Friday, November 30, 2007

The A List

I've had a busy week, and feel like a pat on the back. So hooray for me, for accomplishing the following:

1. Making deadline on two features, one with a tight turnaround given my schedule this week.
2. Smoothing the wrinkles of misunderstanding with a couple of friends, and finding peace in that.
3. Remembering the prayer that always works: "Lord, help me be a good mother today."
4. Saying yes to an assignment I could do, and no to one I couldn't, and not worrying about it.
5. Assembling a new desk chair, after my old one died last week. It was the best chair, and I miss it, but the new one is pretty comfy, too. And I did it myself!
6. Losing a couple of pounds since Monday (this will force me to be good all weekend, so I don't have to report on Monday that I gained it back.)
7. Realizing that I'm becoming much braver in a few different areas -- approaching strangers to ask for their input for a story; communicating expectations clearly to people I work with; taking a small risk when communicating with an editor I don't know well (humor can be treacherous) and having it work out OK.

There are other, minor things, like teaching all my students this week, popping out a couple of ringing high D-flats at rehearsal on Monday, and making decisions that made me happy, like going to writers' group last night even though I had another story to write by today. And taking time out to enjoy the kids now and then. Actually, that's not a minor thing, at all.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Feature Story

Here's my feature story about where women on the South Shore go to find a little solitude, in today's Patriot Ledger.

Monday, November 26, 2007

By the numbers

Somehow I managed to essentially stay the same weight this past week. I actually am about a quarter of a pound down, but I'm just glad I didn't gain after all the holiday indulging I did.

And there's been another coffeemaker miracle at my house. It decided to cooperate with my programming efforts last night, so it's again willing to turn on whenever I tell it to.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The curse of the grateful heart

It's the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and two of life's little conveniences have given out on me. This, after I recognized them in my pre-Thanksgiving post. Ingrates.

For starters, my coffeemaker still works, which is good. But the auto setting only works at seven minutes past the hour. So I can have it turn itself on at 5:07, or 6:07, or 7:07, but not at any other time. This reminds me of one other time it acted up -- it somehow switched itself to 24-hour military time, and then one day I noticed it had switched back to 12-hour time with am/pm designations. I guess it had been feeling martial. Maybe it's feeling lucky this time.

But I'm not feeling so lucky, as my washing machine bit the dust on Friday. And, wouldn't you know it, Abby got sick on Friday night and vomited not one, not two, but three times in her bed. Thank goodness my sister and her super-capacity washer live close by. And thank goodness for after-Thanksgiving appliance sales. My new washer should be delivered tomorrow, and it will be put to good use immediately upon hookup.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cash or charge?

It's time to pay the proverbial piper. I have no one but myself to thank for it, but I raised cheating on my diet to such an art form last week that I actually gained a half-pound.

This does not bode well for Thanksgiving week.

But Thanksgiving is only one day. One day won't kill me. I'll just be on the straight and narrow for the whole rest of the week.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thank you for being a friend

Thanksgiving is next week. As I look at the blessings in my life, it’s a precious friendship that sparkles with extra brightness. Kathleen and I became friends nearly 30 years ago, and no one knows me like she does. She’s my BFF, as the young’uns text-message each other these days.

We met in fourth grade at Lakeshore Elementary School in Rochester, New York, long before the days of text messaging and cell phones. (That's Kathleen on the left, me on the right.) Both of us were assigned to the Delphi program, an experimental educational model at that time. We quickly became inseparable and were fortunate to be in the same class for three years. We spent an awful lot of time “socializing” as our teachers would say, yet for a good portion of those three years, we were seated near each other in class. Our sixth-grade teacher became so frustrated with our constant conversation that he told us we could talk in class only if we used sign language. So we learned the sign alphabet and continued to chat away.

As fate and school assignment plans would have it, we went to separate schools after sixth grade. We lost touch with each other and developed other friendships. We went to college, and grad school. She went to France, where she found her husband; I moved to Boston where mine found me. We settled into our own lives and our friendship, once so vibrant, lay dormant for more than 20 years.

A Delphi reunion brought us back in touch a few years ago, and now we’re as inseparable as ever – as much as friends living in Massachusetts and Texas can be inseparable. We email each other daily and chat on the phone a couple of times a week. Despite our separate lives, we still have a lot in common: we’re both teachers (she teaches French; I teach music), we have the same quirky sense of humor, and, most improbably, we both have children with autism. Her Patrick is 7 years old and my Abby is 6; Kathleen is planning their wedding already. When she gets too exuberant, I remind her that we need to get them to make eye contact first. (They’ll have lots of opportunity to practice when Abby and I fly to Houston in January.)

Kathleen inspires me with her single-minded dedication to Patrick’s success. Most evenings will find her making flashcards to help him study, or running him to therapy, or planning a social activity for him and his younger brother. How she does so much for him while balancing the demands of a full-time job and making time for her marriage and herself is beyond me. To top it off, she does all this in French and English, and her children are bilingual, so they can converse with her in-laws on their biannual trips to France.

Inspiration aside, Kathleen and I know each other so well from having spent three of our formative years together. We were both violinists – she very accomplished, me less so – and many of our extracurricular activities centered on music, including the orchestra her violist father founded and directed. So there’s the musician thing, and the Delphi thing, and the Rochester thing, in addition to the autism thing, that binds us across the years.

Today is Kathleen’s birthday, but her friendship is a gift to me, every day. So happy birthday, to my one, best friend, from 1978 to now.

Kathleen and I at the Delphi reunion, May 2006

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Religion feature article

Here's my feature article on the Ministry of Mothers Sharing program at St. Mary of the Hills Parish, which ran in today's Patriot Ledger.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The little scholar(s)

Here we have Timmy and Brian, perusing the classic book "Are You my Mother?" Brian needed help getting it off our crowded bookshelf, but once he had it, he proceeded to sit next to Timmy on the couch and read it to him.

Brian definitely has some sight words, but he also has a good understanding of phonics and will sound out (or "decode") words he doesn't know. He's three years old and reads nearly as well as Abby, who is reading at grade level (she's in first grade.)

One difficulty that sometimes crops up with kids on the autism spectrum is that they decode well, but struggle with comprehension. I haven't really checked Brian's understanding yet, mostly because I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that he's reading. But I'll get on it, as soon as I'm done bragging.

The photo backstory: I tried to sneak up on the boys as they were enjoying the story, but they kept looking at the camera and saying "cheese" (and "broccoli," for some inexplicable reason.) So I told them to just keep reading and look at the book, and they both put their heads down and proceeded to say "cheese" again.

Anchors aweigh

Today is the weekly day of reckoning, and I somehow managed to lose a half-pound this week. This surprises me. I had one complete blow-out day, and three days where I was a food vampire -- I was very good until the sun went down, but then I owned the night, and all the food in it!

Thank goodness I get a fresh start every Monday.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Keeping the Faith

My religion column, Keeping the Faith, ran in today's Patriot Ledger. Complete with a photo of Papelbon (in the print version)!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Good news

A few bright spots to share:
  • We have, at long last, reached a final agreement with the school district about Brian's full-day programming. We had agreed as a team that Brian needed double-session preschool (morning and afternoon) two days a week, but there was no programming in place to occupy his time and let him eat lunch between sessions (11:00 - 12:00.) Beginning on Wednesday, he will join children who have full-day programming for that one hour. His day won't have a big interruption (I had been picking him up and taking him back an hour later) and it will give him more opportunity to practice taking the initiative in conversation and play during the recess portion of that time. And a nice plus is that my day won't be broken up any more, either.
  • Report cards and progress reports came home on Wednesday, and we had Abby's parent-teacher conference yesterday. Both Abby and Brian are making good progress toward their goals. I was especially pleased with the progress reports in that they were specific, saying what the kids were doing well (and by what percentage) and what they needed to work on, and how those areas would be addressed. The areas needing improvement were no surprise, and the teachers and therapists have good plans in place to work on them.
  • Timmy continues to make progress in his big boy undies. I had started a posting yesterday to brag, but then he had a big, messy accident later in the day, so I'm glad I didn't post it! But that was the first biggie since Saturday, and other than that, he's been dry all day for a couple of days running. He's also been dry at night and naptime -- an added bonus. I even took him to the Y yesterday and he did just great. We'll try it again today.
  • I got another freelance assignment for the Ledger. My Ali's Place story never ran in print (although it was in the online version) and my religion feature seems to be lost in the ether, but they must like my work because they gave me more.
  • My "November" piece ran in Wednesday's issue of the Tinytown Gazette. I'm not sure if the link will work because I can't seem to see the pdf on my computer. But I hear it's on page 4, titled "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."

I should mention that the only reason we reached the settlement regarding Brian's lunchtime is that Earl put so much work into it -- taking the appropriate steps to make sure the issue didn't languish; working with the SPED director (and the district's attorney); keeping the pressure on and never giving up. The kids are very lucky to have such a knowledgeable and persistent advocate. And I'm very lucky that he's willing to do that so I don't have to. I find it emotionally draining, not to mention all the time it eats up. So we're done wrangling over IEPs, until the spring. Hooray!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Light Dawns on Marblehead

Remember that post a few days ago, where I wrote that the little envelope at the bottom of each post is for making comments? WRONG! That's for emailing the link to someone else. I now believe I have the comments feature up and running correctly. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Egged on

My house has been shelled regularly over the last month. No, I'm not writing from Iraq. I'm at my usual post in my cozy little Cape, which has been the victim of ovoid bombing three times in as many weeks.

The first missiles found their targets in broad daylight on a Saturday. I returned from a gig and found the slimy yellow entrails half frozen to my glass front door. Oh, well, I thought as I broke out the Windex and the scrubby sponges. At least they didn't get any other window.

The car was the next victim. All Saints' Day dawned brightly with sunbeams reflecting off eggshells in the driveway. And they got the car again last night.

What to make of this? We don't have enemies in town that I'm aware of. Oh, sure, we've gone head-to-head with some school officials over our kids' special education services, but I'm hard-pressed to imagine any administrator gettin' eggy with us in the dead of night. And it's true that I've given the teenager across the street a few penetrating looks when he's blasted his music at decibel levels that would give Ozzy a headache, but I hate to think he'd be so cowardly as to take it out on my humble abode.

We spoke with a friendly police officer, who promised extra patrol cars for the area. My inner vigilante ponders a stakeout, perched in my front-yard magnolia tree, flashlight and lasso at the ready. But what if it's a drive-by? What I really need is a remote-control tire shredder, like those nasty toothy devices used to discourage rental car drivers from taking a car back out once it's been returned. Maybe I could get a permit from the DPW to install one of those things in the street. Then I could conduct surveillance from the comfort of my living room. Any suspicious slow-downs after a certain hour, and bam! The egg-launching operation will be terminated.

Arnold Schwarzenegger-type fantasies aside, the saving factor is the weather. Pretty soon the nighttime cold should discourage pranksters, whether they've been targeting us specifically or we've just been lucky. Then eggs will be restored to their rightful place in the refrigerator, rather than scrambled among the leaves -- and cars -- in the driveway.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A milestone

Today is weigh-in day, and I've lost 10 pounds. 10.4, actually. I'm very proud of myself. Eight more to go. I'm finally out of the "emergency zone" -- that weight where I'm very uncomfortable with myself, rather than just a little annoyed now and then.

Of course, based on my new weight, the little fiends at Weight Watchers are taking away more calories. But I guess they know what they're doing, and I'm not starving to death, so I can do it.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

(Early) morning offering

Bah, humbug. So much for the extra hour of sleep. The boys had been sleeping until about 7:00, so I figured I had until 6:00 this morning. Not so. It's 5:30 and they're singing "The Wheels on the Bus" to each other in the dark.

But here's what I really wanted to write: last week I went to a mini-retreat for people involved in the various ministries at my church. During a small-group discussion, when I mentioned I am not very good at being aware of God throughout my day, an acquaintance mentioned that she usually says the morning offering. I'd never heard of it -- how could I be Catholic for going on 17 years now, and be learning this for the first time? Anyway, I have been beginning my day with this simple prayer, and it definitely has brought a small, positive change in my awareness. There's something about getting in touch spiritually, and offering the entire day to God, that helps me keep things in perspective (most of the time.)

The boys must be taking an intermission. All is quiet.

And now a word from our sponsor (me):

I've been keeping this blog for nearly a month now, and I hope you've enjoyed reading it. I want you to know I welcome your comments -- that's what the little envelope at the bottom of each page is for. If there's something you'd like to talk about (or disagree with), send me a comment.

Also, please feel free to forward my blog link to anyone you think might be interested in reading it. I'm not putting anything out there that I don't intend for public consumption.

Intermission must be over; I hear the alphabet song. Off to start their days. Enjoy yours!

Friday, November 2, 2007


Here's a column I've submitted to The Tinytown Gazette, but I wanted to share it early:

November, November. It’s not balmy like August or glittery like December. Bare trees stand under often-gray skies, and the flowers have all gone by. It’s not the prettiest month, but I love November for a cornucopia of reasons.

It begins with my favorite church feasts: All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. I love thinking of all the good people who have gone before us and who surely are in Heaven. In particular, I remember my dear grandmother, whom I love and miss so much. I think of my uncle Howard, who died far too young (at 37) from cancer. I think of my aunt Charlene, who joined her husband a few years later. And I still remember Brian Campbell, a middle-school friend who carried around a heart problem that killed him after we had gone our separate ways in high school. I hope his little heart has been filled with joy for the twenty-something years he’s been gone.

November also brings school conferences, when I get to talk to my kids’ teachers for more than a hurried greeting on the playground. This is a new pleasure, with Abby in first grade and Brian in preschool. Even if the news isn’t all glowing, I like hearing from the people who spend the most time with my children, outside of our family. As the kids get older and more independent, conferences with their teachers give me a window on their developing lives.

The November air is crisp and chilly. No chance of sweating between the house and the car now. The leaves crackle underfoot and the sun is still warm. And when the rain comes down sideways, soaking every inch not wrapped in a raincoat, the fireside is perfect for drying out.

Of course, November’s defining holiday is Thanksgiving. That Thursday has become my favorite holiday in adulthood, replacing Christmas, which is more busy than fun. Part of the reason is that Thanksgiving always meant a four-day weekend when I was a corporate worker bee. But now that I make my own work schedule and typically host the dinner, it’s really all about the food.

For someone who likes to cook, Thanksgiving is the Super Bowl and the Fourth of July rolled into one. There’s the busy-ness of planning and preparation, trying to find the right balance of traditional favorites and horizon-expanders. There’s the shopping – done early to avoid the crowds – and delegation to guests who are eager to contribute (since I don’t make pies, it’s up to my mother-in-law. Otherwise we’ll eat Oreos for dessert.)

Then it’s game day. My master schedule is taped to the cabinet doors, and the oven is cranked. I’m happily chopping and stirring and basting all day. I usually forget to iron the tablecloth, but once it’s covered with platters and plates, no one will see the wrinkles, anyway.

Finally, the bird has rested and it’s dinnertime. Amid the culinary fireworks, there’s usually a dud, but by that time I can let it go. The wine is poured, the turkey carved, and we’re thankful for each others’ company.

After dinner, I don’t look at the reams of sale flyers that come with the newspaper. I’m a master online shopper, and already have a growing stash of gifts squirreled away. So I can enjoy the day without getting lost in anticipation of that other holiday in December.

So pour me another glass of wine, and leave the dishes, for now. Don’t mention a word about Christmas shopping. Let’s just be thankful for the people, both here and in the hereafter, that gather together with us in November.