Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Morning smiles like the face of a newborn child

"Mama," my son said, as we lay side by side in his bed before sleep, "are you afraid of anything?"

The room was dark and quiet, and as I thought about my response, I said, "Am I afraid of anything? Hmm."

I'm terrified of somehow losing my kids, like in a car or plane crash, and having to face life without them. I'm scared something will happen to Nick. I know one day my mom will die and I worry about it. I'll be so devastated, I'll fall apart completely.

I'm scared to look in the mirror in the dark. I have been since second grade, when we played Bloody Mary at my house in Bangladesh. If I have to use the bathroom at night, I hurry in and out, looking straight ahead, making sure I don't glance in the mirror.

The other night it occurred to me vampires don't have a reflection. So looking in the mirror, you wouldn't even if know one were behind you.

Clowns, clowns frighten me, ever since Poltergeist. I read Steven King's It years and years ago, and that added to my clown terror. I couldn't watch the movie trailers.

I'm afraid of turbulence, I'm afraid my plane will crash. I worry about not having enough time with connections, and missing my next flight.

The idea of sink holes makes me anxious, although Nick has assured me that DC is built on rock.

I'm scared of accidentally backing into a geyser, although I've never yet been to Yellowstone. I'm scared of tsunamis and super volcanoes and being in the Pacific Northwest when that one giant tsunami earthquake liquefies the entire area.

At night, in the living room, when I'm the last one to bed, I fear a hand will reach out from under the couch as I walk by.

Also, rabies. Good lord, the rabies.

I'm afraid I'm not special. That actually, I'm just plain ordinary.

"Sharks," I said. I'm pretty scared of sharks. What about you?"

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Saab story

I can see paradise by the...
Several years ago, I inherited my father-in-law's Saab.

It's a terrific car. It has way more power than my Honda Civic, plus the windows are automatic. It has a lot of buttons for things I still have no idea about. It's a fancier car than I'd ever had.

However. It now also gets all quitty when it's hot out and it has to sit in traffic.

Maybe some of you remember how last year my car and I both broke down in hysteria on Rock Creek Parkway at rush hour?

One of the things that I managed to tell Nick, through my sobs and inability to breathe or articulate, was that there was an icon on the dashboard that looked like a yellow submarine. It is number five on this chart, which I got from a UK site called The Auto Agency.

I'm pretty sure my friend Steve referred to number three the "butt crack" light. This makes me feel better.

I mean, do you know what all those symbols mean?

In any case, my car stopped, and we had it towed to the Saab place in Virginia.

They fixed what they thought it was, and then I drove it to the Outer Banks to hang out with Wendy and her family, and lo, on 95 in Friday rush hour, my car started doing that thing where I press on the pedal and it does...nothing. I knew this was the precursor to it flashing the yellow submarine light and then just plain stopping.

So I pulled off into a small town that coincidentally had a garage that was about to close. There was nothing they could do for me. So I bought the kids ice cream, which they proceeded to drip on the floor because the temperature was approximately one million degrees.

Nick suggested we let the car cool down, and then get ourselves to Potomac Mills, which was about five miles away. We could have dinner while a storm was due to roll in and drop the temperature significantly, after which point we could drive home.

We did all these things, as well as buying Jordan a pair of maroon Chuck Taylor shoes at Off 5th, which he then referred to as his "designer fashion sneakers".

Once the car cooled down, I drove it home without issue. Nick took it to the Saab place, and they replaced something, or two somethings, plus the part that keeps the gears from suddenly snapping, because that was about to go, which sounded rather alarming.

It's an old car.

So we did all these things and all was fine all winter. Longer than all winter, because it stayed cold cold cold forever.

And then in April I drove India and some friends to a birthday party in Leesburg. It was a hot, sunny day. And on the way back, on 66, my car started doing that nothing thing that it does when I press the pedal.

I knew it was about to get quitty. I was trying not to freak out.

But traffic was moving. I got our friends home just as my car flashed a bunch of lights and then stopped.

I turned it off and got it started again, drove the mile home, and left it for three days. I didn't even want to look at it. I was pissed.

We dropped it off about three weeks ago. Nick asked them to keep it until they figured out what was wrong with it.

Yesterday they said they've run through two tanks of gas trying to get it to quit. They left it running for eight hours, and then drove it home.

No stalling. They can't make it fail.

They said they're stumped. One idea they proffered was that maybe, just maybe, Nick's wife, which would be ME, had perhaps filled it up with regular gas, rather than premium. The engine is old, and at this point, kind of picky.

Now. I may not know what the yellow submarine light's real name is. I may thing that one of those lights looks like loops of spaghetti. And I may have Nick talk to the garage because I genuinely don't know what I'm talking about with cars.

All these things are true.

But. What's also true is that I am a first-born rule follower. And. I happen to know that the octane rating has to do with the temperature at which your car burns gas. I learned this on NPR. You have to use the right number for your car's engine.

(Even if you think it's annoying, because your Honda used cheaper gas and also never quit on you. But you had to work up to that crazy left-side merge into the GW Parkway to Alexandria, because your Honda didn't actually have the power to merge in with anything approaching alacrity.)

The fact is that we have two cars, when one of us rarely drives. We have no car payment, because both our cars are old as god, and mine was free. There would be no reason to buy a new car if we got rid of this one.

And I actually love this car. Except for the quittiness, which makes me very resentful.

So.

This afternoon I'm picking up my car, crossing my fingers, and driving it back into the city. And then I'm basically never driving it to Virginia again.

What I really, really need is Car Talk. The Tappet Brothers would figure this business out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

*hugs*

This morning I woke up to my annual text from my dear friend.

*hugs*

It's so simple, and so powerful it its simplicity.

---

Today marks nine years since I picked up the phone in my office knowing from the number that my dad was gone.

Now I can't remember the last time I spoke with him.

---

Birthdays and death days are the hardest.

Holidays are hard, too.

I don't know why I used to think it was just me.

---

This particular grief is so familiar, no longer frightening.

Even so, grief can catch you unawares, like your reflection in a store window, when you were really trying to get a glimpse of the cute shoes inside.

Grief can be tedious for those who aren't living through it.

Grief can be bewildering for those on the outside.

Grief can be bewildering on the inside.

Grief can settle in and open another bottle of wine just at the point in the evening where you think everyone is leaving and you're ready to go to bed. .

---

On Saturday I was walking with my kids and India said, "I wish your dad were still alive."

I said, "Me, too."

She said, "It's very sad, and we don't have to talk about it."

I said, "It's OK to talk about things that make us sad. My dad would've loved you so much."

And she replied, "Grandma Lillian and your dad are watching out for us."

I said, "I believe that. I like this idea."

---

On Sunday, I took my mom to the house of a trasured family friend from our Delhi days.

Bibi and I saw each other and started to cry.

She said she missed my dad. She misses his sense of humor. They would push each other to wicked funniness and scandalize others.

In her memories of me as a teenager, I would come in and graciously say hello and then leave. I always had places to be.

---

I can remember my dad's laugh, but not his voice.

Why didn't I save any voice mails? Now I always save voice mails.

It's not a safeguard, but it makes me feel better.

---

India asked when my dad died, and I said a few months before Jordan was born.

She said, "I wish he was alive longer so he got to meet us."

Me, too, baby. Me, too.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Try to remember when life was so tender that no one wept except the willow

This year, I'm trying to be more mindful. To notice but not judge. To sit with feelings rather than trying to change them.

I do this with varying degrees of success. But I am trying.

In May, everything makes me cry. Everything. I know this.

Yesterday I clicked on a story in the Post about an adopted son reuniting with his birth mother in Japan, and sobbed even before they reconnected. I mean, the guy was sitting at his desk at the Pentagon and got a phone call about his mom and I was just a wreck.

The fact is I cry at my desk no fewer than three times a day. I also have allergies, so I can always blame them if anyone notices my red eyes.

It's inconvenient, but I'm not dysfunctional. Just teary.

Now, I am trying to recognize and embrace these feelings rather than push them aside to get on with things. It is not my natural inclination.

Last year right around now, I went to see Deb, my acupuncturist (who I am linking because I love her, and am so happy to recommend). My allergies were walloping me, and I was afraid they were going to turn into a sinus infection.

I couldn't breathe through my nose, and I couldn't get a break from the congestion, no matter what I did. I used the Neti pot. I took hot showers. I steamed my head. I took Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin, Xyzal.

I doubled them up and used them in combination, which Nick found rather alarming and asked me to stop.

But it didn't matter. Nothing helped.

When I saw Deb, she told me that grief resides in the lungs and this affects your sinuses. It was May. Pat's health was rapidly declining. We had recently lost our dear friend John. I was gearing up for my annual Overnight walk.

And it was May.

The period leading up to the Overnight--which I am walking again in June in Philadelphia, if you would like and are able to contribute--takes a toll. Because I am fundraising and telling my story, I think about suicide and loss every single day.

People send me their own stories. People give me names. Every one of these feels personal. Every one of these makes me cry.

And in fact, if you have names of loved ones you have lost or who struggle, please, feel free to send them to me. I do not connect my willingness to walk for people to donations.

But in this period, I have a hard time. It's not depression. It's just sadness. Lots and lots of sadness.

Now, going back to Deb, I cried to her for a while, and then she said, "People like you operate in high energy mode, and you like to stay up." At this she reached her hands in the air. She grief brings us low, and people like me, we are afraid to be pulled down, because we're scared we won't get up again.

Really, the exact opposite of that Chumbawamba song.

This made sense. It makes sense. I fear the devastation of grief, because what if I get stuck?

I don't think of myself as a high energy person, but according to my husband (who I asked because sometimes things I think about myself are not what other people see, like how I think I'm crunchy and every time I say this, my friend Sophie laughs really hard) I radiate energy and intensity.

Honestly, I am often tired. We know how tired I am and my hell it is so boring. But I think it's true that I am high intensity. (I mean, if you know me, what do you think?)

Anyway, Deb said I needed to recognize this about myself. Grief will pull me down, but I will not stay down. I could let it pass, knowing I'd recover.

She also said I needed to figure out why I walk the Overnight walk. I needed to dig down into the real reasons for me, and address this need.

And so I have given it a lot of thought. This year I delayed fundraising until about six weeks out, because it costs me too much personally to be that sad for months.

Now I'm trying to just let myself feel the sadness and sit with the grief. Not avoid or fight them, but see them for what they are and honor them in a way that recognizes that loss hurts, and the spaces left behind by the most important people in your life are huge.

You know I recently reconnected with my cousin Patti Jo. She's an artist, like her mom. I sent her the photo of my daughter wading in a tide pool last weekend, and she juxtaposed it with Aunt Jo's painting of me at about that age, and added the text of my thank you message to her.

We've been sharing family memories, and they feel good.

She and her brothers were born years before my brother and me, so when we were kids, we knew them as glamorous teens. My dad, to my cousins, was Uncle Mickey. He was hilarious, he was fun. He and my mom would come back from overseas with great stories.

They were right there in Duluth, so saw our grandparents regularly, and knew them when they were younger, before my grandmother was in chronic pain.

I don't know why it's so powerful, but I find it healing to connect with and to hear about our family. We have different memories and vantage points of the same people across time and place. We share genes. We all share a particular sense of humor. This might strike me the most.

The emotional space loved ones occupy is theirs, and theirs alone. It's not like wet sand on the beach, where when you scoop out a bucket full, more immediately slides in.

Some spaces never fill in. Your time might get filled, but the space doesn't. Weeks and months and years pass, and it hurts less. Or, maybe more accurately, hurts differently.

People leave us, but energy doesn't go away. I find that idea comforting.

I wonder, what you do to live with grief and feelings of loss?

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

One ring to find them

A week ago Saturday, while I was reveling in my reunion, Nick was out in the wilds of Maryland, camping with my children and the Cub Scouts.

It wasn't really the wilds. It was a state park with camp sites.

(Also, as an aside, let me say that there are a number of younger sisters who attend the Scout meetings with their brothers. India, for one, is very interested in joining.)

So anyway, they went camping. They had a cookout, and ate s'mores, and sat around the fire and then they crawled into their sleeping bags in their respective tents and went to sleep.

My husband took off his watch and wedding ring and put them and his phone and various and sundry other items in an inside pocket of the tent.

He put this collection in the pocket on Jordan's side of the tent. And apparently Jordan saw Nick's stuff in there and lost his mind and so Nick wound up moving it. All but the ring.

You see where this is going.

In the morning, he took out all his items from the pocket, and started packing up.

It had rained a great deal in the night (which sounds very terrible to me), and he shook the tent out throughly before folding it.

They packed everything up then went on a hike.

Nick and the kids were at lunch before he realized he wasn't wearing his ring.

When  they got home he looked through everything--the tent, the sleeping bags, everything. But it was missing.

He was trying not to be annoyed at Jordan for having the fit that prompted him to move his stuff. He was trying not to be angry at himself for forgetting.

I, for my part, was trying not to be mad at him for wearing his ring camping. Who effing wears their ring camping?

But I am a person who will leave my rings off for weeks at a time, though I love them. I'll take them off for the pool and forget to put them back on.

Being a wife and a mom are now overwhelmingly my identity, but whether or not I have my rings on doesn't matter to me.

I love my engagement ring. And my wedding ring was my grandmother's. It's a simple white gold band. She wore it for over 60 years, and in that time, the notches on the sides smoothed themselves. You can barely see where they were now.

I do not wear the band alone, for fear it will slip off. The engagement ring is tighter, and holds it. But sometimes this all just feels like too much.

I don't wear them when I travel, because I don't want to take them off at night in strange places. And I have lost the ability so sleep in jewelry. It's party of my whole Princess and the Pea sleep business.

I didn't wear them to Family Camp, and I would most certainly not wear them to actual camping, if I ever did that.

So as I said, I was trying not to be mad. But why, why why wear them camping?

To this Nick said he wears it all the time. It's important to him. He just feels better with his ring on than off.

I could not fault him for that.

Now, I also feel strongly that things are just things. People are what's important. And yet, this band was made by my mom's jeweler, who escaped Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. It has our initials and wedding date, which Nick used as proof to buy discounted caulk.

(Yes. It always comes back to caulk.)

It's the ring I gave him when we exchanged vows in front of all these people who matter so much to us, and who, like my dad and other dearly loved ones, are no longer with us.

It's a thing, but it's not just a thing.

I was upset. Not mad at Nick. Just upset.

Last week I was in the office talking about the lost ring, and my friend Tadu said we should get a metal detector. She said she had a friend who had lost her ring twice on the beach. And twice she'd found it.

So I asked on Facebook if anyone had one to lend us. Nobody had a metal detector. But I learned that lots of people have lost wedding rings.

I was glad I asked, because I got some great stories.

So Nick bought a metal detector on Amazon. And early Saturday morning, we headed up to Calvert Cliffs.

We were walking around the camp site, and as Nick had mentioned, it was on the edge of a big hill. There were rivulets down the sides.

The kids and I started skibbling and sliding down the hill. I was thinking there was just no way we were going to find the ring.

Look at all the nature. There is so much nature, and it's such a small object. And round and rolly, as rings tend to be.

Then suddenly Nick said, "I FOUND IT!"

And lo, he had.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Mind your messages


A couple days ago, I posted something about wanting to put the Eagles on a continuous loop in the waiting room of my shrink's office.

In response, my friend Matt, who I've not seen in decades, sent me this clip above. I responded that it was funny, and that Nick hates the Eagles as well.

(Inconceivable, but true. I'm all, Nick, why don't you come to your senses? You been out ridin' fences for so long now...)

Anyway.

Matt and I had that brief exchange. Then that same evening another friend and I were messaging. She's in a leadership position, and she has some constituents who behave very badly. We were going back and forth about their behavior, and how she has to be diplomatic in her position.

We wrote lots and lots of messages back and forth. She described and I expressed sympathy and outrage.

At some point I said I would tell them to fuck off.

And in the middle of this volley of messages, Matt messaged me saying he doesn't actually hate them, and he mainly thinks about them in the context of their era.

It fit so well with the other conversation. I thought she was being exceedingly kind and generous to a group of rude, obnoxious people.

So I basically responded that I would not be that diplomatic, and I'd probably tell them to their faces that they're assholes.

Yesterday morning out of the blue I got a message from Matt with a random, "LOL".

LOL what? Ohhhhhh.

Which was a totally innocuous response to a crazy lady who feels the actual need to tell a band how much she hates them like right to their faces?

I was immediately all, OH NOT THE EAGLES! I like the Eagles! That was about these other people you don't know who behave terribly.

Fortunately, this was easily explained and not terrible like the time I messaged one coworker with the phrase "sucks big fat moose weenies" thinking he was the other coworker who actually used that expression.

It was also not as bad as when, last month, I confirmed with my trainer that I'd see him at noon, and then added I was a little nervous about the ass licking.

Happy Friday! 

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Let the music play on (play on, play on, play on)

Dear AESers,

I love you. I love all of you.

I miss every one of you I didn't get to see.

I started missing each of you who was there as we hugged goodbye.

We all hugged so much. It wasn't enough time. It's never enough time.
I tell people I have spectacular taste in friends, which is true.

But the fact is I lucked into you.

I lucked into moving back to Delhi and walking down Chandragupta Marg, past the big tree with the vultures outside the front gate, and into AES.

I lucked out by walking into 9th and staying through 12th.

Leaving for college broke my heart. I longed every day to be back in Delhi with all of you, back where I felt safe and loved.

I lucked into you at play practice with Mr. Pepperling, on the field with Coach Connor, passing notes in geometry class with Mr. Gupta, and in typing with Mr. Mitroo. I lucked into drinking fresh lime sodas at ACSA and listening to Purple Rain on the boom box.

And 80s dance music, which is my favorite, is irrevocably linked with dancing every single weekend with you. I will always associate Quiet Riot with Matt's house on the compound and Dire Straits with Jason and Lodi Gardens, and how beautiful is that?

I lucked into walking out of science class with Mr. Robbins and diving with you into huge monsoon puddles that had filled up the soccer field in the torrential downpour in between classes. I lucked into spending every weekend with you, often at the Gunghroo or the #1 at the Taj.

I lucked into Jason kindly being willing to drop me home from parties, because my dad deliberately set my curfew half an hour earlier than everyone else's, and I wasn't allowed to take taxis alone.

I lucked into sleeping at your houses and going dancing anyway, whether or not we had to sneak out past sleeping parents, which I still cannot believe we were so bold as to do.

I lucked into the fact that the smells of India are embedded forever in my heart. When I smell specific blends of spices, it is Delhi. When I smell a particular wood fire smell, it is Kashmir.

When I smell jet fuel, it is every runway I ever walked down getting on or off a plan onto the tarmac. The smell makes me ache for a childhood spent on Pan Am, with plates and glasses and real silverware and space to sleep in front of my parents' feet.

There are scents I cannot identify. But when I smell them, in that olfactory Proustian way, I am home in my heart, though Delhi hasn't been my physical home in over 30 years.

Some of you I only overlapped with my first year, or my last. Some of you I didn't even know in Delhi, because you were there before or after me. But we come to reunions, and we meet, and the spark is there.

And this is my good fortune, my privilege.

We were firmly Breakfast Club era, and I remember watching it in the Embassy theater. (They had such good popcorn.)

It was our era, but not our school. At AES, smart was cool. I can't think of a single person we didn't think was cool, because we didn't specifically think in those terms. Everyone could do anything and everything they wanted to.

We were so tight and supportive that we all did sports and theater and went out dancing together and worked hard to get good grades. Some of us were utter basket cases at the same time others may have thought we were princesses.

I learned recently that my astigmatism is the reason I have poor depth perception. Though I made the volleyball team one year, I sucked at softball, basketball, field hockey, and really any sport where you needed to understand where the ball was in relation to yourself.

I could never figure out where the damn ball was.

Cheerleading, it turned out, was for me. In my dreams, I still own those pom poms.

However. When, during the dancing part of the reunion, three of my fellow cheerleaders and I tried to pose for a cheer shot, we discovered we are not the cheerleaders we used to be.
Get up, Kerry. You're the team captain!
We settled for a pyramid. Of sorts.
And let me tell you, I did not know until last Friday night that field hockey and softball are not typical boy sports in the U.S. Who knew? Carter and Boo, they knew. Or anyway, they learned it upon return to the States.

This weekend someone--was it Andy?--said they thought our personalities are pretty well fixed by high school, and I agreed. We are all the same at core. Just older, wiser, kinder, better versions of ourselves.

Yes, we're older. We have conversations on topics unimaginable in high school: caring for our kids, wrinkle cream, and the possibility of freezing that annoying post-baby low belly fat. The sadness of seeing parents decline. The unkindness of perimenopause.

Some of us have kids out of college, while some of us have kids in pre-K. We've married and divorced and changed names. We've moved and switched jobs multiple times. By now, most of us have lived through the trauma of losing a loved one.

We walk around with splinters and shards, invisible to many who haven't known us so long. These only make us shine brighter in our reflected light.
When we gather, we tell and retell stories from high school. It doesn't matter if I've heard them 50 times; I will always long to hear them once more.

Remind me, Greg, that we have known each other since we were four years old. That we have Halloween pictures of each other as adorable children. That you got to be Santa Claus in the preschool pageant where I was the bitterest Mary in existence, because I had to wear my pajamas and a crocheted afghan.

Tell me, tell me not-specifically-named friends, about that time you stole a Russian diplomatic license plate and almost got caught by the police. Tell me again about the time you did get caught.

Tell me, Jason, tell me your memories of us heading over to Claridge's for cocktails after school. Yes, OK, we headed to Claridge's for cocktails. After school. Not often. Because we had play practice, sports practice, both play and sports practices...

Tell me, Russ. Tell me about that plane trip to Pakistan I don't remember, the one where the plane got hit by lightening and you looked over and Paul A. was crossing himself frantically.

Remind me, Chris, about that time you used a magnifying glass and burned tiny holes in my adorable pink terry cloth romper while I was at the pool. I'd give up a million beloved outfits to the fire gods to be back in 9th grade at the pool at ACSA.

Talk to me about the Maurya Sheraton, Palika Bazaar, the Marine House, the compound, the commissary. Talk about sports conventions, about Limca and Campa Cola. Walk with me down Malcha Marg, or Janpath, or over to Julie's house to watch MTV videotapes.

Those are glory days, just like the Springsteen song.

We're not stuck in them; we've lived beyond, found love, had families, accomplished big things,  created satisfying lives.

But there is nothing that feels so good to me as being in a room filled with you. You're so dear to me, a part of my heart. I never, outside my family, feel so safe and loved as when I'm with you.

I never laugh so hard. I never dance so much. And I never otherwise laugh and dance at the same time.

I never wish so fervently that time would cease to function.

When we are together, we are all 16 or 17, and the most amazing teenagers in existence. We are kind, hilarious, luminous--and all the more so because we've shed insecurities, lived big lives, nurtured others. We've had to say goodbye to people we love dearly.

You're the most generous, loving group of friends I could imagine.

I started this, but so many people put it together. Thank you, Justin, for getting the Friday venue, and thank you Jason for taking charge of the donation. Thank you, Nicole and Paul, and Jason E for supporting me through freakouts about the restaurant flood.

Thank you Wendy's parents, for a lovely afternoon event. Thank you Wendy, Paul, and Jason for amazing playlists. Thank you Jason for DJing, and for organizing my present. I can't thank you all enough.
I didn't need a spa present, and I cannot wait to use it. I hope you know I would organize a gathering every year, because spending the time together is a gift to me.

You knew me when I was young and fragile and living with crazy, but not understanding how much crazy, or how deeply it affected me. I am so grateful that you remember the funny, the clever, the best, most endearing pieces of me.

These are the parts that radiate when I'm with you, because I am so incredibly happy. Who wouldn't want to spend as much time as possible with those who bring out your best, most joyful self?
We ended the night as we ended dance parties back then, in a big circle with All Night Long.

Life is good, wild and sweet. Let the music play on (play on, play on, play on).

I love you and I miss you. And I always will.

Lisa

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Turn around, bright eyes...

I have a mini high school reunion this weekend. This weekend!!!

If you know me then you know this means I'm going to spend the weekend laughing uproariously, chatting, dancing, laughing some more, and not sleeping. Next week I will have a tremendous emotional hangover.

And every minute will have been worth it.

So now let's talk about outfits. Because you know I love few things as much as I love to talk about clothing and footwear.

We know it truly doesn't matter what I wear, because these are people who love me. Who knew me when I was an angsty, insecure teenager with a Cyndi Lauper crisscross shaved into the side of my head sporting the best Mary Quant blue mascara and a neon green RELAX T-shirt that I wish I still had.

OK. So. There are two nights: a bar night and a dinner night. I could wear jeans or a dress to either. Mostly I need to be able to dance. It might be warm and it might be cold because Ned Stark is long dead and winter is here.

Here are options I pulled together over the weekend:

1. Embroidered mirrored jumpsuit 

This is, I think, the most fabulous. My mom made it in the 1960s for a friend. This friend kept it in storage for decades after she stopped wearing it, and then gave it to me.


The main downside for a party is that it is hard to get into and out of and I can't zip up the back by myself.

2. Jeans and a black top and platform boots. 

Maybe for Friday? I don't know how flattering this top is, though it is floaty and comfy. I could pair it with the jean jacket in the last option.

3. Black dress and booties

What about the booties, though? Too solid black with the screamily white legs above?


3. Black dress and superhero boots. Seriously--look at the backs.


4. Blue dress and boots (or booties? Or sandals?).

SAME DRESS just turned inside out! So tricky! And it has a secret pocket whether it's on the black or blue side! Could be with booties or boots.


5. Black sundress and sandals (in case it is warm) with chunky jewelry and jean jacket.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Blame it on the train but the boss is already there...

Every morning, Nick calls me to tell me how school drop-off went.

Sometimes the kids leave the house belligerent and they get in the car and sing songs or spell words, which is their newest form of entertainment. Jordan loves the hard words with sneaky letters. I can't even tell you how much "psychology" delighted him. So tricksy!

Jordan learned to read and spell with the same approach that's being used with India, so he will prompt her with sounds. It's lovely.

They're both in great moods when they're dropped off.

And sometimes we're all fine, and we had the right flavor of bagel and we didn't accidentally put jam when we know that India only likes butter on the odd days of the month except in months that start with A when the moon is full and Mercury isn't in retrograde.

Which is to say sometimes we have a harmonious morning and teeth get brushed and my daughter even brushes her hair and then all hell breaks loose on the way to school.

This is the rarer scenario. Typically some calamity befalls us at breakfast (see jam above) or during the shoe-putting-on portion of the morning. But then Nick manages to get them giggling on the way over.

He always calls to report and chat.

For the past couple months these calls have come as I'm either doing my veryveryfast walk to work, or jogging because I'm late or want to make a light.

I've come to realize that because I'm such a fast walker and such a slow runner, at this point I do both at about the same speed, and I look ridiculous either way.

In any case, Nick calls to check in and we talk about the kids and then at some point I say, "I've got nothin'" because the fact is that we saw each other right before we went to sleep and upon awaking, and really zero has happened that he doesn't already know.

But.

This morning he didn't call me.

I was settled into work when I realized that he hadn't called.

He didn't call me. Why didn't he call me?

We hadn't fought, or even disagreed. Had I done something to annoy him?

It's true that I struggle in the mornings. And he got up and went to rowing practice and emptied the dishwasher and made breakfast and took the kids to school.

What did I even do? Got myself dressed and gave them vitamins.

I had to leave. I mean, not to be all Bangles about it, but I can't be late 'cause then I guess I just won't get paid.

I should've done more, though. Maybe he thinks I'm inadequate. Maybe I am inadequate.

It's true that I'm tired and crabby quite a lot, and it's likely that I think I'm more creative and funnier than I actually am.

Maybe it's all of these things and so much more and he just doesn't want to talk to me.

I could wait. I'll wait. I have lots of work do to. I'll wait and see if he calls and then I'll know if he's mad.

Except that I can't focus.

And actually, we're married. He's not some Match guy who suddenly went from emailing every day to silence. He's my husband. He might just be angry about...I don't know. Something.

He gets mad too easily. Why's he mad at me again? Yeah, well, I've got plenty of stuff I could be enraged about as well.

Or maybe he's not mad. No. They got in a terrible accident on the way to school. They're on the way to the hospital, and nobody has contacted me yet.

Oh my god, and here I've been all indignant about Nick being angry with me, when he might be on life support. I have to call right now.

I'll call Nick and then the school and then hospitals if I have to.

Nick answers immediately. "Hi love!"

 He sounds happyThey're clearly still alive.

"Hi! How was drop-off?"

"Great! We got out late and had to hustle. I called around nine but you didn't answer."

Oh.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Today you are six

My dear India,

Today you are six. Last night was your last night of five. I got a little nostalgic.

Today, six years ago, my life changed forever in the best possible way.

Because Jordan was late, and because I'd had a Cesarean, the midwife had told me to expect you'd be two weeks late. She'd told me they wouldn't induce, and I would just have to wait.

In all honesty, she made me feel bad for my choices, and she scared me, and made me cry. I almost didn't go back. But I really, really didn't want another C-section if I could avoid it.

Your due date was April 29. So really, they said, I was looking at mid-May.

There are people who like being pregnant, and I am not one of them. So I didn't embrace the idea of two extra weeks of pregnancy. But I'd waited so long for you; I was prepared for two extra weeks.

I was completely unprepared for you to be 10 days early.

Six years ago last night I went to bed exhausted, uncomfortable, and ooh, so crabby. I woke up at 2:00 am when my water broke. This hadn't happened to me with Jordan, and I thought I was peeing. For a really long time, like way longer than made sense. I woke up your daddy to verify.

Kim had just finished making your room, because the room you have now was part of a larger space with no door. He was all stressed out, racing to get done with that construction before you arrived.

Incidentally, Kim lobbied hard for us to name you after him. Kim is, as he pointed out, also a girl's name.

But I knew in my heart that your first name would either be Lillian or India, and I needed to spend a little time with you before I named you.

So six years ago, earlier than expected, you came into this world on your own time, and full of life. And you continue to embrace the world on your own terms.

You have strong opinions, and you are stubborn. While sometimes I'm so frustrated with you I want to pull my hair out, I respect your strength and determination.

You're emotionally and physically strong. You can go back and forth on the monkey bars, turning around at one end and then the next without stopping.

When we talk about what to do if a grown up tries to grab you, you say, "If someone does that, I'm going to bite him and kick him in the penis SO HARD."

And I hope this is never tested, but I believe you would.

We read together at night, snuggled in your bed, and those quiet moments are the best part of my day.

You have recently taken an interest in Judy Blume's Fudge books. I never read those as a kid, but your dad did, and he was delighted to introduce you guys to them.

Jordan feels he's too old for them, but he listens. Sometimes when your dad is reading to you and I'm hanging out in Jordan's room while he's working on his comic book, I hear him giggle when Daddy gets to a funny part.

You're surrounded by avid readers and you can't wait to be able to read as well.

We had a truly brutal stretch at the beginning of this year. Every single day you were an utter demon. You screamed, refused to brush teeth, refused to get dressed, and fought about everything.

At first I thought the transition back to school was hard. But then this went on. And on.

You told me you hated me, every single day. This hurt my heart, every single day. You bounced off the walls--literally--every night at bedtime.

You were relentlessly mean. It was like someone had taken our girl and replaced her with Asmodeus.

I complained yet again about the brutality of bedtime, and my friend Wendy asked what had precipitated this period of terribleness. What had happened right before I started?

And you know what? The end of December, the allergist put you on a steroid inhaler for asthma. Those inhalers are supposed to be localized. I take one, and it doesn't make me crazy. But it made you craaaaaaaazy.

The five weeks you were on it were five weeks of hell. I took you off, and within 24 hours you were kind again. We haven't seen that level of Asmodeusness since.

This is not to say that life with you is an endless dream. When you're annoyed, you have a scream that I feel in the base of my skull. It makes me want to beat things with a hammer.

But that is life, with all its ups and downs. People are hard to live with, but what would this life be without the people we love?

And you are one of the people I love most in the entire universe. You light my world every single day. When I don't see you, I miss you, and when I pick you up from school you beam and charge into my arms.

I can still pick you up, and you still wrap your arms and legs around me, and mash your face against mine. One day you'll be too big, and I will miss this terribly.

You and your brother mostly get along so well. And of course, you have your Nana right here with us. Today after school she's taking you to Target to pick your present, which is what you specifically requested and locked her into weeks ago.

I have to imagine it will be Shopkins or Hatchimals. Both of which are small and adorable and really, really hurt when you step on them barefoot.

Right now you call me Biba, That's just your name for me. People sometimes hear it and ask why, I and I say you like it. I like that I have my own special name.

For a while, and for no reason, it was Mumpika. You play with these the way I call you Indi, Indi Bindi, Belinda, Bunny (short for Hunny Bunny), and so on.

At night before you sleep, we snuggle into each other and talk about how much we love each other. And then, on the rare nights you're really tired and embracing sleep, you'll say, "It's not time for talking; it's time for sleeping."

This is what I am always saying to you.

I'm so lucky I'm your mama and you're my girl.

You're a delight and a treasure and I love you love you love you.

Happy birthday.

Mama

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Let me hear your body talk, your body talk

In February, I returned to work full time, albeit temporarily. This job will last until my kids are out of school mid-June.

I’m back in my old office, which has been terrific in myriad ways.

I could write a whole post about returning to the juggle of work and motherhood, and my current perspective. But really, I want to talk about returning to the gym and to my beloved trainer, Vic.

The building has a free gym. The one where all those years ago I pushed the red button and minced out the door.

Since I left my job four and a half years ago, I’d been working out at home or running, so this has really been my return to a gym and to a trainer.

I'd forgotten about gym interactions.

This gym is rather warm. So one of my colleagues, who works out regularly, bought two large, very blowy floor fans.

As it turns out, men were taking them into the locker room to dry themselves.

Yes. It’s quite a visual.

On Monday Vic was having me do a variety of exercises, one of which necessitated a bench. We typically do three sets of different exercises, so we weren’t using the bench the whole time. So we’d moved on to squats when a guy came over and took the bench away without saying anything.

He pulled it into the center of the room and sat down and did a set of grunty biceps curls. And then hung out flipping through Tinder. I know because I walked by.

I considered pointedly asking if we could take it for one set, but I settled for glaring in his direction. And in fact there was another bench (which he could have used), and we just moved over there.

So I was thinking I would sometime try to fart right next to him, but then after I left the gym I realized I couldn’t really tell him apart from the other 20-something guys. This means I may have to fart near all of them, one at a time.

Although since I can’t distinguish them, I might accidentally persecute a nice guy. And get a bad reputation.

So maybe not.

In any case, at the end of each workout, Vic has you lie face down a mat, and he presses on your back to align your spine.

And on a side bar, does anyone besides me have trouble with “lie” and “lay”? Lie for people, except “Now I lay me down to sleep,” which incidentally scared the crap out of me as a child because what little kid wants to die before they wake?

But grammatically speaking, that’s because you’re laying yourself down. Morally, I don’t think you should teach kids a prayer that makes them think they’re going to perish before dawn.

So I lay flat on the mat, face down. And Vic said, “Please put your left cheek on the mat.”

I just figured this was some new stretch, so I twisted my body, trying to get the left side of my butt flat against the mat. This, while trying to keep my face against the mat, was no small effort.

He was all, “What are you doing?”

And I was all, “It’s not that easy getting just my left butt cheek on the mat.”

And then he died laughing and I sure hope that the young guys were focusing on Tinder because I’m an idiot.

Monday, April 09, 2018

I recall the yellow cotton dress foaming like a wave on the ground around your knees

Nine years ago, spring was exactly like this.

And by exactly like this, I mean, it wasn't. Month after month, it was cold and grey. It was supposed to be spring. It was officially spring. And yet it was relentlessly cold and grey.

We kept waiting for spring, and it kept not arriving.

I remember this specifically because nine years ago I was pregnant, and didn't have enough clothing for the endless cold.

I remember this specifically because nine years ago in April, my dad attempted suicide. And nine years ago in May, he took his life.

By May, the weather was gorgeous. Azalea and rhododendron bushes were in full bloom, drenching us with color. The day my dad disappeared was warm, sunny, lush.

My mom called to say he'd disappeared and I remember thinking, "But it's too beautiful a day to die."

But the too beautiful so long to get here. My parents went to Hawaii that year, to visit a dear friend. It was a bad year in Hawaii--unseasonably cold, no sun.

I wonder if if Dad just couldn't hold on any longer. Sunshine, and with it hope, arrived too late.

I'm not suicidal, but I'm extremely affected by quantity and quality of light. I hate the cold, but it's the light I can't manage without.

We've had so many Dementor breeding days, where the sun refuses to shine. The time change helped, because now it's light later. But so many days, we have no sun, just a pale, too-bright glare.

When the sun comes out, everything changes.

Last Friday it was both warm and sunny. Every parent I'd ever met, it seemed, was at the park with their kids. It was glorious. I felt alive, I felt hopeful.

Then Saturday it was grim and cold again. There were snowflakes.

Our school had their annual fundraiser, for which I was volunteering, and I couldn't get dressed. The dress I'd planned to wear would now have to be worn with tights. My tights only came up so far, and then there was this little strip of my middle that pooched above, and you could see it with my fitted dress and it was all lowering my self esteem and anyway it just physically felt terrible.

After many rejected outfits and significant decline in enthusiasm on my part, India pulled out one of my favorite dresses, which my friend Leigh purchased for me at an estate sale last summer. Perfect.

Seriously. One day Leigh called and said she only had 15 minutes to stop in and she wanted to drop off three pieces of clothing she'd bought for me. And they were all this amazing.

Yes my picture is a little blurry but you get the general idea. People asked if I wore it because it looks like cherry blossoms and I was all, "I wore it because it was too cold to be naked and I literally couldn't bear any other item in my closet."

OK, I said a toned-down version and didn't bring up nudity with fellow parents I don't even know.

But my lord, the drama trauma of getting dressed anymore. This is too cold. This is too shiny. This is too tight that is too short this is too this and that is too that and REALLY THE PROBLEM IS THAT WINTER WILL NOT END.

On Sunday I managed to force one kid out the door to the park, where she ran and played and I planted myself in the sun, standing shoulders up around my ears and arms pressed to my sides in my wool sweater and hood and down coat, face turned skyward like a desperate sunflower.

I understand that it's not particularly sophisticated to be unable to remember a different state. When it rains, it feels to me like it's been raining my entire life. When I'm sick, I'm so immersed in it I cannot remember how it feels to be well.

And when I'm cold, I can't recall how it feels to be warmed by the sun. When I think of last summer, I can visualize what I was wearing; I just can't remember how it felt.

I used to think my problem was the cold. It's not. I's the light.

I mean, I resent the hell out of the cold. But it's the sun I'm desperate for. I just want some sunshine.

And also if I could put my coat in the closet and then not take it out again for many many many months that would be kind of perfect as well.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

How to have lice

When we get lice, we don't like to just get lice.

We like to pair our lice with something calamitous, like thieves coming through the skylights and stealing laptops and jewelry.

But now we have bars on the skylights.

So this time, we paired our lice with a house-next-door fire.

Surprise!

First we discovered the lice. I think last time we had the thieving first. I don't know that we're particular about order, really.

Last weekend, we all had plans, and we were all late leaving the house. This wound up being a blessing.

I was late to take India to meet friends. I was upstairs rushing around because the lateness! The lateness of leaving late! And then India said, "Mama, come downstairs! Jordan smells smoke!"

Jordan has this nose. He can be standing way across the room and be all, "Ugh. Your breath smells like onions."

His nose stands in stark contrast to his ears, which function only selectively, and not at all when you're standing right next to him telling him, in no uncertain terms, that it is time to brush teeth.

In any case, I came downstairs and the three of us were trying to figure out where the smoke was coming from. And then I realized that the smoke detectors in our basement tenants' apartment were all screaming.

I yelled for Nick to come down. It smelled like plastic burning.

Nick said, "I think it's coming from the closet."

We have this storage closet that used to connect the basement and the ground floor. I probably wrote about it because there were these precarious stairs of death down to the dark and deathy dungeon where we did our laundry when we first moved in.

Now it's where we store our Christmas tree and coats and such.

So Nick went in to try and see if there was a fire in the back of the closet. He started flinging coats out and pulling out boxes as the closet filled up with smoke. Smoke started spreading out through the ground floor, and I ran to call 911.

I didn't realize I was scared until the woman on the phone said, "It's going to be OK. Stay with me." And I realized I'd started crying.

She told me to get everyone outside.

Betty had been planning to go to Safeway, so she headed out the back, and the rest of us headed out the front.

One of our tenants and their dog were already out front.

Three fire trucks arrived within minutes, and neighbors started to congregate.

I'd called 911 a few months ago because all of our basement smoke alarms were going off, and we couldn't figure out why. (Issue turned out to be batteries. Nick replaced them all.)

So I recognized a few of the firemen.

They checked our basement and ground floor, then determined it was our next-door neighbor's house.

Nobody was home, so they pulled out axes. They went into the basement with hoses pumping.

I'd never seen this happen anywhere outside of a Richard Scarry book.

A little while later they emerged with a charred and smoking futon, which they then hosed thoroughly on the sidewalk.

The inhabitant of the basement arrived about 15 minutes into the operation. He'd been out walking his dog. He told Nick he'd left a candle burning.

A few minutes after that, we met a woman who'd just moved into the house a month ago. She'd been home the whole time but not known what was going on. She told us she was reading upstairs and  smelled smoke, so she looked out the window and saw all these fire trucks.

Which says to me no smoke detectors were screaming in their house.

I feel exceptionally lucky that we were home, and that Nick is assiduous about keeping smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, filters, etc up to date. I feel lucky we smelled the smoke as early into the fire as we did, and that the fire fighters were immediately responsive.

I thanked one of the guys for arriving so quickly and he said, "We were eating lunch literally around the corner."

I contend it is a universal belief that firemen are hot. They will rush into buildings that are ON FIRE to save people.

What did surprise me, however, was that a couple of them lit cigarettes after the fire was out.

We're in a row house, and ours houses were built over a hundred years ago. This means we share walls, that beams come through.

This also means that our ground floor still smells like smoke. But nothing in our house was damaged.

Most importantly, nobody was hurt.

What it's made me realize is that we are vulnerable. Lots of things in life are out of our control, yes. But we try to keep our house as safe as possible. But! Our houses all connect. Any of our neighbors could be smoking in bed or leave candles unattended or what-have-you.

One of our neighbors said that 15 years ago an entire row house burned on our block. He asked if we have a fire emergency plan.

We do not. Do you have a fire emergency plan? Do you know how you'd get out?

In our house, have two options--going down and out the front door, or up to the roof. But we've not practiced this with the kids or my mom. Am I confident my mom could get out the little window leading to the roof, or jump over to a neighboring rooftop?

Not completely.

So there's that. And that's where we are. And where we were.

Oh, and we also oiled all our heads and combed repeatedly with the lice comb. Because, you know, the lice.

I was pretty shaken up for a while. That night, when we were getting ready for bed, I said, "The kids and I should make cookies to take to the firehouse."

Nick said, "That would be nice."

Then I said, "Although if we run out of time maybe we could just drop off a couple cartons of Marlboros."

"That's the Lisa I know and love"

Monday, March 12, 2018

Happy 50th birthday, Nick

Dear Nick,

Today is your 50th birthday.

When we met, you were approaching 40. You’d been dating for a long time, and had begun considering the idea that you might be too difficult a person to be married. (Some days I think this is probably true, and I imagine you’d say the same about me.)

But in any case, with this thought in mind, you'd decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and bought an old sailboat that you were excited to fix up.

We talked about it in emails and on our first date. I’d only really been sailing in exotic locales, and certainly never had to be the one to steer the boat, so I thought they were fun, and sailing with you sounded like a grand adventure.

My dad loved boats, and he was so excited to help you get your boat across the Chesapeake. It was such a big event for all of us, I talked about it at his memorial service.

I feel lucky, honestly, that my dad got to know you and have truly meaningful experiences with you before he died. He knew from the start what a fine person you were, and I know he felt like I was in good hands. I don’t know if he thought about the fact that he’d be leaving my mom in your capable hands as well, but I suspect so.

Anyway, you got your boat fixed enough to sail and brought it across the bay, and then we got married and I got pregnant. And then we bought a house that needed so much work that it would suck the life out of a normal person. Lucky for us, you’re not a normal person.

You approached your boat in the same way you approach our house and our family, and really anything you love. You always pour your whole heart in, and work so hard to make everything perfect. Of course, nothing is perfect; it's real life.

But you do your best, and you get more done in a day than most people I’ve ever met.

I know you loved your boat a great deal. You refinished the wood yourself, and you put so much energy and love into the project. Eventually, a demanding job, a needy house, two delightful kids, and a gem of a wife took precedence over your boat.

There just wasn’t time in the day/week/month for everything. It got to a point where you looked at your limited time and decided to spend it on your family.

I know letting go of your boat meant letting go of a dream, and so in retrospect it was terribly unkind of me to wish your dream would sink in a hurricane so we could have the insurance money. I didn’t think I’d said it out loud but at some point I apparently did, because you mentioned it.

But you promised it didn’t factor into your decision. Your family came first.

The fact is, you work, and you spend time with us. And fix toilets, wiring, plumbing, and refinish banisters and fireplaces, and so on. The list is long. You don’t golf or go to happy hour or go on fishing trips.

When you have free time, you want to spend it with the people you love most, and that is us.

You don’t get a lot of time with the kids during the week, and always spend weekends creating grand adventures I know our kids will cherish when they are grown.

Months ago, I asked you if you wanted a party. I wanted you to celebrate this big birthday in some big way. You didn’t want a party. You wanted a small family dinner, so we went out to eat at your new favorite Mexican restaurant.

We had cake at home. India was super excited to blow out the candles.

You did, however, want to do something big to commemorate this birthday. I was so glad when you told me this, because I think commemorating milestones and using your birthday magic is important.

This morning you told the kids they were playing hooky, and you took them on a helicopter ride over the Chesapeake. (I of course had major anxiety about my entire family going down at once. But you’re back on land and I am so glad you had a spectacular time.)

I think what strikes me most is that for your birthday, for you the most joyful choice was to do something incredible with your children. I love this about you.

You are extraordinary, and I love you more than sunshine.

Happy birthday.

Love,

Lisa

Friday, March 09, 2018

Let them eat (vanilla) cake! Or cupcakes.

Oh, hey! This is a really good cake. I found it on King Arthur Flour's site last year. This is also their photo.

When I made it I followed the instructions exactly, and it was delicious.

I made cream cheese frosting for it, and discovered that cream cheese frosting is just cream cheese, butter, and sugar. I don't know what I thought was in it but I was super sad to know that the ingredients didn't include something more redeeming like spinach.

 It's Nick's birthday on Monday, so I asked him what kind of cake he'd like (and suggested this).

He said vanilla.

India said "I'd like vanilla, but cupcakes, and not that frosting you made last time. Actually, no frosting. Just vanilla cupcakes."

I told her it wasn't her birthday and we should try to make Daddy happy. And she said, "OK. Just vanilla cupcakes."

 Personally, I view cake as a vehicle for frosting, but I'm also picky about frosting. I have two I like. One is my grandmother's huge, fluffy beaten egg white frosting, and the other is cream cheese.

 But again, it's Nick's birthday, so he gets to pick. Or maybe India does.

Or maybe I make this cake with whatever icing Nick wants. And what's the difference between icing and frosting? I use these words interchangeably. Like car-mul or cara-mel, in my mind. And perhaps I will also make cupcakes with no frosting.

And then I will be very tired and sit in the corner eating a bowl of cream cheese frosting with a spoon.

Except that I basically gave up sugar in January so maybe I won't.

Anyway, I hate the endless anecdotes on food blogs when all you want is the damn recipe. But then again, I'm not a food blogger.

But if you're here for cake, here's the cake.

Ingredients
2 cups sugar
3 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon
12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, soft enough to leave an indentation when pressed
1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (but don't flour) the bottom only of your choice of pan(s): one 9" x 13" pan, two 9" round cake pans, three 8" round pans, or the wells of two muffin tins (24 muffin cups). You can also line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.
Combine the milk and vanilla and add, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.

With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

Repeat this procedure with the second egg. Continue adding the eggs, scraping after each addition, until all 4 are added. After the last egg is added, scrape the bowl once more, then beat at medium-high speed for 30 more seconds.

Transfer the batter to the pans of your choice.

For layers, divide the batter among the pans. The batter weighs 48 ounces; if you're using a scale to measure out your layers, each 9" layer should weigh 24 ounces; each 8" layer needs 16 ounces of batter. Smooth out the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a tablespoon.

For cupcakes, scoop by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into the prepared muffin tins. Bake for 35-40 minutes for a 9" x 13" pan; 30-35 minutes for 9" layers; 24-27 minutes for 8" layers, or 23 to 25 minutes for cupcakes.

The cake is done when it's golden brown around the edges and just beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Elephant leg boots and other footwear

I recently took my daughter to a doctor's appointment, and because it was toward the end of the school day, I picked Jordan up at the same time. And because it was in Friendship Heights, which has Bloomingdale's, my mother wanted to join.

Which is how all four of us found ourselves, post-appointment, in the shoe department at Nordstrom Rack. This is, without sarcasm, my idea of fun.

So I spotted these shoes that looked like sneakers, but endless sneakers! They had big white bottoms! They were grey and soft, oh, so soft! And stretchy!

You pulled them on, and you just kept pulling them up and up and up, nearly up to your coochie-coo! (Yes, I know it's called a vulva, and we incorrectly continue to call it a vagina with our kids, except India still says GAGINA and I am OK with that as I know full well what she's talking about.)

Anyway, you pull those sneaker boots up really high.

I thought they were amazing. But they might be horrible. Amazing? Horrible? I couldn't tell.

So I asked Facebook.

My friend Tracy--and I love my friends forever for their honesty--said, "They make you look like you have elephant leg."

Wendy agreed. Then another person did. And another.

And actually, I'd be fine having elephant leg boots. I would happily refer to them as my "elephant leg boots."

Except that they didn't look good with a single outfit.

I was thinking, "Oh, great! These are sneakers that are also boots that are warm and I can just pull them on with everything and walk for miles and they'll keep my legs cozy!"

NO.

They looked terrible with jeans. And leggings. I didn't try them on with a skirt because I am not going to have a pair of high-maintenance elephant boots that I can only wear with like one outfit that I own. I'm just not.

So I took them back and stumbled across a black pair of over-the-knee real boots that have an actual heel. India totally approves. So far I haven't worn them, because I can't quite decide.

Maybe I'll put them on with some outfits and show you.

And finally, this is my India modeling Leigh Shoes.

As in, "Mama! These are so cute! Leigh would love these shoes. Look at me in the Leigh Shoes!"
She is absolutely right. Leigh would rock those shoes. I commended India on her choice.

However. I'm willing to bet Leigh would wear them on the correct feet. 

Friday, February 02, 2018

New news

Hello, friends!

Yesterday I got my hair cut and colored (see new hair above, not much different from old hair but also completely different). I asked my stylist if she could put fewer highlights so I can grow out more of my own hair color. I've decided I should see what color it actually is after all this time.

Also: selfies are hard. I always feel like a dork.

I'm always so amused by the foils that I have to take a picture.
Incidentally, and really only related to foil, I recently read Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater, a book that delighted me in 6th grade. It was a quick, fun book, and one I hope my children might be interested in.

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In the top photo, the painting in the background is of me, on the shores of Lake Superior. My Aunt Jo, who was a painter, painted it after we'd been to visit her one summer. She had a houseboat, and she once took us out to the island I'm looking towards. In our parlance, that was Aunt Jo's island.

There I'm sifting through rocks, finding agates. We collected heaps and heaps of agates. Aunt Jo loved puns (I'm suspecting this is genetic), and once when my brother found a regular rock and asked her what it was, she said, "Oh, that's a snot agate!"

"What's a snot agate?"

"Snot an agate."

I've recently been in close touch with her daughter, Patti Jo, who has been sharing her memories. For a time I've been thinking I need to go back to where my dad grew up, and now, the pull to see family and familiar places is very strong.

Aunt Jo painted scenes of Duluth. I wish I had one of her scenes. She had these block puzzles called City Blocks. Why didn't I ever get one back then? They were wonderful.

Anyway. Experiences are more important than stuff.

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On Wednesday, I start a full-time job that will last until my kids get out of school in June. A friend was leaving my old workplace, and they needed someone to fill in for a few months, until the organization gets a new president and that person can hire the new employee.

So I'm stepping back into the full time, office workforce. But I'm returning to a familiar place, where I already like my boss and am friends with many of my colleagues.

I'm both nervous and excited. It's going to be a big change for my family, as I've now been home over four years. India hasn't gone and Jordan doesn't remember going to aftercare.

This will be a big shift, but not a permanent one, and I think shaking things up will be good for all of us. And a paycheck is helpful.

All in all, I consider this a lucky turn of events.

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We have gone back to India screaming, threatening, raging and all around shooting our nights to hell because she does not want to go to bed. That's fun.

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Speaking of, it is currently cold as hell frozen over or whatever the expression is. I'm not best pleased with this situation.

Wishing you all a great weekend! Big hugs!

Lisa

Monday, January 29, 2018

That time we drove to Canada and learned how to cross the street

Last night I suggested driving Betty and the kids to Duluth, MN this summer to visit my cousins. It couldn't be a whole lot farther than Toronto, could it?

You may recall that I occasionally decide it would be really fun to drive somewhere. Like Texas. Or Denver. And then Nick points out the distance and difficultly.

When I pulled it up on Google Maps it said it would take me 378 hours. Then I realized it had defaulted to the walk option. (Also, I'm a fast walker, and am confident I could do it in like 350 hours.)

Even so, it is almost 1,200 miles far, and I'm not sure how we will go. We have time to decide.

But. I still haven't told you about last summer when we drove to Canada!

We drove to Canada. My car was in park when I took this picture.
Last August, Betty, the kids, and I set off in the direction of Toronto. We had Waze, passports, Kindles for the kids, a giant bag of snacks, and the Hamilton CDs.

We figured we'd get as far as we could--hopefully Buffalo--sleep the night, and then drive to Toronto the next day. I was going to call Nick when we knew where we'd stop for the night so he could get a deal on reservations online.

About an hour out of Buffalo I got the kids to get out of the car and use the bathroom at a very clean convenience store by saying, "Nana will buy you candy if you try to pee pee."

I'm not proud of this, but it worked, and let me just be totally honest and say I am not above blatant bribery.

Nick asked if we could make it to the Canadian side of Niagara. I polled my passengers, who said, "Sure!" So I said, "Sure!"

We were super bummed that they didn't stamp our passports at the border. We also didn't jokingly ask for asylum. Best not to push the humor with border police.

I mean, I it's all fun and games until you're in isolation getting a cavity search.

So I just said we're here to visit old friends and we'll be staying for five days and then heading straight back home and thank you very much for letting us in.

The next thing I did was get stuck in the E-ZPass lane for the toll. I was all, "Look, they have E-ZPass! I have E-ZPass!"

But! I don't have Canadian E-ZPass! I...couldn't pass. And then a van pulled up behind me. And I got all panicky. Then the van driver signaled for me to back up, and I was trying, but I am a sucky backer-upper and there wasn't much room.

And then a lovely man opened the gate for me and we drove forth into Canada. EZ!

Nick had booked a room with a spectacular view.
Right? We were astounded and delighted.
Our room had a better view than we managed anywhere else. Also, they light the falls different colors at night.

And then! Then Toronto! Oh my gosh, Toronto is incredible!

We headed straight for Sophie and Sean's house. Sophie had organized for us to stay the house of one of her friends who was away for the week. So we were super comfortable in a truly lovely nearby  house.

Sophie, one of my dear Delhi high school friends, immediately poured us wine in cups from her childhood days in Pakistan. Sean grilled. Our children began playing with each other.
It is as I have long believed: Canada is a magical land.

They taught us how to ride the streetcar. Toronto has amazing public transportation.
We went out for dim sum. The kids tried everything. Everything!

We went downtown. We hung out at the Toronto sign. We shopped.
We took the kids to the local park, which has a wonderful playground with a splash park, a skating rink, and a pool. And a farmer's market on Wednesdays!

We went to the Don Valley, which houses an old brick factory. It's a gorgeous, giant park right in the middle of a huge city.
One night our high school friend Jon and his lovely wife Christine invited us over for a cookout. They built their house to back up to their best friends' house. Between them they have two yards, a trampoline, and a heated pool.

Also! We had ice cream with maple sugar. Which is what I imagine pixie dust tastes like.
My kids never wanted to leave. According to my children, Oakville, suburb of Toronto, is the best place in Canada.
This is how you cross the street in Toronto. You push the crossing button and you point. All the way across. I am not kidding.
Taught me how to walk this way...
Sophie's neighborhood has everything. My friend Rob, who you may remember from my NYC Overnight walk, came down and joined us for a delicious dosa dinner.

One night we walked over to a local brewery. While we were there a new brewery opened up across the alley from Sophie and Sean. Our last night, we tried poutine.Yum!

Sophie and her family were the most extraordinary hosts. Toronto is an incredible city. We all loved it. I could spend so much more time there. And now I know how to drive there and back.

So maybe we will.