Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Mother and Child, Kathe Kollwitz
I woke early this morning; Ken was already in the bathroom. I laid in bed a few minutes and then heard Tim's alarm go off. Jumped out of bed then since my window of opportunity to get into the sole toilet of the house was about to vanquish. I was gruff with Ken, again, and Tim was grumpy with me when he found out we hadn't gone to the instant cash machine for his lunch money, again. I flipped up my laptop and let people at work know I was staying home another day. Viruses have been taking a toll on me harder than usual.

It's the beginning of fall here. The air is crisp and the squirrels are busy digging hiding spots and Margaret Atwood--on Twitter--says Mercury is in retrograde until September 27, and then things will get better.

Tim came out of the shower and asked if I was going to take one, too. Because if I was there was a big cockroach in there. "No, its not a cockroach," I say. "Probably a centipede."

"Centipede or cockroach, whatever it is it's big," Tim says.

"Why didn't you kill it?" I ask, knowing full well Tim is afraid of spiders.

"I couldn't reach it," he answered.

I fielded about ten e-mails and then, after Tim left for school, I went out to cash my reimbursement check and to stop by the bakery, La Patisserie, to get a croissant and some pastries for the guys. The rising sun was so bright that I had trouble seeing my way. Megan's old day care teacher, Lisa, was at the crosswalk at the Bean Factory and I stopped abruptly for her--hadn't spotted her ahead of time because of that blinding sun.

I saw mothers at the bus stops with their kids and one who hugged her child before she left her to the walking patrol lines. I thought to myself what it would be like to stay home to care for the family. Then I saw a slightly older woman--mid- to late-thirties--trudging up the sidewalk on Montreal lugging her baby in a car seat, and I immediately recognized that unwieldy pull of the shoulder and the feeling of that precious cargo hitting aginst my hip or knees. Why do we have to return to work so soon, leaving our babies with strangers? Norway and Sweden are so sane, so smart to allow for such generous parental leaves, all the way around. If I had any do-overs it would be to enjoy my babies more, to have protected more time with them.

The village was quiet for the most part this Tuesday. Protestors were just getting out in front of Planned Parenthood. Catholic school kids were crossing the street in uniform. The Tiffany Lounge neon sign, with the outline of a martini glass with olive, was off. The bulldozers were breaking up the old Snyder's lot. A semi-trailer full of new cars was pulling into the Ford plant. I pulled into the TCF drive-thru and sat waiting for my cash, taking in this morning scene.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What Franzenfreude?

The talk of the book world is Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. Haven't read it yet; haven't even seen it yet. Did read an article in the Times about Franzen's chic book launch party. The name dropping, the pictures of svelte women of the publishing scene. Me, I'm re-reading Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. In sweatpants and a tee-shirt, windows open for this September breeze, college football on TV.

Speaking of football, Tim's playing pretty regularly in varsity now. Last night we sat through winds and rains, pants and shoes soaked to our skin, to watch Tim's team beat White Bear Lake. He plays wingback on offense, blocking for his runners, and middle linebacker on the second team defense. He's happy.

My BWCA trip was lovely. Easy and relaxing. We went about seven miles the first day with many portages, one 180-rods (1/2 mile). We camped for two nights on Lake Polly, spending one day reading, swimming, exploring, and cooking. I loved sleeping outdoors in a tent, loved swimming in that cold clear lake, loved paddling in the Kawishiwi. Saw eagles, whiskey jacks, scolding red squirrels, a huge beaver making its way across the lake. Our campsite was on an island filled with white cedar. We ate campside bruschetta, quinoa with salmon, zucchini and onion pancakes, and I brought a bottle of Calvados for the end of our evenings.

I'm all worn out today--by a bad cold I picked up from the kids, by the rush of work and back-to-school, by our quick trip up to see my parents, and our press author picnic today, which was fantastic but filled with at least thirty 5-minute conversations. It was like speed-dating, I'd guess. Whew.

Now for that Franzenfreude, many have used it to mean the pain one feels in all the showering upon Franzen but as the president of FSG, which published Freedom, says, freude means joy. I'll leave that discussion for the glamorous Manhattan crowd. A nap is in order. Let it be then: Napfreude.