Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A bit of a stretch

Our house has been on the market for six days, and our realtor hasn't even gotten a call. Short of checking on her phone lines every hour or harassing her to tell me if she has statcounter to determine if anyone is viewing the listing, I must sit and impatiently wait. The only actual sign that our house is for sale is hanging out in front with a giant photograph of our realtor. (Does that honestly sell houses? When did real estate become akin to the Miss America pageant?) This isn't entirely true, though, as the contents of our mailbox seem to indicate an imminent move. Daily we receive postcards from moving companies, mortgage brokers, and competing realtors hoping for a piece of the non-action we are currently experiencing. I'm actually quite fond of our mortgage broker, so I received his postcard today with a smile. When we first bought our home he was relatively patient with my total ignorance of the mortgaging process; he provides door to door service, showing up in our home with only hours notice. I wish, wish, wish he was licensed in Connecticut--but he's not. To remind us of his care and the impending national holiday, however, we received a postcard from him today. Bearing in mind that this is a man I genuinely appreciate, indulge me in a moment here....

The postcard reads: I'm proud to be an American--and I'm equally proud to be your trusted professional. I'd like to wish you a joyous July 4th holiday and extend my continued assistance to you for the future [despite that I'm not licensed where you're moving....]. If you know of anyone who could use my services, please let me know. Much as our freedom adds to the glory of our country, your referrals add to the success of my business.

I don't know about you, but my mind was filled with the image of bewildered Iraqis picking up our "freedom referral plan" postcards just hours before the bombs began. "Consider democracy. I tried it and closed the deal in just days! Call G.W. for details....he's waiting to hear from you!"

I need more sleep....and a buyer....and only one house and job on my mind! Soon enough, I hope.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


My dear boy, so nearly two years old, you are my gift each and every day. Each year around yours or Kyra's birthdays, I drag down your bins of baby clothes--those few special outfits I saved for this annual birthday ritual. One by one I lift out the hospital shirt with the "paw protectors," the blue and yellow duckie outfit (then so huge!) we dressed you in for your official hospital photo, and the soft bathrobe I just had to buy only days before you arrived. Though you are too young to fully appreciate this time together, I indulge myself in marveling at how you've grown and changed. I hold the shirts up at the shoulders, press them against your chest, all the while talking about how I simply cannot believe you were once so it does not seem possible you were inside of me, swimming your way around, then outside of me, swimming your way around these tiny, tiny clothes.

Your birthday this year is surrounded on all sides by change--a new job for Mommy, the only house you've ever known officially on the market on your birthday (I'm already feeling this is good luck....), and moving boxes beginning to accumulate in the garage. In the madness of these moments, we neglected to bring the requisite "school snack" to day care for your birthday. No matter. We'll celebrate with your friends next week. For your actual birthday, we're visiting Edaville for their "Day Out with Thomas." Tonight Daddy and I carried your new-to-us train table in from the garage, and a nice layout is already set up, waiting for you like Christmas. The transportation theme was hardly intentional, but it seems a fit given how our lives are presently on the move.

Your birth was so unique and different from Kyra's. My water broke during the night, and we casually showered, ate crispy English muffins for breakfast, waited for Auntie's arrival and chatted all the way to the hospital, ecstatic that we would return home with a beautiful baby. (The same drive when Kyra was born was a bit more precarious, with Daddy wondering if she would be born in the half mile to the hospital....) The story of your actual birth has many twists and turns, moments of absolute calm and focus, and moments of concern when it appeared my body was not working on the doctor's clock (hmmmm....seems like it was working just fine with yours....). On the whole, I was the picture of calm, employing all the hypnobirthing techniques we had worked on for months prior to your arrival. After hours of this focus, however, I learned I was only 6 centimeters dilated, when I imagined my body to be closer to 9 centimeters. Panic set in and I began frantically demanding an epidural, announcing to all in the room that the drug-free plan was off! I turned to your father, knowing he was the one person in the room unlikely to refuse me, and pleaded for the anesthesiologist. As the nurses suggested a shot and our doula calmly tried to get me back on track, I rose to go to the bathroom, insistent that an epidural greet me upon my return. Those few moments in the bathroom were terrifying--unexpected blood, waves of contractions bringing me to the brink of my physical capacity to stay in the moment, and my sudden announcement to Matt that I was pushing....then....there....for real.... Transition--the most perplexing stage of all of labor and delivery for me. So near to the goal, but with the highest hills yet to climb. When we returned to the bed, a skeptical nurse checked my cervix once again and delightedly called for the doctor--I had dilated four centimeters in ten minutes. We were going to have a baby. The next few minutes are a blur of medical staff suiting up, our doula and Matt grabbing hold of my legs, and my very vocal wails as I pushed as though I would turn myself inside out. Gone were the blissful moments of visualizing my mother's arms passing your body through me into my arms. Gone was Matt's calm voice reminding me to "release." In place of these earlier clips from the hypnobirthing highlights reel was a fearful, powerful woman roaring her way to a happy, happy arrival. You.

On every one of your birthdays I consider these memories a gift, but this year they were particularly apt. I had a few moments of panic earlier today after considering too closely all the possible glitches in the changes we've undertaken. After the happy calm of the past few days, I hit transition and panicked. No other way to describe it.... Remembering your arrival to my arms brought just the message I needed to hear--we have an incredible, intense stretch ahead of us. At moments it will seem we have no more to give--we will want only to rest. But we will press on, and exceptional, life-defining moments await at the end of our efforts. If our next home brings us even a portion of the pleasure we receive in loving you each and every day, this will be the best decision we've ever made.

You are loved. Absolutely. Completely. Without reservation. Without hesitation. A love beyond all measure.... Happy birthday sweet boy.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Five days for fathers....

When Cape Buffalo Kara came up for air following her school's commencement, she once again tapped her Internet friends, suggesting we honor fathers as we honored mothers in May. Given that June had fallen quickly upon many of us, the two week mother spread was quickly transformed into "five days for fathers." Our lives being in transition as they are, my five days have dwindled to, well, none! But it feels very appropriate that I honor my father on THE day, as I want to write about the special way that he is honoring another father this year on Father's Day.

Whether a God-given gift, a consequence of a life with some significant losses, an occupational hazard (He is a life-long pastor, and carries this persona with him whether actively serving a church or not.), or some rich combination of all of these, my father is incredibly empathic to people who have experienced loss. When other people flee with fear and discomfort in the face of tragedy and grief, my father rushes in. He somehow always seems to find words that soothe, and it is rare that I meet someone who has known my dad without their mentioning some particularly painful time in life when he was present with him or her.

I received an email message this week from my dad sharing that a very young father who lived down the block died suddenly, without warning. The family numbly set about the tasks of planning for a memorial, and when my father visited with them after he heard the news, they asked if he might consider giving up his Father's Day to preside over the funeral. They needn't have asked--I'm certain my dad's mind was made up before the words were even spoken. He is simply that generous. Materially, he has little, and while he gives away most everything he has, it is this gift of presence--this spiritual gift--that matters most to people.

It is a slightly different manifestation of the same gift I received on afternoons after school when we squared off over a chess board, or when he helped me warm my arm for my very brief softball career. While I obviously learned the importance of being present from those moments when he was for me, I am particularly proud of all I learned from watching from afar as he was present for others. I look at my sister and me--our friendships, our commitments, our passion for justice, and our concern for others, particularly in those moments when others might shy away--and I know we gleaned this from our father. We are good people....on our best of days, I feel we are exceptional people....and I know there was a powerful combination of good that emerged from our parents' partnership in raising us. I have had many occasions in writing this blog to express thanks to my mother. How important it is to have this occasion to say thank you to my father.

We love you. Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Though the fat lady has yet to sing (more on this in a moment), we are feeling highly optimistic about a possible move to Connecticut. The job offer was made in person today (and the woo-ing was ample and wonderful!), the inevitable salary negotiations are underway, and Matt and I are both feeling as though this move has tremendous potential for our family. The only significant moment of pause for me? Logging onto the CT Registry of Motor Vehicles webpage, fearing this might be one of those states....the states that require you to list your weight on your license. I have always vowed not to live in one of those. Though I don't have a final answer on the question, and I can't imagine I would share with the university president that this was my reason for withdrawing, the signs are good that this fat lady will not need to sing! Hooray!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Cruising at the drive-in

My first visit to a drive-in movie theatre was in rural New sister and I heard on the radio that "The Muppet Movie" was playing near to my grandparents' summer cottage, and we somehow managed to convince my parents to celebrate their anniversary by taking us. Though I have no memories of the actual movie, I do remember the after-effects. I was enthralled enough with the options at the snack bar to eat myself into a night of throwing up in the bathroom. That aspect of the experience I would gladly forget; of course it is the one thing I remember! I'm certain I visited drive-in theatres after this first notorious trip, but again, I can't remember a single one. There's a theatre 30-40 minutes from us in Rhode Island, and Matt and I vow every summer to go; every fall we add it back to our "things to do next summer" list.

While exploring the possibility of purchasing a projector and screen, Matt had the fortune of "inheriting" a projector about to be thrown out by the Media Services department at the college where we work. Though poor in daylight (okay....poor in anything but pitch darkness), we settled right into life with a big screen. We are movie watchers, rather than TV; Matt takes managing his Netflix queue as seriously as most take on-line banking. (We would do well to take that a bit more seriously some months....) Many evenings find us snuggling close on the reclining love seat watching the latest recommendation based on a history of obscure independent films. Last night was no exception (and we're all set up for tonight, too!), and when Matt returned from a late night "must have Frostys from Wendys" run, he said, "You know I've thought this before, but being out tonight just proves it--we're nothing more than a drive-in." Our family room has large windows the width of our projection screen, and the sheer curtains apparently ensure our neighbors have full view of the evening's selection. Given that last night we were watching an episode from the final season of Queer as Folk, the highly-graphic and equally controversial program from Showtime, our eighty-year old neighbor, Margaret, must have gotten quite an eyeful.

Ah, life at the drive-in....

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sympathy cards

A giant box arrived on my front porch a couple of months ago, one of several due to be sent. My father is moving from the modest home he has lived in for more than a decade, and he will have space for little in his next place. What he had kept of my mother’s life and death will now be ours—ours being my sister and me. This particular installment of “This Was Her Life”? Piles of sympathy cards sent upon her illness and death…

My mother and father held occupations—teacher and pastor, respectively—that put them in the public eye in a (quite literally) contained community. Our home was an island, and serving in any sort of public capacity was cause for knowing and being known. News of my mother’s sudden diagnosis with pancreatic cancer spread and metastasized as rapidly as the unstoppable tumor within her. Within days it seemed everyone in our island community and the towns we had previously called home had somehow heard. My young (45), lively, energetic mother was dying, and soon. Florists worked overtime delivering displays that covered any clear surface. Our post office box was crammed daily with cards and letters—some simply signed, and others pages long as the writer attempted “aloud” to make sense of what simply had no sense.

Years ago I read every one of those cards and letters, secretly hoarding those which spoke most deeply to me. (Tonight I read every one of them once again.) When the box arrived recently, it was not so much the well-meaning and sympathetic words that most affected me as I skimmed through, though there were rare exceptions to this. What I somehow wanted to capture for my own memory and for future stories to my children was the sheer volume of all those cards and letters, pouring out of the giant box. It’s irrelevant, I know. To tell Kyra and Lucas that thousands of words were exchanged in their grandmother’s honor—to somehow weigh her worth in the notice given her illness and death—would in no way capture her significance to me. While it is a mark of her life that her loss was seen as significant to so many, the loss would have been no less sharp and complete if she had only been known and loved by me. And for the thousands of words written to her and to us, I have written thousands upon thousands more, sending them off in my heart as the shape of my memories, my grief and my fears came to life on paper. While the notes and cards of remembrance slowed gradually to a trickle and now are more personally exchanged between our immediate family on those resonant anniversary days, my letters to her go on and on and on….I still have so much to say.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

June, a month for celebrating fabulous fathers!

I had the pleasure of printing photos for Friday's scrapbooking extravaganza, and pouring over old pictures has me feeling very nostalgic for the early days of being a tiny little family of three. We're only a little family of four now, but that fourth member came with a lot of spunk! Back in the day, being new parents together was a wonderful opportunity to get to know Kyra, of course, but also to get to know Matt in very new ways. While I could write page upon page of his devotion to his children, the depth of his love for them, and the beauty of standing silently in the kitchen watching as he rolls around on the family room floor with them, I'll let a picture speak for me. This is the incredible man I get to see every single day. I'm blessed.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Descended from the apes....

In this blast from the past, Kyra and Lucas both flash the "inherited from Daddy" nostrils as further proof of the truth of evolution....