December 30, 2013

Ins and outs

I'm starting to feel like I'm cursed.

In the grand scheme of things, it's not a big curse. Or, well, maybe it is. But no matter what, it's a curse and it sucks.

Here's the thing. You know I'm a Jersey girl, right? And that I live in South Carolina now? 

I still love my home state, though, and all the friends and family I left behind. And I miss the hell out of New York. The city, of course. I miss the smells (chestnuts, pretzels, a touch of smog). I miss the sounds (honking, shouting, cursing, sirens). I miss wandering the halls of the Met, losing myself in the Degas hall (I'm not a dancer, but his paintings make me want to dance). I miss walking the streets at night, when the city shows no sign of rest. 

I just miss it.

I haven't been to New York since before Zoe was born, and I haven't been home to Jersey in a few years either. Because every time I plan a trip...something happens.

First it was a road trip, planned for Charles, Zoe and me at the end of last summer. After a nasty flair-up of my insomnia (I don't think I slept more than two hours for about five nights straight), I was nervous about a 12 hour drive and a crazy, chaotic week of visiting friends. I canceled that trip myself, making the decision to take care of my body instead of partying like a rock star (a rock star with a four-year-old but who's counting). That kind of sucked, but just a little.

So I planned a trip for later in the fall. We'd leave on a Friday, fly up, and come home Monday. It would be busy and hectic, but it would just be a few nights. I'd survive, even if I didn't sleep.

The Tuesday before we were supposed to leave, Hurricane Sandy hit. Much of my hometown was underwater, and most of the state was without power. Clearly that trip was canceled.

That sucked on a whole new level.


We were supposed to leave Thursday for a trip to the city. This time we'd stay IN the city, in a hotel. We'd DO the city. FAO Schwartz. The Museum of Natural History. Maybe even a Broadway show, if TKTS cooperated.

But then.

Last week, we noticed our Dalmatian, Molly, was getting thin. She's old, almost fourteen, so it wasn't entirely unexpected or surprising. But still, it was concerning, and when she couldn't eat without getting sick, well...

Today I took her to the vet. I found out her liver and her pancreas are failing. She's probably only got a few days or a week to live.

Clearly we're not headed north. I doubt we'll even leave the house much over the course of the next few days.

Molly is Charles's girl, but I love her dearly too. She's a sweet dog (except for that time she tried to eat our neighbor's little boy...but that's a story for another day). Very loving and always happy to see us. Even through yesterday, sometimes she still acted like a puppy. To look at her wasn't to see an old, tired dog. It was to see a vibrant, alive creature, always excited to see what the day would bring. 

I'm not ready to lose her. None of us are. Tonight we sent Zoe to sleep at a friend's house because we didn't know what the evening would bring. Tonight Charles and I are sleeping downstairs, near Molly, because we don't know what the night will bring. It may be may even be weeks if the fluids and meds she's taken help her rally...but our time is running short.

I'm sad to miss New York and New Jersey yet again. I'm angry that we can't refund our tickets.

But those thoughts pale in comparison to how much I'm going to miss our Molly. 

So I might be cursed. I'm certainly not going to plan another trip north anytime soon. Third time was definitely not the charm, and I'd hate to see what another attempt could bring. I'm not ready to lose anyone else.

Maybe that's the horror writer in me talking. Curses. Bah. I'm probably crazy. But who cares. 

Tonight I'm going to lay here (insomnia rearing its ugly head of course) and listen to everyone in the house breathe. The ins and outs of each breath. Charles is the loudest, but I have good ears. I can hear them all. Molly's quiet, slightly-labored snore. The snuffles of our other dog, Quentin. The soft sounds of our cats, Doozer and Owen. We're all here, in the living room. 

Tomorrow night is New Year's Eve. I imagine tomorrow night will find us doing the same, with the wild, thrashing breaths of Zoe thrown into the mix. 

I'm going to listen all night to the ins and outs of everyone's breaths. Because at this point? I don't know what else to do.

Left to right: Quentin, Zoe, Molly

December 12, 2013

A big fat THANK YOU: Phillip Phillips, The Bridge at 105.5 and Truphonic Recording Studio

Let me tell you a little story.

This past spring and summer, when Zoe and I were together all day, every day, during our homeschooling experiment, we listened to a LOT of music. Anytime we were in the car (which was often, since I'm not good at staying home all the time), our radio was on, and it was almost always tuned into my favorite local station: The Bridge at 105.5. We got to know the DJs (Box and Laura, Nikki, the Critic. And, more importantly, we got to know the music. A LOT of the music.

Certain bands came on all the time. Fun. The Lumineers. Of Monsters and Men. Phillip Phillips.

Yep. I said Phillip Phillips. As in, "that guy from American Idol." And you know what? His song, "Home," the one that won the show for him, was a favorite of ours. Whenever it came on we'd drop what we were doing and sing. Zoe and me. Together.

Fast forward six months. Zoe's been in kindergarten for a while, and I've been doing the "full time writer" thing for a while, too. We don't listen to music as much together anymore, but still. When it's just the two of us in the car (to and from school, mostly, but also when running errands and going places on weekends), we listen to The Bridge. New songs have become favorites, often by the same bands. Phillip Phillips' "Gone, Gone, Gone," and "Where We Came From" are on our rotation these days, and I'll be honest...every time I hear "Gone, Gone, Gone," I sing it to Zoe in my head. It makes me think of her, no matter where I am.

So when, on Monday, we were running after school errands, and I heard the Critic was going to give away tickets to a small, private recording session at Truphonic Recording Studio with Phillip Phillips later in the week, Zoe and I tuned in. We listened carefully for the cue to call, and when it came on, somehow I won tickets.

I'll be honest. I won them for her. I couldn't imagine going to the show with anyone else.

So the show was today, and - rebel mom that I am - I let her stay home from school for the full day. We made a gingerbread house this morning, then got ready to go.

We went to the radio station around 11, and from the start it was cool. Zoe was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people around, but everyone at the station - the DJs, the staff - was super-gentle and sweet to her. She wasn't the youngest (there was a baby there!!), but she was definitely the only kid her age, and no one seemed to mind.

We took the "Cool Bus" to Truphonic, which was trippy. It's a tricked out bus whose walls have been graffitied by countless other riders, and for the first time I wished Zoe couldn't read.

"Um, don't read those words, ok?" I said at one point, noting a bunch of F-bombs and, quite literally, a note which said, "For a good time call..." Hilarious, and nothing worse than a New York City kid would see on a subway wall every day, but still. Um. I wish she hadn't read all that.

The Truphonic Recording Studio is like a little secret, all tucked away behind a liquor store here in West Ashley. The people there were super-cool, too. I chatted with an intern and his wife about mission work (she just got back from Nicaragua) and writing. Then I met Box, from the Box and Laura Show, and also (almost) Laura. They were so sweet and fun.

The show with Phillip Phillips was amazing. He sat with another guitar player named Errol Cooney and they talked and joked (very self-deprecating, that fella is), and he played two songs: "Gone, Gone, Gone," and "Where We Came From." He sounds as good in person as he does on the radio, which made me happy, and Zoe sat on my lap and together we listened to the songs we've loved together, and it was a fantastic thing. She was definitely shy and quiet, still, but she loved the music. So much.

After the show, we all lined up to get our pictures with Phillip Phillips (I can't call him Phil...we're not quite on a nickname basis, you know?), and again, Zoe was shy, but he was SO gentle with her. He asked her name, thanked her for coming, and even told her she looked pretty (she wore her Christmas dress - I thought about trying to convince her to wear her normal jeans and Chucks, but it would have been like arguing with a wall. She was determined to look "fancy."). Then we got a signed photo to take home, to remember our little journey.

This was a great experience. A fun experience. For me, and for my kid. I can't thank the people at The Bridge, Truphonics, and especially Phillip Phillips enough for all they did today. For some people I'm sure it was just a cool celebrity sighting. But for Zoe and me, it was about getting to listen to songs that mean something to us, in a cool setting, with very awesome people. So thanks, you guys! I won't ever forget it!

Phillip Phillips, sounding mighty awesome

Us!!! It was dark in the studio, and no flashes allowed, but still!!
Photo credit: Box!! :)

Zoe and her photo. She insisted I take this picture. 

December 10, 2013

Learning to read

I saw a piece on CBS's Sunday Morning program (I LOVE that show. So much.) about an 80-something year old WWII vet who only recently - within the last year - learned to read. For the first time, he was able to pick up a book. For the first time, he found himself strolling through the aisles of his local library (children's section) to find as many books as he could read in the twilight years of his life.

It was pretty incredible.

I thought about all the books I've read in my life - some great, some mediocre, some that have made me throw them across the room, never to be seen again (the ending of Atonement made me so angry I still refuse to speak of it). I thought about falling in love with characters, with settings, myths and legends and so many monsters. I thought about how much I love to read, and how I can't imagine a life without books. 

A few months back, Zoe and I were home together for the summer, and I worked with her on learning to read almost every day. It was hard for her, and though I didn't push, she still grew frustrated. One day she exclaimed, "I don't ever want to learn to read."

And I wrote about it here because it almost broke my heart.

I realized very quickly, though, that reading was frustrating to her, but she still loved books. We still read together every night, working our way through Junie B. Jones and Charlotte's Web and dozens of Cam Jansen mysteries. She loved the stories; the act of reading was just still a difficult thing.

Now? Well, though she still doesn't love reading on her own, these days she LOVES to read to me. She's doing better and better every day, and willingly picks up a book and settles down beside me at night to practice. I still read to her, too, of course, and will for as long as she'll let me, but she's reading now, fairly fluently, and it's been exciting for the whole family.

She loves mysteries - something I never did, and something I now find very interesting to watch in her. Even the first two Harry Potter movies were, to her, nothing more than good mysteries. "I'm glad they tell you who did it before the end," she said. "I like that they don't leave you wondering." It had never occurred to me before that they were mysteries, but once she pointed it out there it was, staring me in the face. I love when she opens my eyes to a new perspective.

So now I lose myself in daydreams sometimes, thinking about all the books she has yet to read. All the amazing stories out there she's yet to discover. I try not to push her toward any particular books too much - finding the stories you love, for yourself, is one of the best parts of reading in my opinion - and she's definitely finding her own path. Like I said, if it's a mystery, she'll locate it on the deepest shelves of the library. She's also finding trickier books - chapter books - and having fun pushing herself to her reading limits.

I can't imagine not knowing how to read, and all the doors that would suddenly open upon learning, but with my wild and crazy five-year-old by my side, I almost get to relive the experience of discovering books a second time around. And that's just pretty awesome, don't you think?

December 3, 2013

Book Birthday! The Geek's Guide to Dating by Eric Smith

Eric Smith is a geek. I know this because we've been Twitter-friends for a couple years now, and I've seen him tweet about such nerdy topics as video games, their systems, movies, books, and just about anything else. If it's geeky, chances are he's had an opinion about it.

Thus, it's PERFECT that his first book, which releases today, is THE GEEK'S GUIDE TO DATING, via Quirk Books (for whom he's also Media Guy Extraordinaire).

I had a chance to read GEEK'S GUIDE prior to its release today, and let me tell you - it made me giggle.

Now look, I'm not on the market. I'm happily married, and am not planning on being on the market ever again. But still...this book was funny and charming and it was wholly entertaining to see myself (and my husband, ahem) represented in this new and quirky and funny way.

In my house, we're geeks, for sure. Charles is a Comic Book Fan, a Gamer, and an Internet Geek, at least according to Eric's definitions. I, on the other hand, am a Social Media Geek and a Book Geek. We're both Politics Geeks and Apple Geeks. So...there's common ground. Who knew?

The book is full of pop culture references - most of which I knew, but some of which had me completely baffled. I guess I'm not quite as much of a geek as I thought. So while you're reading the advice of one (not so) single (anymore, I think) nerd to another, you'll be kept on your toes with references to Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Magic The Gathering, and just about anything else in Geekdom. There are even Doctor Who references! *swoon*

It's also adorable, visually speaking. Old video game graphics, all pixelated and fun, deck the pages and make you smile. It's the kind of book you love to hold and leaf through, you know?

As for the advice itself...well, again, I'm decidedly not single, and I haven't been single in many, MANY moons, so I can't say if it's good advice or not. I mean, it seems pretty solid (like: don't stare creepily at a girl before asking her out at your local comic book shop), don't get me wrong. As for the effectiveness...well, you'll have to give it a shot for yourself.

(Also, the advice is mostly tailored for those of you with a Y chromosome - yes, men, you - and though Eric argues it's mostly universal...ladies, don't listen to his fashion advice!!)

So. Do you want a laugh, at yourself or your geek-ish friends? Do you want to learn how to dress like Han Solo for your hot first date? And do you want to pick up that hot chick/dude at your local indie bookstore? Go there and 0ick up this book, now.

And since I'm nice and it's Eric's book birthday, let's celebrate with a giveaway!! I'll send my beautiful copy of THE GEEK'S GUIDE TO DATING to a fellow nerd who needs a leg up on the dating scene. All you have to do is leave a comment, tell me why you want it, and make me laugh. Assuming people play, I'll pick my favorite one!! So, ready...set...GO! Why do YOU need THE GEEK'S GUIDE TO DATING? (Must be in the US or Canada to play.)