Monday, May 28, 2012

Music Monday: Disco Fever

I think once you have real life experience with cancer, every mention of cancer draws you up short. In the 90s, when I was an active sex educator and a vocal advocate for HIV prevention, we always made it clear that people discriminate -- HIV does not.

Cancer is the same. It does not discriminate. It comes in many forms. It will gladly change the life of a 4 year old or an 84 year old. Cancer is a tricky deal. It can play hide and seek with you... and once you have stared in the face... you are always looking over your shoulder...

My maternal grandfather died of lung cancer which had spread to the esophagus. My maternal grandmother died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. My mother... thyroid cancer.

It made me pause that in a matter of weeks-- Donna Summer, Robin Gibb and Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. All young and all dead too soon. Cancer is relentless and the world is the poorer for it.

This week I am posting a favorite song from each of these great and not greatly to be missed performers.

Donna Summers --- Last Dance

Bee Gees --- Tragedy

Beastie Boys --- Sabotage 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Music Monday: Lady Gaga - Born This Way

Music Monday: Lady Gaga - Born This Way

 L had her Spring Dance show this weekend. She has been practicing like there is no tomorrow. This year the theme was music. The girls started in 1900 and danced their way through the decades.  All the way to 2012!

L's group did a great King Swing... then the two youngest members of the Tap Co danced the heck out of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy! 

While I loved the entire show... the moment that made me cry was the finale, when L came out with a million dollar smile, singing and dancing to Born this Way! Her passion and enthusiasm-- to be who she was born to be.

That is all I want for either of my kids. I want to them to feel that they are free to be who they were born to be. The best part, I don't have a say in this. I firmly believe there are some things about us, that we are just born with. For L it is her passion to dance. Her father and I are not making her do this, we are supporting her. The drive, the enthusiasm,  the talent and the desire. That is all her. 

This goes for who my babies will marry, if they marry. Who they are at their core was decided before they drew their first breath. L danced in my womb and E napped most of the time, with a stretch every now and again. L has a big personality and E is quieter. 

When the time comes, they will fall in love and they may or may not decide to build their own families and I will be happy for them. It isn't for me to decide what or who makes them happy. It isn't for anyone else to decide either... All the gods in the world don't get to decide either-- sure all choices may have consequences in the here after (if there is a here after.)  We own our own choices and we were born that way.

I want my children to grow up in a world where they are free to pick which religion, if one, suits them. I want them to grow up in a world where they are free to love and build a family that fits their image, not someone else's.

My babies were born that way.

Music Monday: Lady Gaga - Born This Way

Monday, May 14, 2012

Music Monday-- Adele Set Fire to the Rain

So last week in a Twitter conversation it was suggested that there was little difference between "digging in the dirt" and "rolling in the deep." I agreed -- both are equally challenging options.

On Saturday night I went to Agora 9 at Junctionview Studios. H and I have gone to this event before. It is a very nice expo by some amazing artists. I love supporting the local art scene. Last night I saw a work I really liked, but I have to think about where I might put it...

We went because my friend is part of a fire group called Quantum Fire. They put on a fire show last night.

Fire Show:
directly following the Fashion show: Quantum Fire presents The Primal Urge

The Primal Urge is based on the speech that Aristophanes makes in Plato's Symposium. (Symposium means "drinking together" in Greek.) The concepts expounded by Aristophanes in his speech laid the groundwork for Western culture's romantic notion of soul mates.

It is the first time I have seen him in action. I have seen fire demos before but nothing like the show last night. It was interesting.

So I thought a song about fire would very appropriate for today's Music Monday.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Music Monday: Peter Gabriel - Digging in the Dirt

Disclaimer, this is a repeat musical selection but not a repeat blog post. I posted this song last Halloween after it played a critical roll in L's Halloween Dance Show. That said, I am posting again.

On Friday I posted a Facebook status update, which was very clever. I said: Digging in the Dirt. I meant I was going to go pot some herbs. I also was thinking about this very song - Digging in the Dirt.

My very clever and wonderful BFF responded: To find the places we got hurt. Great Peter Gabriel song!

She is a clever one that BFF.

I think I have been probing around at things that hurt. The trip to NYC has made me wistful. If I am objective, I have been on and off auto-pilot since my mother passed away. It is difficult to grieve and raise little kids. Life really does go on, even if you have to race to keep up with it. 

There is a void left when a loved on passes away, but for me, the care giver, the dutiful daughter, there is another void. So much of my life, of my life choices have been tied up with the care and maintenance of my mother.  That "now what" feeling seems to be clinging to me. 

Add to that the abundance of deferred projects, the I will "get to it later"s and you can only imagine the daunting tasks that have stood in front of me since last November. It has taken me a long time to dig myself out and I am not really there yet either. There is still more to do.

I am also battling some realities which I don't really like, but am accepting slowly.

So yes, I am digging in the dirt...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Things I am afraid to tell you...

I got this from Allie, over at Show & Tell. She inspired my post
Sometimes we read to escape and sometimes we read to obtain knowledge, we read to be informed (I think of this kind of reading as work), sometimes we read for pleasure (crazy I know, but honestly one of the main reasons I read is to be entertained.)

Sometimes what we read is exactly what we need to read at exactly the right moment. I know this is true for writers and probably designers. Creativity does not come from a vacuum, generally speaking. We need to feed it. As a writer I write better when I am reading actively. As a creative person, I work best when I am around creative energy.

Lately, I have come to the conclusion that I have been fighting a couple losing battles and I will say it out loud, I have not been myself. Have I been depressed in the classic sense, no. Have I been moving slowly and certainly more or less uninspired. Yes. Now I suspect that most of the people around me have been painfully aware of this fact. My editor noticed it when I submitted my last piece for the Naked Sunfish. A few friends have hinted at it.

It came screaming at me the other day-- I am overwhelmed, not tackling things in my usual way and frankly I can see as I emerge from this dark period, that um, hello, I was busy grieving and ergo not creating.

In keeping with this challenge, I will list 5 things I am or have been afraid to give voice to:

1. Sad-- I covered it above. I have been lost, sad, creatively uninspired or if inspired unable to find my voice. Newsflash-- I am still kinda sad. Maybe one stays sad for a really long time, I don't know. I feel the creative urges getting stronger, but I think I left more than my mother behind that rainy day at the cemetery. I really wasn't ready to leave her. I wasn't ready for her to leave me. I wouldn't have wanted her to stay and suffer, but I really wasn't ready to say good by either, despite what I told her that night as she struggled so. I told her it was ok for her to go, because that was the right thing to say. However-- I wasn't ready and I am not happy about it at all.

2. I have a freaky and sometimes debilitating auto-immune disorder of unspecified etiology. I also don't like limitations. I like to think of my self as a human supergirl. I have always pushed hard, to be my best, to be the best. I am competitive sometimes and I am by nature and perhaps by nurture a hard worker. I tend to give 120% whether you want it or not. Anything worth doing is not only worth doing perfectly, but flawlessly. I also think there is no situation you cannot prevent with enough planning and proper execution. It might be said that I am sometimes a freaky perfectionist. (Ok you don't have to agree immediately, you could mull it over already.)

Recently I read this blog post: The Spoon Theory.

Understand, I am not nearly as sick as the author of this post, but it resonated with me all the same. I know alot of people do not like this blog post. I really don't care, the bottom line is it spoke to me.

For my birthday this past summer, my mom and spent some time together. I knew it would be the last birthday we had. She had gotten me a vintage owl sun catcher. He is really adorable. She did not feel up to an outing.

My mother is partially responsible for some of my perfectionist tendencies. She also has been the voice of unheeded reason for a long time. She made me promise that I would take care of myself. Stop pushing, live within my physical limitations.

I hate it. I am afraid you will think I am lazy or unmotivated. I am not complaining and I know there are a ton of people who are worse off, but the reality is sometimes I feel like a Mack truck hit me, or I ache all over, or my tummy is royally pissed, or I am getting over my tummy being royally pissed and taking it out on me for days! I hate feeling like you will pity me or think I am a hypochondriac. My biggest fear is you will think "it is all in my head." Some auto-immune disease others can see, they are written on the skin, mine is inside and hidden and I fear being thought of as lazy or crazy.

It is hard for me to admit that I am physically unable to do all the things I want to do. It is hard for me to admit that I really do need at least 8 hours of sleep to function. It is hard for me to admit that I have to now plan my time wisely and that I cannot operate in the super hyperdrive I would prefer to operate in. Nope. I have to plan ahead, sleep wisely, eat wisely and live within my limitations. Did I mention I dislike limitations.

This reality means that for the moment, a full-time job and the full-time mostly single mother gig are indeed mutually exclusive.

3. I do not like beets. I know, I am a super foodie and a health nut, but frankly I do not like beets very much. I also do not like mashed potatoes or potatoes much at all. I will east sweet potatoes, but honestly just a baked sweet potato is as boring as a baked russet potato. I am likewise not a huge fan of turnips either. (Or mashed cauliflower for that matter.)

It is a texture thing. Truly it is.

4. I can't seem to finish a novel. There I said it. I have two half written novels, both of which I think are good stories. I want to finish them, but I haven't. Every time I think I have an idea to carry me thru I stop. This summer I am going to try, try to finish one of them.

I know many writers think their work isn't any good. I know people struggle with this all the time.

But I am afraid to admit that I steam ahead and then lose focus. Maybe I need some accountability or maybe the story just isn't ready to be done yet. I don't know.

5. You do not get the whole truth here. I know I talk about truth telling and transparency and make no mistake, I am not lying to you. That said, you get an edited and a "what I feel comfortable posting for the world to read." version of my life. I am always honest. Many of you reading I know (which sometimes makes it harder, actually) but many of you I don't. There is a real balance between what is public and private. What I am comfortable putting out there and what I would prefer to keep to myself.

Sometimes when I meet people, who have met me through Twitter or my blog, think they really know me. They don't. They know a little part of me. The part I have decided is ok for people to get to know. My readers can stay anonymous, I the blogger am not.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Big Apple, with a curious 7 year old, Part 2

We were up early again. Breakfast was a hit. When an older British gentleman sat with us at the breakfast table, he asked E if we were going to the natural history museum. E told him, "I like my animals live, which is a zoo and bugs on sticks and pins is just weird."

Saturday was the Intrepid. Something I knew nothing about until my friend DC mentioned it at lunch the day before we left. Located on the West Side, near Hell's Kitchen - it should have been an easy commute. This is the one and only time my directions and transit knowledge failed me. HopStop had me exiting the Time Square station in at a nonexistent exit point.

We eventually got turn around and got on the bus and then on 12th Ave we see this:

The admission includes access to the Intrepid and the Growler sub. We arrived two minutes after the museum opened and left about 2.5 hours later. E loved this. The planes, the access to the sub and the aircraft carrier. Hands on air, space and sea exhibits. I found the staff to be super helpful and friendly. It wasn't crowded until we were about to leave. Just perfect. Well worth the price of admission.

My plan had been to do the Central Park Zoo, but E was tired, I was hungry and there was no good way to get from the Intrepid to the Zoo. We could however, take the tour bus, do the Uptown Loop and end at the zoo. Even still it was a walk to the Uptown Loop stop.

So we began the trek thru Hell's Kitchen to the bus stop. Half way through, E announces he is hungry again and needs to go to the bathroom again. I am beyond hungry at this point, so we duck into Ocha, a little sushi place.

Best decision ever. Very clean. We were after the lunch rush and the only ones in the place. I think I had the best peanut avocado roll of my life. It was exactly the refueling stop we needed, before continuing our trek.

E wasn't thrilled about the bus trip, but I needed to rest and it was a much nicer day. I have never done the Uptown Loop and it sounded like a nice trip. E feel asleep as we neared Harlem and slept until it was almost time to exit the tour, so it was perfect for him too.

Highway near Riverside Park

The famous Apollo! I would have liked to check this out, but E was asleep and it wasn't the time.

A mosque - - in Harlem. It is being repaired. There was a great Halal market just down the street.

Prolly my favorite Museum in NYC. It was physically difficult to not drag E thru there...

We jumped off at the Zoo, but we were both tired and the Zoo would close before we could finish our tour. So I suggested we just walk in the park and enjoy the sunny afternoon.

We hit pay dirt. You can see into the zoo and just as we got there-- the seal show began. We had a great view and E loved the show.

After the show we had some ice cream and decided it was time to head back to the hotel for a rest. I had no trouble guiding us back to the hotel despite my mornings series of miscues.

One of the strange things about the block we were staying on is the abundance of Kosher Vegetarian Indian Restaurants. So after some rest time, E and I headed out to dinner. He loves Naan, so the vegetarian places aren't the best option as their isn't likely to be a clay oven.

E liked the look of Anjappar, which was literally around the corner from the hotel.

What a good call E! It was amazing. The decor was amazing, the staff super helpful and attentive. We settled on trying a Ghee Dosa to begin with and it was the most amazing things. A huge thin pancake, wrapped into a cone shape, served with chutneys.

E was amazed and ate an amazing amount of it.

Then we had some Chicken Bryanini, which was possibly the best Bryanini dish I have had anywhere. E doesn't really like rice, but he loved the boiled egg and the chicken from this dish.

As we ate two older women, obviously native New Yorkers came in and were sat next to us. They looked over the menu, commented that nothing looked familiar and got up and walked out. The next morning at breakfast, E said: you know, they should have tried something new like we did. I found out I like Ghee Dosa and gunpowder chutney. They missed out mom."

And that was the entire point of this trip. Trying something new. Going somewhere were things are different and having the courage to try new things. I was so proud of him. E is my introvert, my thoughtful homebody child. He would just as much prefer to stay home than go anywhere. But he is embracing new things. Normally he doesn't try new foods easily, but in NYC he ate a variety of new foods.

When people ask me why I travel with my kids or look sympathetically at me or disbelieving at me, that I am traveling with my kids, I think, you know what, if you don't start them young, it is so much harder for them. I was 16 when I left this country for Germany. My first ever plane flight, my first experience with a different culture and a big city for that matter. My first experience with different food.

We live in a global world now. I want my kids to always feel willing and able to say: I tried X and found out, I liked it.

On Sunday we ate breakfast, finished up E's homework, took the train to Grand Central, which underwhelmed E and then took the Airporter Shuttle to the airport. We caught our desired flight without a bit of nail biting and then ate dinner with H and L at the North Market.

It was a great weekend in the Big Apple, which I think will leave an impression and taught E and I both lots about NYC and ourselves!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Big Apple, with a curious 7 year old

When L was 6 1/2 and my mom was 60, I took them to NYC. My mom had just gotten the cancer re-diagnosis and her super endo suggested she not put anything off. So a bit earlier than I had anticipated, I was packing L off to NYC. It was Christmas time and we did the Rockettes, China town, the Holiday Market in Bryant Park and naturally the tree at Rockefeller Plaza.

I was surprised last spring when E announced -- "hey, I am six now and L got to go to NYC when she was 6!" Large crowds and noise are just not E's thing, but he was right, it was only fair. E however did not want to go when it was cold and last fall, well there was no going anywhere. ( I ended up taking him out of school for two days, but I think hands down he learned so much in NYC that it was totally worth it.)

This past weekend, E and I set off for NYC. It was a trip like nothing I have ever planned before. E wanted to ride the subway, a bus, a taxi and "look around." He vetoed shopping, China town, the art museum, the natural history museum and the Statue of Liberty. He also was not totally on board with the idea of the Empire State building either. I mentioned seeing a show and he just shook his head solemnly.

One of the few bonuses of H's job is he and his immediate family can fly for free -- on a space available basis. This is a nice perk that isn't that easy to take advantage of. We can only go if there are unsold seats available. One of the few places that we seldom have trouble getting to is NYC. I have never not made it to NYC. Getting home on the flight of my choice has been an issue, but getting there has never been a problem.

This time around was no exception. E and I cruised in style last Thursday, in first class.

We took the city bus from LGA to Flushing/Jackson Heights and then caught the subway into Manhattan. From Grand Central we took the 6 two stops downtown to 28th Street.

I cannot say enough good things about our hotel. It was right by the subway station, between Lexington and 28th Street on Park Avenue South. The staff was amazing and the room just right. Was everything brand new, no, but it was clean and neat and served a continental breakfast that was wonderful and just perfect for us. Included were breakfast, newspapers and WiFi, in the day and age that many hotels are going out of their way to charge you for even opening the door was refreshing.

The best thing? The view. Well maybe not for the average person, but for my 7 year old transportation junkie, the view could not be beat.

E sat and looked out the window and watched the car stacker every chance he got. That made this view priceless.

If you are going to NYC and do not need to be right on top of the action and want comfortable, cozy and reasonable, I think the Park Avenue South is a great bet. I certainly plan to go back.

After checking in, we decided to head to Peanut Butter & Co. We love their peanut butter and we were not disappointed. Our peanut butter, banana smoothie was yumm-o. I loved my ant's on a log and E tried a fluffernutter and decided that it was just ok. Getting there was easy and we might have spent a bit of time exploring the neighborhood, but alas it was raining and we were tired, so we headed straight back to the hotel and went to bed.

(I must confess that I really wanted to check out The Fat Black Pussycat. However, even in NYC, 7 year olds in bars just won't fly.)

Friday we were up and at the breakfast buffet the minute it opened. This is what happens when you go to bed at 8 pm.

We took the train to Brooklyn and checked out The New York Transit Museum. Located in an old subway station, the transit museum is hands on and is part history, part science and is totally hands on for little tranport junkies and older history buffs. My favorite part was the history of the building of the subways and the over 18 historic train cars.

Circa 1930 train car

Really? This kind of sign was needed?
I loved looking at the old advertisements. It was great fun.

There were also bus mock ups and a turnstile maze as well as an electricity conductivity experiment station. Well worth the price of admission and a great way to learn about something that really is integral to the fabric of New York life.

From the Transit Museum we walked a few blocks to the Dekalb Market. I learned about the market from my friends SS and JC via facebook. They live in Brooklyn. The market is new and still in the growing stages, but that said I love the idea and the concept. It is a urban garden plot and a market made up on food stands and arts and craft boutiques and artisans hosting small store fronts. The super neat thing, the entire market is comprised of these little businesses having their operations or stores in scavenged shipping containers. Think adult sized legos!

One of the many water towers. This was my view from our lunch table. E insisted I take a photo!
Some art and some more shipping containers.

I had the stir fry with a fried egg. So good. It was fantastic.

This is @Hi_Im_Chrissy. She made me the amazing fried egg stir fry and agreed to let me take her photo.

I did some shopping at the market and scored some great made in NYC by residents' of NYC souvenirs.  E had a burger form a gourmet burger and sandwich shop and then he ate a lovely brownie from a bakery at the market. The market is only a few weeks old and is still growing. I think this will be a must revisit, next time I am in NYC.

The subway station was right next to the market, making our return trip Manhattan, super easy.

And our next stop... the Lego store at Rockefeller Plaza!

E was excited to check out the flagship store. It did not disappoint and even though it was Friday afternoon, the crowd was manageable! 

Rockefeller Plaza, lego style

He looped around the store

The tallest pick a brick wall in the world.
I am glad we checked this out. By this point, E and I were tired but not ready to be done. It was decision time. As I studied my notes and the map, I spied out of the corner of my eye, the Grey Line tour bus! I had considered this double decker bus option, as E had seemed very excited about the prospect of a double decker bus ride. You can buy tickets at the Rockefeller stop and I decided to purchase the 48 hour option. It isn't cheap, but E and I were able to get two tours in and it was worth it. For one, it made getting around and seeing a good chunk of the city possible and it was something I had never done before. Did I mention it was a double decker bus?

There are three loop options. The downtown, the uptown and the Brooklyn loop. The Uptown and Downtown are hop on and hop off tours, which means you can get on and off with your ticket either for a day or for the weekend, depending on which option you purchase. Sometimes there is a tour guide and sometimes there is a per-recorded message.  My advice, hold out for the tour guide, the recording is annoying.

Had traffic not been totally insane, I think E would have enjoyed this more, but when it takes 5 minutes to move two blocks... well the Downtown loop can last forever. It was also about 7 degrees too cool to be truly comfortable on the upper deck. After a major traffic jam around the Southside Sea port, E was all done with that bus tour and I decided I could get us safely to the hotel from the East Village stop, so we bailed in the East Village.

The best view of the Empire State Building I have ever had!

The famous "BALL"

Time Square

More Time Square

Hard Rock and a glimpse of the guy who sat next to us and behaved worse than E. He and his wife argued nearly the entire tour.

The view from the upper deck was amazing.
So it is 6 pm and E and I are standing in the East Village and with the help of my GPS on my iPhone, I plot our walking course. It will be a bit over 1.6 miles. Totally doable. Totally doable until E starts to panic and informs me he has to go to the bathroom, immediately.

Ugh. Ugh and double Ugh!

Finding a bathroom in NYC isn't as easy as one would think.

So as we are moving quickly up the street and the level of panic is increasing and I am beginning to really worry, when I see a sign and think, ok this place will do.

It turns out to be one of the best choices I could have made. Bite has amazing food, had a bathroom and they were wonderful to E and I! We hit the bathroom and stayed for a great dinner. E tried and LOVED a turkey and mozzarella panini with sun dried tomato mayo. (I would have sworn he would never eat that, but eat it he did, with gusto!) My tuna salad was huge and yummy. I had a great glass of wine also.

After our meal we strolled the rest of the way to the hotel, stopping off in a bakery for some cookies for E. As we walked, I remembered being in this neighborhood with my friend SS, when she had an apartment in Gramercy Park, back before E was even on the scene.

All in all an amazing Friday in the Big Apple. Stay tuned for our Saturday adventure!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Snapaphoto: Week 4 Ask a Stranger

So if you know me well, you know I am not one to ask a stranger much of anything. I think talking to strangers is dangerous business. Even in NYC, when E and I were struggling with the exit directions from the subway at Time Square, I did not want to ask the police office/security guard for help.

E says: Mom, he is a helper stranger, it is ok to ask helper strangers for help.

Me: Helper strangers?

E: you know, Police and Firefighters, army officers and nurses in appropriate settings.

Long story short, we asked said helper stranger (police/security guard) and he gave us bad directions. So I am still dubious about talking to even helper strangers.)

This challenge proved very challenging. The beginning of the week I was no that lent itself to stranger picture taking and then I was NYC with E. I saw a beautiful man at the Intrepid. He would have been fun and interesting to photograph, but I chickened out.

I did snap a great picture of a wonderful girl, who made me the most amazing fried egg, served over some amazing stir fried veggies and early spring greens! Her smile is as amazing as her cooking!

I will tell you all more about where you can find her and her amazing food tomorrow and Thursday! So stay tuned.