Monday, November 30, 2015

Loss and Thanks

The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.”
Infinite Jest (1996)




As I wrote about briefly on Instagram - the holiday season tends to get the best of me. Mixing sadness with all the other (more joyous) emotions that come with the start of November. I woke up last week heartsick and missing David Foster Wallace, for instance. A man - a writer - I discovered back in college that came to redefine the way I looked at life, and family, and society in general. I was dutiful back then and could consume a book like Infinite Jest with the kind of love and leisure I haven't known since becoming a mother. I had the time and will to see it through and let it marinate in my whole being the way a novel of that stature should. A luxury I never knew I would miss so much. I went with a small group of writing peers to a reading of his in L.A around the release of the Girl with Curious Hair. Afterwards we stood in line to have him sign our copy and I can never forget how kind his face was. The infamous bandanna wrapped around his head, his brawny athletic frame tucked into a fold away desk in the middle of the lobby, seemingly oblivious to the line of pretty girls (literature groupies) waiting to flirt and fawn over him, clenching books, fidgeting nervously. He was nice, in a typical way, and welcomed each of us to stop by his office in Claremont should we ever have any questions about writing. "I'm basically there, all day long gazing at my navel" He would tell us with a smile. Though it was hard to swallow - one of the best writers of this lifetime lazing around in his office, with a brain that shreds that sharp didn't seem buyable. Still, terribly tempting. Though the opportunity never arose.

A few years down the I was recovering in a hospital room after giving birth to my second son when I saw a news flash on CNN announcing his suicide and felt the weight of my high shift. How? Why?
The rest of that morning I sat questioning so many things, particularly, my choice in name. Even toying with the idea of "Foster" as a middle name to my sweet Leon. But decided ultimately against honoring a man who took his life in that manner. Genius or not, it didn't seem fair to lend to my boy's fresh start.

The book he signed I still can't find. It's here, I just don't know where. But waking on a random Tuesday to find yourself missing a man you met once, will push you into blue feelings of strange despair. Stuck remembering all you read and learned from him. Wishing he stuck around longer to explain so much more. Cursing yourself for not being able to find the damn book. Worrying that somewhere along the way it could have been lost just as easy as plainly as anything else.



And then, as it goes those feeling dissolve and you get back to feeling overwhelming thankful for what surrounds you:

For the handful of friends that gathered here at our home on Monday evening, bearing a giant pot of spaghetti sauce, fruit bowls, and cases of beer. Laughing together, toasting the season of our last shared holiday before a move across state splits us yet again. For the late night pumpkin pie run in my pajamas with Arlo and Jaylen singing top 40 hits on the drive up. For the dinner at my mom's crowded with a house full of cousins I never knew as a kid. For the teepee factory that manifests in our drive way about this time, leaving traces of endless sawdust trails marking the entry way, newly employing Arlo who's refined fourth grade skills and steady determination are earning him real money for this first time in his life. For the cold bus ride that took us to my mother in law's for turkey dinner - the best on this planet which called for a short nap by the fire after two helpings wore us out. For the wedding that came Friday evening after the rain stopped and united two people I've watched blossom from kids to grown people taking vows across the ocean at dusk just before a red burning sunset in San Clemente gave way to red wine and a lively dance floor that played "old" Elvis that made me stay an extra hour.

For the head cold that struck without warning Saturday and stayed with me until Sunday, ruining all plans to pull Christmas decorations from the attic like I had promised them, but amplified my gratitude for familiar feelings of health come Monday morning. In which I otherwise tend too often to take for granted.

For good friends, old memories, fresh starts, health, and happiness. And all the absurd complexities that manage to sneak in there between. The kinds of stuff DFW filled a few big, beautiful books with.



Happy seasons of Thanks. Hope your weekend was a full and restful one too.
J




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stuck ON

Rose & Crown

Possibly one of the prettiest blogs I've ever come across. A site you may stumble upon late at night by accidental internet browsing and settle in and get lost for hours. Filled with sublime imagery all taken with film. Which, at first glance is hard to even recognize (or remember) as a superior alternative to the crisp shots we're so accustomed to seeing on modern digital images with advances boasting razor sharp results. That rawness in grain you can't recapture any other way.

Rose & Crown is a slow moving, beautiful ode to motherhood.
So stop by. Sit back. And Settle in.



Sunday, November 22, 2015

Craft Habits




Leaf garland dipped in bees wax

Which I saw recently over on Soule Mama's blog and had to recreate. Though I was forced to hold out a little longer than I preferred, waiting patiently for the leaves around my streets to settle into more vibrant Fall colors. Then let the boys dip each of them into a pot of hot wax to dry before stringing them together with a needle through the stem to hang around the house for a quick and festive nod to Thanksgiving. (In lieu of baking)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Overheard




"Rex is crazy. He must have PDHT." - Arlo meaning "ADHD"


"If you can't find something, just pray about it." - Leon advising his cousin on recovering her missing red crayon.


"You know, my friend, the one with the messed up haircut?" - Rex using every wrong example (instead of names) in reference to school friends.


"You will never play the kind of songs I play Leon, the kind people want to hear." - Rex, insulting Leon for who knows what reason.


"He was a guy, who imagined all these people, and he had a big white piano that sold for one billion dollars." - Leon, informing the neighbor kid on John Lennon, and his dream, and his billion dollar piano.


"You know, HARAAAAM. The foutune cookie kid? With the small eyes?" - Rex, in yet another cringeworthy after school Kindergarten story.


"Ok, I'll ask Grandpa then." - Arlo's solution to me crossing off a quad on his Christmas list.


"You know I don't care about these things, right?" - Rex, in reference to desperate alphabet flashcard attempts to get him to know and love, all 26 letters like every other kid in the class.


"Just stop counting, cause no one's listening." - Rex, in reference to another desperate attempt to engage him in counting games through the day like I was instructed.


"I'm saving up all my money in one secret spot. And I know Leon never checks the mattress." - Arlo, to Rex. Making one big mistake.


"You never want us to eat anything good." - Arlo sulking over the long stranding war for "Lunchables."


"All my best friends in class have brown faces." - Rex Stuck on politically incorrect markers, instead of actual NAMES.


"She is so smart she's famous smart. She reads Harry Potter, and she has a notebook, and gets trophies for being famous smart." - Leon describing Isabella, his new (perfectly paired) best friend.


"And sometimes, it seems, shoes are optional" - Rex's teacher at our semester conference on his tendency, apparently, to take his shoes off randomly in class whenever the urge strikes him.


"I just want a tiny baby monkey, or, a hoover board."- Rex drafting his own Christmas list wishes.


"Oh no, this is NOT jello." - Boy Scout participant's mother at the Fall feast, talking about my Jello. Which, sadly did not freeze in time (because I had no idea Jello needed so much time) and ended up a slimy blue liquid rather than the desired chunks of blue sea. Like it was suppose to...


"I did. Because it was pretty." - Leon defending his purchase from the book fair - A pink foam flower on a pencil that spins when you wind it.


"No my mom doesn't have any money." - Rex to the school lunch lady at the register when she told him his account was low and suggested asking his mother to refill it. His lunch was on the house that day.


"Oh you did. Well, I went to Farrells and ate ice cream, then we went to Disneyland and I ate candy. Then I went to Grandma's house and drank coke." - Rex with a lie as big as he could manage, to Leon once he realized the three of us had snuck away to see a movie without him, instead of getting out oil changed like he was led to believe.


"Yah. I'm the husband." - Leon confirming my inquires about his recess "house" play in the field.


"Is this Isis?" - Rex pointing to an Indian man in the pages of the NY Times.


"Dad owes me so much money but never says when he's going to pay me. " - Arlo learning the hard way 'bout working for dad during peak teepee season.


"I had to go sooooooo bad. So then I did. And it went all the way down into my shoe." - Rex explaining his recent accident at school that happened during speech class when he was apparently too busy to break for business. And was't the least bit embarrassed by the fact of it.


"You guys don't have to clean up. I'll do it. All by myself." - Leon to a house full of kids, who never offered or intended to help him clean up in the first place.


"SORRY! YOU LITLLE BABY KID!" - Rex to Leon, apologizing, but not.


" Here Arlo, I found you a dollar!" - Rex, handing a delighted Arlo the dollar he stole from him the day before.




Friday, November 20, 2015

New York

The last time I was in the big city was the summer of 2004. A week after graduating from college alongside my best girl friends. Amidst a city we had all romanticized for a good part of our early twenties. Pining away on our mother's couches every Sunday night from an opposite coast, enchanted as we watched Carrie strutting her stuff downtown throughout the highs and lows of her 30's life crises, with notoriously sleek city girl charm. Where lulls and Heartaches it appeared, never lasted very long in the face of the fast paced kinetic streets of New York City.

Returning this round, a decade later, it happened under notably less romantic terms. To visit my best friend (whom, btw, I've yet to fully forgive for up and leaving me - so Jess if you're reading this, please know my grudge is withstanding) in her newly inhabited Brooklyn loft she shares with her girlfriend, Rachel, a South Hampton native . My birthday added one more convenient selling point. Though surprisingly enough, it wasn't nearly as hard as I had imagined to convince the ladies to get on board. Strange only because of how difficult it is to coordinate something so mundane as BBQ on the weekend to complement all of our schedules. Yet mention of four day (nearly kid less) trip to The Big Apple, in the dead of Fall, pulls 'em together seamlessly like the last tug of a seasoned knitter's finishing stitch.

Good thing. Because I can't really imagine being there without them. Or more, with Mike for that matter. Only because he isn't the kind to soak up the thrill of a big city. And really, that city, with girl friends is the whole allure for me anyway. Having a wild time away with dear friends who's company with the addition of children, remains only in fleeting, broken conversations in the chaotic hours we still dedicate to each other. Or in this case, merely whatever we might manage with an 18 month in tow. Which, actually, proved much more than I expected.

We drank mimosas together on a lazy Friday morning after coming in from the airport and taking a long nap to shrug off jet lag, then woke in a sad bleak stupor over hearing pieced together news bits of the Paris attacks. Which I forcefully turned myself off from seeing how I know the nature of my anxiety and how quickly it would rise following the unfolding of it. We watched the Matt Damon Liberace movie together before heading out for a freezing bus top tour of Manhattan in the evening that brought along a cold so stinging it called for whiskey in coffee cups just to keep us warm and steady atop that rolling blustery rooftop, and coats much warmer than the pathetic "sweater" version I had purchased stupidly (especially) for this very trip (As hard as I try, a sensible winter wardrobe is likely something I'll never "get." Seeing how poorly I packed in light of a 47 degree weather warning sitting on my phone the whole week leading up to our flight.) New Yorkers understand the depths of "layering" we Californians can never truly comprehend.



Other, memorable points of the trip came in the form of:

Italian dinner at Franks where we sat stacked like frozen sardines in the back booth of that quaint little restaurant and got half way drunk off dirty martinis and stuffed ourselves full of fresh Gnocchi and french baguettes & butter.

A killer rendition of "Proud Mary" sung by an old man on a subway car with a blues tone so authentic it sent us all reeling and prompted a full car sing along, a little dancing, and a few dollar bills from the pockets of otherwise uneffected passegners handed his way.

Karaoke at a dive bar with free pizza where Denise delivered one amazing cover of Lorde's "Royals" that won over the crowd instantly. Though it was lost shortly thereafter in a less than dazzling duet with Jess on Garth Brooke's "Friends in Low Places" where even Kate - who had managed suitable dance moves to match everything that hit the mike that night, from death metal to Enya, took a quick seat on that one. Something I can't help but laugh about every time I think of it. (Jess, again, if you're reading this, just know that it wasn't YOU, it was the song.)

A freezing late night back at the loft after karaoke, and too many free pizzas, on the back patio, filled with laughter.

"Family style" Mediterranean dinner at Glasserie where the Challah bread stole the show.

Margaritas and top notch Mexican food I didn't suspect NY was capable of, at tiny Calaca in Greenpoint.

A quick roll down to High Line park at dark.

An exceptionally warm and friendly bar that welcomed us in with a baby and served us free drinks to make up for a plate of frozen oysters.

Champagne, bagels, and revived sunshine in Tompkins Square Park mid morning, that did a great job of making up for the slightly terrifying incident that erupted when I strayed from the group picnic to walk Hayes over to the playground where I stood for the better part of an hour in sheer joy over people watching in such a pretty east coast park on such a spectacularly pretty east coast morning, but was grossly interrupted by a wild eyed man in a cable knit sweater, naked from the waist down thrashing about the bushes on the other side of the park gate, screaming profanities at us while trying to make his way over the fence to where Hayes was closest to him happily buckled into an infant swing. A frantic scene that first unfolded with us trying to gather our children away as quickly as possible, and ended in him being forcefully tackled and restrained by a fleet of officers as we made our way out of the park and across the street to figure out our next (less dramatic, less obscene  adventure) The true horror of that vision being not the deluded state of the man without pants, but rather the line of young women who stood back video taping him on the sidewalk as he screamed like an animal before the police finally arrived. Leaving me desperate for something sweet to replace the image with. Which came in the form of long strolls around Manhattan in search of a proper lunch spot, shopping at The Deep End Club, and snacks we settled on instead inside a most handsome gated garden where we were able to enjoy the new company of Bell and Latonya in peace while our babies snacked and played together on the grounds before dusk. In which a little afternoon spritzer, so quality conversation over a bag of jalapeno chips proved the quickest, most painless way to erase my first frightful nude NY run in.



All this to say that we had a fine time in New York. And next trip I hope to make the rounds in Springtime with Arlo. But still believe there should be some kind of law in place that prohibits best friends from moving across state line. I know Ms. Bradshaw would agree.





POST FOOTNOTES:
As a timely coincidence I was gifted a real, grown up carry on suitcase by TUMI (which has come to finally replace the tattered tweed one from the 1950's I've been lugging around since forever, embarrassing all those I travel with due to the sad state of it's overall appearance, and missing handle) and this travel stroller by Quinny which I cannot say enough great things about it. It's a functional, easy, lightweight and stylish way of carting around one kid in a crowded airport (or city) And was the only way I could keep up with the impressive hustle of the local mamas who handle the subways like nobody's buisness. Even when it means heaving it them up and down flight after flight of stairways to catch the right train. Back home now it's still all I'm using.

Many thanks to both companies for their support, and for handing off these two generous gifts I could happily recommend to anyone on the hunt for either items.



*lastly, if this trip had been sponsored (it's not but had it been) it should have come from Ativan. The unsung hero every time I board flight. Courtesy of my Mom.