Saturday, January 25, 2014

Out There

Last night, I drove way south to take the kids to what I have come to think of as The Wall of Soccer - three straight hours of sitting around the lounge of the indoor facility while they do footskills and alternate practice hours. (I am soccer mom. Hear me roar.) As timing would have it, I needed to procure dinner on the fly so I dropped the kids at the place (conveniently tucked behind a seedy motel near the racetrack) and ventured out to gather food on the vast snowy wastlelands of exurbia. Some things I noticed:

1. That chain not-quite-fast-food soup and sandwich place that I have gift cards for is not really "close" to the soccer place in any real-space kind of way. It is only close by virtue of being also all the way out there and connected by major arterial roads.

2. Major arterial roads are all there are in parts of out there, because the blocks of land between them are either still empty, undeveloped deer habitat (less empty by the year) or are home to recently erected large mothership-type buildings surrounded by parking lots and landscaping.

3. This type of development patterns make for very dramatic driving on a gusty, super cold winter evening when the snow is all crystalline and powdery. The top layer of snow is picked up and thrown around by the wind, billows of snow cloud your car on the wide, dark road. Rivers of snow-wind cascade down the hillsides and form sudden drifts in the outer lanes. Sometimes the road is completely empty and you feel like you are driving alone across the tundra, then suddenly by some vagary of traffic signalling, you are surrounding by cars, most of them larger than yours and wanting, aggressively, to get to their exurban destination of choice faster than you are willing to drive with the dark and the glare and the wind and the drifts and the sneaky patches of ice.

4. I used to get all worked up about housing developments with names that are either un-ironically named for what the development has demolished -- "Deer Trail" gated community -- or  named for "natural" things that have nothing to do with where they are located --"Pine Woods" carved out of a stand of deciduous forest. That sort of thing. My new peeve is "urban" names for decidedly exurban situations. The big glass office block in the wilderness called "Metropolitan Plaza" is not metropolitan in any way whatsoever, nor is it a plaza, in the true sense of the word, evocative of foot traffic and open space within the mixed jumble of city life.

5. I have deep existential issues about participating in ex-urbanization. Aesthetically, environmentally, sociologically, and ultimately morally, I think this is a bad, bad way for humans to organize themselves. I feel this very, very strongly, and yet by the forces of culture, I spend more and more time out there, and isn't this sort of the way it happens for everyone? The leech, the drift, the encroach. I do not like this. I feel culpable and weak. And yet, there is that other part of me, that finds humans fascinating in all of their mixed up, messed-upness, and so I find this fascinating too. Here, I am drawn by parenthood into exploring this other landscape.

Reading: I said I was going to go home and read Looking for Alaska last night - no school reading on a Friday night. Instead, waiting for David to get home from post-rehearsal happy hour, I took in an episode and a half of Orange is the Black, which I want to devour whole. This is not reading, but it is damn effective storytelling.

Writing: Wha?

Dinner: There are eras in our lives that are defined by the restaurants we go to. Long ago, David and I had our first "our place" restaurant. It was Michael Michael. We were young and romantic and we thought we had more disposable income than we actually did. Several years later, in grief and then new parenthood, we were sustained by the homey comforts of the Inn on Coventry. We had a period when we regularly met friends for pizza night after our little girls went to dance class together. And so on. Now, suddenly I find myself in the era of that chain not-quite-fast-food soup and sandwich place that I used to sort of disdain. It started last spring when Z was getting physical therapy out there and has accelerated this fall. I still find its menu oddly overwhelming, the food only so-so, and the chain-y chainness of it unsettling to my sensibilities, but here we are.

Soundtrack: Driving home last night, listening to college radio (specifically the fine new wave/no wave/post punk show, Drinking Electricity on WCSB) I was awash with a kind of middle age nostalgia that is new to me. I actually thought, "I will never go to another new wave dance party." Then I thought, "There will never be another new wave dance party." I mean, there will be in the retro, nostalgia sense. People will peg their pants and wear shirts that slide off their shoulders and play new wave music (most of it overexposed and cliche), and they will dance. But the parties we used to have, then, in my youth, they will never, ever happen again. I know this sounds maudlin, but I don't mean it that way. It is an observation of fact. That era, along with all the others before this one, has passed from the earth. Huh.

Then this silly duet came on. (I'm trying to find the actual song, but the playlist isn't up yet, and searching the electro-tome of all knowledge hasn't yielded a satisfactory result. I hope to post later.) A guy and girl sang a refrain of "We are getting high," in bright, pop-y voices. The verses were about not needing drugs, just needing each other, but you wouldn't hear that unless you were listening.

After the second chorus of "We are getting high," O pipes up from the back seat.

"What?!" he exclaimed in disbelief. "They're getting high?! Who would write a song about doing drugs."

I explained that they weren't actually singing about doing drugs. They were singing about how being together makes them feel very, very happy. ... (You know, like drugs! ... Parenting fail.) So it's not a song about drugs, but well, actually, there are lots and lots of songs about doing drugs. (Sigh.)

Orson thought for a second and said, "So being together makes them so happy they are unconscious?"

"Well, uh ... That's not ..." Oh, nevermind.

Next time I'll tell you about the conversation we had about "Paint It Black," the drum part of which he is currently learning. Less druggy, but also complicated.

Random thing: More O-isms: He is currently mildly obsessed with the Marx Brothers. We watched an episode of the tween-boy comedy "Crash and Bernstein" they other evening, and after Crash, the ill-mannered but very sincere puppet, made a particularly deadpan ridiculous statement, O said, "He's Chico."

Sorry for no linkies, maybe I will add them later. Gotta run.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A week's end collection of trinkets

Cryptic illustration, that requires reading all the way to bottom to understand

This is why I like Sunday morning. I'm on the couch with Z. David is at the round table in the art/music/dishes/piles of paper room. Jazz is playing on the computer. O is upstairs maybe still asleep, maybe clandestinely playing with an electronic device. What now?

Call my mom?
Work on script?
Work on book?
Read for pleasure?
Read for school?
Prep for school?
Prep for writers group?
Do the crossword?
Plan menus?
Bills & budgeting?
Tidy & clean?

Later I have a gift card from a fancy lady store to spend when I take Z to violin.

Karen blogged. She blogged about not overthinking things. I think this is good advice. I've been wanting to blog since school was back in session. Wishing I could figure out just which sliver of the day to jam it into. I collect shiny things mentally, on notepads, on the funky "notebook" program on my electronic device. Each Most mornings when I wake up I spend a few minutes jotting down the stuff that is rolling around in my head (this is a good and successful habit), sometimes I exercise. At night I have lingering school work and I need time to just be with my kids and there are conversations with David to be had and sometimes maybe even a few minutes of reading because I like to read, reading is important.

A selection of shiny things I might have blogged about this week:

The strange pattern on the sidewalks near school when the weather warmed earlier in the week. Brownish slate slabs had been overlaid with fine dirt and fallen leaves then thin sheets of ice that grew in intricate crystals, feathering and branching. The when it all melted away, taking the leaves with it, the smooth rock seemed etched with a complex brown on brown lace, like a topographical map, rivers and tributaries and mountains and morains, curving and branching and tumbling and rippling, like photographs from orbit of the surface of a new planet. When the sidewalk shifted into newer, cement slabs, the pattern was merely the shadow outline of maple leaves -- pretty, but lacking in the mysterious random order of the etchings on slate.

The clouds on Friday afternoon at dusk when I left school, after a solid week, after a happy hour, after a good talk with a colleague, looking out over the playing fields into the western sky. Layers and layers of clouds, white, gray, and silver, rolling in banks larger than you think the sky could hold, all illuminated from within by the crazy pinky orange light of the setting sun.

The feeling on Saturday morning of seeing my own house in the thin light of dawn. It is light enough that I don't think to flip the switch before I go downstairs for coffee, but still dim enough that things haven't taken on the solidity of day. From the stairs down from the landing, I can see into two rooms. The couch, the chairs, the tables, the books. The walls that contain it all. The floors glowing eerily in the grayness. These are my rooms. This is my place. Here.

Reading: Stuff for writers group, stuff for school (starting to prep Arabian Nights), stuff about creativity (some neat titles; I'll try to record them soon), wishing I could read the John Green I started but not finding time, incrementally getting through an article about a street dancer in a back copy of the New Yorker, wishing I could just read and read and read. So much to read.

Writing: Teensy bits of the book. And I need to do a final edit of the end of my piece in the group-written Seven Ages before it goes into rehearsal.

Dinner: Last night was at my in-laws, a fine casserole with big chunks of mushroom in it. Friday was a hurried, late boughten meal after soccer. Thursday Z helped me make the cheesy rice of the century. Wednesday was ... pasta? Tuesday (watching Agents of Shield as a family, because that's how we roll, like it or not) was pizza - 1 red sauce with cheese, 1 white with chicken, broccoli raab, and almonds. Monday was a bacon-cheddar-broccoli quiche, made because Sarah had given us a pie crust we need to use.

Soundtrack: In general, I don't mind ads on the free Pandora. I am getting sick of the fact that the only organization that seems to be paying them for adspace is some obnoxious pro-fracking group.

Earlier this week, I made these notes about music in my morning pages: "And music, I think I was thinking of a lot of things -- 'Soul Finger' and 'Mansion on the Hill' and O getting a listening list of classic rock from his new drum teacher ... Cream's version of  'Crossroads' on the itunes morning.'

Random thing: I love the rabbit holes of the interwebz. Idly searching for some possibly interesting tidbit about the pink shirt Finny wears in John Knowle's A Separate Peace (from what I understand it was likely a particular Brooks Brothers issue), I stumbled upon the world of trad menswear blogs, like this one. You didn't know such a thing exists, did you? Well, maybe one or two of you did ... but really, the intense debate about the minutiae of collar styles in the comments stream is dizzying.
"To clarify: I never said my stance on OCBDs under a formal/business suit (or any fashion related positions, for that matter) was anything but my opinion; an educated, well-defined opinion based on the origins and traditions associated with the style….but, an opinion – not a ‘rule’ – nontheless. Ironically, if anyone seems to believe in rules related to OCBDs, it’s many of you (including @CC)….as you all seemed to recoil at GQ’s (and my) suggestion that OCBDs might not be appropriate in formal settings. Treason! Glenn O’Brien is a fake! Look at the J.Press Web site! And so on." [credit to commenter AEV, November 12, 2013 @ 8:39 am]

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Layaway of the Soul

The polar vortex has moved on and we are back to slushy January in Cleveland. (Most) schools are back in session. I am back in teacher mode.

The interwebz come up with the most amazing things. If you start googling
about yoga of completion or similar far-out things, you might just come across
an online archive of  Northeast England's early 70s alternative newspaper! Groovy, man!

I am thinking a lot about finishing things and a lot about yoga. For the sake of compactness, I am beginning to think of myself as making a new practice of a "yoga of completion." (Yes, there is a tantric concept that might be called this. I am not sure that is what I am talking about. Who knows?) What I am talking about is a mindful dedication to finishing things, but finishing comes in many forms. Are you following me? Probably not.

Let me start with this: I first began to do yoga 13 years ago, pregnant for the first time and embroiled in graduate school. When that first pregnancy ended in stillbirth, I kept up with the yoga. I still feel very strongly that of the many gifts my brief encounter with that baby, Calvin, the greatest one was yoga. He gave that to me. I remember after he was born beginning non-prenatal yoga at the gym with my friend Marie. "I stand on the floor differently, with my whole foot, after a class," Marie said to me. I agreed. Pregnant again with Z two years later, I even studied to be a yoga teacher, but left (without finishing) because the stress of a post-stillbirth pregnancy eventually meant I could focus on little else besides pregnancy, but yoga helped immeasurably with that stress, and with the task of birthing nearly 9 lb. Z. I made friends in that class who have been constant and essential companions in my mothering life.

This is me, 40 weeks and 2 days pregnant with Z.
But in the past few years, the hectic life of a working mother writer volunteer crazy person eventually meant I put yoga aside. I did that without regret, knowing that it would still be there when I had space again in my life. Sometime in mid-'13 my body began asking me to return to yoga. I finally have.

About "completion": It is not a natural skill for me. I am much better at beginning things than finishing them. I love the rush and thrill of new ideas, of figuring things out, and yes, of being overcommitted and a bit crazed. But really, incompletion, for me, is a mania of possessiveness. In deep, primal ways that I don't need to go into here, I fear abandonment. Fear is too light a word. And in some topsy-turvy way, leaving things undone means not being abandoned by them ... are you with me? I've begun to see this as a sort of indebtedness. Not with money (that's a topic for another time), but with time and energy. If things are all undone, there is this weird long term debt of spirit that goes with them -- It's like a layaway of the soul. I am feeling done with that. I want my psycho-spiritual-creative life to be paid and delivered.

I don't need to list the things to be finished here, but I am in the spirit of yoga - awareness, nonjudgment, deliberate practice, and the joining of body, mind, and life force - I am committing to completing.  (And to be fair to myself, I have gotten so, so, so much better at finishing than I once was. I actually am pretty good at it in many ways. I just feel so rotten at it. It takes so much effort.

I've always been a little too process oriented. Now I can make a process of product. How's that?

Reading: I will be beginning Looking for Alaska at bedtime, but I also picked up a collection of short pieces by MFK Fisher this evening. I'm embarrassed to say (aspiring food writer that I am) that I have never really read her.

Writing: Yes, yes, yes, and I say yes! School's back in session, but I wrote this morning on rising. Pushing into new territory. Getting closer to completion.

Dinner: Pierogies with fixings, thanks to David, who feeds me.

Soundtrack: Michelle Shocked came on the computer shuffle. A song from Captain Swing. I saw her in concert in New York for that album. It was never my favorite of her albums. I like Short, Sharp  and the campfire tapes more, but still it was a great show. I am showing my age. I was sad last year to hear of her current mental state. I don't need to go into it. I wish her well. There are songs of hers that hit me in raw, central place.

Oh, and plus it is Elvis Presley's and David Bowie's (not to mention my stepdad, Chris's) birthday today!

Random thing: My car does a weird pulling to the right thing on slippery pavement. I wonder if this is the upshot of last week's adventure in snowy curbs and tow trucks.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Subzero edition

This is what -10 looks like

Reading: I finally finished Teacher Man. At the end of the book, as he retires from teaching at Stuyvesant in New York, his students tell him he should go write a book. This is the last chapter:

It says, "I'll try."

That's a sweet ending. Nice that he went on to win a Pulitzer.

Writing: I'll try. (A little Monday. More today. Need to use the cold to my advantage.)

Dinner: David made pizza: eggplant, mushroom, and pepperoni with red sauce, and black olive and pepperoni with white. We ate it while watching the first half of Jack the Giant Slayer. More on that once we've finished it.

Soundtrack: I've had "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" stuck in my head.

Random thing: 
Catsby Puffball has no concept of cold.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Remembrance of Bao

Where to start? Winter break is over, except we have a "snow" day today.  Tonight it is supposed to be sub-zero cold. I dreamt last night of opening presents. It wasn't Christmas-y; it was like old super-8 footage of birthday parties in 70s rec rooms, only David and I were both in them as adults. I don't remember what was in the presents.

Anyone know where to get this kind of bao in the CLE?

Driving around yesterday, I heard a piece on the radio about bao, Chinese buns (usually stuffed and steamed, but they come in many incarnations), on Splendid Table and I've become obsessed. The piece predicts bao to be the next food craze (led by the guest who is a 30-ish ex-lawyer who has a place in New York called BaoHaus. He also has a show on, which looks like Anthony Bourdain millennial-style. I like that the restaurant's website includes a stream of songs recently played there - scroll to bottom. Moral of the story: go to law school).

Back when I was a young, impecunious never-lawyer in NYC, my cousin and I would sometimes go to a tiny place in Chinatown that sold pork bao, 3 for a dollar. The ones there were the size and shape of a hamburger bun, smooth and pale and puffy. Charlie was the native New Yorker, so it was he who led me there. The restaurant was all worn white formica and chrome. There were maybe 8 tiny tables, and you would order from the woman at the counter. "Pork bao? Pork bao?" she said as you came in. They had other things on the menu -- I think I once got a bowl of noodles -- and perhaps other kinds of bao, but pork bao was really the thing to get, I guess.

The pork bao were amazing. The steamed dough light and pillow-y, hot in your hands. The scent as you picked it up was faint but sweet and deeply caramel-ly. Inside there was a pocket of hot, rich, fatty pork and sauce and maybe scallions. It was good that they came in multiples and cheap, because as soon as you were done with one, you very much wanted another.

The prediction on the radio that these will be the next items on "cheffy food trucks," plays right to my fantasy life, wherein I run a food truck that specializes in "things in dough" -- dumplings, empanadas, calzone, bao. I don't have a name for my food truck yet, though. It has to be something to rival the cleverness of BaoHaus.

Reading: Still almost done with Teacher Man, hoping the snow day will enable me to finish it.

Writing: Not really. Prepped for school instead. This is the struggle. Balancing, making sure writing happens every day, even when there are other obligations.

Dinner: Our friend Leah was in town briefly to visit family. She brought her guy, Q, with her for the first time. David made eggplant parmigiana and brussels sprouts.

Soundtrack: Squirrel Nut Zippers. Q was once in a band with one of the guys in that band. What was funny was that right after the two of them left, a SNZ song came up on the itunes shuffle.

Random thing: Looking at for the bao guy, I found this article that takes down the recent Asimov-predicted-2014-so-crazy-right meme.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Boots and Bye, Bye

A Pair of Boots 1887
(hangs in the Baltimore Museum of Art)

The other day, I quoted Frank McCourt's artist friend on the uncommented directness of Van Gogh's boots. Today this image appeared somewhere in my field. Let me just say, I love Van Gogh in a deep, gut level kind of way. I'm not sure there is another artist who sees the world in a way so close to my own sight. His paintings make me feel existentially connected, and that's no joke.

This is not one of his paintings with which I am particularly familiar. He painted other boots that I know better. It also lacks the yellows and acid greens that are dominant in my favorite Van Goghs. Yet still, I like these boots very much. They are so well observed, so alive with their bootness. So many of his paintings buzz with palpable energy to me. In miniature on the screen these don't quite buzz, but I have a feeling that if I stood in front of them in Baltimore, that charge would be there. The hobnails and the laces and eyes and the swirl of the blue fabric underneath them all tickle me. I'd like to see the texture of the paint.

Reading: School stuff and my friend Jess's blog, which is fabulous and funny.

Writing: Morning freewriting in the morning, when I woke up.

Dinner: The last gasp of Christmas, at my in-laws, featuring a meal made by my mother-in-law, Tertia, of Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, green beans with mushrooms, and Waldorf salad. For dessert we had "creme," which is a cold grape juice soup with whipped cream floating in it. The meal was inspired by one that my brother-in-law's Norwegian-American mother-in-law made for Christmas dinner in Minnesota last year (I think).

Soundtrack: Phil Everly died. He was younger than I would have guessed he was. As a kid I had a found collection of 45s from the 50s and 60s (have I written about this here? I'd check but the search function is being screwy), which heavily influenced my personality development. I had singles of "Bye, Bye Love" (with a b-side of "I Wonder If I Care As Much") and "Wake Up Little Susie" (with a b-side of  "Maybe Tomorrow"). Both those songs are in my bones. Thanks, Phil.

Random thing: I stopped at the library on the way to dinner to pick up some things on hold. I was carrying a big pile of books as I approached the building, and an older man with a big pile of books came out the back door. "Whew!" he said. "You wouldn't believe it, but they've got a lot of books in there."

The Devil Was Hot

Or maybe he's really angry
see a clip from the film

Overheard in my back seat on the way home from soccer practice:

8-year-old boy #1: What are you talking about? They don't execute people in heaven.

8-year-old boy #2: I mean the bad people.

#1: But heaven is where the good people go, so they wouldn't have to execute people.

#2: It's what happens to the people who do bad things in heaven.

#1: Besides you can't die in heaven. If you do something bad in heaven they would just send you to hell.

#2: That's what the executing is! It's how they send them to hell.

#1: They have to send them really far away.

#2: Right downstairs. Like 55,000 miles.

#1: All the way to the center of the earth. That's where hell is.

#2: OK. Sure.

#1: That's probably why the devil is red.

#2: Yeah, and why lava is red.

#1: The devil is probably really hot.

#2: Yeah, or really angry.

They also had an old-man conversation about how the world is degenerating because no one goes to preschool anymore, not like it was back when they were young, when there were preschools all over the place.

#2: I mean, I bet there are, like, maybe 200 preschools in the whole country anymore.

#1: I think maybe it's more like 400 ... Like maybe 412.

Reading: Mostly school stuff.

Writing: Yes! Fleshing out an important tertiary character. (Is that an oxymoron?)

Dinner: Pizza. But for lunch I made the kids quick homemade "applesauce" to go with the 5 pierogies hiding in the freezer. (3 Johnathon apples peeled and chopped and sauted in butter until the disentegrated, with 1/3 cup of applesauce scraped from the jar, a pinch of salt, 2 pinches of sugar, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.)

Soundtrack: Still, no.

Random thing: Z walks up and hugs me a lot these days. It seems especially sweet as she is nearly as tall as me, so a hug from her is not just something cute.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hugged by the tow truck guy

Not the tow truck that helped me.

I knew it was snowing a lot today, but from my window I had no idea how much had actually come down. When I finally went out, my car almost got stuck three times just moving it from where David left it on the street in the morning (and where, strangely, it had accumulated no covering of snow) into my neighbors' driveway to load up kids to take friends home and make a grocery run before it *really* started to snow. Yes, I said "into my neighbors' driveway." I had quickly realized there was too much snow in mine to make it a safe place to park.

Anyway, I got off my street and dropped off the friends and then by a series a what I thought were rational and defensive choices, I ended up stuck on a ridiculous jutting curb deep in the snow on a private drive tucked away in a corner of Cleveland Heights between a regular residential neighborhood and a defunct golf course. Nevermind exactly how it happened. There I was, just exactly where I did not intend to be -- and on top of all that it was 18 degrees and somehow O had managed to get out of the house without donning a proper coat.

I called triple-a and was on hold forever, so I gave up for a while and called Chris, father of the kids I had just dropped off, and asked for his help -- points for me, because asking for help is so hard for me; points for Chris, because he was so cheerful about helping. I got back on the phone with the auto club, was aggressively ignored by a woman from a nearby house who tried and failed to drive a very, comically large truck past my skewed and stuck little Matrix, spent what felt like an hour trying to explain to the dispatcher where this "street" I was on is located, as it shows up on no maps or gps systems. In the midst, Chris showed up with a mini van full of kids with shovels and drop cloths and enthusiasm.

We failed to get my car, Susie we call her affectionately, to move even the tiniest bit. Eventually a neighborhood man (husband I think to the unhelpful woman) showed up to berate me, a nonresident, for blocking their street right when everyone would be coming home from work. Honestly. As though I had done it on purpose just to inconvenience him. He did offer at first to go get his truck to pull me out, but quickly decided to "leave the liability" to the professional towing company.

I left Susie with the blinkers on, Chris informed the police that the car was there, and we went back to their house to wait for the tow truck. The tow truck guy and I had quite a time going through the directions to the non-street with the ridiculous curb, and once he was there, we had quite a time figuring out how to angle the tow bar in the ridiculous non-street-curb-alley geometry (temperature now at 14 degrees, sun down, and snow still falling). While he was struggling with my car, another large truck of the neighborhood came down the alley, disgorged a pregnant lady, who also studiously ignored me, my car, the tow truck, etc., then sat blocking the way for the tow truck to move forward.

But finally, tow truck guy managed to pick up my front wheels and backed her up over the curb. I tested the car and all was well. "Well, that'll do you," the tow truck guy said. I thanked him profusely, slipped him a tip (that I had to borrow from friend Marcie), and received a big, cheerful, warm embrace. "Have a happy new year," he said.

Points to tow truck guy and to Marcie (IOU). Deduction of points from unhelpful residents of unnamed private drive. Snow wins.

Reading: Yes.

Writing: Yes.

Dinner: David did the shopping I intended to do, and came home and made nachos. Points to David.

Soundtrack: I don't recall.

Random thing: In all the house rearranging we've been doing, we've ended up with a big pile of stationery and office supplies in the dining room (really, art and music and fancy dishes and piles of paper room). I've always had a thing for writing paper and envelopes and interesting cards and sealing wax and stamps. If I had room for any more resolutions it would be to renew the art of letter writing. This will likely have to wait for another year.

Before I thought to ask Marcie to lend me money to tip the tow truck guy, who really was working with such wry humor in such crappy circumstances with a lot of concern for not damaging my car in the process, I entertained the thought of telling him I wanted to tip him but had no cash and promising to send him a tip in the mail. I had a mini fantasy about how promptly and in what nice packaging my promised but not necessarily actually expected tip would arrive, and what good that would do in the world. An exhange of heartfelt cash and a hug is also good.

Begin again?

I rang in the new year with friends who still seem recent, but whom I have known since pregnant with Z 11 years ago. Just after midnight we spontaneously slipped on our boots and ran out into the middle of the street shouting, "It's 2014!" The snow had been falling steadily for hours. Everything was white and quiet, except for the rumble of fireworks in the distance. We danced and kicked up snow. Our daughters ran hand in hand to the end of the block and back. We toasted with the neighbors from across the street, who threw on coats to come join us. We shivered and laughed. We went back inside and listened to Neko Case.

(Cleveland is reputed to be one of the world's most beautiful snowy cities!)

When I was a child, 2000 seemed like a science fiction year, one that could not actually happen. Now it is 2014. This was the 25th New Year's David and I have spent in each other's company (not as a couple the first 5 or so of them). And can someone tell me why Debbie Harry was performing in Times Square? I didn't see it and was surprised to see her there at the ball drop.

Reading: No. But I went to a yoga workshop, talked with friends and discovered the very lovely movie, A Monster in Paris. It's a French animated feature, loosely based on Phantom of the Opera, about a giant flea that doesn't actually terrorize Paris but instead sings beautifully.

Writing: A little doodling, a little mapping, a little goal setting (intention setting, really ... process designing. Read this about goals vs. processes, if you care to). This was mostly a day for other things. Most days tend to be. Part of the goal setting was about re-upping with a more satisfying daily routine, which includes daily writing.

And might I remind you of what I wrote on these pages one year ago? It is good to refresh you demon banishing skills.

Dinner: Spaghetti and sauce and frozen broccoli. (Funny, we had spaghetti on New Year's Day last year too.)

Soundtrack: A Monster in Paris!

The giant flea is voiced in the English version by Sean Lennon. Adam Goldberg voices Raoul the delivery driver. I have just finally confirmed that I did briefly go to college, and even appeared ever so even brieflier with him on stage. That is not why I enjoyed this movie; just a bit of trivia.

Random thing: Yesterday there were 9 hawks on my drive home from Athens. I don't think I have ever spotted so many. I declare this to be auspicious. At least one of them was a red shouldered, which has a darker head and more striated breast than red tails, which are most common and what I general assume I am seeing. I spent quite a bit of time as a kid outside in Southeastern Ohio, and sighting a hawk was not a common experience for me. DDT, which had contributed to a decline in raptor populations, was banned in 1972. I think I have watched birds rebound over the course of the last 40 years. Do you want to know more about Ohio raptors? Of course you do! So read this.