite it, if you know what I mean.

I have a wallet that has been in use for almost five years. It's turquoise leather on the outside and lavender suede inside. It's made by Designers Guild. I'd love to find a bag with this level of style. I'd probably stick with it for quite a while. Of course such a bag probably has a certain level of price, too.

Even though I knit and could whip up something quickly, I'm not into the felted bag scene. Not quite refined enough.

If money were no object I'd probably pick out something from Hester van Eeghen's line. For now, however, those bags will have to remain a daydream.

I don't like the current trendy look with all the buckles and outer pockets and all that. Too fussy.

Suggestions, anyone?

Part Two

I've been renting a lot from Netflix. Love, love, love "Weeds." Mary-Louise Parker rocks.

I also enjoyed the first season of "Big Love." I might even have to get HBO before season two begins in April.

In watching all these movies and series, I have noticed that the song "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys is quite popular on soundtracks. The original version, covers...

Told ya. Fluffy.

Before and After

The other day I realized that when I think about various events in our life, I think of them in terms of whether they occurred before or after C was sick.

Before: My dad getting sick. K moving to town. Re building the front steps. Finishing the quilt for the living room wall. Innocence. Naivete.

After: My dad dying. My brother and his family visiting. Learning to surf. Rebuilding the rock wall along the driveway. S. Understanding that it could all be gone in a heartbeat.

About some things around that time, I am incredibly superstitious. For example, there's this one restaurant a couple of towns north. Our area isn't known for a plethora of decent dining opportunities, so decent restaurants tend to be latched onto with vigor. We had takeout from that restaurant the Saturday night before C became ill. I still cannot eat there, almost four years later.

It makes no sense. None. I know that restaurant has no relationship to C's illness. It had no bearing whatsoever. Heck, I can look back on photos from that weekend and see that C was already a bit unwell. But still, I can't go back there.

About other things, it's just a strong association and the difficult memories. For example, C and M have been asking to go skiing for a couple of years now. The last time we went skiing was - you guessed it - in the weeks before C became ill. In this case, it's more the memory than an aversion to skiing. Heck, I miss skiing, too, but it's freaking expensive taking a family of five to the slopes, and when two of the family members likely won't even make it onto the slopes (S and a parent), it sounds less appealing. I don't want to drive four hours to sit in a skanky lodge. But that last ski trip was great, and I had pictures from it up in C's ICU room. For days when C was in critical condition, I was afraid those were our last family pictures. That's a hard memory to get over. We're trying to plan a ski trip now, someplace where S can go to a little ski school so we all can get some enjoyment out of it. I find myself hampered by memories. Fears.

It's ridiculous, I know. Truly. I know.

A project I was involved in leading up to the time C was ill was running the PTA Reflections program for his school. I was an art major in college so I figured I should do something art-related in my volunteer work at the school. There was little that was artistic about the job - all bureaucracy (bureauCRAZY) and suburban housewife politics. Ick. C didn't even participate. But I completed the project and sent some interesting student artwork off to the state program (where it languished, but that's a whole 'nother story). I finished up the final paperwork and report to the PTA council the week before C became ill.

This year, for the first time, C decided to enter a piece in the Reflections program, and I've been bombarded by those little memories with "before he was sick" attached to them. This afternoon I picked up messages at home and C's piece has been selected to go on to the state level. The message also asks if we can make it to a little reception for all the participants on Friday afternoon. I remember doing that. Before, of course.

I'm thrilled for C. He's going to be pleased when I pick him up this afternoon. Yet I cannot shake this whole association with his illness.

This before and after thing is my own private hell.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Putting Yourself Out There....and Falling Flat on Your Ass

Sometimes, the extra efforts you make in life turn out swimmingly. Sometimes not.

Recently I decided to try to make contact with someone I knew long ago. As you might conclude from the title, it didn't go so well. Bear with me while I provide the backstory.

When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I had two best friends, A and D. We three did everything together. Everything. Our lockers were all in a row. Some matching clothing items, I think. We even had the friendship rings. We were going to be best friends forever. Uh huh.

In 8th grade, just a few days after my birthday, A and D started acting a little odd. Finally I asked them, during post-lunch recess, what was going on. They told me the didn't want to be my friend anymore. In fact, they hated me and never wanted to talk to me again. D did most of the talking, while A nodded along. They threw the friendship rings at me. I was crushed. I cried (a lot). It was awful. To this day, I do not know what happened; I do not know why.

Over the next four and a half years, we all still went to the same schools, we were all in band, and things like that. D, especially, was cruel and made comments or talked about me behind my back whenever possible. During the friendship I had glimpsed this side of her and so over time it was easy to write her off. But still, we walked it different circles and never spoke.

A tried to say hello to me a couple of times after the big blowout, but I could never bring myself to respond. I was too hurt. I moved my locker, hung out with new people (though I always felt like it was just because they felt sorry for me). I noticed in time that A and D weren't best buddies anymore. In high school, A's crowd was closer to mine, as were some activities. Again, we never really spoke.

I admit was rude to A in some situations. I had made marching band before she did, but she was brought in late season to fill a space. While she was trying to learn the routines, I was snappy. I yelled at her on the field what direction to go and such. Not my proudest moment.

I put a big defensive wall around myself where those two were concerned. Big. Tall. Thick. But I can also say that was one of the first times I felt my own determination to leave that town and go make it on my own terms. Much as my father pushed me academically, it was that inner drive that made a real difference.

Fast forward fifteen years. We are living in North Carolina and planning a summer trip to New England for my husband's cousin's wedding. She is having her reception at their mutual grandmother's house, as we did. It's a place all the grandchildren know and love from many summers and holidays. The bride sent us a new commercial map of the area - one of those maps put out by business associations that highlight local businesses that have paid into the association. Looking through the map, I see an ad for a real estate company. The name is the same surname as A.

A's surname was not a common one. Her parents were in real estate back when I knew her. It can't be, but it must be. I go to the Internet and find their Web pages. It has a photograph...and it's the parents. I call my one high school contact who, conveniently, lived across the street from A and pimp her for information. The parents had moved but A was still out there. Interesting.

It was amazing how all the thirteen year old feelings came right back to the surface that day.

I still had no idea why A's parents would move to that small town, next to the small town where my husband spent summers, where we were married, where his mother is buried, but there was too much going on in my life to consider it. We went to the wedding, had a lovely time...but in the back of my mind, I worried about encountering the parents by accident.

Fast forward another two years. We are living in New England again, about forty miles from the grandmother's house. We establish a new family tradition for Father's Day. We plan to drive down to my mother-in-law's grave and clean it up and plant flowers, spend the day in that area with various activities and end the day at a local restaurant. Driving around the area each year, we see several of the real estate signs. Each time I am reminded of my adolescent self. It's not comfortable.

In the meantime, I see A's sister in magazines. She's done some interesting things in her life.

Then, about eighteen months ago, D contacts me. Really. D send me an email and apologizes for her behavior. She says she doesn't remember what really happened, but is sorry anyway. I knew people would be able to find me after my father's obituary was in the paper, but I never expected D. I accept her apology and say we should write it off to the trials of adolescence. She seems to want to become friends, but I don't think I can quite do that. Anyway, it's an interesting turn of events.

D's contact and apology had me thinking. Isn't it about time I make some peace with my thirteen year old self and my life out west? I'm pushing 40 here. It's about time.

Last summer, after another Father's Day and seeing those real estate signs, I did a Web search on A's last name. I found her grandmother's obituary, and understand that her parents moved back here to care for her. And in reading the obituary, A's family and my husband's family may well have crossed paths over the years, in several generations.

And now we get to the present. In the December issue of a magazine was an article on A's sister. I decided it was time to make contact. I sat down and wrote an email (retrieved from the real estate company's Web site) to A's mom reintroducing myself and explaining that I thought it was interesting that people who knew each other decades ago on the other side of the continent might have other connections as well. Offered some details on possible connections, and was honest about how I figured out those connections. Said I was sorry that I had put up such a wall in high school. And so on.

So I put myself out there. And I have heard back....exactly nothing.

I'm not expecting that A and I will become best friends again. I'm not expecting a jolly and frequent correspondence. I thought maybe I'd hear a "Hi, nice to hear from you, yes, I think these connections are interesting, hope you're well," and so on.

But nothing. Silence is cruel. I feel like I have made a complete ass out of myself.

I'm thirteen all over again.

Monday, January 08, 2007

California Dreamin' on Such a Winter's Day

Except it's not so winter-like outside. And not necessarily California, but sun in general, and wishing the weather would go one way or the other, dammit. Preferably toward winter, at least for a little while.

There are robins on the lawn, the magnolia is trying hard to bloom, there are buds on the hydrangeas and daffodil shoots on the edges of the planting beds. It is January 8, 2007.

Wrong, on so many levels.

Not that I love shovelling snow, much less driving in it, but one of the things I love about New England is seasons. I didn't have those growing up.

I love the first real coating snow in winter. When it gets so quiet and still out and you can watch the wonder on children's faces.

I love the week in spring when the buds on shrubs and trees burst into that new bright spring green.

I love the lazy days of summer that, though hot and humid, stretch into late evenings of eating dinner on the beach or screened porch.

I love the change of colors in the fall, when the oranges and golds on the trees seem to make the fading light glow.

Honestly we need a good hard freeze for a week or so. Yes, I know the buds and sprouts that are emerging already are going to burn, and when they actually do bloom the edges will be tinged with brown, but we still need a hard freeze. Even if just for practicality's sake.

If we don't get a hard freeze it will be a bad roadkill spring. Think about it. Eau de flat skunk.

If we don't get a hard freeze, flowers will bloom too soon and we'll have a colorless mid-growing season. And the annual weeds in lawns and planting beds will become even more firmly established.

If we don't get a hard freeze, it will be a bad tick year - for animals and humans alike

If we don't get a hard freeze, there will be no skating on the cranberry bogs.

If we don't get a hard freeze, there will be no bundling up for some activity with the promise of a warm fire and hot cocoa at the end of our efforts.

If we don't get a hard freeze, the sense of renewal with spring won't bring the same joyous promise of rebirth.

Of course, if we don't get a hard freeze, the winter heating bill will be more manageable.

Can't win, I guess.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Morning Light

Happy New Year!!