Thursday, July 30, 2009
how to remember.
Monday, July 27, 2009
This year is different because I'm alone with the boys. The Husband is back in LA, manning the Larchmont Larder, and we left Sophie behind for the first time. The week is always a nightmare for her and the lowest rung of Dante's Hell for me. She hates change and travel and heat. She's generally up all night, in the same bed with us. During the day she is largely confined to her stroller when we're not on the beach as the house here has no accomodations for her. Although I tell people that the principle of leaving one of your children home out of necessity is a tragedy, the reality is that it's better for everyone.
One of those impossible decisions we make that is more like a concession.
And while I hate that her cousins won't see her at all this year, I concede.
And when I climb into the bed at night by myself and go to sleep it feels good in an exhausting sort of way.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
more wonderful words from Daily Dharma:
Rest in Natural Great Peace
When I meditate, I am always inspired by this poem by Nyoshul Khenpo:
Rest in natural great peace
This exhausted mind
Beaten helpless by karma and neurotic thought,
Like the relentless fury of the pounding waves
In the infinite ocean of samsara.
Rest in natural great peace.
Above all, be at ease, be as natural and spacious as possible. Slip quietly out of the noose of your habitual anxious self, release all grasping, and relax into your true nature. Think of your ordinary emotional, thought-ridden self as a block of ice or a slab of butter left out in the sun. If you are feeling hard and cold, let this aggression melt away in the sunlight of your meditation. Let peace work on you and enable you to gather your scattered mind into the mindfulness of Calm Abiding, and awaken in you the awareness and insight of Clear Seeing. And you will find all your negativity disarmed, your aggression dissolved, and your confusion evaporating slowly like mist into the vast and stainless sky of your absolute nature.
–Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (HarperSanFrancisco)
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
It's summer and the living IS easy. At least for these two. Despite having nothing to do, they managed to build a very cool fort.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Don't know why, but Buddhist platitudes resonate with me these days. Here's one from Tricycle Magazine's Daily Dharma:
Meet Life Where It Is
You can face anything properly, elegantly, when you meet life where it is, in the moment. When conditions are fresh and joyous, we can delight in that changing image. When the karma and goodness sustaining life is exhausted, we can look death right in its face. We live life wisely and compassionately in the beginning, middle, and end.
–Ajahn Sumano Bhikkhu, from Meeting the Monkey Halfway (Weiser)
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I think I've told you a bit about my long-dead Italian grandmother. Noni was a stereotypical southern Italian peasant who knew how to cook anything but who couldn't read or write. She believed fervently in Mussolini and the Pope and the sanctity of her sons (she had three and two daughters, but they didn't count as much). She was superstitious, insanely so and rarely acknowledged when anything good happened -- in case the good was jinxed by the bad. Her genes must run thick through me because I feel terrified to acknowledge the good, especially when it pertains to something really, really BIG. Like Sophie.
The photo above is from the front page of the Los Angeles Times newspaper, probably over a year ago or so. It's a picture of the ladies of a village whose name I've forgotten -- a village famous for its mafioso. There's been a sting and many of these guys have been killed and the women are watching, I think, as their coffins are carried down the street. Maybe I've mixed up the details, but the picture speaks to me. I see myself in these women and though separated by thousands of miles and a generation, as well as education and a culture vastly different, their placid anxiety and stoicism are echoed in me. Without backsliding into irony or sarcasm, I'm only a step away from wearing black every Tuesday (the day Sophie was diagnosed) and tightening my lips into an ever-thinner line.
Sophie's seizures have decreased dramatically with the homeopathic remedy -- and I mean DRAMATIC.
Now, go knock on wood three times and pretend you didn't hear it.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I'm dry as a bone with nothing to say.
But I promised to submit something each month on the 21st over at Hopeful Parents, a wonderful website.
So that's where I am today, with a little something from my book. Let me know what you think here or there.
And other than that, I'm dry.
**and the picture above is from a really weird website that I found online about Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones and all that wild, crazy Biblical stuff. You can read it here.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Today is the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. The age of the Sea of Tranquillity, though, is 3.57 to 3.88 billion years.
On July 20, 1969 I was just shy of my sixth birthday, living on Long Island with my family. I remember sitting, crouched, in front of the television watching the grainy black and white images. I'm not sure whether my parents woke me up or not and I'm not sure whether my memory is accurate or blurry like the images we watched enraptured.
How beautiful are the words Moon and Mare Tranquillitatis, and Sea of Serenity, as beautiful as the thing itself, however cold and distant and lifeless, it remains tethered to us on Earth.
If one can conceive of such things, do they not exist?
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Just as energy can be used for many different purposes, so can pure existence be experienced in relation to any phase of life—anger, hatred, or jealousy as well as love and beauty. Every human action must be carried on through the ego, which plays a role comparable to that of a pipe or channel through which energy is conducted for different uses. We usually think of the ego as a kind of constant, unchanging entity. In fact, however, it is simply a succession of physical and mental events or pressures that appear momentarily and as quickly pass away.
–Katsuki Sekida, from A Guide to Zen (New World Library
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Me (driving and looking up into the rearview mirror): Oliver, stop sucking your thumb.
Oliver (aged eight and quite fierce despite the thumb-sucking): AWWWW. It feels so good, Mom. While I'm thinking about GI Joe.
Me (pulling a very wet boy's Swiss watch out of the washing machine): HENRY, you left your watch in your shorts and it went in the washing machine! What is up with you and your stuff?
Henry (ever good-natured): What? I did? Let me see! Look, Mom it's still working even though it's wet. Can you put it in the dryer? (and he wasn't joking around)
I took the boys and my niece to Universal Studios today. We went on the late side and stayed until closing. I had to pay about a million dollars for three six-month passes for the boys and me, and that cost less than a one-day ticket for my niece. And another million dollars for some really gross food. And about half a million dollars for three waters and a blue Powerade. And about fifty dollars for one churro.
Despite this hemorrhaging I actually had FUN!!!
And my favorite ride was The Simpsons. Really. It was exhilarating. And I laughed like an idiot. Like I had no cares in the world.
I even spent a couple of thousand dollars to document my giddiness after the ride (you should know this about me: I HATE amusement parks. Honestly, I'd generally rather stick needles in my eyeballs than go. I hate the people, the lines, the crap, the sensory overload). Here's the evidence, though of happiness:
That's me in the back row, next to the boys, and I'm cracking up. They snap the picture right at the end of the ride, so everyone is completely gasping or shocked or laughing, like me.
On the way out, the boys were incredulous when I bought them bags of candy. Swedish fish, gummy coke bottles, licorice.
It was the greatest day ever, they said.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
As a child I was already starting to resemble my Italian grandparents. And I think I look more like myself then than I did here:
That, up there, was a long, long time ago. But I still remember her, most of the time. And I miss her.
Here is NOW:
And it wouldn't be an unveiling without this:
For more unveilings, go to Jane at SpainDaily.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
This was delivered to my front porch this morning:
I forgot that my first delivery from Auntie Em's Kitchen was today. I had ordered a small delivery of local, organic produce.
Inside that lovely cooler was this:
I'd better get busy cooking for a change. Because this is going to be a weekly thing.
Now I just have to exercise.
As an aside, anyone want to go to the Isle of Wight and stay here?
Monday, July 13, 2009
I know why I'm dragging around these days (not ragging, dragging). It's because I haven't exercised, really exercised, in months. I've done some yoga here and there, lifted Sophie up and into the car and onto her bed countless times and run around like a chicken with her head cut off on various errands, but I haven't really broken a good sweat in ages. I know this is bad, terrible for me. I feel it in my knees, in the added weight on the scale, in my levels of equanimity and irritability.
And I'm going to start. Soon.
In the meantime, I dragged myself around Hollywood with my boys and my niece and the babysitter's son. My niece is visiting from out-of-town and Henry suggested that we go to Ripley's Believe it or Not museum. I've put him off on this expedition for what seems like years. I've even bought him the book with hope that it would suffice. It hasn't so I caved today, and off we headed to the heart of Hollywood.
On the drive over I wondered if ten going on eleven years makes one particularly chatty. Henry is very loquacious these days and always cheerful. Conversations are a bit one-sided and go along the lines of this:
Mom, are motorcycle helmets mandatory?
Even in Wisconsin?
I'm not sure, but I think so.
If you could drive a motorcycle would you? Because I think I would get one. Maybe a red one. And maybe I could drive you, too. Do you think I could get one one day?
MMMM...not sure about that.
And so on and so forth. I'm exhausted just recounting it, actually (and you must be bored out of your mind if you've gotten this far). It's unlike the mindless chatter of a toddler where mmmming and nodding seem to suffice. Where you can basically say just about anything to appease and distract. You can pretend to be listening even when you're dragging.
But not today. The chatter went on and on, all the way to Ripley's and it was all so incredibly CHEERFUL. Every now and then I wanted to shout SHUT UP FOR A SECOND, PLEASE! And then I felt terrible, like a horrible, no-good mother. The poor kid was so excited to finally be going to Ripley's and his enthusiasm on any other day would be a beautiful thing.
To make a long story short, we got to Ripley's and the boys HATED it. It was SCARY, gruesomely so, and as I ushered them through the rooms displaying various forms of torture and bloody accidents that people had survived BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I kept saying, Turn your heads, cover your eyes, don't look!
And the whole cheesy outfit cost me almost $50.
On the ride home, Henry asked very cheerily are we going to Universal Studios later this week?
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Instead of more ragging, here's a poem, sent by my friend A. It's by Hafiz, a Persian poet from the fourteenth century, and that makes me feel better, like I'm just one in a very long line of rags.
This Talking Rag
So clear this morning.
My mind and heart had never felt
There is only God,
A Great Wild
But somehow I got yanked from
And can now appear again
As this wine-stained
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I don't know anything about them, but I had to swerve out and avoid hitting one today.
It lay dead, flattened and bloody just this side of the right shoulder of Sunset Boulevard. I was driving west, through Beverly Hills, where the boulevard curves and winds and cars roar by you, convertible tops down, impossible to imagine luxury. The buildings on my right weren't really houses, but mansions, estates, vast and ugly and new, at least to me.
And the coyote, dead and flattened and bloody.
It was too easy to comment upon, to wonder from where it loped, what great wilderness drove it away to its death on Sunset Boulevard.
Friday, July 10, 2009
I'm wondering how my household will survive if I don't. I'm not saying this seriously, in case you're worried. I'm just wondering.
I thought about this as I poured a tiny amount of soap into Sophie's sippee cup thingamajiggy -- the white plug thing that goes into the top so it doesn't spill. Sophie still drinks from a sippy cup because it's the only thing she can balance properly. The little white thing gets so dirty, and no one seems to ever notice it and clean it. Not her aide at school, not my husband, nor any of the helpers I have who have been working with us for at least ten years. I appear to be the only one who looks at the stuff and tries to get it out. As I worked on it today I wondered who would do it if I died.\
And then there's the coffee-maker and who would run a paper towel over the top edge inside, by the filter. That's always filthy.
I wonder who will pull the covers straight on Sophie's bed and adjust her head so that her neck isn't crammed up to the headboard. And who knows, really, how to brush her teeth, particularly the part on the top, under her lip. She hates it.
I wonder about these things and think that my husband will surely be f@#$%$#@@ if I die tomorrow.
And then I think, maybe not. Maybe everything will be just fine. Maybe the fermented juice on the edge of the sippee cup won't kill Sophie or even give her a bacterial infection. Maybe she'll learn to sleep with her head halfway up the headboard and it won't matter. Maybe the boys will let whoever takes care of them know when their shoes are too small. Maybe I'm just a rag, a fishwife, annoyed and embittered at the minutia of life as a mother. Not to mention the incessant mothering that one does for a child/teenager/adult with special needs.
I got this in the mail today, from my little sister.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
The winding stairs and Sophie's head at the top of your shoulder, her laugh when you "baaaa'd" like a sheep.
Sophie sitting in her swing, home from the hospital, her right arm useless. For the very first time.
Sitting in a rocking chair in the small upstairs room, nursing the baby while it rained outside. The patter on the asphalt balcony, the small window open.
Walking behind the girl in the wheelchair as she was pushed by the doctor, down the long white hallway with closed doors on either side.
Running from the movie theatre where we'd just seen "Diva" and it was raining and we were breathless and steamed up the car.
You went back to Canada but first told me about the older woman you'd been seeing. She seemed astonishingly old at thirty (we were barely twenty) and I felt sick to my stomach.
The letter, typed on white paper and worn thin at the creases. Transparent love.
Standing on the steps of old Wilson library and looking out over the expanse of lawn. You compared yourself to a sabre-toothed cat and claimed that you would eat me up.
The boy with hepatitis C who wore a beautiful suit and wasn't allowed to kiss me.
Walking the three blocks to Lexington at 5:00 in the morning to catch the uptown bus and my job -- the rats at the bottom of the stairs, the smell of chicken bones roasting.
Lying in the coat closet, pregnant and nauseous.
The girl under the umbrellas, lying in the wet, banging her head on the pavement.
The girl in Florence, lying on the pavement, the pool of blood spreading and the Italian police screaming, their mouths ignorant holes. The sound of my shoes on the cobblestones when I ran.
Lucid dreaming -- the house of many rooms and walking through them, looking, looking. Always the bed.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Today's Corner View theme is : Place of Quiet Reflection. I had every intention of taking some photos of the place where I take yoga, but I didn't get a chance to go over there today. Sophie took some kind of power nap -- literally eight or so hours today -- so I stayed here, at home and had a lot of, well, quiet time and reflection.
Right here, in my bedroom.
That's a New York Review of Books lying there and it occurred to me as I devoured it today (the article about the crazy, neurotic James family), that it's a sort of literary Vanity Fair Magazine. And that would absolve me of any snobbery, right?
Then there's this, hanging to the right of my side of the bed:
Something from the days of being up all night with my babies.
I love my bed, my bedroom and I spend a lot of hours reading here and just thinking. But it's a small house and it's not ever really peaceful. Notice what's lying on the bed:
My sons love to walk around with that popgun, just making the obnoxious noise, spoiling my peace and quiet. Then when I yell at them to stop, they drop it on my bed.
Here are a few lines from a favorite poem by the Italian poet Eugenio Montale:
The eyes cast round,
the mind seeks harmonizes disunites
in the perfume that expands
when day most languishes.
Silences in which one sees
in each departing human shadow
some dislodged Divinity.
But the illusion wanes and time returns us
to our clamorous cities where the blue
only in patches, high up, among the gables.
Then rain falls wearying the earth,
the winter tedium weighs on the roofs,
the light grows miserly, bitter the soul.
When one day through a half-shut gate,
among the leafage of a court
the yellows of the lemon blaze
and the heart's ice melts
pour into the breast
from golden trumpets of solarity.
--from The Lemon Trees (I Limoni)
For more Corner Views go to Jane at Spain Daily.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Mary, from Finding Joy in Simple Things has won a signed copy of my friend Vicki Forman's fantastic new memoir This Lovely Life. If you didn't win, don't waste any more time-- go buy, borrow or perhaps even steal (just teasing) this book. It's life-changing. Really.
Thank you to all for commenting on my blogaversary and for all your wise words and support each time I post!
On another note, and I feel like I should make this writing very very small, but I felt almost sick to my stomach all day watching and then thinking about the Michael Jackson memorial. Call me an iconoclast, but the amount of hoopla around the death of this man was obscene. The helicopters, the traffic, the non-stop coverage, the tearful speeches, the aggrandizement, the sermonizing -- well, it just made me feel incredibly low and depressed. I am a fan of MJ -- or was, before he died twenty years ago. I saw the Jackson 5 and at least four other solo concerts growing up in Atlanta. I get that he was a talented superstar and also deeply troubled. What bothered me most about today, I think, was the feeling that so many of those who spoke had been a part of the man's demise, the gradual whittling away of soul and personhood that we all witnessed as he cut up his face, changed his skin color, his voice, his hair, his persona. I mean -- what the hell happened to him and who watched and allowed it to? I think it was these same sycophants who stood up on the stage today, in front of his glittering coffin and the sad spectacle of his brothers, ridiculously outfitted with those sequined gloves.
Monday, July 6, 2009
My good friend S and I had a fantabulous lunch today at Mozza-- the most perfect chopped salad of lettuces and herbs and salami and the thinnest slices and bits of cheese and a sprinkling of herbs and just enough acid, was it lemon or vinegar -- in the dressing. And then we had two little pizzas -- on the most perfect crust, completely devoid of grease -- tiny little clams that tasted in one bite exactly like the sea and on the other thin slivers of artichokes and a bite of lemon taking the edge off some kind of creamy cheese. S had a glass of wine because it was her birthday lunch, and I took a couple of sips from it and it tasted like flowers. And then we had dessert -- spoonfuls of butterscotch pudding with a hidden crunch of Maldon sea salt, so faint that the sharpness was a surprise that disappeared in the puff of thick sauce that came with it and the finish of light, airy whipped cream. We just about ran our fingers in the glass and licked them, it was so good.
On the way out we kept talking, mainly sharing stories of our daughters who both have special needs. I gave her a big bag of clothes that Sophie had grown out of and remarked on the rickety stroller in the back of my car that I need to replace. I need to buy a new one, and the insurance company doesn't cover wheelchair/strollers. The stroller will cost at least $2500 and I just don't have that now or, for that matter, in the near future. And then I remarked that I understand insurance companies cover Viagra, that drug that helps older men maintain erections. S has the same sense of humor as me and she pointed out that I should write about it and call it:
SPECIAL NEEDS MUSINGS
So here's one:
I wonder if I could get a prescription for Viagra, cash it in over time and buy a wheelchair for Sophie?
I wonder if there's a black market for Diastat, the rectal valium that we have to keep on hand for emergencies. Each package has exactly two doses, already in their syringes, and they cost $450 each (without insurance), and I always have to make a case for how much we need them whenever I refill them.
I could perhaps stockpile the Diastat (since the insurance company suspects that's what I'm doing) for real and have a rectal valium party where people pay for their dose.
And then there's another blogger friend, Ms. Moon, who mused on her own personal vanity as she slowly gets ready to be a grandmother. Even though I'm nowhere near being a grandmother, I spend an inordinate amount of time being vain -- about my weight, about my appearance, about the loss of my skinny, young, carefree self -- you'd think I had nothing else to worry about. HA!
I wonder whether Gertrude Stein worried about what she looked like. I like to think not. That she had somehow come to a state of peace and sat, immobile, on her literary throne, waited on hand and foot (and loved) by the even uglier Alice B. Toklas, eating incredible food, entertaining the greatest literary and artistic talents of the day. I want to be like Gertrude Stein.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
On a startlingly blue-skyed day, we headed over to LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) for a wild plastic installation. The boys hung plastic refuse on a fence (I forgot what that meant) and then we walked through the most amazing plastic exhibit ever.
It was wondrous.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
I opened my online version of The New York Times newspaper tonight and picked up THIS.
Evidently there's a new study, ordered by the Vatican, to investigate various nun orders. The article states "While some nuns say they are grateful that the Vatican is finally paying attention to their dwindling communities, many fear that the real motivation is to reel in American nuns who have reinterpreted their calling for the modern world." The article details what are known as "visitations" -- and what sounds like a harsh indictment of practices by American nuns that deviate from Catholic tradition and doctrine.
(Read it and tell me what you think. And now here are some thoughts, random at best but that's the beauty of the blog, I suppose -- I can throw the stuff in and let it stew.)
My history with the Roman Catholic Church is a spotty one. I was raised Catholic and attended church nearly every Sunday as a child. I lived in a large "Catholic" neighborhood and played with kids whose last names were Flynn and Geraghty and Murphy and who had five and six and sometimes sixteen (!) children. My father's parents were southern Italian immigrants and my grandmother was the kind of old woman who never ate meat on Fridays or Wednesdays, for that matter, because her husband, my grandfather, had died on a Wednesday. She wore black every day after his death, until he died. She walked around our home when she visited us for a month or so every summer with a rosary bead wound around her gnarled, rough fingers. She was an incredible cook, the stereotypical Italian fare with admonitions to mangia, mangia and then an indignant whassa matta wit you? you no eata? whassa matta? Nonnie smelled clean and neat and I remember most her rolled down pantyhose and thick shoes. When she was old she ate mashed up saltines in her coffee and smacked her lips. She could thrust her jaw forward in such a way that her dentures came out and made us run, screaming and laughing. When she made a bed, you could bounce a quarter off of it and she taught us the Lord's Prayer in Italian.
To me, she defined Catholicism and I respected her lifetime of hard work, her blind faith and even her ignorant superstitions.
The article I linked above, though, is like another shovel of dirt thrown on the dying Catholic within me. I've been digging that grave for years, now, I suppose -- despite the years of Catholic school that my sons had and going through the motions of giving them the same traditions that I had (church on Sunday, penance, first communion, etc.), I find myself moving further and further away. The conflict isn't anything immense; it's actually quite banal and it certainly has nothing to do with spirituality and everything, really, to do with the bullshit that is the Catholic church. The male-dominated hierarchy, the condemnation of homosexuality and marginalization of women. The enormous evil of the pedophile scandal and the continued obduracy of the Church's leaders regarding their culpability. It's those pointy red hats that the Cardinals all wear when they meet in Rome and their evident lack of humor when they look at each other. It's the deadening of everything that is beautiful and dynamic about faith. It's the several visits I've made over the past couple of years for pastoral counseling and the incredibly stupid responses I've received. And it's the preposterous nature of investigations like the one reported on in this article, as well as the ever more ludicrous encyclicals et al that the Church puts out, year after year after year.
Spirituality runs through me like a prehistoric vein in a rock. One of my favorite paintings is The Annunciation by Fr'a Angelico (I wrote about it HERE) and the Book of Ecclesiastes makes me swoon. I value the community right here in my neighborhood whose members are devout Catholics in the way of my Nonnie and those families with whom I grew up forty years ago.
But I can't do it anymore, push aside what I believe, what I know because of tradition laced with a guilt that is centuries old.
Grace has always been random, I think.
My own reaction to fortune is one of wonder and gratitude.
I can rail at the universe and curse the god of chaos.
I can also breathe deeply, in and out, and feel my edges blur and a hand on my shoulder, tapping on my heart.
I can sit on the floor in the dark of night with anger inchoate and then laugh like an idiot in the light of day.
Enough random thoughts. I'll end on a poem by George Herbert, one of the great metaphysical poets. I remember reading this poem in college and feeling the hairs on my arms rise at the poem's end.
|The Collar |
I struck the board, and cry'd, No more.