Susan's Blog

Sunday, September 9, 2007


He was too old to rock and roll
But he was too young to die.
–Ian Anderson

Yesterday was breathlessly hot. While Ned took Nat into the city on the T for a walkabout and ice cream, and Max went to Six Flags with a friend, I took Benj to a birthday party of a family I really like. It was something like ten little boys, all fourth grade. Could they have been any more adorable? They all came with either baseball mitts or Nintendo DS’s (I’ll let you guess which B brought, and if you can’t, you have not been reading carefully) and their exuberance. The innocent swagger of a nine-year-old boy is one of life’s joys to behold. They still think that being cool is to act like their favorite cartoon character, which may be Ed, Ed, or Eddie, or may be a Turtle. Or an actual turtle.

The noise level was so intense that I needed to leave. I went off with Barbara, one of the moms whom I have not spent time with in quite a while, another Libra, actually. She is a lot of fun in that kind of no -nonsense way. She loves to criticize her children, and encourages others to, also, so it ends up feeling really okay to have been driven crazy by one or the other, the way mine always do.

Barbara and I went to a make-up counter. She needed some stuff and I needed to play. I wandered around the various stations of Lancome, Estee, Clinique, and Benefit, and just lost myself in the displays. The little pots of shining color, lined up like tiny puddings; the magic wands of pretty goo that comb or brush gently across eyes or lashes; the fat soft brushes springing up like tiny fountains. I had no money with me, having walked Ben to the birthday party, and Barbara having driven us both in her car to the Macy’s. She said she’d buy stuff for me if I wanted, which made me feel even more like a kid in a candy store. Still, I declined, even though I need new make-up: my Trish McEvoy eye powder has been reduced to faint traces of color rimming an empty square, which I scrape at in vain. My Lancome pencil is a stub, and I’ve actually been also using it to fill in my brows — and it’s greenish! So I couldn’t let Barbara buy anything for me because I needed way too much.

I looked around at all the women there, getting things wiped onto their faces, seeing that this stuff does not truly make a difference. And yet I am one of them. I squeezed out a few drops of anti-wrinkle eye serum, of course. My eyes are my “problem area.” We all have problem areas, we learn from Day One, or Magazine One. Whichever thing on our bodies or faces that does not match the women in the magazines: that is the “problem area.” (Actually, that makes my long nose a problem area, too, but…)

The real problem is that we get more and more insecure about our faces as they drift farther away from the magazine ideal. How do we combat that? Does growing old gracefully mean you stop trying to fight the signs of age, and accept that your face is truly changing over time; or does it mean you continue to ease the ravages of time with as many products as you can, short of scalpels? And why, then, are scalpels the dividing line, and not injections? Because you can die from the anesthesia? (I am asking, not judging.) And why do some women go totally gray in defiance of the anti-aging culture, yet, still wear make-up? Why is haircolor a vanity, but make-up, not? I have been trying not to think too much about it, but I did yesterday, because I really wanted to go to the makeup counter with Barbara.

When we came back to pick up our boys, they were in the midst of a sweaty ice-fight. Each boy was trying to put ice down the others’ pants, while trying to avoid the ice in their own; consequently each boy had a large water stain down the front of their pants. The host parents tried in vain to quell some of the action and noise, but it was like sweeping back the sea. Barbara and I poured ourselves some diet soda and tried to get Sandy, the host, to sit with us and not worry. She was stacking up pizza boxes, dinner, presumably, and saying, “Next, it’s time for the cake.” This is after I saw each boy eating pizza while also digging into individual paper bags of candy, with their names on them. And before I saw her bring out a tray of brightly wrapped individual bags of “goodies” (more candy!). I held one up and said, “What’s this, Sandy, the appetizer?” We all laughed.

One boy ran over to his bag and pulled out some more candy, claiming he needed, “more energy.” Then he ran off. They were like monkeys swinging on trees. The trees started shivering in a sudden breeze and we all looked up at the sky, realizing the weather had shifted. “It’s going to rain,” Adam, the host dad said. We all agreed this would be good. Cool everything off.

I was looking around at all the food I wanted to eat, just like earlier I had looked around at all the make-up I needed to buy, and knowing I was too old to eat any of that food, and too something (lazy, broke, discouraged, happy) to buy all that make-up. Barbara dropped us off at home and Ned, Nat, and I had some delicious Thai for dinner. Later I felt ill, and I had not had one bite of any junk food. Well, just one: a stolen piece of Ben’s Milky Way.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

From Autism to Zealous Dieting

I think it was the Greeks who said, “Moderation in all things.” I have never been a moderation kind of gal; even in high school my biggest fantasy was to be making out with my best friend’s older brother, while listening to Yes’ And You and I and eating deep dish pizza and chocolate. all at the same time. (Never happened; and aren’t we glad now, Larry?) That is a lot of sensory indulgence.

So with moderation, suddenly I am seeing the light. It has a subtle power. “Fiat lux,” as the Greeks’ Roman successors would have said. I have seen the light, and the light is this: a little self-control goes a long way. It feels like for so long, this whole blasted year, I have been struggling with wanting things and needing things to go exactly one way. I gave myself overly simplistic rules: eat as few carbs a day as possible, but fat is okay to eat. Or: stay away from that person, he/she is bad for you. Or: do another special needs book because the first was so successful. Or: run little behavioral programs to teach Nat how to do things, and take data to mark the progress.

All of these instructions are extremes, in one way or another. They don’t allow for the reality, the complexity that life demands. All the behavioral attempts to control, stem, sublimate, or repress Nat’s difficult interactions could do nothing but frustrate him further. Nothing really worked until I turned around and embraced the “problem,” only to find that it was all about his need to engage with me. His way of engaging is not typical, so it takes some patience and getting used to. (So what must my way look like to him??) But now that I know, he just wants to talk and talk about certain people’s routines and meals, I can do that. Or I can try to moderate it a little, by telling him I’m only going to talk about it a few more times and then I’ll be all done with that conversation.

I have been trying too hard to be like a 12-Stepper in terms of diet, and some relationships, too. But the fact is, denying myself certain foods only turns them into forbidden fruit for me. It elevates them to a level of desirability that is way out of kilter with what they really are. If I feel that chocolate is bad, because it will be a slippery slope and I can’t just eat a little, then that is how I will act when presented with chocolate. The other day, interestingly enough, Nat took the bag of milk chocolate chips away from me; he felt that something was out of whack about my eating a bag of chocolate. Mommy just doesn’t do that. So I was able to stop, thanks to Nat. Yesterday I was not as lucky. So I ate just salad for dinner and danced for a half hour to try to help my body burn some of that away. And today I am aiming for a sweet treat in the late afternoon, but nothing after dinner. I already ran/walked 4 miles to prepare. It’s only reasonable. As long as one doesn’t become an Exercise Bulemic.

The hard-and-fast Atkins style of eating any fat (other than Trans, the All Evil One, the one my town banned from restaurants, and yes, I was one of the elected officials who voted for that!), as long as you eat less than 20 carbs, ended by pushing my cholesterol up dangerously high. Way up, firm and high, as Bob Seger would say. My HDL (is that the good one?) was pretty good, but still, the other numbers were deplorable. You can’t just consume Sat Fat like it is gum. Especially with my tight genes. So for the last two weeks, I have been eating quite a bit more chocolate, but almost no other fat, while still avoiding carbs like flour and most sugar. And I’ve lost (a small but satisfying amount of) weight!

The example of my hair springs to mind, too. Instead of always fighting it and straightening it, now I often just let it dry in its weird curly-wavy configuration and I say, “The hell with it! This is how I look!” Always is not always a good thing.

The extreme rule of continuing my non-fiction trajectory also proved problematic. I have found that I am just now coming out of a difficult time in my family life, and I know I will have a lot to write about in the sequel to MPWA, but for now, I am just processing it. And I have gone back to fiction, my first love. But this time, I am writing what I know: an autism mom with three boys, facing middle age and challenging relationships. (But remember, readers, She is Not ME!!!)

So now I am trying not to push away from anything that is troubling, but instead to confront it and see if there is a way to live with it, work with it. From Autism to Zealous Dieting, I am going to try moderation. In moderation.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Behaving Rashly

What the heck is it?! Every morning a new itchy bump shows up on my skin (leg, now arm, maybe even — God forbid — eyelid). Only itches in the morning, like a house on fire, then stops. Responds to cortizone. Ever since last Friday. The way the bumps show up after all the itching, the look of the thing, is my old enemy Poison Ivy. The summer is over! I have done no gardening for a month! So how did I get it?

Ah-ha! I rode to Nauset Light Beach at the National Seashore the one day it rained and left my bike (actually Dad’s bike, so sorry Dad!) in the bushes next to the ramp. (By the way, did you know that the National Seashore is actually a National Park, and that the National Parks let in disabled people for free! I was thinking about what it would be like to be a ranger from the National Seashore, at a party or conference of other National Park rangers. Do you suppose they have those kind of things? Can you imagine, there’s actually a “National Park” in my town: Frederick Law Olmstead’s house — that’s right, the Olmstead Homestead. He’s the guy who designed Central Park and Boston’s Esplanade, among other treasured landscapes. But still — imagine one of those rangers running into a ranger from some amazing natural wonder like Yosemite, Redwoods, Glacier, or Yellowstone. Here’s how the conversation might go:

“Hi! I’m from Yellowstone, where you find grizzly bears, hot pools, springs, spectacular geysurs, and miles and miles of mountainous beauty. So… where you from?”

At which point the Olmstead ranger would just mumble something and shuffle away.)

Anyway, I did not have a lock for my bike, so I figured I would not leave it in the bike rack, but rather, stowed next to the wild rosebushes, partially hidden, as if the rider were coming right back (she was, because she did not like to stay on a rainy beach, but she had to make sure two of her darlings were okay. One was swimming, in that gray soup, because he loves to swim, even in scary ocean water; the other was sitting on the blanket, eating snack after snack (Sun Chips! Soft-baked Pepperidge Farm Cookies! Sprite!) and never even dreaming of becoming fat. Can you guess who they were?)

The wild rosebushes. The are filled with all kinds of weeds. As Ned put it, “Do you think the National Park Service is going around spraying Round-up to kill poison ivy?” Drat those Environment Protectors! Now I have to go and visit Don Cortizone.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Age Young

What age are we really? I find that I am happy to feel like a forty-something, but that I often do not. I feel like a make-believe adult at times, like I’m kind of pretending to be a grown-up, and I hope no one discovers my secret! Today when I worked out Max’s day with him, I found myself feeling this way. He asked me for money and I said, “Yeah, I have some, in my wallet. You can go and get it.”

He came back and I said, “So did I have money?” I felt kind of like a little girl saying, “Can I have some munny?” Why didn’t I even know if I had cash? What kind of adult carries no cash with her? A pretend adult. Max looked at me but his expression was blank. What was he thinking? Was he wondering why he didn’t have a real mother, like everyone else?

Maybe some of this is because Max and Nat are just so old. They tower over me. Did these men actually once sleep curled up in my arms? I look at their faces, I stare into their eyes looking for those babies. Where did they go?

I totally enjoy my relationships with my kids, but that is not the point here. I do wonder why I feel so young so often. And how I love it when I feel comfortable in my 44 year old skin, and sure of myself.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Daydreamin’ bout the way things sometimes are…
BD, Idiot Wind

Something’s gotten into me. Tis good, I believe. I am thinking a lot about things that I thought were stuck. I am feeling the fluidity of things and I’m so glad. I think I may have found a new handle on some difficult issues. My therapist once told me that she hoped I would one day be able to integrate even the “ugliest” parts, claim them as mine, like the urge to go back and clean, or go back and check. She hoped that one day I would be able to talk about these needs, acknowledge them, without feeling ashamed, or ugly.

In my forties this has happened. I don’t have the cleaning urge (God knows! Actually my house could use a little OCD these days…) but I have other ones. Chocolate comes to mind. I don’t want to be a 12-stepper who says, “I just cannot have chocolate. I can’t handle it.” I want to be a person who can control the chocolate. Have some, but not feel like my whole day has now gone to hell because of one bite of it. I want to learn how to regulate. I want to accept that I may gain a little weight, but it’s okay. I want to have my cake and eat it too, know what I’m saying? I’m tired of being Madame de Nile, unless that’s my new BD moniker. I want, I want, I want…

I am also thinking of premiering publicly as a belly dancer. How do I know I’m good enough? Ready? Lately I don’t much care. Who’s gonna know I’m not ready? God knows I’ve practiced enough. It looks like I mostly stay lifted and keep good form. The only thing is, I don’t smile much. And it is hard to look people in the eye and do that stuff.

But October 18 is fast approaching and I will be 45. I want to do something special! Take back the night, all that. Well, take back the afternoon, I guess. So maybe, just maybe…I’ll gather around my best girlfriends and go for it. But where? How?

Life just keeps a-going.

Morning Puzzler

Here is an interesting psychological conundrum: Are the cats in the picture the victims of the Bond-like psychopath, or are the cats the psychopaths themselves, and you, the victim?

(I check lolcats several times a day to have a laugh, usually with Benj, at the feline’s expense. Because Ned rolls his eyes whenever I show him a funny one, which is every single day, I have deduced that I should refrain from posting about them whenever they make me laugh. This time, however, I could not resist, because of the question I had about it.)

Also, is it cruel to craft lolcat pictures, if you love cats? I believe some of these pics are faked, and Max has confirmed this, esp. the pictures of the cats with their heads stuck in in a glass who “has a drinkin problem,” or the cats riding the invisible bicycle (they have been thrown in the air). I would never want kittehs to be hurted, but if the pictures are found naturally, why then it is probably okay…

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

My Ups

My ups, my ups, my lovely lady ups.
–Black Eyed Me’s

Glorious day, through and through. Which probably means tomorrow I will plummet, but why should that stop me from blogging/bragging about all I accomplished? From grokking Nathaniel to finding a new BD teacher to adding three pages to my novel, I am in The Zone. I am Susan Lilia Natasha Shoshana Delilah, hear me roar.

I told Nat’s teachers that I believe the “pestering” questions were his attempts to engage, converse, and find out about the world. I told them I would treat them as teaching opportunities. For example, when he asks again and again about why I did not yet put the fish in the oven, I can now say, “Daddy is not coming home until 7. The fish will dry out if it cooks that long.”
“Daddy is coming home at 7.”
“That’s right, Darling. And the fish will go in at quarter of seven.”
“Yes.” And he walks away, only to return a few minutes later to check on the fish.
Well, it is not how I would spend the hour before dinner, but it is Nat’s way. So fucking what? Why should I answer only once and then redirect? There is nothing interesting enough to compete with me cooking dinner! I understand why they do that at school; it would be extremely difficult to continue to engage in that way all day long, with all the other things he has to do in a day and all the other students and their needs. But at home? What the heck do I have to do except massage curry into some greasy fish and stare at the clock and wonder why the F Ned can’t ever JUST LEAVE AT 5:45 when he says he’s going to? So, yes, I can answer questions about fish prep and table setting and Max in his room and my computer being open a couple or hundred times. No, it is not interesting, and no, it is not easy, but that is what my boy needs. Definition of mother: help your children get their needs met. Among other things.

What else happened that was good? And the above was good, believe me; animated does not equal upset in my little world. I went to Staples and did not pass out from annoyance. I found what I needed to find in under thirty minutes and did not even have to pay for parking.

I got Little B to do his 8th journal entry. Only two more to go (school starts for him on Thursday).

I walked with Ruth and Maggie; lots of fun.

I picked up the mail that had been held during all my vacation and there was nothing that bugged me in that pile. No horrible back-to-school deadlines that I missed. No late bills.

I found a bellydance teacher for the fall, who teaches nearby and seems to have years and years of experience, particularly in Egyptian style. Hooray! zaghareet! Also, her class is after dinner, so I won’t have to try to get Ned to come home at 6, which, if you read the above, you will know never really happens. (I’m not mad; he works 50 minutes away, for God’s sake. Every since they were acquired by Hewlett Packard, God bless them, he has had this God awful commute. He used to work in Cambridge! The coolest of cool places. But still, HP — ! Should stand for “Happy Purchasing”)

And, joy of joys, I had an idea of something I had to add to my main character’s character. You see, she is a realtor and I thought of a way to fill her career in a little. She is someone who visualizes better living spaces for her potential buyers and that’s how she closes the sales. So I get to describe some amazing homes I’ve made up, and also how she would change them. Total indulgent writing. Plus she is very funny, so you read her thoughts the whole time. She sounds like me sometimes, but remember, ’tis fiction.

Decorating is one of my “closet” professions. I would have done that if I worked like a normal person.

What it all adds up to is not what I’ve written down here. This day is greater than the sum of the parts. It is a feeling of certainty that I was blessed with today. A feeling of being centered, in balance, and that I fit right where I am. Wonderful.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

My Definitions

September. This word connotes a dying, like the embers of a fire. Also, the “ember” part feels like a turning-over.
August: I picture a big, heavy thing trying hard to breathe. Red and pink with effort.
June: It is one syllable, sounds like “tune.” A song, swelling. Reminds me of the wind lifting upwards, gently. Also, living in the present. May is like this, but lighter, more active, perhaps yellower.
July: Lavender-purple, fully flexible, bent, supple and fecund over a stream.
March: Stiff, like hard frozen ground, a forced brisk walk in the brittle cold air.
April: Pale pink, sloppy, running fast to keep up
January: Like a long, indeterminate yawn. Goes on forever, in an unsatisfying way
February: Tough to pronounce, as if your lips were pinched with cold and boredom. Originally from the old Yiddish words “Fed-up-with-U-already.”
November: Actually has the word “no” in it, as a warning: No leaves, no green, no more rogue warm days.

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