Friday, February 29, 2008

Miserable Monkey

It is after 8:15 p.m. My first assignment today was at 9 a.m. My only break was to pick up sushi for myself, which I ate at my desk. I have a co-worker having surgery and ton of championship games and a boatload of breaking news just docked in Deadline Harbor, but right now I'm waiting for my very, very, very sad video project about a marine with PTSD who killed himself to hurry up and transmit itself already. Because the heart-tugging story about the twins? Was on Monday. And it feels like so long ago that it's inconceivable that it was this same week.

Things did not get much cheerier, except for my Phantom of the Opera project, which is currently in Hell Week, and really, I am almost ready for this gajillion part series to be finished, because October was a long time ago now, please. It's sad when Andrew Lloyd Weber is the highlight of your professional existence.

I want to go home. I WANT TO GO HOME. So I can see Joel. And hopefully rejoice over the fact that scary smelly trash has been taken out. I would take it out myself, but I always have a portable portrait studio/television production unit/editing suit to carry down three flights of stairs. And I'm never home. So the trash festers. Maybe it's festering because it's thinking of me, think(ing) of me fondly, silent and resigned. We never said the trash was evergreen or as unchanging as the sea... Enough.

My eyelid is actually twitching.

Oh! Oh, and you know what happened to me yesterday that has never happened to me before? A pushy PTA mom actually followed me into the ladies room to needle me about whether or not her son was going to be in the paper and if so, then when? Well, when will I know? Well, can I TELL the editors to pick her son's photo? I. Was. Peeing. She was all, "Oh, sorry to stalk you..." Then, don't. Don't do it! If you know I'm in the bathroom stall because you saw me going in, then wait outside for me. Pretend to read a bulletin board! Or wash your hands! And wait until I'm washing my hands! Trust me, no photos are getting published until after the act of urination is finished.

Woot! Upload complete! I'm coming home, honey. Please take out the trash. It's all I ask of you. (Har. I'm done.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Important Work

Hey there. I know people start to worry when posting is infrequent and I say cryptic things about what's going on with me. I'm here, I'm fine. I've been doing some pretty weighty emotional work lately. I will share some of it with you now. The only thing is that once you click on the video links, you have to watch a 15-second public service announcement about heart disease. It gets old quickly with its catchy "Go Red!" jingle, but once it's over, there's the story.

First up is the story about the twins, one of whom is brain-damaged from bacterial meningitis when she was a newborn. You can see the video here. The family was a little shy about doing the article, because they don't want to be seen as asking for charity. Their families have planned an upcoming benefit, and the story is an advance for the fundraising event.

The truth is, though, as Emma gets older, her needs become more complex. Insurance isn't covering the cost of a wheelchair she needs that will enable her to be wheeled into the family's grassy backyard. It costs $4,000. She's getting heavier as she grows up; she needs a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor of their home. I really wanted to show Emma as a real person, not just a quick portrait of a brain-damaged six-year-old girl being bottle fed.

This story was both uplifting and heartbreaking. There's been a real outpouring of love and generosity toward them in the past 48 hours, including a plumber who contacted the paper a few minutes ago. He wants to do all the work to create a handicapped accessible bathroom for Emma on the first floor of their home for free.

I spent time with them beginning at 7 a.m. Monday to document their morning routine.

Exactly twelve hours later, my adrenaline was pumping at a championship hockey game.

I got great jubo- the elusive, chaotic and over-so-fast celebration shots- in both video and stills.

I've never done that before, gotten the really good stuff simultaneously in two formats.

The video is here. (I'm tired.)

Then yesterday I spent the afternoon with a 21-year-old man who has made a miracle recovery from a motorcycle accident back in September. I'm trying to get permission from the rehab center to shoot there. He's undergoing some seriously intensive cognitive therapy to rewire his brain, basically.

At this point, if I met him on the street, I wouldn't have known he'd ever experienced four bleeds in his brain. His story is also uplifting. His recovery has been and continues to be remarkable. I got chills as he was telling about being in a coma and having a dream/experience where he encountered his best friend, a young man who died two years ago from cancer, telling him it wasn't his time to die yet.

I know how that sounds, like schlocky Chicken Soup for the Comatose Soul stuff, and the young man who experienced it thinks it sounds cheesy and unbelievable, too. The thing is... We covered a lot of the cancer benefits and then memorials for his friend two years ago, in human interest stories just like the ones I've been tackling all week. Don't laugh- to tell you the truth, I'm kind of blown away that he had this spiritual encounter with a kid I photographed and didn't want to die.

Finally, I just got word that a local soldier who served in Iraq lost a battle with PTSD. He took his own life about the same time I was running across the ice to interview the kid who scored in the last 15 seconds of the hockey game on Monday night. His family feels very strongly that this story needs to be told, and at 4:30 today, I will be there with a reporter, two cameras, a tripod, and a body mic.

These are the days that I try to approach my work with the same demeanor I would have if I were chaplain with a camera. Maybe chaplain isn't the right word, because I don't really practice traditional prayer, but please, please... Let me do a good job for this family. Let this story reach people who need it. Let the act of telling us their story bring them comfort, if it can, and let me do this well. Fair. Compassionate. Informative. Please.

More soon...

Monday, February 25, 2008


I've been trying to think of something to blog about. I'm wrestling with this huge polarity right now in my work. The stories I'm working on are really on opposite ends of the spectrum at the moment.

I got to spend some time with a 30-piece orchestra in the bowels (okay, the rehearsal rooms) of Lincoln Center (but, like, really far down in the labyrinthine basement of Lincoln Center-HALP!) for a preview of their upcoming revival of South Pacific. It really just tickles the old band geek in me: "OMG! These people are sight-reading?!?! From Rodgers and Hammerstein's original handwritten pieces of sheet music?!" (Why, yes, yes they were.) Which reminds me? This one time? At Band Camp? Okay, I have to stop.

On the other side of the spectrum, I've been working on an A1 centerpiece story about a family with twin girls. Both of them are 6, but one of the sisters was severely brain-damaged when she contracted meningitis at age 7 weeks. And... you know, I just spent the past few hours working on the video, and I'm not ready to talk about it yet. Even with you, dear readers, but I wanted to say hi anyway. I'll put the links up tomorrow when the story runs.

So that's kind of what's going on right now. Oh, and my friend Sarah (my bridal ninja in charge of canine affairs) and I went bridesmaid-dress shopping. Then we had dinner at Chili's. Joel and I drove all the way out to Long Island to get our taxes done, and I forgot the incredibly important list of figures needed to declare my deductions, because I'm kind of a f*ckup. Who geeked out over sheet music. And photographed a little girl whose story will stay with me for the rest of my life.

So that's what's going on with me.

How are you? You look good! Each and every one of you! Did you just get a haircut? You look nice. New conditioner, maybe? I can so tell. ;)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Killing Time

So I'm all riled up on chocolate and anticipation of Joel getting back from NH, where he has been shooting and vacationing by himself (sort of) since last Saturday at my sister's in-laws. Joel always goes away on his winter breaks, but since we're trying to save money for the honeymoon, he opted not to fly anywhere this year. He drove up there on Saturday to stay in my sister's in-laws' guest cottage (which I've mentioned before is sort of my current life status dream house) and take pictures of rocky, wintry beaches and foggy lighthouses. My sister's in-laws intimidate the crap out of me, but Joel held his own. Amanda and Tom were there, too, for the first few days. I actually find it kind of awesome that Joel feels comfortable enough with my family to spend a weekend away with my sister and her husband without me. But when they told me all about going sledding, there was a part of me that was like, hey! I want to be having The Fun, too!

Because I? Was not really Having the Fun. I stayed home to, you know, go to work every day and tackle fun tasks like cleaning the apartment (and it stayed clean! for more than five minutes! OMG! I wonder what the variable is?), calculating all my business expenses in time for my tax appointment, assembling pieces of do-it-myself wedding invitations that involves picking the backing off 400 little sniblets of double-sided tape, and doing my annual gear inventory at work, which is about as fun as going to the dentist. It always turns out to be more like a confessional with the guy who coordinates all our gear at the paper. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been six months since I've seen the Sony tripod with the broken hydraulic head, and last week my second flash fell into a river while I was photographing a water rescue. Cringe-y cringe, grovelly grovel.

I have to stick around the office for a little while longer in case something blows up. So.... anyway... Here's a picture of my cat! Upside down! Bella is not amused.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Online Dating, Reprise

Once again, Michelle posts a comment that inspires a full entry. :)

She asked, " My sister is seriously desperate to find someone... right now she keeps sending "pokes" or "winks" or whatever the hell they're called back and forth to people on m* But I honeslty know of about 5 people who got married using eHarmony and I was just wondering if you think eHarmony changed your life or that you could have met "the one" using some other service or using nothing at all...?"



I kid. Sort of. :)

When I was first jumping back into the dating pool, I said to Alissa, "I just want to meet someone in the usual way!" and she said something like, "This is the usual way these days." If that helps your sister get over the stigma of "needing a personal ad" at all.

Like I said, I did a lot of different online dating services. I was working the free trial periods like crazy AND I found that if you go to cancel your service, they will occasionally extend your membership for at least two weeks for free. I did Spring Street (which does the online personals for,, eHarmony, and Yahoo Personals. Great Boyfriends was an awesome idea. Sisters, cousins, ex's and platonic girlfriends recommended their favorite single guys, but it wasn't that popular, I guess? So nothing ever came of it.

Spring Street was expensive and I only ever made a few connections that didn't go anywhere beyond email. (eHarmony is more expensive, but I got a lot of communications and options so it felt worth it.) Yahoo personals worked really well for friends of mine, but I was mostly getting hits from "playas" in the Bronx who wanted "big and beautiful girls," which... was.. flattering? Not? Just not really my thing, but that was probably more indicative of the region I was searching in than anything.

Most of my energy went into eHarmony and A couple of pieces of advice for Michelle's sister if she decides into jump into online dating with both feet.

1. Check out other girls' profiles so you know what your competition is like. I started with a sincere profile without reading any other girls' profiles in my area. Once I checked them out and saw that there was one "Princess seeking her prince" profile after another, I wrote a funny, sarcastic one using the phrase "the whole princess thing mystifies me" and got a lot more attention.

2. Upload a pretty photo. This sounds incredibly shallow. I hate it. At first I didn't even want to post a picture, because it shouldn't matter. It just shouldn't. But the truth is, paying for online dating and not getting to actually meet people is incredibly frustrating. You get more traffic with nice photos, period.

3. Be prepared to meet a lot of guys for coffee. Cindy was a big cheerleader for me when I was online dating, and I think you met, like, what? 14 different guys for coffee before you met Dave? And you don't even drink coffee, right?

4. Online dating can be really hard on the self-esteem. Unlike blind dates, where the people who set you up are friends, co-workers, etc., people you meet online have no social pressure or obligation to call you again, let you down easy, or even outright reject you. They just disappear, stop responding to email, POOF! A lot of services let you see the last time someone logged in, so you know if they got your most recent message. Wondering why they just punk out after you thought you had a good date or whatever is a REAL mindfuck. Also, people search all hours of the day and night, so you get winks and messages round the clock. Checking your inbox can become a little habit-forming in a not-so-good way.

5. In my experience, and this is a little but of a stereotype along gender lines, but most of the women I know who tried online dating wanted to meet new, interesting people. By contrast, I met a lot of guys who were doing online dating so they could tell their ex-girlfriends they met a girl on the Internet, and I know more than a few other ladies who had the same experience. That really sucked. I wasn't prepared for that. (NOT EVERY GUY IS LIKE THAT, just a lot of the ones I met. See also, #6). I mean, yeah, I had an ex, too, but for me, online dating wasn't about making him jealous. It was much, much more about the fact that I hadn't been "out there" since college. I didn't know how to meet people out of the college environment where you can ALWAYS bump into someone again, and socializing is a huge part of how you spend your time.

6. People have different goals for online dating. Some people just want to get laid. Spring Street Personals used to let you choose if you were seeking friendship, dating or play. I found the "play only" people refreshingly honest. A lot of people are on a spouse-hunt. You can always tell if a guy is on a wife hunt because his profile will show him holding a baby- usually a niece or nephew. I wasn't on a Husband Hunt, to tell you the truth. I like Joel because he was nice, he called when he said he would, and he had a real job. The marriage thing is just kind of how things naturally progressed for us. I mostly chose to do eHarmony because I figured it was safer in the greater NY Metropolitan area to do a more expensive service- the predators can all preditate for free on craigslist.

Finally, about eHarmony... Neither Joel nor I knew that Neil Clark Warren was an uber-Christian who refuses to match LGBT people when we signed up. He got his start of Focus on The Family, a.k.a. Godbag Blowhards R Us. Once I found out about that, I donated an equivalent amount of money to what I spent on eHarmony to PFLAG and organizations working for the legalization of gay marriage, but I still feel a little bad about it. (Yes, even though I didn't know about it. Sometimes it's hard being me.) You can hear a really funny NPR interview with him about it here. I particularly like the part when Terry Gross calls him out on the fact that eHarmony matches Wiccans but not lesbians about five minutes into the segment. Hee.

As for whether eHarmony really is different and whether it changed my life or if I could have found "the one"...? I'm not sure I would have found Joel, the individual himself, without it. I can't imagine a scenario where we would have bumped into each other. Our paths probably wouldn't have crossed.

That said, I don't really believe in "The One." I think, in many ways, that love is a choice. You can't always control whom you're attracted to, or even whom you fall in love with, but the decision to be fully present in a relationship once you've connected and make it work is a choice.

I do believe that my ex and I could have had a happy marriage if he'd been willing to stay. It's definitely worked out for the best for both of us, and I wouldn't change it, or take him back, or leave Joel for anything in the world. Joel is the best partner for me, and this is the healthiest, happiest relationship I've ever known, but I don't think there's only One Person who's pre-destined to make any one person happy forever and ever. I think a lot of different people can love each other at different phases of their lives, but that's just me.

eHarmony's "patented compatibility profile" is just the Brinks Personality Test, which is a psychological test used to assess personality traits. It's a well-respected assessment of personality and compatibility outside of the eHarmony context, it's not really a mystery. As for whether or not eHarmony *really* makes more marriages per match than any other service? It's probably due to the fact that they reject a lot of people, including people who have been divorced more than twice. Which is what those "rejected by eHarmony" commercials are about.

Before meeting Joel, I did encounter my share of incompatible mismatched somewhat weirdos on eHarmony, but not as many I met on That said, the eHarmony weirdos came across as more sincere somehow. So there that is. The eHarmony difference.

This parody is really funny, too.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Valentine's Day, Part Deux (The First Date)

Joel and I met on eHarmony. A lot of you have been around since the Adventures in Internet Dating Follies, but if you're new to Idiosyncratic LIfe, the short version is this: I dated a guy from 1998-2005. He was my college boyfriend. He was an actor. I thought we were going to get married. We didn't.

In case you missed it, I started Internet dating like it was my JOB. Frankly, and I mean this with all respect to my ex (who reads this often, hi!), it was either work the free trial periods on as many as five different Internet dating services at once or poke my eyes out with a fork. My ex left me for a woman with whom he had performed in a play. In said play, she had an onstage sex scene or two. Not with him, actually; he played her father. :::pauses while readers contemplate that for a moment::: His character was also a quadriplegic Elvis impersonator :::pause while readers contemplate THAT::: so he spent the majority of his time on stage either slumped over in a wheelchair, (sometimes with a staged erection, sometimes not), or singing and dating like Elvis, complete with sequined white body suit, sideburns, sunglasses and fog machine. Ah, memories. :)

Meanwhile, the sight and sound of my ex's new girlfriend (now fiancee! whee! no, really! it's all good now!) having sex, albeit onstage and so not at all "real," were seared into my memory. Hence, the poke-eyes-out-with-fork vs. Internet-date-for-blog-fodder-and-sanity's-sake debate. Since I sort of need my eyes to do my actual paycheck-earning job, I went with serial Internet dating. If you've never done eHarmony, let me tell you right now that they make you jump through a LOT, and I mean- a LOT- of hoops before you start emailing back and forth with someone. On other services, you send a "wink" or "ice-breaker" message and then it's all Peach Pancakes* after that.

*If you've never read the Peach Pancakes entry, it's one of my all time favorites.

My mom was curious about how Internet Dating worked, mostly because I don't think she liked the idea of some enchanted evening ending with my corpse bouncing around in some guy's trunk 'til he could dump my body out by the Rockaways any more than I did. So one night while we were at the beach, we sat down with the laptop, and I showed her the ropes. She *LOVED* Joel's profile. Like, she was excitedly pointing at the screen, saying "Pick this one! I like this one!" and I was all, "I'm trying, we're only at the 'Must Haves/Can't Stands' stage. It's not like I can order him off amazon. He has to want to meet me, too."

And he did. For the record, Joel only had one other eHarmony date before he met me. They met for coffee at the Starbucks in Bryant Park. They sat an outdoor table and all was going swimmingly until a pigeon shat on his head. Or was it his shoulder? Whatever, head sounds funnier. In either case, he says getting pooped on "killed the mood after that," and she never called him again. (Yesss!)

We chatted on the phone first, during which I put him on hold for 10 minutes while my mom gave me bad news about Brad (who is doing quite well right now, by the way). Joel was still there when I finally clicked back on call-waiting: a good sign. We tried to figure out a time to get together, but he was leaving for Moab in a few days, then I was going out of town on assignment, then he couldn't go out on Labor Day Monday evening because of having to get up before the asscrack of dawn to teach on the first day of school the next day, then I was shooting a wedding on Cape Cod, yadda yadda yadda. It was kind of a "now or never" situation, so we decided to meet for drinks the next day.

I suggested we go to Seaside Johnnie's, an overpriced beach shack on Long Island Sound where you can blow $16.95 on a cheeseburger if you aren't careful. Ordinarily, I wouldn't suggest it for a first date if dinner is involved, but since we were only going to have drinks, I figured it wouldn't be too pricey. Also, I was afraid he might mistake me for a Scary Chestwester High Maintenance Kind of Girl who picks a lobster joint on the first date and expects him to pick up the tab for her manicures and designer handbags after that. :::shrugs:::

Still, though... dating in Stepford is a whole different ballgame. The bars are crawling with skinny chicks with $400 highlights and French-manicured toes, and I was trying to walk the walk, just a little bit. I was running late getting ready for the date, because HELLO, I'm me, and I always think I can squeeze in just one more thing. Also, I was still using dial-up and my land line wasn't ringing and my cell phone was muffled and long story short, he was waiting for me on the porch. (I rent the third floor of an old Victorian.) I *just* pulled myself together and was all set to leave when Fred- pokey lardass cat that *never* hustles unless there is food involved- dashed down the stairs and proceeded to wedge himself behind the radiator.

Picture it, will you? I come downstairs to the porch, he jumps up, we shake hands, and I announce that we can't leave yet because my cat has decided he needs to dash down the stairs where he is most likely rubbing his head on the neighbor's bike in the hallway. To Joel's credit, he didn't miss a beat. He just popped right up, followed me up the stairs, climbed over the railing and try to scoop up the cat while I was all, "Um, Fred doesn't really like to be touched...but... oh, God... see, actually, all I have to do is feed the dog? And he runs right back up the stairs?" If Joel thought it was odd that the cat likes dog kibble, he didn't say much. We shooed/lured Fred back into the apartment where Bella just about lost her damn mind with glee. She loved Joel like he was Heaven on Earth at first sight. It was a good sign.

We started with drinks and then decided to order dinner. We kept lingering over refills and coffee until the check gradually topped $60. I didn't want him to have to pay for all that on a first date, so I grabbed the bill when it came and threw it where he couldn't reach it. Good times. Then we decided to walk on the beach for a little while, which led to kissing, which led to him driving me home, which lead to me asking him if he wanted to see my portfolio, which led to us geeking out over PhotoShop (hubba hubba), and finally kissing some more until he really, really had to leave for the airport or risk missing that flight to Utah.

At one point when we were driving back to my house from the restaurant, we were chatting about our families and my sister's then-recent wedding (very elegant, beautiful, traditional, big poofy white dress-tastic and Catholic). I started to tell Joel, "We're not having ANYTHING like that at our wedding, by the way." ON OUR FIRST DATE. I managed to stop myself in time, because- GAH. Scary! I got as far as, "We're not having-" and ultimately covered with "-sex tonight." Smooth, no? Still, the thought of marrying him felt like the most natural thing in the world from the very first date.

Bleh. I just threw up in my mouth a little. Sorry, dudes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Idiot and the Jackass: A Valentine's Tale

It occurs to me that I never told you all about Joel's and my first date. Back then, I was all shaky-shaky-baby-steps about getting back out there post Heartbreak, so I just threw something generic out there about My Casual New Friend at the end of an entry about Internet dating mismatches. And I *will* write about it, maybe tomorrow.

For now, I want to tell you about one particular moment when I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Joel. We were in Yosemite. We went over Joel's Easter break from school, which is ideal because the melting snow makes the waterfalls run fast and furious in April. We decided to do an easy hike to Mirror Lake, which supposedly reflects Half Dome. We had all of our camera gear, and when we got to the lake, it was full of sediment and not at all reflective. We were both disappointed, but I was really whiny about it. I didn't want to take the trail all the way around the stupid, uncooperative lake, so we decide to trudge through the water- We are smart! Or not. It was cold as fuck and deeper than it looked. Joel kept going, but I decided to get to the other side by climbing over some slippery, slippery rocks. He told me not to do it, but I can be incredibly stubborn when I'm blatantly wrong.

Now, I've noticed a little phenomenon when I'm covering spot news that I like to call "the idiot and the jackass" syndrome. A lot of times someone will do something incredibly stupid, like climb down a manhole into a sewer without taking a methane reading first. That person is the idiot. The tragedy is often compounded when a heroic passerby or friend decides to try to jump down into the sewer to save the idiot and ends up dying as well. That guy is the jackass.

So there I am trying to cross the slippery rocks in a lake turned rapids in icy cold water. Joel is trying to tell me what to do, and I keep shouting, "I need to think! I just need to THINK!" Of course I fall in, and I'm wearing 40 pounds of camera gear on my back, a wool sweater, jeans and heavy hiking boots. I manage to catch a dead tree trunk and climb back onto the rocks and out of the rapids of doom. (I am the idiot here, by the way).

A small crowd has formed, watching this little drama unfold. I seriously consider announcing to the crowd at large that I am about to start stripping off layers of clothes so I won't be weighed down if I end up back in the rapids. There are a lot of little kids watching, and I'm worried about a less than PG13 rating once I lose the fleece.

Joel gets a long stick, which I make him use to catch the camera backpack by the straps because of COURSE I am far more worried about my gear than I am about dying. (Lowerpro's Stealth backpack, by the way? A++ Gear was bone dry after complete submersion)

A kind woman runs and finds a thick, sturdy tree trunk. She and Joel lay it across the rapids. Now I have to shimmy/shuffle my soaked, humiliated ass across the rapids on this big stick. I had about 3 feet left when Joel climbs out on the rocks, reaches for me, and says completely calmly, "I will not let you fall." I was overwhelmed at moment by a deep sense of calm. I knew, at the moment, that I would be fine, that he would get me through this, and I wanted to spend my life with him.

My hero, right?

Here's the thing. JOEL. CAN'T. SWIM. If we both fell back into the water, this story would very likely not have a happy ending. Then it totally hits me: "Oh my God. I am the idiot, and he is the jackass." We are SO the morons that people tell cautionary tales about. We are the reason National Parks post signs with stick figures falling off rocks.

We made it to the other side safely, and I made him swear never to tell anyone what happened because it was so embarrassing, a pact that last less than three days for both of us. I never blogged about it, though. So here you are. Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Best Medicine, Laughter Is

If you don't know the incredible time-wasting joy that is icanhazcheezburger, I all have to say is...

UPDATE: The above link has been fixed. It works now!

Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

I like to think of my own Personal Great Depression as a thing of the past. I take my Happy Pills, try to ignore the fact that I play Russian Roulette with food three times a day, and for the most part, I'm okay. In fact, I have moments with Joel when I look around at our weird little canine/feline family and think I've never been happier.

Oh, but when work stress (bye, several favorite co-workers who made my daily life so much better! have fun in your new careers!) meets wedding anxiety and everything starts churning in my gut, it's all aboard the Crazy Train, every line express from Pleasantly Neurotic to Annoyingly Troubled. Mind the gap and tug the eyebrows!

People joke about how handy it is to have two lawyers in the family, and it's absolutely true. My sister waves her fairy godlawyer wand, and voila! Wedding contractors, dodgy drivers, suck on that! Oh, yeah? Well, my brother-in-law will see *your* power of attorney and raise you a legal kick-in-the-pants! Ha!

If you already have lawyers in the family, however, I highly recommend talking one of your friends into becoming a psychologist, if possible. If they're up for the self-imposed poverty, hours of practicum and years of riding the dissertation carousel, I say, bravo. And thank you. :)

Alissa: Well, there's your answer, no matter how much you don't want to hear it.
Me: Is there a workshop I could go to?
Liss: Probably.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Decision

There's something I've been thinking about doing for quite some time now. I first thought about joining Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep when I saw an article about it in USA Today a few years ago.

Essentially, It's a volunteer organization dedicated to helping families through early infant loss. Professional photographers throughout the US, Canada and some parts of Europe volunteer to be on-call to do sensitive, private photo shoots with families in hospitals and hospice locations to create images of their newborn babies who only have a short time with their parents.

I know that this work is going to tug at my soul. I know that it will change me forever. I want to do this, for Ava and for Liam, because they were here, and they lived, and they are loved. I also want to do this in memory of a little girl I grew up knowing about, but never got to meet.

In 1976, my mom found out she was pregnant with my sister at the exact same time her best friend and co-worker M. found out that she was expecting as well. They were both having girls, with my mom due in the beginning of March and M due in the beginning of April. They purposefully booked their OB/GYN appointments on the same days.

They were both well into their third trimesters when M's daughter stopped moving inside her. In a heart-wrenching twist of fate, my mom learned that M delivered her stillborn daughter after 17 hours of labor when she overheard nurses discussing it as she came out of anesthesia after delivering my sister via c-section. My sister's birthday was the worst day of M's life.

My mom genuinely mourned the little girl she was so eagerly anticipating for her best friend. Shortly after that, M's husband applied for a job transfer out of state. They saw each other to say goodbye, but M. didn't lay eyes on my sister until 1988.

Anyway, this being the 70s, my mom and M, wrote a lot of letters. In 1978, a year after the tragedy, M. had a healthy baby boy. My mom had me in 1979, and M. had another girl, L, a year after that. M's family continued to move around lot for her husband's job. We visited them as a family in Boston in 1988. We went whale-watching. There was a lot of vomit. In 1992, we went on vacation together. M's son, the one born a year before me, became my first mutual crush. Had it not been for a loud dryer buzzer and some incredibly bad luck with an LL Bean windbreaker, he would have been my first kiss. (Dammit.)

I know my sister's life milestones are bittersweet for M, thinking about the daughter who was born into Heaven within 24 hours of Amanda's birth. When my sister got accepted at her first choice college- M's alma mater- she had a sweatshirt and windshield sticker FedExed to the house the next day. When my sister got married in the campus cathedral in 2005, M. flew from Seattle to Boston to sit in a place of honor by the mother of the bride with her daughter L., the healthy baby girl born in 1980, at her side. Later, M led the conga line around the dance floor at the reception.

I hope that this work that I will do for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep will honor M's strength, and Karla's perseverance, and Kate's grace. For healing, and remembrance.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Exactly Six Months from Now...

Joel and I will be getting on the plane to Sydney for our honeymoon!

We celebrated our six-month "pre-versary" last night by going to the Outback Steakhouse, mostly because we had a gift certificate from Christmas, but it also went nicely with the "at this time six months* from now we'll be married!/at the reception!/getting ready to leave!" theme of the evening. :)

Then we went to see the movie "There Will Be Blood." Romantic, no? (For what it's worth, it was beautifully shot, very well acted, and about 30 minutes too long. I know it's up for Best Picture, but I just can't see myself ever being in the mood to own it on DVD, or watch it again, for that matter.)

*Six months? Seriously? Time. Is. Just. Flying. FLY-ING. I'm under even more self-imposed pressure because of the client weddings booked for April, May, and July, with showers (mine and other people's) in June. Breathe in, breathe out.

Now, where is that tourist visa application?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

SuperBowl Selebration

Best. Fourth Quarter. Ever.

How funny were these commercials?

And, of course, I'm exactly the target demographic girly sucker that the Clydesdale-in-Training commercials were designed for.

Friday, February 01, 2008

It was good. And I knew it.

I've been thinking about my high school days a lot lately, mostly because I'm doing an year (well, an academic year)-long project about one of the high schools I cover. Andrew Lloyd Weber's Really Useful Production Group has selected one of the high schools in my coverage area to be among the first to do an amateur production of Phantom of the Opera. In exchange for free royalties, they have to hand over all their production notes, costume sketches, etc, so that future high schools can see exactly how to pull off the whole falling chandelier thing.

This high school was a good choice, actually. We cover the crap out of community/high school theater around here, and... Well, let's just say that sometimes...? It's better than poking yourself in the eye with a stick? But not by much. I'm following the kids from auditions to final curtain call, and let me tell you something. They sooo do not suck. It is not painful- AT.ALL- to listen to the girl who plays Christine hit that high C in "Think of Me." She's awesome. This is a really fun project for me.

I used to listen to the music from Phantom all the time in 1994. It was the soundtrack for many long Saturdays spent set-painting. I have a pretty sensitive sense of smell, actually, and that more than anything has the ability to trigger memories for me. Add those famous Phantom chord processions to the smell of fresh paint and sawdust from a hand saw cutting plywood and KA-BLAM, I'm backstage at HHS wearing sweatpants so coated with paint that they took on the shape of my body. It was good times. And I knew it.

I had more disposable income in high school than I do now, actually. The only real purpose of my job at Isaac's was to earn spending money, and of course- to learn about Very Important Life Lessons about personal responsibility. Well, that and learning how to cook 75 different unusual sandwiches named after birds, and anything I ever wanted to know about gay sex in rural/suburban PA, some of which was rumored to have taken place on the prep tables and in the walk-in refrigerator. Anyway.

People wax nostalgic about the innocence of childhood, but the truth is, it's hard being a little kid sometimes. You have very little control over your day-to-day existence. Don't like your second-grade teacher? Too bad. Want to quit violin lessons? Keep asking for another three years. Someone is mean to you on the bus everyday? Just ignore them. As an adult you can change jobs, pursue the hobbies you like, take the subway if you hate the bus.

One of the things that I've always been able to do fairly easily is appreciate the phase of life I was/am presently in. That doesn't mean I didn't get senioritis or want to wish away junior high, because who didn't? But I don't want to go back there, either. I knew at the time that I would never again have the chance to anchor a morning TV show, do independent scientific research at a local lab, play classical music, and go to pool parties with my friends- all on the same day. It was good. And I knew it.

But I still can remember camping with my family as a small child. One night in particular, we were camping in Ontario. The night sky was incredibly clear. We sat by the campfire, just the four of us- my parents, Amanda and me. I was still small enough to fit comfortably on my mother's lap. My mom was holding me in her arms, the smell of wood smoke all around, the stars picked out against the dark sky. It was good. And I knew it.

I remember autumn nights at football games with cold hands and thick-cut French fries in warm parchment paper. I can remember my first love's senior prom. I was a freshman, and I felt so lucky to be able to go. I remember doing the chicken dance in a circle with my friends (who make up with majority of the readership here.) Gwen was right across from me, and Kelly was to my left. We were all laughing, and I remember wanting to take a mental picture and freeze the moment. It was good, and I knew it.

I remember taking a road trip with College Roommate Jo to Harrisonburg, VA. She was thinking about transferring to JMU. I didn't want her to transfer, but I was willing to drive her to her audition at a different college, 14 hours away, straight down Route 81 . We sang and ate McDonald's- she almost never ate fast food unless you were going 65 mph down an interstate highway- and took turns behind the wheel. We were almost back in Syracuse when we started laughing so hard that I actually peed my pants. I tried to sit on a pillow so it wouldn't get absorbed into the upholstery. She laughed until she cried and just barely steered us off the exit ramp to the gas station where I threw away the pillow and changed my clothes. There's a photograph of me (no, you can't see it) standing outside the minivan, cheeks pink from laughing, and the air temperature back in upstate New York so cold that steam was rising from my soaked jeans. She bought Pet Odor Remover (sadly, not a joke) while I was in the ladies room. It was good, and I knew it while it was happening.

I remember being in London, when I didn't have a job for the first time since I was 15. All we had to do was take pictures, work in the darkroom, visit Stonehenge, go to free museums, use our Britrail passes, see West End shows for 8 pounds or class credit, take your pick. It was good. And I knew it was good while it was happening.

I remember being in Miami, not loving the drug dealers, scary drivers and giant flying roaches, but loving the feeling of swiping my ID card in the lobby of the Hiami Merald, getting on an elevator with Dave Barry, seeing my work on the front page, getting critiques from my editor. I knew I couldn't stay there forever. I needed health insurance, and 80 degrees and sunshine every day got monotonous for this East Coast girl who loves four seasons. There was a lot about the second half of my time there that was good, and I knew it.

It's the same way now. Joel and I get a little bit of a hard time about how much fun with have our friends' kids. There's a lot of - not peer pressue, exactly but... um, pointed commentary? I guess you could say?- about how we should start a family, like, last month. Someone actually said, "If you got pregnant in a month or two, you might not even be showing at the wedding!" Um... Has the Folger's crystals guy secretly switched my birth control with a jelly bracelet from the 80s? What? And the truth is, as much as I adore my friends' kids and proudly display their artwork on the fridge and happily hold their place in line at amusement parks while they play skeeball and willingly change diapers to give a new mama a break, when they leave our apartment? Joel and I have been known to hide under the covers and declare it "silence time" for fifteen minutes. We do want to be parents someday, but I'm not going to deny high-fiving about the fact that we have no one else's butts to wipe except our own right now. I like this child-free, engaged time of planning and traveling and sleeping until noon on weekends. It's so good at the moment, and I know it.

That doesn't mean that I didn't love seeing a friend's one-year-old in footie PJs last weekend and melt a little when he laid his head on my shoulder out of sheer exhaustion. I know there will be sleepless nights and dirty diapers and frustration with teething toddlers. I know I'll miss sleeping until noon the way I currently miss having nothing to do but hang out with my high school friends, wander through Borders on long winter breaks from college and explore London. There will be babies who fit into my arms like I used to fit into my mom's, and that will be good, too. I just know it.