Novembers I’ve known

Family matters

In Nov. 2010 I wrote: It is often lonely to be married to an only child of divorced parents who live far away. It is also lonely to be the daughter of one living parent and the sister of an unmarried, childless sibling who almost never comes home for the holidays. It’s a little heartbreaking to be the parent of one child whom I must relinquish each Thanksgiving as dictated by custody agreement. It’s frustrating to be the parent of another child who cannot understand what a custody agreement is and why she can’t see her sister. This past weekend had mental moments reminiscent of Ebenezer Scrooge slurping cold gruel in his drafty apartment.  I longed for a brightly lit room filled with laughing children. I longed for the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Today’s take: The hollow feeling left by that Thanksgiving stayed with me for a long time. This year, as you know if you’ve followed my posts, we took a new approach and  went away, just the three of us, to a hotel and had dinner in a restaurant. It was lovely. As we raised glasses for a toast, my husband said it would be nice to have our closest relatives with us, and I agreed. It was nice to be a part of a lively and festive setting. Some of you have big families with energetic gatherings. This is not possible in our small, spread-apart family. Even though we were surrounded by strangers, the collective happiness and good vibes filled the room. I felt warm and blessed and grateful.

Career matters

In Nov. 2009 I wrote: This week I had a revelatory moment. It struck me as I was walking into a building and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the plate-glass. I saw a smartly dressed woman with a laptop bag slung over her shoulder.

“Where have you been the last three years?” I ask the mirror image as I push the intercom button to announce my arrival.

As the door buzzes open, I consider how it feels to wear a black dress with flowing red scarf tied loosely around my neck, stockings, heels and all-business glasses. Even if I feel a little shaky on the inside, I have all the right props. No one here will have any idea that I haven’t done this full-time in three years.

Today’s take: I’d already forgotten that two years ago I had a fairly thriving freelance business. What happened? Slowly, it all fell apart. Some of it is my fault for not finding adequate child care, which interfered with my ability to interact in a professional and timely manner with clients. Part of it was the still-faltering economy, which made some clients seek cheaper (or free) services elsewhere, and part of it was company politics, even after multiple assurances that I was on board. Now? I need to get up on wobbly legs and start walking again.

NaBloPoMo, Round One

In Nov. 2008 I wrote:  Here’s my take away on the experience:

Discipline: I wrote every day. 

Achievement: I set a goal and reached it.

Insight: Big decisions that impact your future should not be made in Las Vegas. 

Community: While I connected with a few new writers and found some useful groups, NaBloPoMo wasn’t the experience I thought it would be. Mea culpa? Possibly. I’m not sure I worked the community to full advantage. I found that writing every day got in the way of involvement. So many blogs, so little time to read them. 

In the end, I’m somehow a bit better, a little more enriched for having taken this challenge. That’s worth more than a hotel room in Vegas.

Today’s take: Exactly the same.

Random violence

In Nov. 2007 I wrote: Finally we were done and began to work our way through the crowd. Others in line asked us what we’d done to upset this woman. We told them we’d done nothing. One employee piped in that this was “typical stuff.” On my way past her, I stopped and told her there was no good reason for her to push us like that and that we all could be little nicer, couldn’t we? This fueled another tirade. I’m sure I was cursed to endure a thousand snake bites in the fire pit of hell, and whatever else would be appropriate.

Today’s take: This was an excerpt from a returnable bottle and can drive fund-raiser for Girl from the West’s upcoming European tour. We encountered a very aggressive and abusive older woman while waiting in a grocery store line to cash in the bottles. Part of the shock of the experience was how this diminutive woman rammed a shopping cart into my older daughter with force and yelled at us in Chinese. We never understood the origins of her hostility. We also have never participated in another bottle drive. Six months later, I bumped into the same woman outside a coffee shop.  I said, “Ni hao ma” to her just to see how she would react. She stopped and talked to me for a moment in an easy-breezy way. I don’t know what made her so cheery that day and so angry the last time, but I realize we all have our dark days. While I was glad to see her happy, I was not about to cross her. That woman packs a wallop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Name-your-color Friday

Color it white Friday? This year is a tabula rasa for us, a blank slate, because we dared to make our own plans, to sidestep tradition and celebrate our nuclear family.

Paint it a blue, brown and red Friday? On this last day of our little getaway, we visit a nature preserve not far from the hotel. The day unveiled the kind of blue sky only visible  in the cooler months, after the humidity lifts its haze. Cirrus clouds etched the blue, making a stunning backdrop to the blacks, grays and browns of a denuded boreal forest. We hiked miles on leaf-littered trails, through dense brush, small clearings and wetlands. Dog walkers, one or two other families, and chattering chickadees were our only company.

It’s another antidote in the medicine chest of elixirs we’ve self-administered this Thanksgiving. Our family of three (the fourth opted to spend it with her biological father) sought a refuge of sorts in a hotel room on the other side of the state. A pretty area with rolling hills, wide rivers, and thick forests. We played cards on the bed, ate in bed, swam in the pool, sat in the hot tub, ate a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner in a nice restaurant, walked the quiet streets. No cooking. No alarm clocks. No stress.

Color it a rainbow Friday, accented with unicorns and sparkly stars, sprinkled with fairy dust. It’s that fabulous.

 

 

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Thankful 30

Since I am on a quest to write 30 posts in 30 days and today is Thanksgiving, I thought it fitting to list 30 things for which I am thankful:

1. My amazing, almost-adult daughter who has challenged me (and made me a better person) ever since I felt that first pre-birth kick.
2. My fabulous, almost six-year-old who is just brilliant. Her love and light are the perfect complement to my darker side.
3. My husband, who has stuck with me through many trials.
4. My home: It’s old and in need of work. It almost slipped away from us a few years ago. Through it all it has faithfully kept us warm, dry and safe. My heart is safely contained within its walls.
5. My community and all the great people in it. If I have to live in Detroit, I’m glad it’s here.
6. My health: It’s not the best right now, but I know it could be so much worse. I’m grateful I can see, hear, smell, touch, breathe, walk at a brisk pace, run on a treadmill, ride my bike through the woods, think (somewhat) clearly, remember (most of the time), dance to the music, laugh with my children.
7. Coffee: oh, dear sweet caffeinated goodness
8. Drive-through coffee shops
9. Bubblemint gum in those little plastic buckets. Seriously
10. Cats, particularly big, lazy ones who love to curl up on my belly and purr.
11. My car. The ads are true. I love, love, love my Sue B. Roo.
12.Good books, of the paper variety
13. Good music, of the loud and wild variety
14. Sunny days, because in Michigan we only get 100 or so of them a year if we are lucky.
15. Tina Fey, David Sedaris, Amy Poehler, and all the other humorists who make me laugh until my sides ache.
16. Good days, because they make life such a joy.
17. Bad days,  because they make me appreciate the good days.
18. My neighborhood babysitting co-op
19. Forty-seven years of life. Enough said.
20. Our community garden
21. Snowy days
22. Fleece anything — except underwear — because that’s just weird.
23. Fingerless gloves
24. Forests, mountains, deserts, prairies, or any area of virtually untouched nature
25. Aurora borealis
26. Beautiful art in all its forms
27. Good writing
28. The kindness of strangers
29. My sangha
30. My readers: to the handful of real ones and all the evil robots, I thank you.