My Town, My Twins

BLUEPRINT FOR DAYLIGHT, my award-winning memoir of infidelity, cancer, colicky twins, and the flood in my basement

has recently been excerpted. . . twice!

The print publication, Connecticut’s Emerging Writers:  an Anthology is available HERE

LARK BLOOM, a blogsite devoted to essays on disability, creativity, and family, is available HERE

I am extremely grateful to Z Publishing and Lark Bloom.

XO

Indoor Garden Party

It was supposed to be outside. My parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party, that is. Until the forecast called for rain, the torrential kind, with high winds. And it was going to be COLD.

Doesn’t Connecticut realize that it’s MAY? The day after the party (today!) is Mother’s Day. Isn’t the earth a mother?

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I imagined the 40 + guests enjoying the fragrance of the giant lilacs I inherited, walking in the garden, and generally taking the sun, eating, laughing, and talking until dark.

What happened the night before the party? A mad dash to swap out big round tables meant to be under the tent for smaller indoor tables under. . . the living room ceiling.

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It was an excercise in delegation: my aunt, my sister, cutting massive amounts of lilacs from the yard, and me, (on the way home from bringing the puppy to the kennel), stopping the car to gather pretty yellow weeds flowers from the side of the road.

It was an hour before the party (I was hopping in the shower) when my sister and twin sons made tissue paper poofs and opened white lanterns to hang from the dining room ceiling. They should have been in the tent. We all should have been in the tent.

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img_7613But, New England weather can never be trusted. And that, as it turned out, was a good thing. Because, the torrential rains never came. It wasn’t warm, but the wind stayed away. 

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By the time the sprinkles started, the party was hours in and nobody cared. Not a one. Cake can have that effect on a person. Also, lots of laughing, and eating delicious food (catered by Jessica Tuesday’s), and hugging in the beautiful Connecticut countryside.

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All these pictures are of my mom with one of her best friends, MaryEllen and her husband Jim, her cousins from Baltimore, and with my twins. My dad isn’t in them becasue he was where he’s happiest: looking at an old car, (it happens to be ours), a Morgan Super-Sport, Plus 4.

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Happy 5oth Anniversary Alan and Carol! (Dad and Mom to me.)

P.S. I made the cake and frosting from scratch. If you are looking for the best white cake ever, look no further. I found it HERE. The frosting is good, old-fashioned butter cream.

 

Let’s Buy Longterm Care Insurance

Me: “So, we need to talk.”
Greg: “About…?”
“Insurance. We need to get some.”
“We have..”
“Long term care insurance, and no we don’t.”
“What the hell is Long Term Care Insurance?”
“When we’re old and we need to go into a home..”
“I’m not going to a home. If I get so frail I need a home, just shoot me.”
“That would look great on my resume. ‘Old lady shoots wheelchair-bound husband.’”
“You don’t need a resume!”
“I think you do. The good places get taken first, I wonder if we’ll need our SAT scores…”
“You think I’ll need a wheelchair?”
“Well, you have a bad back already and you’re only 45.”
“I’m only 44!”
“You look older.”
“I’m starting to get depressed.”
“Seriously, we need to talk about this. Make sure we get into a good place, you know, and not locked up in a basement somewhere.”
“This is the most un-sexy conversation we’ve ever had.”
“Would it help if we were naked?
“Yes!” (Gets up, starts taking off his clothes)
“I was kidding.”
I was excited about this conversation for a minute.”
“Come on, look. This says we’ll need up to $10,000 a month in facility costs.”
Why are your clothes still on?”
“I give up.”
“OK, I’m serious now. Which one of our kids is the most reliable?”
“Parker.”
“We’ll just live with him when we’re old.”

“Honey, where are you going?…. Babe?”

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Oh, You Again.

“The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism, but February.”

-Joseph Wood Krutch

“Oh thank God it’s February!” Said no one-EVER. Especially not in Connecticut.  It can make the happiest of us scowl and shake our fists in the air as the snowflakes fall around us.  A normal dialogue in my house goes like this:  “Babe, hope you have nothing planned- the Weather Channel says it’s going to snow Sunday night, a Nor’Easter on Wednesday and ice is coming Saturday.” My husband likes to broadcast these little weather updates to me to watch my head spin.  So, no school for our kids Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and I won’t be able to make it to the pool at the YMCA where I swim for my sanity.  Fabulous. I guess that means I will just stay home and eat a dozen muffins.

Muffins.  Valentine’s candy, Bread and chocolate.  The devil self-talk begins:

Um…why don’t my pants fit?   

Don’t worry, just drink more water. Here, have some cake to go with it.  

Do I have to give up butter?

Hell, no!  In fact, there’s a fresh baguette in the kitchen just waiting to be slathered with butter, warmed in the oven and then topped with chocolate chips.

So I did.  I ate. I cursed at the snow.  I read.  A LOT.  None of these things is bad separately, together they are a tidal wave of destruction.  The tidal wave met me in my closet for a Pre-Spring Fashion Show.  The skinny model didn’t show up.  Instead there was Muffin Top girl. Who let her in here?

Damn you Weather Channel!

There was only one thing to do: buy a scale.  I hate them, with their little smug numbers.  Who do they think they are anyway? Just as the SAT’s cannot ascertain a person’s intelligence, so cannot a scale determine a person’s attractiveness or splendor!

I railed all the way to Target.  Just me and my yoga pants.

But nonetheless, a scale now sits on my bathroom floor and I dream.

I dream of Spring and little cupcakes with icing…CARROTS! I dream of carrots.

Really, I do.

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The Land Of Noggin

Once upon a time in a sub-division not so far away, there lived a King and Queen. They had been married for some years, raising their three princes successfully to teenage-dom. All seemed to be well: they were hale, hearty and thanks to their royal hound, free from home invasions. The one chink in their marital armor was the King’s inability to multi-task and lack of memory. He would routinely go on errands and forgetting his list and destination would find himself wandering around Big Lots. The Queen hoped that someday she would get to the bottom of it.

One recent school day morning, the Queen noticed the King was still in bed asleep, which was quite strange. Once the princes left for school in the village, the King shuffled into the kitchen.

“Well I had a most interesting night!” said the King. “Oh?” asked the Queen “Yes! I got up in the middle of the night and fell right down on the floor.” The Queen, not used to stories at 6:30am before tea and Matt Lauer said: “You fell? I didn’t hear a thing.” “I know,” the King responded, “I even cried out, but you came not to my aid! You know, once the princes were born you conveniently developed the ability to sleep quite soundly through the night…After I fell flat on my face and although I was very dizzy, I managed to crawl to the kitchen for a drink of water. It was a challenge because the room kept tilting, but I crawled back to our room and climbed into bed. I really don’t feel right at all.” “My dear,” said the Queen, “you must have your head examined right away.”

Off the King went to see the wizard.

A couple of hours later he returned to the castle. “Well, what did he say?” asked the Queen.
“It was really quite brutal, even barbaric!” Explained the King, “I had my blood drawn, there was a CAT scan and the waiting! I really hate waiting rooms.” The Queen, inundated with memories of hours waiting for doctors due to pregnancy and pediatricians, wants to hit the King on the head, but thinks this may be a bad idea. The King continued: “Finally, the wizard gave me his diagnosis:
Deep in my ears are calcium deposits that have formed into little hard balls.”
It is as the Queen always suspected and pronounces:
“My dear, I know what is wrong, why you are dizzy and forgetful: You have rocks in your head.”
The King is not so sure: “Um, The wizard said it was a virus, the vertigo will go away and I’ve got a prescription for Dramamine…”
“Nonsense!” Said the Queen, “I have always wondered why men can only do one thing at a time and get lost on errands! It’s due to the rocks. My Mother was right-all those years ago she warned me. Men are different. They routinely get distracted on errands going to the grocery store and forget why they are there and come home with beer and sliced pepperoni.”

“I don’t mind the beer and sliced pepperoni so much, but the rocks have to go.” Said the King

“There is only one cure. You must sit around on Sundays in your old plaid pajama pants, your Miami Dolphins sweatshirt texting your buddies while simultaneously watching football in the living room. It’s Male Multitasking. It will require focus but I’m sure you can do it. Eventually you will be able to do other things too!”

The King could not believe his good fortune. “But my dear, while I am in therapy with the Miami Dolphins, texting the royal buds, what will you do on Sunday evenings?”
“Don’t worry” said the Queen, “There are a lot of women in the blogosphere..”

And all was right in the Land of Noggin.

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Cornbread And Cupcake

“Marriage is a gamble, let’s be honest.” -Yoko Ono

Well, we’ve done it. We’ve managed to stay married for TWENTY years. That’s a milestone that deserves capital letters and something special to mark the occasion by. A few days before our anniversary my husband asked me what I wanted: “We should do something big,” He said. “It’s pretty amazing that we are both still here.”

Like any married couple, we’ve had our highs and lows. What we did to commemorate our anniversary any given year was indicative of the state of our relationship. Memories of previous anniversaries drifted through my brain: A high note was our 10th where he surprised me with a renewal of vows ceremony and party. A low note was spending our 4th with me sitting on top of the refrigerator, supporting a sheet of drywall on my head as he screwed it into our new kitchen ceiling. Otherwise, I recall only a handful of fancy dinners, many accompanied by squeezing my post-pregnancy body into a pre-pregnancy dress.

We looked at each other over the kitchen island. What should we do for our 20th? I took a moment to think. We are a classic version of opposites attracting. He likes to fish, watch football games and sing karaoke. I like to do anything but those things. Yet, our friends call us by what we bring to get-togethers: Cornbread and Cupcake. The way we compliment each other is reflected in food: he’s the bread: steady, reliable and necessary. I’m dessert: artful, surprising and equally as necessary. For being so different we actually make a great team. From raising our boys to teenagers, renovating three houses and keeping our heads above water- somehow, two very different people have made it work for twenty years. How to celebrate?

Just before our anniversary I was in the grocery store. Catching my eye on the bottom shelf was the perfect gift. No hesitation-I grabbed the last one and took it to the register. There was a note when I got home: “Took the boys running errands, be home late.”

The next day we each unwrapped our gifts. What will it be? I thought. Something romantic? Something unexpected? He opened his: a large capacity Keurig coffee maker. He smiled. I opened mine: a huge stainless teapot. I smiled. Then we burst out laughing. We’d gotten each other exactly what we needed to keep going another twenty years: caffeine.

Nothing goes better with cornbread and cupcakes.

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What A Woman Wants

“The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is “What does a woman want?”- Sigmund Freud

Poor Sigmund.  All he had to do was ask her, often.  I’ve instructed my husband that after 25 years together he may want to ask me daily.  Because things have a way of changing.

Men, at least the ones that I know, are perfectly content with things being precisely the way they have always been.  Change for the sake of change can result in shock.  My husband prefers to know that we keep the keys HERE and the peanut butter THERE. In the early days of our marriage he once was upset for an entire evening because I decided I would rather have pasta instead of pizza for dinner.  “I was looking forward to that pizza!” he said. I may be generalizing, but most women I know change all the time; from cities of residence to careers. The realtor and fashion industries have made trillions of dollars on this fact.

I think women change their wants based on a  combination of survival, instinct and presentation of opportunity. Therefore, things I wanted yesterday no longer look so great. I used to want to work in a high-rise in NYC, own my own design firm, ride in a limo everyday and have super-long legs.  Now I want to have one of my boys remember to let out the dog before he pees on the carpet. I have actually prayed for this.

In addition, today’s list of wants includes:  maintaining a thriving business while stretching myself creatively, providing a welcoming home where there are always good things to eat, setting a strong example of decency for our children to follow, keeping in close touch with my friends and remembering to put on nighttime face cream.

For the record, super-long legs and a limo ride every couple of years wouldn’t hurt either.

That’s all for today, ask me again tomorrow.

Amen.

I Got You, Babe, Now What?

Continued from Part I:

We met In 1988 at 19 and sophomores at the University of New Haven. I had just transferred from the suburbs of Washington D.C. and he came from “the sticks” of northern Connecticut.

He thought I was stuck-up and had a trust fund.  I thought he was obnoxious and a horrible dresser.

We were both wrong, mostly.  I was a bit shy and came from a working-class family but I spent a good portion of my art store paychecks on building a quality wardrobe. He was outgoing and…OK this is true, had a back-woods style that included Budweiser bottle cap high-tops and ripped up acid wash jeans.  Oh, and he wore a baseball cap that looked like it had been dragged through mud- because it had been.

It was a match made in heaven.

We have been so busy over the years getting educated, raising our family, remodeling multiple homes and doing the Divide and Conquer thing that how we would spend our leisure time seemed like a distant promise and weirdly made me think of retirees.  I assumed we would go from lugging diaper bags straight to waiting all day to use a dinner coupon for an Early Bird Special.  It never occurred to me that things go a bit more gradually than that.  It startled me when a Sunday afternoon was suddenly wide open. I became fearful of our incompatibility.  I have very good reasons for this.

I like art museums, historic places, fashion, sipping champagne, PBS, making lists and being a vegetarian.

He likes fishing, target shooting, food challenges, Guinness, the NFL, power napping and roast beef.

One of our biggest arguments took place after a visit to an exhibit of Abstract Expressionism works paired with Shaker furniture.  It took my breath away.  As I shared my enthusiasm for the combination he looked at me blankly and said “That ‘art’ could have been made by a baby! It was just a bunch of smeared paint.”

Another doozy of a conversation had to do with his fondness for wearing what I called his “Meat Shirt.”  He won it by completing the 4 1/2 pound burger challenge at the Tavern House Grill in Tolland, CT.  Besides the obvious and his predilection for wearing it out in public, my issue had to do with the fit of the garment.  This was not a well-made shirt.  It had to go.

All would appear to be lost.  While we DO share common goals and a healthy sense of humor I fully expected to spend our free time pursuing separate interests. Surprisingly we bonded over bikes.

I joined a local cycling club last year and bought myself a fancy bike.  I LOVE this mode of exercise. The wind is in my face riding up and over hills engaging in healthy competition with a great variety of people.  As a social creature who likes to be outside this is the perfect fit for me. Our 16-year-old wanted in on the action so I got him a fancy bike too.  When T came home telling his Dad how cool it was and how fast he went, Greg decided to give it a try. Initially it was a little touch-and-go.  He’s fallen over from not un-clipping his shoes in time, had to dismount and walk up a hill and once had a back spasm so bad he couldn’t find the breath to call out to me to pull over. We ended up laughing about these but I figured it was just a matter of time before he stopped.

Then something unexpected happened.  For our entire relationship he has been my biggest cheerleader: from encouraging me to start my own business to coaching me as I attempted to swim a mile in open water.  Now it was my turn. On a challenging “beginner” club ride he couldn’t keep up and when we stopped for a break said I should just go on ahead without him. I looked him in the eye, me-a petite woman talking to a 6′ 1″ linebacker-sized man and said he could ABSOLUTELY do this.  We would stay together, taking it easy to the end.  He finished.  Over this summer when we rode alone, I would have him draft behind me half the ride to conserve energy and go further distances.

Suddenly we have no shortage of compatibility!  We talk about everything from the people we meet on rides, roads with the best views and cycling gear.  We have a lot of fun browsing in the cycling shop.  Who knew??

A ride to a museum with a pit stop at a sports bar is clearly in our future.

I Got You Babe

In the beginning there was us.

Oh, that exciting, stomach-butterfly time when there was nothing better than being together!

It didn’t matter whether we were  laughing over a joke or going for a hike.

We were all we needed. He and Me.

That lasted until about a year into our marriage. Suddenly, Greg mentioned “there was something missing.”  I thought that something was a trip to Europe. Greg thought what was missing was a baby. We debated it.

My argument:  “Think of all the beautiful things to see and do in Europe:  The Louvre, the Crown Jewels, the ruins!” His argument:  “My back hurts, I’m not getting any younger (he was 25), babies are beautiful and Europe will still be there when the baby grows up”.

I’ve never been a great debater.

Therefore there was us + a baby.  He was so cute and we  loved him so much we decided to have another.

Then there was us + a pre-schooler + twins.

Then there was complete and utter bedlam.

How did we get here? This was a question that had the power to distract me while I chased. I did a lot of chasing. I chased our toddler twins around the park, chased the clock to get to work on time and chased after my ideal body as I jogged down the street. I did it all while routinely both wiping gummed Cheerios from my shirt and baking a Bon Appetit worthy cake for the PTA.

Yes, I thought to myself,   I see how we got here, but what about the He and Me part?  We had children to be a family but ended up separate.

We had defaulted to the Divide and Conquer plan that worked for Rome.  Or Go Fish:  Do you have twin #1? I’ll trade him to take to the grocery store.  I’ll give you twin #2 and  the kindergartener for you to go to Home Depot.  Let’s meet up back here and count our kids and purchases and see who wins.  Whoo hoo!

Our family was happy and healthy but I worried that all this “togetherness” was anything but.  There was precious little time for Date Night, and when we got the chance we ended up talking about which child was going through a “smear the walls with peanut butter” phase, which one was smarter and which one was most likely to end up in jail.  We healthily engaged in wine drinking.

Comic relief we had, real togetherness time, not so much.

Fast-forward 10 years.  Suddenly we have the opposite problem:  the kids don’t need us 24-7 and can actually be trusted to make their own dinner, brush their teeth and go to bed before 11 pm.

Excellent! NOW we can go do things together, I thought.   Just He and Me, like before kids!

Now if I could just remember what we used to do…

Next Posting, Part II:  “I Got You Babe,  Now What?”