"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Friday, January 31, 2014

Poetry Friday: Re-creating My Grandparents

Happy Poetry Friday, everyone!

Today's poem is all about my maternal grandparents: Grandpa Mac and Grandma Sallie. I am one of those past-pickers who loves to marinate in the stories, details and even dates of my ancestors. I have drawn up family trees and dug around in the great, stale stores of The Internet for immigration records and am always pressing relatives for little stories and anecdotes. I think one of the key reasons why I am so fixated is because I long for a sense of connection of human understanding, of familial community that stretches deeper and farther than my varied cousins and my several aunts. I want to know what "we" as a clan were like in the Great Depression, how we cook, how we were in The Old Country, how we hold our liquor, how we walk, how we all tell jokes and what kinds of things we do in times of stress. I wish I could interview all my ancestors but instead I am writing a poem for them and for myself. 

My grandpa, the year the stock market crashed, 1929.
My grandma as a young woman with her first child, my aunt Nancy.

My Roots Are Showing

Odd how I run my fingers over and over
The many strands of my family roots,
Harping, my husband calls it when I go on.
I especially think about my grandparents:
I know I am lucky to have hugged them,
Had their wrinkled hands stroke mine
And to have felt their hair with sleepy fingers
But I know my versions of them are pale
Flickering, silhouettes sketches of people.
I remember old snatches of my grandpa:
Rag wool sweaters, pipe tobacco and his back
Bent in the sun over the stone garden wall.
Grandma is the scent of geraniums, solitaire
And glasses of water with crossword puzzles, 
A chic tip to her head, her feet curved and shuffling
I have these little torn, scavenged memories
And I have fashioned them into frozen collages
The two of them, stiff and quirky: static human art.
I know they gasped along like I do, their lives
As thumping and real as mine and my husband's
But sometimes I have to write to really feel them,
Cracking open the trunk of words in my mind
To enliven them, breathing in their realities
How it truly felt...in the bones, to have:
A cascade of preemie daughters, a house-fire,
A war hero ghost for a brother, an ex-wife,
An explosive temper, a yen for pink pistachios,
A college crush, a wry joke over gin,  a first art sale,
A master's degree, a quiet breakfast in Paris,
A job in another state, an absent spouse, a broken nose,
An alcoholic father, a museum you helped found,
A fear of gaining weight, A obsession with saving bags,
Or a commitment that sticks there through it all
Stubborn and eternal and lumpy like all real things.

My grandparents are the elegant couple on the left, my aunt and uncle on the right.
 You can go browse the other submissions for Poetry Friday tonight as a celebration of the weekend or tomorrow morning (like I will) with a mug of tea in hand. There is always a huge buffet of delicious offerings to pick through. Trudy is hosting this week over at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Happy Weekend!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Year of Self-Inflicted Terror

I have never been super good at facing difficulty and ponying up to failures or possible failures. Man, I'd like to kick that one! This year I am planning to expose myself to lots of things that scare me, work hard on things that seem insurmountable, chip away at jobs that take a looooooong time and seem like they will never end and learn to hear and handle and use criticism.

Whew. Its a big year. 

 My focus word for the year is "Grit." It feels really good and I have lot of ideas for making it happen.

One thing I am doing, for instance is planning to take surfing lessons. I love the ocean and I really like to swim (although, I am not any kind of proficient) but surfing looks terrifying. The major deep water, the being out so far away from any help or land, the giant board that could clobber you silly, the Godzilla strength surf, not to mention the social intimidation of trying to hang with the tanned and the muscled. Long Island has a surfing school and I am plan to enroll. Lucy tells me she will come too and I plan to push through the shakes and the hesitation and learn to surf. This is the year. I  will do tough things.

I also plan to organize, purge completely and beautify our hoarders stash of a basement. I am telling you guys this so that I will have public accountability and will feel like I have called myself out. I'm gonna sort through all the boxes of junk and random papers and old photos stuck together. I'm gonna take load after load to Goodwill and the dump and jam things into our recycling bin until they won't fit anymore. I will have systems and know them. I will look all my ridiculous mess in the eye and I will stop doing it. When company comes I will not run madly around shoving everything into a box or a bag and then throw it on the scary heap in the basement. I am done. This is the year.

Its gonna be a good year. I'm excited. 

Also, I am heading off on these challenging, scary adventures with so much in my corner. I have good books, pretty spaces, certainty that I can do it and an adorable baby with the cutest static halo around.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shredded Underwear + Inner Strength

Something is crazily shredding all of my underwear. Weird, right? I think I am down to a handful of pairs now because they keep coming out of the dryer with strange marble sized holes in them. I can't figure it out. There's no way that our washing machine is selectively gnawing only my underwear. How can that be? Did I tick it off? If it was all whites I'd think I'd put in too much bleach but I like my colored undies...so that's not the issue. Mysteries.

We are still hibernating in between bouts of skateboarding classes. Lucy and I are watching our way through the first season of Sex and the City which is hilarious good fun. I am fleshing out my resolutions and my ideas for the coming year. I've been tucking away this and that scrap of inspiration and this week I pulled together a Pinterest board and a paste and scissors mood-board. So excited about having so much to draw on in a ready place.

The citrus season is in full-flush and we are galloping through boxes of clementines and having big, sunny orange slices at breakfast. I have to make a note to save some orange peels to toss in the fire some evening when we have the fireplace cranked up. I am also having a yen for Meyer lemons. Every day at naptime Nib is asking to read Amelia Bedelia and then as I tuck him in he looks at my with his big brown eyes over the edge of his quilt and begs me to make him a lemon meringue pie: justification for Meyer lemons commence! We might need a batch of lemon curd to go with it for special breakfast. I also have to remember to get a bunch of coral grapefruits and serve them cut with honey some morning.

Prunings from the fruit trees, about to leaf out in a vase on the bookcase.
Its easy to forget the happy little parts of winter when you are longing for hyacinths and lilacs but I am determined to be in now and appreciate whatever I can right in this spot. I will not succumb to avoidance and wishful thinking and wistfully imagine away what really is. Learning to be optimistic in a wholehearted way this year and also to dive in wherever things are hard and find the value in the struggle and the overcoming. Will become a strong woman this year, walking through fear and the slightly icky into adventure and resilience


Monday, January 27, 2014

Chinatown, Flushing- Photo Essay

One of my favorite things about New York City is that everyone is from everywhere. You can find anything you want to try in this city. The melting pot effect is in full force and there is no more delicious way to appreciate it than in the food world. You could explore-eat in the city for years.

This weekend we had a little meander and nibble through one little foodcourt in Flushing's Chinatown and I was blown away.


The world blows me away. The New York food scene is no exception. What a life!


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Colds, Yogurt and Birthdays For Recluses

Spending the afternoon indoors in various kinds of rodent-style hibernation activity: organizing the larder, reading books, folding clothes from the dryer, tucking kids in for naps, roasting meats in the oven, and brewing more coffee and tea. I feel like Moley from Wind and the Willows. :)

Valentine's Day approaches. I have a sheaf of paper doilies  and a good stock of red and pink construction paper. Must make a note to get some glitter. I am hoping to make some valentines with the boys soon. Forethought it good. This was the moral of Christmas. I have a post cogitating about things I plan to change about our holiday celebration as a result of Christmas/New Year's this year.

The boys all have light colds so we are keeping the kleenex handy, making many rounds of tea with honey and rapidly going through Children's Tylenol bottles: lots of sniffles and a few coughs, extra sweaters, snuggles on the couch and a few extra Disney movies to while away recovery. Its a good time of year to go to bed early and catch up on sleep. The baby is starting to pretty reliably sleep through the night....or he was....before he got so stuffy. :)

The weather has gotten super cold again and we had another big wallop of snow. There are big sparkly piles on either side of the driveway and the picnic table that I meant to take inside for the winter looks like it is frosted with a foot tall layer of marshmallow cream. Our poor, wimpy chickens are staying inside the coop around the clock. They don't trust the white stuff. I worry about them and keep going out to check on them but they seem perfectly healthy and content, just staying inside together.

And crockpot yogurt is a fabulous thing! It worked! See?

We are on our second pot-full. New one in the works as soon as I buy more milk! Next up? Flavors!!!

Dee has started dreaming up his birthday party and I am hoping to get some time soon to Amazon him a couple of small gifts. He wants a Peter Pan birthday....or else Legos. Hard to say right now. The first week of February isn't for days and days...plenty of time to change his mind 6 or 8 times between now and then. The only firm request is, "No extra people, Mommy." The introvert has spoken. I want his birthday to be enjoyable so I think it will just be a family dinner but I do feel a twinge at allowing him to be too reclusive because people make him nervous. I want him to feel confident and to learn to appreciate friendship and celebration. I am thinking about sending the brothers out for the afternoon with A some day soon and sponsoring a quiet playdate with just Dee and one good friend in honor of his birthday too. We'll see. Am I manhandling my quiet little boy?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Ru, Right Now

I love doing these little posts. They are deceptively hard though. It seems so simple to jot down a fast list but it is actually quite the exercise in slowly down and observing. Its amazing how easy it is to live with people and not really observe them or notice how they are changing and evolving. It takes some real thinking and puzzling and remembering to dig up a nice batch of personal characteristics. I like the sweat involved, its good relational muscle-work.

May we all, notice the ways those we love are growing and changing....and I don't just mean the children. Everyone wants to be seen as alive.

Right now, Ru is like this:

Ru's Favorites

  • Daddy's chocolate chip pancakes: His favorite food of all-time at the moment. Its a weekend treat tradition at our house.
  • Skateboarding: His current sport of choice. The board and helmet goes everywhere with us in the trunk of the van so that he can whip it out at a moments notice in any store parking lot. He's loving the new skateboard class we found to attend once a week.
  • Playing video games: He's really into racing games right now, especially a particular game where you race boats through really vivid terrain. It makes me clutch at my chair arms to watch.
  • Competition: He will do almost anything if you can find a way to turn it into either a challenge, a race or a contest. He's a natural athlete psychologically as well physically.
  • Pomegranates: If we buy them, he eats them. Suddenly all the pomegranates are gone. Bam!
  • Cheeseburgers: Its that pre-teen thing comin' on. I can see it now!
  • Comic books: He loves them all, from Archie to Spiderman.
  • Snow and ice: He freaks out when all our snow melts and its a party day when it snows again. Its kind of emotional whiplash living in Connecticut in winter for this kid, this however is a good year for him.
  • Books on cd: He'll listen by the hour. A and I have both recorded some stories for him and we sometimes get them from the library too. The appetite is bottomless. Reading them himself voraciously is the next hurdle.
  • Our chickens: He's the Keeper of the Fowl at our house and he loves to hold the hens and talk to them while he feeds and waters every morning. Love to peek out the kitchen window while I'm getting breakfast and see this gentle piece of him.
  • Science: He's my deep outdoors lover. Anything about the world outside will have him hooked.
  • Disney's animated Robin Hood: He is quoting little bits of it around the house and its his first pick if a movie is ever suggested.

Ru's Un-Favorites

  • Leaving people he loves: He is heartbroken, real tears and genuine misery every time we drive out of his relatives and friend's driveways.
  • Soup: I can't kick it. He won't touch the stuff.
  • Going to sleep: He'll stay up as late as possible. The boy is a night owl through and through.
  • Having Daddy work in California: Ru is a real Daddy's guy and he really hates it that A is working one week a month in another part of the country. Handily, A has planned it so that he is only gone during the five work days and not for any weekend time.
  • Zipping his winter coat: I can tell him as many times as I want to but, the boy runs hot and he likes his coat to flap.
  • Getting things out of the basement: You know, its a basement. There are things down there.
  • Leaving his top shirt button open: He's a straight-laced kind of guy. Every time we go to church I double-check his buttons before we get out because he loves to slyly button up again in the car, chokingly tight, right up to his chin.
  • Cooked carrots: I remember not liking them too. Not sure why. They're sweet and crunchy raw and maybe just too perfect from a kid's perspective to be improved upon? I dunno. He hates them.
  • Quiet Time: I am iron-fisted about quiet time happening every day and although Ru is too old for napping he still has to spend a quiet hour alone taking a break and he really can't stand it. He's an ultra-extrovert and spending an hour alone in perfect silence is a real exercise when he'd rather be in the middle of a crown laughing loudly and chatting it up.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Windowsill Frog

A frog lives in my kitchen. Things you never saw coming, right?

He belongs to Dee. One of his first purchases with his own money from the new allowance we instituted this year. His name is Albert. He comes from Africa. He'll never grow larger than he is...just a tiny inch or so in size.

He loves to "burble" which is the fabulous name for floating zen-like, with his arms and legs extended, just being in the water.

He also hates eating that stupid pellet food they tried to sell us from the pet store. Teeny tiny worms are the way.

The window sill is getting pretty chilly, especially at night so I am off to get him a tiny little heater this afternoon. (Mama spoils house-frogs) and while I am at it, a pretty little plant for him and tiny cave to hide in might make into the purchase as well.

So fun to have living things in the house, and to watch which creatures each of the boys think are most  fascinating. Ru is more of a mammalian kind of guy at the moment. Loves to hold animals and listen to them communicate and try to teach them tricks. Dee loves the detail of this tiny amphibian, loves water animals (fish, tiny shrimps, jellyfish) and is also really taken with the insect world. Love being a household of science lovers! Go biology hobby!