Thursday, December 4, 2008

सौन्ड्स एंड signs

I am sitting in the library at BU, listening to students rattle away on the keyboard, typing.

Noticing sounds has been my latest practice--which is to say, it is always my practice, but I am noticing them more these days since I don't get a chance or take the time to sit formally these days. So I am practicing by listening.

You hear amazing things in the city. Walking over the BU bridge today (no geese, though there were hundreds of pigeons, swirling over and landing on the bridge like hunched little gobbley-eyed unappreciated old men) I heard an unfathomable sound of metal screeching across pavement, fast. I turned and looked--as did other pedestrians--and it was a woman driving a Volvo on a tire rim (it might have been two tire rims). Not just a flat tire--absolutely NO tire. And being me, words came out of my mouth immediately--something like, "How insane!" or something equally judgmental. Then I stopped; paused in my flight toward my class. I wondered why this woman was driving on her rims. What kind of panic--emotional, financial, circumstancial--was compromising her judgement? Was it, indeed, a bad decision? How do I know?

I keep seeing all sorts of signs that things are amiss in the economy; little signs, because I am also struck by how much things are just going along and all seems normal. Normal signs: students still lining up for capuccinos, coworkers still bringing in $9 sandwiches for lunch, people still getting new cell phones, braces, and Christmas presents, other people still going to Disney World. These are the signs that make me wonder if the Northeast has been as hard hit as other parts of the world. It is confusing. You read in the paper that the publishing industry is going under, but everyone still seems to be going forward here as if they expect to get jobs when they graduate, etc. (From where? I wonder to myself. Or sometimes out loud. You know me.) Fundraisers continue and people still ask for money, albeit with a pinched note in their voice, at times recognizing that it is going to be very hard for anyone to help out anyone else very soon. Then there are the other signs--the signs that things are unravelling, even out here. Things like that woman driving on her rims, the cars parked under the shadows of the BU bridge--as if they have been dumped there until someone tows them away. The shrinking lists of jobs in the classified section. Things like that.

I have a feeling that we are not going to see the real signs of collapse in this area until after January. Budgets will be rewritten; people will be out of jobs. I only hope that when it happens we can figure out some way to connect, reconnect, and help each other. That is up to us, of course.

Today, Ari spelled his name. I was sitting in the other room when he did it. He was sitting in his high chair and eating smoothie and toast with Andi. He was asking Andi to draw in the bottom of his smoothie cup (actually hers, he hijacked it) even though there was still far too much smoothie left to do that. And then he said, "A R I, Ari!" To say that we kvelled is, well, an understatement. Actually, Andi kvelled. I felt a little shocked. I think with all of these development milestones, I am too shocked to pay much attention. I am simply dazed by the change. What happened to that tiny tot who merely breathed and giggled and drooled? When did he learn to count in several languages? Hey, speaking of which, please weigh in with counting in other languages. Ari can count in English, Spanish, and Hebrew and soon will have French down too (his new favorite). Andi will teach him German, but then we are all tapped out. Anyone know how to count in another language? Can you tell me what it is and then write it out phonetically? My wish list: Armenian, Japanese, and Mandarian. But I'll take all comers. Ari is counting on you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


By the way, if you are wondering why I am now only including one word title lines, it is because if I include more than one, the browers or whatever this is converts the words into question marks. So I might have Love ??? ????? in a title line.

It is amazing how little I understand the mechanism I am using here.

I am off to pick up Ari soon from daycare & he and I will head down to RI tonight or tomorrow for Thanksgiving. I am sad we won't be with Rachel & Robbie & Adam & Aiko & Sarah & Stewart and the pack o' chillen that will be celebrating in Manhattan. I'll miss them, but we at least saw each other over Daddy's 80th birthday, so I at least laid eyes on the kids and held them in my arms (except O & E of course).

It was amazing to be staying in the Big House. There is something about opening up the curtains to THAT view--it is heart-piercing. And yet and yet--all of my yearning and longing, these days, seems to be wrapped up in that little person who I write about. It is as if all the rest merely dances around me--terribly important but not penetrating in the way it once did.

Today a former student brought her son and her 6 month old into the place where I intern now. The children were gorgeous, of course, and her little baby girl just nestled right up to me--quite literally a bundle of joy as she batted at my face and chuckled, pleased with herself for being able to grab my hair. Ai, yi, that feeling of baby-ness in my arms. And she so petite, too, unlike the huge hunk of baby that was Ari at that age. There is a feeling of gratification in holding a baby that is unlike any other sensation on the planet, may I live a hundred years and do all sorts of sensational, unlikely things.

I remember when my cousin's Dad, of blessed memory, saw me holding her sister's gorgeous first born. I was just holding him, relishing his weight on my chest, refusing to relinquish him to any of his other worshippers. And he said to me, "You need one of those for your own." It was one of those comments that hurts a little and yet lodges somewhere. I thought, yes, I do need one of those for me own. No matter what it takes.

I don't even want to outdo that rapture. And I do have one of my own now. Thank you, Walter.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I have had people ask me lately what is the hardest part of this whole social work school/single parenting gig. Thinking about it on my drive back and forth to the nursing home I visit in Everett today, I want to say that what feels the hardest right now is doubt. It is the sense of not knowing and being so unsure. Of course, that is developmentally appropriate for me as a neophyte psychotherapist. I should feel unsure and uncertain. I don't know yet how to respond appropriately to any number of different types of concerns I will be facing. I have an awful lot to learn.

So that's one type of doubt--the doubt engendered by a lack of confidence. And while that doubt is very uncomfortable, I hope I can trust to time to cure it. Knowing me, there likely will be some point in time when I will have entirely forgotten that I felt this type of doubt at all. I will at some point feel confident I know how to handle most issues and feel I can compensate for what I don't know--access the resources I need to help me.

Okay. I can imagine that future. I don't know how long it will take to get there, but I can imagine it. Then there's another type of doubt--the doubt of not knowing about what to think and believe--theoretically and historically.

This is such a conundrum for all of us post-modernists--and by this I mean all of us raised in a post-modern era. All of those duly influenced, like it or not, by post-modernism. We know how caught we are in conditioning, in the social influences of our time--but we have no idea how to escape that sticky web. Most of us feel comfortable with the fact that we are products of our culture. We just are, okay? That's fine, until you encounter the kind of conundrum I am facing now.

Our culture is one in which medication plays an increasingly intimate role with psychotherapy. I underestimated the role that it plays in social work, but it is a very intimate one. Social workers are considered incompetent and even unethical unless they encourage clients to go on medication. If they fail that mandated role, they are letting their clients down.

Given that we are now increasingly suspicious of the role of commerce in the medical world--it is hard to know for me what is truly therapeutic for clients or if, in the words of one of my roommates, all we therapists are merely whores for the pharmaceutical industry. This really is not as rhetorical as it sounds. He has a lot of data to back up this stance; and though it isn't the way he would phrase it in public, it is basically what he means. So I agonize about our sociological conditioning and what I can do about it. I guess that's all I can say at present--I have to run off and get the babe. This post probably makes no sense at all. Ah well. Doubt really has a life of its own, and its own rhyme. And its own reason.

All those clients, frozen in decaying and malfunctioning bodies and terribly psychotic minds. All that suffering. It is tempting to think that a pill is indeed doing the trick; but the science would tend to tell us otherwise.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


You get caught up in the excitement. I said to Ari this morning, "Let's go find out who our new president is!" With all the expectation that it would be, in fact, President Obama. President Obama. It does sound pretty good. I do feel patriotic this morning. I feel as though Obama fulfills Lincoln's promise. And while the New York Times proclaims on its cover--a great cover--that it is an historic day because Obama is African-American, I think what makes it even more historic is Obama's metoric rise--the power of the man himself, as a campaigner. He is a phenomenon, and I don't think anyone can now gainsay that. Let's see how he manages as President tomorrow. Today, let's gloat.

And no on Question 1. Phew.

Ari is dressed all in blue today.

Monday, November 3, 2008


So there's a great blog I follow about mindful parenting.

Check it out. I know you all are more fixated on the election right now. It's not just Obama, here in Massachusetts it is Question One, and out there in California it is Proposition 8, and in Connecticut it is about the constitutional amendment--big topics everywhere you go.

So Dr. Brady's post--not even his most recent post--about death probably isn't where most of you are at.

He quotes Tagore, which kind of hit a nerve for me since my Grandma left behind a quote from Tagore to be found by all of us when she died. This post--and the comments left by readers--really bolstered me because I have been amazed how much I have thought about death since Ari was born--and a little worried about it. It didn't feel normal. (And it still may not be normal, but at least it doesn't feel wrong.)

I brought him into this world, after all. I am responsible for the fact that he is alive. Unlike someone who chose to do this with a partner, I took the responsibility wholly upon myself to bring this life into this strange and somewhat desolate existence. Who knows what will befall him? But I do know that someday he will die. And there are times when I find that knowledge to be almost unbearable. Strange words from a yogi.

This issue goes to the heart of everything for me, and has every since I can nearly recall. I was told when I was too young to understand it that “death is a dreamless sleep.” I remember being so confounded by death and the limits of it. I remember long late night car rides when I would look into the steamy car window and think about Laura Ingalls Wilder being dead; about her body decomposing somewhere and her suchness–where was it?

It never stopped plaguing me–the fear of death. Not only losing this self, but all the other selves I love and have loved and in fact the loss of all the people who were already dead when I came to love them (great-grandparents, authors, artists, etc.) I hated hearing about tombs being broken open, etc. I hated the idea that anyone’s carefully crafted protection was being sundered. Even if I did not believe that those rites offered them any protection at all from the neurons simply shutting down as part of the body decaying and dissolving–even if I in no way could really believe in any Eternal–-I hated the idea that someone else’s faith was challenged in such a fundamental way.

It has been one of the hardest things about becoming a mother. I have attached so fiercely to the aliveness of my son. I have moments when I can’t bear the idea of him dying–-ever. (Much, much worse if he died before I did.) I also can’t bear global warming. That is too much impermanence for me. I have friends who are able to face the possible extinction of the human species with equanimity, even joy. Not so me.

One of the times I felt fully free of this (almost always nascent) brooding was when I was on retreat at IMS. I was walking and glanced up through the window and saw (imagined) an image of children climbing up a play structure to go down a slide. (This was before Ari was born.) And I thought, so peacefully, “Ah, yes, it will be their turn.” I felt myself relinquishing the me-ness of death, for myself and for others as well. I just felt myself take my place in the order of things, and death along with it. And I felt a great contentment that I would be able to go along with all these other beauties--these people I have loved–-into the unknown.

It still torments me, death, along with other things, like starvation, and children suffering in unspeakable ways. I always feel these things so keenly; perhaps I am unwilling to relinquish the sadness in this anguish. We do suffer; we will die. It is not “okay” how some people must live. And I can still love this reality that we are all of us helpless before. This moment, typing on the keys. Right now, I surrender to it.

I love the idea of living a life where death seemed truly like a friend, nothing to be afraid of. Any of you feel like that?

Sunday, October 26, 2008


On the other side of the Ari news, he woke up this morning and looked at my book on the bed and said, "This book not Mama's. This book my book." He then took the book and looked at me.

I said, "Oh, this book is not Mama's book, it's Ari's book?"

He nodded and opened up the book to "read" it. "Oh, uh huh," he said, in his "very interesting" voice.

This was repeated throughout the day with increasing ferocity. Suddenly everything was Ari's, to the point that he was snatching things up and saying, "Mine mine mine!" in a shrill voice. It was funny for me because it reminded me of a game Auntie Papaya and I have played for a long time. In loving mimicry of a client of hers who used to go around saying "Mine mine mine!" over every object, she and I used to pick certain objects--usually beds, couches and pillows, and declaim in the same way over them. When we were young and vigorous we used to also shove each other off of said objects. Anyway, Ari's clutching at objects in this way was pretty funny but also developmentally interesting. Anyone know what's going on in that little noggin of his?

A few other funny Ari comments. I'm not sure if they'll translate here or not: a few nights ago I was saying good night to Andi and Ari was asleep. He drowsily roused himself as I whispered, "good night," and added, "moon."

And just tonight he spooned up his cereal and dribbled it from a great height on his high chair tray. Gravely surveying the results he said, "Fun." For some reason we found that comment hysterical.

He is increasingly social, which is hard to imagine but true. He goes and greets the neighbors and on a playground will just walk up to other children and say hello.

Oh, I like to hug him myself and whisper inside, "mine, mine, mine." Lucky me.
Ari says please and thank you now.

I can't tell you how that makes me feel.

You'll have to guess.

Friday, October 24, 2008


So it's been one of those days, I have been amazed by it. One of those convergence days. First, at work there were two stories forwarded to me that were very interesting. For those of you who read this who are also look at my FB page, I'll upload them there. One was a story about the other guy--there is always an Other Guy; we have one in my family. (Actually, come to think of it, we have many in my family, but that's another story.) This is the Other Guy who did NOT get the Nobel Prize. In my Research class we were actually discussing this guy who won the prize due to his jellyfish research. The story, told there, was a "persistence pays off" message. Well, according to this sad story in the Times, Dr. Prasher actually discovered the glowing jellyfish protein that led to the Nobel prize. But he didn't get any recognition for it. Why? Because he had lost his funding prior to the prize; because he did not aggressively self-market himself, and perhaps because he may have suffered from depression, which limited his ability to self-market in a world that, contrary to everything we are taught and still believe despite ourselves, does not reward raw intelligence or native ability. It rewards--to a large degree anyway--shameless self-promotion and greed. (Woven as a sub-text to this story is the convulsions of the market and Alan Greenspan saying to the public--essentially, "Mea culpa, I had no idea people would be this greedy." ???)

Okay, so Dr. Prasher now drives a courtesy car for a Toyota dealership--a man whiskers away from winning the Nobel prize. That's one thing; and I think all of us who have ever felt fragile or vulnerable or as though for whatever reason we don't fit into the more ambitious, hard-angled world we felt we were born into, can identify, in a sad and fearful way, with his experience. I sure could. I felt as though I was him, minus the near-massive accomplishment. I also appreciated his seeming humility and wisdom in the face of his experience. Check out the article; it is in the Well section.

Next, there was a beautiful article (again in the Times, again, I think in the Well section) about doctors relying increasingly on the literature to humanize their work and their patients. The doctors in this article believe that literary training--called narrative medicine--can strengthen a young doctor's compassionate instinct, the article said. (I'll upload this too.) I am writing in a hurry because of Ari, but I think you can all imagine how beautiful I found this idea and how important. And personally, how I connected with it--how much literature--reading and writing--has transformed me and my yearnings and my sense of meaning. Don't you miss it? Don't I? I do. So deeply.

Last, I went today to a training on health literacy for older adults. I was appalled to learn that over 40% of the U.S. population is not literate enough to read their medication bottle; to truly sign a consent form; to understand a bus map. Words (and I do not underestimate the irony of this phrase, even while writing in haste) do not express how deeply and profoundly I felt this; felt how impotent and terrified and self-loathing and angry people in that situation must feel. How helpless. It is a public health crisis and a shame upon us as a people. How on earth can we consider ourselves part of a democratic nation? How on earth can we allow people to blame themselves as individuals for something that we all need to change?

Grappling with that on the heels of the article about narrative medicine made me feel so keenly how life's injustices wound us in our most tender and primitive places. The very places someone should kiss and croon over and cuddle. The places in our heart that need the deepest reassurance.

Sometimes I think I don't want to be a therapist. I want to just cuddle up that person and say, "It's O.K." And mean it. And know it is true.

I want it to be true. And I want to be able to make it true.

Thank you for reading this. I am so glad that you can. And that you do.

Monday, October 20, 2008


--Ari splashed around so much while drinking his blueberry-mango-strawberry-banana smoothie that it seemed as though he had purple freckles. It is difficult to describe how ineffably cute it is to see your child with purple freckles, though I imagine I wouldn't feel that way if they were permanent.

--He managed to pet the cat so that the cat wanted to stay near him--this is a big accomplishment and made him very happy.

--He relished his broccoli and ate lots of it while saying "Brocly, Brocly!" (It was loaded up with olive oil, salt, and nutritional yeast.)

--He said "Hiya papaya" with all 3 syllables (up until now he has called Auntie Papaya "Paya."

--He had his first phone conversation--with Grandpa. True, Ari's part of the conversation was, as my father said, merely, "Hello," some silence, and "Bye," but still a milestone.

--He called Grandpa "Danpa" when he got off the phone. (Up until now Grandpa has been "Dadi," which, of course, is what I call him.

--When asked what eyes were for, he said, "seeing." Ears are for "hearing." Mouth is for "eating." Legs are for "shoes."

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Walking today through the golden scuffling leaves on the ground and the tearful skies overhead I had to stop over the BU bridge and watch as a throng of birds swooped and flew low, altogether, in unison, black against the blue-gray sky. I was late for class but I still couldn't help myself. They joined together and dove low then swirled up, and then slashed down again, a timeless pattern. Other people kept walking by and I would try to catch their eyes and gesture up--it was so beautiful--but they kept going, lost in their ipods, ignoring the sky and the water and the birds all joined in wild harmony.

Moments like this--moments too when I look at my friend skillfully and artfully assembling a salad, the beets raw and bright against the chevre, the carrots orange and the lettuce so very green--or when a solitary fire-red Maple leaf comes to pause as if posturing like a dancer on a stage, fluttering to the pavement with the others reposing there--I feel suffused with a recognition that this is it. This is my life. I am 40 years old, and so is my cousin Sarah. (It was her birthday yesterday; I have adored her for half of my life.) Half my life is over; these moments are it. It doesn't get any better than this. I don't mean this in a groovy, mealy-mouthed mindfulness way. I sometimes feel as though I get very preachy on those points, as if I have some special knowledge, and I don't mean to do that. It is just that awareness floods up at the strangest times. You all know those times yourself. It happened again today when the tea kettle shrilled and I poured myself hot water over a tea bag. And the tea bag sort of sizzled as the water went over it. And I thought, "G-d, thank you!"--in the deepest and most primal way. Those alive moments. I don't know why they happen when they do.

I was walking from the library this morning and was sort of muttering in my mind--as I continually do--about all the things I have to get done. So many things. And I was adding job search to that list. And mentally bemoaning that I will be making so little money and facing so much stress for at least the short run--and that's if I'm lucky enough in this economy to find a job. And will I be able to pay off my loans? Etcetera.

As I walked along and noticed this, I decided to direct my attention to my feet. And as soon as I did, as I felt the pavement and slowed my walking I realized: Next year is still going to be busy and stressful. It is always going to be busy and stressful. Hey, kiddo. It doesn't get any better than this.

Just thinking that, it felt as though everything changed. I was still walking, still feeling my feet against their sneakers on the pavement. Still noticing the sneakers squeaking as they have ever since they went through the wash. Still feeling that tired little ache in my heels. Still feeling some sadness and fear and resentment that life isn't different than it is. But everything was different. My whole chest and body opened up--tingly--and I felt so grateful for all the goodness in my life. The people I love, who have done so much for me. My parents. My papaya. Andi and the roommates. My brother and sister in law. Ari and all the children I adore. I am so lucky. I want you to know I do know it. Thank G-d, I really do.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

no news is....

It's been so long since I last posted that certain people have been prodding me to post again--which I must say is flattering. So here I am. Looking back, I said I'd write about being a mother of a toddler, social work, and politics. Didn't I? And so here's the basic update on all of those things. Politics: we live by tenterhooks, or at least I do, feeling as though the entire world has become labile (there's the social work) as we try to understand what is happening to us. Every day we hear about a new economic meltdown that seems to have--right now--eclipsed the environmental meltdowns that previously occupied us. I was late to work this morning and so got to listen to the BBC and heard how England and Ireland and Spain have been rocked by unemployment rates. In Spain the unemployment rate is 13% and expected to climb. It makes sense following on the heels of unprecedented economic and housing expansion in Spain... some people were really objecting to that, as I recall. So we can't really be surprised by all this.

Nonetheless we are still gaping at the headlines and croaking to one another, "Can it really be?" People are beginning to say this won't be as bad as the Great Depression only insofar as it won't resemble the Great Depression--it will look like something altogether different. And yet McCain is still talking about capital gain cuts for the wealthy and trickle down economics.

Meanwhile, Kofi Anan is talking about how pathetic we are here in the so called "first world" countries, moaning on and on about our recessions or depressions or whatever we call them.  "Wake up!" he seems to want to tell us.  "There are thousands of children starving to death every day.  Your problems are really not that bad.  Really."  It helps to take another look at these things. 

There is such a split in this country in how the red and the blue folks see things, it makes the credit crisis look like nothing. It's more like the Great Schism. It's a credibility crisis. And ironically, both sides seem to feel as though the other is lazy and unwilling to be responsible and buck up to help others and do what it right. Both sides see despicable immorality seething around them and both sides draw back, repulsed from the other. At least that's how it seems to me.

I've been having a situation at work lately that has been really uncomfortable--almost repugnant--to me. As it arises, I keep noticing that I have such a strong desire to demonize this person with whom I feel increasingly locked in a passive-aggressive, smiling, subtle combat. You know the type. The type that social workers engage in. As I drive from one place to another, eat, take a shower, take a walk, all the time I find myself reviewing this conflict and coming up with new smiling, subtle things to say to make my point with this person who is, by now, not with me. Except of course this person is with me, since I'm chatting angrily with this person silently and frequently. Defending myself, trying not to defend myself, etc. When I notice this, I try to slow down and sit with it. I notice it in my body as a throbbing sensation and an constriction--my breathing becomes more shallow and restricted. I just notice that. I notice that at times I attack the other person in my mind, and when I notice that, I send that person metta (lovingkindness) if I can.

The thing is, it isn't about me.

If I can only relax into that--my own basic irrelevance--it is so much easier to get up and go on and just fall more elegantly into my life and the challenges of it and even--sometimes--get myself to listen to John McCain and even Sarah Palin rather than simply pretending they don't exist.

Generally, though, I pretend they don't exist.  I admit it. 

Oh, and the mama thing: Ari now knows almost all the letters of the alphabet! And he regularly recognizes the letters of his name as meaning "Ari."  I'm going to start him on Hebrew soon.  We try to count in as many languages as I can think up--English, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, French.  I have to get Grandma to teach him Armenian. I relish almost every moment I spend with him, except when he wakes me up at night. Last weekend there was one night he kept me up all night and nearly the whole time I imagined blogging about it the next day in excruciating detail but you will be glad to find out that I did not have the time to do that. Oh, and over the long weekend Ari asked for his teachers at Tot Lot several times. So he has reached the point now where he feels as if they exist, even when they are not in front of him. So much I learn from him.  Every day. 

Thursday, October 2, 2008

the nature of names

This morning when Ari woke up, I wrote his name in the moisture on the window, and he looked at it and said, confidently, "Ari!"

It probably was a good guess but I still thought it was exciting.

He knows certain letters pretty well and others sort of well. For example, he knows "O" fairly reliably if you say, "What letter is this?" and point to O. He will answer glibly and happily, "Oh!" (It is very cute for the doting one.) But if you give him the alphabet and say, "Find the O" he will only find it half the time.

It is so interesting. You can almost watch those neural networks forming. The receptors lighting up and lighting up again, trying to form stable pathways. At least I think that's what's going on. I keep trying to get the Roommates to explain it to me, and they try, but my neural networks just slog along sluggishly, refusing to fire when I ask them to, so my understanding of our neural chemistry is, uh, limited. But I'm trying! It's tricky starting all over again and again, and once again, at 40, but I am indeed trying.

Rosh Hashannah services were so soothing for so many reasons. One, which may not sound good, is that I didn't take Ari the first day. It was wonderful to do something spiritual for a whole day. I took him the second day, and that was pretty relaxed too, not as I thought it might be. We left after the Shofar blowing and then we got to see a little of Auntie Papaya and Yona. Which reminded me of the old days, before we had four boys between us, when Auntie Papaya and I went and did tashlich at the duck pond. (I don't think that counts, but oh well. We didn't know or care about that then.)

The first day actually started out hard. I don't know if you could tell when you read my last post, but my knickers were kinda in a twist over this whole bailout thing and, well, the panic that is setting in cross the nation among all of those who read the papers and who aren't just following the news about the Rockefeller phony kidnapping guy. I sat in services on the first day and for the first hour or so I spent a fair amount of time fretting. First, I worried about how we could go on with these things when the world was coming apart. Then I thought, well, is there something better we could be doing than praying? Sure, some sarcastic parts of me replied. But the repetition of the familiar Hebrew songs and chants was irresistibly soothing. I found myself thinking that Jews have survived so many calamities. Surely we can survive economic meltdown and global warming.

I didn't bring Ari on the first day and I wondered if perhaps I should have. Other people paraded around with their babies in their arms--waiting for the shofar blowing. I knew that if I had Ari there would be no quiet dandling on the knee and eventually--slowly--I found myself making peace with that. A recognition not unlike what happens after sitting on a retreat. A unclenching, a retrenching from doubt. Acceptance, is what I think they call it. Earlier, I had also found myself cycling through the liturgy, breaking it all apart, deriding that which I didn't think was true, etc. I was thinking how religion was getting into all these messes, to start with, and how I didn't want to be party with all of that confusion and pain. But then, as I started to relax, I just melted into the recognition that humans are religious animals--at least many of us. We just are. So we can, in a William James sense, just accept our own religious psychology and have a progressive understanding of what it means to be spiritual beings having a human experience, rather than clinging to a rather idolatrous fundamentalist view. I don't need to exclude myself from my fellow humans. I really don't. I can let myself belong.

It is such a peaceful thing. To take my place in the nature of things. Like Ari, when I see my name, and recognize my place, it gives me joy.

Monday, September 29, 2008

House rejects bailout--good thing for the new year?

More on don't know mind. So the House has rejected a bailout deal, possibly because Republicans wanted to gouge out of this situation tax relief for the wealthy and refused to accept this deal as a result. I can't decide if I am grateful someone finally grew a pair and decided to allow the markets to be free markets and not to throw billions of dollars at the corrupt bunglers who got us into this mess. Or if I am so scared I want them just to go ahead and pass the thing. Does this remind anyone of the days after September 11th and the Patriot Act, or what? And only one person had the courage to just say, "It isn't acceptable to give the government sweeping powers just because we're scared." Yet here we are, doing something just as bad, just as sweeping, just as fundamental. I don't know enough to know what's the right and wrong move here--and I am afraid that no one does, no matter how sure they like to sound. The whole thing boggles the mind--with an awful awe, not the sort one wants to be cultivating going into the Days of Awe. I am utterly confused and sad about it all--and scared too. Ari and I have very little money to start with, so watching what little savings we have shrivel up is scary and means saying goodbye to having an apartment of our own, or a feeling of freedom in our future. All those dreams feel so far away now.

But we keep forging ahead because, really, what else can we do?

Last night, my mother stayed over so that she could go to the birthday party of a friend she has known for nearly 70 years, which is pretty amazing in and of itself. After, she sat around the table with me and one of the Roommates, sipping wine while I made inane suggestions about how to deal with the crisis. I still can't understand why we can't bring people to justice who started this shell game and walked away with millions in profits while the rest of us pay the price. Everyone kept patiently trying to explain this to me and telling me there was nothing we can do, while I said, "Yes we can! Break their windows! Get some rope!" OK, I do not think those are very mindful suggestions. I do not like even reflecting on those ugly and shrill suggestions. Yet I am curious why no one else is making them, perhaps some people who don't have such a commitment to peace and equanimity and compassion as myself.

I have been thinking about Winnicott often these days. Mostly in the context of the "good enough" mother. His idea--one that has permeated much of the psych world, I believe--is that the infant has a natural urge to be at one with his or her mother, and seeks to annihilate a mother's separateness. It is wondrous to know about that idea and then to watch it unfold. Ari delights in stepping on me, to knock me down, to in every loving and adorable way possible try to shred me and pretend there is "no mama there," and then a moment later pushes the hair from my face, presses his brow against mine, looks me deep in my eyes and kisses me. This is both cute and distressing, especially when you notice your own powerful drives and urges at work. Winnicott's idea of the "good enough" mother is one who can survive that assault without withdrawing in horror or retaliating. I certainly do withdraw, I know that--partly because I am not always up for the battle. And sometimes I over-react. Most of the time I strive for some "good enough" balance while I figure out how to do this mama thing.

It's like that being a therapist, too. You don't respond or react right away to what someone is telling you. You wait, you pay attention, you see what is needed. You don't have to do or say the perfect thing. You don' t have to solve or fix. You wait and balance yourself in that delicate flutter of silence and connection.

I feel we all are trying to figure it out--how to be a good enough citizen, leader, grandparent, partner, professional or worker--whatever it is that we do and how we are, however life's circumstances and our own hearts and minds devour us. We sit it out, wait it through, and then notice that however strange the world may seem to us, however perplexing the change may be, we can survive it. It will be good enough. Someday we will make a world for ourselves that will be good enough, as human beings, for us to live in without guilt and without fear. Or at least not too much of it.

We wait and think and wonder in these next few days--those of us who do observe the Days of Awe. We take a breath and then another and consider what it means to be a human, to bump up against other humans and to know--somehow--that for you this life is just as important as it is to me. I walk down the street, feel my feet on the pavement, pass a smoker in a doorway and people unloading goods from a truck and a woman with her baby and a sling and I try to notice that they matter as much as I do. I read the news, I feel myself being devoured by other people's fear and rage and sometimes I want to fight back. Sometimes I do fight back. Sometimes I wait, hovering, to see where the change is coming and sometimes I deliberately set myself in change's path. I worry and fret and wonder. And then brave people say brave things and change happens--look at Olmert reversing himself after 30 years. It can happen. Faith is a verb and moments like this are the times we choose it. However we choose it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Don't know mind

There are times when I start feeling that the stress of all the hats I'm wearing is becoming, well, stressful.  There are moments when I don't, such as last night, when Andi & I went to go here this group called the Revels celebrate the fall solstice on the Charles River last night.  We took Ari, who did indeed revel in the music, while we watched the flickering display of a boat that was the sun and a boat that was the moon converge upon the bridge, as the group sang an atonal chant about walking in beauty, "Beauty is before me, beauty is above me," that reminded me of the blessing we Jews say on Shabbat about the schechinah.  It was gorgeous and relaxing and we strolled home feeling as though Beauty had really lit on us for a little while--that is, until Ari started to holler.

The stressful moments come when I can't seem to adjudicate between the different parts of me that have different roles to perform.  The part that does errands, for example, splinters into so many parts--the part that makes food, orders tupperware for Ari's lunch (didja realize how expensive that stuff it?), does laundry, gets the headlight fixed on the car, etc.  I find all those things incredibly difficult to do and even more difficult to plan.  (Which is more important?  Which tupperware should I buy?  How much time should I spend looking?  I researched tupperware for an insanely long time, trying to find some that is ecological and not dangerous in terms of BPA, and ordered a bunch of pretty stuff that arrived today... without lids).  It is NOT my bailiwick.  Fortunately there's Andi, but there's only so much of Andi to go around and she has her own life too.  And then there's all the other hats--being a mom (the hardest part is still the weaning, which I now feel may go on until Ari hits first grade), being a student, having all the different courses to decide about, doing my placement, getting my clothes ready for said placements, doing Little Buddhas, etc.  I don't know if it really is a lot, or if I am just being whiny.  I just feel tired today.

But as I was procrastinating and glancing through Andi's Maurice Sendak coffee table book I found this quote from after Sendak had a near-fatal heart attack in 1967.  He says that the book he undertook in the wake of his recovery was fascinating to him:  "I feel my work has permanently changed tone, color and meaning, without my yet having put pen to paper.  I am as curious about me as though I were someone else."  

That to me described so well the mindfulness experience--the point of it, if one can say there is such a thing as a point to something that is so not driven by goals and agendas.  That we are experiencing ourselves every day in a fresh way--as curious about ourselves as if we had just met some new, attractive, interesting acquaintance we were eager to get to know.   I have no idea who I will be today.  Each day I have thousands of chances to discover just who I am--who Ari is--who you are.  Isn't that exciting?  Such an openness of mind?  And even if it doesn't feel like that, just opening up the window a crack--a little bit--to let that curiosity in.  What am I feeling?  What is actually happening in this body of mine?  What am I about to create?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"I, too,"

said Ari today, as I was carrying him down the street. There was something so adult-like about this. He was eating tofu and offering a bit to Andi, a bit to me. He would say, gravely holding out the tofu, "A-di," and then Andi would take a bite, and then, "Mama," and then I would take a bite. And then he said, "I, too," and took a bite himself. It was quite sober and very cute.

He has, in the past, said, "Ari, too," but this seemed different, somehow. Andi and I marvel at the fact that he seems to grasp basic grammar concepts so well--this with the fact that he doesn't have the widest vocabulary--it is advanced, but it is not mind-boggling. But his grammar is quite, quite proper, and it amazes us. In the best of ways.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lehman brothers, bad bets, regulation, and self-regulation of mamas and babies

Today is a sparkly sort of day, all golden and underlit and shiny. Andi looked out of the window at breakfast and remarked that the light was glittering under the leaves on the (still green) trees. A fairy day.

Ari is (gradually, I think) sleeping more at night, which is a good thing because I have just about gone crazy with lack of sleep. The challenge of not getting enough sleep coupled with the new stressors of school, Ari's school, and placement--and with Ari's own being tired--were starting to feel almost dangerous. Ari is naturally pushing limits and exploring what he can and can't do, and this was always going to be hard for me. I so hate to set the limits when he explodes with angry tears and begs to have me change my mind. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but inconsistency makes a hobgoblin of your toddler. Yikes! I don't have the natural patience of so many of the wonderful mothers that I know, so I find myself getting into petty power struggles with him and then sometimes letting him get away with something because I don't want to fight about it anymore. Especially when I'm tired. Last night, he kissed me a soft kiss goodnight and then curled up like a little puppy against me and went to sleep, and I reacted by nearly snarling. (I can't remember what I said, but I made some sort of protest that was senseless.) In the night, around 3am, he woke up screaming and kicking, and again, I responded with contraction and anger. Whoa, Mama! Finally waking up enough myself, I was able to pick him up and hold him and he dissolved and went limp against me, falling back asleep as I sang to him. I realized that he had had a nightmare, and that his waking had nothing to do with clamoring to be nursed. I know I can't help getting angry sometimes, but it just doesn't feel good when that is the first reaction toward him--especially since he is under so much stress, too.

By the way, here is my very slightly altered Buddhist-lite version of the Free to Be You and Me song that I sing to Ari when he cries in the night:
"It's all right to cry
Crying might get the mad out of you
It's all right to cry, it might make you feel better
Raindrops from your eyes
Washing some of the sad out of you
It's all right to cry, it might make you feel better

It's all right to feel things, though the feelings may feel strange
Feelings seem like real things, but they change and change and change
It's all right to know, feelings come and feelings go
It's all right to cry, it might make you feel better."

I did get a chance to hear Michael Greenberger talking on NPR about the national financial disaster that is here and that is to come. Be warned, everyone who believes their savings are safe because they are FDIC insured. The FDIC does not have enough money to bail out all the banks that will likely go into crisis because of the real estate lending mismanagement. If Greenberger is to be believed, that is, and I thought he made a very cogent argument. We may wind up bailing out the FDIC, but that will cost taxpayers billions or maybe trillions of dollars.

Here's his website. Go this and click recent media and then you can get to a podcast of his recent npr interview on here and now:

I started getting very scared about all of this, but then I realized that we are all in this together. Either we will help each other out, or we will fall into some wolfish lord of the flies decline. I can't know, so all I can do is keep going forward as if all will be well. Right? Here's another related link:

Change and change and change.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Israel and Iran

OK, in looking for a very scary article I read in The Nation about Israel, I found this post by Akiva Eldar of Ha'aretz, which heartened me up a little. So I include it here so that we won't all have to be terrified as I had been when I read the Eric Alterman article in this week's print issue of the Nation.

This article about Israel at age 60 scared me especially because it highlighted only a few issues that I know are concerning Israelis, and it felt true to me based on my last visits 8 years ago--so I can only imagine that the worries are total terrors to Israelis now. And thus for all of us--not just we Jews, as you will see if you read it.

I'd be happy to hear what the rest of you think.

Of course, we're all occupied with the fiasco of Sarah Palin and the possibility that all of her self-serving stupidity may be exactly what gets McCain elected. And with good reason. But this article highlights the scale of the Israel/Iran nuclear war crisis that will unfold in some form in the year to come, no matter who gets elected. I don't have any faith that Obama is any better equipped to handle it than the NeoCons. This is not a lack of faith in Obama, per se, just persistent doubt because I, at least, don't have a clear idea of what is the right way to handle it. Do you? Obviously, for many people, a threat to Israel's safety is no threat to the rest of us. But for those of us who consider Israel's existence to be vital, it is deeply unclear what is the right course of action surrounding Iran. Israelis do deeply resent American Jewish intervention in their political scene, and with good reason--many pro-Israel lobbies in this country really do nothing but pour money into the Likudniks and may be responsible for getting Netanyahu back in power--ugh. But similarly, many people in the U.S. are quite rightly furious at how Israel has vested American interests with their own and thus dragged all of us into fundamentalist war-hell. Any thoughts?

Anyway, read the article. It's good.

ari counts

So as we're watching Elmo's Potty Time together, Ari is saying something under his breath which Mama is not astute enough to get, as usual. Mama says, "Tree? Do you see a tree?" But Andi, always more adept at Ari Interpretation, says, "No, he's counting to three."

"Ari, are you counting?" I say, which usually is the surest ticket to stifling him.

Sure enough, he says nothing at all, just nods his head. But I wait a little while, letting him think it all over while Elmo is dancing on the screen with Grover, and finally Ari says, "Five!" The five is as clear as clear.

Of course, Mama doesn't like to quibble, but... it does sound like he has missed four, doesn't it?

For the next half hour that he is awake, Ari says over and over, "Two, three, five!" There is something that comes before the two, but it sure doesn't sound anything like one, no matter how hard you try to turn it into that. And there sure doesn't seem to be any four. Then he goes to sleep.

This morning he wakes up, smiles at me, and says, "Un, two, tree, four five!"

What, did he figure it out in his sleep?

What a funny little man.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Biking in the rain

Mama had a string of bad luck on her new biking plan--her attempt to be like the Roommates. See, the Roommates bike everywhere, and it has always seemed to Mama like a great idea for a million reasons--or at least two--mainly exercise and carbon credits.  Anyway, Mama has vowed to bike to her placement this year at least until it starts to snow.  I don't know if you know anything about Mama's vows, but they aren't worth all that much.  Unlike the Roommates--and, it seems, Ari--Mama is a wimp.  Mama really isn't the grimly determined type.  At any rate, Mama biked back and forth to her placement on Friday with no problems, feeling--Mama admits it--kinda smug.  But today, Mama biked to her placement and arrived all sweaty in her T-shirt and felt self-conscious until she went to change.  It was anxiety provoking.  Then, it turned out Mama was going for a training in another building, so Mama had to bike to the other location in the rain.  As it rained, she told herself it didn't matter, but the truth is, Mama did not like getting her new clothes--in particular, a linen shirt that Liz gave her that she loves and a silk shirt that Rachel gave her that she loves--all wet.  Then it turned out that Mama wasn't eligible to take that training because she had missed the previous training on a day she was not in at the placement and so would not understand the material at this one.  Meanwhile, the rain turned into a downpour. Mama had to bike back to her placement in the downpour--back up the hill--noticing over and over that she was wet and that the sensation was not pleasant.  She arrived looking like a wet cat.  Not a good look for Mama.  Mama squelched through the corridors emitting squeaks against the institutional floors.  She noticed lots of thoughts, including, "I hate biking."

On the ride home, her pants--despite being tucked geekily into her socks--got ripped.  Mama loves these pants, which she bought second hand at Abby's in Waltham with Jeanne--and then Mama felt truly grumpy.  Then when she got home the dog jumped on her and got footprints on the silk shirt and she noticed that there was a coffee stain on it too!  OK, that had nothing to do with the bike.  But it didn't help the mood.

Typing all this up, though, Mama realizes she still is committed to biking whenever she can.  Global warming or wet clothes--which is worse?  One is impermanent--the other....

Monday, September 8, 2008

words and music

Today when Ari was in the swing he looked up at the sky and I thought he said, "Lick."

"Leaf?" I asked craning my head to look at the sky.

"Stick," he said, confidently pointing to the tree.

"Oh, stick!" I said. "Yeah, stick!" My sleep deprived brain could not come up with the word "twig" but now I'm glad I didn't correct him. He seemed so pleased, and so was I, that he could see sticks in the sky.

It made me realize, too, that he knows words that have dual functions. "Stick" means sticker as well as part of a tree; just this morning Ari had been happily playing with stickers and talking glibly about the "sticker" and making it "stick"; thus in knowing "stick" he knows two nouns and a verb.

Auntie Papaya left a great message on my cell about seeing Ari this weekend, and how struck she was by how intently he listened when she, her mother and I all sang a little song, harmonizing as we went. I can't remember what song it was. He cocked his head and listened quite gravely. She thinks he is quite serious about music and assumed I had observed this quality in him. I guess I had, but what had struck me was his joy in dancing, something I assumed YoYo had cultivated in him, since YoYo is the consummate dancer. But the musical interest--I guess that much I had simply assumed would happen. I would have been surprised if it hadn't happened. It seems so much at the core of what it means to be human and happy.

As it does to have words to describe and make real that happiness, as long as those words don't become the whole story.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ari probably knew your name, but now he may actually say it

Today when Ari was looking through his book of photos he was willing to identify so many more people by name. Auntie Papaya was "Paipa"; Zev was "Zzz"; Cate was "Tate". It was really cute to hear him call Auntie Papaya "Paipa" and also very cute to hear him identify Jeanne as "Jea". He said their names with such sweet affection and such gurgling zest, respectively. I love his little nicknames for people. Zoey is "Yo Yo" and his former babysitter Juliet used to be "Lulu" a name she seemed to revel in. (It is a good name.) He calls Dylan "Bubba" which is pretty cute and longstanding. It seemed to me he was also identifying Gefen but I wasn't quite sure. Also, he called Narayan "Raya" which I thought would please her if she knew. I haven't yet gotten him to say Maddy's name though. Don't know why. He calls my father "Dada" quite consistently, but is not clear exactly what to call my mother. Needs some help there.

Something about this naming business is terribly gratifying. Everything about this naming business is gratifying, actually.


Today at Dana Park I was playing with Ari in the sandbox and a friendly woman said to me, "So, is your son an olive?"

"I'm sorry? An olive, did you say?"

She laughed. "Is your son an aleph?"

I was very confused. I said, "His name is Ari, so I guess that's aleph resh yod." Let me tell you, this is not the average conversation I have around the sandbox at Dana Park.

Now she looked confused. "Isn't your son going to Aleph Bet?"

"The daycare? No--he goes to Tot Lot." Here the proverbial light was beginning to--proverbially--dawn.

She looked a bit embarrassed. "Oh, I'm sorry. I just moved here from Akron. I thought everyone at this park was here for the Aleph Bet reception."

"Oh! Is there one?" I had noticed one man wearing a kippah, which seemed unusual, and earlier had seen another man speaking Hebrew to his daughter. But I hadn't realized there was an event. Now, everywhere I looked I saw people wearing nametags with their name and their child's name in smaller letters. It was so interesting. People who "looked" Jewish; people didn't, people who seemed comfortable and clear about what was happening, and people like this very nice woman, who didn't. We started to chat about the choices and the area, and then, I ran into another one of Ari's Tot Lot compatriots, a fellow Jew (I assume) whose daughter has an Israeli name--one of my favorite girl's names. I asked him if he ever had considering sending his daughter to Aleph Bet. He said he had, but then decided Tot Lot was a better overall choice. For me, I knew I wanted Tot Lot above all other options, partly because it is so nearby, but also because it is so multicultural. But that doesn't mean my heart didn't give a squeeze today in the sandbox. I looked around at all the other families who pick up their children every day at the Tremont Street Shul and thought, "Oh, woe, what has happened to my Jewish life, and what the heck will happen to Ari's?"

Times like these I always resolve to build a sukkah. As if that will help. But then, I'm the kind of person who starts a blog when she says bye to one of her oldest and dearest friends. Like that helps.

I left Dana Park nostalgic once again--this time for things I have never known, a wistful, wispy sort of nostalgia for choices I did not make. And cannot make again.

Nothing like leaving Suzi in the Boston Gardens, turning around to see her bend over her daughter, knowing chances are good I won't see them again until Gloria is at least 5 or 6 years old. Nothing like leaving a part of my heart smudged and behind in the bent and broken end-of-summer grass, fluttering at Suzi's feet.

It's hard to love people this much. But love all of you I do.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

snark at McCain

My brother pointed out this link:

that can possibly make the case that the McCain campaign is as inept as it seems to be. Not, I must sadly say, that anyone seems to care. This gets people's attention because it's funny. The fact that the RNC gave up to $10,000,000 to St. Paul in liability insurance in case of illegal actions being taken by the police to ensure against lawsuits being filed against the St. Paul police, in advance of those illegal, and may I say, anti-American acts, seems so much more frightening, doesn't it? At least, it does to me.


In other news, Ari went to the door of the house today and said, "Ari go car car. Ari go go car car. Ari go go go car car!" It was very cute. Cute clamoring. Clamoring that, perhaps, only a mother could love. He had been told we would go as soon as I changed his diaper, and then I was totally sidetracked by making chicken soup out of the chicken leftovers. That took a while; so he was in the right, I felt, to be outraged and sweaty and impatient. Would that we all were so cute while leaning up against the door, smudged against the glass, ready to go go go.

Amy Goodman was arrested

... I know it's already old hat, but I'm still outraged about it. And amazed at how quickly it becomes old news. I like this article because it reminds us how, not so long ago, when these same sorts of things took place, there was massive outrage. Now the same people who were outraged then are doing it to their peers and a whole other generation--and no one seems to notice or care. "The whole world is watching" we used to chant. This day, the whole world is watching American Idol.


Ari wakes up from his nap today begging to be nursed. It is so hard to say no. I tell him he will have homemade mushroom barley soup for lunch; this does not lure him. He turns his whole body away from me and sobs. I pat his back and stare at his head; at the whorls of his hair. Such a heartwrenchingly beautiful pattern his hair makes, swirling into itself.

He turns back and looks at me; checks to see if I am looking at him. Of course I am. I give him a weak smile. He does not smile back. Turns away again. Quiets himself. The next time he turns around, he is ready for soup.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Today Ari is 19 months old

He continues to thrive in school. Yet I do notice little things. He has become interested in stuffed animals all of the sudden. There is a little kitty someone gave him--a beanie baby, I think--that we had kept up next to the blender so it earned the moniker "smoothie kitty." Today he clutched smoothie kitty to his body on his way into school. Hearing the story from Andi, it made me wonder if perhaps he is becoming insecure. I mean, I guess I'm expecting insecurity here. Wouldn't that be normal? But apparently as soon as he got into school he dropped smoothie kitty--splat--right on the floor and charged for the play-dough tables. (Tot Lot makes their play dough themselves--so much more appealing than the stuff, however beloved, that comes out of those cans.) Andi said it looked for all the world as though Ari had a job to do and he was there to get it done. Yesterday the job had gotten interrupted--but by gum, today it was going to be reckoned with. When she said good-bye he proffered his cheek for a kiss and kept on "working." That's my boy.

I guess I'm not that different. I started my new internship today and the woman leading the trainings said, "If you aren't nervous, I'd be worried about you." I thought, "I hope not." In my case, anyway, I think maturity might exempt me from that. Life owes me that much, because I wasn't a bit nervous. Only about getting there on time.

Yesterday, on the way back from the market, I just got so tired I felt I could not walk another step. Yikes! That's not good! I had planned to go to the library with Ari, but it was all that I could do just to get home. After all, I had not gotten a good night's sleep for many nights (how many is 19 months??), and it will keep being brutal until Ari is (relatively speaking) weaned. Andi's help has been beyond invaluable. She got up with Ari around 3:30 in the morning and fed him bananas and milk. He is settling down, but we still have a long way to go to get him to sleep on his own. It's like we're going through what lots of people do during the newborn phase, right now. That was such a blissful time for me, I didn't know what people were complaining about. Now I get it! I don't know how Andi does it. She is a saint, I want that noted on the Buddhist record, right now.

Actually, I didn't sleep last night either, but for some reason I am not so gut wrenchingly tired today. It's fun to get back in the action. I am also kinda excited about Research Methods (for G-d's sake, what has happened to me?? Come pluck me out of this social work trance, willya?) and two independent studies I am doing. One is on the question of spiritual competency--who decides? How do clinicians decide what is appropriate when working with clients from different faith backgrounds? This arose because last year I co-lead a Healthy Aging group and led a "metta" (lovingkindness) meditation. It went over really well and of course I loved it. I loved leading it, loved creating it, loved the devotion and beauty that arose on my clients' faces as they engaged with it. But many of my group members were Baptist, etc. and I wondered how I would address this one-on-one and what were the ethics and balance-of-power on the whole thing. So I'm interviewing clinicians. The other independent study is on the G/L/B/T/Q elder community in Cambridge. I'm excited about that as well. I really want to learn as best I can what the needs are there and how to meet them according to the population as best as I can find out. Yay, Research Methods! I may learn to love you after all!? We'll find out.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

no, of course it isn't all bad

I don't want to make it sound like it is all awful with Ari and school. He isn't the big bad bruiser. Today he had a quiet day at school, from what I can tell--communication is a bit opaque. He was there for nearly 6 hours today and apparently only cried twice. I guess that's good. Probably as good as it gets. Andrew, the lead teacher, got Ari to sleep at nap time. I was very impressed by that because it is not easy to get that boy to sleep. That I can tell you. I'm sure Andrew had to work very hard to do it and he handled it all with good grace. That's something mama really appreciates. Ari handled it all with good grace too. Mama appreciates that every day. He is such a resilient little man.

Today, after Ari came home and nursed, he sat up and burped. Then he looked at me and remarked, "I burped." It was unmistakable and very surprising to me. I don't know why. Writing it down sounds so commonplace, but I guess that's what it was. Very conversational, as if I was talking to just anyone. He is making that transition right now into the world of words.

Communication is so precious and magical and human. Ari definitely makes me appreciate the wild luck of being born into this human body and mind.

Ari starts school, it is the third of Elul

I dropped Ari off at his second day of "school" today. This morning when I said, "Okay, it's going to be time to go to Tot Lot today," Ari dropped what he was doing, turned to me with a big grin and said, "Tra La!" Andi & I were very pleased that he was eager to go. I carried him over, clutching his lunch in my arms, and he and I sang a song about Tot Lot which I have now forgotten, even though we ran into our neighbor on the way who also goes to Tot Lot, and we sang the song to her. Here's what was packed in the lunchbox--freshly sliced cucumbers from a neighbor's garden, fresh tomatoes from Andi's brother's garden (yum!), sliced avocado and melon. Then tofu and brown rice and apple slices. He probably will eat none of this except the rice and some of the tofu and a bit of the melon. Oh well. It is fun to pack his lunches right now, until I am starting work (Friday) and then I'm sure the whole thing will become more hectic and stressful and I will probably resort to lots of cheese sticks. I am going to go soon and make seitan stew (and beef stew for the guys) so that there will be more food on hand before we go into the cooking-drought. I hope to make a big batch of food each Sunday to eat throughout the week--and a Friday night chicken for the guys--but we will see.

The neighbors Ari & I ran into on our way to Tot Lot told me that their little girl had been talking about Ari all night long. You'd think this was a good thing, but she was talking about how Ari had taken away her shopping cart from her. I am sure he did. He is already the pushiest kid in that room; I suspected he might be and the teachers have thus far confirmed it. I am worried and uncertain about this but am trying to convince him that gentleness is the way to go. We talk about saying "beep beep" instead of pushing others and about touching in a lovie, gentle way. My cousin does such a great job of explaining this to her girls. It is a special gift. Ari is such a robust fellow... and I don't think he understands yet that he can hurt others. Maybe he does. He will have to learn.

He is also not his usual self, unfortunately. We are weaning right now and that is exhausting. I have not slept much or at all for three nights now. I expect it will be at least a few more nights until he gets it. We are doing the super-attenuated weaning. Andi is helping, the valiant trooper that she always is, so we are all three more than a little droopy--though Andi in particular seems so perky you'd never know that she has been up half the night helping to soothe the bereft baby.

Walking back from Tot Lot without Ari in my arms I felt again a wave of sadness and confusion. It was a lost sort of feeling. As if: I had him for a year and a half, but he is gone to me now. I had friends who were sitting in mourning, practically, when their son started kindergarten--and they had another at home and one more on the way. You'd think they would have been reveling. A part of me did feel light, liberated, but mostly I was disoriented and sad.

Still, I do feel grateful that I have had the chance to feel even this sadness. I think about all the people in the world who, for a whole host of reasons, don't get this chance and I do not revel too much either in my feeling of liberation or in my feeling of loss. And I guess I won't complain too much about the overwhelm that is very soon to come. I feel lucky to be me, walking down these Cambridge streets, greeting even the neighbors who may be faintly worried that my toddler is a bully, feeling that September breeze sneak around my shoulders, the light buzz of caffeine keeping me awake and alert and grateful to everyone who has helped me reach this place in time. That is of course our task during Elul, the month of remembrance. Today is the 3rd of Elul, and it is a time for introspection, for thinking about our lives. Since Yom Kippur is, in some ways, the day that I "die"--what would I like to make sure I wrap up this year, 5768? If I am blessed to live through the Day of Atonement--what would I like to make sure I do differently this upcoming year? Ari in some ways makes all of this very easy. I know exactly where my priorities are. But the crazy busy-ness I am about to face with my very full schedule this fall makes it all, in a certain way, very hard. Nonetheless I am very grateful I have reached this moment in time. Thank you for coming along with me. May it continue to be so.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Gustav is proof

Okay, so Palin's teenage daughter is pregnant, what of it? What difference does it make to the fact that Palin is scarcely more qualified to be president of the united states in the somewhat likely event that John McCain could croak if he was elected to the office than said teenage daughter? I must say, with apologies to the people I love who are gleefully chirping about this news, that it does not seem highly relevant to me; no indication about her values or her abilities or anything else.

What I am happy about is that Gustav seems to have eclipsed the Republican convention, all without seemingly doing much damage respective life & limb, in New Orleans at any rate. At least I hope so. If so, it would seem to prove once and for all that G-d frowns upon Republicans. Something most of us already realize.

Ari starts school tomorrow. We spent the day planning and organizing and (I hope soon) cooking. Andi and I (with Ari on the back) biked the different routes to where I'll be doing my internship today. It's been a busy-last-day-of summer. I keep humming tunes that don't quite fit in terms of words and yet still seem to fit the mood. Like Abba's: "Do you recall our last summer....." I always make up new words to these songs. "Do you realize it's our last day of summer...." Some of them fit superbly and others much less so but regardless I quickly forget them. Today when we were biking I sang to Ari about having him on the bike to the tune of Woody Guthrie's, "Take you riding in the car car" My version was something like: "Take you riding on my bike, bike, take you whenever you like like, it's not just you on your trike trike, we're together on the bike, bike." Etc. He would prod me on my back and demand, "more more." Most of the words were ripped past by the wind and startling pedestrians, but this is all part of what we do for love.

Today Ari could not stop talking about his cousins, "Okar" and "Elly." For right now they have trumped "Ahno" and "Go-Go" and "Aiko"--his usual talking points.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


I must say, I started all this blogging business impulsively. So far I have been typing while terribly distracted and barely paying attention to what I have been saying. And yet I am thrilled to be doing it. I keep sorting through things in my mind and thinking, "ooh, I should post THAT on my blog" for all the world as if I have been doing this forever. Or as if I have any idea what I am doing. As if I even peruse a blog myself every now and again. (I may say, I do this rarely.) Or as if I have anything important to say. But I guess I feel I do. In my own rudimentary way.

My mother said tonight, "I guess I don't understand this whole blogging thing. How you write something and send it out into the universe--"

"Blogesphere," I said.

"--blogesphere, and expect people to read it?"

"But that's the very thing, the excitement of not knowing who will read it," I said. "After all, isn't all published writing the same way? You send it off and you don't know who will see it. Right?"

"I suppose," she said, sounding uncertain. Perhaps I was a bit too vigorous. My father often likes to quote Stephen Vincent Binet in that publishing a book of verse is like sending a rose petal into the Grand Canyon. Well, this is my rose petal. For now. Also, it will help me keep up with everyone while Ari and I make our mad dash through the major transitions of the upcoming year. He: starting day care, which entails moving from my tender mercies, such as they are, where most of life is molded to his rhythms, such as they are, soon to be jockeying with other children for attention and understanding and nap schedule, and being jostled past his own tenaciously social nature with overstimulation many hours of the day. And me? Starting a second year social work placement at a location I will not name in this context--probably won't be very different. That's okay. We will both adapt. But I won't have time much in the future for email.

Tonight the cicadas hum outside, a vigorous strumming for mates, and the ocean susurrates its own drowsy melody. It's time for bed.

I guess

that last post was about nostalgia, pure and simple. That nostalgia is its own beast, and it will hang on to anything while you are feeling it. It is yearning for permanence, and an unwillingness to accept impermanence.

Ironic that as I was writing that, my dad was going in for routine blood tests and his PCP called my mother to say he was severely anemic and needed to go straight to the hospital for blood transfusions. Emergency room visits are no fun. Finally my dad was admitted and over seven hours later, had two infusions. Feels better but is in no way cured. We will see about what happens next. I had all sorts of plans for visits with family this weekend; nothing is as you expect and the more you cling to hopes of this sort, the more you suffer. That's for sure.

My mother wants to know about the title of this blog. I think what I meant is something of an existential pun. That theoretically mama is in charge, but in fact, all the words that come out of mama's mouth go.... are as impermanent as anything else. Even though by starting this blog I am obviously trying to buck the trend there--trying to render some sort of new-smell type of permanence on what is so obviously not really going to last.

My mother balks at what I am writing, saying, that of course things last. (My mother is not a Buddhist.) She wants to know, what about the words that stick in your brain forever? I say, yes but then you die. Her response: but when you die, everything stops anyway, that's not an argument about anything. I say, but we are all changing every day. Even those words that we remember with such ferocity, they do change, even our perceptions of them change. Sure, she says, but so what?

And, she wants to know, will anyone read this? Yes, I say, with that certainty born in me of being my father's daughter. How will I know if anyone is reading it, she wants to know? Well, you will read it, right? I say. Yeah, she says, somewhat unenthusiastically. My mother, after all, has a campaign to run (local, not Obama's) and my father and their dog to look after.

Today my cousin called and offered to take Ari for me so I could go to the hospital and get my father. Once I did finally get to the hospital (having taken a wrong turn and berated myself mentally for my incompetence and then tried to tell myself not to berate myself--ah, it's exhausting to be me) I found myself rendered superfluous since my uncle Arakel was there, and he took Daddy home for me. I was utterly useless. That was OK. I ate a cookie on the drive home and tried not to care about it all. I tried instead to feel grateful that we come from such a big, gorgeous, amazing family. I DO feel grateful for that, actually.

OK. Ari is napping and maybe Mum and Dad might need my help, instead of laconic conversations about the philosophy behind blogging. But a bit about that: if I do wind up with time to run this blog--and I may, largely because I won't have time to be spending any social time with loved ones this upcoming year except for Mum and Dad and the Roommates--what, you may rightly ask, will I be blogging about? Here you go: my life, dull as it is. There's incentive for you. And that is to say I will be writing about my son, my peculiar but lovely living arrangements, social work school, being a therapist, being an oddball, being a single mother (of sorts), being part of a lovely and odd family (oh yes, don't I know who will be reading this, if anyone, mum?), politics and current events as seen through that slightly paranoid lens, and spirituality, of the Bu-Jew type. Now you know what to expect.

Elul awaits another entry. Anon.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Need to start while it all ends

This is the oddest way and day to start a blog. I am about to go into an impossibly busy year; I am taking care of my wandering toddler. But I was struck by the poignancy of saying good-bye to my dear friend who I have not seen in 4 years. She returns to France. Ari chases the dog who bites. I must go pick up my car and then go to a bakery to get supplies for my parents, then drive down to RI for the last weekend of the summer. The summer is over. Will I take Ari to the yard first, to ride his new (to him) tricycle? Will he live to see his fortieth year, or will global warming short change every child on this planet? How do these worries seem to elide into one another? As I say good-bye to my dear Suzi and her beautiful wife and daughter, I realize I am letting my fears of what might happen in this world drive my life. And that is not living. That is merely taking up house room in this fearful, miraculous world of ours. Suzi is such a good example of living life vibrantly and gently, all at the same time. I want to be like her. Or something close.

I get to read Harper's magazine--another thing that I won't have time to do this fall, read for my own delectation--and am struck by what they say in Findings on the back page. Predictions are that penguins will be extinct in 2037. Ari will be only 30 years old. He will never know the planet as I did. Do any of us?

I used to envy my parents' childhood. I mean, not exactly. Not my dad's, surely, though he did get to go roam the World's Fair, he says, alone, when he was not yet 10. He did deliver flowers all over the City (New York, for those who don't realize that New York is The City) by the time he was 12. There were some idyllic parts, but really, it is my mother's childhood that I always wanted, thought was the norm, thought was Every Life, the milk in the glass bottles delivered to the back door, the neighborhood stores, the riding around until twilight on your bike with your neighborhood friends. 1934-1952, prosperous and WASPy, that gorgeous sheen of everything done right: beautiful house in the suburbs, academic job, Bach in the house at all hours, Wednesday pasta nights, learning Latin by age 10, life turning by the seasons: Christmas carols in Woolsey Hall, Easter hunts in pastel dresses and May poles, swimming and sailing with cousins in Newport--all of these stories have the element of myth to me. I want to create a Jewish Buddhist much less prosperous and much more urban version of this for Ari. He climbs in my lap now, insistent. It all isn't possible. But still we all try.