Mother Blue

I photo. I take day trips. I lightsaber battle. I analyze the stuffing out of myself.

Category: Play

Pathos

Wired Intersection (cell phone pic)

Wired Intersection (cell phone pic)

My inner monologue was spastically riffing…

They shut off my water this morning. My hands feel so incredibly dirty. Germal colonies are setting up camp on my palms. I have spent the day Lysol-ing all the present and future surfaces I have or may touch. I need disposable gloves and a nap.

I can’t concentrate without water. I can’t help but obsess over the notion of anything being removed from my life or my general convenience. This whole thing began with a gas leak in February. Three months later my street still lacks infrastructure and functioning sidewalks. Each local gas company has to repair their own lines, every water company has to follow suit. New construction type vehicles arrive biweekly. What started out as a patch job has now become days filled with gas fume hallucinations, vibrating furniture from the constant jackhammering, and gravelled sidewalks by the same result.

My inner voice is that of a middle-aged man. I am not really sure why.

Water Rations. (cell phone pics)

Water Rations. (cell phone pics)

• • •

Pathos: Pathetic lump of emotions

The stockpile of words I use in my everyday life is staggeringly limited. PATHOS is one of those words I once learned a very long time ago, probably for some English lit exam, but then I carelessly shoved it into the recesses of my brain once it outlived my 16-year-old self’s usefulness. I have been obsessing over this word as of late, much like I am obsessing over my disgusting hands. I am typing this entry with the tip of my fingernail, just to keep the molecules of degenerate filth at bay.

I came across this gorgeous sentence: “oddball art-house flights of fancy, verite sex scenes and lump-in-throat moments of pathos. It’s funny almost as an after-thought.

My newfound obsession with pathos came after watching this.

It made me stop. Simple words of unrequited love delivered by an everyman. This show wasn’t what I expected at all: If you haven’t seen this show and you love cinema and great storytelling and humanity, I urge you to watch “Louie”. Check out this scene as well.

But there it was. Pathos. The revelation of that word was like lightning rod of everything for me. The road that I have been traveling for so long, my weirdness, my quirkiness, my obsessions, my neurosis all of a sudden made sense. I have been journeying so long and so far trying to figure out just who the heck I am in waves of enlightenment, comparisons to other individuals, and epic inner narratives. If I could be something intangible I would probably be pathos. I long for pathos. I lust for pathos. Pathos is my life projection through color televisions with emotive filters. At its very best, it appeals to a selected audience’s emotions; at its very worst, it can meander in rhetoric and pathetic inclinations. For me, it simply means the raw, unmuddied yet abridged version of the emotion in a moment. It’s like a capturing a photograph.

• • •

Bird on a Wire (cell phone pic)

Bird on a Wire (cell phone pic)

I love documentaries. My digital movie queue is filled with at least 50 of them, just waiting to be watched. Just Like Being There was at the top of the list. Focused on the artists behind the “gig poster scene,” this doc was a feast of illustrative screen printed gorgeousness set to an indie music soundtrack. Very inspiring watch, but I found myself wondering in my head and then later aloud, “does the type of music we listen to determine or predict our intellect or intellectual capacity?” The artists represented in the doc were not just emotive beings, they were what I would call skilled technicians whose thinking lies on a different intellectual plane. I love music, but my musical tastes merely skim the surfaces of most genres. I listen intently to what is laid out before me, but I always find that when left to my own devices my choices are uncomplicated. I want an emotional journey filled with crescendos. I found myself wondering if the way I think is too simple, too mainstream, too surface, too rooted in emotion, or in the consumptive nature of the masses.

Maybe I am mostly comprised of emotion. My mother was a die hard “someday my prince will come” romantic  realist. She was wrapped up in the cinematic notion of life and love; the polar opposite of her actual, real world existence. As much I pride myself in my realism, I probably am a pretty similar person. I see everyday people like actors on a screen. I imagine everyday conversations like poetry, even if they are just talking about Cheetos. I imagine the back stories of the people in the supermarket check out lines. I go on my walks and I am suddenly transported to a scene in a film. I imagine the camera angles. I photograph the everyday because the position of everything literally whispers some sort of story to me. It fills me with emotions. It’s the only way I can relate to the world. Sometimes Motown sings in the background, punctuating the mood of the moment in just the right way…

• • •

A musician once transposed the noted positions of birds on telephone wires. I think of that story often when I go on my walks. My hidden monologues, back stories of strangers, and overheard conversations make me think of how so many of us are like those birds. Unassuming notes on a make shift bar staff. Part of a larger hidden song.

Morning walk (cell phone pic)

Morning walk (cell phone pic)

Maybe I am just screenplaying everything so I have some sense of control. Sometimes I write things down. Other times I repeat moments in my brain over and over again in order to commit them to memory. Sometimes the words and moments float away like ether. In most circumstances, I can’t tell if I am writing myself as a hero or anti-hero. In first or third person. Victim or survivor.

I sat on my porch last night and attempted to read. I was mulling over a lot and feeling particularly melancholy about things I felt had no simple resolution. I whispered the word “mommy” to myself. I don’t know why. My pathetic cry for help. My 39-year-old self knows it won’t make a difference. It was one of those “you can either crumble or pull yourself up by your bootstraps” moments, but I needed vulnerable for a second. And in those vulnerable moments sometimes it only feels right to be just as vulnerable as the moment dictates. Either way, it was my own version of Mayday and my own way to reboot. A large black butterfly with blue spots landed next to me, flying wildly in my face, harassing me. It would fly very close to my shoulder and then sputter away into the trees. Seconds later, it would come back. Three times it did this, then it flew away for good. I sat in quiet for the first time in a long time. It had been a long time  since I had seen a butterfly. A long time since one tried to get my attention. One appeared to me on the subway shortly after my mother had died. One landed on my windshield when I was particularly broke and lost. Maybe this one was there because I just needed to feel less alone.

End scene.

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Telephone Wires (cellphone pic)

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I want to be a Sandwich

An exercise from a long ago desktop publishing class. 

“Make yourself a business card in QuarkXpress. Your occupation can be anything you want. Make a statement, graphically. Make it you.” 

— So and So, Journalist

— Such and Such, Designer

— Blah Blah Blah, Photographer

— etc.

One word descriptors for a career identity.

The possibilities sent my brain into overload. Over analyzing a simple exercise into prophecy has always been one of my neurotic fortes. I can take any simple assignment and somehow turned into a life plan, like I was carving my fate into the granite of my tombstone.

Jumbled phrases in my mind’s eye appeared like endless words on reams of paper from a teletype. It kind of looked like this except it went on and on and on:

WREARTISTTRTYUIOPOETBHUM

DFGHJKLUIPHOTOGRAPHERKOP

XCVGMUSICIANHJMPAINTEROLP

GRAPHICDESIGNERVYJMLGFYFLY

WTEUJOURNALISTOPSTOPSTOPST

OPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOPS

I could not see my identity clearly. I frantically typed. I sweat over the details.

My finished card ended up looking like my mom sat down and wrote a letter of recommendation for me in crayon.

Mismatched fonts of Times New Roman italic and Garamond bold. A hand drawn stick figure version of myself, you know, to give it that professional yet personal touch.

I named myself a company. PICTURE THIS. I thought this was sooooooo clever. Photography (one of my many listed attributes) = Picture. I bet no one had ever though of such thing.

The almost 40 year me is eye rolling as we speak.

Kimberly McCarty, Graphically Designing Public Relations Journalist Photographer Artist

My professor told me that I had to narrow it down.

“You will never get good at any one thing until you narrow yourself down.”

But what if I want to do everything?

I guess I am still asking myself that same question.

I want to be this sandwich

I want to be this sandwich

I want to be this sandwich. I want to be every version of this sandwich. The one before it is bitten into, masticated and ground into something else. The sandwich of every flavor and condiment. The Schrödinger’s cat of sandwiches. The sandwich of the possible. One that can be both roast beef and braunschweiger, harmoniously.

Sigh, how do people know who they are? How do they narrow it down? I read the obits of all the greats and they find a way to make ONE thing uniquely their own.

You become great when you narrow things down. Not everyone can be Da Vinci.

• • •

Dinner time in our house is our daily catch up time. A few weeks ago, we allowed Jack the floor. We promised no interruptions. For the next 30 minutes, an Andy Kaufman-esque type dialogue combining television commercial dialogue and his own blend of witty humor and facial expressions came at us in a fast and furious delight.

We nodded and laughed and listened and asked questions.

I have been trying to be more open to giving him an outlet for his expressiveness. I am still too protective. I still don’t trust adults. I remember many of the adults around me not being very open about expressing myself when I was a kid. One time, when I was about 9 or 10, I attempted to sing the entire Annie soundtrack on my gram’s back porch, my gram begged me to stop singing.

“People are gonna think you are crazy.”

I worry about myself being a dream stifler as well. I worry about harping on him for the things that make me uncomfortable. I worry that I won’t be able to discern when I need to correct him and when to let him be a kid.

My boy is high-strung. He acts out every thought that enters his head. It is both overwhelming and delightful. I worry other people won’t get him. I get too protective. I quell his enthusiasm more than I should.

I wish I worried less. I worry that I worry. I worry that my worry is going to crush his spirit.

“What goes on in that brain of yours?” We asked this at the end of his dinner dialogue.

He laughed as he spoke. “My thoughts are crazy! They make me think so many things and want to do so many things. Like, what if I grow up and want to dress up like a marshmallow and walk down the street and give other people on the street hugs?”

Jackie Rullo, Marshmallow 

I have to figure out a way to allow him to be a marshmallow or a sandwich more often. Maybe I need to heed his vision, dress up like a marshmallow, and stretch out my arms and hug someone.

Or maybe in the most organic and healthiest of ways we should just try to be everything.

dancin with myself

Desk “Dancin with Myself”. Billy Idol. Whoa oh ah oh!

For all I know: A love letter to my friends who are turning 40

My 1990s Journals

My 1990s Journals

A few days ago, I read through a few of my old journals… until I just could not read them anymore. There is nothing more humbling, more grounding, and more “kick-you-in-the-ass, you-so-thought-you-were-Sylvia-Plath-but-you-really-were-just-a-person-who-used-too-many-lame-metaphors-for-the-emptiness-that-only-YOU-could-understand” than reading your old journals.

In truth, I was just a regular old pathetic girl searching for love in a dysfunctional life who was probably just like every other pathetic 17-year-old person in the same circumstance. I did not understand my family, my friends, myself, and I thought I knew the depths of everything and everyone. Even when freely admitting (even back then) that I knew nothing. If only everyone could be like me, this life would be soooo much easier. I still love that naive girl. But in a disembodied, motherly kind of way.

Case in point. This was the cover of my journal as I entered college, I kid you not.

My Beauty and The Beast Journal. Yes. I loved this show.

My Beauty and The Beast Journal. Yes. I loved this show. Don’t Judge.

• March 4, 1992: “I know I shouldn’t be complaining, especially on Ash Wednesday…”

• August 27, 1990: “Today was my first day as a junior in high school. I thought it was going to be fun, but it wasn’t…”

• September 2, 1990: ” He said he came back to the dance early so he could dance the last dance with me. I think I like him, but I would never say anything.”

• 1990-1992: Some version of: “I am so pissed off/confused/angry at/jealous of/insert life sucks analogy here.”

Oh and there are many, many, MANY versions of the last sentence in my early journals.

Maaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnyyyyyyyy.

Like Twillight Saga level, metaphorically speaking, many.

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Song lyrics usually highlighted most pages. Or at least the back covers.

• • •

I finally found what I was searching for, weeding through all those angsty lines.

• September 1, 1992: “Well, I ‘m sitting here in my dorm room. This whole experience has been a lot different from what I expected it to be. It’s not like high school, but I still feel lost. This feels so weird. I can start over in a sense and just be myself. No prejudging. I can finally start working towards being who I was meant to be. I hope I like it here. I’m kind of scared. I don’t know if I will be doing this (my Journalism major) for the rest of my life. I honestly don’t know if I would want to do this forever… I would really like to try acting… I hope I like it here… I feel like I have changed… I think I am ready.”

This past New Year’s Eve, I started thinking which in turn prompted me to read the journals. As I approach my 40th year, I want to think back on all that has happened and all I have become before moving to the next part.

So I have.

I have started thinking about all the people who have brought me here.

Who grew up with me.

Who sang/lip synched/or otherwise randomly danced in inappropriately venues with me.

Who have laughed/cried with me on stairwells, in movie theaters, and in other inappropriate venues.

Who gave me my first jobs. My first internships.

Who loved me.

Who broke my heart.

Who took road trips and Greyhound bus rides with me to new destinations and  life changing trips.

Who have told me the truth in the kindest and cruelest of ways.

Who have argued with me.

Who challenged me to be better.

I am in awe of you. All of you.

I see how far my almost 40-year-old friends have come. Girls who have become fierce women who I respect and admire, doing things that make me proud to have once shared the same space with them. Starting businesses and starting over. Becoming fantastic parents, partners, spouses, and/or fantastic independent women.

People who taught me lifelong friendship, kindness, and have become my family.

Creative people who have inspired me to try something new. Who make me want to create. To put myself out there. To make art.

To those who have inspired me to be more honest and more authentic.

To the men and women who are role models for my family and for my son.

Even to those who I have lost touch with, grew apart from, who had to be left behind, I thank you for the lessons that I desperately needed to learn. I finally understand the importance of these things. The bad things. The mean things. The other things.

Yesterday, the radio reminded me of you. So here is my gift to you. (I have been singing this all darn day.) You will never know how much you mean to me. I have nine months left of 39. Happy Birthday year to us all. Here is to an even greater rest of our lives.

never-tear-us-apart2

Yes, I made fan art for you people. No, I do not own these lyrics, nor do I have INXS kind of money. Just a simple love letter to all of you that only Michael Hutchence could express adequately.

never-tear-us-apart-1

Yes, I made fan art for you people. No, I do not own these lyrics, nor do I have INXS kind of money. Just a simple love letter to all of you that only Michael Hutchence could express adequately.

• • •

• February 2, 1996: “All this time I thought I was a grown up, but he hit the nail on the head. ‘You are going to be a very strong woman someday — you’re almost there.’ It never really hit me until he said it — I’m not a grown up. I’m not going to be a grown up until I get into that one thing that will make me strong.”

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Excerpt

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Kim Grows Up.

A Reminder

It has been a while. A long few months. A lot of blank blog pages and experiences left to memory.

Here I conduct Elton John (“Funeral for a Friend” to be precise) as a Jubilant Narcissistic Captain Fantastic in celebration of everyone’s crappy or happy Wednesday.

Here’s to motivation, finishing unfinished projects, and writing more things.

xo

Cheese Touch and Backpacks

The Cheese Touch. Photo by me.

The Cheese Touch. Photo by me.

I have developed a nervous tic over the last three years. It is not one of those things I normally discuss in mixed company, but a third grader has given me… well… what I can only describe as the twitch that now resides in the back of my neck and relentlessly utters two tiny little words…

I don’t remember exactly when it started. Maybe sometime in the middle of Jack’s Kindergarten year. This small tap on my back and a whisper.

“Cheese Touch.”

I turned around to this sweet face, his blue eyes beaming with delight. He ran on the bus before I could retaliate.

Ah, Connor.

He had just discovered the joy of  “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and decided to unleash this epic battle of wills on our unsuspecting bus stop. If you are unaware of what the Cheese Touch is, it’s the childhood game of cooties modernized for the 21st century kid and immortalized in Jeff Kinney’s wonderful book and film series. If somebody has the Cheese Touch, they will be an outcast until they pass it onto someone else by touching them. The only way for people to protect themselves from the Cheese Touch is to cross their fingers. Yay for kid logic!

At present, our bus stop is tainted with much cheese funk. I think I have been tainted for all eternity.

Everyday it is Parents vs. Kids. Parents vs. Parents. Connor vs. Everyone.

My fingers have been crossed for almost three years, fused together each and every morning as if I was trying to avoid the plague. Connor always arrives at the stop later than most of the other kids. Sometimes a chain of warning cries gets passed along by my son to the other children to the rest of the stop, “CONNOR IS COMING!”; other times I have to keenly tune my hearing to the swish of his shorts or the rustle of his backpack. Sometimes he wears bright orange. Other times its camouflage. I have caught him hiding behind parked vans where his mother has warned me of his presence. Sometimes he strikes everyday, weeks at a time. Sometimes he waits weeks to strike. Three long years.

Sometimes he is almost thwarted…

I was sooooo stealthy that day. I proceeded down my hill toward the stop. I caught a glimpse of a backpack peeking out from behind a telephone pole. My heart thumped in my chest. I felt like I was in the middle of some covert operation. I cut through a neighbor’s front yard, onto their porch, and down their front stoop to reach the other side of the pole where the boy’s view was slightly obstructed. “Don’t let Connor know I can see him.” I whispered these words to Jack as he ran ahead of me towards the other kids. I approached and I reached towards him with pointed finger. And just as I was about to finally touch the tip of his hoodie, I don’t know if I took one too many steps or if Connor became aware of the other parental spectators who were desperately trying to muffle their laughter in their hands, but he ducked and covered with the expertise of a kid twice his age. We all burst into laughter at what almost could have been.

Other times he is nothing short of victorious…

I was standing by the bus line saying “see ya later” to the kids. I did not think he was going to school that day so my defenses were down. He came out of his house like a shot. I heard his familiar swish but I was powerless to stop it from happening. The world converted to a slow motion montage as I was abruptly struck. I could almost hear Adagio for Strings playing in the background. I feigned a defeated collapse in the neighbor’s yard and dramatically punched the ground. I raised my fists to the heavens and screamed “CURSES!” I swore my cry echoed throughout all of the South Hills that morning. I saw his smiling, mocking face through the bus window as he rode off in victory.

I am never safe. Once, while I was comforting my son at the stop he brushed my shoulder while I was in mid hug with my boy. He whispered those cursed words in my ear.

There is a glorious sled riding hill in the park close to our stop. We parents have joked that one day before Connor graduates to the middle school we will finally just have to have an epic “Braveheart” style battle. The children of our Avenue Bus Stop on the hillside, Connor in face paint and kilt leading the charge to the adults down below. “Freedom and Cheese!” will be their cry.

I jokingly tell the parents that one day I imagine Connor showing up at the my nursing home. My hands crippled with arthritis, no longer able to cross my bony fingers. I will be helpless. He will arrive, dressed as an orderly, brush my arm and whisper those words one last time.

And our beloved crossing guard Bob will be smiling down from wherever he is, taking it all in, and laughing at this precocious little boy, our silly games, and our little bus stop family. RIP Robert Rivet. Thank you for laughing with us and finding joy in all of us.

Indulgence

Sticker Mural by Jack

Sticker Mural by Jack

Saturday night insomnia.

My brain laid heavy in my skull as I tried to think on other things other than the things that were keeping me awake.

I have been spending most evenings meditating before bed. I laid on the floor and tried to focus on my breathing, but the words in my head were just too loud, no matter how aloft my thoughts longed to be.

I headed upstairs to do my nightly routine (face wash, teeth brush, other bathroomly things), but instead of making it to my destination, I headed towards the light in my son’s room. He must have forgotten to shut it off before he passed out for the night on the living room floor.

I walked in, sat down on his bed, and stared at the wall behind his headboard.

He asked us earlier in the day if he could put some of his own “stuff” on the walls in his room. He had his share of superhero and Star Wars posters but he wanted something else. Something non manufactured, I guess. (Even after having this house for almost three years, I am still afraid to put any kind of nail hole in the walls. I have an attic full of artwork still waiting to be hung.)

Jack’s request brought Randy Pausch to mind: “When I was in high school, I decided to paint my bedroom. I always wanted a submarine and an elevator… And the great thing about this is they let me do it. And they didn’t get upset about it. And it’s still there. If you go to my parent’s house it’s still there. And anybody who is out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedroom, as a favor to me  let them do it. It’ll be OK. Don’t worry about resale value on the house.”

Jack begged us not to check out “his masterpiece” before he was all done.

The mural he left behind was nothing more than stickers he found lying all over his room. Stickers from old school workbooks, birthday party sticker favors, stickers from the kitchen drawers, whatever stickery type thing he could get his hands on. There was no rhyme or reason to his design. It was rainbows and puppies and other unrelated nonsense. There were at least 100 of them laid across his wall in perfect kid formation. It was that and his own scribbled NO GIRLS ALLOWED sign. (He has since bent that rule when his friend, Emily, came over to play “let’s break some Guinness Records” with him.)

It wasn’t a remarkable presentation by any artistic standard, but it was brilliant in its own way and it was his. He didn’t care. He just wanted to take his white space and make it his own.

• • •

After school yesterday, he walked over to my computer and planted his face on my scanner. Bent over, knees on the floor, butt up in the air. He waited.

I said to him, “What on earth are you doing?”

“I want you to scan my face. It will be awesome!”

(What if the scanner burns his retinas?!)

I hesitated. Then I said, “Close your eyes.”

He knelt there motionless as the light bar moved slowly across his face. The first time he slowed down all day. He doesn’t usually stop talking or moving until exhaustion sets in, and even then he acts as if he is Rocky Balboa “giving it all he has got” until he is down for the count.

• • •

I have said it before… sometimes I forget.

Sometimes I forget that for him everything is still new. That every weird, terrifying, tacky, strange, dangerous, insert adjective here, thing/idea is new and brilliant and they believe they are the first people to have ever have thought of it. He asked me later if he could scan his butt. I said no with a chuckle. He has no idea that throughout the 1980s, people Xeroxed the HELL out of their butts in office parties around the world.

I do forget more often than I care to admit. I am tentative. I don’t indulge myself or him as often as I should. Part of our job is to keep them safe while they indulge in their whimsy. As I sat on his bed reflecting on his work, and as I watched him giggle as the scanner scanned his squishy face, I remembered that for every time I remember, too often I have forgotten to close my eyes and giggle… for myself, for him, and for them. I am thankful for the reminders.

• • •

Happy early birthday, Buddy. Eight is great.

Hand Scan, Fingerprinted Scanner

Hand Scan, Fingerprinted Scanner

Face Scan, Fingerprinted Scanner

Face Scan, Fingerprinted Scanner

Storage Unit

An invitation to the ridiculous and the sublime.

An invitation to the ridiculous and the sublime.

I had not ventured out with the purpose of taking random photos for a very long time, but I knew I was very much in need of a moment of solitude.

I left my boy at the party of 8 year olds to play sports and eat cake and make merry. This was his first non-parent party (as in, parents could drop off their kids and return to gather them at the end of the allotted time.) I had never really left him at a party before, only on play dates, but I knew he was with his school friends. I knew there were enough grown ups. And I knew that he was safe inside the kid’s recreational complex. I sat in my chair just outside the fence of the training area as I watched him run off to play without hesitation. I recognized that we could both could use an afternoon of freedom; a time for him to play and for me to think. I walked over to the basketball courts, kissed him on the forehead, and handed him my cell phone number which he pocketed hurriedly. I exited the space feeling a slight twinge of his growing up, but I left with little hesitation.

Just outside the building was an old industrial complex. It was Sunday afternoon which meant most of the area was dead, closed, and quiet. I drove down roads with names like: Progress Court and Determination Street and other plays on motivating words. Around the time I found the corner of Progress and Progress, I saw a man sorting out his possessions behind large green garage doors and tiny numbers. When my tires crackled on pavement of the parking lot entering the storage facility, he looked up accusingly. I felt I interrupted his methodical ritual of compartmentalizing things, so I drove down to a different row of doors. I parked and began to storage, compartmentalize, and document myself on my tiny cell phone camera.

The space reminded me of the town where I grew up. I thought of some of my favorite photo partners as I walked and my heels clicked through the rain. I wanted to photograph my friends in stylish coats against the green doored backdrops. I wanted them to hold my hands as they roller skated  all over the lot in their striped knee socks and old fashioned skates. I wanted them to carry brightly colored umbrellas as they weaved in and around the buildings. My thoughts of them inspired me to the next few moments. I stared at my boots and jumped into the body of 1940s screen siren Chloe Parker who was at that very moment of space and time completely trapped in her own angsty web of intrigue. I was starring in my own version of bad French cinema which would later be named “Fritz Bolkestein: a Life without French Fries.” It was my few moments of play before I drove back down Progress Blvd. to interrupt his.

Storage-unit-1

The corner of everything (Le coin de tout)

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Chloe perdant son esprit.

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The buildings reminded her of Fritz. Le Sigh.

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La porte à côté d’homme continuée changer ses chemises.

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Je suis Chloe.

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Oh, L’amour.

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Mémoire.

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Où est-ce?

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A photo to remember what she was about to leave behind.

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Vingt-cinq

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Silhouette

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She wished it were wine.

Barrière

Barrière

Fritz Bolkestein : une vie sans pommes frites

Fritz Bolkestein : une vie sans pommes frites

Sunday Dresses and Subway Grates

Snowglobe from Chinatown given to me by Jack (cell phone pic)

“Stop spinning around, all over the aisle, young lady…”

Shopping for a few last-minute items necessary to complete Easter Sunday dinner, I overheard these words, uttered in complete exasperation, between mother and her tiny daughter.

“But I just look so pretty today. I just have to spin…”

She was dressed in her Sunday best for the Saturday Easter services. Lace and chiffon, ruffled anklets and patent leather shoes. She had to be no more than eight.

Her sister joined in, matching fluttery spins. Mom’s arms were filled with packages. She tried to quell their reverie, this time in a much sterner tone. “Stop Spinning! Just stop it! There are people trying to shop here.” They held back a bit and walked behind the weary mother. They spun again, quietly as they grabbed more groceries. They needed to play their not so secret, secret game for a few more moments.

• • •

I felt the guilt and weight of the above scenario almost immediately. Sometimes I am so very quick to stifle what appears to be useless nonsense in my eyes. Sometimes it is a necessary lesson in decorum, other times is it stupid grown up rules of “how to behave” and overall lack of little person patience.

On the car ride home, I began replaying the montage of Jack stifles I have doled out over the years, clocking in my head all the hours and wondering which one will be the ONE he tells a therapist about in later years. Hours of stifling laughter and mischief into a myriad of different versions of the phrase, “What the heck do you think you are doing? Saying? Eating? Etc.?” Sometimes I feel I am snuffing the life out of his childhood curiosity, one phrase at a time.

• • •

Driving through the Holland Tunnel (cell phone pic)

I had planned on a working, photo project oriented, NYC trip, but my travel partner’s illness and other circumstances altered the chain of events. At 11 am on the day before the trip, I called my husband and asked if he could take tomorrow off. I am usually not this spontaneous and I could have gone by myself, but Dave and I love New York and we have always wanted to share our love of that city with Jack. So we snatched the little one from school and headed east on an adventure.

Our trip became one of those unplanned, jump in the car and pick a direction, whirlwind family vacations. We had no idea what this adventure would bring but the weekend left us with some simple and truly magical in moments. There were so many little moments that the memories play out like snippets of text written out on an old-fashioned teletype machine.

Jack staring out our hotel room window, moments after we arrived. He was fascinated by the Chinese symbols on everything. He sat in that window for the next half hour and copied them all down into his notebook.

The trip was simple. The moments were simple.

• Jack asking us to spell the word “colorful” as he carefully scribbled every moment of this weekend into his journal. • Mom and dad singing to Foreigner and Hall and Oates. • Small hotel, the queen size bed nearly took up the whole room. Walking sideways was necessary to sneak around each other in order to get to the bathroom. • Four TV stations. The Food Network made us hungry for everything. • Saturday morning Starbucks and a walk contemplating the possibilities. • Jack on his first cab ride, more fascinated with the little televisions inside than the city view. • Walking the length of Times Square, ooohing and ahhing at giant M&Ms. • The Toys R Us had a giant kiddie ferris wheel piercing through three stories of merchandise. • Afternoon with an old friend, lunch, MOMA and Cindy Sherman. • Sleepiness and Washington Square Park. • West and East Village. • Tiramasu and people watching in a tiny restaurant in little Italy. • A walk to ground zero. • Three little rings, one for each one of us in Chinatown.

Rooftop bar with a view. (cell phone pic)

Our first evening there was our most magical one. We had no expectations for this day, so it made it all the more simple. Prior to the plan of taking the family on this trip, I had made plans to meet a friend for a drink in the city. So Dave and Jack made plans to check out the area around our hotel while I journeyed in the opposite direction.

We walked towards the village. I had always wanted to see Manhattan from above in real life. The weather was perfect. The sky was clear. I wanted to capture the moment from every angle. My friend found a place not too far from the hotel that had a rooftop bar. We crashed the fancy dinner party that was taking place around the bar and out on the roof. I was still slightly haggard from my long drive east. I was keenly aware that my less than dressy outfit complete with very worn tennis shoes and frayed pant cuffs looked very out-of-place. They asked if we were with “the party” and my friend immediately said yes. I drank my free wine and made it outside to the edge of the building, and looked out into this city that I love so much. The people looked so close yet so far away. I wanted to stand on the edge of the building and just dive into it all. I wanted to yell “helloooooooooo, I am hereeeeeee!” to the crowd of people rushing off to begin their Friday evening plans.

We walked back to meet my family, stopping at a tiny bakery along the way. We sang cheesy 80s tunes loudly, badly, joyously as we made our way through the beginnings of everyone’s evening. I felt the energy of everything. The energy of the possible. We all met up outside the hotel and began to walk around the city and chat. I felt alive. As Dave and my friend chatted about New York and the subways and the city sites. I turned to Jack, grabbed his hand and said, “Are you ready?” He giggled and said yes. We took off running down the block leaving our walking companions behind. We ran and jumped on the nearby subway grates, listening to the loud booms as we landed. It was the only thing I could think of to do to capture my excitement for being in this city with the people I love most. I was running toward something, feeling inspired and overwhelmed, unstifled.

I couldn’t sleep that night, too excited, too something. I listened to the cars outside and felt the subway roll underneath. I watched the thigh high boots and the late night walks of shame, and waited until dawn so I could step out into it all again. I felt like those little girls in their Sunday best and I just had to spin…

Remnants of fashion. Somewhere in the Village. (cell phone pic)

Bowery Street (cell phone pic)

Walking through Little Italy. (cell phone pic)

Little Italy and the Empire State Building. (cell phone pic)

Spying on the tourists in Dunkin Donuts. (cell phone pic)

Times Square (cell phone pic)

Jackie feigning shock and awe in Times Square (cell phone pic)

Walking to MOMA. (cell phone pic)

Ken laughing at Jack dancing to Kraftwerk at MOMA. (cell phone pic)

Jamming to Kraftwerk. (cell phone pic)

Sneaking a Sherman pic. (cell phone pic)

Intersection (cell phone pic)

Late Dinner in Little Italy. (cell phone pic)

Very Old Tombstones (cell phone pic)

Chinatown Starbucks. (cell phone pics)

Good and evil Jackie (cell phone pic)

Ruckus in the East Village. (cell phone pic)

Little Italy. (cell phone pic)

Little Italy. (cell phone pic)

Hotel. (cell phone pic)

Gas lights in the park. (cell phone pic)

Washington Square Park. (cell phone pic)

Tribeca. (cell phone pic)

Sleepy family. (cell phone pic)

Night Swimming and Happy Birthdays

Jack and Max, by Cara McDougal

A lot on my mind and a lot on my plate these past few weeks. Not the least of which has been suffocating feel of time progression that seems to get faster and faster with each passing day. My blog entries become less and less even though I still have so much to say. I have got my head in the game, the eye on the prize, and yet time seems to saunter mockingly all the while running at an electric pace. Time, oh no, you have not been a friend as of late.

• • •

The other morning as I was tired from a long night of work, fumbling for my keys, and working hard to get into my car. I overheard someone getting into the car next to me say “We are young” as in the context of “Why not, we are young. Let’s just do it.” For all I know they could have been discussing the possibility of switching from diet to regular soda, or excited over staying up past 10:30 p.m. on a school night (which is usually my version of a leap into adventure). We Are Young. The words hovered in the air for a second. For reasons I did not yet acknowledge in that particular moment, I was left sideswiped and so awestruck by the power of those three little words that I opened my car door and fumbled for something to write on in my overly cluttered glove box. I sat down in the driver’s seat and wrote those words down in big bold letters on the back of a scrap piece of paper (which may or may not have been the back of my registration card.) WE ARE YOUNG…

• • •

My little boy turns seven today. This birthday is the first one where both my husband and I have admitted to feeling the real impact of the weight of his age. A friend of mine encapsulated the reasons for this perfectly. Seven means our little ones are really in the full throes of being a kid. All signs of being a toddler are way in our rearview mirrors. The slow and steady pace of the endurance test that is adolescence to the wretched middle school years and beyond has begun.

 • • •

The photo at the top of this blog was taken last summer by a good friend of mine. Jack is the one on the left. This image took my breathe away when I first saw it. To me, it is youth personified. It is exactly how I see Jack. It is exactly how he feels to me, to us. She managed to capture it perfectly. I had thought of including many pictorial representations of Jack for this particular blog entry, but in the end this photo became the only one because I felt no other image could illustrate Jack more faithfully and beautifully than this image could.

• • •

After scrawling down the words WE ARE YOUNG and tracing over the letters a few times, I turned the key in the ignition. That ear worm of a song “We are Young” came on. I laughed at the timing and the coincidence and knew it had less to do with some magical, cosmic connection with the universe and more because you simply can not turn on the radio right now without hearing it or a station fading into it within moments. I knew everything about this moment was cliché as I was living it, but age and mommihood entitles you some cliché. Not to mention on this particular morning I had completely forgotten to pack Jack’s lunch and had raced over to the school unshowered and unkempt hoping to get his food to him before his foodless panic set in. My penchant for caring about how I looked or what was playing on the radio had pretty much flown out the window in that moment. So I sat back and listened to the poppy tune. Ah youth… that song’s intent was to manipulate the listener into an anthem of experiences of his or her own youth and declarations of living life to the fullest while things are still brand new, or at the very least a vehicle for which us older folks can reflect upon. But I didn’t reflect upon my own misspent or misguided and sometimes intoxicating youth. For the first time I really thought about his.

I mean I really thought about it. He is in IT. WOW. I always knew that this was his time, but I had to remember that it is actually HIS time. He is experiencing his youth right now; not this abstract or voyeuristic perspective I have of his growing up. These are his memories and they are all coming fast and furious while I am sipping my coffee and making my phone calls. His firsts, the life of his own, as a friend of mine put so eloquently in her blog post: I am beginning to watch him run toward something else, and away from me. The stuff I now reflect upon about myself as I get older. It is his slow motion montage that will be played through filtered glasses and “edited for television” at a later date. His journey to be whatever he wants it to be as he gets older, all slowed down and subtle, with all the feelings that those moments emote. The stuff that dreams are made of and car commercials run on.

My nostalgia level is probably waxing more lately not only because of Jack’s birthday, but because I had been working on my son’s elementary school yearbook. I had been logging in quotes and memories of the past school years from the staff and students, and had been pouring over current classroom photos that will eventually meld into “what were they thinking” hairstyles and faded memories. I was seeing and reading all the talk of the “possible” and knowing they don’t yet understand the gravity and weight of their choices, their voices, and their ideas at this stage of their game.

 • • •

The Youth song faded into a muffled and incoherent wall of sound. I left the radio scan for a bit as I journeyed home. “Nightswimming” was half over but I stopped the scan there anyways. My youth began to fade into my mind. I never night swam until I was an adult but the recollections of moments came into play. The simplistic beauty of that song took me back to every first everything, to the point that this whole morning car reflection experience felt corny and overly earnest but not necessarily in a Lifetime movie way. I guess more in the movie montage way or another contrived way that sometimes actually happens in real life when you sit in the parking lot of your son’s school in ripped sweatpants and tousled hairs on a random Tuesday.

• • •

I keep finding more and more reasons to want to be. I am still on the edge of exploring this newfound lust for life that has reared its adventurous head to a woman whose realistic, responsible self usually beats the idealistic one into submission. New people to love and appreciate, kisses to give as the credits roll, hugs to random strangers. I am waiting to go night swimming again and skinny dip off the highest cliff with the ones I love. Right now I am standing on the edge, naked, ready to dive in. I am getting ready to jump.

• • •

Happy birthday my dearest, Pumpkin King. You have made me want to believe that all is possible.

Staring into Snow Globes Makes Me Feel Like a Little Kid

The Ladies Who Lunch.

December 23rd is my favorite day of year.

In fact, the time spanning from December 20th through December 23rd are simply the most… “something…” days of the year. There is an unprecedented “something” in the air that simply can not be described. Everyone is excited. Every moment is cliché. Every emotion is extreme. Everyone is coming up romance, or regret, or worry, or melancholy. Everyone is pushing to get final projects done, or slacking from their work, or daydreaming their December away. Everyone is either making merry or bah humbugging the merry makers. And everyone outside of your immediate family is trying to get one last chance to see you before Christmas eve. Everyone is feeling “something.” And it seems as if everyone’s holiday treat has been laced with ecstasy.

I never really liked Christmas Day. It always felt like a big let down. The commercially fabricated Christmas specials, the emotionally induced high of gift giving and receiving, the spirituality, the evening parties, and all the rest of the “stuff” that was the previous month ends on that day, most likely by 10 am. In the past, I usually spent the rest of the day trying to find a way to recapture the magic 23rd.

Over the last two years, I have been gradually trying to alter my holiday perceptions. I always dreamt of hot cocoa, a holiday medley around the fire, and Vermont style inns. What I usually received was a nice holiday that never quite lived up to my unattainable Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye expectations. (My expectations often lead to excessively elaborate production numbers often involving a piano.)

This year, I have decided to try to make the best of everything that happens or does not happen. I have decided to make my holiday week a week worth remembering. I decided to fill it with fun and little expectation, and I decided to at least try to attend every extended invitation. I decided to make time for moments instead of succumbing to the pressure of the big picture.

View from the Parking Lot.

I headed to the Strip District on Tuesday to meet Sarah Wojdylak and Lisa Toboz on their lunch break. I was struck by the fact I had not really hung out in the Strip since working there many years ago. The smells, sights and sounds of that place both transports me to and makes me long for New York City. I had spent many a day eating crab cakes at Roland’s, fresh fish from Wholey’s, or devouring meatball subs while sitting on the roof of our office building watching the cars drive across the 16th street bridge. Gosh, I love the Strip.

Waiting at Sunseri's.

I saw Lisa’s plastic umbrella emerge through the crowds of holiday shoppers even before I saw the two of them walk towards me. The shape of her umbrella took me back to being a kid in the late 70s and early 80s. It’s one of those umbrellas that takes over the entire upper half of your body when you were a kid. It was always warm inside and your voice sounded modulated from the way it bounced off the clear thick walls. I imagined it as a giant snow globe and I immediately wanted to capture it “on film.” Prior to our meeting, we had briefly discussed trying to find a weird holiday display on this lunch break (maybe even dolling ourselves up in tinsel) and photographing ourselves in front of it; like some sort of weird Christmas card homage. But there were no real cheeky, technicolor-like displays in the Strip. Lisa mentioned an out-of-the-way church courtyard that may have “something” to it so we followed. I was fixated on the umbrella/snow globe. When we arrived we knew right away that we had found something wonderful. We excitedly passed around my shabby Nikon Coolpix point and shoot camera that has truly seen better days but still take great images. Our time was restricted due to their lunch schedules. I could have shot for another hour. I am grateful for these little impromptu sessions. They always reenergize me. I felt like a little kid posing and watching them inside our makeshift snow globe. It gave me that intangible, magical feeling you only get around the holidays.

Lisa's Plastic Fantastic Umbrella.

A friend of mine once described a difficult event in his life as someone “shaking up his snow globe.” This year, mine has been rattled to the point that I am still waiting for the snow to settle to reveal the fabrication inside. I am weirdly humbled and mostly thankful for all that has happened these past 12 months because it has led me to some joy filled moments happening right now, like this one: these snow globes of abstract something. I don’t know what the rest of this week will bring, but for now I leave you with this most recent set of makeshift snow globe moments (below) and I wish you all the merriest of holidays. (Photos by me, Sarah Wo and Lisa T. Thanks for the inspiration, ladies.)

SNOW GLOBES

ICONS

LEAVING