Susan's Blog

Monday, August 7, 2006

Tag, I’m It

When you are tagged by another blogger, you have to list five weird things/habits about yourself with an explanation (like I don’t already do that most of the time?) and then tag four more bloggers. Kind of like blog Truth or Dare.
Okay, Kristin, here goes. Five weird things/habits about me.

1) Alienation: I am often uncomfortable in groups, like book groups, playgroups, or email listserves. I do not understand the light level of conversation shared in these. I feel like I speak a different language among such groups, or I feel like I’m the only person with a negative thought in them. I look for an ally, usually, that one person across the room whom I can wink to. I usually crave being invited into them and then pretty much drop out as fast as I possibly can.

2) Gross: I am not that into superscrubbed/superclean people. I love people’s smells more after a whole day or when they first wake up than right after a shower. I don’t mean bathroom smells or really dirty people. Just the natural oily stuff we acquire as the day goes on. I guess I really am kind of an animal — hey, aren’t we all?

3) Literary: I never read nonfiction books, even though I mostly write only nonfiction. I get bored to tears by accounts of this, that, or the other true event. I hate books set in another decade other than now. I especially hate the 1950’s, in general.

4) Looks: I detest seeing female toes that have not been pedicured. I hate crusty toenails; they disgust me. I hate female feet in sandals if they are not polished and preferably with the toes painted a lovely color. For cryin’ out loud, just slap some red paint on there, will ya?

5) Sexuality: I am completely, vibrantly, and enthusiastically heterosexual, and yet I love looking at women’s bodies (in real life and photos) as much as men’s. It is an absolute turn-on. I feel that most porn, however, is disappointing and very unimaginative and geared towards the lowest common denominator of male interest.

Now: I tag Ned, Manic Mom, Damien Katz, and The Diva

Fresh Dirt

My novel is just about ready to shop around. The main character’s name is now Emmy, the estranged husband is Eric, the love interest is Will, and the son’s speech therapist is Tom. I am calling the book, “Dirt: A Story of Gardening, Mothering, and a Midlife Crisis.” In this scene, which I wrote today, Eric goes to meet with Nick’s speech therapist for the first time and is surprised by what he finds.

“I’m really glad to meet you,” Tom said, holding out his beefy hand.
“Yeah, same,” said Eric, grasping Tom’s hand firmly. They were standing in the therapy room, with floor-to-ceiling games, puzzles, books, art supplies, stacked messily on all the shelves. Instead of the customary fluorescent lighting trays that flickered with strobe-like consistency in most offices, there were tiny recessed lights positioned at regular intervals in the sky-blue ceiling. New jade green carpeting underfoot; Eric could tell it was that expensive non-allergenic stuff. Gave a nice soft and solid feeling wherever he stepped. There were sheets of paper masking-taped up on the wall behind Tom’s head, obviously done by kids, with the predominant theme of orange houses. Eric smiled graciously, trying to show Tom that he could appreciate the things kids did. God knew what Emmy had told him about him.
Tom narrowed his eyes just the slightest bit and said, “Nick’s work.” His voice dipped low, full of pride.
Eric’s eyebrows shot up. “Really!” He walked over to have a closer look. Bold brushstrokes, slanted, thick lines. So much orange. “Orange,” he murmured.
“Yes, he loves orange.”
“Never knew that. But I suppose Emmy’s told you all about me.” He did not look at Tom, but continued to take in Nick’s work: sheet after sheet of painstaking attempts to capture the most basic shapes: houses, stick-figure people, a cat. All in orange. He felt both disturbed and happy at the same time.
“Not really, no,” Tom said. “We just talk about the boys.”
“All of them?” Eric turned to look at Tom, to get a read on him. Warm brown eyes met his with self-assurance, curiosity, but also kindness.
“Well, yes. Treat one kid, you kind of end up treating the whole family, you know?”
“I guess.” Eric shrugged. He hadn’t thought of this before but he liked it. He couldn’t imagine hapless Jackie, the last speech therapist they had endured, “treating the whole family,” however, and this image made him smile.
“You’ve got great kids. All so different. Want to sit down?”
They sat at the worktable. The chairs were surprisingly comfortable, yet supportive. Tom waited for Eric to begin; it was his hour, after all.
“So what do you do with Nick for that hour? Or fifty minutes,” Eric added under his breath, with a smirk. He knew all about the abbreviated therapy-hour from when Emmy had gone to therapy, back when Nick was first diagnosed. Eric hadn’t gone, of course, but Em had told him all about it, to try to bring him into it, he supposed. But he just wasn’t the therapy type. All that sitting around and crying to a stranger. It wasn’t for him.
“Actually I do go the whole hour. I just schedule my clients with good-size breaks in between. Works out better for everyone.” Tom sat back and folded his arms behind his head, showing two yellow sweat circles in his armpits.
Eric raised an eyebrow. This guy was alright; clearly did his own laundry. It made him like him more. “So what do you guys do? Besides paint?”
“These days,” Tom said, “Not much else!” They both laughed. “I think Nick has finally found a hobby others can relate to.”
“You mean other than twiddling string?” Eric was immediately ashamed after he said it and he felt his face reddening.
But Tom waved a hand dismissively. “Of course, twiddling string is highly underrated in these parts. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”
Eric grinned appreciatively. He suddenly felt his body soften and settle into the chair and a sigh escaped him before he knew it. “I guess – “ he ventured, a little at a loss, “I came here to find out more about what I can do. You know, for Nick. Living apart from him, and all.”
Tom thought for a while. The pause went on for so long that Eric began to think he wasn’t even going to answer him. Finally, Tom said, throwing his hands down to his lap, “That’s tough. For all of you. I guess the main thing is, don’t try to do too much, but try to make it good, whatever you do. You know, you don’t have to take them to the circus and museums for it to be a good thing. Sometimes just sitting, guy time.”
“Are we still talking about Nick?”
“I think this applies to all your boys. They just need to enjoy you, don’t you think? They probably miss that, in your situation.”
Eric nodded. This made sense. It also made him feel better, and yet, also wistful. “My situation, yes.”
Tom shook his head. “Not a judgment. Just an observation. The truth. It is a situation, and it can’t be easy. So you’ve got to try to connect with them. And that’s really it. Nick is probably the easiest of the three of them right now, in terms of connecting.”
Eric’s eyes widened in surprise. “Nick!”
Tom went on, “Because you can do the painting with him and make him so happy, so easily. You’ll see. But the other two – well, especially Henry. He’s at a tough age.”
Eric thought, Nick is at nearly the same age, but no one ever remembered that. He leaned forward and said, “I think I see what you mean.”
They didn’t talk about Henry or Dan after that, because Eric felt he needed to use the time to learn more about Nick, which is what he had come there for. Tom gave Eric a few ideas of how to set things up in his apartment for arts and crafts, and talked about Nick’s sensory issues, tactile sensitivities, noise problems. So many things Eric had known but had never really attended to before. But now – he had a concrete task to go with his new knowledge, and that felt good. When he walked out of Tom’s building he was whistling Queen again, and drove right over to Pearl Paint Store in Cambridge, tapping away happily on the steering wheel as he drove.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

The Casbah

Yesterday was a satisfying day. Aside from hanging out with good friends for most of it (and writing an essay about it intended for the Washington Post, to be posted later), I cleaned the house really well, with the help of the boys, and cleared out all toys from the big room on the third floor. This room was probably once the servants’ living room. It is right above our bedroom, and has a lot of character: many slanted walls and the windows are different from all the others in the house; they are diamond-paned and shorter (though by today’s standards are still rather large), and they are natural (dark) woodwork. In fact, the whole room is full of dark woodwork.
We spread Grandma B’s big oriental rug across the floor, and put our large floor pillows up there, that we had bought before we were married, as a cool way to sit in our dorm room. The whole room is dark woods, cream walls, red, rust, gold, and brown. There is a desk with Max’s server and a few computers in one corner, some filing cabintes, a television, and a small white couch. Otherwise, the entire space is clear, and I am going to use it for (private) dance practice! Maybe I’ll create a tented sultan’s space with scarlet tulle and little lights for Ned to sit while I dance. When I suggested it, however, he said, “And the lesser harem girls will go to my right and my left.” No thanks.

And now, a bike ride with Max. The dancing will take place later.

Friday, August 4, 2006

What I Want

So much I still want to accomplish, such as…

Publish my novel, which I’m calling, “Dirt: A Story of Gardening, Mothering, and a Midlife Crisis.”
Write a book about the Special Olympics
Get reviewed in the New Yorker, even a pan/write something for the New Yorker
Secure Nat’s future
Be able to pay for Max’s and Ben’s college choices
Secure our retirement
Get on Oprah’s show with my message about autism, not hers
Go to another White House dinner
Learn how to avoid future toxic relationships
Get my school system to be accountable for Nat’s home-based therapy needs
Have grandchildren
Befriend my future daughters-in-law
Be good enough to belly dance for an audience (other than Ned)
Live in a European country for a short time, studying writing
Go back to Israel for a visit
Get my town to raise taxes for the schools
Meet Clapton and learn at least one guitar trick from him
Meet Dylan and ask why he switches from first person to third and back in Tangled Up in Blue
Publish a New York Times oped or Sunday Times “Lives” column
Learn how to age gracefully (without surgery, injections, or despair)
Become a regular columnist at the Washington Post
Get a dog (black or yellow lab only)
Stop spending money I don’t really have/make more money
Be happy with my boys’ solitary ways
Join a temple for Ben’s education
Run for U.S. Senator when Ted is finished

A Pair of Chums

I spent a long day on the Cape yesterday with just my sister Laura and my parents. Laura was up there for a pediatrics conference.

I got there in no time, marveling at how different traffic flows during the week than on the weekend. I had very little hip/knee pain from the drive, a sign that the PT and all the stretches are working. I certainly have not been doing less. The other night I belly danced for a half hour and also had no ill effects. (Laura had sent me a costume for an anniversary present for Ned and me — perfect idea — so I tried it out. Plus, I now have the music from my class on CD, so I am ready to rock — or shimmy.)

Ned has become just a little blase about the dancing. That makes me feel a little sad. I work so hard isolating this muscle group or that, straining to get it exactly like Lolisha taught us, and I see it is really looking right, but to him, it’s “always the same.” When he said that I pouted and took my stuff into the dining room to practice. Soon, he followed me — with the laptop, of course. Mistress Laptop. Better, apparently, than a lap dance, or at least, the veil dance. But he was appropriately appreciative.

So, no ill effects for my bod or my marriage.

Got to the Cape in record time, as I said, and spilled onto the beach by around 11, with Laura. We went right in, even though the temp was supposedly 57 degrees. It was so hot, like a fever, especially after the bike ride there. I was wearing a bright red bikini, and Laura was wearing a blue striped one with a bandeau top. It felt like old times, when we’d go to the beach together as teenagers, (looking for guys, which we did not do this time, at least, not obviously) and Mom and Dad would join us later. Laura looks incredibly young and fit, exactly as she did way back when, except for the silver threaded through her hair. The two of us do exactly the same kind of workouts (although she has never belly danced and I don’t do spinning) and we eat the same diet. I converted her to Atkins a few years ago, so now we share that religion. We always talk about what other people eat and how boring Atkins is, but how any weight loss regimen hurts in some way. With Atkins, you’re never hungry, at least. But soooo bored. We gossip about what people eat and what we are stuck eating like some picked-upon minority group, the anti-Carbivores.

We floated on the (fairly flat) ocean for a while, talking about food, our parents, our kids, our husbands, our sex lives, our jobs, and musing on how we were the farthest ones out, therefore the ones most likely to get picked off by Mr. Jaws. Even with wimpy waves, I lost an earring, and she said, “You know, Sue, shiny things attract them.” But how could I be on the beach without earrings? It’s part of the look. Plus, I reasoned, you need to take some risks in this life. Besides, I was not the one in a wetsuit, looking very seal-like, the way she was.

But there I was, with only one silver hoop now. I had to take it out and go around plain Jane. At least I still had traces of makeup.

We had heard that just last week, in Chatham, a large head was seen rising from the water, and bit a seal right in half. “It could only be a Great White,” I said reverently. A moment of silence. Chatham is really close to where we swim. A frisson of delicious fear went through us. I turned around and went right back in. My seal sister joined me, of course.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

August Song

The glads, the glads
have gone to sads
I always stake too late
Too much at stake
Too much to stake
So hot
Unmowed knotted green lot
The phlox, big topped
White and withering, flops
New crops of coreops is too bright
But what a rose last night can still delight
I weed and weed
I gather with greed
Anything with color
Doesn’t have to match at all
It is almost time —
mums the word
But the hour does fall.

Mel-icious Intent

Mel Gibson can kiss my ass. I don’t accept his apology. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. The first time, that movie of his, I could allow in the name of freedom of expression. I knew it was biased against the Jews and really inflammatory, but that’s his right. I knew that it would work to undermine Vatican II, but most people I know who are Christians still hold with the whole “the Romans did it” mentality. I think. I mean no disrespect here. I am just angry about the slant of that movie, what I think was maliciously intended, consciously anti-Semitic especially now with this. But at least it can be said that no pogroms occurred because of it, anyway; no Kristallnacht, thank God. Many Jews harbor fears of such a thing in the backs of their minds, especially when something like Gibson’s The Passion comes along. But perhaps some good came out of it: most people really began to believe that Mr. Gibson’s wig was flipping.

So now, with this whole thing. I don’t know about you, but when I get pulled over by a cop, the first thing that comes into my head is usually, “Oh, God, please get me out of this with just a warning,” and not some diatribe against some religious group or other. But that’s just me.

Look, Mel, get some help. Look at your genetics. The sins of the fathers…

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Ode to Boy

Whenever Benji sneezes, Ned and I say, “LBS,” which means, “Little Baby Sneeze.” His sneeze is still just a little squeezy thing, kind of like a baby would make. I love how there’s nothing very gross about him yet (and I say “gross” with the greatest love, some of my best children are a bit gross; keep in mind, you take the whole container, the whole package, of a person you love). But Benj’s feet are still kind of small and smooth, and do not smell bad (yes, I smell them furtively, not being inappropriate) and his face is still unmarred by the stretch and sheen of adolescence. In my mind and under my breath, I call him “Little Perfect,” but I don’t want to give him a kinna hurra, so I don’t say it too loudly. Also, God bless him, he’s far from perfect, as are we all.

But the other day Max chipped his tooth while practicing juggling with pins. We were not paying attention to him — a good moment for the evil eye to strike — because Ned was chatting about juggling with the lifeguard, who actually juggled, too, and looked like Ned, twenty years ago, but with an outrageously smooth honey tan. (I was, needless to say, in heavy, mouthwatering, X-rated fantasy mode as I watched the two of them, biceps bulging, red swimsuited, golden haired, bearded, masculine knees bent, tossing colored lacrosse balls in the air with perfect precision. But I behaved and sat quietly on the blanket, probably searching for remaining snax for Nat. I can’t remember.)

So where was I? Max chipped his tooth. We looked at it in horror; about a third of it, gone. The other lifeguard said, “Put it in milk,” of which we did not have any right there in the middle of the beach. I saved the chip in the discarded grapes baggie, which is the way we save lost baby teeth for the tooth fairy, who would have been horrified to find this wonky white chip should she be searching under Max’s sweaty pillow for unfathomable reasons. But she has not had need to go into that room for years, except to make the occasional grimace at the clutter.

After I got used to it, I realized that I preferred Max this way, snaggletoothed. He had a new impish look about him. I told him he should tell people, “You should see the other guy.” He laughed, because he’s probably the last person on earth who would actually get in such a bloody, damaging fight as that. Not a wimp, but a true, Zenlike pacifist. I’m sure, however, if you really got Max going, he could level you in a second.

I brought him to the dentist this morning and asked, “What if I like the way this looks?” But they thought I was kidding and made him a nice bonded thing, returning his smile to its former, Nedlike perfection. Sorry, but yes, perfect — knock wood. Or something harder, perhaps. Knock juggling pin.

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