Sunday, September 30, 2012

Response, and the Week (MB)

Great to hear back from you, Abby -- and to hear all about your new life in L.A.  So much richness, goodness, positive content in what you've said about it and what you've found in your willingness to jump off the cliff and not be sure what you would find on the other side.  As it should be.

I have had a hell of a week, in my own little quaint way.  I want to acknowledge so much about what you have shared and what is on my mind and going on in the world from this vantage point but I fear that there just isn't time, and won't be time soon, so I've decided to hop on the blog and respond quickly and just enough to make sure we keep this going.

Regarding one specific element of your last post -- don't feel badly for Mads.  She is so good, and so going through a very needed analysis of the differences between our life and others', and the choices that have brought us to this point.  It would be very 10th rate if a 12-year-old able bodied independent thinking young lady did not question the distinct contrast between the "other normal" and our (actually very "outlier") normal.  And the girl looks good and likes good stuff.  This is the 7th grade version of all that she has always been and always will be.  Just this weekend we were with my sister Julie who reminded us of how when Madeline was a kindergartner she emerged from her bedroom with an old knit poncho that she had discovered from my childhood clothing collection (saved by my mom), with funky tight/leggings, and galoshes or some such when this would have actually been a look on the Sunday Times Style Page but all of her contemporaries in school were probably wearing standard cutesy fare from Target or the Children's Place.  I can't wait to see where she goes with that.

Last Sunday night, I along with the rest of Wisconsin watched as the temporary refs in the Packers Seahawks game made a devastatingly determining bad call and, along with the whole of Wisconsin, went to bed after turning my TV off, nothing left to do, dejected and having to face the week.  But, Monday morning came with lots of entertaining commentary about said call and the implications of the referee/NFL labor dispute.  The trees on the side streets in our neighborhood were showing signs of rapid change.  Two-tone trees everywhere, with half of actual leaves, or half of actual trees, in two distinct colors.  Chartreuse and magenta.  Blaze orange and yellow.  The drought has brought us brilliance in the new season.

I worked as usual this week.  Some of the poignant moments included during bail hearings in the County Jail to see what was going to happen with a kid served by the organization I direct.  I made some very memorable observations in that setting.  One case included multiple family members arrested in one bust of a home for child abuse.  An entire gallery of family members filled the viewing area, separated by glass from the Commissioner and the detained loved ones.  This family settled into those seats, spanning in age from infant to grandma, and watched the bail hearings transpire.  If you watched them from the side you would have thought they were watching a very intense movie.  I can't do justice to the scenario I wish to describe here.  After it was said and done I turned to the foster parent I was sitting near and simply said "Humanity."  He nodded, slowly.  This was the guy that saw me on the street headed into the hearing and said, "what are you playing lawyer today or somethin'?"  (He had only seen me in jeans in more informal settings previously).  I said to him, "what are you going hunting or somethin'?"  He was wearing a full body camouflage jumpsuit, biker gloves, and a bluetooth headset.  He laughed and said "Nah, this is just what I wear to make sure people know there's crazy black man on the prowl."  This guy and I are building rapport.

Less poignant moments included attending to the full panoply of responsibilities that fall on me with the organization I direct.  These include basic compliance filings, planning special events, overseeing staff and programming, paying bills, organizing what's happening with the Board, writing grants, doing outreach presentations, etc.  On some weeks, this list kind of buries me psychologically.  But when I really get a kink going in my neck is when there's a kid like this one that was in the bail hearing and there are no easy solutions.

I also did some work for my law practice this week and have been on a bit of a kick to market a little more.  I need to build up the amount of work I do from my practice.  It just pays more, and the non-profit job tends to have the ability to take over my life.  Conscious effort will be required to make the slow shift.  I have a few fun lawyerly tasks on my plate right now through my practice that include helping a lady get out of a lease in an apartment infested with bedbugs, helping an inventor navigate the world of nondisclosure agreements with companies looking at his product, finishing some corporate restructuring for a couple business clients, and helping my usual tax-exempt organization clients with their contracts, governance, etc.  It's a nice mix, and because my rates are low, I still do it at a fairly non-stressful pace.  Or, should I say, I keep my rates very low to be able to do it at a non-stressful pace.  But perhaps I am discovering that I must take things to the next (stressful) level.

My mom responsibilities this week were quite upbeat and positive.  I've come to really appreciate a week during which there are no major disputes or logistic fiascos.  There was some pretty quality periodic tables studying.  Everybody got up in the morning without much trouble, and they actually ate the breakfasts I presented.  My only heavy hitting night of driving was to get Mads to a gymnastics class, rush to present at a work event, and drive all the way back out to get her.  But all went off without a hitch, and in fact there was a Fresh Air interview with Mindy Kaling on one leg of the drive -- score.  (Her new show airs right before Henry's -- nice -- I hope you get to meet her on Fox grounds)  There was one emergency call to arrive at middle school before a volleyball game started to sign a permission slip that got lost in the shuffle (so so not my fault, mind you -- somebody else dropped the ball on that one).  All other rides, activities, and plans basically went as they were supposed to.  That's something to give thanks for.

There was a lot of family and Sconnie love this week.  Have you noticed a trend here?  My attention is focused on family and my homeland, and this seems right and good in the general order of this life of mine.  Or should I say, I must make right and good in the general order of this life of mine, and so my attention is focused on family and my homeland.  Either way, it's working.

Tuesday my Peter got to miss school and go to the Ryder Cup in the Chicago area with my Dad.  He saw his idols up close, practicing -- Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, others -- and he also got to see many other illustrious folks doing the celebrity tournament, including Bill Murray and Justin Timberlake.  He texted me from the course "Mom, u r going to love me!" and I texted "Rory?"  Sure enough, he came home with a Rory autograph.  Rory's my favorite.  As my dad says, imagine being Irish, 24, and maybe the best golfer in the world.  What I love is he's just so cute and relatively unassuming about it all in interviews.  I know it won't last, but the last couple years it's been pretty fun.  His mom must still be pissing her pants. That night when we got home Peter was up in my room watching the highlights (our downstairs TV is on the fritz).  He let me sit next to him on the bed and we watched together for an hour.  He announced that he would like to stay back the upcoming weekend to make sure he was able to golf in one of the remaining tournaments of his fall club golf schedule.  He is inspired.  And, I just keep thinking of him and my dad walking out there all day, having the time of their lives, and this thought brings me as much joy as anything I can imagine.

My sister and her beautiful bouncing (literally bouncing) baby boy rode the train from Chicago to Columbus, Wisconsin on Thursday and I busted out from Madeline's volleyball game like a bat out of hell to pick them up.  When I pulled onto the dirt entryway to the Amtrak station, there they were, standing under a gazebo, her bouncing him in a Baby Bjorn.  What a sight!  She came and stayed with us and next day we loaded up for our weekend in La Crosse -- Oktoberfest.  You know all about this, Ab.  We still talk about the year you and the boys came with us.  There were some good stories from that year which I will not get into just now.

By 5:30 the next morning, sister Julie and I were up and getting ready to go run the half marathon on the Oktoberfest Maple Leaf parade route.  We did pretty well considering we were more just "doing it to do it".  We definitely recounted some stories from the Whistlestop.  I should thank you at this point because you talked me into that first half marathon up north in the damn freezing snow and cold on October 6th or some such, and since then I've done about 6 or 7 half marathons, and they're about the only thing that really gets me to be honest about some decent workouts.  The fear of suffering through one, untrained, I mean.  So I sign up for one here and there and it keeps me decent about exercise.

The rest of the day was grand.  We were all out on the parade route -- again, many, many cousins and family members in full force for the local holiday.  Town shut down, over 100,000 people in the streets drinking, partying, celebrating.  My mom and dad in their dirndls and leiderhosen (they are now a part of the Oktoberfest Royal Family -- oh far more than I can explain here.  Suffice it to say, big big La Crosse tradition).  Bloody Marys and beers and all the kids and a three hour long parade, and just downright widespread all ages revelry in the streets.  Mads got to go out to the festgrounds with her teen cousins, and I proceeded to the bars and outdoor music with my childless cousins.  My sister Julie and her husband Mark (longtime all day Oktoberfest partiers) went home with their baby.  My how time has changed things.  I got to rock it to some cover band music, do the Cupid Shuffle, see a guy who superglued a black mustache to his face, bump into some high school homecoming and prom dates, and tromp down the deserted parade route -- beers in hand -- with a posse of my cousins and their significant others and a few others that joined the tribe for the day. . . you get the idea. There was an incident of possibly losing an aunt of ours at a bar, but we are hoping that no news is good news and all is well.   In the background of all of this, glimpses of the marshes and bluffs -- bathed in rich color --  of La Crosse.

At the beer tents at the festgrounds, a monumental thing happened to me, Ab.  I was jammin with my cousins, happily buzzed on Miller Lite, and this college student -- young and fresh -- ran up to me pointedly like he had been waiting a while to do it, and said: "I just wanted to tell you how hot I think you are for how old you are."  And I said "for how old I am?"  And he looked shocked, and he backtracked a bit and said, "no, I mean, you're not even 40, right?"  And I said "No, I am not forty," and then he explained, "look I don't mean anything bad, I'm trying to tell you I think you are super hot," blah blah blah and I realized poor kid meant well and I should take a damn compliment.  We high fived and got through the whole thing with appreciation and whatnot.  But.  I will never forget that moment.  Time is of the essence, Ab.

I was at my parents' house with Madeline in tow by 7 p.m. at which point we piled on the snacks and food and I was asleep in my chair by halftime of the Badgers game against Nebraska.  It's a good thing, too, because the game went downhill from there and I am not sorry I missed it.  We are having a tough sports moment in Wisconsin, but we must not despair or give up.

Today, we got to sing happy birthday to my nephew, take a walk on a gorgeous fall day, and get in a few more laughs before it was time for me and Mads to hit the road back for our Peter and real life back in Madison.  On the drive home we pointed out patches of trees that were particularly brilliant.  The two tone seems to be fading; it seems the peak of the season, and its vibrant color may be here, or almost here.  When we pulled into the driveway of our barn red house on Mifflin Street, the yard was covered in yellow leaves that were not there when we had left on Friday.

I walked in to pop on the Packers game and the Saints promptly scored on us to take the lead.  However, as I wrap up here, it appears the Pack has the ball with about 2 minutes left, and the lead.  The Brewers were knocked out of the Wild Card race today, but had a run there at the end.  So, there's some silver lining in all that is not stellar about this fall and Wisconsin sports.

I reunited with Peter after our weekend apart.  He had a good golf weekend and is looking ahead to some playoffs around the corner.  He also had some social updates, about which he was pretty darn forthcoming, one of which was that he is going to Homecoming with a senior.  OK.  That really puts my little tantrum about a college guy thinking I'm hot "for how old" I am in perspective.  Theoretically that poor guy was 3 years older than my kid's date to Homecoming.  I think the moral of the story is time is moving damn fast, and I'd better get up to speed.

I'm off to cook dinner and hope to get in some work tonight.  We shall see.  Either way, it's time to start another week.  But also keep thinking of the longer season at hand.  We are expecting a full moon tonight and I am expecting to go into winter better than ever.

Miss miss miss you.  Wish I could package up a breath of this fall air and its crispness, all the colors in our field of vision, and a bit of this killer caramel apple with peanuts I ungracefully ate on the parade route yesterday, and send it all to you.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lala Land

My long writing pause is over...

The details seem to be holding me back.  Suffice it to say:  we moved to Los Angeles and are living a new LA lifestyle; Frank started a different job (at ehow, and he likes it); the kids are in LA public school (Charlie started kindergarten with grace); Henry continues to follow his acting dreams (but now from the center of the beast); and I am happy and filled with excitement about it all.  phew.

It has been a big summer of changes.

We live in an old Spanish style home from the 1930s.  We are renting the duplex, of which we get the bottom half, in an old Jewish neighborhood called Pico/Robertson right next to Beverly Hills in West LA.  My favorite part about the home are all the old tiles and high arching ceilings.  I have a princess bathroom covered floor to ceiling with golden yellow tiles.  I am bathed in nostalgia.  The plaster in my home is embellished with fleur de lys patterns just raised from the surface like a secret braille code.  I can trace the decorative veins with my fingers and imagine a message whispered about old Hollywood.

I feel like wearing dresses and shaving my legs more.  That's what pretty architecture does for me.  LA makes me feel like trying harder at glamour.  I guess that's why the city gets a bad rap generally, but I find it all a breath of fresh air.  I keep wearing these long lazy all in one knit dresses and appreciating how my smooth legs rub freely next to each other letting in the breeze.  I love the weather and the heat and the sweat of it all.  I am overcome with gratefulness that I found my way to this climate.

There is a tree hanging heavy over the street filled with guavas, my very favorite fruit.  I used to eat guavas with my mom by the dozens in Mexico and they just don't travel well.  I rarely saw edible ones in the Midwest.  Now I can pick one on the way to school in the morning with my boys.  Yes!  The kids walk to school.  I know that Los Angeles does have more driving, but fortunately my neighborhood is pretty walkable.

My home is surrounded by Jewish delis, bakeries and grocery stores.  I have become a Kosher meat enthusiast and of course appreciate the hell out of every babushka grandmother I pass on the street.  The entire neighborhood shuts down on Friday evening and doesn't reopen until late on Saturday night.  I find myself drawn to hoard groceries on Friday morning (when the bakery is best) and nod knowingly at everyone in line, as if I know the first thing about what happens inside our local Kabbalah center. 

I live on a very busy street called Olympic.  Some people refer to it as the wormhole of LA because you can zoom from one side of the city to another avoiding freeways if you're lucky.  It means traffic sounds wash over me like white noise at all hours of the day.  My nod to budgeting in LA, because certainly rental costs are crazy (especially when multiple bedrooms are needed), was to give up the ideal of a quiet street.  We have no yard.  My three boys climb the interior of our walls, hanging from door jambs, kick punching and pillow fighting more than ever before.  I try to "run them" at one of our local parks on a daily basis, but it's not ideal.  Having a yard and children in LA is a sure sign of being extremely lucky or extremely wealthy.  Last weekend I went to open houses just to see what the market looks like and realized that contentment will not come from that exercise.

I have been thinking much more like a mystic lately.   I enjoy lots of funny special potions and energizers and toners and tonics and horoscopes and spiritual texts and much more than ever before.  I can't write about it really.  I always think the explaining is the part where I giggle and role my eyes and lose it.  I find it impossible.  But that's also why I love it.  I have been searching for things that surprise and challenge me beyond words and reason and I am finding it.  Have you ever read Franny and Zooey by Salinger?  I just read it and wanted to cry.  So many of the things I have been thinking about are in there and said better than I ever could.

I don't know what good it is to know so much and be smart as whips and all if it doesn't make you happy.


My god, there's absolutely nothing tenth-rate about you, and yet you're up to your neck at this moment in tenth rate thinking.


She said she knew she was able to fly because when she came down she always had dust on her fingers from touching the light bulbs.

sigh.  I just loved the book.   I have been reading a lot.  I also finished A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book which I can't recommend enough.  Lots of fairy thinking and Victorian parents gone awry...

More on potions.  I have something I put in my smoothie every morning called Bag of Tricks.  I got it at the farmer's market.  Slightly chai spiced with cardamom and clove, the list of hormone balancing, stress relieving ingredients boggles the mind.  I find myself saying yes every morning to a bag of tricks.  And why not?  It makes me happy, and I find myself less and less sure these days what type of thinking can be is classified first rate as opposed to tenth.

Jimmy and Charlie are going to a public school in our neighborhood.  Jimmy was voted class representative for the fifth grade last week.  He is the only white kid in his class and I was worried about him fitting in, especially because I remember fifth grade in Madison being full of unfettered testosterone and cliquish behavior.  But Jimmy has taken it all in stride.  When he got out of school on election day we were standing on the yard and four young boys ran up to Jimmy and told him they had voted for him.  My Jimmy was beaming and so proud.  One of the kids told me that our family must be related to Albert Einstein because Jimmy is so smart.  The boys seemed generally in awe of Jimmy's powers of intellect, and these are fifth grade boys!  Giving Jimmy their vote of confidence (and friendship) and thinking he's cool for being smart.  what?  I was so overwhelmed.

I expected bullies and Jimmy was instead welcomed and embraced.  For example, Jimmy sort of sucks at basketball, and yet he likes to play.  These boys all let him play and be awkward without judgement.  Unexpected gift.  Right here in LAUSD. I hope Jimmy can take this experience and move beyond racism.  These kids from different backgrounds are all just trying to have fun and enjoy fifth grade and love being friends with Jimmy.  I hope it sinks in deep.  I really do.  I was so negative about all of it before, and just got blindsided by my own racism and lack of faith.   Really opens me up.

Henry has also been getting lots of gifts lately.  Great teachers and group classes at places like The Groundlings.  Live comedy every weekend.  He keeps getting really close on big auditions and I feel a shift happening for him.  Something is going to hit soon I think.  He has a lot of people pulling for him.  People on his side.  I can't believe that only a year ago I felt like he was an outsider.  A teacher of his called a casting director the other day to recommend Henry for a role in an independent movie and tomorrow he will meet the director.  It's working.  We haven't made it all the way up the ladder, of course, but I just feel like he is living the dream already.  Also, something that makes me happy is Henry comes to yoga with me every morning.  He is my yoga partner.  I never thought but it's true.

I am wearing down but not without a quick commentary about fashion and quality (for dear Mads).  I remember my father (who made his money in the fashion world selling high end shoes and independent labels in his twenties) absolutely hated taking me to the mall when I was young.  He dreaded it because, "the mall sells bad soulless fashion."  "The mall is shit," he would tell me and make fun of the cheap China made clothes from Limited Express.   One year he proposed to give me twice as much spending money if we shopped at independent boutiques in Minneapolis instead of the Bloomington Mall.  I was fifteen or sixteen.  He showed me around Saint Anthonys on the Main (which I remember seeming totally exotic and fancy) and he patiently (glibbly?) took the time to point out quality fabrics and sewing details and fashion trends that weren't in the mall yet.  I traced the quality seams with my fingers and grooved out on the fancy fabrics.  And I remember being really turned on.  There was a difference that I could feel -- an energy and intention that felt like soul.  And that's when I decided I wanted to dress differently than other girls in my class.  It's when I became a snob and a seeker, for better or for worse, and stopped shopping at malls.  I remember I could only afford two sweaters and one pair of pants, and I wore the shit out of those clothes, because they were my personal epiphany, all through sophomore year.  For me in my life,  I have decided to spend twice as much money on fewer quality clothes.  Clothes that are different and well made and make me feel special, or conversely, now that I am set free from Mall shopping, I can fucking wear thrift store treasure whenever I want, because I can't be fooled.  I know what I like.  It's a great feeling to step outside suburban thin drywall (mall soul suck) to find yourself delighted by cracked plaster, antique tiles, and vintage fashion finds mere pennies on the dime.  Is this first or tenth rate thinking?  I don't know but I come by it honestly.   There was nothing sadder to me than watching East side Madison parents shuttle kids back and forth from the mall.  It made me want to hug my crazy daddy and thank him for all his influence.  It makes me sad to think of Maddie coveting cardboard houses, but I have great hope for her later teen years.  Maybe we can take her out shopping next year when you visit LA and totally blow her mind?  or show her the houses of Beverly Hills...

there are so many times i realize that twice as much is not really enough and quality and consumption and attachment to all that i just said is super silly...

Well, from sunny LA, I remain your friend trying to find bliss from inside the bubble.

Miss you.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September (MB)

Today is the first really chilly fall-like day this season here in Madison.  It really feels like you might be sorry if you left the house without a substantial hoodie or closed-toe shoes.  Up until now, we’ve been having the most glorious September you could ever imagine.  Well, I guess the way I’ve framed that is very colored by my personal preferences; I just ran into somebody who was raving about how refreshing today felt.

Me, I’m a lover of warm weather, and with this brisk day I deeply sense the encroaching limitations of deep fall and winter and, for that matter, much of the spring  – on hours of light, on our ability to go out without dressing in layers, on our energy as we slightly hibernate, on our activities and on the ability to see green life in our midst.  So for me, those warm bright blue days in the 70s and low 80s, with white puffy clouds and a slight breeze, through about, say, yesterday, were perfect in the most pure aesthetic way.  But they were also an extension of freedom.  I was still bombing around in my flip-flops and not caring whether the kids were properly dressed (at least in the weather sense) when they left for school.

And yes, from a social perspective, fall has already long since begun.  We were at the Willy Street Fair briefly this weekend – the last festival of the season; Peter and I went to the Badgers game on Saturday which was like a cornucopia of blissed out traditional fall Wisconsin fun.  Kids have been in school several weeks now.  There have been football game Fridays, Spanish quizzes, lengthy pre-calc assignments, and seemingly already countless packed lunches.  It’s going to be a good year, I keep telling the kids.  10th and 7th grade. . . . 10th is the year I started really deviating; 7th is the year all other parents around here seem to think must be endured by plugging one’s nose and waiting it out. Notwithstanding those somewhat superficial associations I may have with the particular grades, I’m convinced we are going to have a great year.
We definitely had a great summer.  We stuck close to home as you know.  A big summer trip really wasn’t an option, and this scenario really opened up some quality of living here in Madison and in Wisconsin in general that it’s easy to miss out on when you are cramming all of your vacation days and expenditures and “family time” into one big trip.  We had a lot of family goings-on in the early part of the summer, as you might imagine, after my grandma’s funeral.  My grandma’s passing at the very beginning of the summer really put a focus on things.  I have spent a lot of time this summer thinking about what matters in life, to be honest.  That my summer was already planned to be close to home fit well with that thought process.  We spent time with my sisters and their families, we got good slow time in La Crosse and the surrounding (gorgeous – only discovering how gorgeous 35 years after being born there) area with my parents.  We went to the famous Madison Saturday Farmer’s Market (8 blocks from our house but easy to miss when the travel plans and pace get going) many times, we went camping and fished and watched the Brewers and went to the State Fair for the first time.  We golfed and paddled and spent time with the many, many cousins.  We were really good Wisconsinites this summer.  We even had some poison ivy in the family, to prove it.

This summer we also had some interesting encounters with some new elements for our little family.  For one thing, we had a 100 year drought here.  It was kind of scary.  The resilient Midwestern earth was a scorched wasteland.  People were freaked out.  My garden died almost completely (partly because I just gave up after a point.  And, for the record, as bad of a gardener as I am, I have never had a garden do this poorly).  People around here started talking about this being the “new normal”.  I have a client that does work on climate change issues, and those folks are basically like, this is Exhibit A to what’s really going down.  I suppose I’m now about to commit the common sin of simply recognizing that it was freaky and glossing over, moving on.  I promise to ride my bike and burn less gas and buy less meat and . . . . really, I will, but that’s a whole other blog post and for now I’m trying to squeeze out this re-cap of some other summer stuff.

As for another new element for us this summer -- as you know, the beau has bought a large house in the old, distinguished, monied neighborhood of Maple Bluff.  Now, mind you – he seized on a deal that landed him there.  Not that he’s not doing well for himself, but it’s a little bit “there goes the neighborhood” that we’re even up there, you know?  Anyway, this summer that included some tennis and pool time at the country club, some neighborhood gatherings that look NOTHING like the block parties and house parties we used to rock back in the day on the near east side, dear Abby.  I got to throw some backyard parties to get everyone else that always invites me and the kids over back (I don’t even try in our little old house anymore, but the Maple Bluff backyard is perfect!)  We did some house-sitting for extended periods while beau was out of town, and you hear birds and see chipmunks when you get up in the morning, as opposed to my (still lovely) city dwelling which seems constantly bombarded with the sounds of sirens, people in the street fighting, and general traffic noise.  I know, I know – you live in L.A., and you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about – Madison?  Yes, actually.  Really.

So we hung out some up in Maple Bluff and at first this seemed like it would be an illustrious fun adventure for the summer.  With complete open-mindedness and a slight hint of excitement that maybe I could play-act or be the outlier or just adjust to belonging in that world TOO, I was rather looking forward to a potential extended adventure in this somewhat cloistered, aesthetically gorgeous new slice of Madison.  But, true confessions: it didn’t take long for me to honestly realize and feel that it’s just not my scene.  This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me.  I mean the natural features can’t be beat.  But you have to drive up and down a hill to even so much as get a newspaper, and, maybe I need more time, but I just didn’t feel the vibe of the people all that much.  I guess for now I think there’s nothing about that world that’s all that enticing to me now that I’ve seen it.  I guess if I happen to get to enjoy it and be invited “in”, I’ll continue to enjoy it as possible. 

I know you know all about needing an escape or theoretical “other world” from the world we usually dwell in. How many years did we gather around the kitchen table in a neighborhood in Madison that people engineer their lives around getting to live in, and both talk about our respective (imagined or real) next moves, steps to get out, etc. Now you’ve really made yours. Me, not so much – well, or at least not in the last 7 years or so, after all the international adventuring stopped and I had to get to work here. I guess Maple Bluff was a little escape for me, and in the end it was kind of like a vacation to a place that’s really pretty and you have really good memories of, but you’re not exactly planning to move there.

Peter and Madeline both shared in the Maple Bluff experience, became occasional country club dwellers, and also ran into a few new elements of their own . . . Peter was a caddy, so got to see what being a service provider was all about, and what making money of his own was all about, which I think made a pretty big impression on him, actually.  He’s already talking about maybe we can’t take a vacation next summer because he’s going to have a job (I’m convincing him every job permits time off).  Madeline is on a full-fledged campaign that this virtuous city-living in an old house in an eclectic neighborhood is total CRAP and we should have long ago moved to where her cousins live in Holmen, Wisconsin, where everyone has brand new houses with fresh carpet that are three times as big as ours but cost about the same amount (she actually knows this; I’m not kidding – the kid reviews house listings online to verify the basis of her arguments).  She reminds me that their schools have enough money that they don’t need to have PTG fundraisers, and they have brand new gym equipment, and the people there are not all hippies who don’t let their kids shop at the mall, etc, etc.  You get the point.  The girl is on to the very significant impact a very well-intentioned decision made eleven years ago to live on Madison’s East Side and raise these children in this accepting, progressive community (or as it is thought of by some, anyway) has had on, well, everything in her world.  And, she’s not so sure she appreciates the woodwork of our 110 year old rental home or her ability to bike to school along the river path or the summer festivals in our neighborhood or that any other factor really outweighs her interest in fresh construction, a finished basement, and a posse of girlfriends with good make-up and hair.

Speaking of moves, you are now in L.A.  Frank has a new job, Henry’s climbing the ladder of his Hollywood acting career, Jimmy seems to have found some things to get excited about there (although, more information, please), and Charlie has started kindergarten (!).  I feel like maybe you could write all day and I’d still need to see this all with my own eyes.  However, I really wouldn’t know since you haven’t written (aw, snap! – just kidding).  Anyway, we must, must get out there next summer.  Tell us more in the meantime – please!
I guess on my side of this blog, and in my little family, we’ve all done a little digging in on where we’re from, where we are and where we really want to be (all things being equal).   There’s been some slow and steady realization of what sheer goodness, albeit not glitzy, we come from and have before us here in Wisconsin with our big crazy extended family.  There’s been some reckoning with the truly specific and odd combination of factors that make up our life on the Isthmus in Madison.  And then, there’s been that healthy dose of escapism too, especially for Mads.  Although I must admit that observing Peter taking driver’s education and working this summer, and now starting Year 2 of high school, my new thing is a combination of the real deal AND escape, which is – in a few years the whole game changes again for me.  Maddy and I will be sending our Peter off to college in less than 3 years, and if the past is any gauge. . . I’d better hold on because it’ll be here soon.  What will that next chapter be like for all of us?  For now, I’m trying to use the awareness that it’ll come one day to slow me down here today and here with what I’ve got and make sure I’m doing right by it and planning for the future but not letting myself get too bogged down with work and planning and stress to savor and enjoy and again, do it right and not frenetically.  It’s really really hard to do that, and it’s so cliché to even say it that I don’t want to even say it.  But, that’s what I got.  I did a good job at points this summer, and I’m trying to carry that forward.  Work is full of challenges but very very good, I am earning, I am making progress on goals with various things, and I am really trying to be thoughtful about these kids and who they are and what they need and want and how I play into that.  I know I can’t hold on to notions of control, but I still have a pretty big job in the whole process.

September’s always that time when you can see things visibly changing, you hold on a little to the freedom and warmth of summer, you enjoy the freshness in the air but note with some pause the pending changes. . .l what’s September like for you?