Sabbatical Day 4

In which I don my husband’s robe and make apple crisp.

Driving to work

So, I’ve been doing this #1secondaday app…

…and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes using their phone a lot — it essentially grabs quick snippets of your day and strings them together. I find the variety of aural environments very satisfying! It also gives a little structure to the day, finding one thing that is #1SE-worthy. The above is a screen grab from Tuesday morning, alongside some scenic Chicago landscape 😉 

It’s been established, I hate sitting in Chicago traffic. My favorite description comes from a lawyer who said simply, “it’s brutal.” It’s terrible, and the public transportation is also just so-so and getting around is the pits, more or less. I want to reiterate again how much of a motivator not sitting in traffic has been for me to make major changes in my life.*

Now is a good time to mention that I’m moving most of my writing here and away from my business page at MesaBirth. Please take a look at this blog post to find out what I’m doing!

It’s interesting to think about the Last Straw — what is it that makes your life so absolutely miserable you decide you’ll change as much else as you possibly can so as not to have to endure it any more? First world problems, I know — but it is also very easy to disparage one’s own mental and physical health and ultimately who does that serve?

My dear sweet husband rounded up the boys to see Spiderman this afternoon and left me alone in the house where I’m basking in the quiet and the snoring dog and the cold bright winter sunshine. I have a movie to watch from the library (Annihilation!) which I am stoked to see but it is too nice to sit in the dark right now. 

Next on deck: possibly chicken and rice soup, or maybe just grilled cheese and leftover tomato soup. Look at more ideas for a sewing corner and possibly start an Ikea list. Read some more of Women Who Run With the Wolves (I want to finish by Dec 31!). Hit “publish” and walk away. 

September 13, 1935

Sam in chaps

This picture came up on my FB page today and honestly there is a lot to unpack — so, some thoughts of Sam as we approach what would have been his 84th birthday. I, his birthday present, will turn 53 a few days later. 

First of all, our tiny little Cape Cod in Willoughby, Ohio. Danny was born here. There was literally no room for a dishwasher in the tiny kitchen and I did that for ten years. 

Then, wee Dan. So little and blonde! So helpful. He has a remarkable sense of Grandpa Sam, although he was only eight when he died. I’m grateful for that, and now he can still do funny stories about and impressions of Sam. He is also naturally Sam-esque, or rather has what I consider to be a strong Sablack gene that creates talkative, charming, darkly handsome men. I would point you to my brother Michael, my cousins Ray and Colin, my nephew Tyler (a superstar in kindergarten and from birth), my Uncle George, and my Uncle David — who died young and was as I recall very funny and glamorous but maybe on the crazier side of crazy. 

So, Sam looks particularly badass here but his looks and attire are actually utilitarian and not something he usually went around in. He was really too old to be riding his motorcycle that far (back home to Martinsburg, WV, where he rented an apartment in my aunt’s home) but he didn’t like to give anything up that wasn’t absolutely necessary. He did however take good care of his clothes and his appearance in general and put time and effort into how he looked.

Fun fact: he met my beautiful mother while selling shoes at Woodward & Lothrop (“Woody’s”) in Washington DC in the early 60s.

I love how gracefully he is reaching down to take whatever Danny is handing him. 

It also reminds me of how he liked to proclaim that he didn’t care for children or babies or puppies or kittens and although he really did hate cats all of these creatures would naturally crawl all over him if he sat still long enough. 

Elegy for a Good Dog

When Buddy first came to us in January 2013, he was sad and scared. He’d been living with an old lady who died and it wasn’t clear how long it had been until he was found. Judging by his behavior wheIMG_2232n he came to us, she let him eat lots of table food and pee inside — I wondered what he would think about our exciting house with two boys bouncing around, and he did just fine.

It’s hard to believe he was only with us for three years because he was so well-loved and had many fans. Among his sterling qualities were a friendly face, extreme fluffiness, gentleness with children, and overall good nature. Vet techs and groomers always had something to say about what a good dog he was — Buddy was patient and stoic and put up with being poked and combed and washed without protest.

Last summer we were saddened to learn that he had diabetes and embarked on a new routine of twice-daily insulin shots and frequent blood sugar checks. Part of the treatment required him to submit to all-day glucose curves where he’d spend the day at the vet, getting stuck with blood draws every couple of hours. He hated it, and our unflappable dog started to shiver uncontrollably when we arrived at the vet’s office. The last time we did the glucose curve he was so upset that he soiled his cage and had to have a bath before hIMG_2532e came home — and then still had to go back for antibiotics later in the week as he suffered from stress-induced colitis. I was growing very concerned about how we were going to handle this for the long term.

Most recently we tried a raw diet for him and he feasted on raw chicken wings twice a day and was honestly the happiest I had ever seen him — his eyes gleamed and his coat shone and he was full of pep and vigor.

IMG_4741Then, quite suddenly, on Sunday night he wouldn’t eat. Monday morning he didn’t eat either and started to decline. Since we already had an appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning we decided to wait until then.

The first vet I saw was very tight-lipped and concerned and we agreed that they’d keep him for the day, start an IV since he was extremely dehydrated, and administer hourly insulin injections to try to get his blood sugar balanced. As the day wore on, it was strongly suggested he transfer to a 24-hour facility where he could be watched all night. Once I got there and spoke to their vet, it became clear that he’d need to stay in that facility for 2-3 days and the prognosis was only fair.

I had to make a decision and I opted for euthanasia. It seemed to me that even if he got through this particular crisis, there would be another one after that and we’d have to decide all over again. And he hates the vet and would be miserable. And, he’s a dog and doesn’t understand that all of these painful procedures are life-saving measures — he would just be unhappy. And right now he was very, very sick. IMG_2288

So, they put me in the special room with kleenex where they do these things, and brought him to me wrapped in a blanket. He was miserable indeed and his breathing was fast and labored. As I held all 15 pounds of him on my lap I was reminded of the many babies I’ve been holding lately for my job, and I rhythmically patted him just as I do with them to soothe him. I told him over and over again what a good dog he was and how much we would all miss him — I wanted the last thing he heard to be: “You’re a good dog. You’re a good dog.”

Buddy wasn’t a perfect dog. He barked too much, ate disgusting things out of the bathroom garbage, and still preferred to pee inside, especially when it was snowing. But he was also an easy companion, enjoyed walks around the block (and especially walking Danny to school, when he still allowed us to do so), was sweet to children, jumped on the laps of visiting women, and when he was in high spirits ran really fast in circles around the yard and made us all laugh. As of this writing he’s been gone for 24 hours and I can’t believe that when I go upstairs I won’t find him sleeping on my bed.


Buddy, you are a very good dog. We all miss you.

Buddy 2009-May 24, 2016

Church-shopping and mic savvy

My love affair with church has waxed and waned my whole life. Our most recent church home, Trinity Cathedral, had a lot going for it — gorgeous music, a strong interest in social justice work, stuff for children, a knitting ministry, political values that align with our own, and Dean Tracey Lind, whom I adore. As do a lot of other people — her intelligence and charisma have won fans across the country and around the world, and everywhere I go I meet someone who knows her.

And did I mentioned gender-neutral language? It wasn’t until I had it that I realized how much I loved it and how necessary it is. I would insist on it, if I had a choice. It’s not all “he, his, him.” Instead of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” we might hear about  “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer of Life.” It’s much nicer that way, don’t you agree?

The biggest problem with Trinity was that it was 30 minutes away and the service started at 9:00 am.

So, now we’re in Lombard and I am ready for a fresh start. A neighborhood church would be great! A church where we can make friends and do church stuff. A church that doesn’t make me grit my teeth … or just turn off the alarm and roll over for a delicious Sunday morning lie-in.

I’ve been to three. Week One was Calvary Episcopal Church — my first choice as I have grown to love the liturgy and the Episcopal Church itself. It is a wee little space — in the picture I am sitting just a row or two from the back.

IMG_3793People were nice without being crazily welcoming (something that tends to scare Michael off) and the lady priest was earnest and friendly. The choir was amazingly good, especially for such a small congregation, and I was charmed when during the Passing of the Peace the choir shouted down from their loft, “Peace down there!” while the priest shouted back, “Peace up there!”

But …. she used a microphone. Why? She could have used her normal speaking voice and I could have heard her in the back of the room with no problem. I found it so distracting. Like, really distracting. Like, I sat there in judgment over the use of a stupid microphone.

The next week I visited First United Methodist Lombard. The Methodist Church is the church of my youth and the church where Michael and I were married. There is a lot I like about it, especially the hymns, but when we moved to Ohio I was disenchanted with how conservative the Methodist churches tended to be … and as time went on I became more impatient with churches that opposed gay marriage. Nevertheless, I thought I’d give it another try. IMG_3831

The late morning service we went to  (for this time young D accompanied me) was sparsely attended, and the minister and some other folks hastened to assure us that most of the church had come to the earlier service that took place out on the patio. The pastor, Luis Reyes, was born and raised in Puerto Rico and still speaks with an accent, and it seemed unusual to see him leading what seems otherwise to be a pretty typically whitebread Midwestern congregation. He scored extra points to me by roaming around and speaking extemporaneously during his sermon (and if he did wear a mic, it wasn’t distracting!). We liked it.

D would have been happy to go back there again this week but I want to see what else our new town has to offer, so today we made our way to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Sadly, this was where the lack of mic-savvy put me over the edge. At Trinity, which is a pretty huge space, there was a person in charge of A/V and still there were problems with the mics from time to time. Now, put less expensive technology into constant use with no one in charge — combined with a minister who sings part of the service and wears a mic the whole time — well, it is unfortunate. IMG_3864

People were not especially friendly. Early in the service he asked everyone to look around and if they saw someone they didn’t recognize, to introduce themselves and say hello. D and I laughed later that the woman in front of us just basically gave us the side-eye over her shoulder.

It being Pentecost (one of my favorite church days), the minister gave a sermon in the first person, as if he was one of the people there, which interested me — but there was a baby who babbled (not crying, just making noise) through the whole thing. I would be a churlish mother indeed if I faulted the parent or the baby, which I don’t. But I do wish they had left earlier than they did.  And before they left, I felt like I could see every thought bubble over every other head in the place, thinking irritably, “get that kid out of here!”

It was a church fail.

As a former marketing type, it interests me to see how churches welcome, or fail to welcome, visitors to their midst. What are the first impressions? What is the follow up? And it interests me so much that I wonder if I ought to try visiting some churches that are out of my comfort zone — the ones that don’t allow women to be ministers, the ones whose predominant political views are polar opposites of my own, the ones who insist that the Bible is the final inerrant word of God? The big churches, the well-attended churches, the churches with really active ministries do tend to be these types of churches.

What matters, really? Certainly making a decision about attending church based on its inoffensive use of A/V equipment doesn’t seem to make me a good Christian. Whatever that means.

Lots of big questions raised here for me. No answers yet. I do believe we will find a church where we feel welcome, where we feel the warmth, where we can make a home and feel community. I don’t know what it looks like yet. I don’t know how long I’m going to look. But I do know that church fills my little buddy D with love — he has always really liked church, since he was a little baby snatching the Communion host out of the priest’s hands.

The best part so far is the traditional post-church Sunday breakfast. IMG_3832

One Week In

A week ago today I sat in this living room and sent box after box of stuff to either the basement or the back porch. What the heck is in all these boxes? As of Imagetoday we have made a sizable dent — our bedrooms are organized and our clothes put away, and the kitchen is more or less functional. But still, this.

I am really really really interested in turning over a new leaf in this house. Now that three out of four of us have been diagnosed with ADHD we have an idea of what we are up against. Developing good new habits is key. Reading this article on Facebook provides even more motivation. But when it comes time to remind the children to close the cabinet door they opened, to throw away the empty yogurt container, to not shove dirty and clean clothes indiscriminately into drawers, over and over and over again — well, it seems pretty much impossible. On the other hand, it’s my job, whether I resent it or not. My next step is to develop daily and weekly routines for the summer, to include chores and study time for all. Just the thought of it kind of gives me the willies, and it hasn’t actually been done yet (watch this space for proof that it really happened!). But it’s going to happen. There, I said it — public accountability!

In other news, both boys love their new schools which is really amazing and wonderful. The neighbors have proven to be friendly and nice — one brought her whole family over to welcome us along with homemade brownies and menus for all of their favorite takeout restaurants. There are lots of kids in the neighborhood and the boys have played outside with friends much more than they ever did in Ohio. And we haven’t eaten a bad meal yet.

Now that things are settling down somewhat (and the dishwasher is supposed to be fixed soon) I need to kick into housewife mode big time before the kids are home for the summer. There is nightly dInner to prepare, dog hair to be swept up, laundry to be done, linen closet to be filled, office to be organized, and many, many boxes left to unpack. Then, make a budget and timeline for summer activities. Make a budget, period (everything is expensive). Tiptoe into the local birth world. Decide whether to continue my schooling in the fall. It’s a lot.

As my sweet husband likes to remind me, “bird by bird” is how it’s done. From the great Anne Lamott:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Westward ho!

IMG_3390Late this winter Big Poppa left town to start a great new job in the big city for a few months. And today we leave our home of the last ten years to start a new adventure.

Between then and now, I held down the fort and managed the wild boys, sold our house, threw a going-away party for us, made an epic road trip over Spring Break involving six different destinations and buying our new house, sadly closed out my teaching career at two local hospitals, enjoyed a surprise party thrown by my girlfriends, got an A in the college biology course I was taking … and then got really sick. Thankfully the latter coincided with Dad’s arrival for the big move and he has capably taken over the whole show while making sure I can rest and recuperate.

Case in point: I’m lounging in a hotel outside Toledo with HBO on in the background while he spent the day emptying out the house and is now driving this way along with two kids and a dog  in a Ford Focus that is, according to my mother, packed to the brim. Like, literally nothing else would fit anywhere.  Glad I missed it.

We love you Mrs. K.

The last week has been hugely emotional and so affirming, rather like attending your own funeral. The boys’ teachers and friend went all out with formal and thoughtful goodbyes, and I was sobbing as D’s teacher read from a book his classmates had made for him.

Nana and boys

The boys spent their last afternoon in our old city with my mom, who has been an almost daily presence in their lives for as far back as they can remember. This was the hardest part about leaving.

On a happier note, we are all looking forward to a fresh start — hence this post to my long-neglected blog. Seems like a perfect time to become more intentional about this writing practice and to share my life in greater detail with friends I’ve left behind. Our life is so rich and full and so much slips away — I look forward to documenting these days more carefully.

We sleep in hotels tonight and tomorrow and with any luck will be in our new house Monday night. Chicago, here we come!


Your fist hard in their teeth!

So, just a few days into the Bible Challenge, I came across something interesting.

I bought two Bibles for this, one of which is The Message, a translation that I have long wanted to read. Seriously, years ago, (decades ago!), I came across a pamphlet that had just one of the gospels in this translation and it was totally intriguiging. That was the start I guess (apparently it took over ten years to write). Now I have the whole beautiful hard cover thing, numbered verses and all. I decided to make this my primary text for the year to give the challenge as much a chance as possible to be interesting, and thought that reading without footnotes will make it easier to stay on task.
Anyway, a verse in Psalm 3 reads:

Up, God! My God, help me!

Slap their faces,

First this cheek, then the other,

Your first hard in their teeth!

I was taken aback by the surprising violence, but then I had a vision of Gladiator, how I loved the vivid recreation of life in those days and generally tolerated the overlong movie

(how could I not?)

but was appalled and sickened by the more violent scenes. Because, duh, that was life back then. Back when the psalms were written (sung?) for sure, scratching out a living in the desert — most peoples lives were nasty, brutish, and short. Of course that God is a bad ass God!

Maybe he is a little something like this guy:

Not to be disrespectful.

So intrigued was I by this that I went to The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version (the highly recommended text for the challenge) to see how they wrote the same verse:

Rise up, O Lord!

Deliver me, O my God!

For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;

you break the teeth of the wicked.

“Break the teeth of the wicked!” I’m impressed. My first happy surprise in the Bible. What this all means to me in a more spiritual sense I really couldn’t say.


In other news, I attended a birth today and not to be to HIPPA-ish about it, it was lovely for many reasons — a second-time client, close by, quick labor, nice staff (except for the recovery nurse), beautiful healthy baby and a happy extended family. Makes you want to do it all the time! Took about four hours of my time, two hours actively. Well done! It was a delight to be there and experience the miracle again.


So, the last couple months have been quite a challenge, what with the unexpected death of my dear old dad, a bunch of other stressful crap, and then being laid out with a bad back for 11 days ….

But I am on the mend! And tomorrow I undertake the real challenge, the Trinity Cathedral Bible Challenge, concocted by my close personal friend — the very cool, smart and charismatic Very Reverend Tracey Lind.
It goes for a year. We read the Bible in one year. As an on-again, off-again Christian I have often attempted to read the Bible but must confess it has almost always left me cold. I have long felt bad about this and have decided that if I am going to call myself a Christian and enjoy all the good stuff about church, I am just a poser if I don’t actually read the darn thing cover to cover.

I am also interested in this as a scholarly pursuit, before my brain dries up and blows away.

I could say more but getting used to this WordPress interface after over a year is taking longer than I’d like.

Because I have to go to bed! My plan is get up at 7:00 and use the time until 7:30 to drink coffee and do my reading. I should probably say I will do this every day for the next year, but really it is quite enough that I am publishing this as an intent for one day. Wish me luck!

The party’s over

I’m not gonna lie, it was a great summer. The boys are finally old enough that I can indulge my penchant for late nights and lie-ins and afternoon naps filled in with trips to the pool or the beach, two places that I adore. At those places I can now read books or yap with friends and not chase little boys around. I truly believe that these delightful SAHM summers are a reward for the long days of baby- and toddlerhood. Many of my friends are on their third (or so) baby and I get exhausted just watching them run around. God bless.

But it was great! Party party party — we had two parties and went to several others. Most fit the theme of sitting on a deck or in lawn chairs with beers while all the kids ran around crazy. We had that fun jaunt (where the above picture was taken) to WV in early June to visit Dad and Aunt Lil. We had fun company.

And now it’s fall.

My birthday was on Sunday and it had its ups and downs, as birthdays do. I had high hopes for a post-birthday fun lunch with my husband plus spending birthday money at Barnes & Noble and picking up a few things at Trader Joe’s — nice. Sadly, Michael’s untimely illness squashed those plans and instead I spent almost two hours at the car dealership getting my oil changed and sulking. It went downhill from there.

Once I snapped out of that funk I reflected on the busy-ness of my life now — homeschooling is rewarding, sometimes frustrating, and consistently exhausting. There is a certain amount of work involved in getting the little one off to school and such, but not such a big deal (thankfully). There is the general running-of-the-household stuff which I still feel quite unsuited for (and hopelessly behind in), plus my paying jobs that I took up last year when I had two in school! So, it’s not just me — it is a little nutso (add in soccer and swim team).

Now that I have embraced what is (and am getting to bed earlier) I feel more relaxed about the whole thing. Autumn in NEO is full of charms — a long warm-ish season (due to the lake effect), outstanding fall colors, Friday night football games (and the cannon going off at the high school).

But I still love summer most of all.

Homeschool lessons

Once again my child is making me a better person. It is, of course, an exhausting process.

One of the oddest compliments my mother ever paid me was after M was born and had terrible allergies and I’d given up all wheat and dairy for months in order to breastfeed him. She said that, having known me my whole life, she never would have thought that I’d have the patience! And, no offense taken, I am a pretty selfish and lazy person at heart. I don’t mean that in a bad way (necessarily) but I do like my comfort and enjoy laying around and *love* being waited on. And I do try to structure my life in such a way that I get most of my needs met.

I will say that the weight falls off of you when you don’t eat wheat or dairy (and now that diet is all the rage) but it was terrible at the time. So I learned a little bit about self-sacrifice, as mothers do.

Both my boys are very high-energy so I’ve learned to think about getting exercise every day, as well as getting ya-ya’s out before sitting-type events (or events with a high potential embarrassment factor).

So, now with homeschooling, I am forced to freelance again, which I always enjoyed. I hate the technical aspects of the home office., that’s for sure, but I love bopping around town (with company!), keeping track of hours, checking off a to-do list, and generally feeling productive and useful. Now that I am once again largely responsible for the care and upkeep of one little person, day in and day out, I am pushed into developing better habits for myself. Good stuff!