Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dad's books

My Dad has the most eclectic and impressive reading habits of anyone I've ever met.  He spends his leisure time poring over titles like the ones in this picture (a random sampling from his nightstand).  I am always astonished at the things he's reading.  On the end table next to me are several volumes of Civil War history, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, books on programming Joomla, and something called The Genius in All of Us.  While he has a special fondness for philosophy, theology and history, there's always a sprinkling of science, technology and how-to books.  Every once in a while I'll find him reading a novel, but it might be in French for an extra challenge.

As a kid, I admired my Dad's books, and attempted to emulate him at times... I was a bookworm from an early age, and amused myself by tackling serious literature earlier than necessary.  (and earlier than was beneficial, in many cases; I'm sure I read Siddhartha when I was 12 or so, and retained nothing from it.)  I suppose I thought I'd be like him as an adult, amassing a lifetime collection of beautiful and interesting books.

Things don't always go the way we expect.  Nowadays, I'm still a reader - but closer to my Mom in habits, I almost always read fiction.  I'm halfway through a single non-fiction work this summer - Cleopatra: A Life; but it feels like heavy lifting, like being back in school.  And though I enjoy the challenge of an occasional classic, I don't have anywhere near my Dad's stamina for really hard reading.

During this two-week period at my parents' house, when the children are all miraculously away at camp, I've been tackling the attic.  Sorting through my own stuff, and helping my parents sort through theirs.  Dad and I did a major culling of his philosophy & psychology collection yesterday.  It was hard even for me to throw out tome after tome of 1970s wisdom, but the reality is that no one will ever read these books again.  Still, it was nice to go through it all with him; to glimpse the things he was interested in before I was born.  Things like Existentialism, and Gestalt Therapy.  And although I may not read nearly as much as my Dad does, ever, I still feel a huge amount of pleasure in sorting and arranging shelves of old books; each one dusty and unique and a world unto itself.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Biking through Natick today, where I spent the first 18 years of my life.  In the second 18, I've traveled all over the world.  But my roots are still here, in this town.

Looking at Natick as an adult, it's an idyllic place.  A Main Street of shops and cafes - from art and yoga studios to hardware and liquor stores.  The Natick Common, a green space with a gazebo, and outdoor concerts and events all year.  High-quality public schools, suburban neighborhoods where kids can still ride bikes in the street.  I was reading recently about the loss of the American Dream; but as far as I can see, Natick embodies it.

As an adolescent, I hated the neatness and simplicity of it all.  I always had a taste for the grandiose and dramatic, and dreamed continually of worldly sophistication - of travel and adventure and rough edges.  Natick always seemed sterile.  The ways people here connect to their community - things like gardening, and getting involved with local politics and sports teams - never made sense to me.

I was thinking today how my sister and I both rebelled at Natick's civility in our own ways.  She has found her comfort zone in environments of poor, victimized women; I've surrounded myself with non-English-speaking circus people.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Erin at work

Today my Mom and I visited my sister's workplace.  Erin works as an Advocate Manager at Rosie's Place in Boston.  Rosie's Place is a well-established nonprofit agency that supports poor and homeless women.  They provide food and shelter, but also a tremendous range of other services - health, education, clothing, social services, employment.  Women show up on the doorstep of Rosie's Place every day of the year in desperate straits, and Erin supervises the advocates who take these women in, listen to them, and try to help solve their problems.

On our tour, we were quite amazed by the scope of this organization.  From a small women's shelter founded in 1974, Rosie's has grown to include hundreds of staff and volunteers in a myriad of programs.  It is bright, welcoming, and respectful of the thousands of women it serves.

I am continually impressed with my sister's dedication to her work - this job is relatively new for her, but she has always worked in areas of deep social need - domestic violence shelters, special-needs programs, childcare centers.  When we were teenagers, I was more idealistic and political than she was - but in her adult life she has gone far beyond me in her commitment to making the world a better place.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Kids At Camp

First day sending all three kids to a summer day camp.  I spent most of the day worrying about them, and pacing around not knowing what to do with my free time.

They had a great day!  Came home with stories of Capture The Flag, and Giants, Wizards, & Elves.  They went to the beach, colored pictures, and played games like Evolution and Cross My Ocean.  The whole day sounded so perfectly normal, I breathed a big sigh of relief.

Hopefully as the week goes on I will figure out how best to spend my time...?  It's the first time I've really wondered, what will I do when my kids are all in school?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Days flying by

Another long stretch without blogging - apologies, readers!  I think in this city, I have such a rare and great amount of interaction with other close adults - family, and old friends - that I'm feeling less of a need to chronicle everything on my blog.  But there has been no lack of interesting things happening these past couple of weeks.

In the first few days of July, we went down to the Philadelphia area for a visit, staying with Greg's parents.  The trip down there ended up being a nightmare - traffic, bloody noses, toileting accidents, carsickness - everything conspired to make a 6-hour journey into a 9-hour one, and even then we had to route into Philadelphia instead of to our original Jersey destination.  Ah, road trips with children.

Our two days there, however, were great.  I spent almost the whole time immersed in work at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts; the kids had lots of fun with their grandparents; and Greg had a bit of both, time with his parents and time in Philly.

We rushed back to Boston to get here in time for the evening fireworks (The journey home was thankfully uneventful).  We had invited my parents, sister and brother-in-law to join us on the 26th floor, perfectly overlooking the Charles River and the Hatch Shell.  Although weather delayed the festivities a bit, we were eventually rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience of an excellent fireworks display.

A few days later was Nikita's highschool graduation.  It was quite an event!  Four or five people from the supervision of minors department flew in from Montreal, and a full ceremony of speeches and slideshow and gift-giving was held in the cafeteria, followed by a barbeque outside.  This photo shows the rest of the school children presenting Nikita with the scrapbook they made for him.  I think it was momentous for all of them - to see their senior member leaving the school, and imagine what that's like, and to adjust to school without him.  For Nikita of course it's even bigger - he began with the Cirque schools around age 7, and has worked with 12 different teachers, in dozens of countries, while performing as an artist in the show.  For the first time he will only have one job!  While Nikita plans to attend college, it won't be right away; he will stay working on Totem a while longer.

The following week we continued Boston sightseeing - we took the kids to Blue Man Group, to the New England Aquarium, and to the Boston Children's Museum.  There were, of course, fountains to play in (here are two more of our favorites: Canal Fountain and Frog Pond)

Today was the last day of the school year, celebrated with an afternoon at Boston Common.  And they have a surprisingly long summer break this year - two full months!  They won't start school again until mid-September in Washington, DC.  This fall I'll have a 4th grader, a 3rd grader, and a restless 5-year-old at home on my hands!  Hard to believe, all around.

One more image to finish this entry - though we've had fewer family gatherings in this city, there have still been a handful of occasions with critical mass.  Here are some of Totem's little girls - Dasha, Alyona, Alina, Gipsy, Ayla and Isa.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Boston apartment

A quick look at our apartment here. video
   It's in the center of downtown Boston, such an amazing location!  Every day, the early-morning sunlight over the Charles River, and walking out the door into the afternoon throngs of Faneuil Hall tourist crowds, dodging costumed tour guides, watching street performers, mingling with the government & financial workers, descending down into the T stations - I feel immensely lucky, here in the heart of the city.
   Bikram Yoga in the financial district is a 10-minute walk.  When I run (ok, admittedly rarely in this city), I run through Boston Common, the Public Garden, and the Esplanade.  Our daily bike commute passes the Aquarium, the World Trade Center and the Children's Museum.  It is a rich, colorful city, and I'm taking in as much of it as I can.