Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A Few Important Points

 #1.  Whenever I see someone or hear someone instruct someone else to "take a deep breath," whether in real life or on the television, I instinctively and simultaneously take the breath as well. It's almost like I can't help it.  I think this speaks to my continuing need for self-soothing, nervous system-regulating practices.  Just a nice reminder I get from TV, among all of its other continuing bounteous gifts and benefits.  And it's something I recommend. (Breathing when others breathe-- and also TV in general).

#2.  Something I really enjoy whilst driving is witnessing someone do a sudden U-turn. It's rarely the proper kind, where you stop at an intersection and then pull over or whatever the hey Driver's Ed taught me. Was this how it was taught? I feel like this was the correct way to do a U-turn and now I'm thinking, what? Why would an intersection be the best place for a U-turn.  Ah, at a place where cars slow to a stop--that sounds right. Hmm, I'm going to have to look that up. 

No, it's when someone who was going along like everyone else is like, "oh shoot. Grrr.. ok--I'M DOING IT". And they make this sudden decision.  Sometimes they pull over to the side if cars approach, but sometimes there's a big enough gap and they just whip that car around like a... something you whip around.. and continue on, doing a bold about-face. There's some kind of satisfaction watching someone decide the way they were going was not the way they wanted to go, make a split-second decision, and bravely, forcefully turn and go back the way they came to hopefully a better route leading to where they ultimately want to be.  All these cars and people driving along, going wherever they're going. You think they know what they're doing, we think we do too, and we're all part of the flow of traffic and life. But I love seeing someone shake things up, change their mind. I don't care the reason. Maybe I like that they didn't actually have a perfect plan and that that's ok. YES, I cheer for them to myself. YOU DO IT.  TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE. 

#3. I once listened to an interview with George Lucas who told a story of how the concept of Raiders of the Lost Ark (I first typed "car."  I sometimes feel like I have subconscious dyslexia. Or like my brain is in permanent anagram mode. I'm not joking. I think there's something there. But also, it's funny bc I was just talking about cars, and that would make for a much lamer-sounding movie.)  Apparently the guy who worked with George Lucas originally came up with the idea after listening to his dentist talk at length about the powers of the Ark. Isn't that hilarious?  I remember laughing at this because I'm picturing him lying on the dentist chair, forced to listen to whatever the dentist wants to say, subjected to any whim of thought or idea or story or joke, just as we all are, and unable to do anything about it. Respond? change the subject?  Nope, impossible. We can only listen. Maybe offer a gurgly laugh or vague, awkward guttural noise of acknowledgement with tools and drool in and around our face. 

After several visits consisting of the dentist rattling on about this favorite subject (the ark of the covenant) I'm picturing him resigned (like we all are at the dentist's) and being like, "wait a minute.. I just got an idea."  Or, maybe not. Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe his dentist's ark stories were super compelling and he loved visiting just for the dentist's stories which would make for one amazing dentist. This is the kind of dentist I would be, I'm sure of it.

However it happened for George Lucas, I am enjoying picturing this dental scenario. Suddenly I see a reason to choose this profession. I've always wondered. But now I have the answer: To have a guaranteed audience, no matter how obligated/hesitant. Just select a favorite subject and give a daily soliloquy.  "Guess what thought I had today? You're going to hear it, whatever it is!"  Dentists are pretty evil anyway, why not add a separate point of bizarre/random interest to distract from what's going on. I would honestly love a dentist who over-shared or something. I think. I may need to give this further thought. What's the right amount of bizarre/benign? Dentist needs to hit that just right. My dentist growing up just told lame jokes and it made everything worse. 

Well, these were the main points I wanted to make today.  Have a good one. 


Wednesday, November 02, 2022

November 2

Hello, November, my old friend. One of my favorite months.  How many times have I discussed this? Let's see...

Well, first, there's this one, which is fun to read because it's exactly ('ish) one year later and I get to compare the similarities and differences a year makes.  I also love it because I feel similar feelings. November calls to me, like it's been waiting for me all year.  Our annually scheduled meeting or appointment.  Like a mammogram but more fun and chill.  

Then this one from a few years ago, a recounting of a day I had completely forgotten about, which is ironic given the title. 

And this, one I do remember and think back on often. I can still remember that day and the feelings I had. I have similar feelings today.  There is just something about this month. Today the weather is snowy and wet. The snow won't last but it sure has not given up.  I admire its perseverance. 

I have spent the day doing various things and I've enjoyed it all, which is weird. I worked out at the gym this morning. For me, "working out" at the gym = doing an elliptical machine while I watch TV.  Sometimes I do a class but the problem with that is the no TV thing.  Today I watched Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee which I love because it makes me feel like I'm hanging out with funny friends.  Like a third wheel who gets to tag along and be like, "ha ha! my friends are funny," from the backseat. I tell myself I could totally contribute to whatever is going on. I'm not sure I've ever admitted aloud that being a comedian is totally one of my dream jobs.  But it's true. Maybe it's more of an identity than a job anyway. I will tell myself.

Then I came home and made the grossest smoothie known to man. I always warn Sean about it. "It's a doozy today."  I fill it with all kinds of horrible things I believe to be good for me and it results in varying levels of choke-it-downability.   I then let everyone on a virtual class see me choke it down because I didn't realize I had my camera on until much later. I cannot account for all that occurred during that time but hope that was the worst of it. It was a class I had forgotten I'd signed up for but did it anyway when I saw the reminder. It turned out to be only 4 attendees-- actually, 2 people in charge and 2 attendees. I enjoy these because I love a small group, but then I have to really be present. I try to make it a personal, connecting experience for all. I can imagine it being weird to lead a class only two people came for. I know people hate zoom and I do too in certain circumstances but not for classes like this. I love seeing people's faces. I love being with strangers from afar and learning things.  

Speaking of, (afar) I told Sean I have to parent from afar which means if I have a fun idea, I need to organize it, set it up, and not be present.  For example, given the snowy weather, I decided to set up a hot chocolate station for Julian upon his arrival. He loves his after-school solitude, so I set up the cocomotion I've had for 20 years with a bowl of mini-marshmallows and other snacks and instructions to press the button to refresh it, and added his book to the side.  Then I took a shower. 

Julian came home with cozy vibes because, as I believe with many other visceral things we share, he, too, feels November (3 consecutive commas-yay).  When we met up later, he had so much to tell me and I was able to keep up with it all for the most part. Science fiction and his favorite author (John Christopher), his film class, dream jobs of film editing, preferring to be behind the scenes than the person in the front, examples of his own editing and decisions made to make it better/funnier (which were correct, for the record).  He brought up beloved jokes from Parks & Rec which gave us shared laughs. We have started letting him watch it with us and it was the right choice.   I coerced him into playing a game with me while he talked because he was "enjoying talking" with me today which means I throw all my tasks to the side and stay engaged as long as I have him. 

I mourn the loss of his little kidhood every day and try to catch the speeding bullet that is his current growing up which I know is folly. It can't be done. But I can chart 13 on days like this, knowing them when I see them, and let the spell of November befall me in whatever way it will.


I've been waiting all year for this page in my calendar. Kinda obsessed.

  

Monday, October 24, 2022

Miracle

I can't nap. I used to be able to. But ever since I had a child, the ability went away. It's not entirely his fault. My brain has evolved over the years and it just has a really difficult time quieting down in the daytime/anytime.  If I have a rough night of sleep, that's it for me. I can't plan on a nap later. It puts a lot of pressure on nighttime sleep. And nighttime sleep really feels it and gets stressed out. It's a bit of a problem/terrible cycle. But sometimes, on the rarest of occasions, if I have all of the ingredients juuust right, a nap might happen. For a few minutes.  

Ingredients include but are not limited to:

- getting next to no sleep the night before. 

- blocking out all light. Closing drapes. Using an eye mask. 

- using ear plugs to block out all sound. I have been using earplugs to sleep for the last ten years, at least. 

And I can't really go in with the intention to nap. My brain will sense it and revolt. No, I try to fake it out by being like, what? No, I'm not trying to nap. That's stupid. I would never. I'm just going to read this book on my bed. I may make it extremely dark in here as well but that's just how I like to read. Very low light.  And then, as I nod off, I toss the book aside, blanket at the ready (my feet get cold--also a deterrent), and insert the earplugs all before my head hits the carefully, preemptively-placed pillow.  Everything has to be just so.   If I can calmly switch to sleep mode before the "trying to sleep" thoughts move in, then maybe, juuust maybe, I can successfully trick my brain and actually drift into something like sleep. But I cannot remember the last time I napped. It must have happened because I documented something on a post-it that I recently found in the junk drawer. 

This is a really big setup for an at best mildly funny exchange between me and Sean some time ago. But you know, not only was it funny, but quite meaningful to me to have this happen. And worth documenting. Just like any miracle: 

JEN: I took a nap today--

SEAN: --What? Are you ok?? What happened??

JEN: Ha ha ha. I mean, I woke up on the floor and my head really hurts...


And there you go. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Point of View or Whatever

I have a friend I do a favor for once a week.  There's a woman in the neighborhood we call the Salad Lady. She makes weekly delicious and complex salads and posts them on Instagram to sell. You pick them up at her house at noon. Since it's the middle of the day and my friend works full time, I pick hers up for her and take it to her house using her garage code.  I park my car in her driveway and walk to the garage and I wait. I once told her, jokingly, how slooowww her garage door was.  And I was sure I was right, that hers was slower than any other garage door I've ever encountered.  This is a weird example of how my brain, from time to time, fixates on things that don't matter. Like, was it even worth mentioning? I'm thinking not. And yet.  

Like so many times before, I find myself convinced of my objective correctness in my feelings.  But over the years I've come to realize a hard new truth:  That feelings aren't, in fact, facts.  I know. This has been a bizarre and difficult pill to swallow, one I have trouble with again and again. It just won't go down.  I am so sure so much of the time. And as I experience my life and consider this newfound knowledge and what it means, I go back, every week, to drop off my friend's salad.  And I stop at the garage key pad and wait for the door to open. It still feels slow, and I'm impatient and often stoop low to hurriedly duck under and go in.  But every time I do it, this lesson is cemented further into my mind-- that it's not actually slower than any other garage door, but that how I was experiencing it was different from how I usually experienced garage doors, which is from inside my car, at my own house. One I would never declare being particularly slow. I'm accustomed to the speed of it. I watch it curve up. I still get impatient and start to inch in as soon as I feel I can without catching it on my way in.  But I know now that hers isn't any slower than mine or any other, but that it just felt that way from where I was standing (because I was standing), from my point of view.  And that my point of view from where I stand is not always unequivocally the objectively correct one-- shocker.  And I would perhaps do well to challenge it, as well as change it, I suppose, from time to time. 

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Scrump

Well, it's harvest time, and for that I go a-walking. The mornings are brisk and I have my route.  I take the trail that runs along parks near my house, which leads to another, larger trail where a giant canal used to be. There are always interesting things to see. And, might I add, to eat.  Something I've learned about myself is that I'm a veritable fruit thief.  If there is fruit nearby, easily accessible, I will be compelled to go thieve me some.  And I learned there is a word for this, this fruit thievery:  Scrump.   I am a scrumper. 

The first fruit I scrump on my walk is white raspberries from a neighbor's front yard.  Their whole front yard is a jungle of fruitful shrubbery including a baby pear tree and white raspberries. The raspberries are insane.  I freaking love picking berries. They are tiny gemstones waiting to be discovered.  And eaten. I took some today, along with a pear, and then texted the neighbors my confession in the form of William Carlos Williams:



After the berries and down the trail a bit I come to the beloved grape vine hanging over someone's back fence. These are Concord grapes. You know, that really grape-y grape. That intense flavor you never taste other than from the thing itself.  I delight in these grapes. The skin comes off easily and I nibble the seedy pulp with glee.  I once threw a thank you note over their fence.  Fruit on the trail is fun. Stolen fruit on the trail is the best

After checking the little free libraries for old Babysitters Club books I make my way to the larger trail where people have strawberry patches growing in what I presume to be public land, and which I thieve occasionally. And further along, apple and pear orchards dot the path.  There's something about orchards I find so magical.  Fruit trees--treasure trees-- lined up all neat and orderly. I want to pick them all clean. If a fruit tree is without fence, dangling apples or pears close enough to the path, I will snag one.   

One day I discovered an apple tree, tall and hidden and forgotten along the path, buried under so many other growing things.  I happily foraged the foliage and procured apples for me and Julian. I have never been able to find that tree since.  It might have been a dream. But I'm always on the lookout.

Happy scrumping. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Equal Opposites

Today I opened the freezer to take out the plastic box of spinach. Instead, though, what I did was knock off the lid and tip the spinach out into the freezer space. And do you know what happens when you reach for frozen spinach leaves? They disintegrate into a billion pieces at your fingertips and fall like stardust through the bottomless chasm of other items in freezer oblivion. And you just stare. And then, resigned, you put the lid back on to contain whatever's left and abort such a maddening, futile task.  That's what happens.  That's what happened. 

Later on, though, the universe--or maybe just science-- sent me the equal opposite, a very delayed and spread out reaction to the unique aggravation of the spinach spilling out into the freezer. I was driving along a road I often drive, and just as a wave of intense ennui befell me, I passed a very old man outside on his driveway, playing with a remote-controlled car.  And that, and the balance it provided, saved the day. 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Dream Genius

Welcome to the latest dream journal.  These are phrases I said in dreams. The problem is that I recorded them in my drafts over a period of several months. If it's hard enough to recall dreams immediately thereafter, imagine me now trying to make sense of it after months of additional wake and sleep cycles.  Here's what I can tell you: I remember feeling, in my dream, like I'd achieved some level of enlightenment or profundity definitely worth writing down.  As we all do, right.  Additionally, I will do my best here to do a little dream analysis to see if we can figure out just what the hey:


1. "I feel like I'm in a living fiction." 

analysis:  It feels deep. It sounds deep maybe, at least initially?  Ok, the dichotomous "living fiction" is interesting. Can something be made up but also real? Can it be a creation of thought made alive? Come true? I think so, yes. Whatever this is, it's a thinker.  I so wish I could remember this dream. I have feelings that I might have been making an observation on something preposterous going on. It's probably just a product of what our brains do every night, vacillating between the real/not real, frustratedly trying to make sense of it all.

2. "Dead by Midnight'ish."  

analysis: This was one of two brilliant ideas for book titles. Upon waking, I could only remember this one.  I actually remember sending this to my writer friend Val. Here's the screenshot:

"'ll get to it at some point...we'll see what happens, I might be busy."

I stand by this. That's a solid book title. 


3. "You Think You Did Good, But You Did Wrong." 

analysis: As I recall (also, I fortunately made a note here), this was the name of a folksy, guilt-heavy song sung in church in my dream.  Was it a hymn? Maybe. I'd like to think that it was.  Hilarious. Also, I am not sure how much religious guilt I personally carry, but all kinds of early Christian/orthodox guilt psychoanalyses could be made here. (why would I dream this)  But I like the folksy twist. Am imagining this as an alternate title to St. Augustine's Confessions. 


4. "Concision is not necessarily precision, Jerry."  

analysis: I cannot make sense of this.  I mean, it sounds true-- that concision is not precision. And cool and rhyme-y.  But what does this mean for me??  And who is Jerry?? Here's my best guess:  Concision, as a writer, is not my forte.  I'm wordy. I blather. I exist in parenthesis.  But I've always admired writers who can say the most in the least.  It's what I aspire to. But there's also something within me that pushes against this goal, either to validate my own nature/self-proclaimed talents, or because I am afraid that if we are too concise, we will miss important elements that require time and space to be revealed. That art will be lost. Humanity reduced.   (Maybe this stems from reading 1984.)  Maybe precision requires time and thought and care and room to fill. Or that's my excuse, anyway. As for Jerry, my best guess is I am talking to Jerry Seinfeld, who I feel a weird kinship with. I honestly think we could be friends. And he would challenge me, and I'd admire his work and style, but wouldn't necessarily try to emulate it, as I have my own that's worth developing, separately.  I could see him giving me tips.  And I could see respecting his opinion. And I can also see me trying to convince him there are other ways that are also good and we get into a silly argument and then laugh about something stupid. 

Sidenote: When trying to remember how to spell "concision" my fingers went berserk and a word very close to "couscous" resulted.  And now I'm going to sit for a second and think about what "couscous is not necessarily precision (Jerry)" might mean. 

5. "Heinz to recall all bottles of 57 sauce as last customer using it unable to open bottle. Remaining bottles to be drained into new bottles of A1, as usual, and empty bottles to be cremated."

analysis: This one had me completely stumped but fortunately Sean just walked in and provided some info. Apparently this was a headline from a dream Sean had.  He said it was just a headline he saw in a dream but then after he woke up he thought it sounded extremely silly and like an Onion headline.  I am rolling over this one.  We should probably submit it.  Solid gold. "As usual..."  Also, not "burned"--  "cremated."  

Well that about does it for this edition. These are just a few examples of how I'm a genius, if only in my dreams. 

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Blip

Sometimes a first line can be the whole thing.  I found this in my drafts from January and am publishing as is.  Because it's perfect, as is. 

_____

 I took Julian to the dentist today. He hates it there, unsurprisingly. It's weird to see yourself in 12-year-old boy form. Actually wait, it's not that weird. 

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Quotes: Summer Edition

Julian got his first bad sunburn this summer. After much cajoling and refusal to reapply the sunscreen. The good news is that after all of this he admitted to learning his lesson. The bad news is that the sun damage is done, isn't it. But here's a dialogue:  

"How's your sunburn?"

"It's peeling a lot.  I've named all the islands of skin peel. Like these little ones are the St. Edward Islands. I just lay in bed, naming everything."  

I just lay in bed, naming everything. I always hear his bizarre phrasings on a much grander, more profound scale. Everything's a metaphor for life. Or something. 

_____

JEN: Aaah, cleaning out peanut butter jars is the worst!

SEAN: I know! I'm like, is it really better for the environment to recycle this peanut butter jar if it takes 50 gallons of water to rinse it out?! 

This is why I married him. Always right there, always right with me. 

______

These days, Julian has a propensity to say things that feel...unsavory. Nonsensical. Disturbing.  I have to put all my faith in the belief he knows better but is a hapless victim of his own developmental phase. But so are we all. So are we all. And, at a total loss, sometimes I just resign myself, and do not delight much in the record-keeping. What the crap kind of question: 

JULIAN:  Hey Ma, do you think when AI becomes sentient, you'll be racist toward them? 

JEN (sarcastic, weary): Yeah... I do.

JULIAN: I think I already am. Go back to the motherboard!

 

p.s. I asked my actor friend to give me a "weary/repulsed" face which is how I felt when Julian asked me this question. (See the footnote to this post for more info on a favorite made-up game) Of course, no questions asked, she promptly responded. Actually, I'll just paste the text screenshots. Too funny:

                                                     

                                                     

          
She's the best.

_____

I can't quite remember what exactly we were talking about here. I think it was probably Britney Spears (likely) and how I feel super uncomfortable witnessing something troubling that isn't being acknowledged. Or something. Again, I don't totally remember. But I did write down a brief description as noted following this quote:

"People need a village.  When the village makes you their idol, you die."              -Sean, about pop stars who are massively famous.   

I wish I could remember the details because it was incredibly profound and accurate-sounding. Whatever he was talking about, I think it's totally true.  

_____

Lately Julian has stumbled on some weird thing online that is like a gallery of scary monsters? And there are stories to go along with them? I don't even know. This does not paint me in a positive parenting light but I do sort of feel like he is reaping his own consequences here, seeking out scary things and then being haunted by them at night, when it matters.  I tell him these things every day, to no avail. I've verbally banned this website but have not physically enforced yet.  In the meantime, this quote was beautiful.  He meant it literally but I heard it symbolically and, once again, wrote down the accidental prose this boy is so oft prone to speak. 

"I'm haunted by the monsters that I search for."  

It's good, right? I hope he isn't too upset when I publish a book one day full of stolen Julian lines. 

_____ 

Sometimes I bemoan my life and the lack of meaning I feel on occasion. Recently Sean and I saw  a documentary on Leonard Cohen, the poet/songwriter behind Hallelujah. The title of the documentary is Hallelujah. Anyway, it was so good. I kept pulling out my phone and recording so many things (which probably made for a fun movie experience for those around me). In fact, I should do a separate post about it. Good art and listening to artists invigorates my soul. But for now, Sean and I were discussing his life and how full of these wild adventures it was. At one point, to cure what ails he found himself in, he spent 5 years in a Buddhist monastery.  We learned a bit about how difficult it is to do that, what it requires, demands, etc.  How you shave your head. Don't see your family, etc.  I expressed a weird desire to do something like this, to go through something difficult and transformative but in a deliberate, maybe for-a-fee way, that gave my life meaning.  He said to me, 

"Having a kid was your monastery. That was you pushing yourself. You should have shaved your head for ten years."  

And I was like, by gol, he's right. I should have.  I liked the comparison he came up with there. Somewhat relatedly, I myself have compared children to horcruxes on multiple occasions, but that's a post for another day.  

_____

This one I overheard and it just made me laugh. Julian was in the kitchen conducting some weird experiment that I didn't fully understand until the end:

"Lexa...lex...exa...aleh..a-lex...yeah! That worked!" 

 _____

Random conversations out of nowhere are par for the course around here. It's more like being lasso'ed in on the middle of an intensely complicated and/or bizarre thought train, whether you like it or not. And you're not really a participant, just a warm body with ears, an innocent bystander caught in the snare.  

JULIAN: I do NOT want to travel back in time to the 1860's.

JEN: Why not?

JULIAN: I dunno, just the Civil War and stuff. I would like to go back to the 1880's London though...

JEN: Why? Industrial Revolution and all that?

JULIAN: Yeah...but no. That was more 1850's.  

JEN: Ok...  (you can sense a bit of an eyeroll here) 

JULIAN: It'd be awesome to be there though.

JEN: Really? Smoggy air, cotton lung...

JULIAN: No... [total dismissal of my reply/valid points] but maybe 1880's wouldn't be so great because of Jack the Ripper."

JEN: Ah yes..that would be a big drawback.

JULIAN: Yeah it would.  

Half of me wants to explain to him he'd probably be fine because he likely would not have been targeted, so go ahead and visit 1880's London--reach for the stars. But the other half is like, what...is...happening to me

_____

Early in the summer, Sean and I were discussing music we've finally admitted to liking and he went off on this lovely soliloquy: 

"I've been thinking a lot about Counting Crows the past few months. Because I liked them, but it became clear that they're just not cool. Their music just isn't cool. It's whiny and emotional. It's beautiful.  It's really good. But you have to be aloof in order to be cool. No one will say, 'This guy crying in the corner over here is really cool.'  But if you like the music, you like the music."

If you're imagining me trying to appear totally engaged and listening whilst rapidly tapping away at phone, you have an accurate picture. He never knows what I'm doing at first. To him I've just suddenly decided to grab my phone and vigorously browse or whathaveyou. But I know how it looks and explain myself and tell him to keep going. But he was really in this one and hardly noticed.

_____

To close, Sean gave me this gem one hot day. It felt like a pretty good summer summation (ha):

"There's something about a garage refrigerator that intensely reminds me of summer, as a kid.  The unguarded place in your friend's house where you may find a treasure."  

I guess he has memories of other people's garage fridges. But we have one. It works half the time, and he's right, it is magical. 

_____

To really close, here's a picture of another summer relic: The whiteboard summer chore list I made at the start of it. I'd like to document it before I wipe it-- and the memory of it-- clean:  

jk. it actually was fine. also, "to be done by 1pm" was a joke. but we knew it would be.


Thursday, August 18, 2022

A Bite of Water, a Scoop of Air

Sometimes I think my life’s purpose is to record and document, to the best of my ability, my experience in unfolding this growing, changing, marvelous human I have in my midst. It’s a full time job, with tons of overtime.

The things you notice when you decide to observe are astounding.  For example, Julian is unusual and this is nothing new. But I'm amazed by the new ways he illustrates this fact on a daily basis. They’re small ways, seemingly insignificant, but I think I’ve come to more fully understand it’s the small things that later reveal themselves to be the most significant, the things we come back to.  For instance, I looked over at him one day and saw him drinking from a glass of water.  But instead of sipping or gulping or pouring like one generally does with liquid, he was baring his teeth— trying to grab at it as if something to chew. I asked him, “what are you doing, biting the water?”  He said it’s how he likes to drink it.  Some people drink it in, taking sips or slurps or even gulps. He takes mammoth bites.  

And then one day on the way home from piano on a frosty early morning, he turned up the heat in the car and proceeded to grab at the air as if something tangible, and then brought it more closely to him, more quickly.   Taking great sweeping scoops of air and holding it to his face, to feel the warmth, because the vents were insufficient and he could not wait, as if deciding the air was something he could hold, that couldn’t find its way to him on its own, so he seized it.  I observed him and said,

“A bite of water. A scoop of air,” as if quietly announcing a summation of this person beside me, who seems to live on the underside of life.  


I think about this often, this phrase always swirling around in my brain. A Bite of Water, A Scoop of Air: A Mother's Biography. Stay tuned. 


p.s. Happy 13th to the pulse of my life.  

Friday, August 05, 2022

On the Cusp

 I'm in my bedroom trying to read and having a bit of a hard time due to noise and chaos in the house. I don't mind because it's a bunch of 11-13 yr old boys embattled in a nerf war. They run up and down stairs and the doors rattle and a bunch of vocal nonsense is spouted out here and there. Every once in a while I catch something meaningful like "neutral zone" and all of it makes my heart swell with joy and grants my soul this kind of hard-won contentment. I'm hungry and thought I might run an errand or two but all those plans are canceled. I can't do it. Reasons: 

a) I'm scared for my life

b) I always fall into lame mom mode and engage by saying something like, 

"What's going on, guys? Having a nerf war, huh?"   which sends them into an awkward stupor and kills the vibe.   

c) These moments are rare and I really don't want to break the spell. This is a battle I don't want to disrupt. 

Listening to their game rules, made up on the spot, their little bickering and sorting things out is beautiful music to my ears. ["I'm doing government work in the neutral zone."] I like to listen to who's the Frustrated Fighter, the Smoother-Over, the Chill Can't Bother to Care-r, the Happy No Matter What-er, the General and Organizer. I love it all. So I hole up and write and read and snuggle my cat and at least I have water and access to a toilet so really I'm fine.  ["I was warranting your arrest!" "Under what authority?!" el oh el oh el] Do I wish I could join them? Kinda. Is there much more to life than nerf wars and Star Trek references? None that I can think of.  ["Hey, Julian, did you know you have T-Rex arms?"  "HEY!"] But I lived through my 13 which was a pivotal year for me.  And I love watching this kid, on the cusp of his, in the small magical moments of random late summer afternoons. So I'll just sit back, sit in it, and soak it in, on his behalf and my own.  

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Date Night

 Going out to dinner with Sean is really fun.  It helps if the food is good but it doesn't have to be. Back in the day, dinner was our thing. We did it really well. Lately we've sort of slacked on it due to the feeling of the pickings feeling somewhat slim and also the ease of delivery and other general laziness. 

Yesterday we found ourselves in a different neighborhood and stopped at an Italian restaurant with outdoor seating that felt nice, intentional.  The idea to dine out had been somewhat spontaneous. I hadn't dressed necessarily with this in mind and was wearing a black sleeveless sweatshirt with black sweat shorts.  The place felt a bit upscale, at least compared to what we were used to. We settled in and started the night with this fun exchange:


JEN: Feeling fancy in my cutoff sweatshirt. 

SEAN: I can only think of Goonies with that.

JEN, thoughtful: Yes. That's the look I'm going for. 

SEAN, laughing: "I'm always going for the 'teenage boy from an 80's movie’ look."

JEN, laughing: Yes! Yes. I've never put it in those words but YES. 


I don't think we're going to find another actor like Chunk. He truly was something special.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Summer Fruits

I'm always walking into Sean's office, interrupting his work and dropping weird bombs (-- really should be capitalized).  I mean, it usually has a vague connection to something occurring somewhat at hand, but the main of it is weird and kinda out there, if you can imagine that.  For example, I brought him a smoothie this morning and announced it was different, that I had been super hot and sweaty post-workout and wanted something refreshing. So here was a smoothie with no greens (how that can be interpreted, I guess).  It had bananas, watermelon, strawberries, milk, yogurt, ice and a bunch of mint leaves.  It was pretty as a pink peach (no peaches--confusing) and not marred by any of the healthful stuff I usually dump in, a welcome change. For me, anyway. I can't speak for others.

I then made another announcement saying, "You know, I have pretty strong feelings about summer fruits. For each individual fruit."  He asked me to go on and I did and then I think he regretted it and I reminded him--yet again-- that he knew what I was when he said "go on."  But here is sort my breakdown of opinions: 


1. Watermelon.  

When the watermelon's red and sweet and the rind is thin, it's just a joy to have in the house. You can eat it immediately or cube it and store it in the fridge. It makes any smoothie better. It's refreshing and hydrating which is great for summer.  It's just a happy fruit. I love to see it sitting on my counter, waiting for its commencement.  We went camping with some friends (just typed "fries") a few weeks ago and someone brought a watermelon for the shared dinner. That thing was the saddest, palest melon I'd ever seen. Barely even pink, it just looked like it lost its essence, its will to even go on. Some people, somewhat repulsed I imagine, commented on its pathetic state. Others defended it saying it looked weird but was super delicious, which was incorrect. I think sometimes we forget what fruits are supposed to taste like and lower the standard way too far. Ok, delicious compared to the dirt under my feet maybe.  I kept my opinions to myself, and anyone who might have been close enough to overhear as I shared my opinions with myself.  Sean, of course, was in agreement. 

1a. Speaking of melons, I also love a good honeydew. Honeydew is definitely an unsung melon hero. It does not get the recognition it deserves, and I'll die on this melon patch-covered hill. But I can never find a good one, so I mostly spend my days just dreaming about them. Cantaloupe, as I shared with Sean, I can take or leave. He quietly responded, "agree to disagree..."  I said, "I mean, I'll eat it. I don't hate it.  I might like it. But I'll never be like, 'This CANTALOUPE!'"  fist in the air with fervor.  This is probably the moment he lost interest in my speech about summer fruits. 

2. Plums.  I've given ode to these before. Click to read basically an identical blog post to this.  I feel the exact same about them. Their flavor, their peak is so fleeting and elusive to description that I call them the unicorn of fruits.  The aurora borealis. "Everybody, come! Come out and see the aurora borealis! eat the plums! It only comes a very short time each year..." 

This year I discovered some truly amazing plums. The best thing about hybrid fruits are that they are portmanteaux in fruit. The second best is that it's fun to change things up and they taste good.  Obviously I had to buy every variation I could at the TJ's:



to my utter delight

I wasn't sure of the difference until I set up a specific taste test for myself and confirmed it:  The plumcots are more plummy, and the apriums are more apricotty. I would so love to be this kind of horticulturist. I would feel like an evil genius. "LOOK WHAT I HAVE DONE."  Just amazing. I applaud. These are all so good. Also included are the green plumcots:

Yes, one of everything please. {at the plum counter}

3. I feel like I need to give a sad shout-out (cry-out? Sniffle-aside?) to the apricots, without whom these happy hybrids would not exist.  And is the only way I can even enjoy them this year as the apricots suffered an unfortunate sprummer freeze and all died.  Ugh.  I'm still really upset about it, as you can see. I've been mourning their loss all summer as I eat my feelings with their kin.  It is really the saddest thing. "Whoops-- and that's it for the apricots. ALL the apricots in the area. Just like that."   :( 

4. Peaches, which would rank at the top of Sean's list were he to ever deign to make one, (JK Sean) seem have a longer peak and stronger abundance and therefore allow you to just have a serious peach fest, gorging at will on gorgeous Georgia peaches.  I used this as my defense of plums which, I really don't know why we're even pitting them (Ohhh!) against each other.  There's room for everyone.  But they definitely deserve a spot.  Peaches wait all summer to announce their arrival. And they're kind of smug about it because they know they're awesome. They know we're all waiting.  They're like, "saving the best for last, eh"  And we buy boxes of them knowing full well we could never eat that many, and somehow still manage to.  Peach pie, peaches on pancakes, peach crumble, peaches in smoothies, on yogurt...

  


It's a magical time. If I am missing any, I am truly sorry. These are just the ones that have my full and undivided attention right now.  Berries obviously are a summer necessity. I require them all year 'round. So let me know if I've left out anything important.  Let's hear it, though. For the summer fruits! Each and every one of you.  

Friday, July 08, 2022

Walmart Wonder

 Every once in a while I see something that stops me in my tracks. Or at least my heart. Sometimes my feet. I'm always on the lookout for things going on that slip under the radar. So I guess you could say I'm constantly trying to hone my radar because I just hate to miss the thing going on right in front of me.  The magic hiding in the cracks with potential to stop me in my tracks.

On this particular day, Sean and I were in Walmart. When we lived in NY, Walmart was a unique experience. A bit of an amusement ride. A rare opportunity and a novelty.  Much like grocery stories and shopping malls. I used to drive many many miles in Long Island to go to the mall just for fun. It was so unusual. We always made it a point to go to Walmart when visiting family and we'd buy junk shoes and print photos from the kiosk from our digital camera and enjoy the bizarre experience it always was to visit the Walmart. It was fun because it was new and strange. Now it's more commonplace and less fun. Much more mundane. Kind of bleak. A little soul-sucky.  I personally loathe it and get immediately depressed upon entering and taking my first inhalation of that special Walmart scent that reeks of crying children, forgotten hopes, and broken dreams. And bananas that are in their own special place at the checkout (why). 

So my plan is always: in and out. in and out. no stopping, no pausing.  Or better yet, I'll wait in the fire lane while you run it. Better still, please don't make me go.  Lately I've been adding "Walmart run" to Julian's summer chore chart which is the best.  We live near enough he can walk and it's good for him and his growth and development and good for me and my overall wellness. 

One day, though, something magical happened. And it's stayed with me. Sean and I were running to the produce for something we'd forgotten and on our way back we passed a father and a young child, maybe 3 years old.  If I hadn't had my radar on, I would have missed it. Luckily it was, and I noticed the father being extra slow with his son.  Extra patient. Extra calm and attentive.  He crouched lower, whispering a continuous stream of tender words in his ears as he helped him along. He reached down and handed fruits to his son. "Here's a lemon. Here's an orange."  And I realized that this tiny tot was blind, and my heart immediately shuddered and cracked and I reached out for Sean's arm.  I wanted to cry right then.  What different kind of life was theirs.  What kind of different Walmart experience were they having.  A special kind. A slow kind. Where I was hating it and rushing it, wanting to leave, his was special and meaningful, and important.   One that said, "We are going to the store and I'm going to show you fruits and vegetables and other wonders."  

I wistfully looked back at them, wanting to stay and watch the entire thing.  But I did not. I left them and let them have their experience, allowing it to completely alter my own.  

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Un/Like My Mother: Cats

My mom and I share a love of cats.  Some people learn this love. For others, it is inherent. The latter is true for the both of us.  When we were young, my sister and I went to some kind of pottery class. We had been dropped off and noticed afterward a box of free kittens. We discussed our desire to have one, not really considering the risks of taking one but pretending to.  Enboldened by the "free" aspect, my sister just did it.   We brought home a cat without asking permission first.  I admired and supported her. This was a first lesson in "don't ask permission, ask for forgiveness" but not having to because no one can resist a cat. No one with a real beating heart anyway.  This set us on a roller coaster journey of cat acquiring, burying, mis-gendering, birth-witnessing, bottle-feeding when their mother died, and loving. And my mom was there behind the scenes taking them to get shots, making beds for postpartum feline families, somehow knowing the intimate goings-on in a cat's life. In short: being aware of their needs in a way we clueless kids never were.   

One year she took me aside and, out of the corner of her mouth, discretely commissioned me to "bring home a cat if you find one."  She could never do it herself apparently, as my dad was never a fan. But if it just "appeared" one day, how could he not allow it? How could she not take care of it? Is she a monster? Is that who he thinks he's married to? A monster?   Well, I did it.  I was driving one day and saw that irresistibly fateful sign--"free kittens."  These kittens were baaarely of age. In fact, it took a while to get the one I chose to eat. I remember sitting on the kitchen floor dripping drops of milk into her mouth from my fingertip, desperate for her to ingest something.  That kitty became mine and we all loved her until she died the week of my wedding and no one told me because they didn't want me to be upset. I found out though, and I cried, because that's what you do when beloved cats die.  Even when you're getting married. It's the circle of life.  

My dad is not entirely unfeeling.  In fact, when another cat suddenly "appeared" on the lawn in a box with some cans of cat food (it actually did. I took no part in this. Not saying I wouldn't though), and my mom took it in--not indoors, but in her heart--and let her live on their land and fed her and watched so other animals wouldn't eat her food. When all this happened and he saw my mom worry over her in winter, he got an electric cat bed to keep in a window well for her so she would be warm (the cat, not my mom, who was always welcome indoors). In fact, several cat beds were made/constructed over the years, I believe.  We never knew who dropped off the cat in a box but they definitely knew what they were doing when they chose my mom's lawn. 

This cat has been around since before Julian was born. We never really knew its name. Sometimes she was a cuddler, sometimes she was a tiger, living in the wild, gone for days at a time.  A few days ago my mom texted me:


                                                


I know my cat so well. I know her habits, her schedule, her cries. She lets me brush her even though she hates it, like a child submitting to her mom. She cries for us in the morning but not until she hears us awake. Until then she quietly waits with a toy. She loves to go out but never goes far. She loves to chase a laser in the grass at twilight. She pouts but complies when I tell her to go in. Her favorite thing in the world is when I get sick because all she wants is a nap buddy. 

                                                  

                                                


                                            

And then two days later: 

                                                      

     


Because that is what you do when a beloved cat--friend-- dies.  Rest now, kitty cat.  I don't know when you were born or showed up in that box, but you died June 29, 2022.  If anyone sees any "free kittens" signs... let me know? 

p.s. She sent this a few days later. My mother is the best. 



Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Summer Rain

 I just made myself some writer's tea. What is writer's tea? It's tea you make with specific intent to write. Mine's lemon ginger in an overlarge mug with a white & yellow polka dot interior with "crazy cat lady" emblazoned on the front in nice cursive.  

I'm also wearing shower slippers.  What are shower slippers? That one's pretty obvious but they're slippers you wear right out of the shower, so they're terrycloth-y and meant to towel-dry your feet. I'm wearing them because I just got in from outside and shouted to the sky during a rare unicorn called SUMMER RAIN.  I don't remember the last time it rained like this, at any time of year, let alone summer, where you can visibly see the whole earth just drink it up. It's such a balm. I shouted back, answering the call to the continuous groan of rolling thunder. 

"YES!" I shouted. "YESSSSS. Summer raaaaaainnnnn!!!"  with fists.  I don't know why it feels like a fight. Something about it stirs up the animal inside us, but not real animals because my kitty cat was so scared and was found panicking outside the door when the bomb-droplets started to fall.  

Luckily we had just brought in some porch packages, one of which contained a new patio chair cover as ours is in tatters and useless.  I tore it open and threw it on the chair just in time, somehow feeling brave for risking my own dryness, going out into the storm to protect the object.  "You're gonna be ok!"  

I almost forget sometimes, the real smells of nature.  I usually have to travel to rediscover them.  But I took a deep inhale as nature conceded to bring herself to me, bestowing a gift we don't deserve but one I receive with open arms and bare feet.  Is there a better scent? I am not sure.  Especially when it's impossible to fabricate. We just hope. And we wait.  It's not something I take lightly or want to miss. I yelled to Sean, "it's happening! You'd better come!"  which he did. We stood in the doorway. He kept wanting to chat about things he was seeing but I just closed my eyes and soaked it in with my senses. 

I do love the summer rain. I dedicate the day to it, the capstone and a mere moment.  It never lasts long. It ended before I even finished my tea.  Though, it is a very large mug.  

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Father's Day Poem

 I was sorting through a pile paper (one of many strategically located throughout the house) and came across this scribbled poem I had 100% forgotten about.  There's no date (shame on me) but it doesn't look to be that old since there's a reference to a video game. There are so many references to specific things that I can juuuust recall. Only just. I believe it was a very much involved, collaborative effort.   

But I thought, hey, time for a little throwback Father's Day?  I actually just gave myself one and almost cried.  Stupid me. 

So here you go. In honor of the best dad in his own unique and marvelous ways:


Father's Day Poem

A dad who sings
Is a beautiful thing
But radio skips
Anything interesting.
A dad who builds
Is a dad who guilds
A dad who fries
And yet, for some reason
Hates wielding knives
He shows how to sand
Without cutting my hand
He loathes gross talk
But loves to spot a hawk.
A dad who teaches
And takes me to beaches
Sometimes he preaches
And how to discern
For I've much to learn
Like how not to burn
Schools down, and pools down,
And what's in an urn.
He's a gray beard
Not a nay beard
Reluctantly plays Smash Bros Brawl
I have no fear
Bringing questions here
For he's the dad
Who can solve them all. 
______


That hurt my heart a little.