Saturday, October 3, 2009

...been awhile...

It's been awhile... I have not felt in the blogging spirit really. The momentum of the house being built really gave this blog it's driving force. That momentum and the (nearly) daily celebration of that positive was a huge part of what got me through that really difficult time. As friends and family know, aside from the personal losses, we had a horrendous time with our insurance company. Unfortunately that battle is still not completely over and I hesitate to completely "out" that company's bad behavior publicly on the internet until we're completely done with them. But I digress...

I'm posting because I got a really sweet email from a blog friend checking in because I've been so quiet for a while...

Aside from the fire, losing my dad and dealing with this pituitary tumor have also, obviously, not been the easiest things to deal with.... and the "rebuilding" from these two things is not nearly as celebratory. I can't separate the pain from the "recovery" in either case, if that makes sense-- neither is the "recovery" so glamorous or exciting to blog about.

I can't really even put words to the loss of my dad right now...

I'm basically fully recovered from surgery- and while it was "successful" in that the tumor was removed and there were no complications etc. etc., my cycle hasn't returned and I'm feeling increasingly dismayed about that. I'll wait another month before going back for more tests etc., but it's all starting to get to me. The promise of starting a family is something I've looked forward to for years... and has been another thing that kept me going through these challenging times. Moving back into our house-- everyone (ourselves included) were saying well, now you need some happiness, you need some positive news, you need some little ones to fill those bedrooms!! Well easier said than done.. I guess... or something....

I'm hopeful and worried. I'm sad and optimistic. I'm really trying to be patient but at times feel disheartened. I worry that we may be at the beginning of a long road while being hopeful that I'm wrong.

...and I don't really know that this blog is the right place to go into ALL that....

Before I sign off I do want to be sure I'm not misunderstood-- I am happy. I am so in love with my husband. I am living in an absolute to-die-for house. I have the most wonderful family and friends. There is So much joy in my life-- the little things like baking croissants, planting bulbs, teaching piano lessons, entertaining friends.... Please don't think I'm lying in bed with the covers pulled over my head lamenting about my woes! I like to think I have strength of spirit-- not intrinsic, maybe, but I've found it thanks to my husband, friends, family.. and- honestly- thanks to the challenges thus far. So maybe I'll pop back on to post about a dinner party or when I get the sewing machine up and running for the winter or hopefully (pls cross your fingers, toes and braid your hair) with some baby news someday.......

until then....



Sunday, August 30, 2009


Well, this blog is officially ALL OVER THE PLACE. It is struggling to find a new identity to reinvent itself, to figure out what it story really IS.... (not unlike myself of late.. .but i digress...). This weekend's forecast was rain rain rain. The effects of hurricane Danny(?). So I decided to make croissants. This was a three day affair-- as you'll see me in three different outfits. haha. I am so proud of the results. The taste test is tomorrow, but they look convincing and the whole house smells like a Parisian bakery!!

To make croissants, you must first make a yeast dough and a butter block. No joke, a BLOCK of butter. These are both refrigerated for hours so they reach the same temperature before you start rolling them out together and folding them (quite a labor of love, I must say).

Here you will witness the "first turn":

Removing the butter block and dough combo from the fridge..

Here I'm talking to dear husband saying "don't take a photo yet.. I'm just taking it out of the fridge!!"

Again, dear husband does not take heed, and snaps a photo of the dough transfer from cookie sheet to counter top.

The second turn being caught on "film"!

So after multiple "turns" which is basically rolling out the dough, then folding it like a letter, refrigerating it for hours and rolling it out again, folding it again etc.... Then it had to sit in the fridge for a number of hours. Luck would have it, today the rain cleared so we went to the pool! I came home in a frenzy to complete my croissant adventure tonight. I had to do the final roll-out and shaping of croissants in my bathing suit!!! haha.

I was worried that my inaugural croissant dough may have lacked in butter/dough layers. When I do it again I may take a different approach to the butter block. That said, I though my poor attempt at croissants might benefit from a filling! I whipped up an almond "fragipane" to wrap inside each one...

You then have to "proof" the croissants in a warm oven with a dish of steaming water for an hour and a half. The dough rises/expands and here's what they look like:

They are starting to look convincing!

Into the oven they go....

Wow, not that bad!!!


I am so pleased with the results. Tomorrow will be the true test-- an actual tasting! ... but I must say they look and smell very legitimate! We'll see how they taste and next time I'm thinking pain au chocolate or those lovely puff pastry elephant ears.... hmmmm....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Laughing out loud

I'm here with my morning coffee and blueberry/yogurt/granola breakfast. It's 10am. Even though I'm about 90% at this point, I took this week off as vacation to save myself from commuting and take it easy. Turns out this "staycation" is the perfect medicine. I love waking up late, but in our very own bed in our new bedroom in our new house. It is so lovely to spend time here and really enjoy it. ...and I've also been catching up a bit on my blog reading.
Which leads me to why I'm posting. My most dear bloggy friend, Joan, at For the Love of a House just posted that today is her husband's birthday. This post has enlightened me on how some bloggers refer to their spouses. I've always gone with "dear husband" or M., but Joan informs that some bloggers go with Mr. Name-of-Blog. In Joan's case this would be Mr. FLOH. I left her a little comment signed with this new nomenclature and just about fell on the floor laughing when I realized that M. and I are Mr. and Mrs. HOT.

That might be a keeper... too funny.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Built ins

Anthony came and finished the built ins the other day. I'm still playing around with what to put on the shelves but I'm so happy with they way the turned out. If you recall, this particular builtin was not in the original plans... but was a brainstorm of Anthony's to cover up the pipe you see in the photo (from January!) below.
In order to disguise the pipe which was too big to fit in the ceiling area, Anthony had two ideas. One was to do a tray ceiling in that area. We decided against this because we wanted continuity between the kitchen and dining room areas. The other option was to "beef" up that wall a little bit and add a built in around the window. I am so happy we went with this option. I think it looks fantastic!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Part One- something wrong.

In November 2007, five days after our second anniversary, our house burnt down. A year later, the new framing and siding had gone up and we were assured that we would be able to move in come spring time. So, on our third anniversary, we symbolically threw away the rest of my birth control pills and looked towards the future of getting back home, starting a family and getting on with our lives. My obgyn warned that it could take up to three months for my cycle to become regular, so while I was disappointed at the negative hpts; I wasn’t worried that my period hadn’t come.

A little over three months later, though, and still without a period, I called her to express a bit of concern. Over the phone, she asked if I was sure I wasn’t pregnant (I was sure) and called in a prescription for Provera. Meanwhile, I had done some research online about the causes/treatments for amenorrhea (okay, extensive research). From this, I knew that Provera was basically synthetic progesterone which causes one to shed their uterine lining (producing a period) assuming that enough estrogen was present to have built the lining up. I had also read horror stories about the side effects of Provera and was uncomfortable with introducing more synthetic hormones into my body when the whole point was to get my body functioning normally. I researched the dangers of not getting your period which are related to low estrogen—basically osteoporosis and heart disease. From what I understood these become problematic over long periods of time without menses so a few months didn’t mean my body was in major danger. I speculated that maybe the reason I hadn’t gotten my period was the excessive stress from having our house burn down and having to deal with the nightmare of our insurance claim, moving around etc. I did more yoga, went to bed early, tried to be good to myself, I even tried five weeks of acupuncture (yes, acupuncture and I HATE needles!!!). We eat mostly organic foods but I switched to eating only organic for a few weeks.

In the middle of May my father passed away.
It had now been seven months without a period.
I felt some silent clock ticking.
I started the Provera.

I didn’t have any of the awful side effects I had read about like raging mood swings, terrible cramping, heavy bleeding… but I also didn’t get my period. I called my obgyn who said to wait another few days that it could take up to a week after stopping the Provera. I waited- even while knowing myself enough to know nothing was coming. A few days later I called the doctor back again. She asked if I was pregnant. No. She said, “Well, we’ll put you back on birth control pills for a month.” When I questioned that she said, “Well we can try straight estrogen and then the Provera again.” When I questioned that further she said, “Well, I’ll mail you a script to have blood work done to check your hormone levels.” Though we finally arrived at a plan that made sense to me, I was skeptical that I had been the one to guide us to that point, that she had not called me in for an office visit but was prescribing things over the phone, and that 90% of my understanding had come from my own research not from my doctor’s explanation of what might be going on/why she was prescribing what she was prescribing.

M. and I agreed to get another doctor.

A short aside— I’ve come to learn that New Jersey hospitals have notoriously high rates of caesarians and other interventions in childbirth. The national rate for caesarians is a shocking 31% (medically justifiable rate set by the WHO is 10-15% based on a 2007 study in which higher rates of morbidity were found with rates below 10% and higher than 15%). The hospitals closest to us in NJ have rates in that range and higher—one at just under HALF of all births! Also the use of Petocin (to induce labor) is so common around here that I actually do not know of a single recent mom who was not given Petocin. I think we are very lucky to have these sorts of medical options when they are truly needed but I am increasingly skeptical of the prevalence in which they are used. In looking for a new obgyn therefore, I emailed a handful of doulas to see who they’ve worked with and been happy with—who they would recommend as a doctor who supports natural childbirth….

Through this, I found a new doctor with the first name Fred. I’ll call him Dr. Fred.

Dr. Fred was night-and-day compared to my old obgyn. One half-hour appointment and he explained everything in detail to me and talked through the shaping diagnosis. He said that since I had been totally regular while on the pill that I did not have an ‘outflow’ problem. Since I didn’t bleed on Provera it was clear that I didn’t have enough estrogen present… but the question he needed to figure out was what was preventing my estrogen. During the exam, he was able to express some liquid from my breasts which came as a huge surprise to me. Immediately he suspected that my prolactin might be elevated and ordered bloodwork and an MRI. He explained that there was probably a small tumor on my pituitary gland called a prolactinoma which was secreting prolactin (the hormone responsible for milk production) and that this would explain my loss of periods. He assured me that this was essentially never cancerous and while it sounded scary it would be fully treatable with medication.

Sure enough, when the bloodwork came back, all hormones were in the normal range except for prolactin which was elevated at 61. I scheduled an MRI and started Cabergoline which reduces the prolactin levels and shrinks a tumor that’s producing prolactin.

The MRI was scary for a girl like me who’s not a fan of confined spaces and hates needles. They had to do it with and without contrast which means ¾ of the way through they start an IV that injects dye into my bloodstream to my brain. On the suggestion of a friend, I asked my doctor if I could have some valium before the MRI and I highly recommend this to anyone who’s nervous about this sort of procedure. I was worried that the valium might make me really loopy or dopey, but in fact it just leveled out my nerves so that I didn’t feel like my heart would come pounding out of my chest and I would go running for the door. Another good suggestion I followed was to keep my eyes closed starting immediately when I lay down and did NOT open them until it was ALL over. That way I never really saw how confined the space is. Lastly, I kind of just focused on the sounds coming from the machine which were actually (and maybe the valium helped) kind of amusing and entertaining. All in all the MRI was not the most fun way to spend a morning, but not as bad as I had feared.

Dr Fred’s office called on Friday-- the Friday before the forth of July when many (myself included) were off work. I was out shopping for perennials when they called. Mike answered and they asked if we could come in. Mike reached me on my cell phone. Being called into the doctor’s office on the beginning of a holiday weekend to review results of an MRI was a little disconcerting to say the least. M. and I went over together. Dr. Fred greeted us with the MRI summary in hand. He said that as he expected there was a tumor on my pituitary gland however, it was larger than what he had anticipated. He said rather than it being a micro adenoma which is under 1cm, this tumor was a macro adenoma of 1.1cm. Dr. Fred was reassuring that this was just over the distinction for a macro adenoma, but never the less advised us to make an appointment with a neurosurgeon.

It is amazing to me that within two days, Dr. Fred had a solid diagnosis and proposed treatment plan. While a pituitary tumor was certainly the last thing I would have though was causing my amenorrhea, I do feel like my other doctor should have been more pro-active about the diagnosis. Lesson learned here is to do your own research- especially since the internet offers such a wealth of information. Secondly, don’t hesitate to switch doctors or see someone else. I think I may write a letter to my old obgyn—not to be accusatory, but just to outline why I left their practice and what my ultimate diagnosis was. Maybe next time they will err on the side of caution to complete a full diagnosis instead of a hit-or-miss prescription of hormones.

*to be continued*

Sunday, August 9, 2009

update and trees

I'm home from the hospital. Surgery was successful from what I understand, but recovery is going to be more difficult and longer than M. or I had anticipated. The pain is bearable (and the meds help) but I feel like I've been hit by a truck-- flat out exhausted. Basically I'm alternating between the sofa and bed-- reading, emailing, mostly sleeping... with the occasional lap around the kitchen island.

I'm realizing it'll probably be at least a week maybe two of this... which is kind of a bummer...

It does give me time, however to write/post on how I found out about this pituitary tumor and about the experience of surgery. Though it may not hold the same interest as paint colors, light fixtures or chandelier shades for those who check in here, it's possible that a sister or friend of yours might have similar symptoms some day or that someone may happen across this blog while doing a search for pituitary tumors. I am amazed at the sharing of information online and how helpful it was for me as I dealt with the diagnosis and the preparation for surgery... so I hope to give back a little of the same.

In the meantime-- and more in the spirit of this blog-- we had two trees planted yesterday. It was perfect actually because even in my diminished state, I propped myself up at the window and watched them as they dug the holes, set them in and mulched around them. It's special because we'll always remember exactly when they were planted and I am Thrilled with them and the thought of them setting down their roots deep and strong and reaching towards the sky.... just as M. and I will continue to do now home on Tallmadge.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Getting crafty- chandelier shades

Distracting myself with the pleasures of home decorating for a moment...

I knew that I wanted chandeliers in the kitchen from the beginning- loved the elegance that they imparted to an otherwise utilitarian space. I was very happy with the ones we found- the sizing was right, the oil rubbed bronze fit in with everything and even the glass details picked up the glass cabinet knobs. That said, I was not thrilled with the way the bare candle bulbs looked...

Hence my latest craft project. Did you know they make chandelier shades that are especially for covering them in your own fabric? So exciting!
That said, it was WAY more labor intensive than I had anticipated. After employing a slightly different technique for each of the six shades, I still don't feel like I "have it down". The shades have a template that you peel off to reveal a sticky surface; I used the template to cut the fabric with a bit of overhang, but the trick/problem was making that overhang look good. The hot glue gun was imperative. At first I free-handed folding it over and securing it, but later tried the iron to crease the fold...

From a distance, they look good to me!

Up close, I see a million little flaws. There is no denying that these are handmade. Still, it's fun that we could choose our own fabric and ribbon and was still probably more cost-effective than buying each shade for $20 or more(!).... so maybe in a few years I can justify changing out the shades and work on perfecting my technique! In the meantime, I'm very happy with the way they turned out.

I do want to add another grosgrain ribbon around the top of each shade.... I just ran out of ribbon!

thank you.

I have been reading and rereading the incredibly kind comments from my last posting. I have been so skeptical of the Internet as a social platform because I feel that people so often underestimate the public nature of everything from blogs to facebook and run the risk of sharing too much. With that said, I think I'm slowly starting to feel that the the pitfalls of sharing too much are actually outweighed by the benefits of having a wider network than one would otherwise have....
For example, I came across a couple of online support group/message boards for people with pituitary tumors(!) I casually perused the message board and came across someone who had many of the same symptoms as I did.... I decided to email her and we've been exchanging emails back and forth-- turns out she is about my age and a public school teacher in Brooklyn. It's been really nice to email with someone (even a stranger!) who is going through the same thing right now. I actually emailed her the list of questions I made and brought to my surgeon/endocrinologist so she could bring it along to her appointment and we've been exchanging info on the various NYC doctors.
... and while I hesitated to post anything about this on my blog, I'm happy that I did. Selfishly because I really do read through the comments when I'm feeling discouraged or down-- but also because maybe months or years from now someone will be newly diagnosed with this and looking for information or advice or a sympathetic ear....
With that in mind, I will continue to post about this pituitary tumor thing until it's (hopefully) resolved... but I wanted to say a sincere, heartfelt thank you to everyone that has left a comment-- it really has raised my spirits and bolstered my strength.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Feeling blue

Again I've let a terrible amount of time go between posts. I'll cut right to it- two weeks ago I found out that I have a pituitary tumor. The good news is that these are almost always benign. The bad news is that they grow and start messing around with your hormones and impairing your vision. Needless to say I'm still reeling from the news. The past few weeks have been blood work and and MRI and this past week consults with two different neurosurgeons. Yesterday I called to schedule my surgery which will be August 5th- about three weeks from now.

Even though the surgery is straightforward (as far a brain surgery goes), I'm still really scared. And while I hate being like this, I sometimes feel like calling "mercy"- to whomever is calling the shots because I feel like I've done a pretty good job of generally holding it together through the difficult times this past year... and now this. After the fire, really until we moved back home, I felt so distant from "normal" life... like on a completely different plain of existence than everyone else just going about their business. Being present for my father's final days and losing him.... it was maybe even more so- just so detached from the life that everyone else was living. I was just beginning to feel like I could emerge from that space back into the 'real world' when I got the news of this.

I can't really group any of these things together. They all feel so different but that feeling on the outside of life, looking in (or maybe the other way around) is similar. I happened upon a quote the other day, "life's beauty is bound to its fragility" and that resonated strongly with me.

I feel out of sorts... I think I will until the surgery is over. To cope, I've promised myself lots of gardening and lots of yoga. Today I bought delphiniums and hydrangeas to plant. Gardening is wonderful work- it's artistic, it's exhausting, it's rewarding.. but behind it all is a connection to life and that delicate balance between what one can control and what one can't. There's beauty in that balance. Yoga is similar. It's about accepting what "is" and living within it.

Life hasn't been so easy lately, but life is beautiful. I am profoundly lucky in so many ways and I know I'll get through this next challenge... but wanted to explain why I've been and will be absent from here for a while.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


The colors appear a little bright in this photo... but here is the wreath on our front door. Turns out the black front door looked a little severe; it definitely needed something to soften it. I've been on the look our for wreaths and haven't seen anything I liked that wasn't so $$$. Well, one trip to Michaels solved that. The grape vine wreath was $3.99, the flowers were about $2. (Ribbon I had already and played around to make a pretty bow) Long story short-- for under $10 we made a pretty little wreath and I'm especially excited that I'll get to change out the decorations with the season!

Friday, June 19, 2009


We did it-- we grew a lawn!!! There are definitely an inordinate amount of weeds (less visible in this photo) but we're working on it. Also I planted some impatients around the holly and it looks quite nice. We're hosting a neighborhood get-together on July 4th weekend with TONS of kids. I'm relieved that the lawn is buffed up enough to withstand all their little feet running around!
This was how it looked just two months ago!In other planting news-- the East of Eden rose I planted in one of the boxes off the deck has the most beautiful flowers now. They are these heavy full roses that just look so romantic. Here are a few that are peeking through to "our" side of the deck.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

House updates

I realize what a long while it's been since I posted photos. Since my last house post- there's a handful of finishing touches that have been completed- both by our builders and by ourselves. First the kitchen:

The backsplash is complete. I'll admit, I wasn't in love at first sight, I don't dislike it- but it didn't really add anything for me. That said, dear husband loves loves it-- so I'm not giving it a second thought. We also lowered the chandeliers a bit-- I'm working on little shades which I think will soften the whole room. I also need a window treatment for above the sink.
Dear husband also chose the fabric for behind the desk and I think he did a fabulous job. The fabric covers what is essentially a bullitin board material so we can tack up memos or calendars or (someday) kids drawings behind the desk. (Right now the fabric looks so pretty I don't want to poke anything into it, though!) I'm thinking I might see about using a bit more fabric to cover up that switch plate..... I don't think the top of the desk was stained when I last posted and so that looks very nice- it compliments the floor and the chairs that are at the island.
We've also made some progress in the living room. Here the tile work around the fireplace is complete and this I LOVE. What's funny is that dear husband isn't as wild about it, so we joke that the backsplash is "his" and the fire surround is "mine". I'm just sooo happy with the way it turned out. Another side chair arrived (the cream colored one in the corner) which is nice because it's another comfy place to sit. Actually I'm sitting in it currently with my feet on the leather cube! The mantle is Very Much a work in progress- so just ignore that for now....

Lastly is the music room. The color in these photos is a little off and the room is small enough that it's difficult to photograph... but we took the rug from upstairs and moved it to under the piano which really ties the room together.
...and here you can see the built ins are finally complete (except for cabinet knobs). I'd like to get (or make) a little cushion for the bench, but already the bench was in use this morning by mother and son while I taught daughter her lesson.

It's interesting that which each little step forward, the house before seems so empty, new, and cold. It's nice to warm up all these spaces with little finishing touches. More to come!



Friday, June 12, 2009

Father's day.

It has been awhile.. okay, a long while since I've posted. My father passed away on May 17th. When you lose someone you love so much it's like the whole world goes into "shut down" mode.... and everything still feels completely upside down. I find myself tentatively stepping back into aspects of my life- because re-starting each is an acknowledgement of things going on- without dad- and I still just can't quite come to terms with that. Blogging is especially strange because this blog has, for me, been such a celebration of optimism and forward motion with rebuilding our house and also because many if not most of the people who check in here are people I've never met in person so to share this deeply personal time is somewhat strange.

I spoke at my father's memorial a week ago. I had to prepare something. At first I was so completely overwhelmed- how could I possibly summarize in a few paragraphs, a few minutes, everything that Dad was and meant to us. Realizing that there was no way or expectation to do that... I sat down to write and it was one of those uncanny times that it just came together. I feel like in order to move forward with this blog I need to acknowledge this incredible loss in my life..... I don't know how to do that really... but I think the worst way would to be inauthentic, forced. So at the risk of being too personal, I'm going to post what I read at my dad's memorial because I feel like it best captures him and me and what an incredible man and father he was.

(my parents on my wedding day, November 2005)

Some of you knew my father for many more years than I did, but I’m one of the very select few who can say that I knew him my whole life. I feel so lucky to be the daughter of Peter Gray…. Particularly because as I understand it, he didn’t intend to have kids! Before they were married, he confided this to Mom, who, I imagine, gave her understanding and reassuring nod. A few years into their marriage, however, she presented him with a proposal- literally, on poster board- which lauded all the benefits of having children including, “Someone to bring you your slippers after a long day!” The presentation must have been compelling because here I am-- and seeing as my little brother came along a few years later, I take a certain pride in having further convinced my dad on the benefits of having children… of course, the other argument would be that I didn’t adequately fulfill my slipper-bearing duties, so they had to try again.

Dad was a phenomenal father from the beginning. He was in between jobs when I was born and reportedly put a call from a prospective job on hold, explaining that he was in the middle of changing his daughter’s diaper. (He got the job offer). Maybe that experience reinforced his natural instinct to put his family first because, as his family, we certainly always felt that way. Though my father spent many nights and weekends working up in his study while listening to WQXR or the opera, the door was always ajar—and my brother and I knew that we could knock softly and enter if we needed anything- a snack, to show off a new dance move, or for Dad reconcile one of our sibling disputes. Dad never missed a dance performance or school concert. He sat through hour upon hour of music recitals beaming with pride, he helped us decorate our bikes for the forth of July parades, went camping with the cub-scouts, put up with the giggles and gossip from my middle school slumber parties, read us bedtime stories, comforted us through late night thunderstorms, and bandaged up our skinned knees.

Dad always had a smile for his kids. Even as his illness progressed and he was unable to speak much, if I prompted, ‘I love you daddy” he wouldn’t skip a beat to respond, “I love you too kiddo.”

My dad had good veins and strong hands. He had thick hair with just a few touches of grey. He had “Gray family” eyebrows but only grew a beard once, when we were very young and he was in bed with pneumonia and unable to shave. My dad had soft brown eyes. He wore a suit and tie exceptionally well and his shoes were always polished. My dad smelled like Old Spice. His handwriting was not good, but I like to think that was expressive of his brilliance. My dad enjoyed good food and fine wine, but relaxed with a beer. He was not very good at braiding his daughter’s hair, but he tried once or twice to please me. My Dad broke his toe trying to teach us kids how to do a headstand in the den one night after dinner. He was always level headed- I can’t remember ever once hearing him raise his voice in anger. He was incredibly patient- even when attempting to teach his headstrong 16 year old daughter how to drive stick-shift in an old Volvo station wagon that kept stalling in traffic. My father loved music—one of my favorite childhood memories is him and my mom playing piano together in the living room and I remember them getting dressed up and leaving us with babysitters so they could go to their subscription at the New York Philharmonic. My dad walked me down the aisle and danced with me at our wedding. He was handsome, polite, and happy. My dad was also- hands down- the smartest man I’ve ever met.

No question- I only got through trigonometry and calculus with his help. At Exeter the math curriculum was taught without any kind of text book- as students, we were expected to deduce the theorems from the problems the teachers assigned to us. I’m sure my father would have excelled in such a curriculum, but I struggled a bit. Lucky for me, somehow dad and I coordinated a few 6am phone calls: Me, calling from the payphones in the dark echoy basement of my dorm and Dad patiently walking me through various problems between mouthfuls of cornflakes before he headed off to work. I even remember one especially difficult weekend of homework where Dad faxed some of his diagrams to a place in town so we could be looking at the same thing as we talked. My dad was super smart, but he also had a true gift for teaching. If I didn’t understand it one way, he would try another approach and another… until I got it. Then, to test my true understanding, he would have me “teach” it back to him.

When I was home on breaks from high school and college, Dad would schedule a time where just he and I would go out for lunch. These were some of my most treasured times because it was just the two of us and always gave me incredible insight into all the big questions of that time. Dad had a unique talent of framing an issue. After I poured my tangled teenage heart and soul onto the table, he would start, “What I hear you saying is this….” And somehow repeat all the key points of my tirade in a clear, sensible outline which suddenly brought the issues into focus for me. I remember one particular lunch when I was agonizing over whether or not to go to music school. Dad said something to me that one can only make a decision based on the information one has at the time. As such, there can be good decisions that have bad outcomes and “bad decisions” with good outcomes. In other words make the best decision you can and don’t obsess too much about the outcome. He also said sometimes you just go with your heart.

The support of my father to go with my heart was one of the greatest gifts and I imagine that my brother feels the same way. His wisdom in this matter allowed us to pursue our education, our passions, our dreams and even lead us to finding spouses with whom we share the same kind of loving marriage we witnessed between our mom and dad.

When we were young, each night after the full bedtime routine- baths, stories, songs, and kisses- we developed a little tradition in our family. After tucking us in, but before leaving us completely, Mom or Dad- or sometimes both- would call up from the landing on the stairs, “I’m at the bottom!” My brother and I, in unison, would call from the darkness of our bedrooms, “Goodbye, goodnight, and I love you. Sweet dreams, sweet dreams, sweet dreams and what can I think about.” Mom and Dad would then call back from the light of the landing, “Goodbye, goodnight and I love you. Sweet dreams, sweet dreams, sweet dreams….” and give us something to think about as we drifted into sleep—maybe what our Halloween costumes would be or what our favorite ice cream flavor was or our spelling words for that week, or all the places in the world we wanted to visit…

I can’t imagine never hearing my dad’s voice again… but that’s one of the things I can still hear him saying so vividly... and it’s been kind of going around and around my head lately as if there’s some voice in my head that keeps calling to my dad, “Goodbye, goodnight and I love you, sweet dreams, sweet dreams, sweet dreams…” and when I tune into it, I can just hear him saying it back to me knowing he gave us a whole lifetime of things to think about.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Time out

I've been sporadic with blogging of late, but this is an official time out for now.

My father who has been ill for many years with what was diagnosed as an unusual presentation of Alzheimer's had a severe decline this last week. He now bedridden and not really eating or drinking. My brother has flown in from San Fransisco. I've been in CT with my family.

It is so heartbreaking.

I am so thankful that mom and dad made it to our house for easter. I am so thankful for having such amazing love in our family.... Everything feels so upside down. We're all sad and numb and tearful and doing our best to make sure dad is comfortable.

When I was little, we would vacation on Martha's Vineyard. My father loved to sail. He would take my brother and I out in the little sunfish individually and teach us some basics. He instructed me on how to deal with a change in wind, how to change the course of direction, how to travel upwind. His large hand atop mine on the rudder he would cue, "Ready about?" Gleefully I'd yell out 'Helms-a-lee!" and together we'd push the rudder away, duck our heads as the boom swung over us and the sail flapped in the wind before filling again with air to pull us in another direction.

Lately, these sorts of memories have flooded my mind and this is one that's stuck. I think because my father always looked so happy with the sun and the salty sea air in his face. I can picture the way his eyes smiled as he gazed out at the ocean or back on shore where my mom and brother would give us goofy waves. That was a perfect time and I like to daydream myself back there, wishing that changing course was as easy now.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dinner Party

We had a dinner party on Saturday with some close friends. It's fun to get the house all ready for guests. We decided to throw a table cloth on the table for this event and I bought some white tulips.

As we were expecting about ten people, we also set up the table outside!

Dear husband was excited because he got ALL six burners going preparing for dinner.

We planned a "pasta bar" dinner with three different serve-yourself pastas: linguine in a clam sauce with clams and shrimp, penne with lemon pesto and salmon, and campanelli with sausage in a garlic basil pink sauce. We also made a big salad and had fresh baked rolls and freshly grated cheese. It was a hit! Here we are with Brian who used his artistic talents to label the pastas dear husband created.
Brian's daughter is Chelsea. She's sixteen and has become a good friend. Here we are before we made whipped cream for dessert. Chelsea is going to both junior and senior prom this year and sews her own dresses for these events-- how cool is that?! I threatened posting this photo to facebook and she made me smile by saying, "Great, I'll tell my friends that that's a photo of me with my cool friend that can do everything." I said, "What do you mean, I can do everything?" She said, "Well, you can drive... you own your house... you can go to bars...." It really made me laugh. (and feel old! ;)
Dinner worked out perfectly-- some of us sat inside, some out. As it was getting a bit nippy, for dessert, (chocolate cake with whipped cream, strawberries, and choc. chip cookies!) we all came inside-- here's a shot of the table: Counter-clockwise from the head of the table: Brian; Anthony's wife, Megan; Dear Husband; Brian's dad, Richard; my piece of chocolate cake waiting for me!!; Brian's daughter, Chelsea; Brian's mom, Iona; Brian's wife, Janet; Anthony.

After dinner we all played Taboo. What a fun game! Here's dear husband and Janet. Janet took her clue-giving very seriously.

Anthony kept saying the keywords that you're not allowed to say. We were all laughing throughout:

I think Brian's parents had a good time with the game. Brian's dad, Richard was really really good at giving clues!

Would you believe the sixteen year old was the first to poop out?! Chelsea! You can see she was winding down in this photo (with her chin on our coffee table). As for dear husband and I, we didn't get to bed until after 1am!!! Unprecedented-- we don't stay up that late on New Years! It means it was a really fun party.
Did I mention that Brian is the architect that designed our house and Anthony is our builder? I am so incredibly grateful to have met such amazing, wonderful friends through the crazy experience of having to rebuild our house... and look forward to many more celebratory gatherings.

I pulled Brian aside at one point and said, "See? Is this totally the vision you had-- here we are entertaining- M's cooking up dinner, but we're all still a part of the party, in this gorgeous open-floor plan space...." Brian said, "Julia, it brings tears to my eyes; I couldn't be happier for the two of you." How's that for a good friend?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Few updates

The exterior of the house is looking better and better. Our front walkway (bluestone) was laid about a week ago, I've planted some of the herb seeds in the front beds and outlined them with little stones for now so I could see where I planted what.
Our driveway was paved yesterday and you can see the faint hue of Green grass(!!!) that's germinated on the front lawn. Dear husband and I were up at 5:45 am to make sure we got the obligatory 20 minutes of watering before the 93 degree heat hits today. In this photo I'm holding up the mailbox and house numbers so Anthony can put those on today. I love the way our house looks this time of day- the morning light is so pretty.

Moving inside, our sign arrived today! M. picked it out to go in the large empty space above the doorway from the living room into the dining/kitchen area. We had tried to find an authentic antique or handmade sign, but the options were just too pricey.... if we find something perfect someday we can swap it out, but I actually really love how this looks in person:It'll be hung here:

It's great too because the black lettering picks up the armoire, the wood planks are so similar to our coffee table top and the turquoise picks up a bit of the chair!

Anthony was working at the house today. He stained the top of the desk and will be back today to put poly on it. It's pretty- almost the same color as the floor. The stain is Very stinky though and the catch 22 is when we open the windows we smell the freshly paved driveway!

Anthony also put hooks in the cubbie off the garage. (the missing one will go on today). I am SO thrilled with this cubbie area. Love love love the beadboard.

I have some gardening photos from the weekend to upload in the next day or so and have been doing some more thinking on the direction of this blog.... I struggle with how to balance where we've come from (getting back on our feet post fire) with our "new" life (being home!).... I have a couple ideas which I'll share when they are more solid. Anyway, having not been able to post for so many days, I'm happy to be back!