Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Things in the works

I'm still catching my breath, still easily overwhelmed. But I'm better. I'm much, much better.

I am back on Effexor.

Already the clouds are beginning to lift a little bit. I have more energy, and, most importantly, more hope. It's the lack of hope that makes life unbearable, when I feel like things are bad and will always be. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Right now I feel that it will all turn out as it should, and that feeling is like a warm blanket wrapped around me keeping the cold at bay.

I'm trying to organize my life again. It is nearly the end of January and this mediation should have been done ages ago, but here we are. I need to remember what I'm living for, where I'm heading--all those things questions that are so important and yet so easy to ignore.

I've been thinking about this blog, seeing as it has replaced my journal and is thus my main outlet for reflection and remembrance. So what am I writing for? What do I want to get out of it? I feel like I need to answer these questions. I need to write a Philosophy of Blogging. Heavy, I know. But I'm the type of person who needs a bit of structure, a mission statement if you will, lest my neuroses take things over. So I'm taking a few days to figure that out.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bex and the City

Living in Cleveland, I missed New York all the time. I still do. But being there with Jack left an appreciation for the convenience of life in the suburbs. No carrying a stroller up and down subway steps. No walking thirty blocks because the downtown line of the A train is out of service. No negotiating jam-packed streets with a stroller and a pack'n'play or carrying suitcases up five story walkups. No paying half your income just for the privilege of living in a shoebox. No lines, no waits, no getting bumped on the sidewalk or cursed by passing cars for walking just that bit too slowly across the street when they're trying to make a right turn.

Still, there is such a trade-off. In Cleveland, there is no running downstairs to pick up a gallon of milk because we're out. No getting wasted with the boyfriend at a party because neither of us has to drive home. No endless supply of ethnic restaurants within walking distance. No good sushi. No piles and piles of cheap takeout menus, in fact no really easy food just a phone call away. No streets overflowing with multiple languages. No walking really at all. No teeming life right outside your window. No vibrant, exciting, anything-can-happen feeling greeting you with every new day.

Some days I would trade anything for that feeling. Others I thank God for my wonderful house (the mortgage on which is less than what I paid for my 8x10 room in a two-bedroom on the Upper West Side) and my wonderful yard and my wonderful, magical car that can get me all the way across town in less than fifteen minutes.

Oh, but that taste of the city.

David showing Jack where he used to work: the Empire State Building!

Jack loved diner menus.

And the subway.

And mugging for the camera.

But still, we left him home when we went to the wedding.

It was good to be around Scottish people again.

Overall, it was a great time. But "great time" has a new meaning when you have a child. Meaning: It was a "great time," but boy am I tired. And glad to be back home.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Heart New York

We leave today for New York City, to attend the wedding of one of David's good friends and to visit with my sister and cousin, both of whom are lucky enough to still live there. Sigh. David promised we could go live in New York again for a year, but the job situation makes that pretty difficult. So I am considering foregoing that dream in exchange for us traveling the world for a year with Jack in an ergo. But that's a post for a different day.

Anyway, will try to post from the big city but I can't make any promises as I intend to be very very busy doing New Yorky things. I lived there for two years and, as is always the case, rarely did anything touristy. I intend to remedy that in the next five days.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thinking of Haiti

There was a time when I worked with the very poor. Those were the most poignant, most difficult, and most satisfying times of my life thus far, and when something like the earthquake in Haiti happens, it makes me wish I weren't sitting in my living room feeling helpless. Or worse, feeling disconnected from a tragedy that is so far away it doesn't seem real.

Just as an aside, last night I heard what Pat Robertson said about the tragedy in Haiti. Attitudes like this are what created the very first fissures in my Christian faith. There is a certain kind of Christian, the kind I worked with in the third world, the kind who was probably the first to arrive in Haiti to help, that represents the best of humanity to me. It's too bad that what "Christian" means to most of the world is represented by people like Pat Robertson. I hated being identified with that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Townley Christmas Extravaganza, Part Two: Christmas Day (twice)

This year we had to do Christmas Day twice. Three of the cousins didn't arrive into Ohio until afternoon on Christmas Day, so we opted to come back the following day, dividing the festivities into two fun-filled, extremely chaotic, mind-spinning days.

So this is how it went.

Christmas Eve, as you know, is spent at my parents' house. It is one giant slumber party. (In the old days, all four girls slept in one bedroom, but now two of us are coupled and babied and in need of privacy, and the other two don't really have a desire to share a bed when there are plenty of beds in which they could stretch out and have a night free of kicking and fighting over the covers.) In the morning, we are awoken bright and early by my parents, who have been playing Santa as well as cooking breakfast downstairs. Now here's the embarrassing bit, because you knew there'd be one: We all have to sit and wait on the landing until they call us down. Yes. We do that. It used to be the four of us, waiting eagerly for the go-ahead while my parents held loud discussions downstairs ("Honey, did Santa come?" "I don't think so, dear, looks like he didn't make it this year, hardee har har.") Now it's six of us and two little ones, looking like we've been punched in the face from lack of sleep, slightly irritated that my parents still insist on videotaping us coming down the stairs.

(Let me just state for the record that in my twenties I made many, many attempts to get this tradition to go away. It is very hard not to feel silly as an adult sitting on top of the landing, hung over, waiting to be called downstairs while being videotaped in ridiculous Christmas jammies. But I've mellowed out a bit and accept it for what it is: the pure peculiarity of my family.)

When we come down, we open presents from my parents. There used to be a mountain of gifts, now, thankfully, there are just a few. Usually one slightly expensive thing my parents know we want and can't afford, and a few little things. The mountain of gifts has now moved onto the grandkids, in spite of my protests (We didn't even buy Jack any toys this year).

After the mountain has been conquered, there is breakfast. On the red Christmas dishes with the tree on them that only come out for this One Special Day. Like most traditions, breakfast gets more elaborate every year. Eggs, bacon, sausage, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice (to put in the mimosas, duh), and hot chocolate were all on the table this year. I gain about twenty pounds on Christmas day alone. Afterward, we have to rush to do the dishes lest my mother do them all before we get there; then it's off to grandma's house.

We used to sleep over there on Christmas Day, but now there are simply too many of us. And besides, this year every bedroom was taken with out-of-town Townleys. Which means we had to make the hour drive there and back twice, but it was worth it.

Christmas at grandma's follows the same presents-then-stuff-your-face pattern as at home. But we saved the presents for day two this year, and went ahead with the face-stuffing both days. There is your typical Christmas feast, right down to the two twenty-pound turkeys my grandmother cooked up this year, all washed down with mulled cider and SoCo, wine, and champagne. There are two tables, the "adult's" table and the "kid's" table, so stated because the only children at the kid's table are our children. Over the years, the kid's table has grown as the cousins got married, and now have children, but we still sit at the same plastic fold-out table-cum-chairs combos (the kind you all have to sit down on at the same time lest they collapse) that we've been sitting at for years, while the "grown-ups" sprawl out at the dining room table. Not that I'm complaining, because the kid's table is way more fun. Often at the other table there is absolute silence. No doubt they are listening in on our conversations.

As far as presents are concerned, there is a very organized system. All names are put into a hat at Thanksgiving, and everyone picks a name (couples count as one person), so everyone buys and receives one gift, with a price limit of $30. This year Tommy gave David and me two bottles of wine. Somehow we drew his name too. We got him a sweater. He is not easy to shop for.

Normally all of this is a very relaxing, good time. This year, it was utter chaos. Forty-three people, four babies cycling naps in two pack-n-plays upstairs, three toddlers running amok, a few tiny person meltdowns, harried parents waiting their turn for the changing table and trying to hold a conversation while balancing a baby and a gin and tonic, loved ones who haven't seen each other in two years trying to catch up with everyone and finding there just isn't the time. And family pictures. Oh, family pictures. These took place on Day Two, and, though worth it, were unbelievably stressful. Trying to coordinate that many people, seven of them under seven, is actually insane. It is actually insane. But I am glad we did it, because every single Townley was in that photo, and that is something.

So there you have it. Allow me to follow it up with some of those hard-earned family photos.

Our immediate family:

The great-grandbaby 2009 quartet:

Grandma, Grandpa, and their great granchildren:

The Townley military men, all in uniform for a photo. From left to right: my cousin Richard, a doctor in the air force, My grandfather, retired air force, My cousin David, army, special ops--shipping off to Afghanistan in March, Uncle Jim, Coast Guard, retired Captain of the Port of Portland, Oregon.

It's so amazing to think that the Townley family went from this:

To this:

To this:

What a Christmas.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Townley Christmas Extravaganza, Part One: Christmas Eve

Christmas, as I might have mentioned previously, was a tad bit overwhelming (in a good way) this year. It was a four day extravaganza, culminating in the Great Christmas Plague of '09. But before that, it was wonderful. I hereby present photographic evidence:

Christmas Eve

Always spent at my parents' house, Christmas Eve is full of family traditions, the newest one being the grandchildren (currently Jack and Brayden) opening their presents before bed:

The carnage


Once they're asleep, the real traditions begin. First, there is food. A lot of it. We eat it around the fire--elaborate appetizers and antipasto and eggnog with lots of hooch. While we eat, we have a final advent service (when we were little, we'd have advent as a family every Sunday for the four weeks before Christmas). We each (now with our partners) light one of the four candles (hope, joy, peace, and love), and Mom and Dad light the Christ Candle. Then we go around the room and share our happiest memory from the following year, and our greatest hope for the coming year.

Then the games begin. In an effort to keep us interested in games well into our thirties, and because my parents have money and none of us do, there are cash prizes. Yes, I am serious. The games on any given year can include word searches, name that Christmas tune, crossword puzzles, word scrambles, or many others. Winner of each gets $10. My mom always has a thick stack of tens, I kid you not. The biggest, and most embarrassing game, is the Nativity Hunt. What I am about to reveal is the great guilty pleasure of Christmas, in which four adult daughters (partners mostly refuse to participate; I wonder why?) regress to unprecedented childishness.

Basically my parents hide all the pieces from the nativity set. That's right. The shepherds, the wise men, Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, angels and animals are all hidden somewhere in three rooms of the house. And we are to find them. For our efforts (shameful!) we get money. $10 for every piece, $20 for the baby Jesus, and $20 for the black wise man (in honor of Wes, who refuses to participate, again I wonder why?). I am deadly serious, my friends. We do this, and we do it with gusto. The competition is fierce. Sometimes there are accidents. Often there is muttered cursing. There have been efforts to bar me from the game because I am Jewish. But I participate because we Jews are, if anything, practical. And there is money involved (please, please pick up on the sarcastic nature of my monologue here, lest you be offended).

Once all pieces are found, and the money has been duly doled, we read the Christmas story. And for every piece one finds, one must tell that portion of the story. This year I hit pay dirt. I was lucky enough to recount not only Lo, the angel of the Lord bringing good tidings, but the tales of one of the (white) wise men, one donkey, Mary, and the baby Jesus. You read that right. I made $60 on the Christmas story. Jackpot!

After all the capitalist pig ruining of the true nature of Christmas, we sing carols. In five part harmony (also not a joke). The boys sing off key and quietly, all except for Wes, who has a mean tenor. Finally, we end the evening with presents. The daughters give their gifts to each other and to Mom and Dad. Because my parents' presents to us aren't opened until Christmas Day. Under the tree. Still. If you would like to stop reading my blog having learned this about my family, I understand. Even I am slightly repulsed.

Unfortunately I have no pictures of the evening's festivities beyond the babies and their presents, mainly because I was too intoxicated. So you'll just have to take me on my word that it is a rollicking good time.

Next up, Christmas Day. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Snowed In

Seeing as there is about three feet of snow outside my window, you would think this would be an opportune time for me to sit down and write out my New Years Plan of Refinding My Lost Self, but the Plan is still not finished. So instead, I'm off to dig myself out. Got me boots on and everything.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Great Christmas Plague: The Continuing Saga

So one virus has been traded for another, and now we've all got one hell of a collective cold. Poor Jack can't breathe and eat at the same time, so he takes a few frenzied sips from the bottle, throws it out of his mouth to take a few precious gulps of air, and then grabs it to eat some more. It is so pathetic and sweet.

New Years was quiet: dinner at the grandparents, midnight barely made at my parents, where we had a toast and crawled into bed. So far 2010 is not impressing me much. But this is okay--I like that it can only get better from here.

Tonight was the last night with my sisters before they fly to parts far away at the crack of dawn, goodbyes that make me wonder once again why families ever choose to live so far apart. We do manage to see each other quite a bit, but still, it's not the same as seeing someone all the time. It's more acute for me because my friends are scattered all over the world as well. I have not had a consolidated group of people consistently around me since college, and though I wouldn't trade my experiences and my international social group, sometimes I just wish the world were a smaller place.

There is much digression tonight. Blame it on the fact that my head feels like it's packed with cotton balls. Hope you all, wherever you are, are well and happy.