Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Respectable Recycle

I'm sorry. I'm a terrible blogger, even in the face of lovely encouragement from friends who really enjoy reading my blather. Time, money and inspiration are STILL lacking, so I'm being really lame here and posting something I wrote a long time ago.

Ulterior motive is I want to remember this, and I'm afraid Fairfield Magazine may not keep it their archives forever. This was a guest editorial I did that ran in May of '07. (To see the three feature articles I wrote for that magazine on the topics of autism, 9/11, and divorce, go to and type my name into the search box.)

One Little Piece

A few months ago, a friend told me he had signed up for a workshop in California where he was going to learn to clean oil off of sea birds. After, he would be eligible to be called upon during the next oil spill. I heard myself say, “I want to do that.” He said I could come.

Friends asked, “Why?” Why would I want to fly across the country to learn how to clean birds? It’s because I suffer from a mid-life malaise that I’m sure is rampant in Fairfield County. It tends to rear its head when I’m sitting in traffic on I-95. After I’ve obsessively run through the to-do list (“pick up dog’s medicine, order part for coffee maker, call about Tuesday’s play date…”), my brain goes kamikaze.

It happens in two parts: First, I begin to think about my own insignificance (life is a blip in time between two eternities, etc.), and then I get a bit embarrassed about living here in the land of plenty. This inevitably leads to the hard questions: What am I doing here? How am I contributing to humankind? Am I modeling a life well lived for my six-year-old son?

I, like many others here in Fairfield, really have no time to volunteer. That said, I firmly believe a creative person can come up with a way to do his or her little piece for the greater good. When that friend called me a few months ago, it was like he was holding out that little piece for me.

So I attended the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) two-day “Oiled Wildlife Response Training” in San Pedro, California, at the International Bird Rescue Research Center.

We were taught how to get a vegetable oil-soaked gull––found in a nearby marina, a victim of restaurant waste—washed, rinsed, dried and “re-waterproofed.” The big oil spills affect huge numbers of birds all at once, but the daily polluting from big and small ships and people along coastlines is a bigger problem. Just a drop of any kind of oil can destroy an aquatic bird’s ability to stay dry, warm and afloat.

As you would imagine, a supremely kind and gentle group of people attended this workshop. But those who made the biggest impression on me were the staffers who have made it their life’s work to save birds from the atrocious effects of human progress. Their stories were mind-blowing, and their triumphs awesome.

It’s not that there aren’t other pressing issues out there, but someone has to clean up these birds or they die. This one little piece has to be taken care of. The good news is that with enough intelligence and compassion, all the little pieces out there can be cared for.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bye Bye Bunny, Farewell Fairy

So, as of this morning, the ruse is up. My 7-year-old forced my hand as I was tearing through my closet trying to find any footwear that a) roughly went with what I was wearing and b) had a high enough heel that I wouldn't be stepping on my very long pants. (I ended up in these high, brown wedgie things that I'm pretending pick up the brownish hues in my completely red shirt...)

"Mom, just TELL me. Is the tooth fairy really you?" This, after he found a dollar under his pillow this morning for the tooth lost on Saturday up in the Catskills, where I explained that the tooth fairy knew we were away for the weekend and would deliver the goods once we were back home.

After making him swear a pact with me that he would never tell a younger kid or any kid who still believed, I told him yes, the tooth fairy is me. I asked him afterward if he was sad or glad to know the truth, and he said glad. Then he launched into a bizarre set of questions, including "Once you become a grown-up and have a kid, who tells you that you have to start being the tooth fairy? Who shows you what to do?"

All of this confirmed what he was in knots about all weekend -- the Easter Bunny, too, is just his mom. Even knowing this, though, he was really upset about being away and missing out on the whole waking up and searching for eggs thing. I've always been really good about the magical stuff -- Easter Bunny, Santa, and Tooth Fairy -- but I never realized how much it mattered to him. I thought being away with our best friends -- skiing, tubing, staying up late -- would far outshine waking up with just me and searching the house for hidden eggs. I was so wrong. This stuff matters. He knows it's not a magic being doling out the goodies in the middle of the night, but it's a tradition, it's memories in the making, and it's very specifically and very specially his and mine.

So, the ruse is up but I'm not off the hook for years to come. And I'm actually pretty happy about that.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Little Friday Rumi

This is an excerpt from a Rumi poem that my yoga teacher and friend Erin read in class last night:

When the moment cracks open, ecstasy leaps out and devours space;
love goes mad with the blessings, like my words give.

Why lay yourself on the torturer's rack of the past and future?

The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond its capacities
will find no rest.

Be kind to yourself, dear -- to our innocent follies.

Forget any sounds or touch you knew that did not help you dance.

You will come to see that all evolves us.

From: That Lives In Us

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Laundry Lesson

I work in a casual office, so I can wear pretty much anything within reason and it won’t raise any eyebrows. Most of my day is spent in a cubicle and my computer screen is the only thing checking out my attire for any length of time. For this reason, I am saved from the hassle and the enormous expense of dry cleaning. Sure, I have a few things that simply cannot withstand being washed with water. I resent them for it, though, and they sit for many long weeks in a nylon bag before I bite the bullet and drop them off at the money-pit on the corner.

I don’t have a lot of dry cleanables, but unfortunately neither do I have much that I would call entirely “machine washable.” I mean, yes, my lovely little cotton tops and fancy jeans can go into the washing machine. But the “able” part stops there. They are incredibly high maintenance. When did this happen? Their labels are persnickety, annoying, idiosyncratic, didactic, unreasonable. Have you never thought about it?

Wash inside out. With like colors. Gentle cycle. Cold water. Tumble dry low. Remove promptly.

Remove promptly! What, are you supposed to carry around a timer so that you’ll be poised and ready to zoom to the basement when that buzzer sounds?

Lay flat to dry. Line dry. Colors may bleed. No chlorine bleach. Oh, and then there’s: Hand Wash. Do not wring. Cool iron only. Excuse me, what’s the point of a cool iron? It doesn’t do anything more to my wrinkly blouse than the side of my car would if I stood in my driveway, pressing the fabric against it on a cold day.

What I end up with in my basement is a little tiny pile of light colors that need to be washed in cold, gently. A tiny pile of dark colors that need to washed separately, in cold, gently. A pile of one pair of pants who might bleed. And a stack of wet stuff that needs to be hung (oh dread, hanger points in the shoulders), or lain flat, or cool ironed, or lightly fanned dry at 70 degrees by a pygmy possum….

Enough. I’m sick of it. Dealing with my bossy and confusing laundry labels can lead me to a state of exhaustion and stress that requires a bottle of wine and a Xanax.

My ex-husband refused to read labels. And though I obviously concur that it’s a heinous part of life, note that he is now my ex.

So while I will continue to moan about them, and curse in the basement every week, I will slavishly and anally, read and obey to the letter every last label. My lovely little tops and fancy jeans make me happy. And I have plenty of wine and Xanax to get me through.