31 August 2007

4 Things Meme

I've been tagged by MGM over at Diss, Dat, and Diapers for this 4 things meme. Here goes-

4 Jobs I've had:
  1. Server-bitch at country club- Made me hate the yupperclass. I have a name...see? On this here little name tag.
  2. Cashier at Target- actually was my dream job as a little girl. I wanted to make the scanner beep.
  3. Bridal Consultant- best and worst job I ever had. I made the best friends I've ever had working there, but DAMN- women go certifiable when they get a silly little rock on their finger.
  4. Grad student/University peon

4 Places I've lived:
  1. Akron- the armpit of Ohio. But I would kill right now for some Luigi's baked rigatoni and a tossed salad with cheese.
  2. Urbino- The tiny medieval town where Raphael Sanzio was born. Beautiful beyond words with the most wonderful piazza, them most wonderful little restaurants, and the most wonderful gelato.
  3. Happy Valley- Beautiful views, dangerously good ice cream, and that stupid movie about the talking kangaroo playing in every single movie theater on multiple screens for three weeks.
  4. Middle of the Prairie- Flat, corn...did I mention flat? But strangely enough, it's growing on me. Not the corn, just the place.

4 Favorite Foods:
  1. Chocolate-- pretty much any kind in any form, but I love dark, rich semisweet or bittersweet chocolate.
  2. Luigi's Baked Rigatoni and tossed salad with cheese. It's the one place I MUST eat at in Akron. Every single time we go back, we make a pilgrimage.
  3. Gelato- Not ice cream, not custard, not sherbet. You can only get real gelato in Italy, despite what the places around town seem to think. It only works in Italy, because their entire food production system is different--things tend to be much fresher, locally grown, and generally more delicious.
  4. Who am I kidding? I can't really even begin to narrow this down to 4.

4 Places I'd Rather Be:
  1. Italy- God I love that country. I love the language and the food and the people and the whole piazza thing and the siestas and, did I mention the food? love it, love it, LOVE IT.
  2. Florida- on the Gulf Coast a little south of Clearwater. It's beautiful and relaxing.
  3. DC- Hands down my favorite US city. I spent lots of time visiting when J lived there for a while and I love the whole vibe. It feels so international and looks so much like Europe.
  4. Tahiti- My one dream vacation. You get to stay in these little huts over the crystal clear water and the pictures look so amazingly serene.

4 Movies I Can Watch Over and Over:
  1. French Kiss-- classic romantic comedy that's so good even J has watched it at least 3 times with me. (2 of those were at his suggestion)
  2. The English Patient--I don't watch it that often, but when I do I love it more each time. It's the one movie that does justice to the book it's based on.
  3. White Christmas- every year, without fail, this is a must-see. J and I even watched it once in July when Little Man was up all night and nothing else was on.
  4. I love old musicals. I blame my mother for this, but the fact is that I'm hooked on all of those 1950s and 1960s musical blockbusters-- Oklahoma, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Singin' in the Rain. The one exception is The Sound of Music.

4 TV Shows I Like to Watch
  1. How I Met Your Mother
  2. House- but I haven't had a chance to see it in a while
  3. CSI Miami- David Caruso is so deliciously creepy--and cheesey- he overplays everything and it's hysterical to watch.
  4. Oprah- There's just something compelling and hilarious about a woman who can say, "Isn't it better to start off poor" when she owns half of the world.
4 Websites I view Daily
  1. Please see "Fellow Travelers"
  2. Perez Hilton-- I've gotta keep up with the young-ins' culture somehow. Or at least that's what I tell myself.
  3. My "virtual paper"- ever since junior high, I read the comics every morning. So now, since our local paper sucks, I read For Better or For Worse, Funky Winkerbean, Rhymes with Orange, Zits, Dear Abbey, and Ask Amy online every morning before I start anything else.
  4. NY Times

4 Computers I've owned
  1. My current Dell that needs more Rem or Ram or something in it
  2. My IBM thinkpad laptop from 1999-- I still have it and it still runs. Kind of.
  3. Acer Desktop-- the thing crashed constantly
  4. some very old thing from the 1980s with an orange and black screen that I inherited from my uncle's law school days

4 people to tag-
  1. The Yellow Dart
  2. Big Dan
  3. and whoever else wants to do this

30 August 2007

Researcher Discovers that Computers Eat Time

For the last few weeks--since we got back from Memphis in early August--I've been working like I haven't worked in a long, long time. So far, I've pumped out close to 40 pages of a draft of my Fitzgerald Chapter and right now I'm on the home stretch of finishing up this article, which is a revision of my May conference presentation and my first chapter.

All summer I wanted to be able to work like this. I tried to set a routine. I tried to accomplish something every day. I even tried getting up at 6AM to get work done before my 8:00 class. But all summer, it seems like all I did was sit, trying to figure out what to do with myself until we picked up Little Man at 3:30 every day. The clock would stand still and I would fight the urge to give up and just go get him 3 hours early.

Now, however, I've discovered that computers actually eat time.

I sit down to work at my trusty desktop at around 9:30 every morning and suddenly I realize that my eyes no longer focus, my stomach is growling, and it's noon. After lunch, the same thing happens. Just as I am getting started, I realize it's either time to go teach or time to pick up the munchkin. After he's in bed around 8:00, I sit down once again, only to discover the clock is suddenly far past 10:30 and I've missed Oprah once again.

I'm accomplishing a lot, but there's never enough time to finish what I start. But the good news is that I feel like I'm finally getting into the professional mode I've been attempting to approximate for the last few years. I hope I can keep it up.

27 August 2007

A Good Day

Little Man woke up at 6 today. AM that is. I thought, "shit, this is going to be that kind of day."

But then I was reading the NY Times and saw this headline.

Maybe today's looking up.

24 August 2007

About Christmas

I know it's a bit early to start thinking about the holidays, but for my family, Christmas is a huge deal, laden with traditions that haven't changed for eons. And this year things will be very different.

Since I can remember, it wasn't really Christmastime until my brothers and I, arms filled with presents,trudged across the snowy yard to my grandparents house and walked through the door to be greeted by the heat of the kitchen and the sounds of three men (who otherwise never cooked) cooking. We never drove. If the snow was too deep, we would simply walk down the (usually unplowed) street, because my parents didn't want to add their car to an already filled driveway. And it never felt like Christmas until I smelled the heavy scent of fish frying and the warm sweetness of homemade tomato sauce. I can remember one year wishing that I could bottle that scent, because even as a child I understood that this particular tradition was somehow too singular to last into my adulthood.

But the most important thing about the whole Christmas Eve experience was the sheer amount of chaos that defined it. Christmas Eve has never been an optional holiday; in fact, it was the one holiday when all of my mother's brothers would show up with all of their children, without exception. It started as 10 or so people, but with new marriages and new children, the count is now up to 26. My grandparents don't have a large house. I'm fairly certain it's a fire hazard to have so many people in such a small space with so many ovens working at the same time. Yet somehow they fit us all in, even if it means that half of us eat in the front room rather than the dining room.

Because Christmas Eve centered around two very important activities--eating and opening presents. Like any good Italian family, the meal was based around fish. Fresh, perch breaded in soda crackers and pan fried, bakala prepared any number of ways, whiting, smelt, a tomato-based calamari soup, stuffed squids, and shrimp. The fish was only the beginning, though. There was always some sort of pasta dish, the sauce always homemade from the tomatoes in my grandparents garden, freshly made Italian sausages, meatballs, crusty rolls, and froscia--an egg dish something like a fritatta that contains ricotta cheese and either spinach or dandelion greens.

In the last few years, the meals have become more emotional. Rather than simply forcing the youngest grandchild to say grace, he's given an impromptu toast that has brought him to tears before the meal starts. We all smile at him and pretend we don't see, and then start passing the food--always to the right--and ladling our paper plates with three days' worth of work and love.

Since he was old enough, my baby bro went to help the men cook the meal as well. He'd stand with them by the pans of frying fish and help with anything that needed done. Once he started culinary school, he started bringing his own creations. One year a tuna con fit with some sort of heaven drizzled on top. Last year, the most delicious pesto-crusted lamb chops; hundreds of dollars of ingredients were devoured before we could ask for seconds. And baby bro is always the consummate buffer. He knows just which buttons to push and just how to diffuse stressful situations--especially where my mother is concerned.

But this year will be different, because this year, he's probably not going to make it. He will be in California, being a grown up and probably working through the holidays. And if Christmas Eve will seem less immense without him, Christmas morning will be something else entirely.

I can't begin to imagine what it will be like to have my brothers and our kids at my parents for Christmas morning without D. What's the point of relating the story about the year he was so excited to get underwear that he held them up for a picture if he's not there to laugh about it? And who will diffuse the tension and stress when time seems to be running out? What will the point of all those presents be when someone is missing?

It's no surprise that the holiday traditions will have to change--J and I knew this long ago. This year Baby Bro won't be back, next year it will be us who won't make it for the festivities. Negotiating the creation of new traditions will be especially challenging for my family, because they have been so stable and unchanging for so long. I want to be excited about the prospect of those changes. Maybe we can alleviate the stress and tension. But I can't help but feel sorry for my own children, because I know that these traditions were something singular, and because I know that you can't ever repeat the past.

21 August 2007

And so it begins.....

I'll be honest--I really wasn't looking forward to the start of classes this fall. (I'm talking ren-away-to-clown-college-or-just-go-work-retail-not-looking-forward-to-it.) I feel like I've gotten too much writing done in the last two weeks to be bothered by teaching again.

J's excitement about the prospect of starting the semester has irritated me this last week. ok. irritated is a bit of an understatement, but I did manage to not throw a show at him.

But then I came to campus today and everything seems all a-buzz. I like watching the new people figure things out--like how not to get Schwinned in the bike lane and how to get out of the back doors of the bus. It makes me feel like an old pro, like I belong here.

Classes don't start until tomorrow, and today the campus has a festival-like atmosphere. Our main lawn area is filled with booths and bands and students all trying to angle for the newbies. "Come," they call. "Be one of us."

No thanks.

But it's kind of fun to watch.

20 August 2007

The Anatomy of a Scream

Lately, Little Man has been having some issues controlling his emotions. By controlling his emotions, of course, I mean that he's been throwing a lot of tantrums the last few days. With all of the spontaneous flailing, kicking, and screaming, the kid puts on a pretty good floor show.

As a parent, a tired over-worked parent, these little emotion-laden meltdowns can be exhausting and trying. Right now, our goal is to not provide him any incentive to continue screaming. We let him flop safely to the floor and then once we know he's sage, we leave the room. Inevitably, a few seconds later, he will crawl his way screaming pathetically after us, and once arriving settle down enough to say "up." It's been a trying weekend to say the least.

When Little Man was a much smaller little man, his newborn wails used to pierce me straight to the heart. Sometimes, when I was alone with him and he was completely inconsolable, I would lay him safely on the floor or in his crib, step out into our attached garage, and scream as loudly as I could.

It made me start wondering when it was that we humans learn not to express our emotions. After all, a newborn's cries are not manipulative or conscious, despite what some people think. You cannot spoil a baby that small, because they don't even begin to have the capabilities to think logically about cause and effect yet. His little body or mind sensed a need and his mouth did not hesitate, did not waver in letting that need be known. As watchful parents doing the best we could, we rushed to sooth those little screams.

As an adult I was bound to hold my screams in...or at least indulge only when it got to be "too much" and only alone, in the privacy of a darkened garage. That is what adults do--we repress those primal urges that make us uncivilized. We "use our words."

I realize now when it is that humans learn not to express emotion--right about at 16 months. Every time we set him down and walk out of the room, we trying to teach him that his urge to react so viscerally to his anger, disappointment, or frustration is invalid.

"Use your words," I say. Suppress your urges. Be polite. Be civilized. Be human.

Don't get me wrong--I don't want my child to go around screaming all of the time. I was raised in a family where yelling was the norm, and it's not a form of discipline or a lifestyle I want to replicate. But I remember how cathartic it was to step into the garage and just yell, and part of me wonders why we humans suppress that so much. Primal scream therapy aside, maybe it would be better for everyone if we were allowed some moments of intense release.

I'm going to have to keep telling myself that, because this is looking like it might be a long phase. And we're not even to the "terrible twos" yet.

08 August 2007

Sleep Sweet Little Man

Even before Little Man was born, J and I worried about his sleeping.

A month or so before he arrived, we bought The No Cry Sleep solution and read it over and over in the weeks before his birth so we could be ready to gently guide him into sleep. We memorized the routines they suggested. We learned how many hours a newborn needs to sleep each day. We talked about the different methods and decided not to let him "cry it out." Then he arrived, and we soon realized that all our preparations were for naught.

After a day in the hospital for a fairly severe case of jaundice, his sleep schedule was completely turned on its head. We have video of this first month that shows the green digital clock on our stove reading 11:30 and our little alien-eyed bundle wide awake and blinking his interest in the world around him. We would take turns staying up with him until he finally decided at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning that he was ready to turn in for a few hours. We sat and held him during those early morning hours because he didn't want to be put down, and we didn't believe he needed to be put down.

I had no interest in letting my child cry for me. I never believed that I could spoil him so early by holding him too much or comforting him when he needed comfort. The truth was and still is that I wouldn't trade a single hour of the sleep I might have otherwise had for those hours that I had him in my arms. Now, he runs and plays; mama's arms are too constraining for such a inquisitive little soul.

Eventually he came around and realized that it is really better to be awake during the day. I went against most advice when I nursed him to sleep every night. Every single night. That was our time together, when he was warm and snuggly, smelling fresh after his nightly bath rather than like old milk from a day's worth of yerping. In his darkened room, I would rock in my grandmother's chair and sing him two songs every night-- "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Lullaby and Goodnight"--with the lyrics changed to make them his own. He'd drift off in my arms, and I would lay him down for the night.

Then one day we didn't nurse any more. We never had that "one last time" session. The time was right, and he weaned. I worried that he wouldn't let me rock him and sing to him any more, but he seemed to crave than warmth more than the milk I had provided. For the last four months he has climbed into my lap when the lights go out and looked up at me as I sing (poor kid). But lately, he doesn't have time for that. He sits in my lap and wriggles after only a few bars of the first song. What he wants is to be put to bed.

So instead of our longer ritual I now hum a few bars and place him in his crib. He grabs his stuffed frog, turns on his side, and closes his eyes. This is what we wanted from the beginning--a child who was able to fall asleep calmly, happily, on his own. Yet the loss of that time before he sleeps when his hair is still damp and his skin still fresh is almost more difficult than not nursing any more.

This is a small thing compared to what is to come. I realize that there will be more and more times when I have to step back and let him be--this is all part of motherhood. That gradual letting go of the baby you wanted so badly and the gradual acceptance of the boy and then the man you want him to become.

But still, there are things I am not willing to part with--things that I hope he will remember and maybe do for his own children. So every night, I kiss him gently on his cheek and whisper as I shut his door,

"Angels guard your sleep and make your dreams sweet."

02 August 2007


Today I got one of those calls--the kind that every working mom dreads.

I walked into the house around 1:00 today and the phone rang, and my stomach lurched. Even before I heard the voice, I felt like I knew something was wrong. And then the voice confirmed it. "Hi, L? This is M..."

I'm not sure exactly what she said after that--something something seizure...something something...emergency room...something something. All I could think was that I couldn't understand why she was still talking. Didn't she realize I should be in a car right now?

Sometime around noon or so Little Man spiked a pretty bad fever--a reaction to his recent round of vaccines. Somewhere around the parking lot of McDonald's, one of the other kids at his day care said that something was wrong with Little Man. Sometime around the time I was leisurely eating a Chipotle burrito, my baby was getting stuck with needles and crying without me in an emergency room.

When I finally got to the hospital, it seemed like hours had passed. I somehow managed to take the longest possible route, and quite frankly I'm surprised I didn't get pulled over or in an accident. When I walked into the room he was already asleep. M was holding him, her eyes bloodshot from crying. The other kids were sitting quietly in the corner keeping each other entertained. It didn't seem possible at that moment that he could have had a seizure; he seemed to peaceful and quiet.

"We don't usually start them on epilepsy medication for something like this," the doctor said with an unnerving calmness. How is it that your seemingly normal and happy life can be punctured so easily with so few words? Before today I had been vigilantly thankful for his health, but I don't think I had ever really realized it wasn't guaranteed.

I'm still not sure I've completely understood what happened today. There's a large space sometime between 1:00 and 4:00 that seems only to be made up of wavy images and white noise in my memory of it. All I want to do is sit in his room and watch him sleep tonight. I'm afraid to take my eyes off him for too long, even though I know that he is in all likelihood just fine right now. I feel this enormous guilt--for not noticing he was too warm this morning (he was, wasn't he?), for having lunch while he was scared and in pain (why didn't I just go pick him up early?), for even working in the first place (is it worth not being there?).

It still feels surreal. Just a few hours after he was sick, he was up as though nothing even happened. He seems to have forgotten it. He seems to hold no grudge about my absence. I'm glad it hasn't seemed to mark him, but it's certainly marked me.