seven years in

When I started this blog, 7 years ago today, I had no idea where it would take me. Over a thousand posts later, I find that this blog has served its original purpose well: as a record of my life and as a creative outlet. What I didn’t expect from starting this blog was that blogging would become an important part of my life. I didn’t know that blogging would be the means by which I would learn and grow and forge lasting and important friendships. So, happy birthday to this blog, and thank you to the friends and visitors who have made blogging a more fun and rewarding experience than I ever would have imagined!

cold hands, warm hearts

We had a our first snowfall of the season last night. It didn’t amount to much accumulation, but it did make the roads treacherous, especially once darkness fell. This morning, though, it looked pretty.

Phoebe and Theo were eager to go out and play in the snow. Phoebe still had to catch school bus, but I told them that if they were really fast getting ready and eating breakfast, they could play outside. They were remarkably fast (even though Theo tried to convince me that he’d be faster finishing breakfast if he didn’t have to eat any food), and I got their warm weather gear sorted out with unexpected speed as well.

I still had to get their lunches packed up, so I sent them outside to the yard without me. When I came out a bit later, this is what I encountered:

They had worked together, they were still working together, to build a snowman. They were discussing what they would use to make the face and other details, and, here’s the part that gets me, they weren’t bickering. My heart just about melted right there.

Theo at work.

Phoebe and Theo with the finished product. (Theo picked a leaf for a nose that reminded him of a carrot.)

I had helped a bit with getting a few of the items to stick into the snowman, since I didn’t want them taking off their mittens. My hands got cold quickly. Even after I put my own gloves on, my hands stayed cold. Waiting around the few more minutes for the bus, I got colder in the wind and sleet, in spite of my warm coat, boots, hat and gloves.

Phoebe got on the bus, and I drove Theo to preschool and came back home. My hands were still icy. I made some hot tea and warmed my hands on the mug and enjoyed the warmth of our house.

And I just couldn’t stop thinking about the people who were hit so hard by Hurricane Sandy, such a short distance from me. All those people without electricity, many without heat or the ability to cook food in their homes. Many without homes.

I thought of them in the dark and the wind and the wet and thought how much some of them must really, at that moment, just want to be warm.

I checked out the Occupy Sandy gift registry again, and tracked down more information from the group. They have a website with daily updates of their actions and needs. Here is today’s list of of their current needs:

Current Needs – Blankets Candles Flashlights Lights Water Food Batteries Diapers and Wipes Gloves and Masks Rubber boots Shovels Cleaning supplies and bleach Trash bags Serving dishes and utensils Anything that produces heatWinter wear (jackets, hats, gloves, warm stuff)

So much need. The need for shovels and trashbags and cleaning supplies is a reminder of how much work there is to be done. The need for diapers highlights to me how there must be many families with small children, dealing with darkness and cold and wetness and inadequate food and water sources, and the uncertainty of how long this will go on.

I placed an order from the registry for batteries and diapers and handwarmers. It warmed me a bit to know I might be helping someone else get warmth, light and comfort. The delivery likely won’t get there until Monday, and at least the forecast for the weekend is warmer, but I fear the need will continue through next week. Maybe longer. (How much longer?)

I also checked out the Occupy Sandy Relief NYC Facebook page, where they have been posting frequent updates. It warmed my heart to see their activity, calling for volunteers to help with specific tasks, like delivering hot meals that someone had donated to homebound senior citizens in the Rockaways.

I am so moved by the work that they are doing. So many have seen the need, and stepped up. I love it that members of the Occupy movement have taken their organizational expertise and networking skills and applied it to this crisis. And they are working like crazy, demonstrating their remarkable resolve and generosity of spirit.¹

I’d like to say thank you to all of you who are helping in the storm relief. May your hands stay as warm as your hearts.

The jack-o-lanterns are in disguise. They have neither hands nor hearts, but they are cold.²

¹ I think back to the angry right-wing types who characterized the Occupy protesters as lazy and greedy, and wonder if they will eat their words. I doubt it, though. They’re too busy demonizing someone else.

² The old saying, “cold hands, warm heart,” came up a lot in my family when I was growing up, as my mother, my sister and I have perennially cold hands. (What, do people with warm hands have cold hearts?) I’m a bit too lazy to track down the origins of the expression, but here’s what one website says:

COLD HANDS, WARM HEART – “A reserved, cool exterior may disguise a kind heart. The proverb has been traced back to ‘Collectanea by V.S. Lean. First cited in the United States in ‘Blue Murder’ by E. Snell.” From “Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings” by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

I also came across an interesting behavioral study showing that people are more likely to be generous and think positively of others when they have warm hands than when they have cold. Something to think about. So everybody go put on your mittens or hold a hot beverage, and make some donations.

I voted.

Voting makes me feel rather misty-eyed. When I think about what so many in the past went through to win the right to vote, and when I think of all those around the world who still don’t get to enjoy this privilege, I feel profoundly thankful and lucky.

I also find myself feeling a part of history, thinking of presidential elections past, present and future. I realized that in another 12 years, Phoebe will be old enough to vote. (And another 14 for Theo.) I think back 4 years, 8 years and 12 years (oh, that one was stressful!) and the memories are fresh in my mind. (Those of 16 and 20 (20!) years ago are much fuzzier.) I think of how far we have come in the years since I became an adult, how much technology has advanced, and the many signs of social progress we’ve seen, and I am heartened. (Then again, I also see the ravages resulting from our environmental abuses, and I am discouraged.) Above it all, though, I feel the importance of speaking out for my beliefs, and working towards the future I want to see.

We all went to the polls together in 2008. Look at little 2-month-old Theo!

Tonight, I brought Phoebe with me. (Theo wasn’t feeling well, and John voted earlier in the day.) This photo amuses me, since it looks like the “vote here” sign is pointing to the bush. (Or to the shrubbery, if you prefer.)

Here is Phoebe, in 2008, reminding us that her future is in our hands.

This excessively sentimental post was brought to you by a build-up of election-related tension, a bottle of micro-brewed ale, and some good quality dark chocolate.


On Friday night, into Saturday morning, I stayed up far too late. I was looking back through my photo library, getting a little teary looking at photos of the Theos that were. Newborn Theo. Crawling Theo. Toddling Theo. So many Theos, all of them cute. From the wrinkly little bald man phase, to the mop-headed toddler heart-throb, to the alternately silly and earnest preschooler, all these Theos just made my heart melt with their big round eyes, their ridiculously long eyelashes, their big goofy grins. Even more potent were those little videos. Man, that kid has The Cute thing going. It’s surprising that I haven’t posted more here of the cuteness that is Theo, but as with so many things, I have too much to say, so I say too little. All those moments I’ve wanted to record. Things Theo has said, things Theo has learned, things Theo has taught me.

At least I have the photos.

Here are some photos from Saturday, Theo’s 4th birthday.

Waiting for the ferris wheel.



Crashing a bit.

Second wind provided by Italian ice.

The “birthday cake.” (This role was played by 2 Little Debbie cakes purchased late Saturday night from a convenience store.)

Theo tears into his presents in our hotel room.

Theo settles down to try out his new set of markers.

Theo’s drawing, finished.

a dweam within a dweam

I admit that I have some mixed feelings on marriage. Having seen some marriages that were less than ideal, I grew up thinking that I probably wouldn’t get married. Marriage wasn’t really a goal of mine. I’m a firm believer that a person can be happy and whole without being married.

When I first met John, I certainly didn’t entertain ideas of marrying him. It wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, we were each dating other people when we met. (If you must know, I was dating his roommate.)

But I think I can pinpoint the moment I fell for John. It was over a year after I first met him, and some time after both of our earlier relationships had ended. The moment I fell for John was was, remarkably, right after I fell on my butt.

It was the winter break of my Junior year of college, late December. I had just returned to the US from a semester abroad in Brazil. I went over to my by-that-point-ex-boyfriend’s house to catch up. John was still one of his housemates, and hearing that he was home, I went up to his room say hello. His door was open, and I poked my head in to say hi. Then I glanced at the papers he had taped up on his door, a long vertical banner of dot-matrix printouts. (Did I mention this was 1991?) First was a set of Dan Quayle quotes. Below that was a bunch of quotes taken from insurance claims. I started reading. I snickered. I laughed some more. I read some more. I bent down to read the pages lower down on the door, eventually squatting to read those at knee-level. I read: “I saw a slow-moving, sad-faced old gentleman as he bounced off the hood of my car.” I tried to read it out loud, but was laughing so hard I couldn’t. I laughed so hard I lost my balance, squatting there on my heels. I fell right onto my butt.

You might think that this would be somewhat of an embarrassing turn of events for a reunion with an acquaintance. And perhaps it would have been, except that John, seeing me laughing so hard at things that he had found funny enough to print out and hang on his door, was laughing along with me. And while he may well have been laughing at me for falling on my ass in his doorway, I didn’t mind. I was laughing too hard. And when our eyes met, both of us laughing at the quotes and my clumsiness, I’m pretty sure that was the moment that I knew I had found someone I wanted to know better.

We didn’t get married that night. But we did start seeing more of each other. Then we moved in together. Got engaged. Bought a house. We made some attempts to plan a wedding, but were foiled by various scheduling conflicts with key family members.

We ended up getting married by a Justice of the Peace eight years into our relationship, and shortly before I planned to quit my job. (Die-hard romantic that I was, I wanted to have health insurance.) We’d had a long engagement, and what with living together and owning a house together, even, I felt that we were largely as committed as we needed to be. What with my luke-warm views on the institution of marriage, I didn’t see how being married would change our relationship. I remember commenting to an acquaintance, a married woman a few years older than me, something to that effect. She replied: “Marriage does change things. It gets better.”

I have to say that she was right. It was a subtle shift, but having our commitment be officially recognized made things a bit more settled, and a bit more comfortable. And when we had our party (several years later), the wedding ceremony to celebrate our marriage surrounded by our friends and family, it got even better.

Sometimes, when you are lucky enough to find someone who shares your sense of humor and your worldview, someone you love passionately and who loves you right back, someone who lets you feel at home with yourself, that conventionalized connection marriage gives you makes you feel just a little bit more together and a little bit more at home. It’s a declaration to the world that you know who’s going to be there to help you up when you fall on your butt.

This post is dedicated to Flutter, a remarkably strong, strikingly beautiful woman with a great sense of humor, to share in her joy at getting married. Flutter, I wish you and Clay many happy years full of love, health, comfort and humor. May you laugh your asses off together with abandon. (Emily has invited those who know Flutter to join in on the celebration. To see more of the well-wishing, go see her post “Mawigge is what brings us together today.”)

This post is also dedicated to John, love of my life, who has been there for me, on more occasions than I can count, when I have fallen on my butt (either literally or figuratively) over these past 20+ years.

my baby love

I was never much of a baby person. My attitude ranged from mild interest in the offspring of close friends, to irritation with babies encountered elsewhere. I never understood why anyone would want to buy a greeting card with a photo of someone else’s baby, or how a baby in a commercial was supposed to make anyone feel compelled to purchase a product. When I thought of having children, I’d think of babyhood as a period of investment, a time that must be endured in order to achieve the goal of “child.”

As I wrote about a couple of years ago, I have since become a different person. I have learned to appreciate the creature that is “baby.”

Even with this new pro-baby attitude, as I anticipated Theo’s arrival, I still didn’t look forward to the early months. I braced myself for the dreaded newborn stage.

When Phoebe was a newborn, you see, I had a tough time. Her weight gain was too slow, and feeding-related activities took over 12 hours a day. She spent many hours a day crying and needing soothing, and so did I. I was extremely sleep-deprived. It was the most exhausting and overwhelming time of my life, and each day felt like a week.

With Theo, these months have flown by. He is generally mellow, and feeding has been uncomplicated. I’m amazed that I have been able to provide all the nourishment Theo needs to grow and thrive.

The flip side to this is that my days and nights are a bit of a blur of feedings and diaper changes, and that it’s rare that I can get even 4 consecutive hours of sleep at night.

In the past 6 months, I haven’t been away from Theo for even a full hour. I have been alone in the house exactly once, when John took Theo with him to pick up Phoebe from daycare. I spent that half hour or so on the phone, as I was in the middle of a work conference call. And I was making dinner.

While part of me is going crazy from the constant tether and lack of decent sleep, another part of me doesn’t really mind.

I have been really enjoying Theo’s babyness. The chubby legs, the impossibly soft skin, the tiny toes. The fuzzy mostly bald head. The wide toothless smile. I love it when he looks up at me, and touches my face, even when he grabs my lip or my nose with his sharp little baby nails. I love it that I can make him laugh when I kiss his cheeks back and forth. I love it that I can scoop him up and hold him high over my head.

I know that I fell in love with Phoebe, too, as a baby. But I don’t remember so much just enjoying the here and now of the there and then. When Phoebe was tiny, the uncharted territory was so much more stressful. I questioned myself often, agonized over mistakes. I found myself thinking “next time, I will know what to do,” and “next time, things won’t be so hard.” And now, remarkably, I have largely known what to do. Things have been easier. Even though life has been more complicated with our jobs and with having a toddler to parent as well as a baby.

I think I was in a hurry for Phoebe to grow and develop, too. I was eager for all those big next steps. Now they seem to be coming all too quickly. Theo keeps growing, and climbing that developmental ladder. He’s babbling now, and has started sitting up unsupported. He’s discovered toys, and is entranced by sounds and shapes and colors. It’s fun and exciting, but I want to slow down the time. Or at least to bottle it up and save it.

I need to get the time to buckle down and catch up with the work that I’ve committed to doing. I owe many hours to my job, and need to get moving on my degree requirements. There are plenty of other things that I have been letting slide, too. Plus I would like to have more time to myself, or time with John go to a movie or dinner.

Theo is 6 months old now, as of Wednesday. He’ll start daycare, as soon as I can get myself organized enough to get him used to a bottle. He’ll be starting solid foods, which will probably mean longer stretches between nursing. He’ll hopefully sleep longer at night, and nap better during the day.

I find it funny how I can, near-simultaneously, feel like I’m going crazy, and lament that these days of near-constant baby care will soon end.

I find myself sad that this is it for me. This time, there isn’t a “next time.” No more babies. I always imagined myself having two kids, and I am incredibly fortunate to have them. I find it terribly surprising that I can even imagine having another baby, but I know it doesn’t make sense for us. And realizing this makes this baby time feel all the more sweet.

Photo by John.

warming up (PhotoHunt)

I took this photo on the afternoon of January 20th, 2009, a day that will probably always bring me a warm fuzzy feeling. After watching Obama’s inauguration with friends and with my little ones, I met up with another friend. The Boston weather was cold, the snowbanks along the road were high, the slush in the road was deep. We went to a snug little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop my friend knew, and had a snack and warm beverage.

This week’s PhotoHunt theme is “warm.” For more photos on the theme, cozy on up to the fire at tnchick’s place.

presents that make me feel happy

I sent some holiday gifts this year that really made me feel good.

There are some family members for whom it has become increasingly harder to come up with ideas for gifts, since we don’t see or talk to them often enough to know their tastes well. When I can, I try to choose a book or CD that I liked, thinking they can at least pass it on to someone else if they don’t like it. In other cases, when I don’t have books or music in mind, I try to keep the gifts compact or consumable so that the recipient won’t be burdened with storage of something they might not really like. (I wrote some more thoughts about gift-giving at this time last year.)

This year, I was multiply inspired by some blogs I read. First, Mad of Under the Mad Hat described and showed photos of her impressive craftiness, and asked what sorts of holiday crafts her readers were up to. I replied that I had in the past made some Christmas tree ornaments, but that my own days of craftiness were largely behind me. Then Sage of Not So Sage went and showed her own crafty endeavors.

Somewhere along the way, I started reminiscing about the things I used to make with my hands, while dreading the experience of holiday shopping. And I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be great to spend my time and energy making gifts, rather than desperately hunting for gifts and parking spaces?”

So I decided to dig out my supplies, my brass and copper wire, my tools and my beads, and to make some ornaments. (I’ll post some photos later.) My plan was to give an ornament to these hard-to-buy-for relatives, and supplement with a donation to Heifer International, or some such.

But then my next inspiration came in the form of a post from jen of One Plus Two. In her preamble to the November Just Posts presentation, she mentioned a project described by Jess of Oh, The Joys: the rebuilding of a school library in New Orleans that had been destroyed during hurricane Katrina. There is an Amazon wishlist for this school whereby people can purchase books for this library, and have them sent directly there.

So the idea fell into my lap what I could give to those various people. I picked out books from the wishlist that I thought would be appreciated by the giftees: music books for/from the musicians in the family, a history book for/from a history buff, art books for/from the artists. And for each gift I bought, I printed up an image of the book, and wrote a little note saying “We sent your gift to New Orleans!” (And briefly describing the project.) I got on such a roll, I even bought extra gifts for/from people I already had other gifts for.

I have to tell you, as I wrapped up my hand-made ornaments, and enclosed the notes, I have never felt so good about the gifts I sent.

african-american_art.jpg ellington.jpg aunt_flossies_hats.jpg be_a_friend.jpg

happy third second wedding anniversary

alejna_john_wedding_135.jpg Today is a happy day. It’s the anniversary of our wedding. Our second one. Wedding, that is. Not the second anniversary. It’s actually our third anniversay. Of our second wedding. (We celebrated the seventh anniversary of our first wedding back in December.)

I was glad we managed to have a fall wedding. (For the second wedding, that is.) I love the fall. I love crisp smell in the air when the days turn chilly. I love the way the angle of the afternoon sun makes the trees glow with their reds and yellows and oranges. I love the riot of colors, and the way the scene changes from day to day. I love to find fallen leaves in all their varied colors and shapes.

I had a beautiful drive on Monday, when I went to and from the farm to pick up my vegetables. I take some winding country roads, and go past quite a few farms. Over and over again I was struck by the scenery. An old tree-lined cemetery on a hill. An antique Colonial house, painted white with traditional black shutters, surrounded by towering maples of red and yellow. Red barns. White rail fences. Cows in the pastures. I drove past postcard scene after postcard scene.

I zipped along in my little car, heading towards home. I was singing along to music I like, with a trunk full of fresh vegetables. My eyes were feasting on the scenes around me. And I thought about how happy I am with my life.

I have so much, and so much going on. I get paid to do work that I love, and I work with pleasant, intelligent and fun individuals. I have a wide range of interests and activities, and the resources and health to enjoy them. I have a loving mother and sister, who are both also my good friends. I have a great family, and wonderful in-laws that have really made me feel like I’m part of the family. I have lots of good friends, some nearby, some far away, but each of whom adds something unique to my life. I have a comfortable home in a beautiful location. I have a healthy, wonderful, smoochable baby girl. And as if that weren’t enough, I’m married to the love of my life and my closest friend.

I am so very lucky it embarrasses me sometimes. How did I get so damn lucky?