Friday, April 27, 2012

chin up

My little dude,

You've been such a trooper weathering all that I've put you through in this past year -- moving you out of the only home you knew, convincing you we were going on an  adventure, shuffling you between two homes, leaving you with half a dozen new sitters and then putting you in daycare while I went back to work. Through it all, you've been a courageous little boy and I've pushed you to be brave and more independent simply because I can't do it all.

I will never forget the morning I came downstairs and you attempted to make yourself oatmeal. You must have placed a full bowl of Quaker Oats under the tap and turned it on full blast because there were oats sprayed all over the walls, cabinets, kitchen counter. It's a wonder there was much left for you to eat in that bowl. You strategically placed paper towel over all the mess hoping maybe it would go unnoticed. I happily mopped up knowing how much determination it probably took for you to self serve yourself breakfast.

I know the transitions are the hardest on you. How many times have I picked you up from your father's apartment, you climb into the car, give me a big "mwah"and declare how much you miss me and then no more than 1/2 mile later, you admit you miss daddy, too?  I always say the same thing: "I know. It's hard. It's OK to miss us both."  

Sometimes we have to make really hard decisions -- painful ones because we know it will be hard on people we love. But sometimes it's necessary because it rights our course --  puts us back on a more honest path. It's amazing how much energy is sucked out of you when we hold secrets inside. All I can say is that I tried really hard to preserve our family but in the end, it's true what I told you -- sometimes grown ups are better friends when we live apart.

So hang in there, little dude. I know mommy is a bit scatter-brained right now and I'm so sorry I sometimes forget to pack you a snack or  miss your karate belt exam. And I know you miss your neighborhood friends and you hate being the last one picked up from daycare but know that I'm working hard for both of us. Chin up.



Friday, March 30, 2012

Getting to Goodbye

I've been away from Apple Moon for some time so I reread some of my posts hoping the distance would glean some objectivity. I came away from it wondering what Apple Moon is really about? One could justifiably criticize this blog for being ill-defined. In my defense, I think the lack of focus actually reveals something about my life right now. This year has been a never-ending game of whack-a-mole -- poised and ready to clobber whatever pops up whether it be a 6-year old's meltdown, coping with autism, insufferable pantyhose and returning to the workforce or conquering the weed whacker. My little snippet at the top of the page reads: "ramblings of a former stay-at-home-mom who said goodbye to the world she thought she lived in." (key word = ramblings) It started me thinking: how did I get to goodbye?

I spent years building up to goodbye. I kept waiting for certainty to strike but in hindsight, I think it was futile. Emotionally, I was already there but I was waiting for the practical considerations to resolve themselves and the trepidation to ease. That day would never come.

I'm not sure what made me lunge through that door to the other side of my life. Was it intense dissatisfaction or a streak of boldness? I'll never know but one early summer evening, the words I held in for so long came tumbling out. And there it was; the words, so palpable, hung in mid air. I don't think I was prepared for what came next. You rehearse it in your mind but not the part that comes after. Would I want to reel it back inside -- rewind and pretend it never happened or journey forward into a brave new world?

My true feelings simmered to the surface the morning after. Are you familiar with that moment when you first wake up? When you hover somewhere between dreamland and consciousness and all the "shoulda, coulda, woulda's" of your world are at bay? It's a time when your feelings are pure  -  undiluted by the fixtures of your mind. The first thing I felt the morning after my big decision was undeniable relief. To this day, I believe that sure-mindedness is a gift; a gift that fuels me for my passage to what comes next.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Walk into the Woods

If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. 
I often think in music. 
I live my daydreams in music. 
I see my life in terms of music... 
I do know that I get most joy in life out of my violin.  
  - Albert Einstein

Help. I can't turn off the music. Friends tease me because they rarely see me without my ear buds in these days. I went to the doctor. I was sitting there, shivering in nothing but my paper gown listening to Mazzy Star when the doctor walked in, politely unplugged me from my iPhone and set it aside. He didn't seem amused by the silliness of it all. Just muttered that he thought he would have to surgically remove it from my body. So what if my iPhone is connected to me like an oxygen tank? I tell friends that I'm drowning out the thoughts in my own head with the music. But I think there's more to it than that. My song choice is a better barometer for my feelings than my own head. When I reach for my iPhone and select a song, an artist or a playlist, it tells me something about what I want; what I need at that exact moment. I know I tend towards the melancholy but it's not always so dramatic. Sometimes I just need a zippy tune to motivate me to do mundane tasks. 

Last week, a friend inspired me with Kiss's "Calling Dr. Love" -- a good one for attacking a sink full of dirty dishes. I have a playlist specifically for cleaning the house -- more classic stuff like the Stones, Springsteen, Bowie -- as of late a friend turned me on to Paul Weller. He's good for getting me off the couch. The other day, I discovered the Little Dude rocking out to a tune -- and he was truly feeling the music. No joke. I'm so pleased to say my son has rhythm and was really getting into it. I was amazed. Where did he get those moves from? I asked him expecting he would tell me he was hanging with some new friends at school. Instead, he laughed, kind of embarrassed even, rolled his eyes and said, "youuuu, mom."

Jammin' with the little dude to the Beatles -- that's the lighter side of music for me. Of course there is the other side. Times when I'm not willing to share my music with others. I have to be alone with it in my own head. Am I trying to block out all the other stuff whirling around in my mind? I used to think that but I'm not so sure anymore. Oftentimes my music selection is one step ahead of me -- conscious or not I think the music unravels stuff I just need to get out. And I don't have to work through my emotions alone because I have Ray Lamontagne or Adele crooning about their loneliness, their heartbreak. That's what sets some artists apart from others. They don't hold back, they aren't afraid to show their vulnerability in their music. It's brave.

Bon Iver's Justin Vernon retreated from the real world after his old band broke up, his girlfriend split and he contracted mononucleosis. Holed up in his dad's remote hunting cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin he wrote and recorded one of my all time favorite albums, "For Emma, Forever Ago." He's not always so literal in exposing his heartache. In fact, his lyrics are notoriously nonsensical. I used to pick apart his lyrics trying to interpret the meaning but now think it's a waste of time. He's been quoted as saying he chooses words more for their sound than for their meaning. And yet listening to the whole album, the hurt, the pain, the recovery are so apparent -- it's just there. We all don't have the luxury of taking a walk into the woods and escaping the real world but Justin allows you to come along -- at least for an hour or so. When your own world is crashing down all around you, it helps to know someone's been through their own hell and found their way out.

Nothing delights me more than discovering a new artist or the "perfect song." When I unearth it, I'm as giddy as a school girl with a new crush. The perfect song and I collide in synchrony at precisely the right moment.  It captures everything I'm feeling at the moment and I'm convinced it's flawless and no other song will ever compare. I can get really stuck on a song. Really. I will loop the song continuously for hours, oftentimes falling asleep to it. iTunes counts how many times you play a song and I have some I've listened to over 400 times. And then through no conscious decision of my own,  I'll be over the song. Just like that. The song helps me over a hump, to process something stuck in my head and then I'm done. It's over. And I move on. Great, classic songs can stand the abuse. Someday I'll return to the song. But sometimes I've really killed it. The poor song gave me all that it had to give and there's nothing left. The reason behind my love affair with music? When I'm certain I've found the perfect song, another one comes along -- it always does. I just have to have faith. How hopeful is that?


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Thank You Letter

My little dude,

We made it through our first Christmas together, just the two of us. I can admit to you now that I moved about it reluctantly. I went through the motions hoping my heart would catch up. I knew it would be different and yet I was so bull-headed about making it feel the same. I tried so hard to keep as many of our Christmas traditions intact. I've never chopped a tree down but we did it. I wasn't feeling the Christmas spirit, but I decked the halls anyway. I let you listen to "Santa Baby" and "Little Drummer Boy" over and over in the house while I retreated to my world between my left and right ear buds. Christmas can be so wonderful when all is well but for some it only highlights what is missing.

I confess I didn't know how to celebrate a Christmas for two. I grew up in a household of seven. It was always loud and full of energy. Our house was the social intersection of the neighborhood -- kids shooting hoops on the driveway or hanging out playing Atari in the basement. I don't recall ever needing a key to the house when I was a kid because someone was always home and the door was always ajar. So you can imagine what Christmas was like - a swirl of moving bodies, a steady hum of noise punctuated by occasional uproars of laughter or discord.

Our Christmas was nothing like that and yet you were fine. You didn't seem any less excited - so much magic in your eyes. You believe and your spirit carried me through the day. Every year I look forward to seeing the expression on your face when you first come down the stairs and see that Santa, indeed, paid a visit. But that wasn't my favorite moment this year.

Do you remember when we were eating our French toast and strawberries? You squealed because you couldn't believe low-carb mom was allowing herself a sugar splurge and mid-laugh, it hit you. Your eyes wide, you looked at me and said, "Mom, you didn't open any presents. Why didn't you get any presents?" And you were right. It was a first for me. I don't recall a Christmas I didn't open a single present on Christmas morning. I admit there was a twinge of sadness about it but surprisingly not so much. It was overrun by the moment.

I was told that your autism would make perspective taking difficult for you and feeling empathy for anyone was a long shot. Before you were born and before autism ever came into play, I made a short list of the most important life lessons I wanted to teach you and empathy was one of them.  Autism stands tall as a hurdle but I will not concede to a diagnosis. How long have we worked with therapists on social skills -- trying to teach you what is socially expected? So many things other children know intuitively, you had to learn. How many times have we played the feelings game or sat in a waiting room or a park watching strangers and guessing what people mean with a simple gesture of the hand, a tilt of the head or hunched shoulders? I went to conferences, lectures and read books about social thinking -- the "why" behind social skills and then signed you up for as many social thinking classes and camps we could afford. And that's when I saw you begin to stretch outside of your own mind. Keep going.

And look at you now. Not only did you see Christmas through my eyes, you felt my sadness with your own heart. You make me so proud. It's true, my dear son, you saved Christmas for me and I am ever so grateful.

Love always,


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holiday Tunes with a Twist

I have to admit. I can't take another version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" or "Mama's Been Kissing Santa Claus." So I've been trolling playlists for something different to celebrate the season. Enjoy.

1. Sarah Jarosz & the Transatlantic Sessions House Band, "Ring Them Bells" (Bob Dylan cover) 

Ring them bells, ye heathen
From the city that dreams
Ring them bells from the sanctuaries
’Cross the valleys and streams
For they’re deep and they’re wide
And the world’s on its side
And time is running backwards
And so is the bride
Ring them bells St. Peter
Where the four winds blow
Ring them bells with an iron hand
So the people will know
Oh it’s rush hour now
On the wheel and the plow
And the sun is going down
Upon the sacred cow
Ring them bells Sweet Martha
For the poor man’s son
Ring them bells so the world will know
That God is one
Oh the shepherd is asleep
Where the willows weep
And the mountains are filled
With lost sheep
Ring them bells for the blind and the deaf
Ring them bells for all of us who are left
Ring them bells for the chosen few
Who will judge the many when the game is through
Ring them bells, for the time that flies
For the child that cries
When innocence dies
Ring them bells St. Catherine
From the top of the room
Ring them from the fortress
For the lilies that bloom
Oh the lines are long
And the fighting is strong
And they’re breaking down the distance
Between right and wrong

2. Lissie, "2000 Miles" (Pretenders cover)

He's gone 2000 miles
It's very far
The snows falling down
It's colder day by day
I miss you

The children were singing
He'll be back at Christmas time

In this frozen and silent nights
Sometimes in a dream
You appear

Outside, under the purple sky
Diamonds in the snow

The children were singing
It felt like Christmas time

2000 miles
Is very far through the snow
2000 miles
Is very far through the snow
2000 miles
Is very far through the snow
2000 miles
Is very far through the snow

I'll think of you
Wherever you go
I'll think of you
Wherever you go

He's gone 2000 miles
It's very far
The snows falling down
It's colder day by day
I miss you

The people were singing
It must be Christmas time

The people were singing
It must be Christmas time 

3. Mumford & Sons, "Winter Wind" (acoustic version)

As the winter winds litter London with lonely hearts
Oh the warmth in your eyes swept me into your arms
Was it love or fear of the cold that led us through the night?
For every kiss your beauty trumped my doubt

And my head told my heart
"Let love grow"
But my heart told my head
"This time no
This time no"

We'll be washed and buried one day my girl
And the time we were given will be left for the world
The flesh that lived and loved will be eaten by plague
So let the memories be good for those who stay

And my head told my heart
"Let love grow"
But my heart told my head
"This time no"
Yes, my heart told my head
"This time no
This time no"

Oh the shame that sent me off from the God that I once loved
Was the same that sent me into your arms
Oh and pestilence is won when you are lost and I am gone
And no hope, no hope will overcome

And if your strife strikes at your sleep
Remember spring swaps snow for leaves
You'll be happy and wholesome again
When the city clears and sun ascends

And my head told my heart
"Let love grow"
But my heart told my head
"This time no"

And my head told my heart
"Let love grow"
But my heart told my head
"This time no
This time no"

Peace on Earth

Click to play 
this Smilebox greeting
Create your own
 greeting - Powered by Smilebox
Customize a free greeting

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Melanie's Christmas Wish List - (ongoing)

Melanie's Christmas Wish List
  • An independent coffee shop that offers free wi-fi, STRONG extra hot coffee, great tunes, lots of sunlight, access to a printer, a quiet room (similar to the quiet train on Amtrak) and some carb-free snacks.
  • My own lane on the Beltway during rush hour.
  • Speakers in my bathroom so I don't have to drag my laptop in their every time I take a bath - or a way I can actually keep my ear buds in while taking a soak. (without frying my iPhone)
  • Wi-fi at Teaism.
  • A carb-free Salty Oat cookie. (related to above - and if you've never had one you must next time you are in DC)
  • A fraction of the patience, spunk and never-give-up attitude of some of the amazing mothers and fathers I've met who love and raise a special needs child.
  • A month (or perhaps 6 weeks?) to just forget my troubles and take off to an exotic locale where I can do Teacher Training in yoga.
  • A 28 hour day because then my bedtime would be closer to y'all. 
  • A crunchy, juicy, tart granny smith apple or a plump, juicy, summer's-end sweet Georgia peach I could bite into and consume without going into anaphylactic shock.
  •  Fast twitch muscles so I can actually run as fast as I think I'm running in my own head.
  • Herman Cain announces he's rejoining the 2012 presidential race. (The Daily Show hasn't been the same without him)
  • Wi-fi at Chuck E Cheez -- c'mon Chuck E Cheez franchise owners, why haven't you figured that one out yet? It's a no brainer.  
  • A healthy internal organ for my friend.
  • A fantastic grown ups only party so I can wear my sparkly 5-inch heels again.
  • The power to extract Pennsylvania off the map so my drives to Ohio and NY would go faster. (Apologies to my friends in the Keystone state but I've grown weary of the scenic drive along the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the crawl through Breezewood especially the day before Thanksgiving)
  • Buried treasure in my backyard so I can grant wishes to all the wonderful people who have helped and supported the little dude and I this past year.
  • The power to fast forward the next six months. 
A lot of these items are pipe dreams but YOU can help me check off one item.
Join Apple Moon as a member and follow me as I make my way through my crazy life. Do you know what would make me even happier? If you shared some of your thoughts so this blog is not all about me. 

So join me. In fact, tell me what's on your wish list. I'm sure I left something out.

Happy Holidays!

 - Melanie

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


I think most would say I'm pretty sensible and methodical in making a decision. I study every option, talk to several trusted individuals to get a range of opinions, make my pros and cons list so I am resolute.  I am a tireless researcher. Heck, I researched all the options for house numbers for my tiny brick colonial for almost a year before I settled on something. I can pretty much tell you anything you want to know about house numbers. (Not as many options as you would think.) You've got aluminum address plaques, casted bronze or steel numbers or perhaps ceramic terracotta tiles? It's ridiculous, I know.

For some things in life, I just can't make a decision until I've done my due diligence -- until I'm sure I've exhausted every resource out there. Where does this come from? I'm an academic at heart and just love the research part of any assignment. The more information the better. During grad school, I could get lost in the stacks all day, planting myself in a dark study carrel hunting for the perfect primary source, searching for inspiration from a dusty book --  or going through hours of microfilm until I was motion sick scanning and squinting at the soft focused screen. How different would it be to go to school today? Do you think you could identify one student under the age of 18 that's used a card catalog, microfilm or microfiche?  I'd emerge from the bowels of the library, mind racing from all the info I'd unearthed. The hard part was making myself finish the research portion to start synthesizing the information into something cohesive. A good long run often did the trick -- that's how I usually came up with my best ideas.

So you'd think with major life decisions, I'd utilize the same methods, my decisions carefully thought-out. I have a confession to make -- not so. College, for example:  did I talk to guidance counselors? Did I research rankings of top universities? Did I visit dozens of colleges? No. My brother visited Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio when I was a freshman in high school, came back and told me it was a beautiful school. He didn't think it was the right fit for him but he smiled at me and said, "I think you'd like it there. I kept picturing you going to school there, Mel." And that's what sealed it for me. I knew all through high school where I would be going. I applied early decision and before Christmas break I had a purple and white Kenyon College decal on my Volkswagen's rear window. It was one of the best decisions in my life.

Sometimes inspiration does not strike and I blindly make decisions based on others' expectations. That's what I call my detours in life. I joke that my parents were very open-minded about their children's career paths. "Melanie, you can be anything you want to be as long as you're a doctor, lawyer or you get your MBA." After a short stint as a Candy Striper in high school, I quickly decided against med school because I couldn't stand the smell of hospitals. I wasn't much of a bean counter or interested in selling anyone anything, so, by process of elimination I figured I would be a lawyer. I moved to Boston after Kenyon working as a paralegal for a law firm. I really should have been happy with my promising Ally McBeal life. Living on Beacon Hill right next to the "Cheers bar" I could walk through the Commons to work. I worked in  a building on Franklin Street and I had my own office with a view of the Boston Harbor. Little did I know that it would be the best office space I would inhabit thus far in my life. But I found the staid, corporate atmosphere of the workplace to be stifling. Nothing inspired me there. Furthermore, I couldn't write the law school application essay explaining why I wanted to be a lawyer -- a sure sign it wasn't for me. After a year, I quit the law firm. Just like that.

So fast forward to present day. I'm back to work after being a stay at home mom for over 6 years.  I call myself a producer/writer in television news and documentary although I think the job is best described as creative problem solver and designated worry-wart. How did I pick this path? God knows no one in TV is in it for the money.  For every story I develop or write, I get to become a pseudo expert on crazy stuff like crocodile relocation in Jamaica, exorcisms in Manila or Japanese organized crime. I've always appreciated that. But is that how I chose my career? No. I was so tired of the corporate wardrobe I wore every day in previous jobs. I remember coming home and peeling off panty hose on a 99-degree summer day muttering to myself that some Frenchman (not FrenchWOman) invented panty hose. Not only was it uncomfortable, it was distracting and constraining, draining any original thought out of my head. I liken it to ties for my male followers out there. The whole corporate dress code felt like a uniform of conformity not an expression of the creative self.

In TV, the executives are referred to as "the suits" and they are usually housed on a separate floor or even a separate building than those making films. The rest of the crew --  the producers, researchers, writers, editors, etc. -- they sport casual Friday attire all week long and that doesn't necessarily mean dressing like you just rolled out of bed (for some, maybe -- actually, I remember a wildlife filmmaker who spent so much time in the bush he never wore shoes in the office). For some, clothes speak to who they are as individuals. Their true personality shines through in a well-worn t-shirt or a kick-ass pair of boots. I think I will always prefer working in the trenches wrapped in a toasty sweater and jeans rather than a tailored suit, my feet warm in bulky hiking socks and toes snuggled into my clunky clogs. As you can see, it's all rather happenstance how I've arrived to this place in my life. It was my loathing for panty hose which pushed me onto my current career path.

So here I am again, standing at another crossroads personally and professionally. Like the classic Clash tune asks, "Should I stay or should I go?" Do I protect and nurture what's familiar or do I move on to something new? I suppose I could go into research mode and carefully craft and calculate how to move forward. But instead, I'm here at this intersection in my life waiting for something small to inspire me, to lead the way -- an encouraging smile and a pat on the shoulder from a big brother or perhaps my irritation with a corporate dress code.  I'm sure someone will interpret this posting as a sign of passivity. But I don't see it that way. Some things in life don't make any sense at all and the right move is not always the most sensible one. I guess it's following your gut or dare I say your heart. While the thoughts swirl around in my head screaming at me, my heart whispers faintly. Sometimes if I'm too distracted, I miss it. I'm sure it will all crystallize eventually for me like the thesis of a paper or a story line for a script. Most likely it will be on a long run, headphones on listening to music as loud as my iPhone will allow. Because for me, music drowns out my head and ignites my soul. If I listen carefully, I'm sure the answer is out there... somewhere.

Thank you so much for visiting Apple Moon and reading all the way to the end of my ramblings. Now that I've shared how I make big life decisions, I would love to hear how you've dealt with the crossroads in your life. I welcome your comments below.