Sunday, October 27, 2013


Tomorrow morning, for the umpty-umpth time, I will be the Halloween witch for the Christ’s Lutheran Nursery School classes. Every year, I need less costume, makeup and attitude adjustment to play this part. My annual shtick is to pretend to be a witch from somewhere else (Texas, Ireland), where the Halloween customs are comically different (the families give the trick or treaters pockets full of grits; everyone dresses like leprechauns and speaks Gaelic, etc.) The children take great delight in correcting me: “No, no, we don’t  DO that! We don’t give people our money when they open their doors to us! We don’t collect dirty laundry at every house!”  I enjoy these visits, but dread the holiday they presage.

You see, I never got into Halloween. I’m not a big candy eater, for one thing (except for Mounds bars. I buy big bags of these each October, ostensibly for the “kids,” but really I squirrel most of them away for me).  For another, my formative years were spent on the lower East Side of Manhattan, not the safest of places even in the 60s. “Trick or treat” involved our parents ferrying us up and down in the elevator for an hour or so, stopping at the apartments of elderly neighbors who gave us poorly-wrapped cookies and mushy apples, all of which went straight to the trash can as soon as we got home. So I have no fond memories of bonfires and pumpkin patches and neighborhood parties, far from it.

Thank you Aunt C!
When the kiddos were born, I braced myself for October 31st, knowing I would have to do my duty, traipse around town with my tiny ghosts and goblins, and purchase pounds of Snickers and Twix to parcel out to other friends’ tiny ghosts and goblins. And of course, my offspring all LOVED everything Halloween, anticipating the spooky fun for weeks. Our house decorations amounted to spider webs (the real ones, not store-bought!); our jack o’lantern was hastily carved immediately prior to our first night visitor. My creative sister C was responsible for some of our more successful flights of costume fancy: Sheridan’s lobster, Evan’s spaceman. Rose took the cake for most personally inventive: one year she was Olympian Kerri Strug on crutches (just Google Strug); once Rosie was the Declaration of Independence. Every year, I pretended to be charmed by the parade of doorbell-ringing scavengers “don’t take the whole basketful, kids! Kids! I mean it!” and thrilled by the bounty my children brought home (does anybody really eat malted milk balls?) And every year, I rejoiced when it was time to turn out the lights and go to bed.

Rosie and her candy jackpot

 Lest you think I’m a total killjoy, I adore Christmas and happily fuss at Thanksgiving. I’ve even done my Easter bit, with egg dyeing and such (one year we did Ukrainian pysanky—just Google it). But there is something about Fright Night that doesn’t sit well with me.  Let others revel in the dark side!  Boo to All Hallows Eve, I say!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Eye of the Beholder

Note the date--still not cashed in!
In my desk drawer there is a lovely gift certificate to a spa, courtesy of my kids. It’ll expire if I don’t watch out. I could use it for a facial, a massage, a mani-pedi, and I haven’t. So what’s stopping me?

In my bathroom there is:  toothbrush, face scrub, cold cream. My entire beauty routine!! I should probably be using anti-aging thises and thats, to trick Mother Nature and give me back a few years, but I don’t. So what’s the problem?

In my closet: a “gently used” pair of running shoes. And I do mean gently. I’ve gotten so out of shape that I huff and puff even bending down to tie the laces. So why aren’t I hitting the road?

I’ve thought about it a lot recently. I’d love to claim I have no personal vanity, but that’d be a huge whopper. Oh, I care how I look, all right…I just don’t want to put any effort into it. And to be totally honest, I have my physical appearance and my history of bipolar disorder inextricably intertwined in my head. You see, when I was at my worst I became completely obsessed with clothes and makeup. I got all dolled up to empty the trash, and took an inordinate amount of time primping before a trip to the grocery store.  I even wrote a poem about it, way back when:

A small part of my old cosmetic collection

Looking at our household budget
Over the last year
It wouldn’t surprise me
If the item purchased most
Was lip gloss
For so many years
I was an actress
Makeup was part of my job
And every single time
I couldn’t wait
To scrub clean after the show
It felt like magic
Here is the girl again
The real girl
Under the layers of powder and paint                       
I wake up
And so disappointed
My real girl isn’t in there anymore
Instead, I’m this--this
Same, sad, nasty, twisted thing
every day
I write a note
On my face
In thick black mascara
Please save me
In pinkest blush
I’m dying here
In the brightest blue eye shadow
And everyday
I sign it
With a slick red lip gloss kiss
So far no one has answered
Maybe tomorrow
I’ll use green eye shadow instead

Luckily, shortly after that poem was written I got the psychiatric help I so desperately needed, and for the past several years I have been on a pretty even keel. But there has to be a happy medium, right? I can spruce up a bit without being Maybelline’s Most Valuable Customer.  And trying to look my best on the outside doesn’t mean I’m hiding something shattered inside.

So I think I’ll set my alarm a little earlier tomorrow morning, and try to go for a run.  I might even slap on a little foundation and yes, lip gloss too, before I leave for work. And it doesn’t matter who sees me. I’ll do this for myself. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The ABCs of Us

Affirmation for Orchestra, the composition that got Sheridan an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer when he was 18.  Proud moment. 

Budapest: Julie’s latest stop on her backpacking trip. 10 countries by the time she’s through! How can Oreland possibly compare?

Julie and friends in Salzburg, Austria

C”: our nickname for my sis Carolyn. Best sibling and best aunt ever.

Delmarva: My favorite creation of my favorite husband. Steve as Cinderella’s stepsister still makes me roar after 30 years.

Enough cereal: There never was when they were growing up. And I’d buy five boxes at a time! Now our household has shrunk appreciably. Why hasn’t my grocery bill?

Francium: At USNA, Evan studied the nuclear structure of the isotopes of this element. Where did his brain come from? To me, francium sounds like something yummy from France.
Evan physics award Naval Academy 2008

Giovanni McMenamin. Otis Spunkmyer:  When she was little, these were the names Rose chose for her future children. Why do I think there’s a chance those are still her names?

History: PJ plans to teach it. Steve reads mountains of it. I am doomed to repeat it.

Intrepid: My children. I am very trepid.

Joanie: Mom’s been gone 7 years. When I miss her, I turn on Dr. Phil at full volume. Brings her right back.

Kitchen: We have the world’s tiniest. Yet when everybody’s home that’s where we gather.

Lacrosse: PJ eats and sleeps it, plays it even in Germany. Refs kids’ games, hopes to coach. Oh, did I mention he enjoys lax?

PJ playing for the Marburg (Germany) Saints

Music directors: Sher and Ya-Jhu each play organ and direct the choir at a different Lutheran church. Sunday afternoon chats involve sermons and hymns to a humorous degree.

Nature: Everybody in the family but me LOVES nature. I love to hike from the car to my front door.

Only child: What I’m sure each kid once in a while wished to be. They now love being part of a big family. Yay!

Piano: an important part of our home. After dinner was always melodious; the kids would play so I wouldn’t make them do the dishes!

Quiet, too quiet. What our house is, after so many years as a five-ring circus.

Rabbits:  Julie’s Stoli and Stevie. We miss them, sorta. For our next pet, I vote pet rocks.

Sound: Rose’s world as an audio engineer. Her work life is full of words that baffle me. I finally learned what a Foley artist is (Rose is!)

Rose's album cover

Taxi service: Steve’s. Available 24/7. To Trenton train station. Out for milk on a rainy night. Thanks, honey!

Underway: What I’m glad Evan no longer is, now that his submarine days are behind him.

Vegetarian: Seyfried fail. Rosie tried being one. Julie did too. Sirloin steak keeps calling my name.

Wonder: I am filled with it. Wonder where my keys are. Wonder where my shoes are.

Xtremely: xcited that we’ll ALL be together for Christmas.

Yaj: My daughter-in-law, brightens our lives just by being her sweet, talented self!

The kids in Lewes

Zilch: What my family could do to make me happier than they already do.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

We Are All Tattooed

I gotta tell you honestly, it took me awhile to get used to Rosie’s tattoo. I’d ridden with her through unusual
Rose's famous tattoo
hair colors and piercings of body parts I’d
always believed God never meant to have pierced (eyebrow, tongue). But this was different. This was permanent. Here's what Rose wrote for the NPR Studio 360 website feature "Occupational Ink":

In school for sound design and audio engineering, I had a professor who stressed the importance of "checking phantom power" (48 volts). To protect delicate microphones, he said, we would need to be careful about making sure the extra power supply was turned off before plugging them in. "If there's one thing you should tattoo on your arm, it's 'check +48V'"
So I did.
Now, living in New York, as an active engineer, my tattoo is a funny inside joke- and a reminder of how hard I've worked to realize my career dream

These days, several years down the road, I don’t even notice her arm adornment; or if I do, I recognize it as a familiar feature of an appendage I’ve loved Rose’s whole life.
In Costa Rica this summer, the kids loved it when we painted their faces. Mariposa (butterfly).

Costa Rica face canvases

Corazon (heart).  Granted, we used washable paint, and it all disappeared at bathtime. But the children wanted us to paint statements on them in bright colors: this is who I am, this is what I care about. They ran around giggling, delighted with their temporary tattoos.

I very much enjoy reading, and hearing, Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. This Denver-based minister leads her flock at the House for All Sinners and Saints. Hers is a really fascinating Lutheran voice. She’s a former stand-up comic, and a recovering alcoholic. She loves the liturgy. Her congregation is inclusive to the max. To her, God lives and loves and suffers with us. And Nadia has tattoos. Lots of them, all over. Religious, many of them. Her body is etched with the symbols of her faith.  I wonder (not really, I know the answer): would I be so bold as to be inked? (nah, too chicken of course).  And yet…

And yet. I AM tattooed. We are all tattooed. From the minute we are born, with our downy new baby skin. We have birthmarks, and then freckles. The little touches that help make us all physically unique. Later, our skin bears the scars of sun and of time. Each laugh line, every wrinkle, is a tattoo, an irreversible marking on our bodies. Some of us try to stave off our tattoos with sunscreen, or with Botox, but eventually the marks appear anyway.

So, what do our life tattoos say about us? That we are not blank canvases but full, rich ones. So let us celebrate the message we have for the world, spelled out on our flesh: we are here, living fully every amazing day that we’ve been given. At any age, we are God’s works of art. Beautiful and beloved. Just look at us!