I’ve been in a funk the last few days. I don’t exactly know why. The weather is just gorgeous. We’ve had the most beautiful October that I remember. And we are all healthy. Perhaps the reason of my funk is because I joined the PTA. I stayed away as long as I could, until I couldn’t anymore. I stayed away because PTA moms are an altogether different species, and I just couldn’t see how to make myself fit in. I still can’t.
This is what I’ve observed so far: We, PTA moms, seem to have no other interests but to make copies, staple classroom information packets together, decorate for the auction, fundraise, and meet for lunch on Wednesdays. Where, I will add, bottle upon bottle of cheap white wine will be consumed and very little food will actually be eaten. And then when the weekend comes, we, PTA moms, can think of no better way to spend the time than to congregate on one field or another and cheer our kids on. We are so certain, that at least one of them, if not more, will be a professional soccer or football player. I mean, come on! Have you seen those kicks?
The entire social network of PTA moms seems to be made up of other moms with whom we discuss everything from how awesome our kids are (They are PERFECT and as such deserve only praise!), to whether milk is good or bad (It’s BAD. Very, very BAD!), to how often we have sex with our partners (Apparently we are all in our sexual prime because we have sex AT LEAST five times a week! When our husbands are home, that is. Because a lot of our husbands travel for business.), to how our single friends, or childless friends don’t understand us anymore (We feel betrayed!). So it makes sense that with our husbands traveling and our other friends betraying us, we turn to other PTA moms for friendship.
Since we are so busy being PTA moms, we really have no time to read books. Unless it’s Shades of Grey, of course. Which we discuss quite a bit, giggling over some of the parts, and justifying how this book is a story about redeeming love (Oh please!) and all of us can’t wait for the movie (NOT!!!) If any mom suggests that we read something different next time, we immediately silence her with a look. I mean, doesn’t she already know that life is hard enough, and we are so busy, and our families and society as a whole, expect so much from us? If we read, we read for pleasure. We are such romantics! We are suckers for love stories! And reality TV.
If this is a harsh portrayal of my fellow PTA moms, I apologize. If I seem to arrive late for our meetings, and leave early, I apologize. If I yawn quite a bit when you all go on and on about one thing or another that is beyond boring, I apologize. Perhaps I’ll get around to your way of thinking one of these days. Until then, I’ll go and read Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland. That is sure to get me out of this funk.
the plum dumplings are ready and they are worth every single one of those hours toiling away on them. Growing up, plum dumplings have been one of those treats that always marked the end of summer vacation. Only a certain plum, the Italian plum, makes the dumplings of my childhood, and Italian plums are only ripe at the end of August.
My kids love plum dumplings just as much as I did (and still do!), and how can they not? They are deliciousness itself. But be they as delicious as they are, I am not making another batch until next year.
By the way, I can’t believe that fall is just around the corner. How can that be? Didn’t summer just begin? Anyone else feel that this summer went by faster than all the previous ones? School starts in two weeks and I haven’t even gotten to the back to school shopping, yet.
I am envious of all the moms whose kids wear uniforms. Oh yes, and of all the moms who write a check for school supplies and send it along with their kids on the first day of school. Wouldn’t that make life so much easier?
So how about you all? How is your end of summer coming along? Are you welcoming it? Or dreading it?
Summer’s finally here. And it is HOT! In the Pacific Northwest we truly wait for summer all year long. For two blessed months, three if we’re lucky, we get a break from the relentless rain that hammers against us, our towns, our forests. When it finally, slowly arrives, we treasure every single second of sunshine and warmth.
And, yes, sometimes the seconds turn into minutes and the minutes into hours of doing absolutely nothing other than sitting at an outdoor cafe with our kids and our friends, picking raspberries, cherries, peaches, shopping for that particular day’s lunch, or having a picnic in the shade of a tree by the water’s edge.
In the evenings we make crepes and play Scrabble far into the night. Or we watch movies, the kids between us in our big bed, our son, a teenager as of this year protesting at first, wanting to do his own thing, yet always ending up cuddled next to one of us.
We sleep-in every morning.
And so the days blend, one into the other, weekday into weekend, and we lose track. What day is it? What month? We measure time loosely by what fruit is ripe to be picked. I realized just this evening that we are already in July. How about you? How do you spend your summer days?
Well, hello friends! How has everyone been doing? I, for one, have had the busiest May ever! It was the yearly renewal of my business, and as always, I freaked out that something would go wrong. Nothing went wrong. Nothing ever does, but isn’t worrying so much fun, anyway?
Unfortunately, the only thing I wrote during May were medical notes and Facebook status updates, and the only things I read were medical notes and Facebook status updates. On June 1st I sat down to write but I couldn’t manage more than 70 words in 2 hours. Then I sat down to read, and fell asleep.
So I gave myself permission to take a break from writing and reading for two weeks, and instead watch all the movies I had meant to watch for the last two years.
And boy, was that fun! But movies get boring after a while. Too predictable. The one I have on pause now has been on pause for the last two days, and I’m thinking I just won’t watch the rest of it. I’ve had it with movies for the moment.
So, I’m getting ready to start on the books. Which one should be first?
(Congratulations to Ruth L. for being the winner of Spell of Blindness! Please email me your address so I may send it to you right away.)
Yesterday I took my daughter in for her yearly check-up. As she had her vision tested I remembered when I had mine at her age, but not because it was mandatory, but because I was a naughty little girl. Two of my closest friends in my first grade class were wearing glasses. I wanted to be just like them. I wanted glasses too. My friends said that they had headaches from all the squinting they had done. They said their eyes hurt. They said their eyes turned red.
I went home and cried to my dad that my head was killing me, and that my eyes were so painful. I rubbed and rubbed at them, and my eyes became red and inflamed from all the rubbing I did. I walked around the house squinting and rubbing at my eyes. My parents were worried. Bad eyesight was a common occurrence in my dad’s family. Three of the seven siblings were wearing bifocals.
So my dad took me to see the eye doctor.
The doctor’s sitting room was filled with kids who, no doubt, had the same idea I did. There they all were in their blue and white school uniforms rubbing at their eyes and squinting. And there were the parents slapping the kids hands away from their eyes, looking worried.
I was sure I would come home with a pair of glasses. I was sure I could fool the doctor just as I had fooled my parents. I was sure that all I had to do was just squint and rub at my eyes. No one told me I had to make mistakes reading the eye chart. I was a first grader and proud to be reading already. I wanted the doctor to see how smart I was, and what a good reader I was, and that I was sure to receive a certificate from my teacher claiming that I was the smartest little girl in all of the first grade.
The doctor was impressed. Not with my reading as much as with my vision. My vision was perfect, he said. And (almost) perfect it remains to this day.
My daughter is happy she doesn’t need glasses. They’d only get in the way of soccer and ballet, she says. Sunglasses, on the other hand, she can’t have enough.
All children have expectations of their parents. The seeds of expectation are planted in a child’s infancy, by the first cry. From the first: I am hungry, feed me; I am wet, change me; I am scared, protect me, expectations are watered daily, and they grow. The roots go deep. Far into the earth. And whatever the outcome, disappointment follows.
I know all about disappointment, dashed expectations. Mines were dug out, set fire to, and destroyed when I was nine. That’s when my childhood stopped. One day I was a child and the next I wasn’t.
It wasn’t anybody’s fault.
When my parents came to the United States in 1981, with five children clinging to their legs ranging from two years old to nine, they worried more about what things to bring in their allotted two suitcases, than about how they would function in this country. Functioning in the United States, in fact, was never an issue. To their minds they were not the first immigrants and they would certainly not be the last. Besides, they had family here, to secure them a furnished rental house, an automobile, even a job for my father. Within a year or two, with hard work and many economies, they would even be able to buy their own home. So many immigrants with a strong work ethic did it. They would too.
And they did. My father had two, three jobs at a time. He worked from four in the morning to eleven at night. Monday through Saturday. Week after week after week. For years and years. He did this while my mother raised us five, gardened and cooked and drove us to school and to church and to wherever else we needed to go. All because they were determined that their children have a better life than they did. That they’d have better opportunities.
But it was the lack of English skills that they bumped against every single time they stepped out of the house: at the grocery store, at the bank, at the doctor’s office. And as the oldest child in the family, I became their interpreter. A parent to them, in a sense. Their confidant. The one privy to all their secrets and moles and blood clots and financial situations. I had more control over their lives than I understood. And maybe even more than they understood.
While my sisters and brothers chased each other in the rows of vegetables and fruit trees, while they splashed in a plastic blue kiddie pool in the shade of the backyard pomegranate tree, or read books, or played with bits of wood they imagined as dolls and action figures and cars under the scented lemon trees of the front yard, I was translating insurance forms or waiting on the line for the electric company. That’s when the seeds of responsibility were planted. One. By. One.
I did not know any better. I was raised to respect my elders.
If there was any resentment toward them, if there was any resentment that I didn’t have the freedoms of my siblings, it was buried deep within my body, somewhere in my toes, I think. It was the toes that always itched to run away when I heard my name called.
But I never ran. Responsibility had become a vine and I was ensnared within it.
The minute January 6th is over, and I take down the Christmas trees, I am done with winter. January’s a tough month. Possibly my least favorite month of the year. The older I get, the more I hate the cold. The older I get, the more I hate the rain, the grey skies, the fact that summer is a long, long way off.
It’s in January, usually on our morning walk to our favorite coffee shop, that my husband and I resurrect our daydream of moving to warmer places. You know, places like Miami or Scottsdale or San Diego. Places where the eternal mists of the Pacific Northwest winters are absent. Where the sun caresses the skin and warms the pavement beneath our feet. Where the flowers are the deepest magenta and the air smells like lemons.
And then we get inside the warmth of the coffee shop, and we think: we can’t leave this place. We laugh at our complains. To live in constant sunshine and the whir of air conditioners? That’s not for us! Not yet, anyway. We can wait until we retire. So we sip our cappuccinos and nibble on our croissants, say hello to the regulars who stop by our table, and admit to each other that we have a pretty good life here. A loving family, great friends, wonderful neighbors, jobs that we enjoy, a creative community we’re part of. Quite a lot to give up for a bit of blue sky.
I guess we’ll stay put for the moment. Have more coffee, more croissants, read another book, start another painting, work a little harder. Because life is beautiful. Right here. Right now.
During the chilly days of December, these are a few of our favorite things to do:
Starting the day with a buttery pain au chocolat and a delicious foamy cappuccino.
Baking Christmas cookies.
Decorating the tree with ornaments silly and precious.
Creating art. And posing with it.
Shopping for special gifts.
Wrapping. And more wrapping.
Journaling after everyone’s in bed. By the lamp’s golden light.
Writing… I wish I had my own office. Some place I could go to and lock the outside world out. I don’t. But I do have my own corner of the bedroom. This is where I sit and I write. Where I gaze out upon rain drenched gardens and mist-covered emerald forests.
And always before dreamland: reading.
Happy end of December. Happy end of 2012. A blessed 2013 to all of you!
The Advent season has begun, and this is my favorite time of the year. Our little family of four is big on rituals and festivals. This is a time of cozy fireside chats and rainy day board games, of starry evenings filled with music and lazy days of books, of intimate coffee dates with friends and parties into the wee hours of the morning, of sledding down snowy slopes and the making of homemade apple cider.
But this is also a time when the focus is inward. In the stillness of the house at midday when the children are in school, or in those early hours of the morning, when I’m the only one awake, this is the season when I peer into the deepest reaches of my heart. What greatness am I willing to allow be born within me during this time?
Wishing you all, my dear friends, a blessed Advent season. A time of joy, a time of peace, a time of love, a time of connecting to your true self, a time of allowing your light to shine into this dark and dreary world, a time for you to become the highest, best possible version of you.
Ok, so this post’s all about me. Yes. Sorry about that. But, in less than a month I’m turning 40, and from all accounts I should be just a tad more obsessed with aging than I am. Of course, I already spend a great portion of time staring at myself in any mirror I come across. Or any window. At my face. At my skin. At my breasts and my butt. And all the while I think: do I need Botox, fillers, a nip here, a tuck there? I mean, let’s face it. Skin at 40 grows all sorts of little hairs where little hairs have no business of being, or little skin folds where little skin folds have no business of being. And yes, my roots are grayer than they’ve ever been. And yes also, my breasts are nowhere near perky. Nor is my behind.
But I am 40, not 20. And I’ve been pregnant several times, and gave birth twice.
Should I be more worried than I am?
I had lunch with a friend of mine who also turned 40, and she told me that she’s been getting Botox for the last 6 years. To prevent wrinkles. What? And also another friend who turned 40 said that her dermatologist told her that there’s very little Botox can do to the lines on her forehead as they already are too deep. Too deep? At 40? According to them, it may be too late for me to start with the Botox.
I AM vain. And deep down I know that I will do whatever it takes to NOT become invisible. Whatever it takes. But I don’t like the idea of wasting my forties obsessing about every little wrinkle. Of course it’s possible that I’ll change my mind, but for now, I want to worry about things that make sense: that I won’t die before my children reach adulthood and that my children never, ever doubt my love for them.
Still, if you ever see me in the next decade or so, dressing too young for my age, or having an impossibly round tush, or tiny waist, or frozen forehead, or lips that stretch to both of my ears, kindly take me aside and tell me how ridiculous I look. But do it gently. Because to resort to such extremes my ego must be very fragile. And it will only respond to gentleness.