Monday, March 31, 2014

Dear Frances

"The only time I got into trouble was in college when I accidentally cut a class during my first semester.... I looked at my schedule and thought I had a free period, so I went out to the woods to collect ferns for my biology class collection. 

I thought it was funny that everyone was at the tennis court - I had cut physical education! I got called before the House Committee. Fortunately my biology teacher was a member. When I told them I had been collecting ferns, he broke out laughing, so they forgave me." 

My grandmother Frances has told me so many unbelievable stories about her life, and I'm not sure I will ever forgive myself for not writing them down immediately, and subsequently forgetting many of the rich details. 

I've never been good at retaining details and retelling stories in a way that does them justice - unlike my grandmother, whose clarity of even her earliest of memories is almost startling. (Frances, on her first grade experience: "I attended a one room schoolhouse at Birch Harbor and loved it. I was so interested in what the older students were doing that I didn't do my own work, so the teacher gave up on me and I got put in subprimary class, where I colored pictures of fruit bowls and butterflies. That was fine with me."

She loves to talk to people - all people - and tell stories. Stories about herself, stories about others. Stories about decades of the past, stories about yesterday. Thankfully she also loves to write. Over the past year her voice has diminished to barely a whisper, mainly due to radiation treatments she had 20 years ago. Talking is now difficult for her - and presumably quite painful, though she'd never say so. 

While it used to be difficult to get a word in edgewise, conversations are now almost entirely one sided, with her doing almost all of the listening, and almost none of the talking. It doesn't feel right to me, this role reversal. While I used to wish for a little more listening on her end, this new reality seems patently unfair - and the world is worse off for it. 

So while I still call and yammer on and on, filling her in on my day to day adventures with Colin, work and life overall, I've decided to start writing her letters more frequently, and to leave her with a few questions per letter to answer in writing, at her leisure. I wasn't really sure how she would take to an "assignment" - she is a very busy woman, and - despite all of the talking and storytelling she is famous for - doesn't exactly relish the exercise of talking about herself. But I gather from the seven page letter that I received from her today that she enjoyed recounting several of her school related memories in response to my first round of questioning. 

So I will press on. Tomorrow I will put another letter in the mail, with a few new questions (and a few follow ups that this ex-journalism major can't stop herself from asking). 

But first - Frances, on not being sure what she wanted to "do" after college: 

"I always thought I'd like to be a writer, and still might do that." 


PS - "I'm back" sounds a little too  bombastic?  but as my fingers itch to peck away longer and longer Instagram captions lately, it has occurred to me that there might be a better venue for such observations  So I will say that I do hope and intend to get things going again here on Dear Frances. Thank you to one of the blog's namesakes for inspiring me to write again. Both here, and on paper. And thank you for visiting - I have missed this.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

worth the wait

Holy smokes. 

I have not posted in over 4 months. 

In that time I got more and more pregnant (go figure!); amassed a gazillion photos and instagrammed them to post here and then never found time to do so; was treated to five baby showers by some of the best friends and family a lady could ask for; bitched about the heat, humidity and lack of rain this summer more than I care to admit; bought my first pair of Birkenstocks to accommodate my swollen football feet....

And then, a little over a month ago, on September 6, 2012 ...

Colin, at one month old (he's now 6 weeks old today - impossible!!)

This guy came into the world.

He's been referred to as the meatloaf, the peanut, sweet pea, honey bear. More formally known as Colin. He is the center of our universe now and we wouldn't have it any other way. 

But let's be real here - like all healthy bundles of joy, he is all-consuming. So please excuse the hiatus of unknown duration here, and know that I miss posting to this blog very much. Once I hit that magical point that all moms I know assure me will come - when you feel more like your pre-baby self again and you have some semblance of control over your time - I will be back. Promise. 

Until then, check out Colin's tumblr page where we post new photos of our petit chou often. 


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A successful Memorial Day

... defined here as plunging into freezing water and having a cheeseburger loaded with pickles.

Yes, that is the real color, and not an Instagram trick.

Jake helping me get ready to float in the mighty freezing Niagara. 

 Evan fetching the drink I left all the way down the stairs on the boat. 
These boys sure know how to treat a pregnant lady.

It was a hot, hot Memorial Day (90ish?) spent cooling off in the breeze of the Niagara River in Lewiston, catching up with one of our oldest Buffalo friends, now living in L.A. but home for holiday weekend. We decided not to actually take the boat out, but instead just hung out down on the dock. But I had to get in the water. Had to. Those who know me well know that this is really beyond my control - like a sickness.

Evan does not share my hydroholic tendencies, especially when the water in question is, say, below 70 degrees (admittedly, I have no idea what water temperature is considered comfortable by normal people, as you'll see).

Getting in the water involved a particularly ungraceful flop from the back of the boat, clutching onto a floatation device (see above) and then paddling with one arm back to the boat to hang on. 

There was no actual swimming involved - just a jarring mild paralysis as I waited for things to go a little numb, and then shimmied myself to a position where my belly fit into the tube's hole, with my backside basking in the sun and my front side freezing in the water. (One of my favorite things ever.)

It was the closest approximation that I have felt anywhere in Western New York to the frigid Maine ocean that I love and miss so wildly. I think Jake's dad said it was about 55 degrees, which I do know most normal people would find unpleasant, but I find - honest to god - refreshing.

We ended the day attempting to assuage a fierce craving with an epic journey through the 'burbs for the dinner of champions - cheeseburgers at Five Guys.  I suggested we suck it up and brave the mall location, so that at least we could maybe swing into the Children's Place to use a coupon on something - maybe pick out our first baby outfit together? (we both lack the obsessive baby clothing gene), to make the trip feel a little more justified. We got to the mall around 7 pm to find it closed, and proceeded to trek up Transit Ave to the other Five Guys, meaning that we probably spent more money on gas to get there than we did on the meal itself.

You see, Five Guys is one of just a few places in Buffalo where I can get a burger loaded with pickles actually on the burger. Maybe you are from a place where that doesn't seem like a big deal, like me. A place where getting pickles on your burger doesn't mean having to take the pickle spear they give you on the side, slice it crudely with your butter knife, and stick the ill fitting pieces onto the burger, constantly poking them back into place as they try to escape with every bite.

OH - and riddle me this - if you buy a hotdog from a hotdog stand around here, you can almost always get pickles on it. Whaaat? Seriously, Western New York - what gives? So, yes, I guess you could say this is a peeve of mine, and that the availability of pre-sliced pickles (regardless of their caliber) has pretty much become my benchmark for a good burger 'round here. 

*End of pickle rant. * (for now)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

garden retail therapy and a new mantra

There are only a handful of shopping venues that I would classify as "therapeutic" - meaning that I usually have a smile on my face the whole time I am browsing, my mind is completely clear of stress and clutter, I take my sweet time taking everything in and don't have that "Oh my God,  I am wasting so much time and money and need to get the hell out of here" feeling. 

The handful of my personal retail therapy venues include fabric stores, farmers markets, thrift and junk shops, flea markets, flower markets and garden centers. I recently treated myself to a little dose of the last, when I set out to splurge on some annuals to put in pots.

 photo bomb

This little shopping trip was an exercise in what I am calling "less planning, more doing" - something I aspire to make my new mantra (ignore for a moment that it sounds an awful lot like the Home Depot tagline). 

I am, by nature, prone to fits of obsessive planning, researching, debating and - ultimately - indecision, which all too often ultimately stalls if not completely extinguishes many of my creative aspirations.

 I recently heard that my favorite floral designer came down with a bad case of clematis
I think its going around.

 Holla holla, hellabore. 

{All shots above taken at Elbers, around the corner from my house. It's good to have a garden center that close to home, and I was really impressed with their selection this year. All shots below taken at Urban Roots - a cooperative community garden center with an excellent selection of plants and garden supplies, staffed by your knowledgable, friendly, garden crazy Buffalo neighbors. They also host several workshops and events (including plant swaps!) throughout the year, and happen to have one of the most adorable websites I have ever seen (check it out).}

 Japanese painted fern - I will be back for you.

 And you too, Jenny.

 And you, Jacob.

 It's been a while since a new car has made my heart go budumpadump like this his luscious minty Fiat parked outside Urban Roots.

Last year when I went to Urban Roots to pick out container garden plants I spent a stupid amount of time putting this and that together, trying to decide then and there what plants to put in which pot with which other plants, and trying to remember which pots I had at home, what the colors and sizes were etc. Madness, right? Only to get home and realize I had totally misjudged my container inventory, that the plants didn't quite look as good together when potted as I had thought they would, etc etc. 

This smells ridiculously beautiful. If only I could remember its name.

So this year I just took my time browsing and compiling anything that struck me as particularly beautiful or interesting. And while I tried to keep it diverse, I didn't worry about what would go with what or which pots they would go in. And - shockingly - it all came together quite easily and was a much more enjoyable experience. 

Apologies for skipping the weekly review last week. Another post or two is coming on other notables, including an afternoon spent on the Niagara River - where, with the exception of minor meltdown over a HUGE black spider on Evan's shirt (flashbacks to my horrid sci-fi spider bite episode from last summer) we had a lazy, breezy time catching up with one of our oldest Buffalo friends who now lives in L.A. (and he freaked out a little about the spider too, so that made me feel a little better).

Happy summer!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

the week in review: good reads, magic and Mozart

A pictorial review of the week.

Flower appreciation.

 / 1 / 
Prettiest flowers I have ever seen growing out of a crack in the sidewalk. 

 / 2 / 
Campanula. Why do they remind me of toys, images and characters from my childhood in the early 80s?

/ 3 / 
My beloved clematis burst into bloom this week.

Living room progress surges on.

/ 4 / 
Evan spent most of the evenings this week scraping, and scraping, and scraping the 10 windows in the sunroom. 

 / 5 / 
More attention and commitment to detail - original hardware covered in layers of paint by decades of DIY homeowners without Evan's attention to detail. Soaked in baking soda and water, and scraped and polished. Like magic.

 / 6 / 
Living room on lock-down - the sanding has begun.

 / 7 / 
One wheel down, three to go on the antique industrial cart that we're turning into a coffee table (see here). 

 / 8 / 
Sully telepathically communicating.

 / 9 / 
Dinner at Left Bank - a 16 oz porterhouse steak that I thought would be impossible to finish, but alas, was not. 

 / 10 / 
Dinner at home. An odd medley of ingredients in the fridge that actually turned out quite tasty and definitely unexpected - feta, cilantro, red onion, jalepeno, cider vinegar and lemon.

/ 11 / 
Impromptu vinyl session inspires Hey Ladies dance.

 A lot of Billy Joel, a little Jefferson Airplane, a lot of hip hop and some Mozart to wrap things up.

Good reads. 

/ 12 / 
What a fun surprise to get this in the mail this week from my friend Penny - a down-to-earth, hilarious approach to parenting that I can really get behind. 

/ 13 / 
And some more parenting tips. This made me smile while waiting to take Sully in for blood work at the vet. Might have to pick up a copy.

These weekly roundups just reiterate how quickly time flies. Like woah, Nelly. 

Hope you all had a great week.