Archive for June 2012

Creative Genius

The cowgirl wearing her sunglasses inside, because that’s how she rolls.

In 1990 my mother was featured in a cover story for the Local section of the Columbus Dispatch in an article about early risers. The premise of the article was to uncover just how much can be accomplished before 8AM. My mother, shown in a photo speed walking our dogs, could grocery shop, rouse her teenage daughters, make breakfast for her husband, prepare brown bag lunches for the entire family, shower, get dressed and walk the dogs, all before the Today Show had wrapped up its time with its expensive anchors. She prided herself on this ability. Our family and good friends bragged about it.

Looking back at that photo of my energetic mother speed walking her big German shepherd used to be a lot harder to do. My mother, about two years ago, found herself wheelchair-bound. I used to joke about it with her. She was falling all the time due to complications from several spinal compression-points caused by arthritis, and I was really concerned she

Hanging on my wall!

might do some permanent damage.

“We’ll have to bring you your meals,” I jokingly warned. “You’ll be calling out things like, `Can you please open the blinds, Joselin? I’d like to watch the squirrels now.'”

It would make her laugh, but then a few years later the unthinkable happened. On one of her early-riser-mornings, she tripped over her chocolate lab and broke her hip. She never got out of the wheelchair.

Over the years my sister and I have had to rely on relative strangers taking care of our mother. We are lucky she could afford the help. But it was stressful. There were thieves, alcoholics and other advantage-takers. Our mother was unable to shower for almost a year, forced as she was to wash herself in the bathroom sink in her bathroom that was entirely unequipped for a wheelchair. Worst of all, she was depressed and she was in pain.

I love this one!

The other day, my husband and I hung two framed, colorful collages on our wall. My mother was always creative, but she hadn’t really focused on art or creative pursuits since we were kids. For the last year my mother has been scrapbooking and creating these beautiful collages. I have been looking at the two she gave me on my last visit every day and when I do, I can’t help but beam from ear-to-ear.

Her remodeled bathroom allows her to make use of every inch of its space (Thanks Michelle Demond-Axelrod)! Her pain is mostly gone as she completes the necessary physical therapy with her staid and trusty “babysitter” as she jokingly calls her helper, our family-friend, Keith.

She is still in that wheelchair but yesterday she called and said, “I stood on my own without touching anything for a minute!”

There is a lot of work for her still to do, but I am so proud of my mother. Her creative masterpieces hanging on my wall is a reminder that any of us can overcome anything with a little time, compassion and CREATIVITY.

I hope each of us creates something today and enjoys this beautiful summer day while we do it.


A Semi-Lame Blog About A Nice Vacation

The bottom neon row would read “delicious” if it was 1987.

We just got back from a trip to Ohio. It was longer than our usual trips to Ohio and yet in some ways felt shorter. That’s the thing about sharing a home state with your husband. You have to split up every trip home. What this usually means is that my husband’s awesome sister and her out-of-control-amazing kids usually drive down to Columbus and hang out with us.

So this time we decided to mix it up. And by “we decided” I mean “my husband was like,” and by “mix it up” I mean he said, “we are going to spend a week in Cleveland. Tell YOUR sister to get in the car, take 71 and drive north.”

It wasn’t that harsh. We spent two days in Columbus getting cuddles from my sister’s kids and eating, which is what we do in Columbus. Then we drove to Northern Ohio for the remaining 6 days.

It’s funny not getting to plan a vacation. And by “funny” I mean, it sucks. But my husband had things to do and I was more or less playing the part of the dog wrangler. (Did I mention we brought BOTH of our dogs? No seriously, you try it.)

Here’s where this blog entry becomes anticlimactic: It was a lovely vacation where we visited people and my husband got things done. I chased dogs and fought off a computer virus. Our hotel featured a view of a neon Arby’s sign. I didn’t get much writing done. (Did I mention I have a book due August 1st?)

I will blog again at the end of the week. I promise something it will be something more riveting involving a breakthrough in modern medicine and won’t include the words, “Northern Ohio.”

Love Means Never Having to Say You’re…Oh Nevermind

My internal monologue after most of the fights in which I participate.

I really like the word “Sorry.” I think perhaps I like it too much. When looking back over a series of relationships and fights in which I have played a starring role and I find myself much more than once, trying to no avail to convey how important it is to me that I elicit a little “sorry.” I have even, not kidding, in the heat of one battle said, “Just repeat after me: `sah!'” then heaving to hold back tears of anger and frustration, “Now say `ree!'”

I really love the word. I would bathe in it if I could. Other examples of times I have found myself desperate for a small hint of deference and understanding have forced me into this one dialogue that I seem to speak with such frequency I am tempted to type it up and just hand it out on note cards at the beginning of any fight. I have in the past come across emails to old friends, partners and family members that pretty much say it. The note cards will read:

Dear worthy opponent: If you accidentally kick someone in the shin and cause them pain, the appropriate response is to say, `sorry.’ If you hurt someone, even if you didn’t mean to, even if your character is one that seeks to love and not hurt, sometimes a simple `sorry’ will go a long way toward helping them feel like you tried to see what upset them, intentionally or otherwise.

No, seriously. I want to put that on note cards. But it’s crazy right? Very recently I found myself mid-fight on the phone giving that very speech. My husband in an adjacent room heard me and sighed, exasperated, “Seriously?”

Why? Because he got the speech bi-weekly and could probably recite it. Suddenly everything in my life became very very meta. If I was finding myself having to give this speech so often that my husband was exhausted hearing me give it to someone else, well then, what’s happening with me? What’s my damage? What’s my problem?

There are a few choices here: 1) I am surrounded by people who don’t like to apologize, 2) I am a very poor communicator and unable to clearly explain what vexes me, or 3) I am overly fond of, albeit unclear about the magic behind the apology.

Aaron's internal monologue after most of my fights with him or with someone else.

I guess I think that perhaps it is all three. I do think that the people I love the most in my life have a hard time hearing that they messed up. I say this because I myself have a hard time finding out that I messed up. I know that I try to consider my culpability when I upset someone, but I can also freely admit that I am as defensive as they come when standing accused. To the second point: I am not much of a crier. So perhaps my demeanor is not one that reads “injured” or “poorly treated.” I also think I am pretty strong, or at least I look it on the outside. So perhaps I don’t look like I need an apology (even when flailing my arms and shrilly screaming, “Just say `sah!'” and I’m out of ideas for how else I might get it across…)

The third point, that maybe I put too much stock in an apology, could be spot on. The truth is I sort of believe an apology is a magic emotional bounty paper towel. I need it to be the thing that stops the fight. That renders me “heard” and understood. It’s the shaking of the emotional etch-a-sketch. It’s the eraser.

Sometimes in an argument with a loved one who doesn’t want to give up an apology, who is just going to stand in defense and wait until you beat them bloody trying to knock it out of them, well, maybe there is a point at which you just say, maybe I just have to get over it some other way.

Because standing there, handing out note cards explaining your obsessive almost religious belief in an apology gets old. And then you blog about it. And then…well, there are better things to do with your time and most of them involve a deep fryer or ice cream.


Oscar, Lola or My Arm?

Oscar, the fatter one.

This was the question posed to my friend by her husband recently as they lay quietly in bed reading one night: “If you were starving, what would you eat first? Oscar, Lola or my arm?”

Oscar and Lola are the cats.

My friend, without missing a beat said she’d certainly eat Oscar first because he’s fatter, to which her husband asked, “But what if my arm had already been severed?”

“Hmm, well, then definitely your arm,” she agreed.

I think this discussion brings up a whole host of fascinating points, not the least of which is that maybe my friend’s husband needs to rethink his bedtime reading material. However, in these uncertain times, it’s always good to lay out a plan. Less good to have to think on your feet after you become very very hungry. So, knowing who you will eat first is a really good idea. For example, in the event that we are trapped and starving as a family we plan to eat Orson first because he is our new dog. In this respect it’s a lot like a struggling company deciding who they will lay off first: It’s always the new guy. Sorry Orson.

But after the dogs have been made into jerky, we really haven’t laid out a plan, but I’m not gonna lie, I’d probably volunteer to be eaten next– we could start with my meaty under arm fat. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a nice girl. I know a series of fun facts and will always dance at a wedding. But when it comes to survival instincts, I am no Sally Field in Places in the Heart. In other words, rather than picking the cotton fields myself, you will more than likely find me under a table chanting to myself and crying. I also have a healthy layer of fat that is going to be a lot more delicious than all these nearby hipster New Yorkers.

Lola: She’s been given a pardon because she takes care of her figure.

I used to consider the people with whom I surrounded myself in terms of how they would contribute to my tribe in case the world order ended. (True story: If you ever ask me why I got lasik surgery it is 100% so that I would not be completely screwed if I became unable to purchase my prescription contacts and, like Piggy in Lord of the Flies, got my specks cracked in half by a pack of crazy boys.)

I really found myself drawn to people like my friend Katka who can identify edible berries and mushrooms in the wilderness from some distance, my friend Amy who has an incredible work ethic that began with a four year 6AM paper route that she accomplished everyday of high school no matter the weather, and Jason of the brand Linoto who can do anything with a needle and thread including intricate work with squirrel fur (or so I am expecting).

Then there is me: My job, I always joked in the post-world-order tribe, was to network together a group of fantastically skilled individuals to recreate a semblance of civilization and then serve as the  hub of that fantastic-person wheel. I’d be happy to stir the edible berry soup! But there was always that underlying awareness that in a pinch or berry shortage, I’d be eaten first. I just always knew it.

I hadn’t thought much about a world order collapse  in recent days because if New York falls I’m pretty sure there won’t be time to coat ourselves in mud camouflage and burrow our way to a safe haven North of Poughkeepsie before someone gets us with a flare gun and a can of spray paint in the eye – At least, I hadn’t thought about it until my friend’s husband brought up the question of his arm or the cats.

Luckily, as I do the quick math I realize I know a bunch of carpenters, an architect and a metal worker/jewelry maker, all within a twelve block radius. And once again, I will be the hub. Underlying awareness aside, I think we’ll definitely make it, if not North of Poughkeepsie than at least as far West as Pennsylvania where I’ll network us into an Eat-‘n Park and all this crap about who’s eating who will be rendered moot.