Saturday, August 30, 2008


We went down to Marc and Glen's theater last night to see an LA-spoofing cabaret show they'd put together. (N did NOT belong there; taking him was our bad. But other than wanting to kill him when he asked to go to the bathroom for the third time during the first act, we had a wonderful time.)

Before the show, we went out to get something to eat with Marc. At some point, we were talking about where Em got her newfound love of the theater from, and Marc commented, "Hey, maybe you got it from me. Maybe *I'm* your father."

I laughed and said, "Well, if I'd have taken you up on your offer that time..."

Em looked at me quizzically. "Uncle Marc once proposed to me," I confided.

"He DID?" She looked confused.

"I did," Marc confirmed.

"Uh-huh," I said, moving in to stage whisper in Em's ear so that Marc could hear, but N couldn't. "He told me that he would have married me...if only I'd had a penis."

The look of shock on BOTH of their faces. The red that rose to all four cheeks immediately. SCORE!

[For the record: It was at a piano bar, where we were celebrating Marc's 35th (I think) birthday many years ago, before Baroy and I were married, though we may have been engaged. Pretty much every guy in the place knew Marc, and pretty much every one of them had bought him a drink. He was HAMMERED. A woman selling roses wandered through, and Marc bought me one, handed it to me, told me he loved me, and then made his 'if only you had a penis' proposal. Glen, who was sitting next to Marc, rolled his eyes. I swooned...and then, later, helped Glen and Baroy carry Marc to the bathroom in our shared apartment so he could, um, get rid of some of the alcohol he'd consumed, while he kept telling us, "I don't trusssshhhhhhht you." It was a brilliant night. And it's totally going into the novel I plan to write one day about our little cohabiting foursome.]

Friday, August 29, 2008


I'm doing a lot better. Or, rather, I'm feeling conditionally optimistic, conditionally excited, conditionally happy. There are a few holes in my house of cards, but it looks like the damage was minimal.

(Hopefully those of you in Gustav's path will soon be able to report the same.)

Once the conditions on my optimism/excitement/happiness have been lifted--come ON, DMV--I'll tell you all about it. But for now, just know: I think it's going to be OK. And thanks for caring.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why I Love My Daughter

It is the eve of her 11th birthday, and it is hellaciously hot. Right now, she is sitting in our living room--our only air-conditioned downstairs room--playing Clue with three of her friends, two of whom we hung out with during our weekly Music-in-the-Park Sunday, the third of whom we ran into there with her family. Because we don't do birthday parties for her any more--long story, not now, suffice to say it was/is her choice--we were able to bring all three girls home with us for an impromptu slumber party.

She has come in to me no fewer than three times since we got home to hug me, and thank me for doing this for her.

I've done nothing, mind you, other than say "sure, they can come over." I've done literally nothing. No invitations, no party games, no cake (though, hey, I did bring cupcakes to the park...though Em, at her request, baked and frosted them, so I probably shouldn't use them to brag about my Mother of the Year qualifications).

Tomorrow night, we'll have the neighborhood kids over for some ice-cream cake after an early family dinner at Tony Roma's. Em's been looking forward to this for weeks. I took her and her friend C to see a movie on Friday; I'll take her and her friend J to play laser tag for a while some time later this week. It's nothing; there are 'regular' weeks that are busier, or more fun. And yet.

And yet, here's what I can tell you about it all: If you ask her, Em will tell you that this was the best birthday ever. And she'll mean it.

God, I love that kid. And not just because she's easy to please. But because she's happy, period. She's a generally happy kid, and it takes very little to make her that way.

I have so much to learn from her.

(Happy birthday, baby.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Radio Silence

Meg just about made me cry today with a comment left on my last post that said, in part:

I have been checking in quite often for updates to see how you are doing. If possible, please update so I can (hopefully) stop worrying about you.

And sometimes I wonder why I blog? That's why I blog. Knowing there are people out there who care makes me pull my head out of my butt every now and again, even if just for a couple of seconds, long enough to say...something. What can I say? What is there to say?

Well, I can say this: The good news is that I am no longer stressing for unknown reasons about little things, about silly things, about other people's problems.

Unfortunately, that's because I am now stressing even more about big, real things: Job things, money things, the way in which one seemingly small disaster can take down the entire house of cards. Which really sucks, if you're the one living in that house of cards, watching them crumple around you.

I'm pretty sure it's karma. You wanna stress? karma asked me, smirking disdainfully in my direction. I'll give you something to stress about.

That karma's a bitch, I tell you. And she's a smart bitch. Because not only do I now have Very Real things to stress about, but they're all in the Do Not Speak Of This On Your Blog realm. And silence. At least on this subject. For now. Until the happier days have arrived. Which, I am sure, they will.

Until then, I have this to steady me: You guys care. And that makes more of a difference than you might think. Enough of a difference that I don't even care how much that just sounded like Sally Field.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stress Case

For those of you who've never struggled with anxiety and panic, here's how you know when you've crossed the line from "this sucks, but life goes on" to "if I had better mental health benefits, I'd totally be lying in a heap on some random therapist's doorstep this morning, just waiting."

You've crossed the line when the things that you can NOT get out of your head, the things that are making your heart pound and your chest tighten, the things that are stopping you from being able to think anything other than DANGER, WILL ROBINSON, have almost nothing whatsoever to do with you.

That's right. I am currently having panic attacks about OTHER PEOPLE'S PROBLEMS.

This sucks.

I have plenty to worry about on my own, mind you. All of it stressful; none of it truly worthy of panic. But once your body's primed for panic attacks, this is what sometimes comes. Your body doesn't care if the stressors are big things or little things; pile on enough of them and, once you pass a certain stress load, here comes the panic.

And, for me, there's been a bunch of little things: Big deadlines at work, people I need information from not calling me back, items I've ordered arriving broken (and requiring me to make phone calls to return them). Em had to have a couple of canine baby teeth removed yesterday, and she started crying and freaking out about it a full 24 hours in advance. N is worried about the start of school, and letting that turn him into a little contrary monster. I put a single scratch in the rear bumper of someone's car a week and a half, and the nightmare that has resulted from it is still ongoing and has pretty much convinced me to NEVER AGAIN 'fess up when I do something like that. That sort of thing.

And so, yeah. Heart pounding, hands shaking, chest tight. I know the drill. If I don't have to drive for a while, I take half a Xanax and it goes away. If I do have to drive, I wait and take it later.

Except this has been going on for over a week now, pretty much without a break. And the last couple of days, I've woken up with it; usually, panic comes on as the day wears on. But worst of all is the fact that the thing I can't get out of my head--not the thing I'm REALLY worrying about, I know that--is an issue someone else is having with their kid. And it's something so more-or-less entirely removed from me, and someone with whom I am not even especially close, that it's not like I've been drawn into the drama. At all. It's so much not my business that I wouldn't even feel comfortable writing about it here, because the characters involved don't read or necessarily even know about my blog, and it feels like it would be an invasion of privacy somehow.

And mind, clearly kicked out of control by other circumstances, can't stop thinking about it. It's like the whole stairs thing, where I'm thinking of letters I should write and people I should confront and entire institutions I should take on. Except with the stairs...that was nominally about me, because it was about my kids' safety. This time, it's not even more than tangentially about one of my kids, and not at ALL about me.

Seeing it from the outside...KNOWING that what you're doing and thinking is crazy...doesn't stop it, unfortunately. And so it's 8:30 in the morning, I'm feeling like my head is about to pop off my body in about 30 second, and I'm dreaming about therapists and psychiatrists and Magic Pills.

I know there's an end in sight--after the deadlines are finished and the calls made or returned and the children dealt with, the panic should start to subside again. It's just that, right now, that end is pretty far away...and my eyesight sucks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Mother is NOT Going to Know What to Think About This

When I was 19, I was chosen as the sole participant from my college in a full-scholarship exchange program with the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. While I was there, I met a boy. (Of course I did. That's what you do when you're studying abroad. It's part of the curriculum.)

He always said he 'knew' pretty immediately, despite the fact that he had a girlfriend in his home town. It took me a bit longer to the same way towards him, but I remember the turning point, a night he came to my attic dorm room (yes, with eaves and no heat and the wind whistling past...the full-on Jane-Eyre romantic vibe) filled with almost as much despair and guilt and longing as he was with cider and ale. Even though he passed out soon after declaring his feelings for me, I was touched beyond measure. How romantic, yes?

We were inseparable for the rest of the year. I even flew back to England during winter break of my senior year of college to be with him. We planned to be married after I finished my degree. We planned a lot of things. And then we waited for our time.

That waiting was painful, for both of us. His pain was more evident, however. It showed itself in letters he wrote to me from pubs all over England and Scotland, on the backs of paper coasters and cocktail napkins. It showed itself in the jaw he broke when he fell off the roof of a pub one night; he'd climbed up there to get some air, to be alone, to think of me, he said. How romantic, yes?

I'd like to say that this is why I broke up with him; that I was smart enough, had enough self-preservation to know that my love alone was never going to conquer a drinking problem that already had that much of a hold in an 18-year-old boy. But, honestly, that would have been asking too much of me, even at 20, even as 'mature' as I supposedly was. What ended our relationship was the Atlantic Ocean, and my inability to remain faithful when on the opposite side of it.

I don't even remember how I told him it was over; considering the year, and considering the distance, and considering that neither of us could afford more than the very rare trans-Atlantic phone call, it was probably by mail. All I can say with some certainty is that, as in the beginning of the relationship, he bore the brunt of the pain at its end as well.

Over the next half-dozen or so years, I heard from him on occasion. I remember one call, on or near the new year one year, where he was clearly inebriated, and I found myself with nothing but impatience on the other end of the phone. That, for me, was the true end of our story. I think of him sometimes, but briefly, and with regret. I don't dwell in it, ever. I don't think I've really ever told anyone who wasn't there at the time even this much about our relationship.

Yesterday, I woke up to an email from him in my Facebook account.

After my heart stopped pounding--ghosts from your past just popping up like that can indeed set your hear to pounding--I read his note. And, in the middle, there it was: one failed marriage alas - which was mainly due to my drinking which I managed to stop 5yrs ago - thank god!

He's now remarried, he says, and has two young children. His Facebook profile has a photo of him, holding a round-faced, grinning baby girl. He looks so much the same, and yet so different. Older, fuller, calmer. Better.

Today, I can't stop thinking about him, and of the past. I've been digging those memories back up again, or at least trying to. And I've been wondering why they lay buried so long. Was it because I felt guilty about hurting him, about being unfaithful, about ultimately not having enough depth to make things work between us, over an ocean? Or was it because I felt guilty for not intervening back then, for never once saying, "You have a drinking problem, and you need to do something about it"? Is that what all this not-thinking has been about?

In any case, it's too late for regrets. Something saved him...someone, maybe. Maybe it was just himself, as it probably always has to be.

In any case, yes. Thank god.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Old Time Summertime

Em got home last night from a month in New York with my family. (There's a post to be written about how much I missed her this year, and why it was different from years before, but it's not one I have the time for right now.)

This morning, my friend's two girls came over for a play/can-you-watch-our-kids-for-us date. There was much squealing when Em and G-girl saw each other. I mean, it'd been A WHOLE MONTH. That's like a lifetime...except a lot shorter. But still, it made me smile to see them so happy to be together again. And it helped me to feel a little bit better about Em's re-entry into her home-world, which has a whole lot less shopping and a whole lot less heated pools and a whole lot less central air conditioning and a wholewholewhole lot less getting to be an only child in it than does her Grandma-and-PopPop world.

In all seriousness, I was more than a little worried that it would be a tough transition, and that I'd be treated to a few days of moping and "I'm bored"s and unspoken "I wish I was still at Grandma's"s.

But that's not what I've gotten. What I've gotten was the kind of summer day that you dream about when you decide to have kids. I've had two almost-11-year-olds wrecking my kitchen in the process of baking a batch of brownies, but more-or-less putting it all back together again when they were done. I've had two 7.5-year-olds squirting each other with a garden hose, shrieking at the tops of their lungs. I've had the older girls decide to make lunch for the whole gang (taquitos and fish sticks and cucumbers and stringbeans that were picked fresh from the vine--with brownies for dessert, of course), and I've watched all of them troop up into the treehouse to have a picnic, pulling their food up to them via the bucket-and-pully system Baroy rigged up. I've had all four kids stay up in the treehouse for close to two hours, just chatting and noshing, and then come down only to change into bathing suits so all four of them could splash around in the maybe-six-foot-diameter, foot-deep blow-up wading pool. And they're all having an absolute blast, despite the complete absence of chlorine, filtration systems, or SPACE.

The "I'm bored"s and the "I wish I was still at Grandma's"s are coming. But they're not here yet. And that--as well as having both my kids at home, having them both laughing and happy--makes this the perfect summer day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Don't Call Me; I Won't Call You

You know how they said email signaled the death of letter-writing? Well, I'm here to say that, for me, it signaled the death of the phone call.

It wasn't a death I mourned, mind you. I am an inveterate phone-o-phobe, who would rather starve than call the Chinese restaurant to place a take-out order.

This has not been a particular boon to my chosen profession as, you know, a journalist. Who has to call and interview people all the time. And who dies inside a little bit, each and every time, though only during the dialing and awkward "do you have the time to talk" part. Once I get started--and realize that the person isn't going to slam the phone down or berate me for having the gall to bother him at that very moment, when he was JUST ABOUT TO DISCOVER THE CURE FOR CANCER, but now, NOOOOOOOO--I'm fine.

So, to me, the ability to email first, to set up a time, to sometimes even ask preliminary questions is like the Greatest Thing Ever. And that habit has definitely spilled on over into my 'regular' life as well. While I actually don't have a real problem calling close friends and family, it's easier to just email; I can do it any time, after all, and not just during 'polite' calling hours. Which works out especially well, considering that my best girlfriends are all equally phone phobic. I would say that the number of times in any give YEAR that I call any of the three of them at home would come out to less than a dozen.

Apparently, however, nobody told all this to the ladies at my synagogue.

I've become close friends with three women in particular, two of whom are phone people, with a capital PHONE. In the last week alone, I've had at least four or five phone conversations with one or the other of them that lasted close to an hour. And they've made me realize just how out of practice I've become at this whole phone thing. I mean, I have to say things without rereading them first to make sure they make sense! We go from topic to topic, and nobody changes the subject line! There are no emoticons!

But worst part of all is trying to end a conversation. It's easy with email; I'm done, I hit send, I move on. But this! This requires constant thinking and re-evaluation. Am I going on too long? Am I supposed to shut up now? Does she want me to shut up? Do I want her to shut up?

And yet, I'm having a lot of fun. In fact, after chattering away about a million different things and having my ear physically hurting by the time I get around to hanging up, I've become almost nostalgic for the old days. Almost. But not quite.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Long Time No Write

God, what is this? What is this thing that keeps getting in my way? How is it that my last blog entry was almost a week ago?

It's not traditional writer's block, I don't think, but something more like it's-too-hard-to-explain block, or maybe "writer's inability to sort through all the feelings and craft them into a coherent narrative."

Plus, it's tiredness. I've had a couple of bouts of insomnia of late, the most recent being Saturday night when, after going to bed at midnight, I awoke from a doze at 1 am, decided to give up and go downstairs at 1:30, and didn't make it back to the Land of Nod until 4:30.

And I wonder why I was a bit snappish on Sunday.

But at least with the insomnia, I know where it's coming from. That is definitely part perimenopause, part million-and-one-things-on-my-mind, part million-and-two-things-to-do, part anxiety attack caused by the million-and-one and million-and-two things. And I can fix that, to some degree. A quarter of a xanax and using the awake time to knock an item or two off the to-do list, and life goes on.

But the not writing, I don't know about. Probably not worth overthinking, though. Probably, it's just summer vacation in my brain. It does, after all, have a mind of its own.