Monday, August 31, 2009

Where's that hunger coming from?

I had a deadline today, for a magazine article that will run sometime in the winter. I'd had the assignment (loosely) since April, but hadn't been able to complete the research until the beginning of August, several weeks ago. True to form, last night found me ensconced on the couch, laptop on my legs, banging away at what writer Anne Lamott semi-affectionately calls the "shitty first draft," the day before the assignment was due.

The circumstances weren't really as dire they sound. I'd completed my rough outline and the beginning of the article on Saturday night; got up early on Sunday and got 2/3 of it done then; and just had to finish last night so I could get up early and edit this morning. But I had trouble focusing last night, particularly on writing smooth transitions between one idea and the next.

It wasn't made any easier by my being hungry. Now, I had eaten a full dinner just a couple of hours before then; there was no way my body could truly have needed more food. And I didn't really want just any food, as I learned when I pondered some raw carrots for a nanosecond. No, healthy veggies or fruits would not do; I needed zucchini bread.

I'm newly on the healthy living wagon once again. There are many reasons -- the numbers on the scale; the way the clothes (don't) fit; the cholesterol numbers, too high for my comfort; hitting the big 4-0. Another reason was a book my dear friend Elaine gave me, which explains in detail the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger.

What, you may ask, is emotional hunger?

I can give you examples from my own life:
  • Craving zucchini bread when clearly not physically hungry but feeling the pressure of a looming deadline
  • Dipping into a stash of Hershey's Kisses (or chocolate chips, in a pinch) when what I'd really like to do is scream at my kids -- or sometimes after screaming at my kids
  • Wandering to the fridge when bored, or lonely, or sad. This happens less frequently than it did a few years ago, but it still happens.


We went to Canada last week. We'd been there the previous week, too, when Elaine and her husband, Arnold, threw me a surprise birthday party. They really are wonderful friends to us, honorary grandparents to our children, and marvelous neighbors. Well, marvelous former neighbors, because their house has sold, and they moved out between our two visits, heading to Oregon to be with their own daughter and grandchildren.

Instead of welcoming lights, the red house next door stood empty when we arrived on Thursday. I sighed and swallowed hard, and headed into our petite maison to start unpacking for our short stay. I was seized by an urge for a snack -- again, not just any snack -- something sweet and full of carbs. I actually had my hand on the granola bar, having talked myself out of the cookies, before I realized that I wasn't hungry, and it was probably my sadness about Elaine and Arnold moving that was making me want to eat.

I left the granola bar in the cabinet and kept unpacking. Five minutes later I was sitting in the kids' bedroom, crying my eyes out.

I never cry.

Well, I guess I should say I rarely cry; I can't remember the last time I cried from sadness. This is a good thing, right? I'm generally happy and don't need to cry.

But after those feelings came out, first by myself, then on Earl's shoulder, I truly did feel better. I was still sad, and still am today, but there was an emotional release I hadn't felt in a long, long time. And no granola bars or cookies were harmed to achieve it.


As for my procrastination-induced emotional hunger on Sunday: I did have a small piece of zucchini bread, finished the shitty first draft, and went to bed with a clear conscience. I made the necessary edits this morning and submitted the article before the editor's office opened for the day. Success.

I'm feeling even more successful that I'm starting to recognize this emotional eating pattern in myself, and taking small steps to change it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Not exactly a tiny, whispering sound

It was after communion at this morning's 9:00 mass. The church was hushed, everyone quiet with their own thoughts.

Someone put up a kneeler, and it made a multi-pitched, sustained squeak as it got back into position. Timmy looked up at me.

"What was that noise?" he asked.

Hoping to shush him quickly, I told him, simply, "Just a little squeak."

"Oh," he said. He thought for a moment. "From the Lord?"

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Twinkie, twinkie, summer camp

My column about how Twinkies helped Abby adjust to a new summer camp ran in this weekend's Patriot Ledger.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Silly me, to think I could actually get any amount of work done with three children at home. Deliver me from the last week of summer vacation, although it's Abby who starts in a week and the boys, who are the ones making it impossible to work, don't start until the following Tuesday. Lord, grant me strength. And patience. And the ability to stay up late to get stuff done.

On another note, here is the adorable drawing from the little boy at mass on Sunday. Wonder if his parents find it as hard to get anything done with him around as I do with my kids around.

Beach half-day

We took the kids to Nantasket today for one last summer hurrah. It was okay, although Timmy managed to cut his foot on a shell and is limping a little. And, of course, he threw up in the car on the way home, but happily, a trash bag was available that mostly contained the mess. A quick stop at a Friendly's to throw away the bag in their outside barrel, and the incident was over save for the obligatory washing of the booster seat. Sigh.

But the beach itself was nice -- low-ish tide, medium waves. Abby enjoyed her boogie board while the boys played in the shallowest water. Earl went on deep-water duty with Abby, so I didn't have to wade in far.

My duty was only shin-deep.

And now we're home, showered, and the kids are keeping cool with a movie in the basement. I've got work to do, so I'll get to it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A nice day

Today was the summer outing for Earl's office. It was held at the curiously titled Camp Ramsbottom, in Rehoboth, Mass. It's a nice facility, with sunny ball fields, shady picnic spots, and a beautiful pool, which is where the kids and I spent the entire day.

The general manager for the Boston and Providence agencies organized the outing, and it was very family-friendly, from the food to the toys to the timing. There was no schedule per se; no organized activities, which some grumbled about, but which suited me just fine. I hate activities like softball, and I'm generally not very good in forced social situations (like the office holiday party) so a whole day in a beautiful facility where I just basically needed to watch my kids have a good time was perfect.

Earl took Brian, who isn't overly fond of the water, to play baseball for an hour or so. Abby tried out both water slides, and liked the taller one better. This slide was fast, and shot her out about 4 feet from the end of the slide into 9- or 10-foot deep water, and she couldn't get enough of it.

Of course, Timmy had to try the slide, too. I helped him once, but it was too nervewracking for me, so Earl did the honors the other times.

We managed to mostly stay sunburn-free (except for Abby's cheeks, which I noticed were pink this evening.) I've got three tired kiddos upstairs in their beds, and Brian, especially, is extra-tired from staying through the seventh inning at last night's game at Fenway. The kid lives and breathes baseball. It's really something.

Oh, and one last note -- Abby had her first personal training session yesterday at the Y. They have kid-sized Nautilus-like equipment, and she learned to use it while I got my weight training done on the adult Nautilus machines. Abby has another appointment tomorrow, and another on Monday, and then she'll be trained well enough to use them herself.

I'm making exercise a "girls' thing" for the two of us. We both could stand to lower our body mass index, and I think the structured workout of a line of machines to do will be right up Abby's alley. She and I took a short walk today, for a little cardio, but that's not one of her favorite things to do. Her gait really isn't correct; she seems unable to maintain a steady left-right-left-right stride for more than 6 or 8 steps. She does better when we hold hands, but she doesn't have a normal footfall, either -- it almost looks like she's landing toe-first. I don't know what to do about that, other than to just try to gently coach her as we walk.

School starts for her a week from tomorrow. My big third-grader!

Monday, August 24, 2009

One more reason

How could I have forgotten? Yesterday after the 12:00 mass, a little boy, who is a regular attendee with his family, gave me a picture he drew for me (maybe during mass!) It's a terrific marker-drawing of me cantoring, complete with microphone, glasses and orange hair. It's adorable. I'll post it later if I can scan it during the busy day ahead.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Forty reasons

40 reasons to be happy right now:
  1. My 40th birthday is behind me and I feel great
  2. I'm all done throwing kids' birthday parties until next June
  3. Air conditioning in the bedroom
  4. I own my own business and love what I do
  5. An interesting opportunity that's come my way
  6. Earl and I have been married for 16 years and 2 days
  7. I'm embracing moderation and doing pretty well with it so far, by the grace of God
  8. School starts in a couple of weeks
  9. We still have a couple of weeks of vacation before school starts
  10. Singing well this weekend
  11. Looking forward to mass with the Kenyan community next Sunday
  12. So many good birthday wishes for me, Abby and Timmy
  13. Almost caught up with laundry from our time in Canada
  14. Fair next weekend = best ice cream on Earth (in moderation, of course)
  15. New vacuum works really well, even on the weirdly textured rug at the front door
  16. Iced coffee
  17. Sweet kisses from the birthday boy
  18. Brian's box score and AL East standings obsession
  19. Brian's making friends with a dad at the pool who was wearing an Ortiz shirt ("I talked to him about David Ortiz!")
  20. Timmy's "good dream" of Ortiz hitting a home run to Canada, confounding the other team because they didn't know the way to the little house.
  21. A good birthday party for Abby last weekend -- pedicures and pillowcases
  22. Still feeling good about my take-charge decisions
  23. Kayaking on Friday...will have to do that again sometime soon
  24. Listening to spiritual nudges
  25. Timmy requesting "more sawdfish" at dinner last night...okay, that's really a reason to shudder, not to be happy, but it was pretty funny at the time
  26. Four- and five-year-olds randomly singing psalms during the day ("Taste and see the goodness of the Lord...." Psalm 34 for the curious.)
  27. Abby enjoying her new dollhouse from Grammy and Grampy Fay, with hand-braided dollhouse rugs made by Grammy Ruth of blessed memory
  28. Twinkle toes
  29. Getting Abby to agree to exercise with me tomorrow (we'll see how that goes!)
  30. Unexpected party guests that turn out to be lovely
  31. A funny name anagram for me: "An eerie, joyful moan." A friend commented that I should use that for a writing prompt. Hmmm.
  32. Swimming in the lac; kickboarding, too
  33. Unexpectedly singing for a quinceañera mass yesterday. So beautiful.
  34. Celebrating our anniversary all weekend
  35. New students
  36. Longtime students
  37. Chorus of pirates at Timmy's party this afternoon
  38. Home sweet home
  39. Learning that I'm not the only person who doesn't care for the beach (thanks, Naomi!)
  40. Looking forward to a weekend getaway with Earl in October

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fabulous fête

We were in Canada this week, for the high holidays of the Fay family: two birthdays (mine and Timmy's) and our anniversary. Abby's birthday was earlier in the month, so August is a busy, busy time for us, filled with fun and birthday cake, and vacation, too.

My birthday began wonderfully with my dear friend Elaine's fabulous crêpes, with fresh blueberries and raspberries she had picked, as well as blackberries given to me by a friend in Milton and smuggled into Canada. We added a little maple syrup, and a fairer breakfast never was made. Brian and Timmy weren't sure about them but soon were packing them away, and telling me to get the recipe so I could try making them at home. (I did and I will.)

Much of the day I spent lolling around with a book, admittedly a silly one. It wasn't exactly a bodice-ripper, but it would definitely be called a romance novel, with a heavy helping of time travel. Very silly, but entertaining, and wonderfully restful to put my feet up and read, and recharge by myself for a bit.

That evening we had dinner with Elaine and Arnold. They had decorated their porch with streamers and a birthday tablecloth, and the kids and Earl had made a couple of birthday signs for me. It was so sweet and made me feel very special.

After dinner, they presented me with an outrageously beautiful and BIG birthday cake, à la Française, which read,

Bonne Fête

It was a sweet ending to a sweet day, but there was more. Earl made a campfire and we all enjoyed stargazing and listening to the kids sing every song they knew, at the top of their lungs.

Other highlights of the week included doing some swimming at a nicer beach across the lake than what our access à l'eau land affords, and blueberry-picking. Earl and I got out in the kayaks, too. Such fun! When we came back, Elaine had brought the kids, so Earl gave the boys kayak rides, but Abby took one out by herself! She's such a big girl now.

All in all, a very lovely few days at our petite maison. We are sad that Elaine and Arnold have sold their house and won't be coming to Canada as often any more. It won't be the same, so I guess it will have to be different. And that will be okay, too.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I'm very pleased with myself. Not only did I plan and carry out two birthday parties in three days, but I also took care of three things that were bothering me.

All three decisions had to do with me acting on what was best for me and my family. I tell friends repeatedly that they don't need to sacrifice themselves to crazymakers, and yet, that's exactly what I've been doing, myself. No more.

I've created three solutions, two of whom will hopefully be ratified by the other parties, and one of which was a unilateral decision. And if the other parties don't agree, then I have backup plans, which basically involve unilateral decisions.

I guess this is a convoluted way of saying I'm finally reaching the stage in my life where my need to make my own way is starting to outweigh my need to have everyone like me. It's about time.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Theatre review

My review of a local production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" ran in yesterday's Patriot Ledger.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sixteen things

In honor of our 16th anniversary coming up next week, a random list of 16 things I love about Earl:
  1. His nickname for me, and no, I'm not telling
  2. His attitude about money, so completely different from mine, or what mine used to be
  3. His incredible ability to put anything on the grill and make it taste wonderful
  4. His "serious fun" approach to teaching the boys all about baseball
  5. His willingness to deal with yucky things like bugs, mice, trash day, and mistakes made by the mortgage company, which take more than three hours on the phone to straighten out
  6. His teary-eyed pride when my first column was published
  7. His dedication to doing what is right for the kids
  8. How everything becomes haunted around Halloween
  9. How he occasionally will sing AC/DC or Steve Miller at the top of his lungs
  10. His strong faith and service to our church
  11. His understanding of my need for breaks, like a night out at writers' group or an outrageously early bedtime
  12. His gorgeous green-gold eyes
  13. His excited "swing and a miss!" when listening to the Sox on the radio
  14. His doing all the yard work and the snow shoveling
  15. His always loving me, through thick and thin -- life-wise and physique-wise
  16. His pretending to be awake, without fail, when I catch him dozing in front of the TV

Fat Wednesday

I'd love to be able to make a joke about this -- like how my body is so adept at putting on weight that it ought to go professional with it -- but it's really just disgusted me so much that I don't even think it's funny.

I gained 4 pounds this past week. Four!

And yes, I had beach food and party food and birthday cake. And ice cream. And I missed two workouts.

But gee whiz. Four pounds!

I have tried not to obsess about weight here (or anywhere) since a friend pointed out that it really wasn't helping matters, anyway, physically or psychologically. But the four pounds have tipped the scales toward obsession again.

And now here comes the whiny part: it's August. Abby's birthday. My birthday. Timmy's birthday. Our anniversary. Vacation. The last hurrah of summer before the fall grind sets in again. I want to eat birthday cake and have a good time.

But it's also stressful, with parties to plan and execute, vacation planning, plus some extra stuff that's been happening. And I'm a stress/emotional eater, as well as a proficient eater in every other situation.

I want to lose weight but I don't want it to be so darned hard.

Encouragement is welcome. Telling me to suck up and deal is not.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Preview, review

Two short pieces in the Ledger yesterday:

My preview of Opera by the Bay's "Some Enchanted Evening" program on August 8; and

My review of a community theatre production of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town."

Sunday, August 2, 2009


This weekend, I'm substituting for the music director at my church, playing the piano for all five masses. I wrote a bit about it last week.

It's been a really interesting experience. I've practiced this week, of course, and decided where I would be playing the music as written, and where I would be cheating/improvising/reading chord symbols. For the most part, it's worked pretty well. I've played four out of the five masses so far, and I'm (gasp!) not even practicing between now and the last one. I'm actually not that nervous any more.

Yesterday at 4:00 was a whole different story. Our other regular cantor has a cold, so she asked a woman from the choir, who covers for us, to fill in. I found out about this on my way to church.

Of course, that threw me into a tizzy -- as if I needed anything else to be nervous about. But Pat was a trouper, and completely unflappable, even when some particularly egregious wrong notes clunked out of the piano. I was grateful that she was so solid, but was also very relieved when I played the last chord of the final hymn.

This morning, more of the same: trembling hands and nervous mistakes at the 9:00 mass. But when the 10:30 came around, I had the summer pick-up choir up there with me, and thinking about them somehow allowed me to get out of my own way a little, and enjoy the experience more. I played better, too, and that confidence and calm carried over to the 12:00 mass.

The pastor's homily touched on gratitude this week, and I have been reflecting on what a gift it has been to prepare the music for the liturgy. It's been nervewracking at times, but stretching one's musical muscles can sometimes be that way. I'll happily return to the microphone next week, but I have enjoyed sitting behind the piano, in spite of my nervousness.

Saturday, August 1, 2009