Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm in some kind of rut of difficult feelings. In the process of running the family, motherhood and all that- I feel like I have lost my way. I can alternate between frustration, acceptance and loss within the space of minutes. Am I too old to regroup- this is when I should be at the top of my game. Instead- loss preoccupies me and the moment is often beyond my grasp.

Friday, January 29, 2010

It's wintery today without any snow. The temperature is frigid and I am glad not to be in a hurry now. Taking Nora soon to take her written test to get her driver's learning permit. A certain milestone for me. I think of my father, who personally introduced all five of us to the responsibilities and perils of driving. Luckily for me, he was a good focussed driver- so I had an excellent teacher. I do remember being around 11 and driving back from Hebrew school with my father and my brother Frank- who must have been around 18 at the time. Dad was trying to teach Frank how to shift the gears on the car which my parents had recently acquired. It was a Renault Gordini that they had purchased for an excursion abroad. They used it for their trip and then shipped it home. I thought it was very classy of them to have such a novel idea. The car with its bug shape and sunroof in silver seemed very cool and European. My poor brother literally made the car jump as he figured out how to put in the clutch and shift the gears at the same time. My father did not lose his cool once. I wonder what kind of passenger I will be while my daughter is at the wheel.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Not a single one of my three children is dressed or left the premises for school and it is 9:06 a.m. on a Thursday morning. Sarah, who was supposed to be out the door first & in the car with me crawled into my bed at 7 and promptly asked me to rub her stomach. She didn't feel well and then shared that her science teacher just got over some horrible intestinal virus. Ten minutes later Jacob arrived, climbed in on the other side and announced he didn't feel well either with a whole host of ailments extending from a headache, to his throat and stomach. Neither one appeared feverish. Meanwhile, amazingly, James had made breakfast of scrambled eggs and cinnamon toast for Sarah but now that she is "too sick to eat anything!", he brought me her breakfast to eat in our bed. Comet jumped up on the end ever hopeful that the eggs will eventually be his. Well, it's not how I imagined this morning going at all. Welcome to my world. Nora has an excuse for being a layabout- her final is scheduled for noon and she has no other school obligations today. The snowing is falling in huge clumps and the house shows a few signs of life. I hear James stirring a spoon in a china cup, having a sip of something hot before he walks the dog. And thus the day begins.
I've been on the go lately. not too much time to ruminate on the state of our daily affairs. It's a certain boost to go into the world, see and do. Met Joyce in New york and had a little retail therapy at the Conran's store. A big sale was in progress and even with the discounts, things were mighty expensive. We each managed to find something and I chose to enrich my mind with a book about web design by the intriguing publishing company Tashen. A delicious lunch with my friend who brought me a very nice, new J. Crew sweaterjacket that she will not be using-and exactly what this under financed suburban mom needs. An elegant boost to her faded wardrobe. The train ride, subway and walking the long passageways. The mounted posters, the range of humanity gave me a jolt of worldly momentum. In the morning I had a chance to go my brother's house where he helped me retool my resume. He and his wife made such good, constructive comments, that a feeling of relief swept over me. I sound so much better on paper now that they have edited me. James and I will not move into the next phase of our work lives without help from others, and I feel like there is support for us. A lot to appreciate today.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A weekend of little sunshine and everyone is happy to enjoy the comforts of home. We are in the full frontal assault on our bathroom and it's very rewarding. This is a room I barely entered for 14 years and now, to try to make it nice feels great. Replacing the sink and medicine cabinet put us on the path to renweal. James and I benefit from having a project to work on together. I have spent most of the last few days stripping the window in our bath. Peeling away 80+ years of paint- to bring back the original wood reminds me of the effort involved in keeping things whole. The fact that neither one of us has a full time job hangs over me uncomfortably. When will this chapter come to a close and we are financially intact again?

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Glass House

I've been going through past photo c.d's,- seeking images for my Valentine. I think it's coming together and had a good meeting with my web designer, Tim Thayer at Eyebuzz. While rummaging, I found the images from my visit with James to Philip Johnson's Glass House and adjoining properties last fall. What an amazing setting! I loved having my camera, even if I was only the millionth person to take basically the same photos. What a universal response to record the special things we see.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's the a.m. Trying to get three kids out for school is it's own kind of insanity. Invariably someone doesn't feel well, doesn't need to go to school that day (we're not doing anything interesting today- really!!), or they couldn't sleep and why can't I go to school late.......? Small children have their own issues, but I'd take small ones over these larger cranky individuals most days. When they were little, all I had to do was invoke some higher power "Dad needs you to get up now- please!!" Now, if I touch upon my rage or frustration with their bed ridden affect- all I get is "Mom, go away!! You are so annoying!!" Such a pleasure- parenthood at 7:45 a.m. on Thursday, January 21st, 2010.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A turn around the yard today was really pleasant. Things are beginning to bud in the quietest of ways. The forsythia branches are changing color, and the lilacs tips are swelling ever so slightly. This will be their first spring in this setting, as we bought them upstate last April. I have been wanting lilacs forever- and last June was that much nicer that they were here, and that they bloomed. I shopped around and found a fair price of $125.00 for each- and we wanted four. That was out of my price point during our economic downturn so I looked on Craigslist for lilac shrubs for sale. James and I drove 60 miles north to the small nursery that ran the listing. Turned out to be a 2 acre site of shrubs and plants gathered and propagated by a gardener who tended nearby estates and the like. He had numerous lilacs, all colors and varieties and bi-colors, but we knew we wanted white and lavender. After the strolling the property and picking out 4 very respectable 5 ft. lilacs w asked him how much they cost, holding our breathe for his response. "$35.00 each" he told me. That was a happy day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another delicious meal

Made another delicious meal. Won't bore anyone with the details. James helped a lot with the cooking and did a great job. Nora sat and talked after dinner, even helped set the table with very little coaxing. She's very concerned about today's special election in Massachusetts to fill Ted Kennedy's seat. My liberal minded daughter with a lot of ideals- I appreciate her more of the time than not these days (except when she is driving us completely crazy). Moving through the to-do list and working on my Valentine. Wondering if this idea of mine will work or not. Here's hoping as I really like that feeling of one of my ideas panning out to be something, real, tangible and charming. Got to watch a lot of old movies- I'll say no more.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Loss & Gain

I just lost the post I was finishing. That's a letdown. It's the re-grouping to put a better spin on things. The post was all about austerity and what a year of living on unemployment has been like. While my husband was terminated in January of 09- technically his severance lasted until the end of May. So, it's not quite a year at that- it only feels that way. We have been keeping it simple with as many amenities as I can conjure up and a lot of do-it-yourself activity takes place around here. We finally started updating our master bath. In the process we have replaced the sink (found on Craigslist), installed hardware we had purchased years ago and now have full use of our shower. Last month, James and I took a steamy one together when it was back up and running. Now that's been heavenly. I go across the hall to the girls' rooms a little as possible. Between their pets- Napoleon the rabbit and Eloise the rat- and the clutter and all their stuff strewn across their bath- I escape back to our side and marvel that my bathroom through some elbow grease and thrifty procuring is becoming so nice. Blessings are appreciated greatly these days.

Higher Learning

I've learned a thing or two about stretching a dollar. It started when my son was two, my housekeeper wanted to quit and help her daughter with her first grandchild, and my career imploded and my business began to disappear. Full time motherhood of 3 kids under 8 doesn't exactly bode well for being a chic, talented New York City commercial photographer. Ever since then, we have had some ups and downs- but certainly I got prepared for this last year. Since my husband, James, lost his job a year ago we have both been marginally unemployed ever since. I have been mastering the art of squeezing dimes, grateful for our healthy home equity line at 3%, relatives who have helped us give the kids the extras that Westchester county children so desperately require. Nora got her minimal retainer with the help of our dental insurance and my eldest can never say her mother didn't insure that she would have a lovely set of teeth (especially when she smiles wide) . Motherhood is a balancing act of many sets of expectations, your own, your kids, and everyone else's. (My husband's expectations rate very high also, most of the time). Keeping them in jeans whose fit they like- always bought with some kind of discount, trying to have candlelit dinners most nights and all else in between.
Optimism needs nurturing also, to stay alive.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Primrose Joy


It's been a strange few days. I decided to try to apply for food stamps and spent more than a few hours in White Plains navigating lines, forms and personnel. I had a very nice caseworker who patiently explained to me that as we have a home equity line which I have been tapping into- we are not eligible for aid. Amazing how you need to be beyond destitute and ultimately unstable to get any help. Seeing the range of humanity was startling. I had a meeting at Mariani's Greenhouse yesterday about my photographs. They were charmed by my images and discussion followed by how we might work together. I was dazed by the contrasts of White Plains, to attacking our bathroom tile with James, to my visit to the most exquisite nursery in Armonk that I have ever seen. (Sort of if Bergdorf Goodman sold plants with home goods mixed in.)  Life full of diverse experiences. I left my second trip to social services in White Plains today mystified and discouraged by the bureaucracy of modern life. Decided to fill our emptying cupboards with crackers, pasta, canned treats and bought lots of fruits to tempt the kids. My big splurge was a primrose on sale for $1.66. Repotted into an Italian flower pot I bought during more flush days at the gift shop at Viscaya in Florida. (The reminders of past affluence.) While James used the tile saw to work on our bathroom and I held the light to illuminate the precise cutting required we missed a few calls. My caseworker from White Plains left a message that she is trying to figure out how to help us and that I need to come back tomorrow. I'm grateful for her interest in our circumstances and wonder what will happen next. These are certainly strange times.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nothing like a quiet Sunday in my tidy kitchen to give me a sense of calm. Trying to figure out how to apply for jobs,
food stamps, hustle my photography and move our lives forward. Not a lot of freedom from anxiety in our busy household.
Splurged today on 6 harp ornaments at Macy's- reduced from $10.00 to $2.50 per- added to my drapes as a decorative accents gives the living room a little more pizazz. The struggle is to be hopeful and determined and not relinquish my sense of well being in all this uncertainty. It's very easy to blame myself for losing track of my career while raising three kids, When James lost his job it became crystal clear how vulnerable we are. Oh, we are nowhere near losing our home- just our morale has taken a beating.
Motherhood is not a good financial investment, that's for sure. But when they stroll into a room looking very comfortable in their own skin, with a steady gaze, stature and voices to match. I think, well, I didn't really waste those years- I just lost some financial well being and the ego boost to match. This is the challenge. After feeling desperately low- I need to create something better each day. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sometimes a day can feel like the worst day ever. Gratitude eludes me and difficult feelings engulf me. There's nothing more to say.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Somehow another day can be different- and luckily today feels better. Having routines return, a little privacy goes a long way. When the kids are home on break, all the hanging out dissipates me. I can't quite focus on anything too involved- my functioning level is best left at cooking, laundry and trying to move the day along. When they leave for school, my vista broadens and I can let my imagination roam free. Somewhere, the current of creativity is coursing through me but slowing down enough, the internal quiet I need to tap in to it completely evades me. In my earlier, single life making art was my hobby, pastime and obsession.
Now, I try to shoehorn artistic endeavors around the swirl of chaos created by 3 children, husband, chores, pets, dramas and problems. Not very inspired. I miss the closeness I felt to some other part of myself when I was involved in creating. Let's see if I can tap into it again.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's a tough morning. Jacob is struggling in math and insists he is not smart. Very hard to deal with the sad feelings I have for him. Like many parents, you want to wave a magic wand and make it better- and the fact is that we have other problems, all running at the same time. It's nothing that a snappy magazine article can help or the supportive ear of a friend- it's something we have to tough out as a family- and that's all there is to it. I have to learn how to turn this around, and only change and hard work will make it happen. I owe to my family and to myself to brave these challenges.

Monday, January 4, 2010

It's not a good day. It's not awful either. I am restless and unable to settle my attention on anything. It hurts, hurts painfully to admit my sorry condition. Running errands makes me feel purposeful and momentarily engaged and thus relieved of my hardest feelings. Motherhood absorbed me completely and now that my children are older, I am relieved of the need to be utterly vigilant. But to what end? And with what do I absorb my energies? My photography business is adrift- just like me. This has to be a better year- it must. Scraping together determination, selfishness and desire is the mandate of the moment. Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


A cold Sunday and the last day of Christmas vacation. I had a spat with my daughter Sarah today and she stomped out of the room after declaring "I hate you." Sometimes the effort of keeping them going seems like a questionable investment of my time. On a certain level, her ability to share her thoughts unedited amazes me. I had many difficult feelings towards my mother, but I don't recall ever expressing them out loud. I was too intimidated by her  to ever feel that emboldened by my emotions to tell her what I really thought. So I am sad, weary and hoping that the transition back to our school routine isn't too rocky. My children are no longer babies, we don't live in Kansas, and as much as I don't want to admit it, I have serious doubts that motherhood is a very worthwhile endeavor. Once, as a young adult, I asked my mom what she thought of motherhood. "Overrated", she replied.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Another day, the same frustration

Here we are, midday with only one person still in bed. I am prepared for many things that life involves, but terminally sleeping
teenagers is not one of them. It's not the Valley of the Damned, but it's a little weird. Plus it's a foregone conclusion that by sleeping in so late- they will be up late again tonight. Why should they be tired at midnight- they have only been up 11 hours.
Jacob is addicted (perhaps too harsh a term- strongly attached...) to his video gaming. He really can be lost without it, and then gets very angry when he is not allowed to play. Sometimes, he cries when he is playing out of anger with his lack of success at killing...animated characters moving at lightning speed. He crumpled up his sandwich, threw it on the floor and disappeared in to his room. He will recover, I know. But as his mother it is heartbreaking to watch and I worry that his brain is fundamentally ill-equipped to manage his difficult feelings. In school, wearing his social mask he manages well. The kid has emotional smarts on a wordly level. At home, free to express his darker moments I see how hard it is for him to manage failure. So many lessons most of which are so hard to learn.

Friday, January 1, 2010

I promised myself I would try and write everyday. I'm not going to be profound- it's New Year's Day and other than make a delicious dinner, drive my son to a friend's house, pick up a prescription, scope out CVS, return a library book (not overdue),
change the bed linen (well strip the bed, wash the bed linen, into the dryer and whisk it all back on to the bed (now neatly made)
[did I mention how I have become addicted to silk pilllowcases. Stop judging me- they are amazing]. Oh yes, food shopping with my nephew, return and pick up movie (love that Redbox), make a deadly good batch of margaritas after tracking down an open liquor store with same nephew (treating us to the bottle) at the liquor store on Main Street. (The fourth time is the charm- or never, ever give up). Watching Sarah at dinner who has grown 2 inches in the last 3 months "I am so full I could burst!" as her tall stringy frame clears her plate and heads through the swinging kitchen door and back to her favorite enclave, her room. 5 faces at the dinner table, mostly pleased. Her eminence, Nora, lamenting that her vegetarian curry was not sufficiently curry. As they drank their ginger ale, and enjoyed the savory food. I asked them each about their resolutions. James readily contributed-"Get a job".
To which I added "me too!"
Did I mention photographing the light fixture in our bathroom and checking out a toilet on Craigslist.
Turn outs our toilet is really nice and it make no sense to replace it. And now we can look in to having our light fixtures re-plated in polished nickel at a place in Minneapolis- (but we have to send a photo to confirm estimate). Could be cheaper- and I like our light fixtures. I just want them in a different metal finish. Ah, the trivial concerns of your average mom. Along with craving world peace. Thus our year begins.