Sunday, September 14, 2003

Head 'em Up, Move 'em Out

I don't know if I've got the lyrics right, but that's how I felt a bit earlier. Not like one of the cowboys, but like a fat little dogie.

Bill, his brother, Bob, Alex and I went to the Nordic Lodge for an early dinner today. Bob has been in the past; Bill and I have never been. And neither has Alex, that I'm aware of.

Anyway, the Nordic Lodge is famous in these parts for their all-you-can-eat Viking Buffet!! Apparently the Vikings, when they weren't singing long, dismal, militant, operatic tunes, and killing people, loved to dine on lobster, peel-and-eat shrimp, steamed clams, raw oysters, filet mignon, fried seafood of every kind, seafood salads (mussel, calamari, shrimp, etc), pasta salads, smoked mackerel (too salty), shrimp and scallop scampi, baked stuffed shrimp, a few pasta dishes, a variety of fresh fruits, about a dozen or more different kinds of pies and cakes, mini pastries, tapioca, chocolate pudding, chocolate covered strawberries and cherries, and make-your-own sundaes featuring every flavor Haagen Dazs makes.

I don't think I'd make it as a Viking.

The Sunday winter hours are from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm. We arrived late - around 3:00. We should have come at 1:00 - the wait would have been the same. But it was nice outside and the grounds are well cared for, so Alex got to work off some energy and impatience thusly:

Alex strides purposefully toward the little pond behind the Lodge.
Alex is picked up by whichever adult is closest.
Alex struggles mightily and cries angrily at being thwarted from his attempt to actually stride purposefully right into the water.
Alex is carried far, far away from the water.
Alex strides purposefully toward the little pond behind the Lodge...

Each time, his expression grew just a little more determined - which is very amusing in a 15-month-old.

Later, after he finally gave up on the water, he found solace in a layer of small rocks - part of the landscaping, actually. He plunked himself right down and grabbed a few at a time, threw them into the rest of the rocks, shoved some aside to get at the dirt below...he had a lovely time. Wasn't too happy when it was time to go inside but he got over that.

Our table was pretty close to the food, which was good because we could kind of scope out the layout and plan our routes...but not good because the long line for the lobsters went right past our table. We were treated to a neverending look at people who have turned the all-you-can-eat buffet into a way of life.

It was sad, actually, to see so many very overweight people - entire families of enormous adults and their rapidly expanding children. There is no appreciation for subtlety of flavor, for artistry, for the simple pleasure of a steamed lobster, fresh from the sea. They aren't eating because food is a pleasure, they are eating because there is food there. And when there is food out there, cooked and ready to go, it is one's moral responsibility to eat it. All of it. Quickly. If you eat slowly, you get full, and then you can't eat. So you eat quickly so you can eat the most you can possibly cram into yourself.

I felt (and Bill did too, he told me later) tense the whole time. I felt I was expected to eat about twenty lobsters to make it worth the price of admission. And the object of the game is not to enjoy your lobster. Oh no. Enjoying the taste of something takes way too long. "Savor" is a forbidden term in the land of engorgement.

You must rip off the claws, tear them apart with your bare hands, suck out the meat, twist the tail off the body, crack the tail open, tear out the meat, eat that (dunked in a barrel of melted butter first) in one gulp (like a trained seal catching a herring) and toss the body into the shell bowl.

To me, that is a mortal sin. I felt like I was going to hell for it. When I eat a lobster, I eat all of the lobster. I have friends who "can't be bothered" with picking through all the little legs and the chambers of the body...I also like the coral (the eggs), and the tamale (the exploded liver). In fact, the tamale is my favorite part. So - to not eat all of the meat in the bodies was agonizing.

But I did it. But never again.

I only ate 2 lobsters. (Bill at 3, Bob ate 4, which is a huge change from his younger days when he could eat 6-7 or more at a sitting.) Ate a few other things, and some dessert, but I couldn't gorge myself.

Bill and I decided that one lobster, shared between the two of us, and picked clean, tastes far better and is a far more pleasurable dining experience than gulping down the lobsters we had today.

Alex had a ball. He is an incredibly friendly little boy. He smiles at people and says "thank you!" to waiters and waitresses, he loves just about every kind of food you put in front of him and is willing to try new things. He had lobster, crab, mussels, watermelon, bread dunked in the garlic-butter broth from the scampi, more watermelon, chocolate pudding, and apple juice.

The waiter was so delighted with Alex that he brought him a little lobster stuffed animal at the end of the meal - a gift. Made my night - it's nice to have a polite and happy child. (I realize things could change at any moment, so I'm savoring it right now.)

Alex finally grew tired of sitting in his high chair. I don't think he was tired of being there - he had an endless parade of people going past his table, and he could wave and smile and say "heh!" (his current pickup line) at the girls and women. I think he wanted to get out and mingle with his public. Instead, I took him outside and let him run around on the lawn again, then Bill and Bob emerged from the vomitorium - I mean Lodge - and we headed back to our vehicles (they were parked far away, which was good, as we needed to walk off some of our thousands of fresh calories).

Alex fell asleep, no great surprise, and went right to bed when we got home.

Bill and I cleaned up the kitchen and prepped dinner for tomorrow.

Time to go - Bob's here and he flies back to Florida tomorrow...

Thursday, September 11, 2003

I'm Home Now...

And Alex is in bed. A little early, but he tends to crash earlier toward the end of the week. He's a busy guy in the Early Toddler room...

And to be honest, I'm glad he's gone to bed.

Does that sound horrible? It does to me. On a day when we hug our loved ones and hold them close for a little longer than usual, when we give thanks that we are all together at this moment in time and are not still mourning an empty place at the dinner table...I should be upstairs holding him and singing him endless repetitions of "Sweet Baby James" which has become his lullaby.

But I don't want to be around anyone right now. My husband is outside watering the gardens. A happier place to be, I'm sure, than around me at the moment.

In addition to all the bits and pieces of news articles I read at work, and the bits and pieces of different blogs, and the coverage of 9/11 remembrance ceremonies and so forth that I listened to on my short lunch break, there still hangs the dark cloud of impending layoffs at work, and that has contributed to my current go-away-leave-me-alone mood.

Layoffs are supposed to be done all in one day (instead of dragged out over a good week or two as has happened in the past), and it looks like tomorrow's the day, because it really started at the end of the day today.

Everyone is nervous, tense, expecting to be called into HR and given the unsurprising news. We are all curled in on ourselves, yet trying to behave like everything's fine, or like we don't care.

But we do.

I do. I don't want to lose my job. No, it's not my ideal place to be, but it could be worse. We have a mortgage to pay, and other normal bills...and my income isn't great but it isn't bad and it's certainly welcome. So.

I also don't want to see other people I work with get laid off. I don't want to see their faces as they gather their framed family photos and coffee mugs and try not to show that their hands are shaking from the reality. Not the shock - on some level everyone expects it. No one really and truly feels safe. But still, we may believe it will happen to us, but then when it does, we find we really weren't prepared with how those words would affect us.

So that's what I'm dreading tomorrow. I can't wait for it, whatever it is, to be over.

And back to today - on a larger scale...

I am disappointed that there was no minute of silence at work. I am disappointed that at the middle school where my husband teaches, there was no minute of silence, or anything else to commemorate this day.

I fear that for those who were not directly affected by it, the horror of September 11th, 2001 will fade and become nothing more than a scene from a movie.

Yes, I know, there were ceremonies everywhere across the country. But not everywhere. Not in the little places. Sure, the media was full of it - thank goodness, so I could have my things to read at work - but I think it should have been in the little places. Places of work. Grocery stores. Retail stores. Schools. Offices. Constructions sites. Everywhere.

Now, I don't know that there weren't smaller places that maybe paused in the day for a moment of remembrance. Maybe there were. I hope so. And I mean places outside of New York, DC, Pennsylvania. I mean the places that didn't know anyone who died that day, the places that watched it on the news and were affected by it when it happened, and watched the ceremony at Ground Zero last year...but who maybe went on with their lives this year and only paused to nod in memory or shake their heads at the tragedy as they glanced at the paper over coffee.

Yes, we all have to go on with our lives. But I think it is unquestionably necessary to stop our lives - which we, thank God, did NOT lose that day - and remember those who did. And not just that "people died." No. We were attacked, and people died. Innocent people died.

I am aware that innocent people die for other reasons and it is tragic. Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods, car accidents, etc. Innocent people die.

But these innocent people of two years ago were attacked, were brought to death, by heartless, fanatical, evil people. And then some more innocent people died trying to save the other innocent people. Who were brought to death, in some fashion or another, by - everyone, with me - heartless, fanatical, evil people.

And that is what the difference is. And that is why we should remember. In the little places.

And speaking of little places - this brought tears to my eyes today, and a lump to my throat, but it also made me happy -

There are chain link fences around the two playground areas where Alex goes to daycare. One playground is for the toddlers, the other is for the older kids.

They have really cool wooden toys - the toddlers have a train (engine and two cars) made of wood - not painted, very simple, but they are in perfect proportion to the small people who climb in and out of them.

The older kids have a huge fort and (my favorite) something like an ark or a whaling ship. I wish I could play on them, to be honest.

Anyway, I was driving past daycare on my lunchbreak to grab a quick sandwich and listen to the radio, and as I passed the building, I looked over to the toddler playground to see if Alex and his little friends were outside. They weren't.

But what I saw was this: an American Flag. It hadn't been there when I dropped Alex off this morning. I would have noticed. It was right there on a section of the fence and as I said before, it made me weepy and happy at the same time.

Later, when I went to pick Alex up after work (the bright spot in my too-emotional day) I parked near the flag and walked over to see what it was made of.

Plastic cups. 12 ounce plastic cups that had been pushed through the spaces in the fence from the other side until they were too wide to go any farther. Brilliant.

A rectangle of blue cups. And stripes of red cups and white cups. No, not the exact number of stripes. And no stars. But they were shiny, and the sun glinted off of them, so there were stars, really. It just took some imagination.

A symbol of remembrance. Sweet, simple, beautiful. In a little place.

I am done writing for today. (Okay, no I'm not.) I'm going to go hug my husband a little tighter and a little longer than he'll be expecting. And later on he and I will creep into Alex's room and gaze for a few moments at our little boy as he sleeps. We will watch his chest rise and fall and we will reach down and touch him - barely, so as not to wake him - his chubby little calf...the blond curls at the nape of his neck...his lips barely parted, deep in sleep. So peaceful. So innocent....

I read this article at work today and I had to stop when I got to this part:

"Readings between the silences and names included a poem written by the mother of a firefighter who was killed. Joan Molinaro began her poem to her son, Carl Molinaro, with these words:

“In the quiet of my heart
“I hold your hand,
“Little boy of mine.”

Little boy of mine.

First Things First

Thank you, Sheila for the link on Tuesday. And thank you to the people who wrote to me about that little post, and welcome, to anyone who has just begun to visit me.

I haven't written in here, obviously, since that post, and I haven't read much of the other blogs I usually read - and I should. So many people who have so much to say about September 11th, and say it so much better than I do.

I've only been sneaking quick reads while I'm at work. And mainly I go to Sheila's blog because it's the only one I've got bookmarked - at work - and I have (as I think I've said before) the internet page shrunk to half the size of my screen, so I can block what I'm reading (and the fact that no, this isn't work) from passersby who will make mental notes of what I'm doing.

And a part of me wants to be defiant about the whole thing...but I can't. I'm not supposed to be reading blogs at work. I'm on company time. I'm supposed to be working.

So I have to just suggest that you read Sheila and the others I have linked to over there on the right...and then go and read the people that they recommend you read.

Yes, it's a lame post today.

I wanted to write something great. But I don't know what to say.

It's September 11th today. Obviously.

All day yesterday, when I filed things away to work on "tomorrow" the numbers popped up at me again and again as I wrote notes for the files on little pink post-it notes. 9/11. 9/11. 9/11. 9/11.

In some ways, Tuesday was my day of remembering September 11th - because it was a Tuesday. I remember things in terms of days of the week sometimes, rather than the actual date (though I remember that too.) My son was born on a Monday. My first date with my future husband was on a Wednesday. I don't know why it matters, and I guess it really doesn't, but that's just how my mind places things.

So today is a Thursday, and here I am, rambling on and on in my empty way this morning. Wanting desperately to say something worth reading.

But that shouldn't be my aim. I shouldn't be trying just to write something to grab your attention. I should be writing what I want to say.

What do I want to say, in the few minutes that remain before I have to wake my husband and son and get us all on our way out the door and to our separate weekday destinationg...

I remember.

That is what I will say.

I remember.

I can not forget, and will not ever forget, that day. Those images. The emotional overload that day and in the days that follow.

I remember. I remember after feeling overwhelmed with grief and disbelief, and after that, as time went on, I remember feeling fearful and selfish. Yes, selfish. What kind of world am I bringing my child into? (I learned I was pregnant with Alex a month after 9/11.)

I remember not wanting to look into the sky, for fear something or someone would fall from it.

I remember not wanting to see an airplane fly overhead, once they started flying again, because I was afraid it would burst into flame or crash into something.

I remember fear.

And I remember feeling, eventually, angry.

How dare they?

At first in small letters...

how dare they?
How Dare They?

And finally - we cannot allow them to do this again.

I remember that.

And today, I go spinning back to the original feelings of incredible sadness, of not comprehending how, why...of sorrow for all the families with great gaping holes torn in them.

They will not forget.

We must remember.

And that is what I will say this morning.

Monday, September 08, 2003


The stench of layoffs is in the air where I work....

It hasn't permeated everyone yet the way it did two years ago, the last time we had a lot of cutting...but it will...

Two years ago, on a Tuesday, our office was in the middle of what seemed like daily layoffs, one department at a time. Like pulling a band-aid off, one hair follicle at a time, except, of course, worse. And I knew there would be people let go in our department. I didn't know when, though.

And then, oh, around 8:30 that morning, I was working at my computer and all of a sudden the girl who sat in the cubicle next to me was taking personal items from her desk drawers and putting them in a box, and saying she was fine. Our department was under seige...

And a little bit later I found out that a good friend of mine was gone. I never even saw her go back to her desk, grab her belongings and hurry out the door - cheeks probably dark pink and jaw set. I looked around over the tops of the half-walls of our cubicles, a puzzled prairie dog, just staring around, wondering what was coming next.

And I sat down (because I was kind of conspicuous just standing there looking around, staring) and an email came in just about then, from my sister.

It said something like "An airplane just flew into one of the twin towers."

My first thought, not knowing the size of the plane or anything other than that one line, was that the pilot of some small, private plane had lost control or something and accidently crashed into the building.

And, wrapped up as I was in the layoffs that had just happened in my vicinity, I shot back a (rather snotty, in hindsight) email that read "Oh, I didn't know that - they're laying people off here and one of my close friends was just let go" - actually I don't think it was that mild - it was more of an "I'm way too busy and enmeshed in my microcosm to be bothered with anything going on anywhere outside this office."

Much to my utter embarrassment and shame.

And she emailed me more details, bit by bit (she was listening to a radio at her desk at work), and another coworker/friend, Kerrie, was on the phone with her husband, who had the TV on at their house and was telling her the same thing about the plane, and then my mother called, or I called her, and I was listening to the TV in my parents' living room and listening to Kerrie's play by play of what her husband was seeing on their TV and my sister was listening to her radio and emailing me what she was hearing, and everyone in the building was soon glued to phones and radios and each other's eyes as the second plane flew into the second tower, and one by one the towers - this can't be real - came down.

And work fell to the floor and phones grew quiet, except for friends and family members calling in with updates.

And we worried about friends, relatives who either worked or lived anywhere in Manhattan...we sent pointless emails, tried to make phone calls...every means of communication in this technologically advanced era was down. We would have to wait, as, bit by bit, we received good news or bad news or both.

And we worried about people in those buildings and nearby buildings - we deal with corporate accounts, some of which are - were - housed right there, people we speak with daily on the phone, people we have met - oh, so that's what she looks like, I thought she was blond - and become friends with...

And I found out later that one of our salesman lost a brother-in-law on one of those planes...and another salesman lost a couple of old friends from his hockey-playing days...and so on - we weren't there, but we weren't here either. We were just frozen, mouths open, eyes wide, everyone crying at some point.

And then Washington D.C. was hit - and then, amazingly, bizarrely, a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

It was too much to comprehend. And it just got worse and worse...more details, more awful, awful, unforgettable nightmarish details...

I cannot imagine having the choice to either die in a burning, wounded building or jump out and plummet from the sky and die on the street below. I have seen the pictures. They haunt me most of all, more than the fire, more than the planes crashing, more than the buildings collapsing - though they are all horrible.

Maybe it's that my brain struggles with the choice they were forced to make. Maybe it's that my brain just doesn't want to wrap around the thought that - at that point - the outcome will be the same...maybe it's that my brain doesn't want to conjure up feelings of what that knowledge must feel like. I could never really understand that feeling unless I was right there. But I have an unfortunately vivid imagination...and I sometimes wish I didn't.

But anyway, those pictures in my mind of people falling....they will never go away.

Nor should they.

And back at work...a strange, twilight zone kind of moment, when another woman who works there was escorted, wailing, from the building, and we got the news that her teenage son had been in a car accident.

Everything was word will do it justice, but everything was just wrong.

Henry Blake's helicopter was not supposed to crash into the ocean on that famous M*A*S*H episode...thousands of people wrote in to complain about the episode, they wanted the writers to bring Henry back...write a different ending...the helicopter didn't really go down, Henry didn't die...and the writers, producers, etc. refused. Because people go to war and don't always come back, no matter how funny they are, no matter how lovable, no matter what.

And on a much, much grander scale, that is how September 11th felt, or, rather, that is how I felt, in a way. No, no - make this not be real. Make this not have happened, so things can just go along the same way, and so that the people who lost their jobs that day are the biggest tragedy we have to deal with.

We later found out that that woman's son, the one in the car accident, was okay. And we were insanely relieved. Someone was okay.

I got home from work that afternoon, walked into the tiny house Bill and I were living in at the time, and burst into sobs. My whole body cried and cried and cried. And he held me and I think he cried too, but I don't remember. I couldn't see.

We watched some of the news for a little while, just was still just too much to take in.

We went out to eat. More just to get out of the house and be around other people than because we were actually hungry. A TV was on, of course, in the bar of the restaurant we went to, and the news, of course, was on. What else was there to watch? Nothing else mattered any more.

My friend, who had been laid off, was bitter about it. And I just couldn't listen to it after a while. It just seemed so trivial. Now, granted, I have never been the victim of a I don't know how I'd feel.

But I think I would rather pack my personal items in a box and walk out the door than have no choice but to jump out a window into the bright September sky.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

I'm an Idiot

Our printer needed a new black ink cartridge. We have a Hewlett Packard printer. I went to Staples and was told that they made a cartridge that was HP compatable and had twice as much ink. So I bought it.

I'm an idiot.

I brought it home, installed it, and kept getting error messages about the cartridge - that it wasn't there, that there was a problem with it, that I'm an idiot. I took the cartridge in and peeled off the little label that said it was made by Staples, thinking maybe that wasn't supposed to be there.

Still got error messages.

So then (here comes the idiot part) I peeled off what I thought (until it was too late) was a protective covering for where the ink comes out (please email me if I'm getting too technical)...and realized - after I re-installed it, closed the top, and the printer went completely dead - that I'd peeled off the little copper thing that somehow communicates with the printer itself.

So, in one fell swoop, I had rendered the cartridge useless and unreturnable, lost the chance to either return the cartridge or at least blame Staples for the printer not working, and ruined the printer.

And I also couldn't get the bad cartridge back out - it had all locked in place off to the side. I tried tugging gently on it, but it wouldn't budge, and I thought I'd done enough damage.

My husband made the mistake of asking me how it was going.

Yes, he's still alive. Wisely, he went downstairs and turned on the Yankees-Red Sox game (yahoo! - Red Sox won, 9-3).

I decided after a bit to just let it go for the evening. I would probably end up throwing it out the window if I continued.

This morning I tried again. Alex was taking a nap, Bill was at the barber getting a haircut and planning part of dinner tonight (I've already planned the other part), so all was quiet.

I was almost, almost, almost going to just bite the bullet and call Hewlett Packard, confess my utter idiocy, and beg for help, when a tiny little voice whispered in my ear: "Unplug the printer and plug it back in, just for kicks, before you call."

And it worked. The little display (with the error message) came back on, and as soon as the cartridge slid where I could reach it, out came the evil cartridge along with a loud sigh of relief from me.

I was elated. Really. Which is pathetic, I know. But I had been so set on using that printer this weekend (which I will do, after this post), and then I screwed it all up (idiot idiot idiot) and couldn't even blame a defective product because I went and peeled off something IMPORTANT...and then - miracle of miracles - it was all okay.

I was not only elated, I was euphoric. (Today's letter, boys and girls, is the letter "E!")

And that's my story of the printer.

Which now, by the way, has the correct ink cartridge in it.

P.S. I just told Bill the title of this post and the subject matter, and he said "Yeah, you were pretty dumb. I didn't tell you because you seemed pretty upset last night."

Thank you, dear.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Good Morning,

I'm home, with Alex, waiting for the "floor guy" to come and measure the floor in the basement and provide me with an estimate to have the ugly area padded and carpeted again. He's due at 8:00, and it should only take about 10 minutes.

The "ceiling guy" came yesterday. Actually, he's more the "everything guy" - his company will do the ceiling, walls, and the carpeting. But it was too late to cancel the appointment this morning when I learned that. Oh well - nice to have a more leisurely morning for a change.

Alex is encouraging me to dance along with him. He pushes buttons on various toys to trigger the music or songs they produce, and then he hurries over to the doorway to look at me, with a huge open-mouthed smile, while he bounces up and down, sometimes stomping one foot in time to his own secret rhythm...and I smile and bounce up and down in my chair right along with him, until the music ends and he has to go back to the living room to hit another button.

He can almost say "ball." He says "dall," which is close. And he's consistent with it.

He's also consistent with "da-da." He consistently uses it for "Daddy," "kitty cat," "flower," and just about anything else he doesn't yet have in his vocabulary.

He loves the flowers. We pull into the driveway after work and daycare, and before I can get out of the car he is saying "Da da! Da da!" in a frantic kind of way. No, Daddy's not home yet - he's looking at the flowers in our window boxes. So I take him out of his car seat and he reaches for them - not to grab, but to touch, with uncharacteristic gentleness and with reverence and wonder in his repeated "Da da...da da...da da!"

Right now, though, he is examining the gate that keeps him out of the computer room and trying to find a flaw in its construction that would, in time, enable him to knock it down and explore all the forbidden things - computer- and music-related - that we keep in this room.

What else can I go on about...

Well, unpleasantness at work...September is here and there is a stench of impending layoffs in the air. I even dreamed about it. Not me losing my job, but, worse, other people in my department. And as part of middle management, I'm one of the forces of evil who will be (probably) used to march some poor person to the HR department and sit there while they get the bad news. That's what I was dreaming about. Fun, huh?

And now Alex is trying to find a way to climb over the gate, so I really should go and find something less adventurous for him to do right now.

Oh, and it's POURING rain right now - has been since some time in the night...I love this weather, this time of year. I am energized by it. Wish I could stay home today - I'd get so much accomplished!

Have a good day, whatever your weather!