Friday, November 11, 2011

Occupy My Heart

Nothing like becoming a total “have not” for 8 days to get me thinking about Occupy Wall Street. A couple of weeks ago, Storm Alfred blew through CT and dumped wet snow on our leaf-laden trees, leaving them no choice but to snap under the weight and smash everything in its descent down – including power lines (my neighbor's house is somewhere under those 3 fallen trees in the above picture). With only 4% of people in my relatively well-to-do town with electrical power, I did not lose sight of the irony of being in the 96%. Nor did I pretend it didn’t absolutely stink. In terms of OWS, I’m already in the 99%, but it hit closer to home when my shower, heat, cooking capacity and general comfort were pulled out from beneath my feet.

When projections were made about restoring 99% of people back to power by the end of the week, we all joked about desperately wanting to be in the 99%. It all depends on who has and who has not.

Shivering in the house with my three girls and dog staring at me, breath visible in the frigid air, I quickly became a “have not.”

My best friend, Lizzy, who lives an hour away, offered us her warm home. A “have,” by virtue of Alfred’s mood to zip through the center of the state and spare the coastline, she was toasty warm with all amenities available. I began fantasizing about doing laundry and booting up my computer to send an email. She appreciated my situation even more because Irene took her power away back in August and she took refuge at her stepson’s house. She had been a “have not” and valued the open doors of the “have” in her family. Tables turned, she was joyful to be a “have” and be generous.

Through text, I learned that most of my family in CT, except for my mother, were in the “have not” category. Had one of our homes had power, the entire family would have camped out there. This was the presumption. Looking back, I appreciate the close-knit feeling in the family system. "Mi casa su case" is a way of life in some families and the one I married into definitely shares that value. But, at that point, no one had power so we jumped in the car and drove to Lizzy’s for a few days (Mom had just come back from being away for 2 weeks and I didn't want to bug her. Remember, the dog is with us now).

At Lizzy's, every moment was spent in gratitude. “Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity” is a quote I reach for quite often. I was definitely thankful.

After a few days with no power, Tim started saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had power? We could have a big party and host all the people with no power.” Suddenly, being a “have not” left us with thoughts of what it would be like to be a “have.” Sometimes I notice people do this with the lottery. “If I won the lottery, I’d give everyone a thousand dollars!” It’s fun to imagine being a “have” when you’re a “have not.”

But I also know that generosity is an issue of the heart, not of the wallet. Some of the most generous people I know have little spare change. Whatever small amount they have, though, is yours if you need it.

After 8 days of inconvenience (I won’t call it struggle because, seriously, compared to the rest of the world, how much of a real struggle was being without modern amenities?), our power was returned. We became a “have.” Of course, we were joyous and thrilled, jumping up and down, screaming with excitement. Until we then realized that 51% of the town was still cold.

We pulled our resources together and made some phone calls, inviting our “have nots” to our status of “have,” trying to become the generous in a prosperous situation, knowing that being a “have” comes with an obligation to be sure others are taken care of. Some people took us up on our offer. Others had made previous plans, but all in all, either someone was giving or receiving during this trying time. Very few people just stayed to themselves.


Because it is inhumane to sit in a warm, lit home and look across the street and be content knowing your neighbor is cold and without light. We were pushed out of our comfort zone and appreciated how the “have nots” were feeling at night in the dark, cold homes.

Now, I ask myself, why don’t I see the injustice every day?

If I have, I must give.
It’s that simple.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One More Unsolicited Perspective on OWS

I’m not politically minded. A staunch independent, I run from the divisiveness that is partisan politics. Too often, I avoid any discussion of politics because most people narrowly define each other based on political views, which leaves us all split up on different sides of a fence. Half the country, it seems, watches Fox News. The other half, MSNBC. Let’s face it. There is no such thing as unbiased. We’re all bias. I’m just going to fight bias except when it leans towards compassion for one another. Otherwise, there’s that fence again and that gets us nowhere.

That said, I decided to ignore what the various media pundits were telling me about Occupy Wall Street and went down there to check it out for myself. My husband, Tim, a huge fan of Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, London, expected some lively conversation. My children, all of the impressionable ages of 15, 13 and 10, were going because Mom said they needed to learn “independent investigation of truth.”

“Don’t listen to other people. Just check it out for yourself!”

We arrived mid-day. Not a cloud in the sky, I picked up my pace as we neared Zuccotti Park. I heard drums, which lifted my expectation. The first person I witnessed wore a shirt that read, “I love you.” Pants rolled up and no shoes on, he swayed while he waved his sign that read, “I stand for compassion.” I considered yelling, “I LOVE YOU, TOO,” but stopped myself. The music could have been from any corner in New York City. Wild sounds echoing off the sidewalk and into a park we weren’t sure was even a park. I looked over at Tim who was walking into the area as if walking on hot coals. His discomfort was palpable. If we must politically pigeonhole Tim, he’s been a member of both major parties and is now a registered independent with right-of-center leanings. The Economist magazine is his chief news source.

Throngs of people flooded the area. Sleeping bags, every color of the rainbow, lined the park. As we made our way through the crowd, we realized many people were still in their sleeping bags.

“Mommy, people are sleeping here,” one of my girls said as we stepped over someone, forging our own path through the park.

As I looked around, I realized there really was nowhere to step, no direction. People were laying in their bags, camped out in random places, piles of pamphlets and handouts propped near them. There seemed to be no one path or direction.

While wandering for a clear path, a sense of aimlessness hit me. It was not complete anarchy because the crowd was peaceful and respectful, but there was no clear direction or purpose. I considered that most people without jobs feel exactly that way – aimless and without direction. Lost. Without hope. Disenfranchised. We all know the feeling when hope takes a vacation. Unemployment, unexpected death of a loved one. As I looked around, I saw this same sense in the eyes of everyone there. Hope on vacation.

We forged ahead, trying not to step on anyone. My husband, less sensitive, blazed right through the medical area, which was cordoned off with tape. I dared not tread in an area that said, “Medical area only” so I found myself stuck in a space surrounded by sleeping bodies and a medical area where a woman was giving massages. Tim waved us to follow him, but the man politely asked us not to step through the medical area. So we found another way over the sleeping bodies.

As we made our way over to Tim, one of my girls yelled, “What is that smell?” People sat at a card table rolling something that smelled like good ole cannibas.

“That’s pot,” I told her. “If we breathe deep, maybe we’ll all get stoned.” Well trained, they all covered their mouths with their shirts.

We found Tim finally. “Why didn’t you just follow me?” he asked.

“Because the guy said not to pass through the medical area.”

“He can’t tell you where to go. It’s a public park.” This restriction, along with the sign that hailed Karl Marx as some kind of savior, seemed to have incited Tim to a point where I worried for the next protester in his path. “I’m disappointed. This is it?” he said as we all stood and looked around at a pretty mellow crew of people.

Al Sharpton sat surrounded by people eager to hear his wisdom. The music kept a steady beat filling the area with a sense of commonality, even though a single message was unclear.

My girls definitely got the message that 1% of Americans seem to have most of the money and that the rest aren’t too happy with that. Daddy gave them a quick lesson in economics, capitalism and government, suggesting that the protesters really should be in Washington DC and not on Wall Street. I suggested that maybe the protest was less against capitalism than "unbridled capitalism." These words raised Tim's eyebrows. What is the role of government in bridling the capital? Isn't that why we're all fighting in the first place?

All that aside, on a fundamental level, I thought the protest was about much more than taxing the rich. It felt like a movement by people who stopped believing in the ethos of what our country has prided itself on for years. Freedom. It felt like disillusionment, discontentedness and despair. It felt more like a rallying cry for someone to please just step up and give them hope. Hope in something.

I saw destitution.

One woman held up a sign, “College-educated and working three jobs. OWS is my only hope.” Seriously? This protest is your only hope? Now, that tells me we're in bad shape if this protest is this woman's only hope.

Taking away the fence of political debate, what I witnessed on Occupy Wall Street were people who are coming together with a common purpose.

These are all people desperate to find something they lost along the way...


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Toss the Scale

I hate the scale.

Some people live by the scale number. It defines them each day as they step gingerly on the box. Not me. I feel like a sack of potatoes in the produce department at the grocery store when I’m faced with the scale. Flung onto it, I feel helpless while the nurse, like the shopper, seeks my poundage. I don’t want my poundage. What use is it to me? I feel good. I don’t need a number to define me.

If I had a say, I’d choose a non-relationship with the scale, something akin to the relationship I have with mold. Not interested.

However, the nurse insists each year that I acquaint myself with the contraption that I have, through anthropomorphosis, turned into something with wicked intent.

I was weighed yesterday. This is what set these wheels of opinions about the scale in motion. The scale is not my friend. A friend would whisper a ridiculously low number into my ear because she knows that’s what I’d want to hear. Not the scale. The scale gives a cold number. A fact. A measurement that is somehow a reflection of me in some way. A friend would turn the mirror just so or lie to me. Not the scale. Doesn’t the scale care? I’m tempted to say it is this way because the scale is a just a machine with no feelings, but I’m beginning to think it would look more like Chuckie if it actually came to life.

My bones are dense. My muscles, thick. But I feel great, so what do I care what the scale says? Getting off the scale, I watch as the nurse scribbles my number down. I want to pontificate about "skinny fat people" because it’s true. A lot of people look really good on paper, but they’re muscle to fat ratio stinks. They look great in those True Religion jeans, but are at a higher risk for heart disease than someone with more muscle mass or junk, if you know what I'm sayin'.

I’m tempted to care. I’m tempted to let that number take me prisoner, but I watch it float away without letting it grip me with its limited definition.

What I’m about to preach is controversial, downright medically irresponsible, but it must be said.

Scale numbers don’t matter.

There, I said it and I feel so much better.

Yeah, I get the whole obesity scare and how scale numbers seem to be climbing into dangerous heights. I also get that people use the scale to monitor their weight so that they can keep it in a “healthy range.” I get all that. I live it. I put people on scales regularly and watch their faces glow or fall, depending on that number. I watch people record that number on their dutiful paper and then let that number determine whether or not the rest of their day will be bright or filled with panic and gray.

I witness shoulders slump if the number is off by a pound or two. Even if someone has a “good week,” Chuckie, the scale, might tell them otherwise. They might come into the room feeling great and get off the scale feeling shamed and falling short of who they need to be. The scale has great power; too much power. We wage war with this number or hide it for fear others will judge us. Perhaps we are the ones too harshly judging ourselves by it.

Insidious, that number seeps into our minds and taunts us. It tries to define us in a narrow way. We’ve gone so far as to insert that number into a new measurement called the BMI, which is just as meaningless as the scale number.

None of these measurements capture our essence or preciousness of being. All they do is diminish us to a medical record or a weight chart, which the science of the day has used to take so many people captive. “See this number? It says that you’re mildly obese.”

“But I’m an artist and mother of two.”

“A mildly obese artist and mother of two.”

Today our weight obsession has leaked into new space and we’re all at risk of much more than dying of obesity-related diseases. Our children are at risk of much more than living shorter lives than their parents.

We’re at risk of losing the concept of seeing the body for what it is. A temple. A vehicle. An outer form that carries our inner beings. Our bodies are not the all of us. If we nurture our inner beings, our bodies will follow suit, not the other way around.

I would like to propose a toast. A toast to saying goodbye to limited ways of looking at ourselves. Instead of lifting wine glasses, let us all lift on high our scales. Instead of clinking them together, let us collectively toss them into an abyss.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Who Is She?

Don't ask my why, but I saw the picture of this woman while walking through the Vatican Museum, and now I am obsessed. Her face, among many in the famous painting by Raphael, The School of Athens, I zoomed right in on. Barely focusing on the tour guide's narrative through my whisperer ear piece, I stared into her eyes. Who is she? Why does she captivate me in this way? I snapped a picture of her, forgetting to take in the entire canvas of beauty, and we made our way out of the room. I caught a tidbit about how the "recent movie" had made this "heretic" famous. Her name? Well, with a heavy Italian accent, I could swear the guide said, "Ipstatia" or something like that. Now, after coming home and finding I am still preoccupied with this woman, I have learned her name is Hypatia.

Why do such things grip us unexpectedly?

Who is Hypatia? Who is the historical figure? Better yet, who is the woman modeling for Raphael?

To be continued...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

It’s been two weeks since my mom dropped a happy bomb. “Hey, how ‘bout we take a cruise around the Mediterranean on July 17th?” Staring at a calendar filled with summer activity, I held the phone and went mute. A cruise around the Mediterranean. The words didn’t register. Words alien to my world of dirty laundry and kids’ schedules, I thought again about what she said. A cruise around the Mediterranean.

Still, nothing was getting through.

She kept talking. “You said you wanted to do something like that with me. It’s now or never. I’m not getting any younger, you know.”

Time’s hourglass sand appeared in my mind, slipping into a big mound at the bottom with my mother’s name on it. She’s 81, but Fate can take her either way. Half her people died of sudden, massive heart attacks (one while playing cards). The other half could have advanced science if they had enrolled in longevity studies.

I counted the days on the calendar. “But that’s only three weeks from now.”

“Can we do it? I see a great deal here on a trip that takes us from Rome to Sicily to Athens to Ephesus to Crete.”

I paused. “Well, Bea has a field hockey camp and I see dentist appointment for July 19.” I stuttered as I floated between whimsy and responsibility. “Mom, that would be amazing!” I yelled. “But I just can’t wrap around it right now. It’s overwhelming. Can I get back to you?”

“Talk it over with everyone and call me back. If we do this, I gotta book it now.”

Doesn’t the Bible say somewhere, “Ask and you shall receive?”

Well, I did ask for this. About six months ago, I had asked my mother if she would consider taking my children overseas on some kind of educational trip. “Dock it from my inheritance, if I have one,” I said, feeling cheeky. I suggested Israel. She said they were too young. She suggested London/Paris. I thought that’d be great. We talked about this in a way a little girl would talk about wanting to grow up and be Hannah Montana. I never really thought we’d actually do it.

My mom loves to travel. She was in Egypt days before its people decided to oust Mubarak for good. She’ll be cruising along the Panama Canal with her friend, Alice, in October. “Come on, Mom,” I had said. “Would you consider going somewhere with us?”

Now it was happening.

“If it’s meant to be, it will be,” my mom said. “Don’t sweat it. Talk it over with your family and call me back.”

“If it’s meant to be, it will be.” Such a cliché, but so true. What if we all lived our lives that way? What if we let go and realized that we weren’t really in the driver’s seat, but Someone Else was? What if we really accepted that? What if, rather than live by the world of checking off our to-do lists, we adopted a motto I learned way back when from the Papua New Guinea culture – “Expect the unexpected”?

What if we truly lived like that?

Life does take strange turns. Mine is steering me onto a flight to Rome next week with my mom and three girls (Sadly, Tim has to work. ☹).

I certainly didn’t expect this unexpected twist.

Perhaps I should have.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It's Time to Break Up With That Cookie

You pine for it, thinking all the time about how good it is and planning your next date. You even have a nice spot where you can go to enjoy your time together. Perhaps you share tea and kind words. Oh, how I love you. You mean so much to me. You taste so good and I look forward to holding you every night. You bring me such pleasure. Tomorrow, I will think of holding you again. You give me something no one else can. My thoughts race with what you give me.

Then a voice of reason steps in. You realize that cookies or that 4th glass of wine or that bag of potato chips might not be healthy for you. Suddenly, you realize you’re in a bad relationship. But a bad relationship is better than no relationship, right?


Think about what that food or drink gives you. Sure, you get that brain rush anticipating the cookie or the wine or the cigarette. You also get the gratification of having thoughts of when you’ll indulge. For me, I can only enjoy the chocolate almonds when all the kids are settled down at night. Otherwise, I don’t enjoy them half as much. Does that mean my body needs chocolate almonds? No, it means my mind is trying to look forward to something, a small indulgence, an escape.

Our thoughts carry us away into all kinds of places. Thinking about the cookie might be your way of escaping the stress of the day. Thinking about that beer at a Friday happy hour gets a lot of people through the workweek. The thoughts about the food we desire can become obsessive to the point of creating more conflict for you than you need.

We try hating the cookie because we think that’ll keep us from indulging. “Bad cookie. You ruin me with your sugars and I can never just have one of you.” But we know that hating something is as just as bad as obsessing about it. It’s the flip side of the same coin. No matter how you slice it, it’s a bad relationship. The roller coaster of emotion goes up and down, up and down. So what to do?

It’s time to get off the ride. It’s time to break it off with that cookie.

So, how do you break up with a cookie?

1. Cold Turkey

Well, first step is some time off. You need to know that you can live without it. Whatever it is that’s obsessing your mind is just something obsessing your mind. You really don’t need it or thoughts of it. All it does is leave you with a hangover or an extra love handle. Of course, some people can have perfectly normal relationships with their cookies and wine. Remember, this instruction is for those who are in an obsessive, self-destructive relationship with food.

You can live without him.

You heard me. It’s so cliché, but true. Spend time finding yourself again. What was life like before the thoughts of the cookie took over, before all you could think about was emptying that wine bottle after work? What was life like before the thoughts of food invaded your every day? We were all kids once. We can all go back to a time when life was a little more carefree and simple. Go back there in your mind. Find a spot in time where you were free of worry. Whenever your mind wants to latch on to the idea of that cookie or bottle of wine, let it take you to a time when your mind was free and clear.

You don’t have to be harsh and throw the cookies into the garbage, swearing at them, although you can. You can just say, “I don’t need you right now. I need some time alone.” And toss the stuff. It’s very liberating and empowering to realize that you actually don’t need the cookie.

2. Find New Friends

When you lose something, you’ll go through a period of mourning and will need lots of support. Call a real friend to get you through the rough time or make some new food friends that are better for you. I know they’re not as exciting as the cookie, but this is about getting you emotionally stable. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the cookie did anything good for you. That’s your brain’s way of looking for excitement, something to latch onto, something to keep you from being quiet with yourself. You might need a little break from the excitement, too. What goes up must come down. The down isn’t worth the up. We can all get a little addicted to that brain rush that comes from life’s exciting offers, but make sure you keep them healthy for you!

Your new friends might include nature, writing, exercising, a night out with real people.

3. Figure Out What Attracted You to the Cookie in the First Place

Was it the promise that it would give you something you didn’t have? What is your life missing? What might you need to change in your life? Usually, we distract ourselves with mind-numbing behaviors because we’re running away from something else. We don’t want to accept some truth that lurks within us. Perhaps you need to call your mother and have that difficult conversation or find that new job you know will change your life and perspective. Going to the cookie is just another way of going away from your truth. Find your truth and sit with it. Remember, whatever it is – it might not be pretty, but it’s real and worth dealing with in the long run.

4. See the Cookie in a New Light

You need to realize you don’t need the cookie. Once you do that, your relationship will take on a whole new meaning. Perhaps you’ll see her at a party and smile. “I remember you. I remember how I went nuts about you, how you drove me and my thoughts crazy. I’m so different now. I don’t need you anymore.”

Then if you enjoy the cookie or not – no big deal. The cookie doesn’t own your life anymore.

You are finally free.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Should Ronald McDonald Be Sentenced To Death?

OK, so there are groups of people who want to lynch Ronald McDonald. I get it. He’s the wolf in sheep’s clothing, trying to lure children into fast food bliss. We certainly know the eventual outcome of a diet with too much McDonalds in it and are in the mode of trying now to protect our children. “Call out these money-sucking advertising thieves so we can get our kids thinking healthy foods again!”

Well, it’s not that simple.
It’s not that simple ever.
Why? Because Americans need their freedom and messing with Ronald is like messing with George Washington for some people. Also, the rest of the world is hooked.

I remember being in China in 1995 for a women’s conference. It was a gathering of women from around the globe in an attempt to discuss basic human rights issues. I remember a lot of different encounters and clashes during that conference, but one in particular I will never forget. Outside the conference area were food stations where people could go and get a snack. The portable McDonalds had, by far, the longest line of all the food venues. In the line were women from every part of the world, regaled in African dress, veiled, colorful.

Circling the area was a group of American women with signs protesting McDonalds' very existence at the conference. They viewed it as a symbol of American repression and capitalism that had strangled the world with its sick fast food clutches. The American women were angry, shouting, “Down with McDonalds!”

I watched from a distance, curious about the scene.

One African woman finally stepped out of line and said, “Lady, if I want to eat a hamburger, I’m going to eat a hamburger. Get out of my face!”

She wasn’t small. Not that that matters except that she was determined, and overpowered the tiny protestor.

My point in all this is that people need their right to choose. If we start taking it away, there will be a revolt.

Whether Ronald is here tomorrow or not does not rile my patriotic heart. What does is getting my children educated enough to choose their food well, whether companies push their junk with ads or not.

The power is ours.
Plus, who knows? Maybe Ronald will symbolize some healthier foods in a couple of generations. Ronald becomes a vegetarian in 2022?

Ronald is 48 years old this year. If he wants to stay healthy in the minds of those trying to put him in the old folks' home, the least he can do is up his fiber.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Crazy Mom Moment

We all have them, you know -- the crazy mom moments. So, if you're a mother, don't act like they don't happen to you. I'm not proud of them, but they happen.

Now I catch myself trapped in hindsight, head bowed in shame. Blog confession might temper the guilt. Or maybe I'll just be wracked with the memory and never get relief.

It all started the morning I looked at the calendar and decided none of it made any sense. Three children in three different places at the same time (you know how this goes). But, with carpools, I could manage. And one would be late for a game, which coach said was OK.

Then one of my daughters gets a text and decides that she wants to skip practice and go to a friend's birthday party, a friend who has just been released from the hospital after an emergency appendectomy. How could I say no? "Sure, you can miss practice. I'll let the coach and the people I carpool with know."

That change happened with ease.

Then my husband chimed in. "Oh, I forgot to tell you that I have to go to a dinner tonight."

In the mind of the mommy master, he is not eating dinner out. He is picking up one daughter from practice and, now, making sure the other one gets home from the birthday party.

"Oh no. Well, that stinks. I'll have to figure something out." My first reaction was forgiving. My second, not so much. After stewing a bit about untangling the mess, I said, "It would have been nice to know this before this morning!" Then I murmured the words "selfish" and "narcissistic" and dropped it because what's the point?

Off to work and then home to pick up the daughter going to the birthday party. She gets in the car, "Mom, can we go to Big Y to buy Elinor an ice cream cake?" Again, appendectomy.

"Sure, I don't see why not, but I still don't know how you'll get home tonight. I won't be home until 8:00."

"Don't worry. I'll get a ride from someone," she says.

We go to Big Y for the cake. I manage to produce some kind of dinner. I drop one daughter at her friend's and then go get the youngest for her lax game in Somers. Of course, she's late in getting out of her choir practice because the concert is in less than a week, so we start the journey to Somers, already short on time, twenty minutes late. She changes in the car and eats her Subway. A dish is clinking in the back.

"What's that?"

"Oh, Josie left her chili bowl in here from last night," she says.

GROSS! We're eating our dinners in the car! This is what I hate about lax season!

I look ahead, cars lined up for an eternity, crawling down the street. Ahhh...rush hour.

I watch the car clock like I do a horserace had I bet my entire year's salary. Thirty minutes until game start and we're 45 minutes away. I had scribbled directions on a paper and suddenly noticed they lacked the detail I intended to add with a Mapquest search. All I have now are the basic directions from a coach's email. Hmmm... that should be OK. I-91 to 190. A right turn on South Road. Simple enough.

We chat a little. How was your day? I watch the clock. I breathe deeply. That doesn't really help because Cigna traffic has amassed. Ten minutes have passed and I haven't left West Hartford. Breathing deeply only makes me cough.

Finally, I jump on I-91 with only three near miss accidents, none of them my fault, of course.

"We've got fifteen minutes until the game starts!" I look back and Frankie is slumped in the backseat. I look down and see a cooler filled with cut watermelon and oranges. Even though I was assigned oranges, I loaded up on watermelon, too. Never hurts to go the extra mile. The soft cooler bulges. I imagine the fruit getting soggy in the plastic bags with the sun beating through the window. For some reason, I hit the gas.

Finally, exit 47E. Phew. Five minutes until the game starts. "Frankie, you might make it!" I pull off the exit and take a right onto 190, just as my instructions tell me to do. The traffic is worse here. I creep along the road. Clock reads Game Time. I try to maneuver through traffic. We move a little. I curse under my breath. Patient daughter sits in the backseat without saying a word. Her biggest fear is that Mom will have an accident. She assumes I will.

"It's no big deal if I don't get there, Mom. Coach Ann already knows I'll be late."

"Yeah, yeah," I say as I swerve into another lane.

The fruit is disintegrating. Oh no! What if we don't make the game? I paid $20 for fruit that's going to go bad. Now I am obsessing on the fruit.

My directions say that I'll be on 190 for several miles before South Road. I have lost track of mileage only knowing that I've been in traffic for a long time. As I approach a light, I see "South Road" to my right. "We're here!" I yell.

I take a right and expect to see the field right there. That's what it says on the directions. Take a right and the field is right there. I look. No field. "Frankie, do you see a field anywhere?"

"No, Mom." By now, she is in a trance after an already long day.

I cruise down South Road where all I see is grass. Some small houses. Maybe if I go a little further. Nope. Just a funeral home to the left. No field. Wait a minute. There's a field. "No, Mom, those are baseball players." By now, the clock is ticking away. The game has started. I panic and call a friend. He tells me to get to an intersection and he'll figure out where I am.

I sit at the corner of Beech and South, waiting for direction. His computer is rebooting. We make small talk. After ten minutes of confusion, he apologizes and says, "I have to go to a concert."

Great. I pull back onto South and stop on the side of the road to catch pedestrians. "Hey, do you know where Firehouse Field is?" I yell at two high-schoolers wearing Fermi shirts (HELLO!). They look at each other and scratch their heads. Desperate, I pull into the funeral home parking lot and ask mourners if they had any idea where Firehouse Field was. "No, we're from Vermont." Dressed in black, they apologize. Head bowed in shame, I realize what I just did. This is a low point in my life's career.

"I'm really sorry for your loss," I said, embarrassed and humiliated that I would do something so embarrassing and humiliating. Did that knock sense into me? Did that stop me from barreling out of the parking lot? No. I am fixated on getting to this game. I call my middle daughter whose gotten a ride home from her dad who picked her up before his dinner. :) She can't figure out the lax website and suggested I go to a gas station.

I finally find one. Of course, the barely English-speaking man had NO IDEA where Firehouse Field was. I walked out and proclaimed, "I am going to kill myself! I am going to kill myself right out here in front of your gas station!" I'm sure he wasn't clear as to whether he should laugh or call 911.

Then I accost a woman getting into her car at the gas station. "Please help me," I say as I tap on her window. She opens the window. "I can't find Firehouse Field."

"Firehouse Field?" I have no idea where that might be." I sigh with exasperation with no higher self in existence. Who does this? Who carries on about getting to a lax game? Apparently, I do. Feeling defeated, I walk back to my car prepared to drive home with a cooler full of cut fruit and a very disappointed little girl. The woman calls out, "Hey, what town is it in?"

I turn around. "Somers," I say, as if obvious. "Aren't we in Somers?"

"No, this is Enfield. Somers is about 2 miles further down." She points east.

What an arse I am.

We got there right before half-time. Frankie played most of the second half. The girls got their lax behinds kicked real bad, but they enjoyed every succulent slice of watermelon and wedge of orange.

I think I should invest in a GPS.
Fermi, by the way, is the high school in Enfield. Duh.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Don't Slap Moms With a Price Tag

Since 6:00 AM this morning, I have made breakfast, fixed up lunches, located shorts for one daughter, a lax uniform for another. I’ve bandaged up an infected toe, written an early dismissal note, fielded a dozen questions. “Who’s driving? What time will you be home? How am I getting to the jamboree tomorrow? Did you buy a present for the Bat Mitzvah? Have you heard from Grandma? Is she coming on Sunday? Did you buy batteries for the Wii remotes? Why can’t we dog sit Benny and Sophie again this weekend?”

I’ve loaded the washer with dirty clothes, emptied the dishwasher, answered three emails, helped rhyme a poem for teacher appreciation day and now I sit down to breathe for a second (it's 7:21, 10 minutes before I drive my middle daughter to middle school) and read the Courant’s front page (Yes, we still get the paper version. Don't ask!).

The left column reads, “How Much Is Mom Worth?” Of course, I’m curious. I feel worthy, but I have only had the discussion of a mom’s monetary value ONCE because the concept is beyond ridiculous. I imprisoned the man in the corner with my finger in his face as I tallied up the mom tasks. Then, when I was short on my list, I pulled out the big guns. “How can we actually measure a mom’s worth?” I yelled. “There are all kinds of moms. How ‘bout those ‘executive moms’ -- the moms who would be running the companies if they took that energy out into the world? They do it all! You can’t put a price tag on being a mom.’”

The man backpedaled and agreed that no insurance policy, even the one valued at a million dollars, could ever cover a mom’s value. That man, my husband, hasn’t uttered a word about replacing me with an insurance policy since.

I’m sure he read the headlines this morning and wanted nothing more than to bury them beneath sections C and D where this article belongs. Seriously, why are we telling moms they’re only worth $61,436.00 on the front page? I hope there’s plenty of backlash for Mr. Sturdevant, the messenger.

I remember reading a while back that to replace Mom would cost in the range of $400,000 a year. Lots of stay-at-home moms celebrated this affirmation. Not me. A mom’s value is beyond money. Any attempt at equating Mom with dollar signs, high or low, is a futile one. Moms are simply irreplaceable. A sad, but true, fact.

How does it go? “Summer activity planner -- $8, 726. Nursing wounds -- $430. Fixing up the house -- $1,000. A mom’s love – priceless.”

Love cannot be deposited into a bank account.

Friday, March 18, 2011


I’m obsessed with the plight of Japan. Who isn’t? If you’re not, please let me know and help me disengage from the stream of news updated by the second. The pictures of the tsunami moving in and wiping out villages completely. The pending nuclear doom in the Fukushima Daiichi plants. The sinking Nikkei index and the G7 gathering to avert global economic crisis. Stories of miraculous rescue and families reuniting after having lost all hope.

With so much fixed interest in Japan, I hardly notice that the UN Security Council has imposed a no-fly zone in Libya. I have lost interest in Qaddafi’s (what’s the proper spelling, anyway?) folly and recklessness.

I am obsessed with Japan, its people, its future.

Ironically, the news piece that seems to have stuck to my brain was one about a dog. It haunts me now.

This soggy-furred animal, shivering, would not leave the side of his dog-friend, lying amidst waste on the beach. His friend was alive, but suffering. The soggy dog circled around the area, maybe looking for food, but would immediately return to the side of his friend, at one point sitting almost on top of his head. He stayed close. He wouldn’t leave the side of his dying friend.

This kind of loyalty, undeterred by selfish needs, even in a dog, is awe-inspiring. Consider a person whose side you’d never leave in their dying day. Not a thought I’d like to have every day, but it’s one I probably should consider while I am alive. It might help me cherish the life I have with my own loved ones.

Nothing like the scene of loved ones floating away in an angry ocean to stir my appreciation for my loved ones. Nothing like a tsunami to give me perspective.

Last weekend, Tim and I went to Trader Joes. When we came back out into the parking lot, I noticed a big ding in the side of the van. At an angle, the ding became a dent, light fracturing from this damage, a smear of red paint left like evidence of a crime. It was a crime! Incensed, I look around for a red car.

Of course, I ranted. Tim responded, “It’s just a thing. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.” He quotes Yeats to calm me. I knew that he was right, but I continued to stew, arms crossed, all the way home and into the driveway.

After I unloaded my groceries, I sat at my computer to do some work, rumbling under my breath about people who “do such things” when up on my screen popped this image.

Cars floating away. Gone forever. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.

I looked for that space in my being that zooms out and witnesses life on a global or galactic scale. Out the window, my meaningless van was parked in the driveway, already scraped from kids’ bikes. I remembered the first scratch, when the girls were racing out of the driveway on their bikes a few years ago. Smiling, I remembered when they were so small and innocent and protected.

Then I glanced over at the newest ding – the one with the red paint – and I thought of Japan’s flag. I got new perspective all over again.

I am obsessed with Japan. The tragedy reveals the greater truth.

Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. Only love remains.