The Butcher Shop

First Day Home from Hospital

After learning that a tumor the size of a grown man’s fist was clinging to my spine, life got more hectic. Telling my family. Sorting out work. Telling my best friends. Doctors offices, blood work, cat scans, MRI’s, height, weight, blood pressure on repeat for almost 8 full weeks. Bonus: after getting a biopsy and waiting for the results for what seemed like 19.2 years, my cell phone rang at 7:50pm the night before my birthday. A pleasant dude by the name of Sean informed me that: hey guess what, happy birthday, the tumor’s benign. So with that out of the way, all I had to start mentally preparing myself for was the surgery itself.

Since the spine was involved, my procedure would be handled by two categories of specialist: thoracic and neurosurgery. (Hands up for anyone other than me that had only heard the word ‘thoracic’ mentioned before on Grey’s Anatomy circa 2007…)

Becoming part of a large healthcare system in such an intimate manner changes how you view hospitals. To the people working there, it’s another day at the office. For the patient, however, you’re looking for the most nearby trash bins so you know how far you have to run if you need to puke from the nerves.

The morning of February 23rd began like any other: with Brian hand grinding coffee…except we had a houseguest in the form of my sister, Anna, who had flown in from Berlin to be a surprise support system. I packed my bag full of important things for the four day stay: pens, laptop, underwear, sweatpants, deodorant, brush, extension cord, charger and lotion. (I heard your skin gets really dry in the hospital.)

When you’re sitting in that little curtained space before you get wheeled off, I can only compare it to being stamped and tested like you’re cattle. What’s your name? Do you know what procedure will be occurring on your body today? On what side? Who will be performing the operation? Sign here. Initial here. Turn to the side, lift gown up, I have to initial in marker where you’re going to get cut open.

Watching my sisters and fiancé walk away from me as I was sitting on the pre-op hospital gurney was the scariest moment of my life…until two minutes later when I saw the epidural that was to be inserted in to my spine. Before I was completely sedated, I asked if there was a high percentage of people that wake up on the table. The anesthesiologist very confidently said, “oh –very few people do; probably only one patient every three months.

Me. I was the once-every-three-month patient. I came-to, legs flailing, my right arm swinging (I had been laid out on my left side – not on my back, not on my stomach, but my side, as if mid-stroke in a pool). I recall trying to scream as someone was removing a tube from my throat and all I could keep yelling over and over again was that I needed Brian. Where was Brian? I remember two masked zombies securing my extremities, attempting to calm me down. If you are picturing a sea creature at this point – turtle, dolphin, orca – writhing in agony on a beach with plastic wrapped around its throat while humans try and free it back to its home – you wouldn’t be far off from envisioning the sci-fi experience of waking up on an operating table.

The surgery was successful – the tumor was about 90% removed, (as it was benign, the thoracic surgeon graciously kept some of it in so he would only have to crack one rib versus five) and I proudly boast some gnarly scars.

If you write emails all day for work, surgeons cut all day. It’s no biggie. Their version of editing a sentence is removing layers of nerve and muscle from bodies. Like mine. I no longer sweat in my right armpit, because the nerves were severed. Now, my right under-arm sweat is located in the middle of my back on the right side. The doctor happily exclaimed this as he was leaving my room on his rounds, as if it were the post-script to an already discussed topic. Except he anticipated that my body was going to re-route that sweat to my right ass cheek. Thank Christ he was wrong.

It didn’t occur to me why the nurses kept promoting breathing exercises as part of my recovery: during the operation, my right lung was deflated in order to reach the mass behind it. NO ONE TELLS YOU THESE THINGS.

Bodies are resilient and complicated. Their mission is to survive. The recovery process was comedic, painful and stressful – it made me fall deeper in love with Brian. It forced me to slow down. It forced me to be thankful for the littlest things like being able to reach in to the washing machine to take out wet clothes. The love and care bestowed upon me from my family, friends and medical care givers is a generosity I’ll never be able to repay, but I’ll never stop trying.


Flu Season

      It descended upon my body swiftly—causing shivering and aches mid-day on a random Tuesday last winter. In the time it took to leave the office and
commute home, the hostile takeover was complete. There was no other course of action but to crawl into bed, shiver, wish for a swift death and/or wake up 4-6 days later free of this feverish monster.

      Day two proved more painful than the first, so I begged my then boyfriend to take me to a Ready Med type of clinic. Having only moved in with him 4 months prior in a different part of the state, I hadn’t yet switched my doctors. A clinic was the best option at 5pm on a Wednesday. Listen. We’ve all had the flu, we know the drill. But something in me said me to get it checked out. 

      After being asked my symptoms they confirmed my suspicions. Flu. To rule out pneumonia, though, the doctor suggested a chest X-ray. Fine, sure, whatever.

      Little did I know that having that X-ray would flip my universe upside down for the next year.  

      Two days later, the clinic called explaining that they were almost certain I was free of pneumonia, yet there was a cloudy lump ruining the perfect symmetrical image of what lungs are supposed to look like – and could I go in on Monday for a Cat-scan?

      With Christmas looming and the sickness finally out of my body a week later, I cajoled my sweetie into taking a ride with me to the Swedish wonder that is IKEA. At 8:45 on Tuesday, December 20th, the doctor calls back with the cat scan results on our way home.  Once she realized I was in the car she asked me to pull over in a rather serious tone. 

      Heads up, from me to you: anytime a doctor asks you to stop driving to discuss test results? Make sure you park in front of a bar, not a Tech company’s empty parking lot. 

      Perhaps Brian will be better at transcribing what was actually said—but the only words that imprinted on to my brain were : tumor, large, lungs, spine, cancer, lymphoma, oncologist.  

      In movies when characters receive earth shattering news, the actors play shocked in a manner like they’re zoned out, not quite paying attention. It’s not an inaccurate portrayal. The whole time she was monotonously speaking her clinical jargon, something in the back of my head kept on saying: it was all too good. You were too happy. You don’t deserve Brian’s love.

      Directly after hanging up with Dr. Death, I called my then manager Matt, who I had known for the better part of a decade. Since I had been out of work and he knew about the cat scan, he wanted me to call him with the results. He’s the kind of guy that when given a compliment promptly scowls and shoots back an insult. His family’s from Eastie. He can’t help himself. However, despite his gruff exterior, I trusted and loved him (and still do) like a big brother.  Matt’s the Mickey Goldmill you want in your corner when shit gets bad. Upon hearing his voice, I tried to form words but couldn’t stop sobbing. It’s as if uttering this information to him made it all…real. I handed the phone to Brian so he could relay what we had just found out. 

      We got home and both just stared off in to space. What do you do when you hear something like this? I remember sort of silently weeping into Brian’s chest as we stood, swaying together – slow dancing almost – when I asked: what are you thinking? And he responded: I’m thinking about marrying you. 

…to be continued…


Be Seeing You

It was a love based on glances, first electric impressions. She thought he would change for her. He presumed she would fix his problems. 

Both were wrong. 

Over bar food and whiskey, they discussed their flaws, best friends, fears, joys, loves, memories–how they wanted to change for the better. And that evening, he gave her heart back to her. 
He vowed to quit cigarettes when he drank. She warned him of her temper. He complimented her pearls. To him, they were adorable. She confessed she had a picture of him from years ago. 
Both of them knew the underlying attraction was attributed to time. After all, it was fleeting: he would easily be moving on and she, she was moving…away. From him.  They merrily toasted their flaws and let the brown liquor work its twisted magic. 
It was at Forget Me Not, a place he grew to call home, that they decided the night would be best finished running through the rain back to his apartment. Theirs was a gorgeously doomed pairing from the start and neither of them seemed to care. Kurt Vonnegut’s apt description of being trapped in a moment with no explanation as to why could have been penned for this precise evening. 

May I ask a small favor of you? Try and remember a sliver of who I was while we were together. Me being one of many was never my concern–but it would be wonderful knowing that for the brief time we shared, your life became a little more colorful–more alive.

You gave me so much and have made me a better version of the person I hope to be. Thank you for giving me tough love. For being a teacher. For being thunderous, desperate, angry and crass. For being compassionate, gentle, kind and caring.

When we do run into each other again, my greeting will be warm and affectionate. It will be a joy to learn of your new adventures and current trysts.

Ours was an ephemeral romance, my Sleepless City–yet it was the kind of affair which will be remembered always–with a smirk and not a single regret. Thank you for giving me my heart back–while it was yours only for a short while, it was yours wholly and completely.

Jamaican Joe

It started with a flat tire. 
About five years ago, I was heading to an interview. Before I even made it off my block realized I had a flat tire. Awesome. Ditched the car, nailed the interview and headed back to solve the tire situation. 
Luckily for me, just three blocks down my street across Dot Ave was a service station. I walked over there, explained my tire problem and a sweet man named Joe offered to help bring my dud of a car in to the station. In the three blocks to my apartment, I learned that he along with his soft lulling accent was from Jamaica, he lives with two of his cousins with and had a sweet tooth. Joe was so kind through the whole process and I was so relieved to have the car back on the road in a mere day, I wanted to do something nice for him when I picked the car up. 
The following day, one of my best friends was visiting from New York. We’ll call her May.  I explained how sweet Joe had been and that I wanted to do something nice for him. She happily obliged and we headed over to the gas station after buying an apple pie from the local Irish bakery. 
I walked in to the garage, May sort of trailing behind (this was my gift, after all) and I tentatively asked if Joe was around. One of the other guys called for him, and he rolled out from under a car he was fixing. I told him how grateful I was for his help, and since he liked sweets, here’s an apple pie. 
See, in  my head, he had already done a kindness for me, so I was trying to do the same. End scene.  But no. Jamaican Joe wanted to thank ME for thanking HIM. Oy. The never ending cycle of thanks. 
As he was accepting the box of pie, exposing his 3 gold teeth with a huge grin, he asked: OOOOOOO MAH GOODNISSSS. DEES IS SO NIIICE! WOOOOD YOU LYKE SUM GOOOOOOD JAH-MAY-KHEN WEEEEED? 
Before I could even register what he was offering, the once silent May popped out from behind me and happily exclaimed: YUP!
Seemingly out of no where, May now was only two inches behind me and had already introduced herself, where she lived–hell–probably what her astrological sign was. I turned my gaze at her with the kind of look that says: what the fuck situation did you just get us in to? May casually ignored my angered glare and proceeded to broker this exchange of…gifts. 
May’s point of view was simply to be able to endure the upcoming weekend. She was visiting home, staying with her parents, visiting her 80 year old grandmother, (that still drove a Trans-Am and wore five inch stilettos) and would be dealing with questions like: when are you getting married-why aren’t you doing this-you’re doing this wrong-you need to help with the yard work. If a kind man from Jamaica was offering to give her a brief escape from her family, she was gonna take it. 
Awesome, May. Fucking awesome. We don’t know this man, don’t know where he lives, so sure! Let’s willingly give him MY personal contact information, drive over to HIS house that he shares with two other men that we do not know and accept illegal (at the time) drugs that could very well be laced with motor oil and bleach. Sounds like a fun and safe endeavor to me. 
Jamaican Joe calls us later that afternoon. May and I hop in the car and head over to the address Joe gives us. It should be noted that this was Memorial Day weekend, and the weather was gorgeous–the sky so blue and piercing it almost hurt to look at. Memorial Day weekend with 75 degree weather–a weekend full of outdoor grilling and bike riding, right? Then why dear Christ was Joe’s neighborhood seemingly abandoned? Where were all the children playing? Where were the dishes of food in aluminum trays? Oh, that’s right. The neighborhood we were in was probably the most crime ridden area in all of Boston. The week before a six year old boy was gunned down while riding his bike. In. Broad. Daylight. 
We get out of the car, ring Jamaican Joe’s buzzer and wait on the porch. A man about 6’2” wearing a grey tank top exposing his jacked arms and track pants answers the door. Clearly, this was one of Jamaican Joe’s cousins. (I can only imagine what was going through his head when he opens his front door and sees me and May–two white chicks wearing pearl earrings.)
I explained that Joe had given us his home address earlier. Jamaican Joe’s cousin graciously welcomes us in to his home and we politely decline. (In hindsight, that may have been the wisest decision of both our young lives.) Jamaican Joe comes to the door and gives me a huge hug, a Jamaican Flag to hang in my car (which I did proudly until that car was sold) and the little gift from Jamaica he was so intent on offering us. 
Flat tires and new Jamaican friends. Happy Memorial Day Weekend indeed. 

I Swear I Will

I love swearing. It genuinely thrills me. It helps me emote aggression, joy, sadness, anger. It was not always so; my parents raised my sister and me to say please and thank you…and when I heard my older sister say: shut up, Margaret, I defiantly and experimentally used the phrase on my mother one Sunday morning before church. She was facing the sink, asked me something, and I told my very own mother to shut up. She deftly spun around on her heels and without me realizing what was happening, her hand was imprinted on my cheek for a good 2 hours. Which was (in my estimation and opinion) completely warranted.

I swore occasionally throughout high school with friends…and when I was a legal adult (all of 18) my friend and I were practicing a dance we made up (I know. I can’t. Even.) in my family’s den, my mother reading in a chair. Mid way through said routine, I messed up a step, and exclaimed: FUCK!

My mother looked up from her, book, eyes smoldering with anger and fury, slammed the book shut and STOOOORRRRMED off to the porch. About an hour later, I meekly entered her room of disdain and said Mom, I’m sorry…I…it just…came out. Her response? (And, as I’m writing this, I’m giggling in disbelief) I just didn’t think I raised my daughters to speak like that. To which I sarcastically giggled and exclaimed: have YOU ever said that word? My mother then erupted, as if the depths of hell and heaven conspired together, and her voice managed to drop, like, 70 octaves to rumble out: THAT’S NOT THE POINT, MARGARET. As I recall, she didn’t speak to me for about 2 days thereafter.

From then on, various phrases crept into my everyday vernacular. Tripping up or down stairs: Shit! Stubbing my toe: Goddamn it! Math equations I didn’t understand: What the shit?

I do think because I was practically forbidden to swear growing up, it serves as a current form of release.

I have been reprimanded, criticized and demeaned for my use of profanity. You know what I say to that?

Fuck that.

I am educated, creative, positive. If you asked me right now to recite Shakespeare, I could. If you asked me why I love Charles Dickens and John Irving so much, I would tell you. And you know what? It still doesn’t change one fact: I can use whatever language I so choose. And whatever condescending bullshit I receive masked as kind advice to curb my language only propels me further. It only makes me feel a deeper commitment to use whatever language I feel I must to express my thoughts and emotions. You know why? Because I can. And I will. It’s each person’s prerogative (at least in non-3rd world countries) to voice their opinion in which ever way they deem most appropriate and not fear punishment. I exercise that right to the fullest extent.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to tell some kid to shut the fuck up if they’re screaming next to me on the subway. (Though I do imagine doing it sometimes…but then the image of the mother mauling me appears in my head and I choose to just turn my music up louder.)

I consider language a privilege, a shield, a weapon, a tool. I’ve earned my right to execute sentences (verbal and written) in whatever manner I choose. I’m glad I was taught to understand the value of words.

Just whatever you do, for fuck’s sake: don’t say shut up to your mother.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I was brought up in a Catholic house hold and each night before bed I said the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be with my father. My parents taught us to be respectful, work hard and always–above all–be kind to others.

My small existence in my small town just outside of Boston was haltered enough that I figured everyone outside my family, my town, my state was raised the same way. At 13 years old, while walking with my oldest friend to the movie theater–a jeep wrangler drove by filled with hormone infested teenage boys. The jeep slowed down and a glass bottle was hurled in our direction while one of the cowardly passengers yelled: FAGGOT!!!!
My friend and I looked at each other and awkwardly pretended that the past 30 seconds didn’t happen. I was filled with a mixture of confusion and anger: wait, what? ….this is MY friend next to me. If I would never try to assault you, why would you do the same to me or my friend? I can only imagine what he felt as the insult and object was directly aimed towards him. It was the first real instance of prejudice I had encountered; soon, I realized, that my friend walking next to me in a heated silence probably had endured this for much of his young life. 
It’s never crossed my mind to care about the sexuality of others. Even at a young age, I didn’t see the big deal. Clearly sexuality is a highly sensitive topic-but-I’ve found that those that are most vocal about the abomination of two females or two males or transgender people openly caring for each other are those that are hiding behind the mask of religion and moral righteousness. 
Kindness to others. I take that very seriously.  Laws have been instituted (and some, thankfully, FINALLY repealed) telling my best friends that they are less. They are not equal. I have more rights than the friends I split Oreos with after school in 2nd grade. Nights spent giggling at sleep-overs as children. We laughed the same. We consumed the same oxygen. Yet because I am a woman, and I happen to have been born feeling a biological attraction to a man and not a woman, I can stay by my spouse’s side in a hospital, and my friends cannot. What kind of fucked up bullshit is that? 
I certainly respect people’s opinions to disagree with me. It is something altogether different when people start voting for laws and political leaders that would instantly create two classes of humans in this country.  Why is it such a big deal how people like to have sex? Why does such an intimate and loving act between people (and sometimes not intimate and not loving…but just straight up enjoyable) have any place to be discussed on a judicial level? What right does that piece of trash in pearls Michele Bachman have to do with anyone’s sex life? Her DOMA Repeal reaction enraged me.

 “This decision is one that is profound because the Supreme Court not only attacked our Constitution today, they not only attacked the equal protection rights of every citizen under our Constitution, they attacked something that they have no jurisdiction over whatsoever, the foundational unit of our society, which is marriage,”

Really? Wasn’t less than 100 years ago that an amendment to our glorious and all binding Constitution gave YOU the right to have a say? Less than 100 years ago, you neanderthal, an amendment was created so that YOU could step up to a microphone and slander this country’s ability to recognize the need for change.  
We live in a country where opinions technically can be shared without fear of retribution…but it is still a country where openly gay mayoral candidates are murdered. Where teenagers jump off bridges for feeling shamed about their biological makeup. 
Humans are animals, so what scares us often incites us to have carnal and visceral reactions. But we as a species are also able to have cognitive discourse. We don’t just aim to survive on the base level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We have the ability to strive for more, for better. 
At the end of the three prayers my father and I would recite each night, we would ask God to watch over our friends and family and make sure they were happy and healthy. Because really, that is all that matters. 


I am not what people would describe as a nature lover. I love when it rains outside and I’m inside wrapped in my delicious down comforter. I love when it’s sunny outside so I can wear cute shoes and not worry about looking like a sopping mess getting on and off the subway. I do not enjoy/appreciate laying out in the sun to tan. I don’t tan, I’m Irish. White and red are my two skin tones. So it can be assumed that anything that is not a domesticated animal is a mortal enemy to me, and I treat them as such. 

Elvis and I moved to New York almost exactly one year ago; two brassy and sarcastic Boston females that were ready to take on everything this city would throw at us. Hers would be more of an inside task, manning the apartment and making sure no unwelcome visitors would dare to enter. Mine was more of the Go Out And Conquer The Universe version of the plan. 
Fast forward to this past April. Elvis was becoming increasingly more interested with staring at one particular part of the wall in the apartment–so much so that I mustered up the courage to get down on the floor and see if there were any cracks/holes in the wall in which (gulp) cockroaches could enter. Yup. There was a rather large opening between the baseboard and floor. Not being able to relax knowing there was an entrance for enemies to enter my fortress, I took a proactive move and decided to Raid the shit out of that little hole. 
Elvis knows when shit’s dangerous/toxic, and she refused to go near that spot afterwards. Still a little bit panic-y, I worked myself into a later about the potential possibility that I poisoned my cat with roach killer. Was she acting more lethargic than normal? Did I just see her try to puke? Sleep took over, and I forgot about it until the next morning, when she wasn’t lacing in and out of my feet in the bathroom as I was brushing my teeth. Oh my god, I fucking killed my cat. I left the bathroom to go find her, and there she was, just sitting in the front hallway, in the dark, staring down. That’s it, she’s about to die. I walked over to her, said: Ellie, what’s up? Why are you acting all weird and depressed? She looked up at me briefly then once again, resumed her Sylvia Plath-esqe attention to the ground. Fine, be that way–I have to get ready for work. 
The last thing I do when I leave is put food in the bowl for Elvis in my kitchen. This dreaded morning was no different. As I was about to exit the kitchen, I was switching the light off, which is directly outside of it, in the hall. I was looking down, about to take a right in to my hall to get my coat and leave–and there it was. 
I slowly backed up into the kitchen, reached behind me on the counter where I had not yet put away the Raid from the night before, and slowly walked over to it and sprayed the ever loving piss from the can on to this fucking beast. It began squirming and shriveling, all the while I began shaking, tears welling in my eyes and becoming short of breath. I ran into my kitchen, wrapped my hands in more paper towels than I care to admit, THEN stuck said hand into 4 plastic bags I had saved from the grocery store. I bent down, full on crying now, picked up this dumb fucking line backer of a roach and threw it away. As soon as it was disposed of, I walked out of my kitchen, turned my head and projectile vomited down the hall. 
That night after work, (after I puked in the morning, I changed, cleaned the horror that had just spewed out of me and got the fuck outta dodge as soon as I could) I went to the KMart a block from the office. I bought every sort of disinfectant, insect killer and cleaning supply imaginable. And a can of Spaghetti-O’s.  I cleaned the entirety of my apartment, top to bottom, blocking any form of hole, even if seemed smaller that a pinhole I could find. No fucking roach was gonna attempt to step their creepy little disgusting arthropod self into my apartment ever again. I was even regretting the fact I disposed of the roach from the morning, ’cause I wanted to hang his dead, poisoned carcass somewhere his buddies could see: Mexican drug cartel style. 
 So yeah. I don’t do nature. Not even a little. And Elvis sucks as a guard cat. 

Milkyway Bar

My sister recently had a baby…his name is Felix Paul, and he is fucking perfect. He smells amazing…the way that only babies can; its a mixture of sweet milk and powdery rose petals-even his farts smell amazing. No joke. It’s a celebration each time this kid passes gas, because it’s his new body’s way of figuring out how to remain comfortable inside itself.  In no way am I exaggerating. He makes cute little noises that is one part kitten and one part pterodactyl. 

Anna and Johannes are amazing parents.  They love him beyond words and coo sweet nothings into his ear, even when his screams break through noise barriers only understood by deep sea mammals. They kiss him and love him and take billions of photos.

They have been preparing for little Felix, and have prepared well. They have been reading books. They have spoken with doctors. They were ready to have this child.

I should mention that between Anna and Johannes I think there are like, 4 degrees. They’re not just average. They are brilliant, logical and practical humans.

Now they have a kid. And there is no reasoning with screams that challenge solid glass not to break. The most refreshing thing to see about this new little man in their life is that everything is new to everyone: Johannes, Felix and Anna. Anna is a goddamn trooper.

Sitting down with Anna on the first day in Berlin, she explained everything. How birth is not glamourous (she was going to birth Felix naturally, but on the 26th hour of labor…yes, 26th hour…the doctors said, well we’re going to do a c-section now…are you kidding me? That’s like running a marathon and at the 26th mile with only .2 to go, medics say: well, it looks like you’re getting a cramp in your calf. Better take you out of the race.)

And that her boobs were so sore that she had cool cabbage placed on them to calm their pain.  How does everyone say how connected to the earth, to their babies they are when they breast feed? She asked me. It’s like, I have multiple degrees and can run construction sites single handedly, but as soon as I hear my baby cry, my boobs start leaking. What the fuck?!!

Also, she is not used to her body changing and morphing back to it’s original shape post baby. How are you feeling physcially? I asked. Ugh, Margaret, I’m serious…it’s like NO ONE talks about what happens to women’s bodies after they have a baby. I smell different, I constantly have my period and I sweat so much at night. My body is ridding itself of the 9 months it took to grow my baby– I only just recently was able to shave again because my stomach got in the way. How do people that don’t know each other have babies together? I am so thankful I have been with Johannes for 4 years because I know I can share this with him…but what happens when people have kids by accident? It must be so awkward!

Frankly, she’s right. There are so many blogs and articles about the joy of motherhood, and how great it is etc etc…but the real truth is hushed up behind pacifiers and contained in soiled diapers. It’s loud and it stinks.

I’m not referring to (nor is Anna) postpartum depression, which is a very real thing. It’s just that there is this grand arching joyous dialogue about how centered you suddenly become once you birth a child. Like you are a woman. You can conquer. You are now complete. There is another human on this earth: because of you. (Cue wind blowing through hair with a soft glow of light on cheekbones with a crimson hued tint on lips with wild flowers floating all around.)

Last night I was sitting in the office and turned around, looked at Anna while she was breast feeding and she proclaimed to me: I mean, this is so boring! I’m just supposed to sit here and take him to the Milkyway Bar, feed him liquorless White Russians and watch him fall asleep afterwards!

Life with a new child suddenly becomes broken up into 3 hour intervals: feed him, hold him, wipe his ass, let him sleep, rinse, wash, repeat. It is a drastic lifestyle change from what was before–as an architect who traveled all over Europe and Russia designing high end retail stores and now she sits and watches her son drink her breast milk, burp him over her shoulder, congratulates him when he spits up and puts him down for a nap. 

Anna is a loving and doting mother.  She has definitely sofented with the arrival of little Felix, but she is not a different person; she is still pragmatic and opinionated. It’s refreshing.

Little man Felix is a champ. And so is his papa and proud mama. I’m just glad I can still shave whenever I want to.

Travel Mode.

Travel. Specifically through the air. The concept was once glamorous. Full of mink coats, stewardesses (not flight attendants) and those National Geographic ads that proclaim: Alaska! Come here to experience all of America’s vast wilderness! Or: Choose Pan Am, a classy way to travel! I always envision red lipsticked women traveling to Paris to choose their next season’s wardrobe and men with straight ties and slicked hair drinking bourbon reading the newspaper. 
Now it’s lines and ropes that I’m convinced are designed to make us all look like idiots: zig-zagging through like rodents in a plastic tubed maze. People double, triple check their inside pocket for the ticket they just felt in the same spot 23 seconds earlier.  Airports these days create a sense of worry and urgency so tangible–it’s a potent elixir for explosive behavior that often times becomes activated and expressed at the wrong people.
I am not claiming to be an easy going or calm individual.  Somehow though, when I enter an airport I become a more zenned out version of myself. It has been said that my actions can sometime mimic my father’s when I’m walking somewhere; (talk about Travel Mode…Colin will find his gate before he realizes that his family is not with him anymore…he just fucking goes, man. I once told him a story about how a man followed me into the woman’s bathroom when I was connecting flights in London-I was all of 16 and had short hair. I was so frightened that I had no other choice to just turn around and say to the guy: get out of here, you don’t belong here. And he left! Expecting a paternal smirk of pride or something, I was astounded when he said: well look atcha, Mahgrett. He prolly thawt you wir ah boy! Thanks dad. Glad you’re pumped I’m not hacked up somewhere in England.) 
In my mind, traveling is like adding salt to food: it enhances who that particular person is and draws out the water, the outer layers of social politeness and strips that person down to the core of their true flavor. Travel mode has two flavors: Asshole and Kind. More often than not, the Asshole flavor rises to the top more so than the Kind…but when the Kind does manage to be spotted, it’s that much more satisfying. Like the random dude that carried two large pieces of luggage all the way to a gate for a single mother with two kids, all the while carrying his own shit. Kind does exist. 
Yesterday while checking my luggage I noticed a man that was trying to force his clearly too-big-for the-carry-on-size bag into the example of: if you can’t fit your carry on suitcase in here, it ain’t being no carry on. He was trying to re-arrange shit in his suitcase and his wife, waiting at the counter watching him along with the desk clerk said: Baby, maybe it’s just time to accept it–it’s not joining us, and there are people behind us. It was almost as if she said: bBaby, I know you wanted your son to be a pro athlete, but he has scoliosis–it’s not going to happen. It was a mixture of Kind and Asshole, because the wife was being calm and patient while the husband was just too stubborn and blind. It should also be mentioned that the suitcase in question had written (in masking tape) on the front: Jesus Saves. 
There are many more stories from yesterday’s journey to Berlin (one involves a Brooklyn based band called Karizma-5 guys wearing sunglasses on an over night flight sitting around me, as well as a tale of a passive aggressive bitch that got put into her place…) 
…but then I’d write for hours…and there is a new nephew to dote over and really really good cheese to eat. 
So. Travel Mode. It exists. Hopefully you’re the Kind flavor. 

Four Letter Word

The biggest distinction between humans and other mammals is our ability to convey emotions to other humans of all kinds. We can communicate and articulate what exactly is on our minds. Do we always do that? Fuck no. If we did, then there would be no war, no anger, no grudges held.
It’s not a secret my relationship with my mother has been one of hurt, anger, resentment, miscommunication and mistrust. I am not saying this has all been on her shoulders; it’s been my responsibility as well. There has also been times of happiness, pride, laughter and love—and at times, sometimes I really doubted her true maternal care or instinct for me. While frank, that is not meant to be cutting. It was a genuine question in my life.
11 years ago today was the 14th day of my college career. I was in the Bronx at Fordham University, rushing to get to my sociology class and realizing humans were walking around in a daze, as if they were headless chickens. Students, adults, crying, hunched down in abject anguish. I soon discovered the cause and my life (and the rest of the world) was never the same again.
Cell reception was terrible. The only thing I wanted to do was hear the voices of my family. I couldn’t even try to cry—how could I? My friend’s father was missing. So was another’s uncle, brother, sister, mother. What right did I have to cry, when I knew the ones I cared about were safe?
Finally, around 11:30, I was able to get through to my house. If I ever had any doubts about my mother’s love and care for me, the two words she repeated over and over on that phone call answered any lingering doubt. The phone barely rang and she answered it and I said: Mom?
My baby! My baby! My baby! She cried over and over. As I type this I regret any questions I had regarding her love. On that day, hearing her voice was the only moment I almost cried. Her voice was fraught with pain, with anguish, torture and relief. And love.
No relationship is perfect, and there will never be a perfect relationship. I am actively trying to be a better daughter to my mother, and I believe she is striving to be better as well. Especially on this day, I always thank God that I have two parents, two sisters and friends I am able to love and I try each day to let them know my feelings.
I’d like to think that those passengers on the planes 11 years ago were feeling love and not pain or fear. I hope (and always have) those firefighters, police officers and civilians whose lives were taken were, on their last breath, thinking of their families feeling love and knowing they have loved. What an experience. Love.