Sunday, November 30, 2008

Goodbye, Thanksgiving; Hello, Advent

Most of the turkey leftovers are gone, as are my houseguests. Outside, a nasty mix of rain and ice is falling. I'm procrastinating starting dinner because I spent the last four days in my kitchen and I'm all cooked out.

Thanksgiving is over, all right.

We had a wonderful time with my mom, my brother and his family. We ate and drank and stayed up too late and laughed and ate and drank some more. It was fun.

The kids enjoyed playing with their cousin, who is almost four. She introduced the kids to Star Wars, and they're downstairs right now watching it with Earl.

I have a lovely pork tenderloin in the fridge, and I'm thinking of letting it continue to chill out there and calling Domino's instead. I love, love, love to cook, but after Thanksgiving Day, various other assorted meals and a brief stint this morning as a short-order cook (a pancake breakfast to send the travelers off with happy tummies) I'm just not into it tonight. And I should mention that my sister-in-law made dinner on Friday, too, so I really didn't cook for four days straight. It just seems that way.

I think I'm just pooped. Ready to go to bed early; ready for the kids to go back to school so I can get some work done and start my Christmas shopping, weeks after I wish I had started it. Ready to put together the little Advent calendar for the kids so it will be waiting for them when they get up tomorrow. Maybe even ready to listen to some Christmas music, although I didn't find the CDs in my first pass through the attic while looking for the Advent calendar.

Earl just agreed to Domino's. That's music enough to my ears for now.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

ENC Messiah concert article

Here is my article about next weekend's free concerts of highlights from Messiah. The concerts will be at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pilgrim Festival Chorus concert advance

Here is my advance article on Sunday's concert by the Pilgrim Festival Chorus, published in today's Patriot Ledger.

Thanksgiving Day chez Fay

Here are a few photos of Thanksgiving Day at my house. Hope yours was wonderful!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


All week, we've been telling the kids about the guests we're having for Thanksgiving: my mom, my brother and his family, all coming from Rochester; and my sister and her husband, who live locally. The kids have been very excited about it, especially about playing with their cousin.

Yesterday we got a call from my mom with some bad news: they had a flat tire, just outside of Syracuse. Fortunately, they were able to get not only one but two new tires, and replace a tie rod, and get back on the road. Unfortunately, the delay meant they wouldn't be here for dinner, as planned.

Abby, who already was revving a little higher than normal because of the half-day at school, had a really hard time coping with the change. She had heard Earl talking with my mom, and we casually mentioned the delay to all three kids. We later noticed that Abby was getting more and more agitated, and saying the types of things she often does when upset:

"I don't want them to come."

"I'll make Thanksgiving dinner myself."

"I don't even like Mairi (her cousin)."

"I hate Thanksgiving. I don't want to see Grammie."

Of course, none of these things are true. We couldn't really talk her down very well, either, so I decided the direct approach might work better. I sat all three kids down on the couch.

"OK, kids, I want to tell you about a change. Are you ready? Here comes a change."

("OK, it's just a little change," said Abby.)

"First of all," I continued, "here's what is NOT changing. Our guests are still coming. They will be here for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. We will still see Grammie, Uncle Keith, Auntie Jen and Mairi. They will be here.

"Now, here's what's different. They thought they would be here for dinner tonight. They are later than they thought they would be. They are still coming but they won't get here until after you are in bed. You will see them tomorrow morning."

They all thought about that for a minute. Timmy nodded, shrugged and slid off the couch. Brian asked a couple of follow-up questions, but seemed okay, too.

But poor Abby. She understood what was happening, but still had such a hard time. She didn't throw a tantrum or anything like that, but she did more perseverative behavior than usual, and was hovering a couple of inches off the ground until bedtime.

It's not clear to me whether it was the change itself that caused this behavior, or (more likely) dealing with the disappointment that came with the change. Abby is much better at handling negative emotions than she used to be, but it's still a struggle sometimes.

The strangest thing was that Abby initiated a conversation with Earl on the way home from school yesterday -- before she knew about the change -- about how she doesn't do the "back and forth" type of talk any more. This refers to the "I want to/I don't want to" perseveration, and also her penchant for saying exactly the opposite of what she really means.

So we wonder: why did she decide to talk about that, out of the blue? My theory was that she was feeling a little unsettled from the change in the school schedule, and maybe she felt the "back and forth" urge coming on and was trying to talk herself out of it.

She's becoming more self-aware all the time, and we're really proud of her for that. But sometimes, changes are just too much. Hopefully, today she'll feel better, and will be able to enjoy our guests and move beyond yesterday's challenges. We'll all be thankful for that.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A note from Abby

Here is a note Abby wrote to me a few weeks ago, while I was at church for a Sunday afternoon mass. It says:

Dere Mom, We are having hot-dogs. Love, Abby.

Thanks for the update, sweetie. I won't keep the paper forever, but I'll preserve it for posterity on my blog.

In praise of girlfriends

I got in touch with my best friend and roommate from college yesterday. Steph and I were once very close, but after we left college (and before the magic of the Internet) we lost each other, busy with grad school, husbands, children and jobs.

We're still busy with all that (well, not the grad school) but we reconnected yesterday. As we chatted, the years dropped away. Even now, there are so many similarities in our lives. It was great to be in touch with her again.

We're making plans for a girls' weekend getaway after the holidays. Can't wait!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Preschool boy dancers wanted

Brian and Timmy are in a preschool boys' dance class at InSync Dance Company, here in Milton. The teacher is looking for a few more boys to fill out the group -- ages 3-5. The class meets on Tuesdays from 11:15 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

If you've got a little boy who's got rhythm in his soul, I'd encourage you to check it out. My boys have a blast.

Mr. Muddle and the Beatles

One communication thing Abby struggled with when she was younger was pronoun confusion. She would say "you" when she meant herself. She doesn't do that any more, thanks to a pretty intense period of nagging a couple of years ago.

Her therapist has spoken to her about a character named Mr. Muddle, who, from what I can get out of Abby, has a similar pronoun problem. Abby relates a Mr. Muddle telephone conversation like this:

"Hello? Is this me? This is you. Good-bye!"

I don't sit in on Abby's sessions, so this is all I know. But she clarified a bit for me this morning in the car.

In keeping with my latest thing of listening to music I like, I had an old Beatles cassette playing on the way to school: Hello, hello! I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello!

Abby piped up from the back of the van: "I think this is a Mr. Muddle song. Hello! Goodbye! "

I guess that was a text-to-real-life connection, as she's studying in school.

The rest of the story

Below is the final paragraph of the review I wrote about the Plymouth Philharmonic's Saturday concert, which never made it into the paper. It wraps up the review in a more satisfying way and talks about the conductor, who got short shrift in the rest of the article.
Karidoyanes showed himself as an educator in the pre-concert talk and in remarks from the podium during the concert. His verbal exposition on symphonic form before the concert gave the uninitiated a framework on which to hang their listening, and he even returned to the stage after the concert to answer audience questions. The only misstep was cueing the audience to clap following the Bartók; appreciation would have flowed naturally from the audience, had it been given another moment to pull itself together. But Karidoyanes is a teacher, and wants to help listeners get the most from their experience. His generous presence, combined with solid, enjoyable music-making from the orchestra, created a warm, satisfying musical evening on a cold night in Duxbury.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Plymouth Philharmonic review

Here's the link to my review of Saturday's Plymouth Philharmonic concert. I was disappointed to see that the entire last paragraph was edited out; I must have spaced on the word count. I don't like the way it ends so abruptly. Ah, well, live and learn.

Silly sleep

I woke myself up last night, laughing. The dream was silly and really wouldn't make any sense here; it was one of those "you had to be there" things. But there I was, laughing like a fool, shaking the bed with my laughter, at 1:25 in the morning.

Poor Earl thought I was crying. He was all concerned until I told him I was laughing. I then proceeded to laugh some more and had to make a serious effort to calm down so we both could get back to sleep. I'm still snickering this morning.

I've woken myself up talking before. I sleepwalked as a child. Once I even started to sing in my sleep -- the night before the concerto competition in college. I was very, very worked up about the competition. I started my aria right on pitch, and probably startled my roommates.

I've never giggled myself awake before, though. That's a new one.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ella knows best

Like the song says, I'm just a lucky so-and-so.

I've already had my Thanksgiving column published, but here are a few other things that make me feel like a lucky girl, indeed.
  1. Writing, writing and writing. I was looking at a bit of downtime, and then two new assignments happened along. Both are music-related and will be fun to do.
  2. It's fireplace time! I came home from the 5:00 mass and Earl had the fire going in the living room. I guess cold weather isn't so bad if I can get cozy by the hearth.
  3. Sleep dost not leave me any more. I had a couple of weeks, there, where I wasn't sleeping well. I shut off the alarm this morning and snoozed for another hour. Not a problem.
  4. I'm connecting with lots of old friends. I just got in touch with my dearest friend from high school, who suggested we try to meet before things get too crazy with the holidays. She lives about 30 minutes from me -- amazing, considering we went to high school together in another state.
  5. Potpourri: workouts on the rowing machine and stairmaster with my favorite tunes on the iPod; pumpkin pie coming soon; a week off from teaching; Abby telling me she loved me tonight; figuring out a complex bass line on piano on the first try; thinking maybe I really do have a book in me, after all; hearing an amazing new piano talent and getting to write about him; lots of other stuff, but the fire is warm and I'm getting sleepy so that's enough for now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Just a Minute: Thanksgiving column

Here's today's Just a Minute column. I put the electric blanket on the bed right after I submitted it!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Breugger's introspection

Here I am, squinting at my screen because of the brightness, hoping no one notices that I haven't bought a thing yet, waiting for my friend, with whom I'm having coffee this morning.

I'm glad to have the time and the flexibility in my schedule to meet friends like this once in a while. After several years of all-mommy, all-the-time, it's really a gift to have a couple of child-free hours every morning while the boys are in preschool.

That extra time and breathing room is wonderful, but it's led to a crisis of sorts. I blogged about it a couple of weeks ago, too. I'm feeling much better now than I did then, and some interesting things have started to happen:
  • I've started listening to music I like again. Not the kids' CDs; not Earl's incessant country; not music that's "good" for me or that which I "should" be listening to. Just stuff I like.
  • I think -- and it may be premature to write this -- that I may be finally settling into a reasonable, realistic way of dealing with weight and body-image issues. I'm not perfect, but I may be getting comfortable, and that is progress.
  • I'm taking the long view a bit more. Yes, I want things to happen, professionally and personally, but they don't all have to happen right now. Just moving in the right direction is enough, most of the time.

I feel like I'm recovering some of myself that has somehow gotten lost in the last 20-odd years of living. It's a good feeling to re-make my own acquaintance.

Don't say mid-life crisis, please. As my mother says, it's just a mid-life episode.

Sarah Brightman article

Here it is, at long last. Mostly intact.

Ms. Brightman was really lovely on the phone; very generous with her time, serious about her craft, and willing to answer anything I asked her. Of course, it's in her interest to be cooperative with the media, but I really liked her. She came across as someone who understands her position as an entertainer, and who has a very strong work ethic to make that entertainment experience as wonderful as she can for her audiences.

I was pretty nervous about the interview, and glad when it was over. But that's a reflection on me and my trouble with talking with new people, even when I have "license" to do so as a reporter. She was a peach.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Abby's first concert tour

"Music Share Day" at school on Tuesday went very well for Abby. Over the past couple of days, I've learned that not only did she play for her own class during music time; she also took the show on the road to her former first grade classroom and the principal's office.

Abby played the first Twinkle variation as planned. She then proceeded to play Happy Birthday, Hot Cross Buns and Mary Had a Little Lamb for her own class, but stuck to the program for the tour.

I asked her how she liked performing for people, and her pleased-but-shy smile crept onto her face. I've heard through the grapevine that she got a lot of positive feedback from all who heard her.

I'm so proud of her; for being able to perform for her peers and teachers, and for doing a good job and feeling proud of herself for it. I wonder when the next music share day will be.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Perfect music: correction

It's not "Stay" by Jackson Browne. It's "The Load-Out," which is usually played with "Stay." Stay is OK but is nothing compared to the poetry of the first part.

I've always loved this song. There's something about about picturing a lone singer and pianist, performing on a darkened stage, singing about how much he loves to sing while the crew packs up the rest of the equipment because the concert is over and he just can't bear to stop performing.

It very nearly breaks my heart every time I listen to it. I'd better be careful not to listen to it too much!

The letter of the law

Yesterday, Timmy and I were in the van. Upon seeing a sign similar to this one, he solemnly intoned from behind me, "No arrows allowed."

Puppy love

My beautiful daughter has a beau.

He hasn't declared himself; not in so many words. But every day at school, there he is, eyes bright, big smile, and with a joyful "Hi, Abby!" he gives her a good morning hug.

Abby smiles, greets him in return and hugs back. It's very sweet.

This morning, Abby brought her violin to school for "music share day" in music class. She plans to play the first Twinkle variation, as well as any other variation she might have time for. She's dressed in her concert black, with a big black bow in her hair (a relic from my college days, when such things were actually considered fashionable.)

Her little friend, T., was all excited to see her as usual. And then, he said, "Abby, let me carry this for you, so you don't have to," and gently took her violin case out of her hand.

She looked at me, questioning. Was it OK if she let someone else carry her violin for her?

I told her that it was a very nice thing for T. to offer to carry it, and that it was OK as long as everyone involved was careful.

She's completely oblivious to his affection, of course, or perhaps she does understand but doesn't let on. I think it's adorable and am very glad that she can always look forward to an enthusiastic greeting every morning.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

November in New England

Saturday night, it was balmy. Tropical, even. Low 60s, humid, quite breezy. We felt a hurricane somewhere.

Sunday, it was sunny, windy and chilly. Water came over the seawall and sprayed my car.

Today it was 32 degrees when I got up.

That's more like it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ten minutes of fun

Brian, Abby and Timmy with their Oreo and candy-corn turkeys.
I'm not owning up to which one was mine.

Laffin' at duh kittehs

Once opon a time, I heard about the lolcats website. I checked it out, and it didn't do anything for me.

But today, I was reading an article on Salon, which explained the phenomenon a bit.

Now I'm laughing. Hope you will, too.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Physician, heal thyself

Lately, I've been telling Brian when he gets "stuck" on a topic. The clinical word for this behavior is perseveration, and it's a common behavior among people with high-functioning autism.

Most of the time, when I need to remind Brian to talk about another topic, we're in the van, and he's thinking about the Cars movie and starts talking about losing tires, wanting to make a pit stop, wondering if I'm going to squeal the tires, etc. I usually let him ask a few questions and then say, "Hey buddy, don't get stuck" and change the subject.

He turned the tables on me today. There we were in the van, and he started talking about pit stops, and I told him he was getting stuck.

"You're getting stuck!" he shouted at me.

"Me?" I replied, in surprise.

"You're stuck on telling me I'm getting stuck!"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Second webzine article

Here is a link to my second article for, finally published today: Top Five Techniques to Strengthen Your Marriage.

Coffee, Coffee muss ich haben

I've been having trouble sleeping. This is most unusual. I've always needed more sleep than the average person; certainly way more than Earl. But lately, I find myself bathing in the green glow of the bedside clock until nearly midnight. Then the alarm goes off at 5:00 and I'm ready to roll.

This would be useful if I could somehow use the extra awake time constructively, but I'm not really motivated to do that.

Kathleen, my ever-wise and practical friend, suggested that maybe I should cut down on caffeine. Like a true junkie, I dismissed her concerns; I've been having two cups a day for years and it's what I need to operate at more or less serviceable levels. Besides the cup in the morning, when it's still dark and the house is quiet, I look forward to my mid-day break around 1:00. It's part of my schedule, I like it and I don't want to change it.

And then, at 5:03 this morning, I was thinking about yesterday:

one cup in the morning
another big cup Breugger's later in the morning (I'm becoming a regular, it seems)
diet Coke with lunch
and my customary afternoon cup, a little later than usual

Whew. I don't need to give it all up. Just the extra. I can do that.

I'll probably fall asleep before the kids, but I can do that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Youth, wasted on the young

I never went dancing.

My roommate used to come home and tell me tales of dancing on the speakers at McDuff's, knowing she and her sisters would never die young like the good ones in the song.

I never went "downtown."

In my tiny, frozen college town, the biggest -- maybe the only -- draw was the few bars (don't call them "clubs") on Friday or Saturday nights. Or any other night, come to think of it. But I didn't really drink; didn't (and still don't) like beer, and my budget didn't allow for mixed drinks at Maxfield's. Not that I was of age or prone to get a false document stating that I was.

What did I do in college? Studied, practiced; improved my French and learned some German. Learned a little art history, studied acting, did some performing. Edited term papers. Dated the same guy for nearly the whole four years.

And I feel cheated, like I somehow missed out on a whole lot of living, while I was young and unencumbered enough to do it.

What would I have done differently? I can't say I would have gone dancing. I love to dance, and like to think I'm reasonably adept, but cannot stand loud music. Loud anything, really.

I certainly wouldn't have gone downtown. I hadn't discovered wine yet, and every place would have had loud music, anyway. Plus I wouldn't have known what to say to anyone, even if I could have been heard.

I wouldn't have changed any of my studies. I would still have edited friends' writing. (This could have told me something, had I been ready to listen.) I would still have performed and practiced.

But if I could do it all over again, I wouldn't be afraid to be alone, instead of in a relationship that I knew, even at the time, could not be the answer. I would have liked to date other men, perhaps, but I like to think I would have been strong enough and secure enough and confident enough and happy enough to be on my own and be satisfied with that. Maybe even to thrive.

I know this does not matter; I was who I was, and would not change my life now, nor any of the happy encumbrances that are part of it.

But I still wonder what might have been.

Perfect music

I want you back, ABC -- Jackson 5
Baby I love you -- Aretha (actually, nearly anything by Aretha)
Yester-me, yester-you, yesterday -- Stevie Wonder
We are family -- Sister Sledge
A whole bunch of Ella Fitzgerald stuff

And, totally different:
Stone in Love -- Journey (I know, I'm an old fogey)
Love Shack -- B-52s, only because it's just so funny, and I really do have a Chrysler that seats about twenty
Solsbury Hill -- Peter Gabriel
Stay -- Jackson Browne
Cherry, cherry -- Neil Diamond (!)

I've moved my iTunes library from the PC to my laptop, and am enjoying it immensely. Your mileage may vary.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Two exciting discoveries

Earl and I had a long-overdue date night last night. Since Tullio's, our favorite restaurant, closed, we had to find another Italian place. We tried Alfredo's in Quincy, but the wait was too long. We ended up at Alba, on the recommendation of a friend, and it was wonderful.

We started off with a bottle (a bottle!) of sauvignon blanc, my new favorite. We never buy bottles in restaurants, but they were offering them at cost, so we decided to splurge. I reached my limit after two glasses, as usual (well, maybe a touch more.)

Earl had the seafood fra diavolo, and I had a yummy lobster and spinach pasta dish. I am beginning to think the three most beautiful words in the English language are "sherry cream sauce." It was divinely delicious and we had a wonderful time. Our waitress was very attentive without hovering, and although it was pretty loud there, we were tucked into a corner, where it was much quieter.

It was a great time -- even better for the uninterrupted adult conversation, something Earl and I don't get to have very often. There's nothing like a night out. I heartily recommend it.

And then, another discovery: when we came out of Alba, there was a storefront we hadn't noticed on the way in. "The E String" is a string instrument sales and rental shop right in Quincy Center -- much closer than Johnson Strings over in Newton. The blinds were closed, but I peeked around them and saw violins, cellos and bows in a range of sizes.

Abby is all set with her 1/4 size violin for now, but when she needs a half-size, I definitely want to check out The E String. I wonder if they could re-hair my bow. Guess I'll have to call tomorrow and find out.

Food and music. Two of my great loves, close to home. Life is good.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Turkey time!

Well, almost. I did buy a 23-pounder yesterday, which is resting comfortably in my freezer. But today's turkey tidings took the form of yet another simple craft for the kids. Here are the proud crafters with their creations.

That gash on Timmy's forehead isn't real. Apparently the markers got wiggly during the coloring phase of the project.

Latest family column

My family column, Just a Minute, ran in today's Patriot Ledger and a few other GateHouse papers. Here's a link to the Carthage Press, a Missouri paper that picks up my columns and features pretty regularly.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Dear Readers,

Effective immediately, I will no longer publish anonymous comments on my blog. I stand by everything I write, and welcome comments from those who hold the same standard for themselves.

Anonymous comments will henceforth be rejected out of hand -- good, bad or indifferent.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Busy at Breugger's

I decided this morning that I was going to take my office on the road, specifically to Breugger's. I figured I'd have breakfast there and get some work done in a place where I couldn't hear the Halloween candy calling to me from the kitchen.

I've gotten a lot done this morning, although I do have a bit of eye strain. It's really bright in here, and my laptop screen only goes so bright, so I keep losing my cursor. I'll need to find a wi-fi-enabled coffee cave somewhere when I do this again.

Anyway -- I brought my to-do list and was able to cross off several items, including brainstorming interview questions for a couple of upcoming assignments, querying a magazine editor (well, really just following up on an introduction by a PR contact) and nudging another PR person who is arranging one of those interviews.

I may seem like I live and die by my to-do list, and I guess I do. I can be very organized but I have to have it in writing; if I rely on my memory to tell me what needs to be done, I'll often draw a blank. I'm very motivated by the prospect of crossing items off the list.

It's been a good morning. Off to pick Timmy up from school. That one wasn't on the list, but I'll do it anyway.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A glaring omission, rectified

How could I have forgotten to include my friend Erik in my remembrance of those who have died? If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be writing.

He encouraged me to start a blog. He gave everything I wrote a read and sometimes a pretty hard edit. I could always count on him for encouragement, and some laughs, besides.

He and I both were better friends in writing than we were in person, but that may be how it is with writers, at least some of us.

Erik has been gone since May. Rest in peace, dear friend. I'm remembering you in my thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November again

Oh, it's November again. I wrote last year of how I love this month, and it all holds true.

Today is All Souls' Day. So many souls to remember: Grandma Ruth, dearest Camille, Aunt Sandy, Beth Krenek. And others I've loved and lost: Uncle Howard and Aunt Charlene; Lou; Grandpa Fay; Grandma and Grandpa Moshier; Sherri; Grandma Abbott; Brian Campbell and Ken Cottrell.

I miss them, and others, but I'm not too sad anymore. I remember them, and pray for them, and feel connected to them. It helps me feel connected in general. I often struggle with faith, but something about the month of the Holy Souls helps me get plugged in again.

I'm not particularly excited about all the school vacation days this month, however. Election Day, Veteran's Day, school conferences, in addition to half of Thanksgiving week (well, that one's OK.) Invariably, some students won't show up, even though I've made it clear since September I'd be teaching on the first three days off. Then I've got my own kids to contend with, two of whom will be perseverating on why we have the day off.

I'll just keep focused on giving thanks and staying connected. November is the calm before the storm, after all.