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Archive for January, 2009

Ever After

Once upon a time, I was a gawky teenager in a Moroccan restaurant in the East Village talking about writing with a Real Writer.  And she was funny and smart and self-deprecating and I had a huge girl-crush on her forever.  Whenever I sat down to write, I thought of her.  When I started workshop, I thought of her.  Sometimes just sitting on the subway I daydreamed about running into her again.  I thought of her when I listened to Devo’s Beautiful World or when I felt like I was all out of words.

Once upon a time, she wrote a book and I read about it in the Advocate, sitting on my stool in the video store where I worked and a friend ran out to the library and got it for me and I read it in one sitting like  had been waiting an eternity for this.one.book.  And I bought a copy as soon as I could afford one.  And I gave it away.  And I bought another and gave that one away and I think all told I bought 5 or 6 copies from 1998 to 2002 and gave all of them away.  The last copy I bought was at the Strand and I was panicked because I thought I had given away the last copy I would find but there it was, hardcover, the same edition that I had read back in Albany.  

I have her picture in a photo album and her book on my shelf and songs that remind me of her and a tattoo I got a long time ago from Lou Reed’s Magic and Loss album and I’ve carried the magic for all of these years, maybe close to twenty, of having had a person who inspired me to keep writing, who was dripping in words.  It’s the loss that is kicking my ass.  All of these things I’ve written here, I just want five minutes to go back to the East Village and whisper in my ear that this moment would change everything in my life and to remember to say thank you.

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I can do it right?

And now on to the third stage of undertaking a huge new life thing like college:

I think I can.

Y’all missed ‘There’s no way in hell I can handle this’ mixed with a little bit of ‘This is a huge mistake’ yesterday because I was too busy, well, freaking out.  You also missed my hard drive dying on Tuesday, as well as my realization that I do.not.remember.anything from science.  ANYTHING.  I mean, I’m a smart person who has tried to keep my brain active with intellectual pursuits and all but I’m starting to see why I can’t keep plants alive–I don’t know a G.D. thing about ’em.*

It’s intimidating, to say the least.  I have finished many of my assignments though and can get the rest done well before they are due.  It just feels like I’m behind, right?  It’s a marathon, not a sprint?  Go nine?  Just Manny being Manny (that one’s for you, Cori)?  There must be some sort of cliche for this situation and it’s probably baseball-related.  

The kids are not quite so thrilled with my new schedule, especially the baby who has taken to grabbing my face and turning it to his so that I pay attention to him.  That, my friends, will break your damn heart.  It is a strong reminder that I have to ind some sort of balance here between Mommy Jen, student Jen, and well, Jen.  Balance is not my strong suit.  At all.  I think I can do it, though.  As long as I remember that I don’t have to be perfect.  That there is no perfect.  All I can be is good, and in order to do well I have to stop freaking out long enough to get things done.

 

*I joke about this a lot but the truth is I have seven perfectly healthy plants (and only two are cactus/succulent) scattered about the apartment.  My kill-to-thrive ratio is just a bit greater than I’d like.

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Today is my first day of classes and so I am dutifully printing out and sorting through syllabi and grading matrices and other big, Latin-derived words and I am SO FREAKING EXCITED!

*pants*

This is going to be a lot of work, y’all.  A lot of damn work, and a lot of making sure I stick to a schedule and keep on top of shit.  But you know what?  I can totally do this.  I think I can even do it well.

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Six years ago right now I was in St. Vincent’s hospital sitting in the john wondering when my daughter would be born and why it felt so much like I had to take a crap.  One hour and change later, my beautiful Lucinda was whisked away from me to be suctioned and then carted off to the NICU.  When I watch her dancing through the apartment or wrestling with a friend, I can hardly believe she is the same girl as that fragile little-to-me baby hooked up to monitors that I was afraid to hold and put down at the same time.  I can’t believe I was ever afraid of her heart not working properly.  She has more than enough heart to make up for that little hole.

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I was going to work up a good lather about the appointment of Kristen Gillibrand to fill Clinton’s Senate seat but I’m just not feeling it today.  I’m sort of in a good mood, actually.  And feeling kind of, well, positive about life in general and the outside world even.  Curse you, Obama 😛

Tomorrow is the ‘playdate with cake’ for Lucy’s birthday.  We’ll be having fruit, veggies with homemade hummus and store-bought craptastic cupcakes.  I thought about baking for a nanosecond and then came to my senses.  We’re still short favors for the two littler girls but I am hoping against hope the box gets here today instead of Monday when it is scheduled.  Curse you, FedEx!

The school birthday is arranged as well.  We have swank Preserve plates, a veritable arsenal of plastic cutlery from various take-outs that I can finally justify having kept for so many years, and we went with cloth goody bags which I probably should have made my damn self but, then again, probably wouldn’t have gotten made in time.  The theme is ‘animals’ so Lucy made the drawings to go on the cupcakes–anaconda, panda, shark, eagle.  I’ll scan in her drawings when we get them back because hell, they’re better than I could do.  Each kid is also getting an endangered animal puzzle to complete the theme.  I’m trying to figure out if Lucy’s teacher will kill me if I plan to collect all of the plates and cutlery to wash and reuse.  Or if I take a cloth napkin for each kid.  It couldn’t be that hard, could it?

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We’re getting back in the worm business ’round here.  Lucy is getting some gardening paraphrenalia for the ole birthday and I’ve been getting seed catalogs so I’m going to ignore my no seed-starting edict from last year and start thinking about growing stuff.  I still have seeds from last year in the freezer so it’s really just a do-over.  At the very least we should get some herbs out of the deal.  I just have to keep ’em alive this time.  You can tell I’m choking on optimism by this decision-reversal.

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I can’t even believe my classes start on Monday.  I am so beyond ready it isn’t even funny.  I’m going to be logging in at like 5am just to see what I’m going to be doing for the semester.  C’mon Monday!  This is literally the only thing that could overshadow Lucy’s birthday.

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We have officially entered the conversational phase of babyness.  There’s a lot of cobbling together sounds with arm gestures, actually, but we have been able to determine a few words that are used consistently.

There’s Mama and Dada, of course.  Ba for ball, buh for book.  Da for doll.  Appuh for apple, which seems to be used not only for apples proper but seemingly for any food.  There have been a few precursory attempts at saying both waffle (uffuh) and banana (this varies from time to time.)  Pickle is ‘Puhpuh’ and all animals are ‘Neenas’ and they all say ‘nee-yah’.   This last is my very favorite thing in the whole wide world, narrowly edging out the aforementioned ‘appuh’ and the first melt-your-heart communication, ‘Day-day-day’ accompanied by swaying/rocking/hurtling oneself back and forth which represents dancing.  That one is still incredibly cute actually, especially since he does it on command.

It is fantastically adorable and keeps me from losing my mind entirely when he hurls Cheerios on the floor or shrieks at the top of his lungs because I have set him down to go use the john.  Just to keep it real.

We have gotten to the age where every moment is accounted for by both the struggles and the joys of parenting and I find myself with little time or desire to plug myself into the computer, which is a nice development in and of itself.  It leaves me time for the reading of books, the making of crafts and the whole exercising thing I let slide for so long.  Despite the frustrations of missed naptimes and shrieks over the littlest frustration (the baby’s not mine, I swear) I am really enjoying my time with both of my kids.  It’s a really nice feeling and you can feel free to remind me of this when homework time rolls around and I’m trying to prepare food while keeping the older on task and the younger from rupturing our eardrums with his shrieking.

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I have yet again lost several days due to my inability to focus on one task at a time.  I will be sitting down today to work out a schedule because clearly I need more structure in my life.  It was a fun weekend, though, complete with a playdate, an afternoon spent playing board games (we never finished, thank you Bubby, although I was $18 million in debt and well on my way to losing, it was great fun.)  Lucy’s birthday celebration is set, favors ordered, menu planned.  I’ve been reading extensively about ayurveda in my down time and am thoroughly fascinated by it.  Good times.

It is finally not frigid and I am happy to not be sitting here in layers down to my socks.  We made it without turning the heat back on (remember, we get tons of passive heat from two sides so it never gets dangerously cold in here) and even had the playdate without heaters.  I am probably more pleased about this than I should be 🙂

I still have not implemented the menu plan (see paragraph one about routine) but here is the butternut squash with curried millet recipe for Jennifer.  I’d swear that I’d do it this week but I don’t feel like lying to you this early in the year.

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I have been spending a lot of time since my last entry thinking about growing up.  I don’t know if it’s my personality that makes me so eager to gain approval or if it’s because I was raised to believe that approval is the highest form of praise, but I have come to realize that I need very badly to deal with the fact that I just can’t please everybody, and it’s not a personal failing that I can’t.  It’s a sad denouement, set into motion long ago and winding down almost pitifully for the amount of pain it has caused me over the years.  It’s a curse, I think, when you lose someone close to you because you’re always left with the what-ifs or should-have-saids.  I can’t live like that anymore, worrying about displeasing people, worrying about offending them by saying the wrong thing, always feeling as though the ultimate consequence of disagreeing could be the inevitable regret of time lost.  Is this suitably cryptic?  What it really means is that I have to grow up now, stop being the little girl afraid of doing and saying the wrong thing.

I could stop being overly dramatic as well but what fun would that be?

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Drip drip drip

First, can I just tell you that just hearing the word meningitis gives me the thousand yard stare?  It was a year ago right now that I was in the hospital in isolation having ridiculous green dreams (did I ever write about that?  All of my dreams were like old  monster movies or in ‘monster green’ which a febrile hallucination explained me as being pretty close to kiwi in color.)  This may actually be the one year anniversary of my spinal tap, which neither went to eleven nor came with a miniature Stonehenge.  And that may have been directly before I spent the night huddled under three blankets pretending to write on the wall in my mind.  Yeah.  Anyway, a girl in Manhattan died of meningitis so it’s been all over NY1 and I was sort of surprised at the visceral reaction I had to the mere mention of the word.  *shudder*

Things this year are, thankfully, much more mundane.  Planning Lucy’s birthday party (school and home), proofing a report on international remittances, getting ready for classes to start, and…

Our toilet is leaking!  Into the downstairs neighbors, apparently.  And we had no idea because we didn’t have any water!  Terrific fun.  It’s being fixed this morning.

Lucy’s home birthday is no big deal, just two friends coming over for a playdate with cake.  Lucy’s school birthday is apt to be a bigger deal if for no other reason than sheer volume.  She has requested an animal birthday for school and princess for home.  I am not going crazy for either.  I have to find cupcakes for school as well as some sort of goody bag in which to stuff the 3D puzzles I ordered. And papergoods what don’t rape the earth.  Just saying.

For the home birthday, I found really cute necklace kits for each girl.   I was going to have that be the activity but now I’m tempted to have them make mozzarella and then their own mini-pizzas or something like that.  Any suggestions are welcome.  I have never, I repeat, never had a birthday party before so I am a little out of my league here.  Which is why this isn’t a full-on birthday party but still, I am nothing if not a perfectionist.

A political rant will be forthcoming as soon as I work through the leaky toilet tank and 20+ pages of remittance transparency and grocery listing so I can get the makings for my meal plan and snacks for playdate round 2 over the weekend.

First recipe is butternut squash with curried millet except I’m going to sub quinoa for millet cuz I have a bunch.  Wish me luck.  If it goes well, I’ll be trying a root veg dish with the radish, rutabagas adn carrots next.  I think that’s curried too.  Viva curry!

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Ok, enough with the household projects.  Enough with the boring-ass posts about what I did on my winter vacation.  Even I am tired of reading that shit, and I’m the one writing it.  There is a world of other crap I care about, and I’m sick of not writing about it lest I out myself as one of them wacky Others.

See, most of my family is really conservative.  Idealogue conservative.  Rush Limbaugh-listening conservative.  I love ’em all the same, but we do not acknowledge that my proclivities lie somewhere off in the distance to the Left. I think my grandparents know, although we’re very careful not to speak of it (sometimes ad hominem attacks have been levied at people of my political disposition and quite frankly, I get my feelings hurt pretty easily so it’s easier to talk about the weather or crafts or the kids or any-damn-other-thing.

I have been hit square in the face with the realization that I have not hidden this blog from my family, nor have I really thought deeply about how comfortable I am with the notion of what I’ve written here getting back to those in my family who find liberals, nay, progressives to be agents of, well, Satan or Stalin or whatever bogeyman you can come up with.

When I was a wee lass, my grandmother once told me to never write anything down that I didn’t want the whole world to read.  I’ve had to face, over the past few months, that I really was not sure if I want the whole world to read what I’ve written here.  Being sensible, I didn’t do anything crazy like stop blogging or erase everything I had written before.  But I did subject you and myself to endless posts about my holiday shopping, reorganizing, and daily household tasks.

Have I ever mentioned that I have the self-confidence of a concord grape?

Last night I meditated for a wee bit before I went to sleep.  This morning when I woke up, I realized that I don’t care if the whole world reads what I’m writing here.  Hell, I am actually more embarassed about the look at me organize!  look at me list everything I’ve been doing with no emotional exposition! posts than I am with the idea that I out myself as a progressive, mantra-chanting, Shiva-meditating hippie who likes to rail about politics and shit that pisses me off with expletives.  So there.

Truth be told, I’m pretty proud of who I am.  I don’t know why I’m so afraid to act like it.

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A little bit fed up

Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but I’m certainly not feeling it, at the very least.  It being (duh duh DUH!) this whole green, carbon-reducing, eco-warrior deal.  There, I said it.

It’s not the way of life, actually.  It’s not even the tracking.  It’s the pressure, both external and internal, to always make the right choice.  Like Friday.  I had every intention of walking to pick Lucy up from school but it was so g.d. cold that I decided to take the subway.  Which got me there early.  And so I stopped at Starbucks for a mocha, in a disposable cup.  And then?  When Lucy and I went to pick up new pajamas for the baby?  I bought new, and an extra outfit for each of the kids, and carried them home in a plastic bag.  Now, I should have foregone the coffee.  and I should have only purchased as much as I could fit in the cloth bag I had.  But it was cold and I didn’t and for the most part I think this is ok.  It’s not good, and I certainly wouldn’t do it every day, but the world will not end because I got a plastic bag and paper cup.  But tell this to my guilt complex, which is working overtime to make up for these transgressions.

And here are more, in no particular order:

I use the dryer for diapers now and it takes about an hour on high.  I buy things new, almost everything in fact.  My worm bin?  Outside with dead worms.  Food scraps all go in the trash, and there are, as always, a bunch of food scraps.  I still eat meat, and half of it is conventional.  Ditto our fruit and vegetables; we buy organic when we can find it but we still end up getting conventional some of the time, especially when I don’t get to the good grocery.

And I guess I should come clean on some other stuff too:

I’m never going to turn off the fridge or give up the television.  I’m not likely to ever grow food to eat, at least not from seed (although a part of me would like to learn, I just don’t have the time or energy to devote to this.)  I’ll turn off the heat in the winter but there will always be a few days in the summer where we use the a/c.  And I have a woman who comes in to clean once a week.

There has been some talk lately about the focus on female domesticity among green bloggers and I realized as I was following along that I’m guilty of glossing over my particular shortcomings in the interest of keeping myself from getting frustrated with them.  As I inch into this year and a bevy of new interests, I want to be honest about the things I’m doing (or choosing not to do) that are chores rather than happy little bluebird tasks.

I will gladly hoof it to the grocery or CSA and lug home twenty pounds of food,  but when it comes to meal planning, preparation, and even picking out said food, I am just not feeling it.  I am having a fantastic time reorganizing my closets, but when it comes to searching for used stuff instead of new, I take the lazy way every time.  And I’ll be honest–my home is stocked with non-toxic cleaners, a reusable mop, brooms, and the like but I will keep having someone else come in weekly to clean.  This last part isn’t even because I can’t keep it clean enough, although I do like having the extra time to myself and I haven’t had any OCD-perfectionist bathroom scrubbing since we hired her.  It’s because she needs the money and we can afford her.  I’d have her come in more often if we had more money because she needs more work.

This is one of the big things I struggle with, at least over the past six months.  I lack the dogged commitment to environmentalism that would allow me to fully focus all of my efforts on that arena, and I have too much interest in other areas of social justice plus a really strong desire to do what is right in my personal life.  I am not a person for whom balance comes naturally and I have certainly not learned yet how to divide my focus among all of the things I desire for myself.

I am hoping that if I stop trying to specialize and just focus on living sensibly, I can beat this sense of not doing enough.  Or, at the very least, I can stop beating myself over the things I am not doing while being honest about not doing them.  I admire the hell out of the people out there who are homesteading, making the commitment to compact and Riot and whatnot, farming, preserving, reviving all of the skills we have let slide over the past hundred years, and maybe in time that will be me as well.  For right now, I need to spend some time on myself again.  It is my sincere hope that in doing so, I will be reminded of the joy in living simply and letting myself simply live, to borrow (and mangle) a phrase.

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This doesn’t mean I’m off the hook for reducing and such, by the way.  I just want to focus on other things, like better eating and making the house run smoothly (heavy focus on getting shit out or put away.)  I am still on board with the knitting (scarf will be finished today) and chanting (every day in ’09 and I still love it.)  I’m just not going to throw myself into huge changes when what I need is slow, mindful action.  If I learned anything from last year, it’s that change is necessary but change feels best when it is sustainable.

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I am getting set for my first ever weekly meal plan.  I have a ton of root veg, oxtails, ground turkey, chicken breast, quinoa and barley, and beans! beans! beans!  I also owe the family something baked.  My work is cut out for me.

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Last dork-out clutter clearing post, I swear.  But all of the boxes are gone, the glider, the cart, the easel.  Our emergency water supply is in the pantry instead of the foyer.  I can walk part of the way into my closet for the first time in months.  I feel like a weight has been lifted, as goofy as that sounds.  I hate having too much stuff.  I hate having stuff that doesn’t have a place to be put away.  And most of all, I hate knowing that even though I don’t want it to be so, I own more things than could be used or appreciated.  Even with the sending off of so much, we still have a lot of stuff.  I’m not ready to give up consuming but I really hope this reminds me to really think before I buy.

There is still stuff to go and I’m going to keep working on determining what I really want and need.  At the very least, I want my things to contribute to my happiness instead of contributing to my stress.

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