Thursday, July 28, 2011

(For) crying out loud

Henry is just about 3, just a little jealous of Oliver, and just about as precocious, smart and verbal as they come at that age. His mood swings and string-pulling regularly put the patience of his mother (and father, aunts, and constantly-getting-pinched-and-sat-on brother) to tests equivalent to those of crash-test dummies ramming into windshields.

Typical toddler: adorable, unpredictable, changable, inspiring, exasperating.

Team loyalties still predictable
(if nothing else).

Tuesday afternoon, Missy and the boys planned to drive me the half-hour across town to catch my 5 o'clock flight home. As she fed Oliver and we looked at 10 minutes to necessary departure, Henry was just up from his nap and clearly out-of-sorts. I was trying to help him get ready, but he was not going to have diaper changed -- not from his mom asking him, not from me. Not going to not distract the distractable Oliver. Not going to let me get him a snack for the road. Not going to accept the choice of snack I gave him once he agreed to take the snack. Not going to put his Crocs on. Walking towards the door, telling us he indeed was ready to "rock-and-roll," then getting to the door and insisting he didn't want to.

The nadir came 10 minutes after we should have left: me on the stoop with my suitcase; Missy in the kitchen holding Oliver in his carseat; Henry fixed to the floor between us, sobbing -- ostensibly because his Teddy Grahams were cinnamon and not chocolate, but more likely for all sorts of internal reasons he doesn't know how to verbalize. Meanwhile, we were going to miss my flight. There was no choice but for me to lean over, scoop him by the waist, and forcibly lift and carry him the 40 steps to the car.

And right then, something in him shut off, as if he had been swaddled. He stopped crying. He didn't resist being strapped-in. He let Missy kiss him on the cheek and pat his hair.  We started backing out of the driveway when his little voice piped up.
"Mom?  I don't feel bad anymore. I feel better."

"I know, honey. Sometimes it just feels good to cry, doesn't it?"

And with that, he took a handful of cinnamon Teddy Grahams from the snack trap.

I was impressed by my sister's patience and her wisdom in letting a 3-year-old learn to deal with unspeakable emotions without punishment.

We could all be so lucky.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

And ... back.

 So.  I don't have many tales from Minnesota made for long telling.

Not that nothing happened. There was a family wedding and family singing and family walk-abouts and family debriefings, and toddler tantrums offset with unbearable cutenesses and Dr. Seuss, and training runs of 8, 6 and 4 miles, and approximately one ton of peanut butter consumed, as well as gallons of beer drank on patios and lawns under temperate skies and, blissfully, 3 out of 4 really satisfying nights of sleep.

Of course, this will not be one of them. I dozed for most of my airplane ride this evening, waking up only to notice a colorful sky to my left (see below) and my body thinks it's only 1:09 instead of an hour later. Not that either of these hours are particularly early.

Sunset over Lake Huron

I've convinced myself that adrenaline (of needing to dig through a full e-mail inbox and quarter-end reporting awaiting at the office) will carry through both a Wednesday acting suspiciously like a Monday and the feeling I just negated all my good relaxation and fatigue-busting.

Let's hope.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Away (hurray)...

... to see this little bugger and his brother 
and his parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents 
in a Minneapolis-land that has (amazingly) been a hotter place this week 
than the 90s we've been boasting about.

Aunt Karin -- 38.3 and silly.
Oliver -- 8 months, now w/teeth instead of teething ring.

There'll be tales to tell, no doubt.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wait for it. Really.

Tonight I'm sure I failed the BHI class.  (Even though it's against class rules to say or think negatively when a positive will do.) I was negative on the instructor's platitudes to the point of scowling, even as she smiled.  After scoring (negatively) high on 6 of the 10 irrational beliefs in the Beliefs Inventory, I suggested I didn't buy it, which elicted someone's suggestion that my attitude towards the test was overly negative, which did little but make me me resent the "work" I'll need to do to change those irrational beliefs. During Guided Imagery Meditation I struggled to ascend the mountain in my mind to find Wisdom because I was counting the minutes until we were called out; when I offered that Wisdom had appeared as a tall, bearded man who didn't share any Wisdom, it was suggested I had forced an ideal to appear, rather than letting it come to me in due time. Oy. (Harsh crowd?) But then. After class I introduced myself to the young Indian engineer who, earlier in the evening, said the high point of his day had been his morning marathon training run. I had just wanted to ask what race he was doing. I had no idea he'd want to talk animatedly at the exit for 45 minutes, illustrating calf stretches, outlining speed workouts and mental states at past Mile 20s, or shake my hand twice and say he can't wait until next week to hear how my training went over the weekend. He seemed as surprised as me that he had made a friend at BHI class. Of course, I thought, as the bike and I sped back across town to Sarah Vaughan's rip of "From This Moment On" on the iPod, giddy with the energy of the music and the exchange and the city at sunset. I had indeed been working too hard. When I made the tall bearded man appear I hadn't thought a lanky Indian engineer would take me out of my head and into ease without him (or me) trying. I hadn't wanted to wait for it. But I learned maybe I should more often. (Does that mean I didn't really fail the evening?)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Deep Thought: (No) Facebook break-ups!

The last time I wrote about my friend Dave in this space, 3 years ago, he had just met and fallen in love with a girl. 

We haven't been as close of friends since -- life has moved on, it has little to do with his falling in love -- so I've been unaware of the ins and outs of his daily life.

But I am Facebook friends with both he and his girlfriend. Which means I had to swallow my surprise a couple nights ago when Dave went from being "in a relationship" to "single." Several friends commented on this change:  "What?!" and ":-( ". 

His next 2 status updates have been, appropriate for a man who lives and dies for karaoke, song lyrics by Billy Joel"Honesty is such a lonely word."  Which in the song is followed by "everyone is so untrue."


Over on his girlfriend's page, she no longer shows the "in a relationship" status but is not advertising the change. In fact, she has a series of status updates featuring exclamation points and platitudes about how much she loves everyone she knows. Which of course could be ironic. But of course I'll never know, because she and Dave will most likely go on being cryptic until this plays out -- one obviously airing his heartbreak, the other obviously not, from which the casual reader such as myself can infer much but know nothing.

And don't get me wrong. I'm not asking to know anything. But they're putting it out there either because they want someone to ask, or because they are people who have shared intimate details of their lives on Facebook and will have to make this announcement in this space at some point .... in which case everyone would ask, and probably make them feel worse.

Which brings me to my deep thought of the day .... that a benefit of the inability to establish a serious relationship of any length is that I never have to break-up on Facebook.

Seems as if it kind of sucks.

(And Dave, if you're reading this, let me know how you're doing ...)

Monday, July 18, 2011

20-Minute Monday: Emptiness

At my BHI class last week one of my fellow attendees claimed that he, after 4 weeks of trying, has been unable to turn his brain off enough to meditate.

While I remember what that feels like, it occurred to me that just not thinking so hard about things has started to come more readily and more naturally to me.

Today, I zoned out at Singing Beach for several hours ... as in: I lay down on my towel, right shoulder to the ocean, left to the setting sun and the bluffs before it, skin damp with the heat below and cooled by the breeze on my back, and I turned my head to watch the waves and, I tell you now as I ride the train back to Boston in the murky dusk, that I do not remember what I thought, not one bit. I dozed off, yes, but not long enough to count, and the empty-brainedness disturbed me enough that I forced myself to sit up and face the ocean head on, as if really paying attention to the waves as they rolled noisily towards me would make me want to contemplate mortality or the lazy passing of yet another midsummer Sunday or guilt for simply doing nothing but finishing the BPL paperback and eating peppermints and Pringles at a time when I should be making bigger plans or, at the very least, staying home and buying fly paper to deal with the bevy of small pests I came upon this morning, left over from a Saturday of cutting fresh fruit when the patio door was ajar.

But I felt none of these things. The vastness, the endlessness, the possible overwhelmedness, didn't register. I began to wonder if it's possible to make one's mind so blank that inertia supersedes franticness and if for, at least a day, that's OK rather than a cop-out?

And I'd be lying if I didn't note that there are not one but 2 infants in this train car who seem to be up past their bedtimes, and I'm trying to figure out how a rocking train can't soothe a crying child more readily, and am mildly annoyed that the pink and grey sky out my window is being compromised by my annoyance, but also happy that my brain isn't as devoid of feeling or thought as I originally perceived. And occasionally I can find it in a happy medium.
-- Sunday, July 17 (8:20-8:40 p.m.),
on the Rockport inbound train

Friday, July 15, 2011


A few moments ago, a 37-y-o Available Man (i.e. attached but looking) from OKC wrote to say
"Hey Hun... :) Wanna check out a swingers party tonight?"
I probably won't write him back to explain that my schedule tonight is already full up with grocery shopping, making salsa and sangria and scrubbing the fridge. And I'm trying to get over going out (or making out) with Available Men.

It did, however, remind me of the movie Swingers, from 1996, about a pack of single dudes trying to find love among the "east side" of L.A. Written by my hero Jon Favreau, who spends the duration trying to move on from an ex-girlfriend, and co-starring Vince Vaughn (doing his best imitation of a tool) when his cheekbones were still visible. First watched with Joshua one of my first years in Boston. Eminently quotable; YouTube is overrun with people's posts of their "favorite scenes," almost so that you can almost reconstruct the movie if you surf long enough.

I thought about doing that, but instead am pasting the 2 I found hit my spot this afternoon. The first one, serious, featuring Favreau and his buddy (Ron Livingston), who's trying to help pull him out of his funk:
"You gotta let go of the past and Mikey, when you do, I'm telling you, the future is beautiful."

Then the closing, when Vaughn interrupts his friend's good news (he eventually gets over the ex!) to make contact with a woman across the diner he's convinced his hitting on him.

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

(True) public service

It's such a beautiful morning here:  breezy, sunny and blue, like an advertisement for a Triple A travel destination photo.

So, seems pointless to fuss about what makes my blood pressure rise today .... stubborn politicians being out-of-touch jackasses with little regard for anything but ideology.  I don't remember feeling this sincerely riled up about policy since Donald Rumsfeld was a daily news fixture. To wit, this exchange on Facebook yesterday with my former roommate, Tim:
Karin's Status: Oh, you congressional Republicans. Intransigence is always so sexy.

Tim's 1st Reply: Karin sending me running for a dictionary is always so sexy.

Tim's 2nd Reply: LOL and I am being sincere.

Karin's 1st Reply: Tim, why can't you be straight and rich?

Tim's Retort: I would be a republican and you would despise me. :-)

Karin's Sigh: I want to like Republicans. I really do. They just make it so difficult....

Tim's Affirmation: They sure do!
As a citizen watching our country in peril on a sunny Thursday morning, there's nothing I can do to effect the situation but gripe .... which, from my office chair in Boston, is hardly going to make Eric Cantor back down.

In the interest of things I can control ... let me reintroduce y'all to Storyhill -- a guitar duo from Montana, on my radar since 1996 when my sister sent me a mix tape.  Since then, I forever associate their sound with road trips, Minnesota corn fields, feeling relaxed and good.  I own their albums, met them at my 10-year college reunion (see below), saw them not once but twice at Club Passim in Cambridge, listen to something from them weekly.  They're still playing together.  They're possibly the nicest guys alive.

(Really. Their website says they just embarked on "A Prairie Home Companion's" cruise of Nova Scotia. What could be nicer than that?)

2005 ... with Chris and Johnny 
at the Plains Art Museum, Fargo ND

Yesterday, biking,  "Room In My Heart" showed up in the iPod rotation.  In my new quest for positivity, I noticed that the lyrics could apply to how a girl could choose to feel about a guy she once loved, and how not every current thought has to be a resentful one.  

Nice work guys, again.

Room In My Heart
There was a time I'd do anything for you
If your roses went blue I made them red
It's not that they're dead, but those flowers don't bloom
It's just empty wands instead

You should know wherever you go
If you're lost in the crowd
Or you're happy alone
You have my attention whatever I can do
There will always be room in my heart for you

Remember that day the moon blocked the sun
And we danced all around the backyard
Playing our past on the radio
Total Eclipse of the Heart

You should know wherever you go
If your head's in the clouds
Or you're stuck on the ground
You have my commitment whatever I can do
There will always be room in my heart for you
You should know wherever you go
I'll be waiting here

You know how they say the more things change
The more some things stay the same
Things around here got perfectly clear
The minute you went your own way

You should know wherever you go
Anytime of the day, any reason at all
You have my word whatever I can do
There will always be room in my heart
You should know wherever you go
There will always be room in my heart for you

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mild deception

"You look great!" was the first thing the nutritionist said at my appointment this morning, and I realized that a lime green dress against tan shoulders and a little yoga go a long way to hiding the fact that last night at 1:30 I was sitting cross-legged on my bed, hunched over a laptop, eating cheese sticks and Craisins and not in the least trying to sleep and not having an excuse not to, except for that craving I get most nights at 11 for an intangible that isn't food, although I like to throw food at it, which is just silly because Craisins (or cinnamon sugar by the spoonful or microwave popcorn) don't cure exhaustion or an undisciplined habit which, if I admitted it, only makes the craving worse because a tired girl who is forever tired might come off as a desperate girl who doesn't (know how to) make choices to make her more appealing, more chillaxing proactive, more forgiving, more focused, or more truly wanting to end it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

20-Minute Monday

One of the homework assignments for the BHI class this week was to spend a flat 20 minutes per day, 4 days straight, doing focussed, uninterrupted writing about situations of feeling "wronged." 

The purpose is to get on paper those circular thoughts pinging around in my head, distracting with their negativity. It's thought that if released and articulated, they do less harm and leave room in the head for something cleaner. Perhaps even a sense of resolution.

On Saturday, from my perch at Thomas Park, I went on a tear about how C-2 took our friendship to a new level, and then away, and then kinda-sorta-back and then away, and why I can't let go of him even when recognizing all this. 

On Sunday, I sat on the grass behind Castle Island, jets from Logan taking off overhead, and parsed out my resentment at yet another guy friend I once dated -- whose criticisms about my personality flaws wounded me when he made them and, months later, they still linger.

This deliberate stream-of-consciousness writing -- by hand and pen, for author's eyes only -- was a frequent exercise in writing classes of yore. The time limit cuts down on constant self-censoring. The quick-edit function of typing is banished.  Limiting the audience means limiting the thoughts of how the writing will be perceived.

My hand hurt when I finished, and I can't say I necessarily felt better griping on paper rather than just to my own consciousness. But it was true: seeing circular, persistent thoughts in word form does remove some of the abstract hopelessness they can carry.  Doing this the last 2 days, despite my resentment of the subjects, indeed did bring some sense of joy.


So, starting next Monday and continuing on subsequent Mondays until I lose steam, I will do just that for this blog - take 20 minutes and handwrite some aspect of the weekend -- positive or negative, depending -- then transcribe it for the screen.

Unedited, I promise.

(I'm also toying with the idea of asking if readers want to join me in this exercise and perhaps contribute for publication in this space. Let me know if this sounds plausible, feasible, or crazy.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saturday in the park

Here chronicled is
one girl's attempt
to photograph an
only-in-July blue sky,
the Victorian rooftops of Thomas Park
as seen from Dorchester Heights,
using a camera phone 
while holding the
one-legged one-armed

Right foot

Left calf

It was good for the core.
The day was meant to be captured.
And, why not.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Verdict: have more sex

I'm tracking calories these days on  Those of you familiar with Weight Watchers know that certain foods have certain point values -- which can be countered by certain physical activities with certain point values. Sometimes finding these point values involves research.

Today, while doing a Google to see what kind of calories a person can burn playing the piano (this site says 170 an hour), I accidentally typed into the search engine
"How many calories do you burn having sex?"
(Come on. Don't tell me you haven't wondered the same thing. Every time.)

Of course, such a number is going to be a moving target based on body types and types of actual movement, but I get the sense there is no way to calculate a good answer. The only close results seemed to be user-provided-content answer sites ... super reliable as they are. Like this example:
"About 4 and 5 calories per minute, but obviously it varies by how vigorous the sex is!"
I think this one from Yahoo! content was not really meant to be tongue-in-cheek, what with the scientific research seemingly involved:
"... the average person, according to webmd, is only capable of having actual "intercourse" for about ten minutes. Foreplay, for this same individual, usually lasts twenty minutes. So the total calorie burn while having sex should be around 30 minutes, especially if it happens every night. So ten minutes worth of sexual intercourse should burn around 58 calories while twenty minutes of foreplay should burn around 50 calories. So 30 minutes of sex for the average person should burn around 108 calories.

"I decided to find out how many calories I would burn just sitting on the couch so that I could see how many extra calories I would burn by having sex. Sitting on the couch, according to for the average person burns around 120 calories an hour. So thirty minutes of sitting on the couch would burn 60 calories, while 30 minutes of having sex would burn 108 calories. So the total amount of extra calories I would burn by having sex every day is 48."
(A statement both sobering, depressing, and relieving, if true, considering how much I sit on my couch.)

However, if you really want to get an accurate reading, do visit this site, which breaks it down into extremely specific movements and situations, for example:
By Location (ex. on bar stool = 20; in rear of Honda Civic = 38;)
By Noise (ex. low growling = 8; urgent begging = 22)
By Possible Side Effects (ex. sliding around = 9; whiplash - 27)
By Position (ex. standing, partners equal height = 18; woman 1-foot taller than man = 90)
Among many, many others, many much more graphic.  Read on only if you really want to know.

(And if you do, that's OK. I kind of did.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


The Wednesday-night class I'm taking this summer at the MGH Benson-Henry Institute is called the "Relaxation Response Resilency Program."  As I've mentioned in the past, a main component has been learning to use meditation and patterned breathing techniques in coping with stress, anxiety, insomnia and general lack of focus.

So far, so beneficial. Stopping to breathe and relax when I'd rather tell someone to f#$% off has been surprisingly revelatory; after a couple of weeks of forcing myself to think about doing it, like any learned behavior it now comes almost naturally. Indecisive driver in front of me? No middle finger extension .... if I were new to Boston, I wouldn't know where to go either. Piano Man pushing me away after inviting me to his room?  Well, of course, he's just eccentric and he can't help that and he's still a nice guy and, truth be told, I know it was best for me not to stay long anway.  Twenty-year-old OKC'r misspelling dirty chat requests? Ha, ha, ha, ha ... good for him, reaching out to others in such bold fashion!

As our facilitator Peg likes to say, "appreciate the role of positive thoughts and beliefs in support of mind body healing." A negative thought can easily be turned around with a deep breath and some forced empathy.

This way of thinking came in handy over the weekend when, coming out to my car for a Target run, I discovered one of my Southie neighbors had nothing better to do but destroy my driver-side side mirror with what appears to be a couple swift kicks.

I seriously did stop, breathe deeply, take a photo, collect the shattered glass off the street, and didn't at all even think the word F#$*. Honest.

A couple-hundred dollars in unanticipated expenses thanks to some lowest-common-denominators of the human race? 

Well, they could have smashed a windshield or slashed the tires, which would have been markedly more expensive. And even lowest-common-denominators have mothers who love them.

Monday, July 4, 2011


you have to admit 
it's a pretty fine view, 
as far as 
fireworks are concerned.

(Thanks, Claudia,
for living
on the 24th floor
in the Back Bay.)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday in Central

Hangin' at The Middle East, corner of Brookline and Mass Ave in Cambridge.

Late brunch choice: fool m'dammas, falafel and beef skewer for 7 bucks.
Weather:  79 and hazy outside, blissfully non-air-conditioned and dusky inside.
Best place to: sit and try to forget that an 8-mile training run in 79-and-hazy awaits.
Questionable soundtrack choice:  The Ronettes' "Frosty the Snowman."
Vibe: tattoed, fishnetted, vintage t-shirted, dog-friendly, Christmas-lighted.
Quality-ranking of people-watching out picture windows: Newbury Street doesn't hold a candle to Central Square.
Note to self:  belly-dancing offered here later tonight.  
2nd note to self:  why are there not more people here?
3rd note to self:  awesome there are not more people here.
Soundtrack (vast) improvement to: Nirvana, "MTV Unplugged in NY." From 1994. Best. Album. Ever.
Weather update: downpouring.
Quality-ranking of people-watching-out-picture window update: exponentially higher now that it's downpouring.
Sigh:    4-mile bike ride home and 8-mile training run still await.
Yet:  can't remember last time feeling this chilled-out.
4th note to self: come here more often.
And: post Kurt Cobain singing his acoustic cover of Lead Belly's version of "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," what he is singing right now, which is the best-ever depressing song that makes me happy ... for whatever reason that may be.