Monday, December 19, 2011

On Virtue


Disclaimer: US Magazine arrives in my mailbox addressed to the former renters of this house. I don't deny reading it however. It's like indulging in crappy candy bar: toothsome, high in nostalgia points, but overall too many stupid calories to waste on something so poorly made.

As a self-proclaimed Over-thinker Extraordinaire, I see crap like this lying around on my coffee table and I cannot help but stop and take a picture. I know it's not pornography lying on a copy of the Bible, but this contradiction of input in my life is precisely the reason I wake up in the middle of the night and ask myself, "What the hell is going on in this messed up world? How can I manage to be a decent parent when these opposing messages are floating around my home?" Then I try incredibly hard to erase the thoughts that follow, the ruminating, the catastrophizing, what to do about my inner inactive activist, amongst other textbook depressive thoughts. My poor mind lives in two worlds: one of deep existential doubt and grouchiness, the other full of light and love and optimism. I suppose I have to pay tribute to both halves... and it goes a little something like this:

"Kim Kardashian, I love to hate you. I love that we don't know one another and I can giggle about you and your emptiness and your bizarre lifestyle. I adore the fact that we can use you as everyday gossip. You are a prime example of sleazy convo filler that is welcome in a variety of social circumstances, and for that I thank you. Honest. (It's much easier to chit chat about you than it is to unleash any criticism about my peers, and when I read about you I have access to that part of my brain that is empty and shallow. I suppose that part needs nourishing too.) Every day that you maintain a sense of sanity under such intense public scrutiny is pretty heroic actually. Look at what Hollywood did to poor Lindsay Lohan... and she actually had some talent! I'm not tired of seeing your face on magazines yet so please keep up the good work. "

AND TO THE OTHER (more virtuous) HALF:

"(Post Post) Modern "Western Civilization" That Has Adopted a Quasi Buddhist Mentality- I love to love you. You are (besides my family) the reason I'm alive. You've taught me a lot about how we as humans matter and don't matter. It's pretty fucking cool, although it does make me feel sad when I'm shopping for cheap nail polish at Target or when I use plastic bags and paper towels. It's like I'm a Super-Bad-Cheater-Fraud in those dark moments... but at least you give me balance and perspective. Without you, my concept of world peace seems unattainable. You allow me to forgive myself and others for all of our vices, and you help me mindfully do the dishes and laundry when I want to say screw it and run away from home. Om Shanti."

Phew. Happy to have that rant off of my brain for a bit. Huge apologies to those of you who can't wrap your heads around what I'm talking about... consider yourself lucky maybe? Maybe you don't have children of your own yet - because that was the real turning point for me - especially when they learned how to read and listen to pop music. I have to ask though, what are these mediums saying and doing to their innocent minds? These little humans I created - they believe in Santa! Mr. MagicPants himself thriving in my children's thoughts... I find it absolutely endearing. If we can easily convince them that a fat bearded man gives loads of toys to a billion children around the world simultaneously, isn't that proof enough that their fresh and empty minds are so ready to be filled with the sordid messages of our INSANE world? I try so hard to keep it "clean" for them (the F-Bomb Mom has paid loads to the Foul Language Collection Jar recently) but I'm finding it borderline impossible on many levels.

I have decided, however, that I don't want to shelter my kids beyond reason. Eventually they will have to sensibly navigate the hectic input of media with an informed mind on their own and I feel I do have to give them a sense of perspective somehow (maybe we save the semiotics lesson for high school).

"That magazine is total junk," I've said over and over when they try to sneak away and inspect the "Who Wore It Best" section. And then I heard recently from Ruby, "If it's junk, why do you read it?" I explain to them that it's like having an unhealthy meal - if you consume too much of it, your body doesn't stay healthy.

What I haven't explained yet is that I also like to believe that the virtuous material almost (almost) cancels out the smut.

And the message is... eat the candy, go on a long run. Offset your carbon emissions. Is that what I'm saying? At least for now, this is the best I can come up with.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Comic Diving


This Thanksgiving holiday in order to mix things up a bit we took a trip to Rockport MA to see my cousin and his family. I think we amounted to about 30 people combined... and upon arrival my kids seemed very confused about these "new" family members that they had acquired.

"Mom, what do you mean he's your cousin?" I had to explain that this was my mom's sister who passed away's son. And then the other cousin... well, "That's the son of my mom's younger sister who passed away." Lots of thinking ensued. Their confusion was quickly forgotten with the arrival of a piƱata shaped like a turkey. (My cousin's daughter MOLLY has a boarding school roommate from Mexico who was in on the festivities.)

The entire experience initially felt a bit odd, as if we were hoping somewhere in the depths of our Pseudo WASP (a.k.a. assimilated Jewish) emotional past we could really feel some sense of family connectivity with people we rarely get together with. But when my cousin stood up and made a tear-inducing sober toast to the incredible power of love that has allowed our generation to heal the psychological scars of our ancestors– I thought I was witnessing positive genetic mutations in action. Shit. I mean, weren't we just a family known for our bitter sarcasm and our proclivity for excess? Do we not suffer from alcoholism, abusive relationships, vanity, obsessive compulsive disorder, unnecessary self-deprecation and a passion for butter and salt?

And then my 3 year old niece pipes in: "Um, who's that guy?" The room erupts in laughter.

We clink glasses, I stuff my sassy fresh vegetarian face, linger a bit and make "medium talk" with Stunning Mexican Roommate. Her eyebrows seem literally robbed from the face of a young Audrey Hepburn and I can barely pay attention to our topic, which has something to do with children being kidnapped in Guadalajara and the safety of life in America. I make a swift visit to the small half bathroom and I'm greeted by four large black and white photos of a "wacky" guy (think Fozzie Bear wearing swim trunks in Cuba circa 1937). I can barely take a pee.

Waka Waka Waka.

This man is my grandfather! Wait. What? All I knew of this human was that he liked to eat beef tongue and chopped liver. He was philanthropic towards libraries, cigars, Monaco, and Brown University– but otherwise did a great job embarrassing the hell out of his grandkids by treating his daughters and restaurant staff like slaves. (In many ways he was the worst side of that NYC Jewish stereotype.) I'm pretty sure I never got to see him with a genuine smile on his face, and and I always wondered if he thought his philanthropy would somehow buff out his cantankerous edges.

So back to Waka Waka... GRANDPOP!!! WTF was going on? He apparently excelled at this odd genre popular in his day referred to as "Comic Diving". And this made him smile. It made ME smile just looking at it 60 or so years after the act. Just when I thought the world was getting more boring than ever (a kind of boring only relieved by watching the creative genius that is Adventure Time on Cartoon Network) these photographic gems decided to give me a shake down.

Ugh. I have so much to learn about my family history it hurts. If this blog can help me, I will be doing the backstroke into the depths of my comic gene pool, with the hopes that my Lake Wobegon "above average" children will come to thank me for it when they reach the mental quagmire of middle age.

P.S. The title of this post was actually going to be "From Fatitude to Gratitude: The Truth About My Genetic Gravy".

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Facebook Kidnapped My Mojo


These watermelon radishes and chiogga beets were photographed in the height of their beauty last fall in Vermont, where finding sublime vegetables was relatively easy. I'm pretty sure I had every intention of sharing this image when I captured it, along with a few others that show you how gorgeous the roots look when you slice them open, but I lost focus. The pictures have been relegated to yet another flickr photo set, and lost in the swamp of my unorganized iphoto library. My regret here is twofold; I don't have interesting vegetables readily available to me, and facebook (for the better part of the last 4 years) has literally scooped up any of my blogging power and tucked it in its dirty back pocket.

(Before I move to the next topic, I should add that if you can get your hands on a watermelon radish and slice it up, you should. Their color is an inspiration. And just think - if I had decided to include the photo of their interior, would you more or less likely to go out and find one for yourself? The chiogga beet interior is shown in a previous post.)

Sometimes I will take a peek at a random old blog entry from years past and feel a bit uncomfortable - like that deep embarrassment one feels when reading old journal entries from middle school - but other times I have happened upon some decent posts that serve as a reminder of my hectic past, things that I'm surprised I took the time to write out, things that kept my old friends close to me even though they were far away. And then Facebook came along... and look what it fucking did!! I don't even think I need to explain how easy it made keeping in touch with my friends around the world... and how alluring it has been to spy on everybody, to stalk old boyfriends, to put my immediate world in the face of many many so-called "friends". This makes me deeply sad if I think about it too much, but if somebody could show me how many hours or minutes I have spent gazing into the light of a computer screen or sucked into the glow of my iphone in the last year alone I would probably feel sick inside. How is it that FRIEND has gone from noun to verb in such a short period of time? Why have I felt it necessary to dip into iphone candy to alert the world to my experience of apple-picking with my children? Does anybody really need to know, or is fb just my new video game (I wasted a good year of college playing computer tetris during deep bouts of depression)? In this questioning I have become much better at confronting my motivations when making a "status update", and even limiting my computer/phone time entirely.

As it goes, there is a flip side to everything, and I see that fb is a joy and delight for many of us that are too busy to stay connected (either on the phone or via snail mail) and I am not ready to give it up cold turkey... but I will say that I am far more mindful of how I use it as a tool rather than an escape. And that's just how I see my present stance on blogging. This space has become a type of tool. I'm not entirely sure what kind of tasks this tool accomplishes, but I know it does SOMETHING. Something more than just nourishing my ego.

Friday, November 04, 2011

bovine wonder


We took a field trip to the landfill and recycle center with the Pre-Kindergarten class from Penny's school last week. This was the only photo I could grab out of the bus window when we reached the top of "Trash Mountain". Our tour guide mentioned that these cows are literally "strays" from a nearby farm who seem to find it tasty to graze atop a massive stack of trash. I don't know how to feel about this really... as I wonder if the cows are getting decent nutrition, or whether I should feel confident that I'm witnessing the cycle of nature at its best.

What I did take away from the experience was how incredibly important it is to spend time at a true metropolitan landfill. It is so horrifying and intense, but ultimately such a powerful message to these little kids (and their grown up teachers) who happened to learn a lot about what it means to create less waste.

On and end note, I have to say that my last post must have generated a weird cosmic energy... the construction barrels were removed from the bridge. Now all that remains are a couple of BUMP signs (which are my favorite).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Endless Construction


Approximately four years ago I would drive across this bridge and wonder when it would ever NOT be under construction. Somehow I have ended up back in this town, driving many of my old routes and I get to ask the same question. What is wrong with this bridge anyway? I have never seen a construction vehicle or worker attending to anything here. It always makes me feel sad and empty for some reason - like really and truly nobody cares for this thing. So I'm featuring it here and giving it a moment of attention, because in just the right light and with the cooperation of well-placed clouds, it almost looks like this road leads somewhere interesting.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Secret Code

Andre the Giant Has a Posse...

I love being back in an urban setting and have discovered a very new fresh feeling. (Quite the opposite of that "not-so-fresh feeling"... call it the "City Douche Effect" maybe.) In the same way that I felt intrigue and excitement about the wild, rugged, organic Vermont lifestyle when we first moved there, a similar thing is happening here. I'm expanding. Or I've grown up. I have a much clearer sense of who I am and where my place is in this insane world, and a lot of that has to do with surrounding myself with the unknown and being able to feel like I'm hiding in my community, even if I occasionally run into people I know when I'm getting groceries.

Graffiti makes me feel comfy. Dumpsters are intriguing. Traffic and sirens remind me that there are tragedies and realities that continue to plague people, even if my life seems to be running smoothly. While I sit here typing on my couch I can hear the excited, jazzed-up college marching band version of "Call Me Al" echoing from the Brown football stadium... occasional cheers erupt. Then some crickets chirping. Then more drums and horns. Somehow I find it pleasant to feel a crowd nearby.

Sure, there's a ton of the ugly shit too... those crowded strip malls and office plazas. The hideously boring Targets, WalMarts, BedBathBeyond-villes. The crazy masses of overweight Americans mindlessly stuffing their lives with more and more unhealthy shit... and more shit... and more stuff... and more stuff-on-shits. It's the American REALITY that I have chosen to confront everyday, rather than escape. And on days that I'm out walking the street signs are winking at me and they whisper rather convincingly:

"Andre the Giant Has a Posse!"

For real. And if you're lost and totally not with me on this one... DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Monday, September 19, 2011



We took a leisurely neighborhood stroll today - Penny on her Skuut, and me in my wildly uncomfortable new shoes. I decided to ditch looking through my camera viewfinder because the more I think about what I'm trying to capture exactly, the lamer my photos seem to become. And what a great metaphor for my life right now. The harder I try to frame some aspect of my life's direction, the less attainable it gets.

Recently I have given up a whole bucketload of material desires - mainly a giant house with 4 bathrooms and 10 acres of land - for a pared down rental with one bathroom to split between our family of 5. This process of moving for the 4th time in 7 years has aged me exponentially, but it has given me more wisdom than ever on the impermanence of everything. I have had to abandon a lot of those visions of what I hoped my life would look like as a middle aged woman... seriously. The dream did NOT resemble this! Thankfully I have been given an extraordinary education, a generous extended family and healthy children. I can generate and appreciate new perspectives on just about anyone and anything these days, which gives me the little crumbs of energy I need to make it to bedtime.

(Yes, I said crumbs.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

too much to say. too little time.


Where does the time go? I have been a bit obsessed with this notion of time warping recently. Two weekends ago seemed like the longest 3 day vacation I can remember. Last weekend seemed like a blink.

And I can't even recall what happened yesterday.

Hormones? Amnesia? Alzheimer's? Technology? I'd love an explanation or something to point a finger at, but the best I can come up with has more to do with the natural aging process. My little twins are now riding bicycles. They have to study for spelling quizzes. They throw around sarcastic comments about their parents. And my baby is 4. She thinks she is a professional dancer and can shimmy like J Lo. I have absolutely NOTHING to do with it.

So I observe my girls a lot more carefully these days and finally understand those parents who seemed over the top with their emotional sensitivity to their kids... (Believe me. I spent a lot of time making fun of them. I just never got it until now.) Childhood innocence has the slowest, yummiest perception of time. And just to make more sense of the photo, I remember my friends telling me they had never eaten homemade beets. How about growing your own, harvesting them with your kids and cooking them? It's all completely possible AND you might even have fun in the process. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't actually take that long, unless you think the earth isn't moving at the right pace anymore (which could also be possible... but that's another post for another day).


Thursday, July 14, 2011

That Certain Something...


I wish I had a great explanation for this new urge to blog. But I'm back... I think.