Sunday, February 28, 2010


I am just wiped out. MIL has been here a week, and all the consequences of that, plus sick hubby, clingy kids, and work that needs to be done, has left me drained. I should be working on my next article, but I am too tired and distracted to think about it. And the draft has to be done Monday, since I start working temp FT on Tuesday.

I’m kind of excited about that, even though I haven’t mentioned it to anyone but K and hubby. It was an opportunity that literally dropped from the sky. Some one called me out of the blue to work for a pharma over in Chester county, and before I knew it, it was a done deal.

I had a FT offer about two years ago from AZ and it didn’t feel right, so I turned it down. This is just running until the end of April, longer if I (and they) want. I want to give it a shot, see how it is, and then figure it out.

I always get what I need when I need it. We are cash poor, and we have taxes coming up, so this gig will cover that nut at least. I’ll finish this latest article this week and have JS assign me another. And I’ll work on knocking on other doors. I’m glad I have serviceable skills; it makes it pretty easy to get good paying work as I need it.

But what do I actually want to do when I grow up? I have no idea. I have the classic portfolio career at this time; I have articles, interviews and blogs published; I have four years’ experience reviewing resumes for an Ivy League graduate school; I have been presenting to parents and training the trainers for nearly seven years. And of course there is my advocate/Sherpa/confidante role I’ve played for nearly a decade.

The truth is, I like what I do, as I do it. I like that I am not easily defined. And I love that I love what I do—all of it.

Kind of thinking that I am living my best life now and doing exactly as I am meant to be doing.

But I wish I could shake the exhaustion that comes with a MIL visit. I know I will be expected to take her in to Costco while hubby waits in the car tomorrow. I will be paying for this visit until the bitter end.

But hopefully, this will be it for a while. And if hubby asks me again any time in the next couple of months, I get to say no.

Sitting outside the boys’ locker room, waiting for my sons to come out after their lesson. Would I be stupid to say we’ve turned a corner and that Nic has actually shown what he is capable of?

If they move them both up, I think we’ll do another session, otherwise, we’ll try the Y.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Getting things done in spite of the presence, and it hasn't been too bad. Hubby would argue, since he is still under the weather, but I refuse to see MIL's presence at this moment any more or any less than a gift. For a few reasons.

I'm waiting on a phone call and an email, but it looks like I may be starting a new sit on Monday. Should not be typing that as nothing is set, but it looks like barring acts of God or anything else, a random call last Friday has evolved into a full-fledged opportunity.

Do I not always get what I need? I do. It is amazing.

I just finished a book that reminds me where I used to be, a sort of deconstructive exegesis of some one's life. A compelling read, but a bit woo-woo-ee even for me. I need to go back to the primary texts to see for myself, but I find myself agreeing in principle with some things, just not the 'how' he gets there.

If not for a million little detours, I'd be writing books like that. I have to admit that I'm thankful I'm not.

I have to think more on what I've read, and wait to hear whether or not my life is going to take an interesting new turn. In the meantime, I need to make a few phone calls.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Conference Call Fun

I wonder if MIL can be any louder or more disruptive while I am on a conference call.

Seriously, I wish I had a hidden camera. I closed the doors to the office, which unfortunately connects directly to the family room, where hubby is passed out...and starts snoring, and MIL comes in and wakes him up and they are going back and forth in Italian while I wave (unseen, apparently) frantically for them both to STFU because the phone is on speaker and my tape is running....the longest two minutes ever...and MIL continues to sit in there while I am trying to interview.

Of course now that I no longer need silence she's in the other room reading. LOL It IS funny how selectively obtuse she is.

So to answer the question, CAN MIL be any louder or more disruptive? I have another call at 4, which I plan on conducting from my bedroom, with the door closed.

And how much do you want to bet that she will be banging on the door because she has a question that CLEARLY cannot wait 15 minutes for an answer?

Taking bets.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Better Now

I had a major scare over the weekend with G's placement that seems to have righted itself, more or less. Well, it could be said I lost my composure. Slightly.

(We all know I don't do things halfway.)

Nothing good company can't fix. Fortunately I had a confab of like minds to meet up with on Saturday morning. There is nothing in the world like entering a room full of people who are all on your page. I am not a natural networker, but my experience shows that you can learn just about anything if you apply yourself.

It doesn't help that I am so literal minded, but in some ways, it tends to simply things.

MIL has arrived, and we are on day 3. I am determined to make this work for me, one way or another. The fact that it's been nearly a year since her last visit shows progress of a sort, but she still has that whole "queen of the hutch" thing going on. She doesn't like that I am asserting myself, but that's not my problem.

Neither does hubby. ALTHOUGH, he is grudgingly backing me up. That, too, is a sign of progress.

The kids are doing well, and I heard a good homily from Fr M yesterday. He is just the coolest human being on the planet. I need to call him about Nic's communion this week. I'm still on the fence about how hard I should push that particular agenda.

I have some decisions to make about G, too. I've had some ideas about his education and what that should look like going forward, all of this which predicated on the NOREP that showed up on Friday.

I have to say that while these things are not life and death, it's very hard sometimes to keep it all in proper perspective and proportion.

Just an aside--reading a smashing book that reminds me of too many people I've known.

Anyway. Busy week of work and MIL curbage ahead.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lemonade, Coming Right Up

I knew what I wanted to type about five minutes ago. In fact, I did type it, and then I deleted it.

Better deleted. Trust me.

I'm collecting my thoughts, trying to figure out how the next little while is going to play out. MIL lands tomorrow for an indeterminate period of time. I have phone interviews for a new project, so I am going to make very clear to her that she CANNOT interrupt and she will in fact have to wait for me to finish (she is worse than a kid--in some ways, her visit can't possibly be any worse timed, since she has quite a track record of interrupting conference calls).

But anyway. I will deal with this the best I can. I had a couple possible jobs fly in--I sent out a proposal and my resume, so we'll see how these shake out. And I am running a retreat on Thursday. It looks like my writing is supporting my advocacy habit these days. Ironically, once everything else supported my writing habit.

Heh. Kind of cool that my writing supports everything else.

I have a few more guest lectures coming up, and a possible on site contract. I'm okay with however it all works out. I always get precisely what I need, when I need it.

Thank God.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Just got back from another funeral, this time an old schoolmate's mom. And I had to go to this one.

I haven't seen Mary in at least 20 years, but I've always loved her. I spent many an afternoon at her house when I was a teenager; on my 15th birthday, she gave me this bit of advice:

Love many
Trust few
Always paddle
Your own canoe

I wrote in my journal, but I didn't have to, as it was engraved in my heart. And I remembered it throughout some of my toughest and lowest times.

Mary was an old-school Irish Catholic--I loved her for her no-nonsense attitude as well as her staunch and steadfast faith. She made me feel like I had worth and importance, and when the priest today said that everyone has a role to play, I am in debt to Mary for the very positive and uplifting role she played in my life.

She has done her job and has been called back to heaven. I'm sure she had a VIP pass waiting for her at the gates.

God speed, Mary. And thank you--for everything.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Good Vibrations

A friend sent me a link with a note: this takes some time to get into, but this lady knows what she is talking about.

I had to agree. There is a blog I wanted to write on this very subject, but I didn't know where to start; that video is as good a place as any.

This is a fact; whenever my boys and I walk into a new church, we are always approached to take part somehow in the service. Usually, they are asked to carry up the gifts; this past Sunday, I was asked to serve as an usher.

I don't know that women do that, but hubby didn't want to, so I did it.

Nic was jealous. I told him he could have a job in church when he gets a little older.

There was another time about a year ago that we went to a mass in town, just me and my little guys, and there was a friar in the back. He asked the boys to take up the gifts. And he had a particular eye on us throughout the mass.

It made me uncomfortable, because Nic was not having a particularly good day.

BUT. He came up after, asked us to come back again, and blessed them both.

Which begs the question: are they closer to heaven? Is there something that physically marks them, or how do people just KNOW?

I am aware of the whole predator thing, and making my kids wise to predators has been job one. And both my boys have an almost uncanny knack for knowing good--and bad--when they see it.

It's really up to me to make sure those powers stay sharp. Whatever they are.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Why the Blessed Mother Has My Back

The Blessed Mother looms large in my life for a few reasons. When on his deathbed, my father saluted, and my mom is fairly certain that he was seeing the Blessed Mother as he died. I know he prayed to her regularly through his last illness.

Father M is also a huge fan of hers and has more than once advised me to pray to her.

So who do I call when my gas tank light glows orange on my dashboard?

We had just spent a lovely day with an old friend of mine and her girls. The hour had gotten late, and I told the boys we were heading straight home. After a day of sledding and playing hard, they were fine with this pronouncement.

It looked like we had enough gas to get where we were going. Until the light went on. And I realized I had not seen a gas station, nor would we see one for several miles.

Ten miles from the time the light goes on. I shut off the music and start praying. Loudly.

Nic asks me what I'm doing. I tell him to look for a gas station. And I keep praying.

I follow the route as it turns left, and I curse, wondering whether we had enough gas to get us to the last station I remember seeing, at least another 5 miles up the road--and we had gone at least 4 when the light had gone on.

I pray louder. G tells me to stop. I tell him that I need to keep going.

I think he joins in at some point.

I shout happily when I see the station on the left. I sigh with relief. And I thank the Blessed Mother for watching over me.

"Who is she?" asked Nic.

We're still having trouble with basics in PREP, but I tell him, "She's the one you call when the end closes in. She's the one who will answer."

She's the reason I have no fear.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Some Things Don't Improve with Age

Possibly, they get more virulent as time goes on.

Oddly, other things are just less useful or important.

All I know is that my humors have me by the tail and are swinging me around like some damned alley cat. And all I can do is hiss, claw, swipe the air.

And I don't even have any more snow to throw off the roof. Maybe I'll start working on the street.....

Friday, February 12, 2010

A View from my Roof

We had a roofing guy come out to see our ailing flat roof before the last big storm. He shoveled a mess of the previous snow off the roof to better examine the damage.

Then we got socked with another foot-plus of snow, and I sweated every time I passed the second-floor doorway.

We spent yesterday digging out the driveway; I spent the better part of the day so far clearing the flat roof. It's as clear now as its going to be.

I have to be honest; there's plenty of work to be done in the house. Housework depresses me, and I'm not in the best frame of mind right now, anyway. I preferred to be up on the roof, in the sunshine, listening to the robins and cardinals in my backyard, working my grief and aggravation into the heavy labor at hand.

And it just felt good to be, literally and figuratively, pushing it off the roof.

I stood in the sunshine for a few minutes, just enjoying the quiet, and the view that I ordinarily don't get to enjoy.

My little one pounded on the glass, beckoning me to fix him lunch.

So I did. But not before spiking the shovel into a drift below.

That felt better than anything I've done all month.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Immaculate Morning

The blue skies and white earth put me in mind of the Blessed Mother. On this day 35 years ago, we celebrated a mass for my dad. As it happened, it was our school's weekly 8:30 mass, and that morning, I, my older sister, and my mom brought up the offertory gifts.

My brother was originally supposed to be the third, but he had chicken pox, which felled the rest of us that weekend.

My poor mom. Recently widowed with 5 itchy kids under the age of 11. February was the cruelest month that year.

Dad would have been 72 this past Sunday. On August 30 this year, he will be dead longer than he was alive.

And not for nothing, my friend Haydee is also in my thoughts this week. Her hubby's birthday was last week. I miss all of them, but I have to respect the realities of that situation. I carry all of them in my heart, even though they are by and large gone from my life.

Oddly, I don't feel sad. It's a beautiful day, and my heart is light.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Something about snow falling outside and the fact that the world has temporarily stopped puts me in a thoughtful mood. Hubby and I talked about the fact that we saw Nic differently; as impressed as I am with his progress, hubby remains disappointed with how far behind he is.

Actually, given the fact that I realized that Nic may never communicate when he was dx'ed, considering that he is flying so close to 'normal' is nothing short of miraculous and triumphant. Make no mistake, there is no denial here. I am well aware of all the ways he continues to come up short, and all I can say is that he is working hard in those areas, and I'm doing all I can to help him acquire those skills.

But damn. I was all but bursting with pride while he was getting his hair cut yesterday. He sat straight up in his chair, chatting with a new hairdresser, telling her how he wanted his hair cut and answering questions about school.

So normal. Yet right there in my mind's eye was a speechless preschooler who had to be held down to keep from hitting the hairdresser and biting his own hands and wrists. Over time, he learned to sit quietly in my lap, then in a booster seat and then in a chair, part of it was the consistency of the same person cutting his hair, in the same chair, and the promise of chicken fingers and french fries if he sat still and behaved.

Now, we get good results for the sake of good results.

And although we have school work still to do, I am happy with the simple fact that, for the first time ever, both boys made valentines for everyone in their class. Nic has never done it before, and I took advantage of the fact that he was doing them to push G to do a set for his room.

Wow. Just like everyone else.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Long Days, Short Years

Yesterday closed the fastest 10 years of my life as my older son turned 10. We sat two pews behind a young couple with a new baby girl in church, and I wanted to lean up and poke the mother when the baby started chewing on her tiny fists. Any mom who's been there knows it's chow time.

It's amazing how immediate that knowledge remains, even when the time is long since past.

I'm sitting here with the sunlight flooding in my windows, overwhelmed with feelings, thoughts, and gratitude. I find myself thinking on a woman long dead as part of her lives on. I look back on my life and motherhood with a grateful heart. And I laugh a little bit about how I look to the rest of the world.

Case in point. At 7:55 this morning I sat filling out forms and labels while directing my 6-year-old on a project he needed to finish today. Hubby is yelling at me for my procrastination. Nic is yelling down that he has no clean underwear. I stuff G's work and papers into his bookbag as he is running for the bus. I hastily finish Nic's paperwork, stuff everything into his bookbag, and race to the computer to ask when would be a good time to drop off Nic's birthday brownies? And by the way, I haven't baked them, yet.

HIs teacher shoots me an almost instantaneous reply, that they will be at the planetarium until 10:30.

Clock ticks. I pull a brownie recipe off the Internet and get to work.

The brownies are done shortly after 10. I throw on some clothes, cover the pan with tin foil, grab some potholders and head out.

I still have ice on my windshield, but I figure it will melt off.

I pull into the school parking lot, moving the van slowly and cautiously. However, I fail to take that kind of precaution stepping out of the van and land hard on my left side.

The first thing I did was look around to make sure no one saw my spill. Then I thanked God that I didn't grab the brownies first, or they would have become crow food.

The front office lets me in, then promises to deliver the brownies. I hear some one joke "If they make it there!"

The secretary looks surprised when I hand her the potholdered pan. "Still warm? Nice."

The only reason they are still warm is because I am just not that organized.

But I know Nic will appreciate them. That's why I do it.

And all he has to do is clean up his room when he gets home. I figure it's a fair trade.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Quiet Mind

I just spent the last hour clearing off the front walk and driveway in the silence of the falling snow. I get tired of getting stuck indoors and like the workout that comes with clearing snow.

The rest of my family, however, are changelings. Two of three of them are sitting in front of computer screens; the third is upstairs reading to himself at top volume.

Just wanted to look back at the week and admire my older boy--first-time member of his IEP team this week. He told me he was done OT on Tuesday night; I asked him if he was prepared to tell the team himself at Wednesday's meeting. He said yes.

I emailed ahead. Not thinking too hard about the eyerolls that email generated.

Anyway, Nic did great; he signed in, said his piece, and both the data and the OT herself supported his position. OT consult written in, session to be replaced with cross-discipline work in inferencing and problem-solving.

A few loose ends remain, but I sent an email out to his team to address those.

G didn't qualify for ESY. I think I am actually okay with that.

I finished my project, emailed it, and have to think about what I will be doing next. A path is suggesting itself, but I have to do some due diligence before I pursue it. Trolling for some writing and training in the meantime.

Oddly, the way ahead seems quiet, but I am okay with that. I'll be poised, listening, waiting for instruction.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Driving Where Life Takes You

So on my way out to give my talk today, I had to stop and pay off a bill that was delinquent (the usual story about hubby and I thinking the other paid it). I needed to make a slight deviation from my route, but no matter, I had a way of getting back on it from my errand.

I thought I did, anyway. I was well through and past the intersection I should have turned before it occurred to me that I was heading to a different destination.

No matter. I made the next right and figured that would eventually take me where I needed to go.

And I couldn't have planned a more serendipitous ride. I had no idea there was still this much open space in Eastern Montgomery County. I enjoyed the relief from the usual house-farm/strip mall helter skelter development that marks much of suburbia. And the quiet landscape allowed me to focus on the talk I was to give about parenting, advocacy and my own story.

I never plan my talks so much as sketch out an outline. Usually, the feeling of the room tells me what stories I need to tell. And I had plenty to share.

As I stood in front of the class of girls (all born well after I graduated high school and probably even college), it occurred to me that I was exactly where I needed to be at this particular moment of my life.

I liked the teacher. She challenged me and some of the decisions I made, and a couple of the more adventurous students asked whether I would recommend my methods and considerations to other parents.

My last slide answered that question: One size does NOT fit all. Individualized Education Plans are JUST THAT.

And I said that if you had 15 or 20 different parents up here, they would have 15 or 20 different stories. Our journeys are as unique and as individual as our kids.

One thing I would add here, and this is something I have meditated on at great length. It's damned hard to be a teacher today. Many parents expect teachers to raise their kids for them. I'm not making a judgment, just an observation. And that was the thesis that launched my talk; it is more difficult to teach now than it was 30 years ago, because much, much more is required of you.

And expected of you. Whether fair or not, I know it's true.

I have been phenomenally lucky in that Nic has had such dedicated teachers who believe in him. That's all I want for any kid. Some one who is invested in his or her success. In his or her future.

So to all the teachers out there, I salute you. And thank you.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Special Guest Today!

About two months ago, an old friend I reconnected with on Facebook asked if I'd be interested in taking part of a blog tour. We chatted online, and as a result, I'm happy to be taking part in the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour today!

Seeing as I talk about nearly everything else here, this seemed to be fair game, and in the process, I got to know a wonderful writer. Today I am happy to introduce her to you. Her name is Jacqueline Jules, author of Benjamin and the Silver Goblet, silver medalist in the STBA young readers category.

EL: As a writer, it's fair to say that your subject matter somehow chooses you, rather than the other way around. How and where did you get your start as a 'professional' writer? (in this case, 'professional' means actually getting paid for what you produce--I believe anyone who writes as a mean to communicate can call themselves a writer!)

JJ: My first children’s book The Grey Striped Shirt was published in 1995. Before that, I had published poetry, short stories, book reviews, and local newspaper articles. In grade school and high school, I dreamed of being a writer, but I didn’t actually do much writing. In college, I got a B.A. in writing and became more diligent about actually putting words down on paper. I have been writing seriously now for over thirty years. But while I do make some income as a writer, I can’t really support myself as a writer. Right now, it is more accurate to call me a “published author” rather than “a professional writer.” (Though I wouldn’t be disappointed if that status changed one day.)

Your excellent definition of a writer—anyone who writes as a mean to communicate—really intrigues me. In our society, everybody needs the skills of a writer. The ability to write an effective business e-mail is essential in the workplace. In my current teaching job, I am a writing coach. Though I do some whole class lessons, I spend most of my time one-on-one, helping individual students express themselves in written form. Last October, I participated in The National Day on Writing. This day, created by the National Council of Teachers of English was designed to call attention to the importance of writing in everyday life. At my elementary school, classrooms brainstormed to come up with lists of all the different ways people use writing in their lives and their jobs. I compiled those ideas into a long scroll of over eighty-five unique items and wrote about this eye-opening lesson at Schoolwide Blog.

Writing is not a talent reserved for authors and journalists. It is a means of communication everyone needs to succeed in contemporary life.

EL: I see we share a common love of puzzles and the use of such as a metaphor as a way to describe your writing process! But what particular ideas set the process in motion for you?

JJ: I am a person who loves to play with words. They spin in my head until I can arrange them in an order that pleases me. Some people are passionate about gardening or birding or cooking. I am passionate about words. And just about any activity can trigger a writing project for me. I think of ideas while I am driving, taking a walk, doing dishes, taking a shower, reading a book or the news. Conversations with friends come back to me at a later time and inspire poems. A student or teacher can ask me a question that makes me decide to write a story on that topic. I don’t run out of ideas. I run out of time and energy to pursue all the ideas I have. Writing calms my psyche. Especially poetry. When I write a poem, I often cage thoughts that have been nagging me. Behind the bars of a poem, troubled feelings can be contained and tamed. It’s my adult method of self-soothing, like a pacifier or a thumb.

EL: What challenges do you face as a writer? Meaning: what are those things that stand in your way when you have a particular idea you want to get across?

JJ: It can often take a very long time to get a story or an idea right. I often think of my first drafts as caterpillars, crawling creatures hungrily nibbling on leaves. Sometimes those first drafts need to spend months or years in the cocoon stage until they emerge as wet butterflies, ready to learn how to fly. Every time I re-write a story or a poem, I am more pleased with it. I enjoy the process of rearranging words to tell the same story in a better way. However, it can also be discouraging to re-write something for years and years, hoping that this time it will connect with an editor and have the opportunity to find readers.

EL: I love that faith is an overarching theme in your work. Is that by design or happenstance?

JJ: Many of my ideas for books have grown out of my work as an educator. For many years, I worked in Jewish education. I wrote Once Upon a Shabbos, my first story for Jewish preschoolers, to perform at a Tot Shabbat service. The Hardest Word, the first book in a series about the giant mythological bird, the Ziz, was written for a family Rosh Hashanah service where I was the featured storyteller. My bible series began ten years ago, when I was working as a synagogue librarian. A religious school teacher asked for a good picture book about Abraham. I couldn’t find an attractive one young children could relate to. So I began researching and writing. The result was Abraham’s Search for God which was followed by Sarah Laughs, and Benjamin and the Silver Goblet.

In the fall, Miriam in the Desert will be released. Lately, I have been getting ideas for bible stories when I go to Shabbat services on Saturday morning and read the weekly Torah portion.

EL: You have a wonderful career that spans a love of education in multiple settings. Have you achieved everything you wish to accomplish? If not, what more do you hope to do?

JJ: I haven’t begun to achieve everything I want. I’d like to finish two middle grade novels I have been working on for years and I’d like to start writing the one in my head. Though my poetry has been published in over sixty journals, I do not have my own published collection, which is high on my list of goals. And of course, I’d like to publish more picture books, a medium I truly adore.

For more information about this fabulous author, visit Please also check out the wonderful pages at Association of Jewish Libraries blog at, and to the official Sydney Taylor site at