Sunday, January 31, 2010

I never thought I would be writing about Pam Begley...

I read somewhere recently that with winter come the angels. That the devil packs his bags and follows the heat south, to more fiery climes where passions are in full swing. And I’d have to agree that there is something about the winter that is so pure and so clear, that it does make one feel that angels are about. In weather this cold there is an emptiness – a silence as though all things trivial have washed away – that can cleanse us, and ready us for the bursting of life to come.

This week has been a strange and beautiful one, full in ways that I didn’t realize until I sat down to write. I fought a stomach virus all week – a virus not bad enough to keep me from work/kids/life, just bad enough to make me feel horrible while I trudged through it – and took no photos, so what is there to put in a blog? Fortunately – or not – my mind is always chugging away up there…

One thing on the forefront of my brain this week was the premature death – very premature, mid 40s – of a coworker from breast cancer. It’s hard not to be shaken up by the death of someone so young, but what is really scary is the possibility that it could happen to someone like Pam. The words vivacious and passionate come to mind, but not the vivacious that runs 10ks or the passionate that pickets for world peace. Pam was the vivacious that could entertain a full bar 4 nights a week without ever loosing her laugh, or ever making one of her regulars think she was not there for him/her alone. And Pam was the passionate that could throw fury your way like no other. And she threw plenty at me. There were times I wanted to jump over her bar and strangle her....

But I never did. Because she scared the shit out of me. And I guess that's it. Pam was LOVED. Loved by so many people. She could be kind and funny, and always full of life. She also had one foot dancing with the devil, and that is the reason I still can't believe she's gone. Pam was powerful and cunning. I really thought a spirit like that - even though it was at odds with mine on many occasions - was unstoppable. I was wrong. Sort of.

I only saw Pam a few times after she was diagnosed with cancer, and she was always very gracious. Friends told me that it had turned her life completely around and made her look at things in a greater light. In the three interactions I had with her, I sensed a gentleness to her that I previously hadn't noticed - except when she was with my children, with whom she was always very warm - and realized why so many people loved her the way they did.

I spent a lot of time this week trying to organize babysitters and school pick-ups for my kids so that I could attend Pam's funeral, but it all fell through in the end. I did run around and pull strings so that I could make it to the reception afterward though. I felt that it was really important for me to be there, which didn't make sense to me at the time, but does now. I only stayed for 45 minutes, but that was long enough. Being there, listening to Pam's music, watching her family and friends and decade long bar patrons eat and drink champagne, I finally felt a clear sense of something missing. Her laughter. Her presence. Pam's presence was bigger than anyone's I have encountered in my life so far, and it was gone.

I left with my little Ophelia in tow, and stepped out into a mild snowstorm. Wide, wet flakes everywhere, and I thought of the angels. How could they take someone who was just on the brink of starting a whole new life? And then I imagined Pam somewhere warm - Key West maybe - wine in hand, in the midst of some wild and animated story, the people around her all leaning in, anticipating her next words. And then she's laughing. Pam's spirit is unstoppable. I know somewhere she's laughing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy New Year!Bulleted List
It's been a good one for us so far (I'm knocking on wood) and I'm feeling pretty lucky. After all the craziness with buying this house and starting two new jobs, I'm finally starting to feel like I'm in the groove of things, and this month has seemed a little easier than the past few. Hopefully it keeps up through the year, and 2010 is good to us.

This is the first year (I think) that I haven't had any resolutions - which I'm finding to be a nice break. Maybe it comes with age - like knowing "yeah right, I'm never going to follow through with that"- but resolutions just seemed so bogus to me this year. I couldn't think of anything that I wanted to start doing on January first that I'm not already doing. So instead of resolutions, it's just moving deeper into things I'm already passionate about and working towards. It seems more realistic. Definitely more honest.


After our trip down to Philly, which for some reason flipped a "happy" switch in me, we unpacked, did some laundry, and packed up again to head down to our winter vacation in Holyoke! Yee-haw! We actually house/cat-sitted for some friends who were lucky enough to take a real vacation in California, while we enjoyed the urban (ha ha) life for a while.

It was really nice to get away from our house for a while, and just be able to relax in the evening (and watch as many of the movies in their amazing collection as we could) instead of doing projects. The kids got to play with lots of new toys, and everyone was happy!

We are also thinking about getting a cat, so it was nice to test the waters. And after cleaning up vomit, and cleaning out litter boxes and being in cat hair, do we really want to have a cat? It's a unanimous YES!

The best part about going away is always coming home. Sometimes it takes going away for a bit to appreciate how nice it is to be in your own space. And although everyone thought it was totally crazy for an entire family to house-sit ("isn't that usually a job for transients?") it was pure cleansing. Now we are totally motivated to get stuff done around here. Well, at least we were last week....

We have had one major change in our house though. We completely cleaned out the basement and are all sleeping down there now! Matty mentioned it as a possibility around Christmas, as a way for us to save on heat, and to get some stuff done upstairs while the kids are sleeping. He never thought we could get it done, but I ran with it, and here we are! Now we can turn the stove way down at night, and we don't have to worry about heating the bedrooms at all during the day. It was a little hard to get used to the light at first - even thought it's a glowing flame. I like dark! But other than that - and the fact that sometimes we're a little TOO warm at night - things are going well. But like Holyoke, this is good for the here and now, but it will be nice to move upstairs again in the spring.

Other than that, I've just been feeling really thankful for winter and all the fun that brings (even though it was 54 and raining today) and for all the friends we have here in the valley. Tree burning, night sledding, ice sculpting, dinner party with friends. We just feel so blessed to live in the place we do, and to have met the people we know.

And as a un-resolution, I resolve to be better about blogging from here on out. It's so much more enjoyable for me to write every week. Catch up is so quick and boring! (Unless it's catching up with our new walker/climber. Nothing boring about that!)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Year

Let me preface the best and funniest events of the last two weeks: One - it looks like I'm going to finish the regular season football pool in third place! That means I win money! That means that gambling to support my family IS a viable option. As soon as I get my winnings, I'm headed to Foxwoods... Two - after twenty years of using the name "chavallama" as my email address (and more recently, as the url for this blog) I was recently informed it means "call girl" in Spanish. I'm still laughing my ass off over that one. Call girl forever!

Anyway, the holidays. They always come and go so quickly. I had so much fun getting the house ready this year - I think I'm slowly going to turn into one of those people who starts decorating on Thanksgiving. We'll see.

Ophelia with the sticker for the tree stand, pointing at Matt's festive drink - "why can't I have one of those?"
Hey wait a minute? What's this?

Who can't love this time of the year. Emerson got almost everything she asked for - which wasn't much. I feel blessed to still have a daughter who has no idea about the mass consumerism of Christmas, and who is happy with only a few presents. She asked for some new dress-up clothes, as hers got ruined in our mold situation this past summer. Thus her Christmas outifit...

and her outfits for days later...

Emerson also asked for a headlamp, which she was fascinated with on our camping trip. Ophelia was fascinated too.

Emerson's self-proclaimed favorite gift was her embroidery hoop, which she has been asking for all year, and which cost all of five dollars - materials and all. Ahhh - simplicity.

And the concentrating face...
The final thing Emerson asked for was a plastic baby doll with no hair, whose eyes open and closed. Her best friend has one, and it is the much coveted item every time they play. She has a doll with long hair, but in her words, "she is a toddler. I want a baby like Ophelia." I was a little hesitant about getting a plastic doll, as we've been fostering the love for cloth dolls in our home, so I decided to compromise, and got her a cloth doll that could pass for a younger baby. Ophelia also loves babies, so I got her a heavy baby and left it unwrapped under the tree. Emerson saw it right away and asked to hold it. She showed it to Ophelia, who loved it.

and continued to unwrap presents, sure to find "her baby."

Well... Emerson's baby turned out to be a disappointment. Both to her and to Matt's dad, who bought her. Her she is playing with it the one time she did that day.
Emerson immediately claimed Ophelia's baby as her own. And that was that for the day.

Luckily, Ophelia has no idea who gets what. She spent most of her day tracking the headlamp, and turning up the volume and dancing in front of our new record player.

and stealing the baby too...
I went through mixed emotions that day. And there was a piece of me that wanted to go out and buy a plastic doll right away to make her happy. She asked for so little, I could at least give her that. But now I've decided to just let it sit for a while. Emerson has never taken to dolls right away, and now we have a lot of them in the house for both the girls to chose from. Emerson didn't get everything she wanted, but when she went to bed that night, she said to me, "Santa must have thought I was really nice this year, because he gave me, like, a million presents." I'll have to remember that when she's 14. It's hard to not give her exactly what she wants, but I also think it's an important lesson for her to learn. If she continues to want a plastic, no-haired baby, I'll give her one for her birthday. Waiting for things she wants is a good lesson too.

And although the past few Christmases I've felt joy in watching Emerson open her gifts, this year I actually was thrilled with my gifts. Aside from the record player, my mom gave the entire family a three month membership to the YMCA. So I will be spending the winter swimming laps and doing yoga - for free! The most awesome gift ever.

Christmas is so awesome - even more for the build up than the day. I love watching my kids happy, bringing Em to her first Nutcracker performance, all the decorating and anticipation. It's great.

Here is one last photo of Ophelia with her favorite gifts.

But the fun didn't end there! The next week we left for Philadelphia to ring in the New Year, and it was full of fun for everyone. Emerson stayed up until 2am New Year's Eve - holy shit - but most importantly it was just awesome to get away and see good friends. It's a great way to start the New Year.

Emerson had a sleep over with her friend.
Ophelia found a New Year baby,

and a friend her size.She's so cute!

Party girls.

Luna's Michael Jackson dance routine - he lives!
The ball drops...
The New Year baby makes its rounds,


Making noise in the streets.

And a new year is here.

And what is better on New Year's Day than a Mummer parade,

and a new favorite game.

Sigh. I'm going to bed.