NaBloPoMo: Techanic

Just your average day here in our living room. That’s an Apple laptop. Well, it was an Apple laptop. Now it’s scrap metal.

P.S. Don’t worry, dad. It’s not yours.

NaBloPoMo: My Fair Lady

If there’s a perfect season to visit New York City, it’s the fall. The sky is alive and vision feels crisper. The trees are raining with color. There’s a leafy crunch on the ground that’s not snow! I love this city in the fall.

There are also some pretty outstanding sunsets. I’m not sure why this is, but every year the fall brings with it a canvas of color. I only wish I could capture them better! Digital cameras just don’t do justice. (Or maybe it’s a user error. Yeah, probably that.)

That’s the view from our living room window. It’s pretty great, isn’t it? I mean, if you like city life. Believe me, there are many days where I’d rather have this view but this one is pretty great as well—at least for now.

I feel pretty lucky these days, Internet. And I just wanted to write that down.

NaBloPoMo: ING NYC Marathon

Today is the first day of National Blog Posting Month. What does that mean? That means I’m going to try and write every single day in the month of November. I tried to do this once before (right after Emory was born) and I completed all but one day. This year I’m shooting for all 30. Wish me luck.

Today also marks an amazing international event: The ING New York City Marathon. I get really emotional during large gatherings of people and the marathon is no exception. I weep during live sporting events, political speeches, protests, marathons–you name it. I love the marathon. Every year it’s the same, I stand near mile 12; I weep, cheer, scream and clap. By the end of the day my hands feel like runner’s feet. It’s a fantastic feeling.

This year we took Emory along with us. He loved it. He sat in his stroller and watched in awe, clapping a bit. Then it was nap time and it showed on his face—the sheer exhaustion of it all, like he ran it himself.

And now he asks if we’ll take him back outside to see the runners.

“Where the runners go, Mama?”

And we try to explain to him that the race is now over—the runners have all gone home—they are eating, sleeping, celebrating and that they’ll be back next year. And I see it in his eyes as he tries to process this information and I wonder if he’s thinking that the runners aren’t 40,000 individuals running in unison, but are instead a singular entity that exists in that exact form and returns once a year like a comet or a tide of hope and human integrity.

On Leaving New York.

Murray lovers: I promise to have some Murray stories and videos soon. It’s been a little crazy lately and I feel like I’ve been cutting corners with the Murray stories as of late. I will make it up to you soon. Promise.

There’s been so much going on over here and I am afraid I haven’t had much time to sit down and actually write about it. But I wanted to explain (to some degree) as to why that is.

For starters, we’re heading to Orlando on Friday on an all-night train and I’m in OH MY GOD THERE’S TOO MUCH TO DO mode. I’ve been in that mode for almost a week now. I’m that kind of traveler.

You’re probably wondering: A train? Why a train?! When we scheduled this trip back in January, I had the brilliant idea that a train would be more fun for a two-year-old over something more reasonable and normal like an airplane. However, I’m willing to admit now that I’m the one who prefers the train. Flying terrifies me. Couple my anxiety with flying and Em’s inability to sit still for longer than 15 minutes and you have a flight no one wants to be on. So, in order to avoid sitting near the 20-something guy feverishly Twittering about how the family one row over SELFISHLY brought their SCREAMING BRAT of a kid onto an AIRPLANE, I booked a train for our trip.

The good news is we have a “Family Bedroom”. The even better news is Toby Joe got a pretty huge discount because he had so many Amtrak points saved up. The not so good news? We’re not sure what the hell we’re going to do with Em for 16 hours. Needless to say, I’m putting an Amazon order in today to buy as many Barney, Elmo and Thomas videos I can get my hands on.

So, there’s all of that.

Lastly, we’re moving again soon. I can’t go into the details surrounding that just yet but will in a few weeks. Forgive me for coming off evasive and weird; it’s just that we’re not sure what those details are yet, so it’s hard to write about.

Because of the impending move, Emory and I walk around a lot. It’s fall and it’s lovely and the time I have left with my favorite city is coming to an end. I know I complain about this city a great deal, but I love it. I love it like an old friend, one I share a passionate relationship with. This neighborhood is paved with thousands of memories—good and bad. Leaving here is going to mean leaving behind a great deal of my youth. But it’s for the best. It’s for my son, who teaches me each and every day that he loves the dirt and the grass and running around outside just like I did when I was a kid. Don’t get me wrong: we do that here, but it’s not perfect, not that any place really is. The thing is, I sound like a crazy person whenever we’re on the playground. I spend far too much time running around behind him screaming, “NO! DON’T TOUCH THAT!” or “PUT THAT DOWN! IT’S POOP!” He must see me as a crazy person.

It’s like, “Hey, kid! Let’s go to the playground FOR KIDS where kids can have fun!” And he’s like, “YEAH! YAY! YEAH!” And we show up and I’m chasing him around screaming things like, “NO! That’s an empty bag of crack!” or “Don’t touch the used condom!!”

It’s a playground. He should feel safe and free on a playground. But that’s just not been the case here. And I kind of want him to hold on to his youth an innocence for as long as possible.

But I digress.

I have spent a great deal of my 20s and 30s here in Brooklyn. Thing is, it wasn’t until the miscarriage did I begin to prioritize things. Losing that pregnancy made me realize how much my wanting to stay here is selfish. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, especially if making a selfish decision creates a happier parent who in turn raises a happier kid. I’m not judging those who’ve decided to stay. But what both Toby Joe and I want for Emory, and what he seems to enjoy for himself, isn’t something we can attain here. And that breaks my heart, Internet.

And so…

We’re leaving and I’m sad about it and my head is currently in the clouds. Lately, I’ve been walking around with my son in tow reminiscing. I have lived a great life here, a spectacular life. Leaving this all behind has me wistful. I will never, ever get over New York. This city is my first love. But I realized something this summer; even if I resolve to stay here forever, it’ll always be the one that got away.

Now THAT'S A Giving Tree.

I promised yesterday that I’d get a picture of the vagina tree of McCarren Park. Thoughts on the matter?

Usually there’s a great deal of vaginal adornment inside of it. But today it was empty. One big empty vagina tree. I reckon tonight, being a Friday and all, the tree will get some play. (I’ve already taken this too far, haven’t I?)

Breathe Locally

This post was going to be about organic food and locavores both of which are growing trends here in America. Just last week, Michelle Obama planted an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn – the first garden at the White House since the FDR administration.

It seems that people are starting to care more about what they eat, where it comes from and who is potentially harmed (or helped) in the process. I like that. I like that more people are curious about and buying locally grown foods. I like the idea of waiting until something is in season before adding it to a shopping cart. I especially like the idea of cutting down on the pollution involved in shipping and producing many of the foods we buy and consume today.

Union Square Green Market

At home, my family tries to buy food grown, produced, caught, and slaughtered locally. I know what some of you might be thinking – how the hell does one do that while living in New York City? I thought that at first, as well. After all – I’m from Pennsylvania. Growing up, our milk was delivered by a local farmer before the sun came up. Our eggs could have rolled themselves over to our house. We got nearly everything locally. (The exception was Tang, which was made on the moon, by astronauts, and mostly of rocket fuel).

In my mind, the term “local” used to mean “in my neighborhood”. That’s not an option for the majority of New Yorkers, as so much of our food travels thousands of miles before it hits our bodegas and grocery stores, our restaurants and street meat stands. Our food is trucked in, shipped in by boat, train or plane and tends to leave behind it a long, dark carbon footprint.

For New Yorkers, “local” is a relative term and has come to mean “within a hundred-mile radius.” Since we have more farmer’s markets than you can shake a stick at, getting to some of those local foods is really easy.

I was excited to cover this topic as my first March Of Dimes Moms post, especially since they wrote an article recently on whether or not organic is better for your baby. Their conclusion seems to be that it’s not necessarily better. But how about trying to buy foods grown locally? I couldn’t wait to tackle this topic! But Monday came along and it had different plans. I was steered onto a much different road. You see, my son was diagnosed with asthma on Monday and that’s all I can think about right now.

Here’s how the last few days unfolded.

My son kept us up all night Sunday. He woke up every hour. His belly was tight. We thought he might have gas and constipation on top of the usual congestive rattle we’d come to know. On Monday morning, I began to realize that things were much worse than I had thought. At 3 PM he was hit with a high fever. I called the doctor. By 4 PM we were in the waiting room.

And by 5 PM we were armed with a ProNeb Ultra II, some albuterol, a more powerful round of antibiotics than he’s yet been given, and a new worry.

At that point, my husband and I did what parents do with an Internet connection: we started researching. I was looking for ways to blame myself. That’s what mothers do, right? And at first glance, my research told me that I was right. I was to blame for this—we were to blame for this. After all we live in a very polluted area. The rates of asthma in children living in North Brooklyn are on the rise.

“Ever look at dirty truck exhaust? The dirty, smoky part of that stream of exhaust is made of particle pollution. More new evidence shows that the particle pollution—like that coming from the exhaust smoke—can lead to shorter lives, heart disease, lung cancer and asthma attacks and can interfere with the growth and work of the lungs.”  (American Lung Association: State Of The Air)

Fact: Emory spent the first year and a half of his life living right next to the BQE (The Brooklyn/Queens Expressway). We were so close to it, the trucks used to shake our apartment. We knew all along we were inhaling harmful toxins, but we chose to stay there. We were in a lease and rent was affordable and we thought we were leaving the area at any moment.

Actual view from the back window of our apartment.

We used to clean an alarming amount of dark black soot from our windowsills. And it didn’t take long to build up. A few days would go by and a black film would lazily blanket every surface in our home. We used to joke about how our lungs must look. We were nervous.

Signs of Asthma include:

• wheezing
• rapid breathing
• labored breathing
• gasping
• difficulty breathing when exercising
• chest tightness

Generally speaking, a child must first be vulnerable to airway inflammation. Everyone is vulnerable, to some degree – and often to any number of irritants. Next, the child needs an antagonist or trigger. Triggers can range from a common cold, a sinus infection, or bronchitis, all the way to secondhand smoke, smoking, cleaning agents and air pollutants. Triggers can also be as simple as getting too much exercise or experiencing too much stress, or the absurdly cold air of a NYC March day.

When I started digging in a bit further, I realized that this isn’t specific to Brooklyn. Emory probably would been diagnosed with asthma no matter where we lived especially since almost every place we’ve ever discussed living is also on the highly polluted area list. And that’s not because our list is really short. It’s that the master list is really long. Even the small, idyllic town we’ve  been pining over for years has some of the worst statistics when it comes to the two types of air pollution at the root of the problem.

Dare to dream.

In Brooklyn, the biggest asthmatic culprit is exhaust from vehicles. This is why you’ll also find Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, The DC Metro, and a great deal of the Northeastern corridor on that list. Pretty much every city or town near a major trucking route is seeing a rise in asthma, cancer and other related illnesses. And most large, polluting vehicles (as we used to watch from our bed) are used to transfer goods – like food – into our cities.

The New England Journal of Medicine reports:

“Mortality rates were most strongly associated with cigarette smoking. After adjusting for smoking and other risk factors, we observed statistically significant and robust associations between air pollution and mortality. The adjusted mortality-rate ratio for the most polluted of the cities as compared with the least polluted was 1.26 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.08 to 1.47). Air pollution was positively associated with death from lung cancer and cardiopulmonary disease but not with death from other causes considered together. Mortality was most strongly associated with air pollution with fine particulates, including sulfates.”

The simple truth is that asthma rates are on the rise, as is infant mortality and in many cases we have air pollution to blame for that. And we need to do something about it. And I don’t mean we need to come up with more medicine to throw at the problem. (Though, I am really grateful for our new nebulizer.) I think we need a more preventative approach.

So, while buying organic and/or locally grown foods may cost you a bit more monetarily,  I think that cost might be worth it when it comes to the greater good. Change won’t happen overnight, but it can happen if we just put our minds to it.

A funny thing happened as I was writing this post, I ended up within a hundred mile radius to the original topic.

Goodbye, Russell Street.

Today was the last day we had access to our old apartment, an apartment we lived in for four years.

The picture below was taken the first few days we moved in, before our furniture arrived from San Francisco. Tobyjoe was hijacking the neighbor’s wireless network.

That same network is open and available today.

So much happened while living at Russell Street. I saw my early 30s under that roof. I got a job on Madison Avenue and quit it too. I met some lifelong friends. I got pregnant and had my first child while living under that roof. I said goodbye to a dear friend, as well as a beloved member of our family. I became a mother while living there, a fact that still blows my mind.

All in all, it was a nice home. Sure, its walls were totally uneven to the floor and everything leaned to one side. Our son’s toys often rolled north. But nothing in Brooklyn is perfect.

This morning I went over there by myself to finish cleaning and to remove the few remaining items. I went alone.

It was nice being there by myself. I spent most of that time lost in thought, walking from one end of the railroad apartment to the other—a physical timeline—inspecting our years with my hands, trying to remove our fingerprints, erase any proof of our having lived there.

A person can build up a heckuva lot of proof over four years. And that much proof is almost impossible to erase. But I tried.

Change, whether it be good or bad, has always been a funny thing for me. It almost always brings with it a side order of depression. So the last couple of weeks have been difficult. I admitted to Toby Joe just yesterday that I haven’t felt this sad, this emotionally troubled, since the months following Emory’s birth.

This is chemistry I’m talking about here. I have no control over it.

After we hand over our keys today, I imagine that soon they will coat the place with yet another layer of paint. They will cover up Schmitty’s paw prints that sit underneath our old bedroom window. They’ll cover up the holes we drilled into our bedroom door in order to install a latch. They’ll paint over the ghosted picture frame edges, our fingerprints—proof of our having been there at all.

But I reckon that no matter how hard one works to cover it up, pieces of us will remain there forever.

And so I think it’s time I move along, albeit sighing slightly.

Goodbye, Russell Street.

And hello, 2009.

Tuesdays With Murray (Chapter 72)

Moving Day!

I have a question for you cat lovers out there. We don’t yet have heat or hot water (gas) at our new apartment. It’s not unlivable for a grown adult (the building is “green” so it’s quite insulated) but I am worried about the cats. Would you leave them in an empty apartment (we have the old one until the 31st) where it’s heated? Or would you move them to the new one where they are surrounded by their stuff but are a little cold? Either way, they’ll be alone for much of the day as TJ has to work and I will be in New Jersey with the baby (whom I miss like you wouldn’t believe) until this heat fiasco gets worked out. These guys are like family to me. I want them to be as comfortable as possible. Any insight you may have is greatly appreciated.

UPDATE: We’re IN! And the cats are fine. The apartment is tolerable with the use of a space heater. (Good thing NYC apartments are tiny!) Murray is a bit freaked out by the continuing construction. He hid for the first 5 hours. And then at around 9 PM he came strolling out looking for handouts. So we put him to work and then fed him treats.

I am in Jersey getting my Emory fix. (I spent a whopping 4 nights away from him!) I will be back in Brooklyn tomorrow, God willing.

Things are really great, Internet. Thanks so much for your help and words and suggestions.

Craziest Week Ever

This week is likely to turn into the most insane week ever. We’re scheduled to move in seven days. (I have been working on a post for a while regarding the move, but can’t seem to find the time to finish it. In a nutshell, we’re staying in Brooklyn but moving to a less contaminated, easier to use 2 bedroom, two bathroom apartment. It’s a long, long story. I will share it soon.) Toby’s birthday is Thursday and I have not one, but TWO freelance projects to finish up this week. Oh, I’m also a full-time mom, one who has yet to find a local babysitter.

I may have gotten myself in over my head. Cross your fingers for me, Internet.

The good news is we’re moving out of the highly toxic area of Greenpoint and into the wallet-raping Williamsburg area. But hey, we’ll have a view, a washing machine AND a dishwasher. (The article above is from the NYT and it’s a little disturbing.)

If I make it through this week in one piece and without the use sedatives, I will reward myself with another piece of chocolate covered carrot cake from Fabiane’s, which may sound truly disgusting, but is actually quite delectable. I have been craving it every day since we met.

Voting As A Primary Caregiver.

Here in New York we weren’t allowed to hit the polls early. I’m anticipating long lines tomorrow. I’m wondering how other stay-at-home-moms are doing it (or have done it). Do you have a story to tell? Ideas? Suggestions? I have to bring Em with me. And while I’m hoping he behaves himself as long as we’re in line, I can’t promise anything.

Perhaps Election Day should become a national holiday, so that whomever goes to work for a living can stay home while the primary caregiver gets out to vote. While employers face charges if they don’t give their employees time off to vote, babies don’t have to follow the law.

If they can’t give the nation the day off, maybe they should have a “Fast Track” option for those of us with toddlers who really don’t enjoy being confined to a stroller for very long. Not that I’m looking for special treatment or anything. ;]

Edited to add: Early voting could go nationwide. Maybe in four years, this won’t be an issue for SAHMs and Dads after all.