Sunday, April 19, 2009

spring day musings

It occurred to me that I may not be that much different from my "tween-aged" son. I am always accusing him of not talking enough- of not disclosing his every innermost thought.

Then I remembered that annoying tendency we all have of ourselves possessing the traits for which we criticize others.

Well, I used to talk. When my mother was alive I spoke to her often, with full disclosure of every last aspect of my life, pretty much. And I saw a counselor until a year ago- obviously I talked to her.

I think I've done enough talking during my life. Even though I haven't talked much lately about anything more serious than the next cold front, I seem to be about as mentally healthy as I've ever been.

Is it possible that talking is over-rated?

Yesterday I nearly crashed the car when The Child started telling me, from the back seat, about a book his 5th grade class has been reading. First of all, he was actually initiating conversation, and secondly, this is a child who has done nothing but whine and complain about school since his first day of kindergarten. With complete sincerity, he told me he can't wait to read this book's sequel. (Mind you, this was no super hero book or anything like that- it was historic, written about the Civil War era.) This is the same child who has consistently resisted any and all attempts by me to get him to read books at home. (He couldn't even be bribed with rewards of video games!)

It's always been a mystery how he even learned to read. He resisted my efforts to teach him at home, and I know beyond doubt that he has rarely paid attention to his teachers in school. His kindergarten teacher had told me that he showed up at school one day suddenly and inexplicably knowing how to read at a fairly advanced level. He was soon thereafter placed in the Gifted and Talented program, where he remains to this day.

Unlike his mother, The Child has definitely not fulfilled his talking quota for his age. Yesterday's sudden bout of talking may have been an isolated and historic event.

There was much yardwork to be done this weekend. See the clippings on the ground? This city has stopped free collection of yard waste. I refuse to pay for it- I am already paying very high property taxes and I file city income taxes as well. I just found out that not all city residents file city taxes! Why? Seriously, why? Well, I'll be damned if I'm turning over yet more of my heard-earned money to this city which is constantly cutting back services to its residents.

So I have to figure out what to do with my massive amounts of yard waste. I've been hauling it into the woods near my house at night. Of course, I have to come up with an explanation of my clandestine activities for The Child.

"Why do you do this in the middle of the night if there's nothing wrong with it?"

Good question. I've always quoted football great Woody Hayes, "Nothin' good ever happens after 10 pm." So of course The Child, who grew up hearing that, wants to know why I haul yard waste into the city-owned woods after 10pm.

Some things are hard to explain gracefully and effectively, especially when the explainer feels inexplicable guilt. In nature, "yard waste" is naturally recycled. No city-owned trucks are required for nature's cycle of life. My yard waste is helping the city's woods grow, right?

So why do I insist on doing it in the dark of night, glancing back furtively over my shoulder for possible witnesses to my indescretion, while The Child, shaking his head in disbelief, acts as my lookout?

Monday, April 13, 2009


In the blink of an eye, everything changes.

Some background is necessary. The Child used to spend time with his father whenever the father wanted to see him. I allowed this to keep the peace and to allow The Child to know his father. I was under no legal obligation to allow visitation, and to this day the father has never paid me a dime of child support.

Two and a half years ago the father's behavior finally became so outrageous as to be unlawful. I told the father he'd have to go to court to get permission to see The Child again. After a drawn out court battle, the father's lawsuit against me was dropped. This was one year ago.

The ensuing year has been the most peaceful since The Child was born. Gone was the unbearable stress of dealing with a controlling bully (the father).

This morning I was sitting at my computer desk, gazing out my window. I blinked, thinking my eyes were deceiving me. Who should appear in front of my house but the father. However, he was not presenting himself as a bully- he was crying and gesturing through the window.

I stepped outside into the chilly drizzle, afraid to let him into my house. He held a folded newspaper, and pointed to an obituary. I glanced at it and recognized the name of his other son.

I asked what happened, and he said his estranged son had been a college student. He died of an overdose. Of what? Heroin.

"I can't let this happen to The Child," he sobbed. "I can't let him grow up not knowing me." His other son had not seen the father since he was 2 years old.

"I'm a changed man."

I didn't have time to stay and talk further, but I said maybe he could meet The Child and me for dinner this week at a restaurant. He said his live-in girlfriend would come too.


What am I thinking right now? Well, for starters, I wish I had wallowed in my past year of freedom, really relishing it. I was aware of my wonderful freedom, but did I enjoy it enough?--- because it's gone now. Too bad I was experiencing a period of absolute hell at work over the past year, including a lengthy period of unemployment.

Who am I to question whether or not the father is truly a changed man? I am my child's advocate, that's who.

Everything changes in the blink of an eye.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter scenes

Last night the Easter Bunny, a.k.a. whirlingbetty, prepared the basket and hid it behind the sofa the way her own mother had done many years ago.

Shortly after dawn on this Easter morning, The Child attempts to suppress his enthusiasm, embarrassed by his continuing belief in the Easter Bunny. Children his age are easily embarrassed.

This is the view today looking out of my front door into the park. To most people, today was still quite chilly, but to me, it's been such a nasty winter that I thought the day was great. I even sat outside reading the newspaper and feeding the squirrels and chipmunks. They deserve to celebrate Easter too.

The daffodils are still going strong. This is my favorite variety.

Later, an unconventional Easter meal of pasta was being prepared at a friend's house. Don't you love the house decor?

Happy Easter to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

from Dorothy Parker

Indian Summer
by Dorothy Parker

In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!

I recently happened upon this poem by Dorothy Parker. I suppose it's sad to say that it resonated with me, even though I certainly hope that I haven't yet entered the Indian Summer of my life.

Beginning in high school, I was definitely guilty of that chameleon-like behavior which Dorothy describes so laconically. I kept it up until The Child came along, and at that point I seem to have taken on Ms. Parker's Indian Summer attitude.

I have a theory which resulted from my awareness of that phenomenon: maybe my former "lad-pleasing" behavior was actually inspired, unbeknownst to me, by a biological urge to reproduce. Once that happened, I was allowed to be myself and let the chips (or lads) fall as they may.

I have always preferred to do my own thing, although, admittedly, there are those rare occasions when it would be nice to have a companion. When the Child grows up and flies the coop, there will be a void.

Maybe then I'll have to revert to my youthful ways.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of shots from my walk in the park today:

Friday, April 03, 2009

Strength and Healing for Binghamton NY

My brother called me from San Francisco midday today to inform me that our hometown of Binghamton, NY was dominating CNN. Since the call I've been riveted to CNN, watching the horrific scenes from "home".

How unbelievable that the latest episode in our country's spate of senseless shootings has placed Binghamton NY on the map for the first time ever. The American Civic Association in Binghamton helps immigrants in the area with citizenship, resettlement and family reunification. The shootings took place in a neighborhood of homes and small businesses in downtown Binghamton, a city of about 47,000 residents.

The Binghamton area was the home to Endicott-Johnson shoe company and the birthplace of IBM, which between them employed tens of thousands of workers before the shoe company closed a decade ago and IBM downsized in recent years. My father worked at IBM; my aunt and uncle worked at the shoes factory. Early news reports stated that the gunman had recently been fired from IBM, although the investigation is still in its early stages. The gunman's house was in Johnson City, the village adjacent to Binghamton. Johnson City is where I grew up. The high school under lockdown which CNN kept referring to was Binghamton Central, where as a teen I rehearsed with the Binghamton Youth Symphony. The 4 critically wounded victims are being treated at Lourdes Hospital, where my mother worked, and at Wilson Medical Center which is 2 blocks from the house I grew up in.

Under different circumstances, I would have been delighted to see familiar sights from home being broadcast over the media. I have been homesick for a long time- I miss the rolling hills which CNN showed in the background today. I miss the ethnic flavor of the place. I miss the diversity. I miss the east coast feel. I miss the accent- mine is fading.

But most of all, I'm shocked. CNN just announced that until today, Binghamton had only one homicide during the past year! It had been rated one of the safest places in the U.S. Can you imagine how the city is reeling!?

April showers

This is what the park outside of my house looks like today. The drizzle is not offensive as a downpour might be; it's a very light April shower- the kind that brings May flowers.

It's been a very pleasant spring, in stark contrast to the brutal ice-filled winter we just endured. It was so bad that my next door neighbors made the decision to sell their house and move to Florida. There were quite a few days this past winter when driving was outrageously dangerous. I have a problem with that, although I'm basically a tolerant individual.

Spring's renewal has inspired me to take inventory of my life. I happened to spy a copy of a book that I found really helpful a few years ago: Life Strategies by Phil McGraw. The book spelled out the importance of looking at each aspect of one's life and determining where the shortfalls lie. I made major changes after reading that book- hopefully they were wise ones.

Using the technique outlined in the book, I re-evaluated my life. Most areas are OK, with 2 areas standing out as needing improvement. One is clutter control. I'm so much better than I used to be, but I still have the problem of being too quick to let things go. And the other has to do with eating.

This photo illustrates my primary problem right now. Ever since leaving home for college, I've developed a habit of improper use of food. Instead of nourishment, its use in my life seems to be distraction, comfort, pleasure and numbing.

It seems like an addiction- the drug is food. Sometimes I control it to one degree or another- sometimes the best I can do is starve myself for a few days between binges. And I actually do experience an occasional period of "normal" eating, usually not for long.

I can't explain why the problem didn't surface until I moved away from home. I remember once when I was about 8 years old, I was alone in the house and I took a package of Chips Ahoy cookies into my bedroom to eat while I was reading a book. That was my first binge. At age 8, I was revolted afterwords, disgusted by my gluttony. I did not want to be fat- I vowed never to do it again.

And I didn't- not until college. That's where I was at my worst. I used to buy huge bags of candy to eat while I was studying. I'd scarf down ice cream by the half gallon. I'd eat entire cheesecakes. I didn't become obese because I also ran everyday, as I still do.

I have been to various types of counselors, ranging from a psychiatrist (who thought I was fine) to a social worker most recently. None of them focused on the eating thing, and when I brought it up, they offered no insight as to why it was going on or how it might be dealt with. I guess I do it to escape from life, which I apparently find scary. Lots of people escape in one way or another- it's not exactly uncommon.

Right now I am thinking of a friend of mine who had a hard time quitting smoking. When he finally did quit, he replaced the habit with long-distance running. I suppose I too would benefit from finding a replacement habit. An exercise addiction is not in the cards for me, in fact it's fairly amazing that I've been able to keep jogging for all these years, so I'm going to have to come up with something which would be suitable for me which is healthy or at least not damaging.

Maybe I should become a workaholic.

Do you have any suggestions? I really don't want to live on Peanut Butter Eggs and potato chips.