m wood pen

i like to draw



10.25.11 something's coming

lately, my daughter and i have been re-investigating the world of carrie bradshaw, from the very beginning.

yes, i know that it’s no rob and laura petrie in plot lines and content, but she’s 16 and it’s a weird world and i’m full of lectures about don’t do what you see, make good choices, etc.  at this point, she’s the one telling me to close my eyes!

so, as none of my kids watched sex and the city in it’s beginning (that would have been cause for a call to dcfs for goodness sakes!), corey and i kill time by carrying out a satc sort of archaeological dig.  in the name of science, humanity and a serious study of life in the 21st century, it’s just another mantle of motherhood, right?

man, these early episodes are kind of dorky and rough. carrie talking directly to the camera? ridiculous and awkward.  the clothes?  not yet maturing into each characters’ signature looks.  the clubs and restaurants? too stark and threadbare and not at all nyc opulent and cool enough. mr. big’s foppish hair?  cringe-worthy.  miranda?  still as gross as ever.  while i love cynthia nixon’s acting, i can never hear her dialogue as the moment she pops up on the tv screen, my kids bellow and howl and scream.  they’re not fans.

a few years ago, we were in new york for a spectacular college tour & spring adventure.  dashing through nyu & barnard, we cleared the calendar one day in particular, which we call the ‘scroll day’, running around the place with my great ny pal, rhonda, checking off lists of things that hallie and corey were determined to do.  see ‘mood’ from project runway (we even saw the little dog!); nibble steak frites at pastis; pausing, barefoot, beneath the arch in washington square in an ode to corey’s namesake; stopping by again at the plaza to see eloise; (where one can only think of katie & hubbell and that bittersweet farewell), accepting an invitation to see sondheim on sondheim from vanessa williams; plus a host of other film-inspired activities.

and the culmination: recreating the pivotal satc scene where steve and miranda, their marriage in peril, decide to meet on the halfway point of the brooklyn bridge to show their solidarity in making ‘it work’.

i can’t even stop laughing as i type this.  the bridge, much longer than the girls realized (we were tired after a long day), was stuffed full of tourists.  (which we, of course, weren’t).  then there was the issue of deciding who would portray miranda, and who steve.  they’re not favs of either, so it really wasn’t too hard to settle after all.  with rhonda holding the video camera, and me doing my best marty scorcese as the director, the scene began to roll.  both girls put on their most earnest love facial expressions, weaved through the oncoming throngs of pedestrians.  i hope i’m not messing this up, but i think corey was playing steve, so she took on his schlumpy sort of shuffley walk, head downcast, eyes peeking up above his nose, brooklyn behind her.  hallie, dressed appropriately in brown (miranda’s favorite color, apparently), did whatever she could to channel her character as she strode, determinedly across manhattan side of the bridge.  yes, people were staring.  but we’re used to that.  we knew, once we made the commitment to reenact this cheesy scene that we were risking making spectacles of ourselves.

so, lights, camera, action: hilarity as usual and the shot was perfect in the first attempt.  the culmination, of course, a weepy hug as our hero and heroine (portrayed, shakespeare style, but same gendered thespians) in the very middle of the majestic brooklyn bridge.

so why am i writing about this?  as usual, i got sidetracked.  what i was going to say was that sometimes i feel like that carrie who poses insane and unanswerable questions to the universe…we see the letters appear across her ‘laptop screen’, and then she ponders for a while, and then the show zooms to the plot, and somewhere, she ends up wrapping up the whole bit in a few wise words as the credits roll.

sure, i’m creative. i could write my own script ahead of time and portray the roll, do the casting and get just the right person in here with me, even come up with my own bright, contented final act.  but that hasn’t worked in the past, so instead, i’ll just sit and throw the question out to the universe, so carrie-like, and say, is it just me, or does the idea of a happy ever after seem cliche and sorely out of reach?

naw, that seems weird.  really, i’m more a pollyanna.  don’t tell my girls, but that cheesy meet-me-halfway-on-the-brooklyn-bridge brings me to the same reaction every time: pinched heart, eyes stinging with tears, a blubbering mess: oh look, oh love: two people ready to work that hard, to see their faces all hopeful and earnest and longing and willing?  and then, so relieved, so happy, so committed?

yes, i’m a sucker for a happy ending, so i’ll take the reverse argument.  something’s coming, something good…i just don’t know what it is yet.


10.19.11 10.19.90

last night there was much teasing and lots of eye rolling.  much merriment, a mexican feast, and the always amusing gift-opening fun.

the occasion was a festive dinner in the city on the eve of my sons 21st birthday.  the eye rolls belonged to his two sisters.  granted, that’s the cool part about siblings & a goofball parent: teasing is part of the turf…life’s too short not to have thick skin and a sense of humor, right?

the trouble started when, chatting about the day at hand, noel said that it hadn’t hit him yet…it didn’t feel like his birthday yet…he didn’t feel 21…none of the right stuff had kicked in yet to have him leap into that knowing that comes to you, just one day a year, that it’s your friggin’ day, bring in all of the balloons, stacks of present, shiny toys, sparkling ribbons, back slaps and rounds of dos equis.  it was my reply to his statement that got the gals guffawing.

i shrugged, smiled, and said, “well, you won’t feel it until 5:55.”

he smiled and said, “i know!”

and that was it, bam, open the doors of raw, rough, hilarious teasing….and knowing it was coming, i waved absently to hallie and said, “mid-afternoon” and pointed to corey, barely taking a break from enjoying some spectacular guacamole, “late-morning.”  eye rolls, eye rolls, and a blast of words flying out faster than a rocket ship to the moon.

you see, the issue at hand, and it’s no secret so i can blab about it on the internet, is that i’m just a bit fuzzy when it comes to remembering some kind of important information…like, well, the exact time that my 2nd and 3rd babies were born.

i know…i can say, well, i was heavily drugged; or your father’s watch was broken; or i was too consumed with euphoric joy i forgot to ask the time; or the nurse was blocking the clock; or…or…or…or.

these girls are smart.  none of those are going to fly, trust me: i’ve probably tried throwing out those, and more, excuses over the last 19 and 16 years…none of them stick.  and i’m a lousy liar.  the truth is that i know hallie arrived in the middle of the afternoon, so at least there’s that.  i had been in excruciating pain and figure that if i can at least come up with a chunk of time, that’s pretty good.  corey, well, i tried going into this over dinner, but they begged me to shut up…but that girl arrived like a cannonball and i was so shaken and wiped out, i (unusual for me) turned down the offer of a nice lunch.  so, sleuthing with that clue, i know she was born a bit before lunch time.  see?  i’m sort of close, right?

really, there’s no form of apology i can conjure up at this point in time: it’s just a fact of our lives that there’s only one moment in time that is etched into my old brain and bones, and it has nothing to do with which child (are you listening, gals?), i swear!  and as a coda of vital truth: this little issue of memorizing time on a clock has nothing to do with the absolute singular truth: i love ’em all exactly the same!

what sets mr. 5:55 apart from the pack is, of course, a lot to do with him, but more directly, it has to do with me.  and his dad (cuz let me share the spotlight here: i’ll bet you he’s as fuzzy on those times, too!).

5:55 was the moment that it all began.  that my life changed inalterably, infinitely, profoundly.

from just me…city girl, college grad, sibling, fun friend, interior designer, wife…then omg flip the world up on end and look at what has just happened and it was of course all our idea but bam, this terrifyingly intensely important overwhelming undeniable moniker: i was a mother.


and so, here it is.  the baby needs you, you drop EVERYTHING, and take care of the baby.  there’s no “me first” anymore.  you’re only as happy as your saddest child.  they’re hungry, you give them the last cracker.  and you’re actually glad to do it!  your social life, your vacations, your holidays, your sleep patterns, your bank account all do a flippity-flip in one fell swoop. the ride began.

and the ride continues.  speaking of rides, i was just mulling over the momentous goings on of today, and browsing facebook at the same time.  i spotted some posts that told of great things: a fancy house addition, an exotic trip abroad, a to-die-for hot new expensive car….wow, look at the cool stuff some of my friends are up to.  right?  then my brain shifted a bit to life as i know it.  none of that for me, and i found this profound joy in feeling and understanding the beauty of sacrifice.

this summer, i was waving a 20.00 bill around madly.  one of these crazy kids needed some cash, AGAIN, so i pulled some money out of my wallet, with a snarky comment, “maybe one of these days my money will actually be spent on me!”  the three of them looked at each other, more eye rolling, and laughed. someone grabbed the do-re-mi, and off they went.

so despite my wisenheimer, smart-alecky wise-cracks, they know that i couldn’t imagine life with only me.  take the money and run, take my shoes, take the dog (please!), take my love and my nurturing and zoom on to a fabulously wonderful happy life.  the privilege is all mine, trust me.

so, 21 years ago today, well, he was ambling on his way to fill his lungs with air and sparkle his eyes of blue and stretch his go go go strong legs and reach those adorable plump hands into the air.  and me?  taking a big deep breath, the biggest one i’d ever felt compelled to take, and just getting on with it.

can you measure love?  can you measure joy?  can you measure any of it?  i think i can, not by acquiring or owning or buying or flying or getting: but by giving.  and watching.  and feeling.  and knowing.  love.  it’s always and only love.


10.14.11 keith urban & cowboys

strangely enough, i think it started with donny & marie. for real: my love for cowboys, the open plains, & the heart-twisting real luvin’ & loss twang of country music.

back in high school, a pivotal moment in my life was co-hosting the senior variety show with a pal of mine…in the zany early styles of snl improv…time to put on a show.

the challenge was to come up with an opening number that was going to get the crowd rollin’ and ready for a two hour feast of the high school seniors and their top notch talent…a medley of duets (dust in the wind, can you tell the year?), riffs on the new show snl, ensemble chorale numbers all dressed up as lunch room ladies, a mirror ball sparkling disco number and a sprinkling of some lucy and desi-like comic moments.  long live variety: this was in the day of the carol burnett show, sonny & cher, the tail end of the lawrence welk show and still sniffing the dust left by dean martin, jackie gleason and lawrence welk. and a one and a two….

how to open this show in a inimitable, unforgettable way?

zooming in on the iconic moves of a very popular show at the time, we decided to mimic the inexplicable opening ice skating number performed by donny & marie from their show, named, imaginatively, “the donny and marie show”!

ice skates, right…it was the 70s!

since the theatre in the round of barrington high school didn’t have the capability of being frozen, terry and i donned roller skates…again, it was the 70s.  dressed in matching tuxedos (i can’t remember where we were going with that one…), the lights dimmed, the house hushed, the music soared, and the two of us appeared, with care as we made our way down a few steps, in a fantastical duet of “i’m a little bit country, and i’m a little bit rock and roll”, all the while whirling in loops around the stage.  the crowd went wild!

that’s entertainment!

a big fan of rock, terry took the donny role with gusto, and while i was a stranger to this thing called country, i managed to perfect the sweet little tangy twang that marie spun her early southern-inspired pieces as i sang my part of the song.  hmmm, maybe i was a natural.  well, at liking that genre, certainly not at roller skating!

fast forward a few months.  i’m a freshman in college, loving the open fields as my parents drove me west, not awfully far, to mt. vernon, iowa.  hello cornell college.  hello block plan.  hello legal drinking age and managing to enjoy the taste of beer.  again, it was iowa.

now, i knew nothing about this land that i landed in.  i picked the school for two reasons: it was in the 200 mile radius of home, a prerequisite for my parents who had 4 more kids to send to college with no extra do-re-mi for airplane rides…and the other reason: the campus looked like a sleepy new england enclave.

pre-google, pre-computer, pre-my learning that it’s sort of cool and fun to research a place before you move there, i landed smack dab into a place that had a vernacular that i’d only heard whispers about: southern accents?  farmers?  combines?  harvestore big blue tall silo thingys?  chicken fried steak? country music?

i remember the first time i spent an afternoon at joe’s international airport.  yes, it was a bar.  still is, though someone had the ridiculous idea to change it’s name.  stupid.  but, there i was, hanging out with my new friends, when one of them suggested i play some music.

no, i did not have a guitar (though boast being able to play the harmonica), but i did have some quarters.  off i went to the juke box, and plunk plunk plunk, deposited my coins and scanned through the list of songs.  and scanned.  and scanned.  and searched.  for a long time.

what is this thing that is going on, i thought.  where was journey?  reo speedwagon?  eric carmen? cat stevens & james taylor?  nowhere to be found.  instead, i read name after name that conjured up an unknown, far away land, a place where men wore large dark hats and women made pies and wiped their woes away with a kerchief.

this was all country.  merle haggard?  what?

so, it appears that i was now signed up for four years of country music, and some sort of cultural shift.  i looked slowly around the bar, taking special note of the pickled pigs feet that were the days featured bar snack.


finding only one name that i recognized, i pushed the buttons that would bring willy nelson’s comforting, not too foreign, voice to sooth my troubled soul.  walking back to my friends, i remember feeling slightly off-kilter (and it wasn’t the beer!)

fast forward, man, because that’s the fun part of looking back so far.  i see that things turned out just fine.  not only did i manage to get used to it, i learned to love it.  bring on the cheesy variety show starring barbara mandrel and the mandrel sisters (i’m not joking)…find me riding shotgun in one of many pick up trucks i’d spent time in, searching for just the right cowboy hat…dig that leather fringed jacket that still reeks of campfire.  and as my heart grew, opened, and got broken more times than i can count, guess what soothes me into healing and trying again?

yep, country music.

and so, with that kick start to luvin’ the whole thing, tonight is a really big deal.  i’m shining my nashville cowboy boots, tugging on my bootcut jeans, hitching up my big shiny buckle on my silver studded belt, throwing on a tank top & a checkered flannel….and soaking up a night with my trusted cool 16 year old sidekick for an evening with, be still my heart, keith urban.

bring it on, yes, i’m more than a little bit country, after all.


10.09.11 lights, camera, action

so, where was i?

yes, my pal and i had consoled ourselves post “audition” by wrapping up plans for a once in a lifetime-not to be missed-better catch it while you can-road trip south.  the purpose?  to tread happily into the world of branson, missouri…to see, “live and in person”: the inimitable andy williams.

i’m not kidding.

to set the mood and savor the anticipation eileen and i were feeling, here’s a transcript from an email, outlining the itinerary and accommodations for our one night only stay (and we were both trying not to think about the 9 hour each way drive…come on: it’s andy williams!)

“just hung up with branson…ladonna was real helpful and recommended staying across the street from the theatre since we’re going to have a long drive that day…$75.66 each for ticket and lodging and the hotel comes with a nice breakfast…now, the theatre has some stairs so she wanted to make sure we were ok with that…and she recommends eating at the moon river restaurant next to the property…andy williams owns it and it’s not a chain restaurant…it’s a little upscale but has very good food…ladonna’s office is open until 9 pm…they like to make sure everyone gets settled in after the shows so nobody is stranded.  i knew that was going to be a great phone call…”

back to real life (not that we were absent from it for more than an hour and a half), i was at the beauty parlor (i don’t really call it that, but to match the andy williams prep mood, i thought a kitschy handle suited my story) getting fresh highlights so i’d look my best for andy, the phone rang. since i never answer if i don’t recognize the caller, i waited a few minutes and then listened to the voicemail.

i got the part!

again, not really a “part”, well, certainly not a speaking one, but this fellow was breathlessly explaining that they wanted me to come to the shoot to be a teacher, in no doubt, a pivotal scene.  i clutched a chair to remain steady, this was hollywood calling!  (well, actually, some casting dude in the north side of chicago, but still…)  the adrenaline was on high gear, when suddenly i felt my heart drop.  the day he mentioned, the day i’d sketched to memory due to it’s kookie significance, was exactly the day of the andy williams christmas show in branson.


i called eileen immediately to discuss the pickle.

she had been offered a part as well (the principal, my my), but had gently let the man know that she was unable to be on the shoot that day, that she had other plans, but thank you anyway.

i was silent.  eileen sensed a simmering unease, and said, gently, “you’d rather go to the shoot, wouldn’t you?”

what?  could i lie?  how to choose?  this was like the story of solomon or whoever it was that suggested those people slice their baby in half: how on earth could i pick one, and why couldn’t i have both??

i thought, for a millisecond (i think really fast, in vivid color, too), and said, “yes.”

she laughed, told me that the deposit to branson was 10.00 and that if i could wrangle both of our parts back from casting man, she’d happily embrace hollywood and save andy for another year (which, we both knew, was a risky venture).

i called the man back, he and i had a laugh over the issue at hand, “well, seeing andy williams would be sort of cool…”, and he moved mountains (probably looked briefly at his clipboard), and said that yes, we could both be at the shoot, that eileen’s part was still available, and then went on to give me a top secret phone number which, when called, would reveal the date, locale, wardrobe instructions, et al, for the day of on the set with matt damon!  omg!

we were on!

and now, i really have to stop short, again.  a busy day here in my crazy life compels me to leave, but i promise i’ll get to the heart of the matter when i have time.  it’s sure to be the stuff of metro goldwyn mayer, after all: doesn’t art imitate life, or is it the other way around?

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