Thursday, January 29, 2009

25 random things about me

I wasn't going to do the "25 random things" note that kept getting passed around on Facebook, but after being tagged a number of times, I realized I was enjoying reading 25 random things about my friends. A lot of them made me laugh out loud and I learned some things I didn't know about people who are close to me. So I gave it a try. It was fun to do and I thought I might as well include it here as well:

1. I was born feet first, no c-section.
2. I used to think I couldn't smell, but since having kids, I've realized I can smell strong smells ever so slightly. But still not stinky diapers, so that comes in handy.
3. My great uncle was a slightly famous geologist who helped discover plate tectonics. Now that I live in Los Angeles (and have already experienced several quakes), I hope there is never cause for it to be written about me that my relationship to him was ironic.
4. I had my fifteen minutes of fame when I wrote a co-wrote a children's book with my mom in DC (Cecily Cicada). We were on the radio and television and did a number of school tours. When I look at the book now, I can't believe how little Evie looks in it.
5. Most of my memories from growing up involve Lake Champlain or the woods.
6. Probably the closest I ever came to dying was in a shower at Becky's host family's house in Ecuador where they had a metal switch to turn on and off the hot water IN the shower. As I was in the shower, I reached up to turn it off (brilliant) and was stuck to the metal lever for several seconds (due to the electrical current flowing through my hands) before I was able to pry myself off and stumble out of the shower.
7. I wrote in my diary that I'd marry Toby after our first date.
8. I consider myself an environmentalist, but I've realized recently that all I do to help the environment these days is buy organic food and bring my grocery bags to the store. I'd like to get more involved.
9. I can't read The Lorax by Dr. Seuss without crying.
10. I am the Youth Education Director at our (very progressive and open-minded) church, which would've shocked me ten years ago since I went to church twice a year before meeting Toby and hadn't even heard of Unity until a few years ago.
11. The cops shut down my wedding.
12. I wish I had more time to take art classes. I miss painting and drawing.
13. My favorite food in the world is the brownie pudding dessert at Basin Harbor Club in Vermont.
14. I've always wanted to be a great dancer. Unfortunately, I have no rhythm. But I still like to dance.
15. When I was in college, a guy fell off the roof 8 floors above us and landing on the cafeteria roof right outside of our window. My roomates and I looked at him, with bones sticking out and everything, and started screaming. He came back to visit us several months later. He was fine but one inch shorter. He said he didn't realize how bad it was until we all took a look at him and screamed.
16. I've run 2 1/2 marathons - the San Diego Rock'n'Roll, Nashville Country Music (with Toby), and Frederick 1/2.
17. I love it when the girls kiss, hug, read to each other, or show their love for each other in any way.
18. I don't even remember what it's like to sleep in on a weekend.
19. When I went into labor with Noni, I was fairly confident after delivering two babies naturally. I ended up doing a bridge on the table and the doctor said she'd never seen that before. It hurt more than I could've ever imagined. I wasn't planning on 9 lbs.
20. Probably the hardest I've ever laughed is at camp with Janna when we snuck in to the cafeteria to get some extra milk and then Janna couldn't get the milk, which was pouring all over the floor, to stop coming out of the faucet.
21. I think every day about how nice it would be for my girls to grow up closer to our families, especially their cousins (on both sides), and how I wish I could know my friends' children better. I can't believe some of my best friends have children I've never even met.
22. I have seen Machu Picchu at sunrise.
23. Evie slept in our bed until she was two, Lucy until she was four, and now Noni comes in our bed in the middle of the night. It would be nice to sleep through the night, but I'll be sad when Noni grows out of it. (Even thinking that makes me consider four, but it's a thought that I can put to rest simply by looking at the laundry pile.)
24. The worst job I ever had was probably being a maid for a summer in Wyoming. Living on a ranch in Wyoming was an amazing experience, but being a maid was not. I won't get into details. You can imagine.
25. I like the quote Jen used here and am stealing it: "You only get one shot at this, so make the most of it!"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sister speak

When Evie and Lucy first learned to speak, almost everything they said was an imitation of what they heard from me. For years, both of them asked me to "hold you" in response to my question, "Do you want me to hold you?" As I wrote in a prior post, number three often experiences life a little bit differently. Noni is starting to string more words together now and I've noticed that, rather than learning from me, Noni's speech patterns mimic her those of her big sisters. This morning, she handed me a box of cereal and asked, "Can you help me?" Her question was not a response to me asking her from time to time, "Do you want me to help you?" but instead an imitation of Evie and Lucy asking me for help. At the playground, she has started yelling over to me, "Mama, watch this!" as she plays in the sand. She's heard the phrase over and over from her sisters at the park as they swing on the swings or do flips around the monkey bars. While learning from her sister's may teach Noni the correct personal pronouns, she not necessarily learning to be polite. Her other favorite sentence these days? "Watch show. Elmo. Now!"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Evie's poem

Memories of Maryland are swirling around my head,
I keep them like a treasure box.
I remember climbing a high in tree with my friends
and up there in the tree I felt safe.
-poem by Evie

When I read about Evie feeling "safe" in a tree with her friends, I couldn't help but thinking back to the day she and Jasper and Susannah climbed up the tree by the rec center in Frederick. It's a tall pine tree and I stood under it with Jasper and Susannah's moms talking about how we need to just let them climb and how kids need more freedom from their parents these days. Suddenly an object that looked just like Jasper's coat came flying through the air and landed with a loud "thud" on the ground. All three moms suffered a collective heart attack before realizing that Jasper had just thrown down his backpack.

Despite our interpretation of the tree being potentially unsafe, Evie must have felt comforted being up there with her friends, secluded from the world. I think she also felt safe because she was so connected with nature, clinging to the branches of a pine tree. It's a good reminder to me both to allow her to take risks (such as climbing across the tree house, over the roof and down the orange tree to get to our neighbor's house) and also to spend more time in nature. Toby recently wrote in his blog about how our whole family benefits from nature and Evie's poem speaks to that as well.

Monday, January 19, 2009

If you're happy and you know it

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared - Buddha

A month ago, a study came out about happiness. Turns out, happiness is contagious and there is "a direct relationship between one person's happiness and another's." If one person is happy, that person's friend has a 15% higher chance of feeling happiness herself. What they didn't study is: What happens if a whole country is suddenly happy? What if almost a million people are so happy that they start singing and dancing to "shout" on the Washington Mall? What if thousands of people across the country gather to do acts of community service and leave feeling the positive energy that comes with working as a community for a common purpose? What if old stereotypes are broken down and people start to feel freer and more alive because of it?

There is a new energy swirling around these days. I saw it at church on Sunday when our pastor spoke of the age of transcendence and people listened with tears in their eyes. I saw it when we sat on the couch, listening to a huge sing-a-long of "this land is your land" on the Lincoln Memorial. I saw it today when over a hundred people, old and young, picked up their shovels and gardening gloves and worked together to beautify the Sherman Oaks Library.

The economy is in shambles. We are still fighting an unpopular war. Every day we wake up to news of failing schools, global warming, terrorism in the middle east, and hundreds of other sad and scary stories. But I'm wondering, what will happen if we can channel this energy, this hope, this enthusiasm, this newfound sense of community spirit? What if, by all feeling joy together, our happiness increases by 50%, 100%, more than that? Joy like that can't help but lift us out of our current state and even spread across the world.

Obama is just a man and he alone can only do so much. But he has started a spark that is quickly spreading. I'm looking forward to seeing where it takes us.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The sound of music

When I was in college, I was passionate about music. My walls were plastered with Pearl Jam posters and I cried when Diana and I saw them live at the Orpheum. I spent hours making mixed tapes with music from the latest bands - Mudhoney, Nirvana, Alice in Chains. On weekends, we ventured out to hear whatever college band was playing - Big Head Todd, The Samples, Dave Matthews, God Street Wine. When songs from that time come on the radio, I find myself traveling in time and suddenly I am listening to my Walkman on a run in Wyoming, or driving to the beach in the Cape or sitting in my dorm room and hanging out with friends. If you asked me to list some bands from the 90s, I could list dozens and probably sing whole albums as well.

Toby works with a number of guys who are at least ten years younger than we are and really into music. The other week, his co-worker listed his top ten albums of 2007. So over a year old now. Here is the list from his blog (

Top Ten Albums of 2007 (no order):

Panda Bear - Person Pitch
Dr. Dog - We All Belong
The Forms - S/T
Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
Field Music - Tones of Town
Lil’ Wayne - Carter III Sessions
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Office - A Night At The Ritz
The Cribs - Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever
Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga

Soooooo. I've heard of MGMT. I'd recognize their songs, but I don't actually know which ones they sing on my own. Other than that, most of them aren't even vaguely familiar. Such is the state of my musical interest and knowledge these days. Pathetic.

Oh, it's not that I don't ever hear music. I am quite familiar with all things Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers and High School Musical (1, 2 AND 3). But I can't even blame the girls' musical taste for my lack of knowledge about new music because when they aren't in the car, here's what I do: listen to NPR. Or, even worse, turn of the radio. Have I completely and totally turned into a mom? Am I that different from the person I was in college? I remember my own mom asking me to turn down the volume in the car all those years ago. I was indignant - how could she not want to listen to Kurt Cobain singing/screaming about teen spirit at the top of his lungs?

I know that I still can enjoy music. On Tuesday, we headed out to Hotel Cafe to hear my friend Coby Brown play. I loved being in a small club (the extra cool kind where you have to walk into a back alley like you're getting mugged and then enter through the back door) and listening to live music. It's just that it isn't as much a regular part of my life as it used to be.

Perhaps as the girls get older and my need to finish a train of thought in silence is diminished, my passion for music will come back? Could this be the year, as I hope to do with art in my life, that I reclaim music as well? We'll see. I'm heading out now to pick up Lucy at school. Maybe I'll do something crazy like listen to music along the way.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Reclaiming art in my life

"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." - Pablo Picasso

When I was pregnant for the first time, I spent a summer at our house in DC without much to do. I had decided against teaching summer school due to the school's lack of an air conditioner and my growing need for one and Evie wasn't due until September. During that time, I kept thinking about how all I wanted to do was paint. I was itching to drive off somewhere with a canvas and some oil paints and spend a day lost in a painting. I knew, however, that my pregnant belly and I would have to stay away from the toxic materials required for oil painting and I consoled myself with the thought that soon enough I'd have a perfect subject to paint.
Little did I know that seven years later I still wouldn't have picked up a brush. Or a sketching pencil. Or a pastel stick. Or pretty much anything art-related that wasn't wrapped in paper with "Crayola" written down the side.

Last year, in an attempt to help me get some art back in my life, Toby gave me a coupon for a photography class for Christmas. Due to his work schedule, a new baby, moving and now the girls' basketball schedule, the class has yet to happen. However, I'm determined that this is the year that I will reclaim art in my life. I've thought about it every year, especially around this time of year, but even this year I left it off my New Year's Resolution List (see "2009" entry) because I felt it would be too big of a challenge to try to fit it in. Then this week it hit me that the time will never be right unless I make it a priority. And just as quickly as that decision was made, it's suddenly falling into place.

I still can't take the class, but with a little creativity, I'll still be improving my photography skills this year. I ordered a book on digital photography this week. Two friends and I are starting a photography "club", where we'll meet once a month to compare photos we've taken based on that month's "assignment".

And then today, Sarah and I took the girls and Ethan to the LACMA to expose all of us to some works of art. When we went to the Getty a few months ago, Evie declared that she "liked everything but the art" so I had low expectations for the day. In an attempt to combat their restlessness in the museum, I bought the girls all blank notebooks and brought them to the museum with the assignment of sketching their favorite work from each exhibit. To my surprise, they loved it. I had to drag them out of each room (since Noni wasn't quite as engaged) and they came home with notebooks filled with their own sketches. That won't be our last trip to the LACMA this year.

I've also decided that once every two weeks, while Noni is napping, I will pick up a paintbrush (seven years rusty!) and paint. It sounds like a modest goal, but truthfully, it won't be easy. It's hard to walk by crumbs on the floor and a dangerously teetering pile of laundry during the one hour of a day that I have free to clean.

Stinky laundry or not, I'm determined to meet my goal. If I don't do it now, when will I? I've always pictured art as something that would constantly enrich my life, not something to be left for my retirement. And, as I've learned to do with exercise, I need to realize that the time that I take for myself to do art is actually time that I'm giving to my family. Evie and Lucy spend hours each day drawing, painting, and making sculptures out of anything they can find. What better way to show them that time is important than to jump back into it myself?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year's: 2000, 2009 and 2059

Nine years ago (and three years out of college), we rented a house with some of my friends from college to ring in the new millenium. We spent the weekend drinking a lot of cheap beer, singing kareoke, playing charades and laughing a lot. None of us slept very much and when we woke up the question of the morning was: Who hooked up with who last night? Even though it had been three years since we'd all lived together on the same campus, it felt like no time had passed.

Times have changed a little bit. This year, we rented a house with friends from college, but decided to skip New Year's Eve and just start the next day since we probably wouldn't be up at midnight anyway. We still drank beer, but have refined our taste a bit, replacing Miller Lite with Fat Tire. The music, originally loud Kareoke, was replaced with Toby quietly playing the guitar and charades was replaced with Apples to Apples. More significantly, the question of the morning was replaced with a new question: Who stayed up with a crying baby last night? And yet, in many ways it still felt like no time had passed.

What is it about college that allows it to be a time where such lasting friendships are formed? I think part of it has to do with the way you approach friendships at that time in your life - living away from your first family but having yet to start a new family, your friends become your family. Toby, who has recently become interested in the idea of co-housing, would probably argue that it has to do with the proximity to friends and the way the physical structure of college is set up to form a strong community, and I think that's true too. Little did I know what a blessing it would be as I sat horrified in the back of my parents car as we drove well past the main campus of Boston College to a crappy little dorm the college had rented miles away to accommodate for an overflow of students, but living far off campus that year with a small group of people was undoubtedly part of the reason I formed such strong friendships in college.

The wonderful thing about developing friendships in a community is that the community itself maintains your friendships. Perhaps in the post-Facebook era it's not as relevant, but in the years since college I may lose touch with one friend or another from time to time but I know that other friends are keeping in touch and therefor still feel somehow connected. When we see each other in person, this connection allows us to immediately fall back into place and pick up where we started, which is exactly what we did in Ventura on our post-New Year's weekend. We got to know each other's kids (and they each other, which was fun to see) and talked about work and parenting and schools (and this time schools meant preschools), but we all relate pretty much exactly as we did all those years ago.

I like to imagine that fifty years from now we'll still be renting houses to celebrate New Year's with friends from college. We'll probably replace Fat Tire with some sort of brandy and Metamucil combination. We will listen to dated music with our hearing aids turned up and play Bridge instead of Apples to Apples. And in the morning, the question will be: Who stayed up with arthritis pains last night?

Hopefully we will be able to look back on many years of get-togethers between now and then and realize that the laughter and our friendships, formed so long ago, remained constant throughout the years.