Friday, December 28, 2007

Teh Cranky

Dang, it's been a while. I have much to say, but still need time to percolate. Henceforth I share much crankiness. I am at work today, and many of these are work related.

  • can we make it a rule that if you spell the name of the product incorrectly in your Paypal order that we don't have to ship it to you?
  • is it really necessary to call back after you've placed the order with me to confirm the price, which you've just admitted you confirmed on our website? I mean, really?
  • is there a reason why SUV and pickup drivers slow to near tortoise-ean speeds when approaching a speed bump or railroad crossing?
  • will my father one day learn that it is important to share details with his employees so that they don't sound like bumbling idiots on the phone when people have questions?
  • will I stop being a procrastinator and become a do-er?

Sigh, quittin' time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Now I Know I can do anything

For the first time ever, I successfully made a batch of my grandmother's English Toffee recipe.

I'll be back later with a post which will include the word lice and fun in the same sentence! Doesn't that pique your interest?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Seeing the Details and the Big Picture

Melba posted about creative dreams and realizing that she is a big picture person a little while back. I chuckled when I read this because I'd just recently been noticing that I love details.

When I collect shells, I go for the teeny tiny ones. I love taking pictures of lichen and fungus. I've always loved the parts of Harriet the Spy where Harriet and Sport played town amongst the roots of the big tree outside of her house. I do a great job thinking of themes for my kids' birthday parties- food, games, treat bags. I'm not so great at actually carrying out the party; luckily Erik is good at that part.

It strikes me that being a detail person is what gets me so hung up sometimes. I forget to pull back and look at the whole picture.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lost in the Mazes of my Mind

There have been lots of words flying around inside my head this past week; I thought of starting a post often. But the thoughts and feelings felt too ugly, confusing, overwhelming. Why the ups and downs? Can't I have a happy period that lasts more than a month? Why do bad days stick to me-why can't I toss them off and move on? Why am I so stupid, lame, lazy, a bad mother, bad wife, bad housekeeper? And on, and on.

BipolarLawyerCook's post on Real Mental this morning really rings a bell for me. She wonders why she waits until she's running on empty before taking time for the things that she knows help bring emotional well-being and mental balance. Just yesterday I realized that I am sort of like an addict, who thinks she can have one drink, one hit- I think I can stay up late just one night. Then it is a whole week of late nights. Then no exercise, no calm mornings, no weight watchers and by the end of the week, you have one girl in a serious mess which takes all weekend to recover from.

It didn't help that this weekend was super busy. Chanukah service on Friday night in which the kids were singing, lighting candles, etc. Home at 10:30 pm. At school on Saturday am at 7:45 for Kindergarten holiday concert. Breakfast with Santa right after. Third grade concert at 9:30 (all of this was at school). Come home, collapse, don't sleep or accomplish a thing. Maya to birthday party. Sam and friend at house playing legos. Chanukah party at temple at 5 pm. I was beside myself in the car, and knew enough to take a xanax on the way there. I forgot everything: menorah for group lighting, side dish, canned goods and toy for donation. I did bring gifts for the religious school teachers, but had to stop at CVS on the way for tape; I did bring the scissors and wrapping paper. When we got there I felt utterly anti-social. Erik was upset about the things I didn't take care of all afternoon (he was at the party with Maya). Eventually I started feeling better and had a nice time with my friends and my family. Sunday morning we were out of the house again for religious school. In the afternoon I started the gobs and gobs of laundry piled everywhere.

So today I decided to stay home, and not judge myself for needing a day to right myself. I exercised, I'm doing more laundry. I'm sort of stalled now, I've been writing this post for a few hours. In my vision of today I'm flitting about the house, cleaning, decluttering, and making our house into the home I yearn for. I don't think I've gone into loads of details here about this, but a tremendous trigger for me is the clutter in my home. My husband is a pack-rat. Sometimes I truly feel on the edge looking around at all of the piles. It is like a tidal wave, knocking me over, too big to fight against. We've recently had some really good conversations about this (does me crying hysterically and him listening count as a conversation?)--he apologized for the last ten years (I've been asking him to declutter for that long) and for not truly understanding how his reluctance to throw stuff away affects my mental health.

The going is slow, of course. And nothing much can get done when you're scheduled to the hilt. Even with available time, it is hard to make a big difference. I feel like I don't have the perseverance and discipline needed for this. I get down about it so easily- I mean, we've been 'trying' the same thing for years and years. Duh. Of course it isn't going to get better.

Sigh. I have no idea where I'm going with this. Like I said, the thoughts are all jumbled up in here. Bless you if you've read this far.

In an hour I'm due at Sam's classroom to read a story and teach them about Chanukah. I'm still wearing my exercise clothing. The dishwasher is full of clean dishes. The laundry baskets are full of clean, unfolded clothing. And I'm still wandering the mazes in my mind, and wishing I had Ariadne to toss me a ball of string.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Best Gift I purchased for Myself this Chanukah

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story by Lemony Snickett

It's just perfect. I can't explain it without reading it to you, and that's kind of impossible. If you see it in a bookstore, stop and read. It's only about 35 pages. It is just brilliant.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Breaking the news to Grandma and Grandpa

Conversation between Maya and my in-laws (who are not Jewish) at Busch Gardens this weekend:

Maya: Grandpa, do you believe in Santa?

Grandpa: Oh yes!

Maya: Well, I don't. I mean, how could he be real, of course he's pretend.

Grandpa: silence

Repeat with Grandma inserted for Grandpa, and you have that convo as well.

I didn't catch their faces after this discussion, but I do wonder what they thought of it. They have three children, each with children of their own. My kids are the only ones being raised with a faith tradition. As church goers themselves, I think they are happy that my children have a religion and that which religion they have is not an issue. It was just hilarious that they answered Yes! so heartily when she asked them as they surely assumed she also believed in Santa.

I did tell my son that Santa was pretend around the same age, but hadn't gotten around to telling Maya yet. She came to this conclusion on her own. I do propagate the idea of the Tooth Fairy, I'm not opposed to imaginary folks at all. I just know how much SANTA is out there, including in books read daily at Kindergarten, that I just wanted them to know that Santa is a part of someone else's tradition.

For the curious, we take part in Christmas stuff at my in-law's home, and do hang a few ornaments around our own house. When Erik and I were first living together/married we did have a little tree. I love to bake, and there have been many years that I've made a buche de noel for dessert at my il's home. I love all of the craftinesss and foods of Christmas, and I (we) enjoy taking part with Erik's family.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


WABA World AIDS Day Statement
Press Release
1 December 2007
A decade of uncertainty has fuelled an agonizing dilemma about the least risky way to feed HIV-exposed babies. Research presented in 2007 finally points conclusively to the need for renewed protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding.

The Final Report of the 2006 World Health Organization HIV and Infant Feeding Technical Consultation1 provides welcome revised recommendations. New evidence clarifies that the most appropriate infant feeding option should continue to depend on a mother’s individual circumstances, her health status and the local situation, but should take greater consideration of available health services. HIV-positive mothers should breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first 6 months of life, and continue partially breastfeeding after 6 months unless conditions are already in place to show that replacement feeding is safe.

Commenting on the dilemma of competing risks between HIV transmission through any breastfeeding vs no breastfeeding, Dr Hoosen Coovadia was quoted this year as saying, “If you choose breastfeeding, you would of course have HIV infection. You would have about 300,000 per year in the world. But if you avoided breastfeeding, the mortality would be about 1.5 million per year. So on the balance of probabilities for poor women in the developing world, there is no other choice than to breastfeed their infants. You shouldn’t devise policies for the rich few. There are some, but the majority of HIV infected women are poor.” 2 His subsequent paper showed that HIV transmission through 6 months’ exclusive breastfeeding by South African mothers was 4%.3 Cumulative 3-month mortality due to replacement feeding was 15.1% vs 6.1% for breastfeeding.

Early weaning vs continued breastfeeding substantially increased morbidity and mortality of infected and uninfected babies in Uganda 4, Malawi,5 Kenya,6 and Zambia7. Researchers concluded that the risks should be anticipated and PMTCT programmes should strongly encourage breastfeeding into the 2nd year of life.

Specific HIV and infant feeding counselling was less effective than group information, videos and pamphlets in achieving exclusive and extended breastfeeding in Zimbabwe.8 Intriguingly, 84.5% of mothers recruited into the ZVITAMBO study did not wish to learn their HIV-status,9 thus avoiding a recommendation for early weaning for HIV-exposed babies, leading instead to an extremely high rate of HIV-free survival.10

Finally, providing antiretroviral therapy (ART) to mothers only during pregnancy and birth begs further scrutiny. While only ~1% of HIV-infected mothers currently receive it, ART for eligible mothers could reduce MTCT in resource-poor settings by over 75%.11 In Rwanda12 and Tanzania13 triple-therapy dramatically reduced transmission of HIV during 6 months exclusive breastfeeding to 0% and <1% respectively. These strategies benefit mothers and babies while avoiding the stigmatisation and risks of artificial feeding. The cost of formula was the same as the cost of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for mothers recruited into the DREAM study in Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi.14 Acknowledging the difficulty in telling a woman that she can avoid transmitting the infection to her child, but that little can be done for her own health, researchers provided HAART to mothers from the 25th week of pregnancy through 6 months exclusive breastfeeding. Cumulative HIV transmission to infants was similar to rates reported in high-income countries and lower than those of formula-fed babies, being 2.2% and 2.7% respectively, with postnatal rates of 0.8% and 1.8%. Political will and strong leadership are needed to reverse the decade-long erosion of breastfeeding accompanying the global PMTCT effort. Characterization of formula-feeding as a safe infant feeding option can no longer be justified; contamination of powdered infant formula can occur intrinsically from raw materials, during manufacture or from extrinsic sources.15 16 Its cost has been very high in terms of infant malnutrition and mortality, and in displacement of funding away from treatment for HIV-positive mothers. Rational and humane strategies are needed to simultaneously: o improve the health and survival of HIV-infected women, o lift the burden of an impossible choice from mothers as they contemplate how best to feed their babies, o prevent transmission of HIV to exposed infants, and o protect food security for young children. WABA calls on national and international leaders to close the gap between rich and poor countries regarding access to treatment, and to use current evidence to enact universal public health measures fostering overall child survival, both within and outside the context of HIV.

For more information, kindly contact:
Pamela Morrison IBCLC
Co-coordinator WABA Breastfeeding and HIV Task Force
Rustington, England

For the references supporting this press release, please see

Friday, November 30, 2007

I seem to have made progress

in my battle with getting our elementary school to recognize that not every child at their school celebrates Christmas! The PTA newsletter for December came home yesterday. It included a variety of holiday symbols, including, for the first time ever since I've been a school parent, some Chanukah clip art.

Back in 2004, when Sam was in kindergarten, this issue of the PTA newsletter almost caused me a coronary. You see, I have no problem with Santa, reindeer, elves, trees, and whathaveyou. I do have a problem with clipart of the Holy family in a public school newsletter. My call to the principal to discuss my concern was an odd one, to say the least. One of the more classic lines from Mr. H was, "But what do I tell the Wiccans?" Cause you know, us Jews know how to handle those rowdy Wiccans. He was also surprised that I didn't know that the Christmas Show (official title) was 'inclusive'--apparently it did deal with other December holidays and I was supposed to know this by osmosis.

Each year I've had to ask the teacher to please call the party a Holiday Party instead of Christmas Party (and Spring Party instead of Easter Party). I've had to explain why I'm taking my kid out of school to attend High Holy Day services, or why scheduling a mandatory parent meeting on Rosh Hashana is a bad idea. It feels like banging my head against the wall.

I found the newsletter in Sam's bag last night. I held my breath, wondering if I'd find Jesus in there. It was with great relief when I flipped through it all and not only found nothing to be offended by, but to even excited that the menorah clip art was included. I felt included, which has been my whole point these past few years. I'm not sure the principal and staff totally get it yet. But I think we're getting somewhere.
For the record, I am not looking for 'equal time' in exposing my religion to the other students. I believe that religious iconography has no place in a public school. The reality of my location is that it is going to be a long time before this school is anything like a school in NYC as far as this issue is concerned. And I'm pleased to have opened some eyes about the diversity that is in our school, even in small doses. I've been invited by both Maya and Sam's teachers to come read a book about Chanukah to the class, and I was asked by Maya's preschool teacher last year (on the same campus). I'm looking forward to sharing with these children, most of whom probably have no idea that there are some people in the world who are not Christian.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Can I get a hooray for productivity?

I love to talk on the phone. To friends and relatives that is. To moms who need bf info. For some reason, anxiety related no doubt, I hate other types of phone calls: making dr appointments, hotel reservations (except for the one time I was calling Italy for reservations, I had no problem then. what's up with that?), calling Toshiba about warranty service, any work call that my dad doesn't want to make and hands off to me instead. If I can do it online without talking to a soul, I will.

However! I am sitting here with a to-do list filled with calls. And guess what, ladies (and gentlemen?)? The calls have been crossed off! One faulty ac adapter reported to Targus. One newspaper canceled. One VW service appt made. One gyn appt made. Oh, that last one? I was looking up the phone number of the office online and discovered that they make appts online now. Heaven.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The more things change, the more they stay the same

When I first went back to work after Maya was born, there was a day when I was relieved to have survived my day there with two children. I started loading up the car with our belongings. When I returned to the house to get the kids, I found Sam in the bathroom. He was washing his socks in the toilet. I completely lost it. I'm not certain that I came to work the next day--I think this was the time my dad worried if I'd ever come back!

This morning I went to see what the ruckus in the bathroom was. The children were supposed to be brushing their teeth. I enter to see Sam using the handle of his toothbrush to get something out of the toilet bowl. It was a hairbrush. I completely lost it. I mean, all I could think of was WHAT THE F*CK! Fortunately I used more developmentally appropriate words. But I yelled, I tried to let the rage out. I got them to school just as the bell was ringing, and then immediately called Erik to vent. Eventually my heart stopped pounding.

I was actually on my way to my psychiatrist, for a med check appointment. That could be a whole post in and of itself, but I do want to say that she reminded me to practice saying "It doesn't matter." True, children will put their hands in the toilet and the world won't end. I am having a hard time grasping why an 8.5 year old would put something in the toilet and then try to use his toothbrush to fish it out. I'm trying though, I'm trying.

My new mantra: It doesn't matter.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Who Praises Mothers?

On Thanksgiving my mil went into rapturous praise of her son-in-law's (one of my bils) talents as a father. She was talking to this particular bil's mother. She went on to say that both of her sons-in-law are great fathers, as is her son (my husband). Not once did she say anything about her daughter's being wonderful mothers.

I understand that things were different when she raised her children. Her husband has never changed a diaper and is proud of it. I'm not opposed to recognizing that today's involved dads are a source of wonder to her because her husband never lifted a finger (and for the most part still doesn't). What infuriates me is that dads seem to be praised at the exclusion of moms. What we do is just expected, normal. When a dad does the same thing people fawn over him, praise him, congratulate him.

Mothers need praise too. I wish I had a little business card or something to hand out to moms I see out and about. Instead I give them a big smile, and hope that they don't take me for a nutcase, that I'm simply sending them good mama-vibes.

Back to my mil, later on in the weekend she complained about a neighbor of hers, how spoiled she is and how her husband does everything she asks. Why is my mil so bitter that this woman's husband gets her coffee, or whatever? Hmm, think it has to do with 50 years of serving fil? Seriously, she makes him breakfast lunch and dinner.


I struggle to maintain an even keel when returning home after a trip. It feels like there's never enough time to get organized for the week. There's a point when I look around and see the messes we'd left behind plus the bags we've just returned home with and I just want to scream. Instead of taking small steps towards progress I freeze up and attempt to bury my head in the internet sand.

At a recent session, my therapist suggested simply acknowledging that the first day or two back home is hard for me. Don't put too much pressure on myself to get everything organized or running smoothly. I really worked on that today- acknowledged that our late return yesterday had me feeling anxious, acknowledged that while I didn't feel ready for the week, the week was ready for me, and accepted that though today our bags remain packed, they'll be unpacked in due time.

Despite my wonderful walk this morning, I felt pretty crappy by early evening. Bags strewn all over the living room and hallway, backpacks and folders all over the family room, all kinds of stuff covering the dining and kitchen tables, and not an inch of kitchen counter space visible. Add one bizarre phone call from my mom and what do you get? Sobbing.

I'm floundering a bit in the chaos of re-entry into everyday life. It's ok though. My children gave me hugs as I cried. They asked why I was crying out of genuine concern for my well being. The four of us worked on the family room together, and got the backpacks in order for tomorrow. Despite the tears, I'm putting one foot in front of the other, doing the small things, and sitting with the discomfort of re-entry.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm a Believer

I didn't really exercise last week. I exerted myself, but not as much as I do by taking a 2.5 mile walk as I did this morning. Holy cannoli I feel so much better today than I did all weekend!

I'm really not an exercise girl. I don't enjoy sweating. You can break into a sweat here in Florida just walking out to the car most of the year. I don't enjoy bouncing or jiggling- boobs or brains. Exercise often gives me a headache. My motto when it comes to exercise has usually been "an object at rest tends to stay at rest."

I'm convinced now, though, that exercise really can play a key role in regulating my mood. So I'm going to have to get creative in March, when it starts heating up around here. Right now the weather is lovely for a long walk around the lake the town is named for. The path has mile markers, which is nice.

Yeah, I know people have said this for years, but this is the first time I've really felt it in my life.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Star gazing

I got the NaBloPoMo Crazies

I dreamt about Sognatrice last night. No clue what it was about, hopefully a visit to Italy was involved ;) Other NaBlo'ers may have been involved, I think Bipolarlawyercook for sure, not sure of who else tho.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Manhole cover, Sanibel Island

My Daughter is Kicking my Ass these Days

She wants more of me; scratch that. She wants all of me. It isn't enough to sit on the couch with me, she has to be touching me. We can't sit at a table together, we must be on the same side of the table. And then she'll get up and stand between our chairs, because "mommy, I want to beeee with you." "Mommy, I neeeeed you" is the constant refrain.

Most of the time no one else is good enough. I should be sitting here giving thanks that she happily went with Dad and Grandpa on a volunteer assignment this morning, and that she let Dad put her to sleep. Instead I sit here in fear, wondering how tomorrow will be.

I worry about my daughter. She has these tremendous emotional eruptions. She goes from sweet and loving one minute to a tornado of rage the next. Heaven forbid someone other than mom try to talk to her during those moments. Lots of grunting or shrieking. Or maybe some wildly swinging arms. This is so very much fun to explain to grandparents, or say, guests at Thanksgiving who've never met her.

Is she going to have a lifetime of emotional difficulty? Can I help her learn to handle her emotions? I work so hard at keeping my cool, so hard at modeling my emotions for her, and I'm not sure I get anywhere.

I'll keep at it though. My parents were seemingly oblivious to my anxiety. I owe it to little Jennifer to do my best by Maya.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rough Day

I always have a hard time on travel days. I don't really know why- I guess the stress of making sure everything is packed, everyone is ready, and getting out the door make me a bit more fragile than usual.

Today I sort of crumbled before my own eyes. The kids' clothing was all together, most of mine was out, and I got a breastfeeding call. As I was helping the mom, Maya came in a number of times telling me that she was done with her lunch. She has a terrible time waiting for me to be finished talking, or to realize that not every little thing she wants to tell me is urgent. I hated asking the mom to hold on a minute, especially when the important thing Maya had to tell me was that she didn't want to finish her yogurt, but could she please have some pecan pie. *imagine woman with steam coming out her nose and ears here* So I decide to finish the call while locked in the bathroom. Only we've somehow been disconnected. I try to call her back and get some weird message about only being able to make calls in my exchange. Huh? I never did get through to her, although she left a voice mail for me. I am hoping to get back to her again on Friday or Monday.

After that the kids were getting cabin fever, each one pushing the other's buttons, and then chasing each other around the house. Not good for a woman already hanging on by a thread. I was pretty much useless till Erik got home.

Earlier in the day I noticed that I was feeling butterflies in my stomach but not really knowing what they were about. I should have taken a xanax or ativan then; by the time Erik was home I felt I was on the way to a panic attack. Instead of talking to me about it, or seeing what I needed to do to calm down, he went about packing. I understand that he's definitely a do-er, so to him, getting us packed and on the road was the solution. I just needed a hug though.

I took an ativan and slept most of the ride to my in-law's. I was not myself at dinner or afterwards (escaped to bedroom), but I'm hoping a good night's sleep will do me good, and I can have a nice weekend.

I'm logging off and finishing the Yiddish Policeman's Union!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On Writing

Growing up, my parents often proofread my written homework. As I got older, these critique sessions turned into a daily dose of verbal sparring. They would point out incorrect grammar, I'd insist it was correct. Oi vey. (although if this was my idea of teenaged rebellion I think they got off easy!) Sometimes I'd make the changes they suggested, usually after I'd gone back to my room lest they think I was a pushover. I generally thought of myself as someone who struggled with writing.

My first semester required writing seminar at NYU didn't dissuade me of this. That class felt like pulling fingernails. Luckily I had a much better experience in the second semester; Glynnis was an amazing teacher, and our group of 15 or so students did some wonderful work together. For the first time I wrote a piece that just flowed out of me in fifteen minutes. I still feel proud of it when I reread it today. A few years ago I served as newsletter editor for a volunteer organization I work with. I was constantly writing, experiencing that wonderful flow of words. I realized, hey, I like writing! And I'm not bad at it! When I was through as newsletter editor, I didn't have the impetus to write as frequently, and that is what motivated me to start blogging.

Now that I've bored you with The History of Jennifer's Writing, I'm amazed and proud to share that BipolarLawyerCook awarded me with an award for Powerful Words. Thank you BLC!

According to the rules, I need to list three things that I feel make writing powerful and list five people I would like to give this award to.
  1. honesty
  2. an understanding of the rules of language, combined with the flexibility to work outside of the box of grammar
  3. a feeling that the writer is pushing themselves, or going outside of their comfort zone
  1. Stuntmother
  2. Jen Lemen
  3. Moonflower at Real Mental
  4. Thordora
  5. Therese at Beyond Blue

Monday, November 19, 2007

Identity: Student

From a young age I can recall being told: if you work hard in school, you can be whatever you want to be. I guess that's to be expected when your parents are both teachers. As I got older I also recall being told that I could go to whatever college I wanted as long as I had good grades (that promise deserves its own post, someday).

So, for most of my life, I have thought of myself as "student." While I'm sure nerd or geek would have been apt as well, student is definitely the name that sticks in my mind. At least from this vantage point, I don't have any negative associations of that identity, up until my senior year of college.

When I returned to school that fall I realized that I hadn't registered to take the GRE yet, although I was planning to apply to grad schools. I found out that if I still wanted to take it in time to apply for a Fall semester grad school start date that I'd need to pay a late fee. For some reason this really threw me for a loop. I was taking an Advanced Greek class with a professor who normally taught grad students. We were reading Oeidipus Rex. There were only three of us in the class, one of whom was a hopeful grad student who was trying to brush up on his Greek before applying. Prof. B refused to call any of us by name. When it was our turn to read aloud in Greek meter or to translate, he'd simply say: You. Her. Him. It was really charming.

The GRE thing spurred on a pretty rough semester. I felt like a loser for not realizing that I needed to prepare to apply to grad school over the summer. I can't adequately describe how awful I felt to have to pay a late fee for the exam--I didn't tell my mother for fear of incurring her wrath at such a stupid error. I started questioning whether or not I really wanted to go to grad school. Advanced Greek felt like my albatross. I'd walk to class with my jaw clenched, my body feeling almost magnetically repelled from the building. I started having a tough time eating, partially due to the anxiety and partially due to how clenched my jaw was. I started confiding in my sister and some friends. One week I went to therapy three times (I was already going twice, but that third appointment was an emergency necessity). Finally I decided to drop the Greek class. I didn't need it to graduate, and I was not handling the pressure well at all. It was a tough decision--I am not a quitter.

At some point I realized I was sick of being a student. Erik and I were seriously involved. I wanted to move on, get away from this box I was in. I told my parents that I wouldn't be going to grad school. Oooh, that was not a fun evening. My mom was livid. I just felt relieved. I managed to enjoy the rest of that semester and the spring semester. I spent a lot of time with Erik at his parent's home. I worked hard on an honors thesis with a Latin professor, and had a great time doing research at the main branch of the New York Public Library (you know, with the lions out front. If you are a library lover do yourself a favor: request a book and sit in the main reading room with it for a while. Fun times.).

Finally it was graduation day. An NYU graduation is an amazing event. It is held in Washington Square Park. NYU is not a traditional "school spirit" type of place. However, I think our graduations would make anyone's heart burst with pride--the sea of purple robes, the bag pipe players on the top of the arch, the Tiffany designed NYU torch. It was one of the best days of my life. It was only later that I realized, by wishing away my days of student-hood, that I had squandered some of my time there.

Sometimes I wish I could be that student Jennifer again--when I picture myself, that is who I see. Jennifer with the cool haircut, black tights, short skirt, beloved black suede shoes, funky vintage rain coat. I'm surprised when I look in the mirror and that is not who is staring back at me.

Am I even capable of being a student again? For a long time even the idea of expending effort to study, or write a paper was enough to bring me anxiety. Taking the IBCLC exam this year showed me that I can be a student again, I do have the determination and stamina to do it. Will I be able to have a better balance this time, or will student-hood consume the other parts of my identity? We'll see. For now I think being a student is a part of my heritage, my gene pool. Teachers for parents, one grandmother a poet, one grandfather a librarian. I continue this heritage with my children, sharing the love of learning with them, and hopefully helping them to enjoy the many facets of their personalities.

My first post on identity was about names. I'll be writing about the mother of all identity issues, motherhood, soon.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Random thoughts

  • I would not make a good spider. What tenacious creatures- weaving and re-weaving their webs! There are two spiders outside our house who've had their webs going for more than a month. There's been wind, rain, kids running through their anchor lines, and they're still there! Aha, they are called Spiny Orb Weavers; here is one of the dudes outside of our house

  • a random tune on the radio brings me back instantly: Enjoy the Silence, I'm walking up Lex on my way to the Greek Consulate to do some volunteer work. In the beat of the song, I feel my stride, my tights, my shoes, my 20 year old self.
  • I don't particularly enjoy being outside, so I don't get my kids outside as much as I 'should' (damn I hate that word!). I know they need physical activity, and I soothe that worry by reminding myself of their daily recess and four times a week PE class. Fortunately for all of us, we are at the time of year when it is pleasant to be outside in Florida.
  • Similarly, I recognize that my kids need the opportunity to play with other kids, but I have a hard time getting past my own social awkwardness to invite kids over or arrange meet ups with other kids. Solution: teach kids to make their own phone calls to invite kids over. (and yes, I have done this!)

Saturday, November 17, 2007


I have a control problem. I want to be in control-I want things to be how I envision them. But I also want someone to take care of things for me. I've let my husband take care of certain things (by let I mean I allowed myself to let go of being in control) and then ended up frustrated because they didn't turn out how I wanted them to be. Yet I don't seem to have the...ability? stamina? discipline? to make things turn out how I want them. So I end up not taking any steps towards what I'd like to see at all.

There are some things I've been able to let go of. I finally stopped organizing our pots and pans in their drawer, because I was the only one putting them away so neatly, or in a certain order. And guess what, they still all fit in the drawer. It bugs me that the drawer is a mess, and I think it is more efficient to have it organized, but I am not irritated when Erik puts a pan where it 'doesn't belong' any more. Same for the dishwasher. I would often re-arrange what Erik loaded because I think my way is better, but I'm trying to let go of that. I mean, who cares how it is as long as they get clean, right? I have hard time watching Erik do laundry as well. But the reality is that the clothing ends up just as clean when it's sorted willy-nilly as it does when I sort according to my standards.

All of this ties into anxiety and perfectionism. I'm learning that two steps forward, one step back can result in progress, not failure. The journey is important too- who cares if things are the way I want them, if I have to be miserable getting there? Isn't it better to have a relaxed, fun day where things get part way accomplished? It's a hard lesson, and it isn't easy for me to take baby steps. I'm figuring out how to sit with my feelings when I feel uncomfortable inside, instead of freaking out. Wish me luck!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Days of Awe

The Jewish High Holy Days are also known as the Days of Awe. Last night as I read to Sam before bed, I thought it was also an apt description of those delicious moments of parenthood, when you just can't believe what you're witnessing in the growth of another human being.

Maya's learning to read. It's a mind blowing thing to see. She's so eager, and her face positively glows when she reads us a book that's at just the right level for her. The whole world is opening up--Mama, what does this spell? Mama, how do you spell that? So many questions. I love it. It's just magical when they go from not-reading to reading. I have so many doubts and worries as a parent, yet knowing that I'm raising two children who love to read goes a long way in soothing my worries.

A few weeks ago I saw this book at the library: Tour America: A Journey Through Poems and Art. I decided not to borrow it, as I already had my arms full of books. When we went to the library on Wednesday, I was thrilled that Sam chose it from the new book shelf. I was reading the poems to Sam last night; we were just having a great time looking at the wonderful illustrations, paintings, and collages which accompany the poetry. He was getting so tired, yet he really wanted me to keep reading. I turned out the light and we talked for a few minutes in the dark. He was so interested in the places the poems described, the art in the book, in figuring out what the poems meant.

These are my days of awe.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oi Verizon

Did you know that if a Verizon tech comes to fix the DSL one at your father's home/business on Saturday, he might leave you a note saying "your DSL is working. Call me if the phone doesn't work."? And that you might not figure out it doesn't work until after the close of business on Monday?

The next tech might come to fix the phone, and cause the DSL to slow to a crawl- kinda like that commercial with the tortoises who enjoy their internet slow.

The third tech who comes turns out to be the charm. In trying to figure out how to fix our various problems, he discovers that there are two DSL lines- one on each phone line.

To try to figure out what the heck that is about, you might spend two and a half hours on the phone with no fewer than four Verizon representatives in various departments.

Did you know that if Verizon charges you for a second DSL line for three years, because they forgot to turn off the residential line when you needed to switch to a business line, that they will only refund you for four months on each line?

It was a really fun day at work.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kate, whom I met via NaBloPoMo, tagged me to share 7 things readers might not know about me. And that comes in handy since my day went a little bonkers and I haven't blogged yet today.

1. I have been pooped on by thousands of Common Terns. I spent five summers working on an island collecting data during nesting season.

2. Out of 7,500 graduates at NYU in 1992, I was the only Classics major. Graduation day includes students from all of the schools at the university and includes folks receiving graduate degrees.

3. When I was a little girl growing up in Bensonhurst I *so* wanted a little bride's dress. You know, a communion dress. My mother had a hard time explaining why a Jewish girl couldn't have one.

4. When my sister was a baby I would pinch her sweet, fat thighs to make her cry, and then scoot away so as not to get into trouble. Luckily for me I've gotten past that because she's a great sister. BTW, Yiddish has the best word for chunky thighs- poulkies. Ooooo baby poulkies are delicious.

5. I am puzzled when people say they were surprised to be proposed to. Erik and I decided to get married, together.

6. I was almost arrested for civil disobedience at a protest outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral in NY. I hadn't planned to do anything other than be present at the protest, it sort of just happened. So when the organizers explained that if we chose not to get up we'd get arrested my friend and I decided to rejoin the protest on the other side of the street :)

7. I do not like jelly, jello, apple pie, or any type of fruit pie.

I'm too tired to tag anyone. I think most everyone has done this meme anyhow ; )

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Belated Embarassment

I live about 35 minutes from Cypress Gardens, Florida's first theme park. The first time I went there, I was blown away by what an anachronism it was. Southern Belles standing around the park to have their photos taken with the tourists, a water skiing show, and who knows what.

A week later I was at therapy, sharing a few yuks with my shrink over what a wacky place it was.

Fast forward a few months later, and Cypress Gardens is bankrupt and everyone is fired. As I'm reading about it in the paper I realize with horror that my shrink is the granddaughter of the founder. Oh my stars.

I see a different therapist now (for reasons not having to do with my inadvertent insult), but thought of this again today because her Dad just passed away.

Monday, November 12, 2007


My paternal grandfather had one arm and one stump. "Stumpy," as he called it, was endlessly fascinating to us. I remember tenderly putting a bandaid on the end of the stump on more than one occasion as a kid.

Eventually I learned that Grandpa's arm no longer needed bandaids, since the amputation happened long before I was born. Grandpa lost his arm on Okinawa, in April of 1945. Grandpa's injury is a huge part of family lore, as he was very fortunate to make it back to the US at all. And without Grandpa, there'd be no Dad, no me, no sister.

Grandpa was on an army pickup truck getting ready to move. He'd loaned something to a friend, but volunteered to get off the truck to go and get it since his friend forgot to bring it with him. Someone else took the seat that Grandpa had, the seat against the driver's side of the cab. When Grandpa returned, he sat elsewhere in the back of the pickup. Moments later, shots were fired at the vehicle from the sky. The soldier who took my grandfather's seat was killed instantly.

Grandpa knew he'd been hit badly. He called a friend over, and asked him to remove his jacket (somehow he was on the ground at this point, I'm not sure if he was 'blown' out or if he somehow climbed down). When he did, his right arm came off with his jacket. His friend ran away at the sight, and my grandfather never knew what became of him. Another soldier came along and tied a tourniquet on his arm.

Besides losing his right arm, his elbow in his left arm was completely destroyed. It remained bent at an oddly crooked angle for the rest of his life. His legs were pockmarked from bullets that were never removed. The medical staff didn't believe he'd live, but somehow he kept surviving another day.

He was in a hospital on Guam. When they still weren't sure he was going to make it, they sent another wounded soldier on a ship back to the US. That ship was sunk on route to Hawaii. Eventually he made it to Hawaii, then the US, where he boarded a train going back east. He remembers the people in the Midwest who'd come to the train station because they knew returning vets were on the train. They'd cheer and send homemade goodies onto the train for them.

Eventually he was treated at Walter Reed, and then spent some time recovering in Virginia. My Grandma came down from Brooklyn, where she was living with her in-laws. She became pregnant with my father while Grandpa was recuperating :)

I have a copy of the telegram the army sent as well as two letters that an Army chaplain wrote on behalf of Grandpa. The last time I saw my Grandpa my son was about 1.5 years old. Grandpa had a feeling I might not see him again, since we were living in Florida and he in California. He told me to make sure I told my children about what he'd been through. I've shared his story, my old photocopies, and ration books my grandmother gave me. I've shown them the Purple Heart. One day I hope they'll want to hear his story in his own words, via a tape recording my Dad made.

I never realized that my grandfather would be considered 'disabled' until I was in college. He did just about everything, without the aid of a prosthetic arm. He had one at first, but never found it comfortable. The grandkids would shake their heads at photos of him with two arms- it looked so strange to us!

I hear about the young amputees coming back from Iraq. I know that they are fortunate to receive much more advanced medical care in the field than Grandpa did, not to mention robotic prostheses. And yet, I fear that many of them will be worse off than he was. Many of them have also sufferred traumatic brain injuries.

I don't know their names, but I hold them in my heart. I pray that they can go on and have as full a life as my grandfather did.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Full on Freakout Averted

So I was clearly starting to lose it last night. I think I only ended up with about 5.5 hours of sleep, and when the kids woke me to solve some dispute I had the same headache I went to bed with. Before I went to bed, my husband did reassure me that things would be ok today, and then he stayed up later and washed dishes. Yay!

I grabbed a journal this morning when we left the house, and I gave my pen a workout in the car. Here is some of what I wrote.

We're heading to religious school at synagogue. My head throbs, and I'm thirsty. My body has been in flux this week--not totally sure if it wants to menstruate or not. I'm kind of over that! Decide already body!

I'm worried about how I'm going to handle the five 4-6 year olds in my class this morning, and how much more wiped out I'll be when class is over. How hard it will be to come home and accomplish the tasks I wanted to do yesterday. Cleaning. Laundry. Maybe even sewing.

Last night I intended to finish editing a letter and return it to the author, post on the blog, and read the Yiddish Policeman's Union. Instead I hit refresh endless times on my email, read blogs and, and then hit refresh some more.

At 11:30 I was finally finished with the editing, and posted to the blog. My husband woke up around midnight, and we talked and watched tv. I shared my frustration with myself. At letting the day pass through my fingers. At not being present for the kids, him, for myself. For squandering opportunity, and time. How my head hurt from lack of sleep.

Now we're at temple and I'm waiting for my turn to teach. I'm relieved. Only two of my kids are here (and one is my daughter). I'm feeling much more optimistic about going home and getting back on track.

Erik helped me out with the two kids who were present today, and after a story we made some cool prints using homemade stamps. I used cardboard and styrofoam to create some Chanukah shapes. Next week we'll turn our prints into cards. At one point Erik said "Imagine all five of them were here?" Yes, I can imagine, and I'm thankful that it was a small group today. Although of course I feel bad about the kids who missed out.

Erik planned ahead for lunch; the kids got report cards last week. They had a coupon for a free meal at *gasp* McDonald's! It worked out really well for us today, I have to admit. We came home, and set to work on doing more laundry, putting laundry away, and tidying up. We're not ready for House Beautiful, but we've regained just enough control to help me feel better. And that is priceless.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Going Away Was Good but

I'm still out of sorts and off my schedule. Since I've returned home I've gone to bed after midnight every night, haven't exercised, and have eaten poorly. And here I am, up late again, feeling headache-y from lolling around in bed and avoiding life all day. Laundry is in several baskets (clean, not folded) with more to do out in the garage. The sink hasn't been fully emptied and cleaned in days. Crap.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Stealing BLC's Post

I have a zillion ideas floating around my head and can't settle on any of them, so I am going to do as she said, and steal BipolarLawyerCook's post.

Some of my favorite junky foods:
Any and all chocolate, especially dark
Lindt truffles
Ice cream- especially chocolate (plain or with things like peanut butter, brownies etc mixed in), butter pecan, coffee
Lu Le Petit Ecolier dark chocolate biscuits
Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream chips
Milk Duds

I am a chocoholic, but am also drawn to salty snacks. And I love having something chocolatey and salty at the same time.

Blessedly I have none of these items in the house. Unfortunately that means I'm sort of desperate this evening, eating for the sake of chewing, but not really enjoying what I'm consuming. For the most part I realize that moderation is my friend, but there is a part of me that wishes I could go to the store and buy two or three items from that list, sit down, and eat them all without repercussions. You know, like weight gain and an upset stomach.

I'm trying to be a good NaBloPoMo'er, but I cannot visit and comment on all of the blogs I'd like to. This kind of stresses me out; I see that I'm going to have to let that go, or else I'll end up staying up all night reading blogs. That would be good for exactly no one in this house.

Being away this week was fun, motivating, and inspiring. But, damn, there is so much to do to catch up. I sort of buried my head in the sand today and now face having to be near superhuman tomorrow and Sunday to catch up. ugggg.

I think I'll go play on Maya's Webkinz for a bit and then go to bed.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Before and After

Before, my father was my hero.
After, my self shrunk inward when hugging him goodbye after a visit.

Before, I knew my father loved me and would rather tell him almost anything to avoid fighting with my mother.
After, I understood how much my mother loved me.

Before, we were watching General Hospital, looking forward to the summer ahead.
After, I felt as though someone had flung me headlong into a slab of cold marble. The next morning my ceaseless crying made it look like maggots ringed my eyes.

Post-confession, post-divorce, post-childhood--things are different now. Neither Before nor After. I can hug my father again. He's no longer my hero. I've long stopped trying to engage him in endless verbal battles in order to get him to say "You're right. I was wrong. I made a mistake."

No, those words never came. And they never will. I'm as ok with that as I can be. My heart has healed, and the scar tissue protects that tender spot. Sometimes something gets through, and the tears flow. I still mourn the family I lost, or should I say I mourn the idea of the family I thought I had.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Got home safely. Kissed my babies. Hugged my man.
Going to sleep.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


posting a quick message while I have connectivity. Bloody hotel wireless keeps going out!

Had some mmmm good breakfast at a church restaurant this morning--best grits I've ever tasted. So creamy good.

And for dinner we had some melt in your mouth sushi. Yum.

Hoping to post something more substantive tomorrow : )

Monday, November 05, 2007

Choo Choo! Chugga Chugga Choo Choo!

I'm attending the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Wow, what an event. There are thousands and thousands of folks attending. The meeting is so big that the Washington Convention Center can't contain it all; some sessions are being held at four nearby hotels.

I'm picking up brochures from various public health schools and getting psyched to take the GRE and apply to some programs. I've decided I'll take the GRE before my next birthday, in March. I definitely have some rusty math skills to refresh, and I am looking forward to the challenge.

It's such a great atmosphere to be in--so many people doing amazing work. I'm most inspired by the students presenting papers--I can be one of those people in a few years!

I'm missing my babies, but feeling refreshed by a few days away with friends.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Dear Sister

Dear Sister-

You moved about a week ago. All this week on my way to work I'd reach for the phone to give you a call. Then I'd realize that you were on the other side of the Atlantic, starting your new adventure.

I miss you terribly, but that feeling is small in comparison to the joy I feel at knowing that you and your sweet boy are together again with your husband. I've been in awe of your strength during this challenging year.

I'm grateful for those snippets of conversation we have on gmail chat, and I know we'll have even more fun connecting via Skype. I swear, I'll install it after I get home from this trip.

The kids miss you and their cousin, but they are asking when we can visit. We'll be saving our pennies!

Love, your Sister

Saturday, November 03, 2007

by the skin of my teeth!

Today I traveled to Washington, DC and went out to an amazing dinner with a friend. I was snuggling into bed and realized I hadn't posted yet, and since I don't want to forfeit NaBloPoMo on only the third day, dragged myself downstairs so I could pick up the wireless signal.

One of the groups I've joined at the NaBlo site at Ning is all of the different groups people have set up. One group I joined is 30 days of thanks.

Here are some things made me thankful this week:
  • the birth of a good friend's beautiful baby girl
  • a sister-in-law who is fun to travel with
  • a friend who picked me up at the airport and took me to an amazing dinner
  • a husband who encouraged me to take this trip even though I've been away several times this year

Friday, November 02, 2007

Identity: Names

Like many other bloggers, I think about issues of identity and self-image pretty often. My primary identity has changed over the years. I plan to discuss my time as a student and my thoughts about motherhood and identity in the future. Today, I'd like to talk about my given name: Jennifer.

It was a twist of fate that led my parents to name me Jennifer. My father wasn't sure about the name my mother had picked (he came aroundn to it four years later when my sister was born), and somehow they settled on Jennifer. I was born in 1970, the start of the height of Jennifer's popularity among the American baby-naming public.

While my mother liked Jennifer, she was vehemently against Jenny, and I swear I remember being instructed not to let anyone call me Jenny. My family and friends used Jennifer or Jen, and sometimes silly things like my dad's made up Furry-nej, and my aunt's Jammer. I took my mother's lessons to heart and have never been called Jenny. Oh wait, there was a boy in first grade who tried to call me Jenny. I told him that my name was Jennifer and to please call me that. When he wouldn't listen, I told the teacher. I was stunned at her indifference. She told me it was an acceptable nickname for Jennifer and that it was too bad if I didn't like it. I was aghast- I am Jennifer!

I'm sure I always had at least one other Jennifer in my class, and many times more than that. In third or fourth grade there were three of us, and two of us were Jennifer M. At that point we had to use our full last names. And so my identity shifted, I became, in my mind, "Jennifer M_____."

When I got married I never seriously considered changing my last name. Yes, for feminist reasons, but even more that I'd been called Jennifer M____ for so long that it is just who I am. I can't imagine being Jennifer E. I don't know her. I did toy with changing my name after my son was born--I wanted us all to clearly be the same family. As time passed though, and my husband asked if I was still considering it, I realized the answer was no, and that I needed to stay Jennifer M.

I am Jennifer. Hear me roar.

This post is dedicated to the NaBloPoMo group "The Circle of Jens," 91 members and counting.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Today is my Blogaversary! I started my blog last year for NaBloPoMo, which I was eventually unsuccessful at. I was successful at starting the blog so I'd write more often, so, yay! I'm not a super cool blogger who has blogaversary prizes though, sorry.

I do have pictures of Luke and Leia though.

How cute are they?

Luke has the light saber action going on

"Obi Wan, You're our only hope"
She didn't know that scene from the movie; it was fun having her pose that way anyhow. Too bad the speaker doesn't look like R2 ; ) Click for: costume inspiration Yay for white sheets we already had in the house!
That's all I've got today, but look out November : ) I have lots of things I want to write about this month.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Getting to Know You

I haven't participated much in Create a Connection lately, but I'm always reading the posts there. Melba has created such a fun and vibrant community. Today's prompt is about Halloween.

1)What did your family do for Halloween?
The Halloweens that I remember most were when we lived in an apartment building in Brooklyn. We would simply trick or treat on a few floors and then call it done. I was not a big fan of Halloween as a kid. I really didn't (and don't!) enjoy knowing that people were looking at me, and it seems to me that the point of Halloween is to have people look at your costume!

2) Was your Mom (or Dad) the home made costume maker or did you get to pick your costume out at the store? Most of our costumes were home made, of the no sewing type. My parents definitely encouraged creativity. But I think we bought them from time to time as well.

3) Looking back at the various costumes you wore over the years, which one was your favorite?
For some reason right now the only one I can think of is when I went as a bird watcher. We lived on Staten Island at that time, and I was definitely in high anxiety mode of people looking at me, not to mention not knowing what the heck I was dressed as. Ah well, when your dad is a birder/bird photographer that's what happens. There are some cool photos of my sister and I that Halloween.

4) What kind of bag did you take Trick-or-Treating? No idea.

5) Now that you're not a "kid" anymore, do you still enjoy Halloween? Do you give out candy or do you take your own kids/nephews/nieces/ neighborhood kids out trick-or-treating?
Now that I have my own children I love Halloween- I can get creative with costumes, decorating, etc, but not be the center of attention. yay! I've made all of my kids' costumes, and I'm glad they enjoy collaborating on that with me because I think I'd have a hard time buying a costume for them! We go trick or treating on Halloween, after dinner. It is so odd for me, because my mother never let us go T'n'T after dark! That's just what people around her do though, so we do too. It is fun to go in the dark.

6) What's your favorite part of Halloween? Working with my kids on their costumes. The decision making process usually begins on November 1st! lol.

7) Are you wearing a costume to work today? nope!

Monday, October 29, 2007


Recently in my blog surfing I came across this post from Andrea of Superherodesigns. I've written about dreams before, and as you can see I had a hard time really letting go and dreaming wildly. [side note: I'm tickled that I did take and pass the lactation exam, am losing weight, and have begun exercising regularly and enjoying it! I'm thinking that was more of a goal list than a dream list. hmm. ]

However, Andrea's question introduces the idea of knowing you wouldn't fail. With that suggestion, I let my mind free.

If I knew I couldn't fail, I would open a bakery/cafe that had room for people, especially children, to come and create art. I would decorate our home boldly. I would somehow, someway, help to effect change in Burma, so that Aung San Suu Kyi and the entire Burmese people would be free. I would spend a year or more living in Italy, learning to speak Italian fluently, and enjoy la dolce vita.

I've been reading Jen Lemen's blog for a few months now. She is never short on beauty or inspiration. At the beginning of October she posted about dreaming as well. I've started a life list here; I'm only up to 38 so far, but I'm sure I will continue to think of both delicious and practical dreams to fill it up with. How 'bout you?

How to Get Mom's Attention

While Sam was sick, I received this message:

To: Mom
On couch near 1st bedroom

From: Sam at table

To Mom:

I want turkey on a hamburger bun.

Love, Sam

Yes, I did get up and fix his sandwich : )

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Pardon me, I was just unleashing my inner 18 year old : ) On Tuesday night I went to see Maroon 5. I fell head over heels in lust for Adam Levine and co a few years ago after seeing the video for This Love. I listened to Songs About Jane at least twice daily for months. It was pretty much the only thing I played on my ipod for the better part of two years (until How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was released). So, yeah, I was obsessed. Although they toured and toured, I didn't get to see Maroon 5.

Until Tuesday. Squeeeee! I went by myself. My husband was willing to attend with me, but I wanted to be able to sing, dance, and, well, swoon without embarrassing myself in front of him. I danced, I sang, I swoooned. I was so excited when they first came out that I was sort of jittery and out of breath. It was everything I wished for, and then some. It was what I imagined all those hours in the car, listening to SAJ with the volume up high- the music surrounded me, as I danced in my own little world. They played all of the songs from SAJ that I always wanted to hear live, as well as all of the songs I really wanted to hear from their new disc. Every once in a while Adam had this huge, shit-eating grin on his face. He's cocky, but imo he has good reason to be. What fun to see him move all night. Sex on a stick that boy is. Did I just say that outloud?


Look what Sam found flying around our screened in porch yesterday:

It is a Gulf Fritillary. I think it hatched from a cocoon on our kiddy picnic table, which had been outside for quite a while. We brought it in for Maya to paint on the other day. It was so cool to see this very fresh specimen up close. The spots on the underwing that look white were actually silver, like they were drawn on with metallic paint. Beautiful.

I got a box in the mail today, and was thinking it was my mom's birthday present for Erik. I was surprised that it was adressed to me. When I got it open I saw this necklace:

necklace by jessiedriscoll

I've had a similar necklace on my Etsy favorites for quite some time. My sister sent it to me as a congratulatory gift for passing the lactation exam! So awesome of her, I have to go call her!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sad and humorous scenes from a sick at home weekend

First the sad: poor Sam awoke early on Saturday morning, ran into our room, and complaining of a headache. He was burning up. He slept most of Saturday, preferring to sleep on the floor in the family room where we spent the day rather than in the comfort of his bed. The saddest sight was him, asleep on the floor, with his head on a board game that Maya and I had just played.

He perked up around 8 pm and worriedly said "I haven't worked on my math facts!" He did his flash cards for a bit then, even though I told him it was ok. He's also sad that he won't have perfect attendance this year. On Sunday he asked Erik how long a person could go without eating. My poor baby.

He's still hot and miserable today. Yesterday he told us that he felt like he was burning up, and that having a fever made him feel like he had no brain. We went to the doctor today and he started amoxil; hopefully he'll be fever free tomorrow, and then ready to return to school on Thursday.

And for the humorous: is there anything funnier than an eight year old listening to an ipod, singing When I'm 64, Tax Man, and all the Lonely People aloud? I think not.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A few things to share

  • A few weeks ago I read this wonderful article on Etsy. Then this post of sculptures was shared on the Craftzine blog, and I got hooked on her blog. Her work is astounding, she creates in every medium imaginable, and the statements her work makes just blow me away. I just ordered a copy of this print, and can't wait to hang it up to remind me that my dreams are Within Reach. Oh, and what I was really wanting to point out, this amazing piece that she just installed in a gallery in LA.

  • Here's more art, this time created by children affected by Hurricane Katrina. Incredibly moving. Be sure to check out the gallery and read the captions.

Unfried Chicken
1/4 c reduced calorie mayo
1 t dijon mustard
2 t grated lemon zest
1/2 t salt
4 drops hot pepper sauce
1 4lb chicken, cut into parts (I just use boneless thighs or breasts)
3/4 c cornflake crumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 350*. Spray shallow baking pan with nonstick spray.
  2. mix together mayo, mustard, lemon zest, salt, and pepper sauce in a large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. I usually just put the chicken parts on the baking pan and spread the mayo mixture on the chicken with a pastry brush.
  3. Place cornflake crumbs in a ziploc bag; add chicken one piece at a time and shake to coat. Since my pieces are on the baking tray already I just sprinkle them with the crumbs.
  4. Place chicken on baking pan. Spray top of chicken lightly with nonstick spray. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, without turning, about 45 minutes. If you are using boneless chicken or smaller pieces it generally takes less time than that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Closer, Together

There have been a lot of frustrated people in our house over the past year. Well, four of us to be exact. The kids would be kids, my cup would run over with anxiety, Erik would try to step in and fix things, and everyone would stomp off to their corner. Erik and I didn't get along much better than all four of us did. Yikes!

Even before I started feeling better, things began to improve when I understood more about what was going on with myself. I do a lot of thinking, but don't always share, even with my husband. I've realized (duh!) that I need to share what is going on inside, or he's not going to be able to help me, or even to understand why I act the way I do. I need to be mindful of my thought processes, talk back to myself when the automatic thoughts are wrong, and share those inner thoughts when the going is tough. This experience has brought us closer together.

From the depths it wasn't always easy to see all he was doing for me. I know I said some of this a few posts ago, but I really wanted to write something specifically thanking and recognizing Erik. (and was further pushed to do so by OMSH.) Without either of us really saying, my gosh, something not so great is going on here, he took over bedtime this summer, and took over dinner prep as well. Never once did he say, for heaven's sake woman, why can't you get out of bed and start dinner? Can't you read a goodnight story to one of the kids? Nope, he just went and took care of things.

Erik, when we met I was so intrigued by your laid back nature. I always hoped some of it would rub off on me. Sadly I think more of my high strung nature has rubbed off on you than the reverse, but we still make a great team. I know I am not the easiest person to live with, and it may seem that I don't always appreciate all you do for us. Thank you for loving me.

PS: I passed!

Who is this woman?

  • she's a mama
  • she's a wife
  • she's a chef and baker
  • she's a student
  • she's a breastfeeding helper
  • she's funny
  • she's usually serious, and that's ok
  • she's a photographer
  • she's a crafter and artist
  • she's a dreamer, though she doesn't share her dreams readily
  • she's finally comfortable looking at a goofy picture of herself without cringing and hitting delete

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I know bad things come in threes

but what about things breaking? Today two things fell apart on me- my Weight Watchers 10% weight loss key chain, and my Hello Kitty cell phone charm. Hmm. What does it all mean?

My take on the key chain is that it is time for me to break past my 10% because over the summer I maintained my weight but haven't gone any lower. I've started exercising in the past few weeks--after dinner walks in the neighborhood and I also picked up a WW dvd which has five 10 to 20 minute exercise routines. I can handle that.

So there you have it, an omen from the gods that I'm going to be breaking past this plateau ; )

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Thursday, October 04, 2007

International Bloggers' Day for Burma

Free Burma!

see also my post below.

Things I'm loving right now

  • a husband who cooks dinner, grocery shops, and vacuums
  • a husband who is doing his best to understand this lady he's married to
  • reading abridged versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey with Sam. I was a Classical Languages major and it is so much fun sharing this with him
  • my invite to Ravelry! Yay!
  • watching Maya learn to read. She's so determined
  • the wild clouds in Florida. I guess because Florida is mostly flat, and there aren't any tall buildings in my town, the sky is so BIG here. And the cloud formations lately have been amazing. I have been taking some photos and hope to get them online in a day or so
  • a weekend visit with my sister, her son, my grandma, and my aunt
  • noticing at least six intricate spider webs outside the house this morning
  • and best of all, noticing the lack of stomach aches and a racing heart :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Have you ever been getting over an illness and suddenly realized just how very sick you were? Over the past few weeks, as I've been climbing out of a black hole I fell into, I realized that I fell into it almost a year ago. I realized that I was just going through the motions on many days and simply getting by.

Since last fall I've felt that my paxil had stopped working for me. My psychiatrist increased the dose (I think that was in December) and then again in the spring. Sometime in early fall my daughter's dance teacher asked us not to change in the bathroom and to use the changing room, so that others could access the bathroom. We'd been using the bathroom since she was halfway taking her clothing off to use the toilet so I had figured that it was just quicker. The teacher's request was totally reasonable, but I nearly burst into tears and had an awful, stung sensation in my core. I think it is related to the first grade incident I talked about the other day. Ordinarily, with the help of therapy and my medication, I've been able to shake off this feeling and go on with life. I noticed that I still felt stung and shamed the next day. I continued to feel unwell mentally as both my sister and sister-in-law talked about moving further away from where I live. My wonderful therapist helped a lot, but often I would wonder how on earth she could tell me I was doing so well when I felt so awful. I was so tired of feeling bad, and wondered if the only way to stop it was to end my life.

Sometime this spring my therapist said that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and most likely have since I was a young child (like four or five years old). I've been in therapy on and off since college. I've been taking paxil for a number of years now, but that was the first time anyone ever mentioned GAD. I've always known I was tense, high strung, and a worrywort. But this, this was such a relief! Things started making sense, although it has still been a long journey.

At the end of the school year I would climb into bed and practice "benign neglect" of my children. Except I don't think it was completely benign. I don't believe in always entertaining my kids, but when I look back at those last six weeks of school I really didn't interact with them much. My husband put them to sleep most of the time. I did no crafts with them, didn't read with them. I don't mean that I was completely isolated from them. We had snuggles of course, and I did a lot of things with them over the summer. However I really did take to bed as much as possible. And in order to avoid the things that were upsetting me, I spent huge amounts of time on the internet.

Despite feeling so trapped by the anxiety, I did do a lot this summer; I'm amazed looking back. I volunteered at one of my kids' summer camps, I took the lactation exam, attended a conference where I had a lot of responsibilities to fulfill. And finally, I saw the psychiatrist again. Since I've been able to look at my symptoms under the lens of anxiety (and not depression, which is what I'd always thought was my primary problem), I described to her the physical symptoms that dog me--intense butterflies in my stomach, an anxious feeling in my chest, tingling in my arms. She peered at me from over the top of her glasses and said " You are having Way Too Many physical symptoms and medicine can help with that. I'm going to increase your prescription again. Most people would have been on this dose two years ago." I felt so relieved to hear this--I can't think of a time when I haven't experienced these symptoms more days than not! I sat in the car after the appointment, and told my husband, crying tears of relief.

I've been on the increased dose for a few weeks now. About two weeks ago I could tell that it was helping, because I did some things that I haven't been able to do for the past six months--I cleaned the bathrooms. I've attacked clutter in the family and living rooms (clutter is a huge trigger for me). My heart races far less. When I am feeling anxious, one or two deep breaths, along with reminding myself that everything is ok, calms me down.

I keep finding myself thinking about the past year, and shaking my head. I don't know how it got so awful. Even though I knew what to do to help myself, it was nearly impossible to do those things (get a good night's sleep, eat well, exercise). It astonishes me that it has taken nearly a year to feel like myself again. (There are small voices whispering in my ear that others have suffered far worse years, and I feel like erasing everything I've written here. I'm going to resist that though.)

It is such a relief to have energy, to realize that small steps in removing clutter or doing dishes or working on projects *does* do some good. I am sure I will have bad days sprinkled among the good ones, but I'm so glad to be living more fully again, and I'm excited to dream some dreams and go after them.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Freedom from Fear

Regimented minds cannot grasp the concept of confrontation as an open
exchange of major differences with a view to settlement through genuine
dialogue. The insecurity of power based on coercion translates into a need
to crush all dissent.

-Aung San Suu Kyi, In Quest of Democracy

Aung San Suu Kyi wrote these words nineteen years ago. The people of Burma still long to live in a democracy, where they can be free from fear.

It is heartbreaking to think of the thousands upon thousands of people who have taken to the streets this week, only to be fired upon by their own government. The photographs make the hairs on my arm stand on end--the bravery of the monks in their maroon and orange robes, the masses of citizens standing alongside them, filling the streets despite the risk of injury or death.

It is man's vision of a world fit for rational, civilized humanity which
leads him to dare and to suffer to build societies free from want and far.
Concepts such as truth, justice, and compassion cannot be dismissed as trite
when these are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power.

- Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Overheard at the Store this morning

By a cashier to another employee as I walked out of the store "Look, there's that customer who brings her own bags."

I grew up in NYC, so it is safe to say that the town in FL where I currently live is indeed the smallest place I've ever lived. However, I did not think that I could possibly be the only person in this area who uses her own cloth bags at the store.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Getting to the Root of Things

Last week I received letters from each of my children's teachers. And each one resulted in tears. My tears, not my children's tears.

Neither letter contains anything that signifies the end of the world. Neither is beyond remedying. So why the tears? Worse than the tears--why the ache in my heart and stomach?

I'm not one of those "helicopter mothers." While of course I take pride in my children's accomplishments (geez, they are 8 & 5, accomplishments sounds a bit much, no?), I don't live through them. So what on earth is my deal?

I thought about it all weekend. I think that I'm particularly sensitive to any hint of rebuke from teachers because of an incident that happened when I was in first grade. I was shy (and anxious!) and did not want to read aloud to the class when called upon. I can still see the illustration accompanying the text about a mail man in my mind's eye. The teacher called me to her desk, and asked me to bring my reader. She took the reader from me, as punishment, and I recall going back to my desk crying. I didn't go home and tell my parents; they eventually heard it from the teacher herself at parent-teacher night. My mother, also a teacher, was furious that I'd had a book taken from me.

After letting the tears out, and having lots of time on Yom Kippur to ponder this, I re-read the email from my daughter's teacher. I can see that I read the note as an indictment of my parenting. Add that to my sensitive nature, and this apparently unresolved first grade incident, a 24 hour fast, and boom. It ain't pretty. I hope that I can excise the hurt that I am still carrying around, and figure out how to hear from my children's teachers without reverting to that crying first grader.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Problem with Perfectionism

Yesterday I baked and cooked and baked some more for Rosh Hashanah. I was vaguely anxious all day, hoping I'd get everything done on time. A few times I noticed my anxiety, and tried to calm myself. What was I so worried about? No guests were coming, this was simply a meal for our family.

By the time we sat down I had a headache and was all worked up. The chicken wasn't done yet, it was already 7 pm, the kids' bedtime was already weighing on me (they don't have today off), and then Sam started complaining about the texture of the butternut squash--normally his favorite vegetable.

Then the voices started- see, why do you try so hard, it never turns out how you wanted it anyway? What's wrong with you--should have gotten the chicken cooking earlier (never mind that you were at Maya's dance class)? What kind of a parent are you that your kids don't just eat their food without a litany of complaints?

And it occurred to me--when you are a perfectionist you really don't allow yourself to enjoy a damn thing! You're filled with anticipatory worry about all the things that could go wrong, and then when anything ends up differing from your vision of perfection you are upset at your perceived failure.

Every year at Rosh Hashanah I pray for G_d to help me to live a happy life. I'm so envious of those who seem to have happiness come to them so easily. I pray that this will be the year that I will learn to stop shooting myself in the foot, that this will be the year that I will be a patient mother, a loving, non-critical spouse, and that I will do the things that I know (in theory) will help with my rampant anxiety. And so often I am feeling like a failure even before the end of the first full day of the new year.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Reuse- Orbit business card holder

OMSH introduced me to Orbit gum in a swap. I was getting ready to go to a conference and in getting my volunteer business cards together I realized the box is the perfect size for a business card holder.

From this:

To this:

Or this:

All you need is glue (I used mod podge), and paper. On the brown one I used tissue paper, and I love that you can see the orange of the Orbit box through it. On the second one I used scrapbooking paper.

Try Day: Beach Collage

See some more collages here

I was featured reader on today. If you haven't read mamazine before, check it out!

Friday, August 24, 2007


When I saw the theme at Mama Says Om, I first thought of those delicious moments overhearing the kids plan some great adventure. Then I thought of my own quests.

Quest for Inner Peace. I've been seeking this for some time now--my holy grail. It is a three steps forward, two steps back kind of journey. This week has had advances and setbacks galore.

My next quest is for peace in parenting. This quest is closely linked to the quest for inner peace. I wonder if you can have one without the other, or if one must come before the other by necessity.

The quest for time for creativity suffers at the hand of the other two. The projects and ideas pile up, and whirl around my head. I know what I need to do to have peace in parenting, but often my desperate grasping after time for creativity causes me to lose my tentative grasp. But if I don't get to express myself, will I ever achieve inner peace?

Monday, August 20, 2007

More Love

My sister's husband is from Uzbekistan. His sister and her two children came to the US to visit my sister and her son (her husband is working out of the country right now). Sam and Halima had exchanged a few letters as pen pals, with my sister translating. And when my sister and her husband lived across the street from them in Tashkent, Halima and Muhammed got to know my kids via pictures and movies. When my sister visited us she'd bring pictures and movies of them. So, when we knew that Halima and Muhammed were coming to visit, we knew we had to get up to see them somehow. We squeezed in a visit last weekend.

We had a wonderful time. Although it was their first time meeting, the kids felt like they already knew each other. It was so cool seeing them figure out how to communicate even though we don't speak Karakalpak and they don't speak much English.

In other highlights Sam was thrilled to finally see an R2-D2 mailbox!


My sister-in-law took this gorgeous photo of Maya and her son, Tedi. We are all so blessed that he has joined our family! He's such a sweet guy; it has been so much fun to watch/listen to him learn English.

Friday, August 03, 2007


For more fun photographs visit Create a Connection!