Friday, September 26, 2014
Silly me. I thought things would slow down a bit when school commenced this fall. I thought I'd have a moment to collect my thoughts, to sit down at my computer and write some beautiful blog posts I could share with you.
But no. Work, school activities, extracurricular activities, and housekeeping chores have crowded out space not just in my schedule, but in my mind. Clearly, this year's challenge will be to carve out time to slow down, reflect, and make sure life doesn't skate by without my taking notice.
Being busy is good.
In fact, I feel gratitude every day, because I wake up to a full schedule of clients and stacks of books that are challenging me to think and teach in different ways. I relish the enthusiasm my children display towards math, science, reading, art, basketball, speed skating, choir, and piano. I marvel at the way they are slowly revealing to me who they are, answering the questions about their passions, their creativity, their unique talents that I asked when I held them in the hospital on the days they were born. I thank my incredibly committed husband, who works 7 days a week and lately travels often, for persevering against all odds and building a business from the ground up, something many don't have the stomach to do.
But this busy-ness. It comes with risks, risks of focusing on getting through the day and the task to the exclusion of actually noticing what happened and enjoying it. Perhaps this blog will help me avoid this risk and enjoy the crazy days. I hope so, because they aren't going to end. Any. Time. Soon.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
This summer I found out there's a chalk paint cult following. There is a small group of people in your community that is, right now, painting, waxing, distressing, and buffing chairs from flea markets, beds from grandma's garage, forgotten attic mirrors, and other items they once thought they detested.
These people will transform these items, ohh and ahh over the amazing results, top them with flowers and pictures, then quickly search for the next item to tackle. They cannot stop…
I jumped into this creative and crafty community with trepidation because, although I love art, and I love to make things with my hands, I'm also terrible at it.
But a friend of mine, who knew I had a tight decorating budget, pushed me. Because she has exquisite taste, and because she owns a home that ought to be plastered on the front page of a decorating magazine, and because her design aesthetic is a perfect model of gorgeous, affluent, yet comfortable living, I responded.
During the four years I lived with my parents, my mother introduced my son to the piano. A former teacher, she taught him until he was hooked, then found a fabulous teacher to carry on from there. My son loves to play, and he excels in his ability to hear tunes and rhythms. The expression he plays with astounds me. He is definitely a natural, in a way that, to my mother's chagrin, I never was.
Upon moving, my mother announced that we could have her second piano because, really, a 74-year-old and her husband don't need 2 pianos. This piano was mom's original, later replaced by a grand piano. It sat, neglected, in the basement, only occasionally banged on by a bored grandchild in between play with Legos and Lincoln Logs. It had traces of mold traveling along its bottom and wore years of wear and tear on its chipped and scuffed frame. The color of its keys were stained, like an old smoker's yellow teeth.
That piano was going to ruin my living room. I knew I had to take it, for my son's sake, but I abhorred the idea of its sulking in the corner of a room where celebrations and intimate gatherings take place.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
This post is an excerpt from my book, based on my experiences in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis
It was mid-January. The year was 2009. It was a particularly mild day, and the sun was shining brightly. My nearly two-year-old daughter, Kayla, and I pulled into the parking lot at the local grocery store, King’s. We needed baby food and vegetables, and I figured I could purchase the necessities if I moved quickly. Kayla just spent an hour climbing, crawling, and jumping on the foam gym pieces at Gymboree. Surely she’d be able to sit in the grocery cart without a fuss for 20 minutes.
Just as I reached to loosen the straps on her car seat, my cell phone rang. Annoyed at the interruption with a time crunch on my hands, I dug through my purse in search of my ever-elusive phone. It was my husband Dave.
“Hello?” I answered, about to tell him I’d call him back when I got home. Didn’t he know I had such a brief window to get things done before Kayla had to be fed and put down for a nap?
“I just got laid off.”
“You’re joking, right?”
Dave had been talking about the risk of lay-offs for at least a year now. He frequently told me his boss believed an economic collapse was imminent. “You’d be better off taking your money out of the market and putting it under your mattress,” Dave would exclaim over dinner, in between bites of salmon and couscous. He’d look me deeply in the eyes as he shifted in his chair, wondering if I understood the enormity of his statements.
I wasn’t sure how to react to Dave’s prophecies. We definitely weren’t as comfortable as we’d been before moving to the New York area in 2006, but the mattress seemed a bit extreme when it came to savings accounts. Isn’t that what they did during the Great Depression?
No. I did not have any idea what Dave was really talking about. Instead, I interpreted his dramatic statements as symptoms of dissatisfaction with his current job. Financial instability was not one of the fears I considered when alone, contemplating the injustices the world might inflict on me, because I’d always had employment and money when I needed it.
“No.” I could feel the tension in Dave’s voice. It traveled along the waves with swift precision, quickly penetrating the mommy bubble I’d been operating in. My body stiffened in response, resisting the push out of that safe, beautiful space.
This was no fucking joke.
“Where are you?”
“I’m on the train. Can you pick me up? I’m arriving in ten minutes.”
I began to refasten Kayla’s car seat straps immediately. It took just ten minutes to drive from the grocery store to the Maplewood train station.
“I’ll be right there,” I answered.
As I hurried around the car to get into the driver’s seat, my mind began to race. The wind cut through my jacket and the unusually warm day suddenly felt seasonally chilly. There were a lot of unknowns to contend with, but I was certain of one thing: we had to get the hell out of Maplewood.
Our move to New Jersey in 2006 had been an ill-fated one. Though I’d made some friends and begun to feel comfortable, Dave hated every minute of it. We’d moved so Dave could pursue a position as a trader at a large international bank, but the job never amounted to its promise; he felt his daily commute through Penn Station was dehumanizing, a regular visit to one of the circles of hell; his expected bonus went unrealized year after year, and his two children from his previous marriage made infrequent visits. For Dave, living in New Jersey was nearly intolerable.
I pulled into the station to see Dave’s head bobbing up and down as he walked up the steps from the platform. His was among the first to roll, but there would be thousands of others. Hundreds of thousands of others. His face was hardened by decades of charts, figures, ledgers, management strategies, budgets, relocations, backstabbing colleagues, trading desks oozing of testosterone in overdrive.
Without a word, he slipped into the passenger seat in the car. The car wheels sputtered on wet leaves as I put my foot to the gas and the car screeched up the hill to our house, an oasis that would soon become a crippling debt.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
And so I've always been drawn to the neglected fixer upper that I can pour my soul into. I always end up buying the home that can somehow change, laugh, cry and improve right along with me and my family.
|My shower, built in 1920, has a 2 foot hole in it. Why?|
This week we completed our first project. It was small: undoing a bad renovation that left three doors opening up in the same 4 square feet of space. We knocked down a partial wall and moved two doors.
Today the house feels more open. The flow feels right. The house is exhaling, and so am I. It's a good start to a new chapter in life, one that I hope will have many pages.
Friday, July 18, 2014
|Source: Baking Arts, Richard Festen, via Pinterest|
Nowadays, I look forward to birthdays because they issue a well deserved excuse to go to a fancy restaurant, sip a cosmo, and savor a piece of carrot cake. But I don't wish for extra candles on my cake. Instead, I try not to think too much about how they won't all quite fit on it.
A woman in her mid-forties, my awareness of the temporary nature of human life is acute these days. As I watch my parents age and begin to think of long term care for my dad, I've started to wonder not if I'll have to wear Depends undergarments, but when. I wonder not about if I'll lose my independence, but when. I wonder not if my mental capacities will decline, but when. And I wonder how I will get along, who will support me, and if I'll be happy.
Strangely, even though we all age, and we all struggle as we age, most of us have no patience or time for the elderly. For many, older people are a nuisance. They slow us down. Rather than aiding them, we focus on how to get around them. They shuffle along the sidewalks in our neighborhoods mostly unnoticed. They sit at our tables and in our armchairs and often fade into the background.
Today I feel a responsibility to minister to the aged. It's hard to make the effort to slow down for others, but the elderly we encounter at the library and the grocery store are moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, uncles, aunts. They've lived full lives, they've accomplished much. Many have made life a little better for us because of their hard work and commitment to schools, towns, governments, medicine, law, technology.
And one day we will walk in their shoes. They ought not to be too uncomfortable.
Friday, July 11, 2014
Below is, in part, a brief excerpt from my book
|Few things can evoke as many memories and feelings as a photo|
I used to think there was no object that could pull at my heart strings, causing me to box it up and shove it in my basement. When faced with the task of downsizing more than once, I learned that memories were made and kept in the heart and mind, not in pillows, vases, and old dressers.
But unpacking in my latest home has revealed a weakness: photo albums. Photos are a window into the past, a picture of a point in time, a reminder of who we and are relatives are. The more tattered the album, the more sullied the pictures, the more significance the pictures seem to take on.
So, I cherish my photos, even the drunken college shots no one ought to see.
Several days ago, in a fit of nostalgia, I thumbed through my mom's photo books, where I peeked into life before I was born. I found a wedding photo of my parents, sitting side by side in their get away car. They were in a red 1963 Chevy Corvair decorated like a float, white streamers hanging from windows, mirrors, and door handles. Even at the young age of 28 Dad was bald, as I’ve always known him. He sat beside mom, a gentle hand on her arm as she waved and laughed loudly, dominating the space they shared. Now and for the rest of their life together, she played the role of the extravert, the social networker, the noticed, he the role of the introvert, the quiet yet strong and steady support. Dad wore a gray suit decorated with a white carnation and a carefully folded pocket square. His brown eyes and quiet smile exuded happiness. He was comfortable and in control, a different man than he is today.
Today dad is alive yet absent. He walks the halls and rooms of his house without saying a word. Thirteen years ago Alzheimer’s quietly slinked into his brain, slowly choking the life, the memory, the energy from his now frail and tentative body. Unable to converse with others easily, Dad retreats into himself, making it increasingly difficult for people to know and understand him. My heart aches as I watch him, once the CEO of a company. What I always admired most about him was his intellect. What I wanted for myself most was to have Dad’s brain, his critical thinking skills, his theoretical reasoning skills, his razor sharp business acumen. What does his brain look like now? I imagine a tangled mess of plaque twisted and gnarled like an old knot of wood, making words, ideas and thoughts prisoners within him. It is a cluttered, confused, and dark place.
I carefully take the photo out of the album and search for Dad. "Hey Dad," I say loudly. "Look what I found!" I stretch my hand out, giving him the photo.
Dad looks at me, then tentatively reaches his hand toward me, to receive the photo. "Ah…yes." He says as a slow smile spreads across his face.
Yes. Photos are precious.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
|My living room is slowly coming together |
(with lots of help from friends, because I'm a lousy designer)
Chaos leads to creation. I read that somewhere, and when I look around my house, littered with boxes of books, pictures, lamps, CDs, china, and stemware I don't know where to place, I sure hope it's true.
* * *
It's been 3 weeks, and I've finally folded up the last box and passed it on to another intrepid woman in the midst of packing up her home. I've shelved the books, stacked the shoes, and retired the toys to the toy box.
Don't misunderstand. Chaos still reigns, but now that the boxes are gone, I can finally see potential. Now the furniture can be arranged, the rugs laid down, the pictures hung. Now the creative process of transforming a house to a home can begin.