Monthly Archives: January 2009

ruffles and flourishes

1/13/09

Soooo, thanks to the unbelievable largesse of our Congresswoman, the inimitable Kirsten Gillibrand of NY-20, we’ve got tickets to the Inauguration of our 44th president in our nation’s shining capital. I should add that my wife is brilliant – she befriended Kirsten four years before she ever ran for office, at a meeting of Women Democrats in New York. This was during one of the bleakest times for honest politicians in American history (spring 2002), but these women were fearless, and Tessa knew she’d be the real deal.

Despite the obvious logistical nightmare, we’re taking Lucy with us to Washington D.C. because, really, I want her to know she was there. Hopefully, it’ll be one of her first political memories, something she might be proud of as she gets older and begins to realize what a fairly big deal it was. We have been told repeatedly by everyone involved that it will be cold, uncomfortable, long, miserable and you can’t bring lawn chairs, but fuck it – living history requires good shoes.

We’ve got invitations to some crazy Balls since we’ve hung our hat in so many places: the Black Tie and Boots Texas Ball, the New York and North Carolina Balls, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get into the Staff Ball, populated by all the twentysomethings – our nephew Sean Patrick and niece Katharine included – that knocked on every door in America. I should say right now: I do not own a tux. The one I wore to my wedding is brown and cream-colored (ROCK!) and two sizes too big.

LucyMagicCowgirl3(bl).jpg

I don’t know about Black Tie and Boots, but Lucy’s got Scottish Fairy Beatles and Boots covered

Anyone else going to the long, cold, miserable yet historically joyous event?

remind me again of the unforgettable

1/12/09

I watched a bit of George W. Bush’s last press conference today, and despite all my best efforts, I was incapable of dredging up the usual rage brought on by his meandering, choppy drawl. Sure, everything has been ameliorated by the election of an actual sensitive, smart, powerful adult as President, but that shouldn’t negate one’s loathing so quickly, should it?

I mean, this sumbitch smirked his way through thousands of innocent kids’ lives, possibly ruined a generation financially, may have squandered our environmental future, and worse, made his henchmen (and women) do his dirty work for him – and I couldn’t muster up any horrified and righteous indignation. Sure, I had some nausea and teeth-clenching, but that might have been airplane food.

Here’s the thing: the world is inherited by a generation that doesn’t give a shit about your problems. That is the blessing – and frustration – of human nature. As soon as an era is over, it is OVER, and to paraphrase Morrissey (as I’m wont to do) we go instantly into “I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible.”

As for those younger than you, they not only don’t get the era you’re talking about, they don’t care. They don’t want to know about the way people were mistreated, they don’t want to hear your horror stories, and if you keep going on like this, they’re going to look at each other in the back seat as if to say “this motherfucker has GOT to CHILL OUT.”

And therein lies redemption. The world goes on, Bush does not get punished, oranges grow on trees, and the theme to this year’s prom is totally lame. It is in this natural forgetfulness – brought on, no doubt, as a subconscious defense mechanism to the cruelty of the world – that people like Hillary Clinton and Jeremiah Wright and Ann Coulter begin to suffer.

While she was running, Hillary no doubt wondered why young women were not joining her cause in droves. Maybe Jeremiah Wright wonders, with accompanying braggadocio, why he hasn’t earned the right to say whatever the fuck he pleases. And soon, Ann Coulter will be frantically refreshing her Amazon page, wondering why her sure-fire non-fiction isn’t connecting with readers.

It is because of this: if we have no constant reminders, we forget to be mad. It is why Islamists need madrassas to keep pounding the hatred of Jews into their young; if they don’t, the young will simply not care anymore. I can see how this mass amnesia is frustrating to those who have had the firehoses turned on them – they think the younger generation has the complacency of the entitled, but to me, they’re entitled to some complaceny.

For those of you who might fear of getting old, perhaps this is one way to stave it off: letting go of your old rages and commanding an almost infinite flexibility. Maybe that’s what Obama is doing by having Rick Warren give his Inauguration prayer. Maybe one side in Gaza could give up the war and walk away, and thus win history. And in my own minor miracle, maybe now I can watch George W. Bush speak to reporters and not want to take a urine-soaked sledgehammer to the screen.

geneva conventions

1/11/09

Today’s guest blog is written by none other than our resident brilliant doctor Neva. If you’ve been reading this for a while, you know that Neva and I met about nineteen years ago in a deliciously bizarre way. ANYWHOODLE, it’s my pleasure to turn the reins over to the woman who has salved my sicknesses long-distance (and turned us onto Umcka)…

***

If you want this choice position

Have a cheery disposition

Rosy cheeks, no warts

Play games, all sorts

After I coveted his lovely babysitter, Ian offered me a chance to write a guest blog about the ideal nanny for my family. What an honor it is to have this space to expound on such a loaded topic! Although I think we’d all love to have Mary Poppins as our nanny, my experience as a working Mom of two girls, now age 5 and 8, has led me to realize there is no one out there “practically perfect in every way”, including me. So, I have adjusted my original unrealistic expectations of a nanny and whittled it down to a few key elements but perhaps they are still unrealistic. You tell me.

Why do I need a nanny now? Over the last 8 years I have struggled to find an ideal work/life balance. I put career advancement, insurance benefits, retirement savings, and extra income aside for awhile in order to be with my kids more. Recently I decided to leave my private practice where I was working “part time” and receiving no benefits (and not much money) to take a state job, working more hours, but finally receiving benefits of my own. This is important because my husband, who is thankfully currently well, has lymphoma, and my youngest daughter is developmentally disabled. We expect she will require lifelong care. We now need someone to pick her up at her special preschool and care for her before we get home as well as help with her older sister at times.

Here’s what I would tell a nanny candidate if I was totally honest:

First, and foremost, don’t make my children love you more than me. This sounds silly and selfish but is just the darn truth. I may have a few graduate degrees, but if my kid isn’t glad to see me when I come home I feel worthless. I can’t speak for others but I think this is the great fear of all working women. I think we had children because that mother/child relationship is gratifying and important to us but we worry that without “quantity time” those bonds won’t form strongly enough or could break.

For men, working outside the home and supporting their family makes them a good Dad. For women, as much as we give “quality time” lip service, there is still a deep cultural sense that mothering requires large amounts of hands on time. Good Moms are there to wipe noses and bandage boo boos. A good nanny has to play a tricky role of “almost Mom” but clearly not Mom. She must be a safe and loving person to come to but never step into the Mommy zone. I am okay with giving up some of the nose wiping and bandaging, but I still want the biggest hugs and kisses.

Second, be reliable and honest. If you have a significant psychiatric problem, be upfront about it. Sound like a strange request? Well, unfortunately, we discovered our very first nanny staring into space while our toddler crawled around on the floor unwatched for who knows how long. She was disassociating, as was not unusual for her when faced with significant stressors, and she promptly went back to the psych ward. Also, please note, partying too much the night before is not a good excuse for not showing up to work the next morning. Can you tell I live in a college town?

Third, help me to remember to take care of myself too. Don’t be standing by the door with your bag when I arrive. Stay an extra thirty minutes once in a while and encourage me to go exercise or read the paper. With my new schedule, both of these now seem impossible.

Fourth, look for little ways to be helpful if there is down time. Everyone deserves a break but reading an entire magazine or playing for ages on Facebook is not okay. Although I wouldn’t expect it every day, please occasionally wipe up the countertops, run the dishwasher, fold the clothes or straighten up the playroom. Those small things make me so happy and can make the difference between feeling like life is doable and not totally overwhelming.

Finally, please see the good in my children and remind me of it too. This can be a tough one. My youngest doesn’t give you much in rewards. She makes huge stinky diapers, drools a lot, is loud and destroys things much like a very large 2 year old. She doesn’t understand “no”. She cannot talk but walks quickly to places that usually aren’t safe for her. It takes loads of patience and a special person to deal with this.

People occasionally, with the best intentions, tell me how special we are to have had her. “Special parents have special children”. I know they mean well with this, but it is bullshit. There is nothing special about me, except my genes didn’t merge together right with my husband’s that one time. To be totally honest, I could not care for her alone without help for any extended periods of time without going totally batty.

A nanny for us really does have to be a special person. Unlike me, she will know what she’s getting into when she takes the job. The right nanny will see the sweet disposition under the non-verbal grunts, appreciate the hugs, the attempts at dancing, and the first words at age five and she’ll remind me to celebrate them all.

Thinking about this request led me to realize that what I need in a nanny says an awful lot about what I need as a person, too – from not just childcare folks but from most people in my life. Oh, damn you Ian, as usual, you forced me into self-exploration!

7 habits of highly dysfunctional porpoises

1/8/09

The following things are on my mind:

1. The physical act of smiling, whether or not you’re happy to begin with, brings on neurotransmitters that induce happiness.

2. One of the oft-quoted tenets of most 12-step programs is “fake it ’til you make it” – meaning, essentially, pretending to have a normal, functioning life actually brings on a normal, functioning life.

3. In the basic medical trials for Rogaine, 11% of people using a placebo solution grew hair. In other words, one out of ten people put water on their head and regrew their hair.

Last year, I began January with a sense of hope, direction, and a desire to think positively – after all, after all the drugs are taken and the therapy is ingested, the rest is all choice, right? I lasted about four months, which is not bad, before I sank into another morass.

By late summer, I was a wreck, as bad as I’d been since 9/11, and had to take fairly extreme measures to get back on the balance beam. That’s the thing about a year like 2008; it was deliciously complex. Who would have thought the country would disintegrate, and yet choose such a leader to get us out? In my own life, we sold another script, our Lucy continues to shine, and yet I spent weeks wanting to drive into a ditch.

I am going to make another serious go of it, of relaxing into a good mood, to choose wisely, to stop and count to twelve. I will not let ego, defensiveness and old wounds continue their subtle press upon my aorta. I will try to wake up.

you’re going to what

1/7/09

In the beginning and the end, there is your judgment. Everything we see, everything we can possibly consume, travels sidecar with our opinion: Good or Bad. There might be complications, you know, “it started off good, then turned bad” or “you think it’s bad which means it’s actually good” – but not a fucking thing goes by on god’s green earth that escapes your snap decision.

Aren’t you tired of your opinions? Aren’t you sick of always having to think something about everything? A black lamp, a parent’s child-rearing decision, a girl that goes back to her boyfriend, a song, a cell phone color… and there you are, on this infinitesimally short journey through the cosmos, and the whole universe might ground to a halt if you don’t register your disapproval.

When the internet came to be, this might have abated. Maybe the hordes, the millions of anonymous voices would have rendered judgment meaningless, but no – the urge only got worse. “Someone is incorrect,” you might exclaim, and while cooler heads would say, “yes, but you don’t even know their name or where they’re from,” you would reply, “IT DOESN’T MATTER, THEY’RE STILL INCORRECT.”

Now life and the internet don’t seem so different, and when I walk down the street, I’m looking at you. Yes, you.

We judge your life choices. We judge the way you let your kid do that thing he does. We think you’re full of unfortunate notions. We think you’ve never really taken responsibility, that you’ve never truly learned the value of a dollar, that you don’t take others’ feelings into account. We think YOU THINK it’s ALL ABOUT YOU.

I have to go. I have a snap judgment, two misinformed theories, three disdainful observations, four breathless and bizarrely-defensive laudations and sixteen wildly inconsistent opinions to offer, and the day is slipping away.

hombre de nieve

1/6/09

Whenever we take our long jaunts to the other side of the country, sometimes our babysitter Laura comes with us; not just because she’s so good with Lucy, but we truly enjoy traveling with her. Having grown up in Sinaloa, Mexico with no running water and a subtropical climate, Laura is a paragon of flexibility – something sorely needed when you venture into upstate New York in January.

When she’s with us in New England, I look at some of the days we have – driving through sheets of icy rain, shoveling three feet of snow off the driveway, feeling your fingers go numb after five minutes in the wind – and I see it through her eyes. Why would anyone subject themselves to this weather, when it’s so easily avoided? Just move to a place that doesn’t have winter, fer chrissake! In Los Angeles, you may have bad traffic, but you don’t have to put on five layers just to get the mail.

It’s a miracle so many people willingly put themselves through the unmitigated hassle of a New York life, when there are so many less crowded, more temperate places to relax. Yet Laura always finds a certain delight in the bizarre relish these Northerners have for winter. She even makes me stop and realize how beautiful it can be:

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taking cell phone pics for her sons in LA

One thing: Laura has never been on a sled. Not once. I’ve always teased her, telling her I’d go on a sled down a mountain with her, but she always said “Ah, seƱor-” in that way that means “not likely, funny boy.” So it is with great honor that I finally talked her into it, and recorded her first sledding experience down the smallest hill in Columbia County:

I think Tessa is right when she talks about cruel winters, wind-whipped hillsides and traffic snarled by ice: there’s something meaningful and healthy contained in inconvenience.

smooth, smooth jazz

1/5/08

Ah yes, well-wishers, I’m still here, and worry not: I have not forsaken you. Just charging up for the new year, and it’s gonna be the BEST YEAR YET! We are going to rule the school. We’re SENIORS, dude. Nobody can tell us nothing without our say-so.

This is the year when we get what we want, when we ask for what we deserve and we don’t feel guilty for winning. We’re going to take this year by the nads and lead it around. We’re going to crack the back window for this year, we’re going to give it treats when it acts real good.

We are going to lose weight, gain money, learn a skill, forget a bad habit. We’re going to stop smoking on accident, and cure our future disease without even knowing it.

We’re gonna look back on this year with a contented smile, as we watch the sun set on a warm ocean, and think to ourselves, “yep, that was when it all came together.”