Travel and Trees

I finished tying up all the loose ends on some malingering articles just in time for next week’s trip to North Carolina. In fact, I finished a couple of days earlier than I expected, so I’ve been using the past two days to get caught up on house and family chores.

I tackled the vacation-work travel folder yesterday and typed up itineraries, booked a train, and fixed the frequent flier miles. We actually haven’t gone anywhere that requires a plane for ages, so the frequent flier situation required talking with somebody in Bangalore to get everything up to date.

We’re taking our first European vacation this summer, since our honeymoon. 22 years. Steve and I travelled extensively in Europe before we had kids. He lived in Austria for a year and student-taught in Germany. I had an English boyfriend at one point and a sister in Madrid. But then kids came, so we found ourselves on a lazy river in Orlando Florida instead of a cobblestone street in Florence.

No regrets. The lazy river was fun, too.

This July, we’re going to London, Edinburgh, and Inverness for ten days, and am totally psyched. We’re staying in adorable airbnbs in Scotland, which is the only way to travel with two nearly adult boys. They need their own rooms, and we need ours.

Before we go there, I need to finish more research on my odd, odd family tree. I must find out which side they were on at Culloden, so I can imagine them either under a headstone or executing officers.

I’ve still been haphazardly researching my family tree. The Fitzgerald side is complicated because there were about four hundred years, where they only seemed to have four names for their sons — Garrett, William, Maurice, or Edmund. And there’s a mash of family legend polluting the research of others on the Internet. I need some quality time to read through the peerage charts to see who’s who. But in the meantime, I’ve been reading some wikipedia entries on some of more colorful cousins.

There’s Lord Edward FitzGerald (1763-1798), an Irish revolutionary, who married Pamela, the illegitimate daughter of Louis Phillippe II, the Duke of Orleans. He died while resisting arrest for treason. And there’s his mom – Emily FitzGerald (1731-1814), who was sleeping with her kids’ tutor. DNA tests have shown that Lord Edward’s dad was really the eccentric tutor, not the Irish Duke. The Scottish side is equally crazy; I need to get this sorted out before we go.

We’re planning on making travel a bigger part of our lives. I even bought color coded packing cubes (I love OCD travel supplies). Getting older sucks in so many ways, but having the time and the resources to travel again, is definitely a perk.


Dinner Time Conversations

Today, we ate at the kitchen counter, because Wednesday is Steve’s gym day, so he doesn’t get home until about 8:00. With laptops next to dinner plate, we did a little multi-tasking — we call it “homework-dinner-combo.” Ian had to finish a personal essay about his personal hero (Steve), and Jonah had to finalize his schedule for next year. And we were chatting the whole time.

Jonah showed us a video about a guy who lived in the Paris airport for 18 years.

After telling us that his roommate is going to get a tattoo of Mac Mills, he announced that he wanted to get a tattoo of the Dortmund soccer team. I told him about the things that I thought I was cool at 19 and that I would be unhappy to have permanently affixed to my 53-year old body. Annie Lennox, for example. I did like REM back then, but I’m still happy that nothing is highlighting my saggy self.

And he told me that Grey Poupon is a very popular word in rap music, because it’s a symbol of wealth and because it rhymes with a lot of stuff. And then proceeded to freestyle a rap using the words futon and crouton.

I’m going to be really sad when he goes back to school.

Photo: Ian made an “I” out of hot sauce on his black bean soup.


Hunting Sweaters

Beyond some boring paperwork (Gah! I hate invoicing) and a review of the education newsletters, not much work happened today. I did a weight lifting class at the local gym, which I hated. Give me some loud nasty music and a bike, and I’m happy to exercise as long as you like. Planks and barbells are the worst. But they tell me that after 50, it’s super important. Sigh. So, I forced myself to get there this morning.

Then I met up with my 83-year old mom at the mall with stops along the way at the Post Office to mail out a used book and the gas station. Well, I attempted to meet up with my mom. She was waiting for me at a Starbucks at a different mall. Because in Jersey, there are a bazillion malls with nearly the same name.

No worries. I had a lot to do without Sylvia slowing me down.

I first went to Macy’s and Sephora looking for gifts for my three teenage nieces, specifically affordable make-up kits that weren’t marketed by a former stripper. I was going for light pinks and blushes, rather than black smoky eyes and gold glitter and thigh high boots. Didn’t find what I was looking for, so I’ll have to go out again tomorrow.

J. Crew is having a big sale. If you get their credit card, it’s 70 percent off everything. So, I got this blouse, buttoned sweater, v-neck sweater, one for Steve, and a scarf for him.

Next up is some computer clean up, which I suppose counts as work, and then getting Ian ready for his holiday concert. He’s a percussionist. We’ll leave with his concert outfit on, pick up Wendy’s, and drive to my folks who live near his school. I need my Dad’s help with Ian’s tie. I’ve tied Jonah’s tie before using a YouTube tutorial, but my dad’s home and can do it better. Somewhere in there, I’ll eat dinner and meet up with Steve at Ian’s school.

Thoughts and prayers for Jonah who is taking his last final this evening. He’s doing very well in his humanities classes, but taking a thumping in his STEM classes this semester. Let’s hope the gods are with him this finals week, or he’ll be picking a new major over break.

Hunting Stories

A website that I occasionally write for asked me to do something on special ed. They are particularly interested in the urban school district that I taught at 25 years ago. So, I had to track down possible interviewees who weren’t afraid of a media exposé and were interesting. No biggie!

Also, this outlet likes upbeat stories that highlight innovations, which is cool, so I had to track down someone who had inspiring stories to tell about kids who are desperately poor, probably homeless, possibly abused, with intellectual disabilities, maybe physical disabilities, and definitely emotionally disturbed.

Took a few weeks to find the right person, but I did it. She’s a principal of a public school in the South Bronx that is the home of 600 kids who have gotten kicked out of regular schools, because their needs are so great. She called her students as “her babies.” Woot!

I might have to ask for hazard pay for this article, because I could get assaulted by the students, and my car might get stolen, when I go there to do interviews. (Not joking.) But it sounds fun, so I don’t care.

Because I started work at 7:00am today, I was all done by noon, so I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to get my mother a hard-boiled egg cooker for Christmas. It’s not exciting. But she’s 83 and that’s what she wants. I’m supplementing that gift with some cute dessert plates in a cobalt blue.

Christmas decorations are smeared all over the house, so I tried to neaten up the boxes and ribbons. It was too big of a mess to finish in an hour though, and I had to move on to the next chore… Dinner.

I had some leftover chicken stew, but not enough for a full meal. So, I made some fresh mashed potatoes and added it to the leftover stew along with some frozen peas to make a Shepard’s pie. I’ve got a salad, too.

On Tuesdays, I have to make dinner in the middle of the afternoon, because Ian has a drum lesson between 4:30 and 5:15. Lou the drum teacher just prepped Ian for his audition for the winter musical. I think he’s going to make it. The timer on oven just went off, so I should go and feed him before Kristina does reading tutoring with him at 6:30.

Well, this is a rambling “day in a life of a freelance writer/mom/blogger” blog post. Hope to be back later.

Eclectic Life

We’re up early in this house. Today, like most days, we were up around 6am. At 6:20, we were all huddled around the kitchen counter attending to newspapers, bowls of cereal, and deep cups of coffee. Not much talking at that point — just reminders about after-school tutoring and a warning that dinner would probably be take-out. At 6:45, Steve drove the 15-year old Toyota to the train station. 6:50, Ian gets on the special ed van to his out-of-out district high school. I stalled going to the gym for half an hour, but I got there and ran/walked for 45 minutes.

I did an amusing interview with an old coot later this morning. I’m rather proud that I got him to agree to talk with me. It took a little sweet talking, but it happened. He turned down an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Ed last week, so HA! I win.

I’m really loving my project right now, but I don’t think I should write about it here first. I’ll have 2,000 words coming out soon elsewhere. Then I’ll talk.

I just need to get the time to finish things off. The rest of the afternoon is shot. I have to go to Ian’s far away school for a meeting about his reading.

He’s never received any teaching to overcome his hyperlexia (super decoding skills, poor comprehension). I have asked every year for extra help with reading, since he was in fourth grade and the comprehension problems became evident. And they’ve done nothing. They just shove all the special ed kids in one room and then have them listen to books on tape. Special education sucks so badly.

There have been a whole bunch of new laws in New Jersey to protect kids with dyslexia. Our school district has had to spend beaucoup bucks on retraining their teacher for dyslexia. So, I’m arguing that Ian deserves the same additional instructional time for reading using specific curriculum. And I’m making a big stink about it.

They handle me and my demanding ways by testing and retesting Ian, by making me go to tons of meetings, and by stalling. Never saying no, but never saying yes. Special Education sucks so badly

I’m giving them one more chance. If this meeting is a waste of time, I’ll make a bigger stink.

But all of it takes time. Time away from my work. I’m going to have to make up those hours tonight. Sigh. That’s why dinner isn’t happening tonight.


Happy Thanksgiving!

IMG_6705.JPGSteve is drinking posca, a Roman beverage (water, vinegar, coriander seeds, and honey), which was given to Roman soldiers before battle. It is supposed to give you energy and prevent cramps. He used to prepare it for Jonah when he ran cross country. His former teammates still talk about the vile “Jonah Juice.” Steve’s drinking it now preparing for the Glen Rock 5K Turkey Trot.

I wasn’t planning on running, because we’re in the midst of a record cold snap here in the North East. It’s below freezing with cold winds. I was going to huddle in the car for the race, but then I got there and couldn’t be a coward. I think I got my best time. Woot!


Meanwhile, Steve cooked up a batch of cranberry sauce using his great grandmother’s(“Maymo”) recipe. I roasted the pumpkins, and Steve turned them into a pie with a Martha Stewart Recipe. I’m going to make some romaine-free salads shortly. And then we’re going to my brothers’ for a warm and crowded Thanksgiving meal.


Jonah came home last night. Yay. Miss that boy so, so, so much. He surprised us all with a college growth spurt. He’s now two inches taller than Steve.

Hope y’all are finding time to read trashy novels on the sofa and appreciating family.



Everyday Fashion

Chris, my brother, on the phone: Hi, La. Happy Birthday.
Me: Thanks, Keek.
Chris: Whatcha going to do today?
Me: I’m actually working right now on the stupid xxx article and then I have a 9:30 spin class. At noon, we’re going into the city to go the fashion exhibit at the Met [the Catholic Imagination at the Metropolitan Museum of Art] and then we’ll get Chinese food or something.
Chris: the fashion exhibit? With the boys?
Me: Yeah, it’s my birthday, so they have to do the things that I want to do. So, we’ll walk around looking at dresses making witty remarks. Well, they’ll be slightly bitchy remarks, but we’ll call them witty —
Chris: — a Queer Eye episode in other words.
Me: Exactly. I have to do boy things for 364 days a year, so for my birthday, they have do a girl thing.

And my guys were champs and gave me as much time as I needed to ooh and aah over the beautiful dresses in a beautiful place and, really, no one was bitchy at all.

Here are some pictures of the exhibit. I want to go back again and reshoot the pictures with more people in the background. I love the contrast between people in their everyday tourist shorts and t-shirts and a few extra pounds gazing at the elegant manikin.

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