Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Procrastination Station
My sister is giving her notice this morning at the office. This means that our brief stint of job sharing and babysitting is going to be ending in 2 is my paycheck. Ouch. But, rather than stress about money, or homework or the whole "moving in less than a week and haven't packed more than three boxes" situation...I'm just going to enjoy my afternoon here at the lake.

The babies are napping, the wind is rustling through the apple tree leaves outside my window and the water is shimmering at the edge of the lawn. It's just a perfectly quiet and wonderful morning. Why spoil it with worry and stress?

Sunday, August 21, 2005
Sex Parties & Ice Cream
I need a nap.

I woke up at 5 this morning with a throbbing migraine. Had a great weekend though. Birthdays, restaurants, shopping, a wedding & yes, a ridiculously humorous sex toy party. And I had ice cream, the real deal, turned my stomach/intestines into a carnival of hurt...but it was worth every lick.

Thursday, August 18, 2005
American Idiot?

This article made me laugh. I'm all for the end of starvation dieting and the disturbing glorification of gaunt, bony young women flaunting figures even twelve year old boys would be ashamed of. To quote my incredibly handsome and wise younger brother, "Yuck!"

Aside from the obvious statements Duffy makes about the absurdity of the Hollywood shrinkilollipoppop heads, (the Olsen's, Lohan's, Ritchie's and the like), she also, in a round about sort of way, addresses the question: exactly how idiotic does the media think we (American women) are? Or worse, the potentially larger question: Is their accusation completely unfounded? Or are we idiots?

I'd prefer to think not, but someone must be buying the magazines that are promoting the "Lindsay Lohan Diet" or smearing the "must have" mascara of the moment on their lashes ("Why be great, when you can be fabuLASH?") Ugh! Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the use of make up or mascara, but don't try to sell it to me with by getting a sleek and glamorous Oscar winner using Revlon-invented ghetto fabulous lingo like fabulash.

Stop with all advertising. It's making me angry. Why are 99.9% of the advertisements out there geared toward some mindless self-conscious, self-absorbed society of pinheads? Are my intelligent friends and I that much of a minority in this country?

I refuse to believe that, which leads to the only other question in need of explanation: how are so many pinheads managing to succeed in advertising? Ah, but now we're created a circular argument. They're successful in advertising, because *someone* out there is buying what they're selling, how they're selling it. Someone out there really does think that they could learn a few dieting tips from Lindsay Bones, er, Lohan; and someone else honestly thinks that fabulash is a descriptive ideal worth striving toward, one mascara wand at a time. So, apparently, we are living in a harmonious society in which there are enough idiots out there searching for answers to their own unhappiness in diets and make up, to balance out the amount of smarmy-condescending-idiots peddling it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
To Do...

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. ~Gene Fowler


Things to do today:

Commute for an hour
Work for 6.
Commute for another hour.
Make dinner
Feed/change/play with baby
Clean mess (ok, leave mess...)
Pack (for closing in 2 weeks!)
Walk/do weights
Stress about bills, school work and where we're moving to (???)
Sit in front of a blank Word document and wait for head
to bleed.

Monday, August 15, 2005
In the springtime they are slaughtered. On brilliant mornings of cloudless skies their blood spills and pools on cold concrete marketplace floors. The spring I turned twenty, I saw them for myself; the lambs of Easter, sacrificed in small towns throughout Transylvania. I walked quickly past them, keeping my head to the fence, to the sky, to the trees. I looked anywhere but down. And I walked around the outer edge of the marketplace, pressed to the tired buildings behind the cabbage mounds and herb sacks, smelling wild onions and grass, dirt and sweat. Springtime in Sighisoara.

At the table for our Easter feast, the lamb's eyeballs were given to the man of our house. A delicacy I was happily spared. I sipped sour soup and burned my throat with sharp shots of plum brandy. At first it tingled sweetly on my tongue, but the after burn was bitter and lasting. After dining, we sat and mixed wine with our Coke and laughed at how American's are squeamish of eyeballs.

In the summer, a friend came to visit me. We went to Poland on an overnight train. There was a crazy Polack in the car with us. He was accompanied by a rather stern looking older gentleman who looked at us apologetically after each of his lunatic outbursts. After the first fifteen hours we decided to change cars.

The scenery slowly chugged past our window. It was all green. It was how I had imagined Ireland would look. Square white homes occasionally dotted the emerald expanse and gave it shape. Roads. Communities. Farms. Churches. We opened the window and hungrily swallowed the fresh air. It was hot and thick, but better than the smell of sweat and sleep that was stagnating in our car. From his window, the crazy man waved at me as I hung my head from the train, my hair whipping in the rushing wind. Then he threw a Coke bottle at my head.

We spent our first night in Warsaw on a hotel-boat with strange men who wandered the decks in their underwear. Our room was sweltering and there were bugs clicking and squeaking and scratching throughout the cabin. I itched all night long, wrapped in a sheet dampened by my own sweat. To reward ourselves for our bravery, we spent our second night at the full service Marriott. I was poor, but my friend wasn't, and I certainly wasn't going to turn down air conditioning, clean sheets and a pristine shower - far away from clicking bugs and Polish men in their underpants.

This is how I began my twenties: as an adventure.

I entered my twenties with gusto. I met the decade as a woman slapping back shots of eighty proof liquor in a small distant country. I went on moonlit train rides, staring out the windows and wondering what was next, completely thrilled at the blankness before me.

At twenty-two, I felt the same sense of wonder. Except this time, I wasn't gazing from a window of a train; I was standing beside my father, nervous that the heels of my sandals were going to stick in the garden's path; the path that led me to my husband. It was a different type of adventure, I thought. Different things to experience, different stories to tell. And this is what my twenties have become - the evolution of myself through an experiences and relationships.

Immediately following college, I sold my soul in order to afford an apartment. I lived the Office Space life. Cubicals. Receptionists. Excel. Powerpoint. Meetings after lunch that keep you fighting to keep your eye lids propped open, feigning interest. Coffee pot conversations that revolve around office gossip or worse, the coffee itself. "I like to make the coffee with the coldest water possible." What do you say to that? Nothing. You nod and stir your sugar filled mug and pray that the conversation doesn't move. That it dies and lets you get back to your cube, where you can stare at the computer and wait for the day to be over. I was doing the college-graduate version of flipping burgers: I answered phones and stuffed envelopes.

It was not a dream. But it wasn't a nightmare either. It was simply a necessary evil, as they say. It got me an apartment and gave me a means to start shoveling money toward Sallie Mae, the keeper of the mountain of debt I'd built while gallivanting in Europe and sipping coffee during my 10:30 Philosophy class.

The office machine bought us our first home, and will hopefully buy our next...until I can start earning a living - gasp - with my degree! You know, the second one I'm working on; because I enjoy the adventure of obtaining knowledge and debt simultaneously, and because the first degree was just pretend. It was practice; a learning experience. Toss a baby or two in there and call me a working-student-Mommy, I can handle it. I can take on the world. If nothing else, my twenties has taught me that much.

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Sunday, August 14, 2005
Highlight of the Day

Highlight of the Day (thus far): I spotted A short bus on 93 that had been converted into a sort of make-shift RV. The back windows were plastered with Bugs Bunny and cartoon sharks and weird curtain like material. On the side, written in tall black letters (probably with a thick Sharpie) was "A Special Day"

Considering that it's only 10 AM and the rest of my day has consisted of an early morning drive through Boston and changing a *massive* poopy diaper - the bus was pretty much a shoe in.

Thursday, August 11, 2005
(From the depths of boredom at work, comes fiction)

Things aren't as clear cut as they used to be. I'm not talking about life or how things were in the old days when people knew more clearly the difference between right and wrong, or anything like that. I'm talking about the lines on the pavement outside Miller's Convenience store. They used to be clearer cut.

Miller's shares a parking lot with a gas station and a Cracker Barrel, just after the bend on Pond Road. There were yellow lines dividing where to enter and where to exit, up until the summer when they repaved the lot. It was thicker and blacker. It looked hot and fresh for weeks, like you could sink into it if you stood still for too long. And it smelled like tar. But they didn't repaint the yellow line. They weren't there the night Kevin went to Miller's at supper time to pick up what Mom forgot. The milk.

By the time my sisters and I got there, it had all been cleaned up. Shattered bits of glass shimmered in the grassy edge of the lot. A few shards of orange and red plastic settled in with the bits of tar and gravel along where the grass pressed against the tar. But we didn't see it. We didn't see the two hulks of gnarled metal mashed into one grinding mass of sharp glass corners and bumpers torn in two.

Only Mom and Dad were there to smell the smoky residue of airbags exploded and gasoline and tar. They were the only ones to hear the droning car alarms and the ambulance wail as it screeched into the parking lot. Only they saw the line of his body, the long bumps of his arms and legs, the round hump of his head pressing up against the white blood-speckled sheet, strapped on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance.

At the wake we were all numb and felt heavy, like we were wading through water. He was the baby of the family, just home from college for the summer; and there he was, wearing his best suit and lying peacefully with a make-up caked face and his hands folded on his chest. They had to work hard to fix him up for the casket. Not only had he been mangled, but his hair had flecks of oil paint in it from his summer job. It was under his nails too. His skin had been worn to leather from the sun on the ladders, painting.

After the funeral, my uncles and father carried him out. Mom and my sisters and I lead the procession, staring through watery eyes at the shining black box. It didn't seem possible that it contained my brother. How can that simple thing hold him? How can it hold any of us?
We were all gathered for dinner, standing nervously around the table trying to not make the tension as obvious as it was. Krista, my youngest sister, was the first to mention it.

"Are we expecting someone else?" She rubbed her elbow slowly while watching Mom closely for a reaction. There was a place setting at Kevin's seat. Dad eyed her from across the table, shaking his head slowly.

Mom ignored the comment and sighed, smoothing her hand over her apron. She surveyed the table, inspecting each steaming serving dish. Corn. Potatoes. Meatloaf.

"Oh, I forgot the gravy!" Her hand flew to her forehead and she turned back to the kitchen, calling back to us, "sit, sit! I'll bring it right out."

We sat, listening to the hum of the air conditioner. She returned with the gravy boat. It looked like a topless porcelain genie bottle, with a thick drip of brown gravy running down the spout. She placed it carefully between the potatoes and the meat. And then she sat beside Dad. The dull thud of a tape recorder echoed as she set it beside her plate.

"Oh, for Godsake, Katherine, not tonight." Dad slapped the table, knocking the recorder on it's back and wobbling the wine in our glasses. It was the anniversary.

"Every night." She stared blankly ahead. "You'll bury me with it."

"This is ridiculous, I mean, really." His head shook vigorously. His eyes implored us around the table: help.

She had bought the tape recorder two days after the accident. If she hadn't forgotten to pick up milk on her way home from the work that evening, her son would still be alive. She recorded everything she might need throughout the day. So that she wouldn't forget. At first, she slid the plastic strap around her wrist and clutched the body of it in her palm throughout the day. Later, she found it more practical to have it attached to her somehow, so she couldn't lose it. She fashioned a clasp and clipped it securely inside her purse, easily accessible for her. She rambled to herself in the car. She talked to it in her cubicle at work. At the market, she replayed her lists. Potatoes. Chicken thighs. Cheese. Milk. She would never let her self forget.

"Mom," I said weakly, but stopped short at her eyes. They were steel gray with a relentless gaze locked on the wall behind my father's head. She wasn't listening.

"I'm sorry, girls," Dad stood from the table, picking up his glass. Red wine sloshed over the lip and splattered on his shirt. He didn't stop moving, "I thought having you here tonight would help." He walked to the living room, still muttering, but only to himself.

We all stared in different directions. At Mom. At the recorder. At the porcelain serving dishes that we had scooped some of our happiest memories from. Sweet potato mousse, dense bread stuffing, shiny succotash and beef stew, chicken and rice. Now they sat, full of food made by the same hands, but somehow empty.

Dad was right about the recorder. It was a presence at the table. It wasn't Kevin presence. It was hers: her all consuming guilt.

It's been years now, since the accident, since the anniversary. But she still carries it. Her little scarlet letter, tucked in her purse; meaningless to everyone but our family. Occasionaly, while she listens to her lists or while recording the ingredients for the salad she wants with dinner, people will ask her what she's doing.

What an odd idea, they say.

"I just want to make sure I remember," she always responds politely.

"Remember what?"

She pauses before answering, quietly letting the night wash over her; remembering everything. The ear piercing drone of the alarm, the smell of tar and smoke. The flashing lights, the white bloodstained sheet wheeling past her, his paint stained fingertips peeking from beneath it.

"Important things." Her polite smile fades as she looks at them through sad gray eyes, "like milk."


Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Ed called an hour ago, with an offer. Within 45 minutes, we had agreed to a verbal contract to sell our place. I'd forgotten how quickly these things happen. This rush is different than the one we had when we bought this place though. That was thrill and terror. We were excited. We were nervous. We were proud. We signed the closing papers two weeks before Christmas and ate a victory lunch at Bertucci's. While picking at hot rolls and waiting for our meal, we called our families to tell them that we had the keys in our hands and that we were "homeowners."

Before we moved our furniture in, we made treks here to fix it up. We spent nights spreading paint on the walls, working well into the early morning hours then collapsing in a veil of fumes on the hard carpet. We woke up stiff and sore and aching at every angle. We ate breakfasts at the local diner and discussed what to do next over coffee and shiny country omelets with cubes of fried potatoes. Buy more paint. Buy more rollers. Buy light fixtures, cleaning supplies, a dining room set. We got a credit card from Home Depot and filled our carriages there and at Linen ‘N Things and the Christmas Tree Shoppes. We renovated and decorated until we opened the door and it was home. Our first home.

And now, we're selling. They want to close by the end of the month. We have no new place of our own to move into. This is because all along I've sworn that the stress of buying and selling at the same time might drive me to drink. But now that it's here, and we're facing the prospect of free falling from ownership - into nothing. I feel nothing short of terror.

I haven't felt this out of control since I stared at a stick of a pee that turned into two pink lines. And this whole situation is really sort of a fall out of that little stick. If I hadn't seen those little lines or given birth to my son seven months ago, life would have kept on moving along at a very comfortable pace.

My husband has a job that he's happy with and is paid well. I had an office job, that I hated, but it paid decently; and I'd been accepted to the grad program of my choosing. Life was smoothly sailing along, until the stick.

And I wouldn't change a thing about it. So what? We can’t afford to live in our condo anymore because I'm working less hours and taking care of my son. Is a 900-something square foot condo ever going to greet me with smiles first thing in the morning or pat my cheek tenderly with his cool little hand. No. And I'll never love any home more than I love my son.

And, logically, we would have wound up having to move soon anyway. The market's (supposedly) going down and we needed to get a good profit off this place to have any hopes of securing the next. Which we did. And there's hardly enough room here for our family and two cats as it is. So we'd have to make a move before number 2 comes along.

I guess, in the end, what's the big deal? So, we'll be sort of disembodied for a few months (or longer - ack). We'll be floaters. But in the end, we'll be where God puts us. And we'll have a cushy savings account to sit on while we wait.

I'm not saying that I won't have a good cry about this over the next few weeks, but I think I'd cry even if we had a fantastic new home to move into. Maybe, it's not the fact that we'll be homeless, but the fact that we're leaving our first home. Yes, that's probably it. I'm pretty sure I'd cry whenever we moved out of this place.

Also on a much less sentimental and embarrassingly sappy note – Holy Cow, do realtors get a sweet cut! All Ed did was list our home on the MLS and print up a few (stock) brochures. He never even did a single showing himself - and he's looking at quite a sweet little check. And we even got a deal on the interest, because he's a friend of my grandfather! But, my feelings on that are all fodder for another time and place.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Summer Longing
I am wrung out.

Tired of everything. I'm tired of money, bills, and banking. I'm tired of worrying. I'm tired of all the little things. Tired of cleaning our house and feeding the cats. I'm tired of driving. Tired of channel surfing. Tired of the treadmill. Tired of office monotany, florescent lights and hours spent doing meaningless busywork that means nothing in that 'ol "grand scheme" of things.

This wasn't supposed to happen so fast. Burnt out at 25. This can't be good.

What I want...

is a cabin on a lake with my husband and our baby and a laptop (for writing, of course.) Nothing else. No TV. No radio. And certainly no alarm clock. I want a quiet morning spent sitting on an old wooden chair, looking across still waters and sipping steaming coffee from a local shop - just within nice walking distance of the cottage. That's it. That's all I want. No money. No fancy toys. No parties or plans or places to be. Just peace and quiet. Maybe a campfire in the evening sending orange sparks into the black night air; nothing but the sounds of water rippling and the fire popping and churning.

I want to fall asleep with the smell of smoke in my hair and the rythmic lapping of the lake as my lullaby. There' s nothing better. And I crave it each summer. By August the nostalgic longing to make a pilgrimage to the summer cottages of my childhood is intense. It's not that I want to wake up and be ten again; sitting on the end of a cool wooden dock eating toast with jam, rubbing bare elbows with my sister and dipping our toes in the water; waiting for Mom to say it's ok to go in.

I just want the feeling back - the freedom of summer. Since "growing up" - summer has become just another season that bleeds into the next. The years pass quickly with little time spent on reflection. Little time spent dipping toes in the water and just resting. Just when your body and mind needs it most - life's moving too quickly and you can't just let go.

The bills are due, the alarm's ringing, the baby's crying, we're out of milk again and the traffic on 495 is stop & go. Stop & go. Stop and go: all the way to the office with florescent lights and meaningless demands - sucking away my summer.

Saturday, August 06, 2005
I have just watched a marathon of Sex and the City. I'd never seen it before.

And, I have a confession to make.

I have never owned a pair of Manolo Blahniks. I know, shocking. But wait, there's more. I've never toted my lipstick in a Fendi; I've never worn anything designed by anyone named Wang or Versace and I've never swiped my credit card at Prada, Gucci or Coach. And do you want to know the worst part? I don't care.

I have spontaneously hopped on a train in Bucharest and opened my eyes 26 hours later in Warsaw. I've eaten fried pineapple at a Chinese restaurant in Venice and wandered the markets in rural Transylvania. I've danced in the rain. I'v married my best friend and I have slow danced with my four month old at three in the morning. I have done lots of things in lots of places...

But I've never worn $400 stillettos or knocked back shots at clubs where the guests sit on beds rather than at tables. There have never been one night stands or splurges on purses from Prada. And I've never been the "other" woman.

I am the antithesis of Carrie Bradshaw and her quartet of cosmopolitan sipping, socially savvy singletons. And it's true; I don’t have Sex in the City.

Well, wait. That's not entirely true. I just don't have sex in their city.

In my city, I'm part wife, part mother-in-training, part office slave and part stressed student. In short, I'm a tightrope walker, carefully balancing more than my (non-existent) budget - I'm balancing my life.

Thank God there's a net...wait...there is a net, isn't there?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..." Kerouac

When I graduated from high school my AP history teacher approached me after an awards ceremony. He was a short hairy man who climbed rocks in his sparetime. His beard never looked clean. He put a hand on my shoulder and said You'll do ok, Mella. You've just got to hold on to that wild heart.

I had no idea what he was talking about, but I nodded anyway. The best I can figure, he probably said it because of my final paper on the Beatnik Counter-Culture revolution and my adoration of On The Road. He also referred to me as earthy-crunchy. Whatever that meant. As far as I could see, if either of us was earthy or crunchy it was probably not me - since I was actively aware of my appearance and took care to bathe daily...and his beard always seemed to have strands sticking together or, worse yet, crumbs of something in it.

Anyway, fast forward almost ten years and here I am. Still have that beatnik quote echoing in my normal, non-earthy-crunchy heart. Although I've spent time overseas and have done a bit of travel, for the most part, I've traded in dreams of world exploration and On The Road adventures for degrees, jobs, wedding rings and burp cloths.

Don't know if I can give it up entirely though. Let's call it a hiatus.