June 16, 2015

Creating Space

My earliest memories of childhood are of creating special spaces.  My mother is mostly responsible for this, since she took particular care of the décor in our home, including my bedroom.  I can remember being 5 years old, in kindergarten, and almost unable to contain my excitement with the idea of getting home at the end of each day (for a kindergartener, that's noon!) just so I could be in the newly arranged bedroom that my mom created. 

It was a room in the upstairs of a modest cape style home, no larger than 10x10 feet, with one window and gabled ceilings.  She had created an entire "house" for me in that space: a bedroom, a reading "room" with my books surrounding me on three sides, an art "room" with all of my paints and drawing books and a chalk board where I played teacher, and a "room" just for my toys.  All of this was arranged such that each space was creatively separated by pieces of furniture, individually lit, with area rugs carefully placed in each of the "rooms".  To a miniature human, it felt like a castle and was not only an incredible place to be in at that age, but also a beloved memory.  I wonder if my mom even recalls doing this.  Do you, Mom? 

In the years to come, I arranged the furniture in my father's living room with sheets and blankets draping over, creating a secluded space that I would pretend was a tent.  I drew there, read there, imagined there, slept there, dreamt there.  Before I would fall asleep under my "tent", I would leave one end of the blanket open, the end facing the exterior windows, and at night would make wishes on the stars.  I felt completely alone and content to think and dream and do as I wished. 

Being an only-child has its benefits and one of them is that I never shared a room with anyone growing up.  I had this weird bent toward staying up all night in my bedroom and starting projects after midnight.  Sometimes, the project was art related.  Other times, it involved moving my furniture around because I was needing change in my space.  After a few hours and once everything was in its new place, I would lay on my bed and notice how the view had changed.  It was my way of seeing things differently and living my secluded kid-life.  I relished that first night of going to sleep with a different perspective:  how the moonlight squeezed brighter or darker than before around the edges of the window blinds, where the new shadows cast on the bedroom walls, from where the house seemed to creak somewhat more loudly or softly.  It was always my own space to do with as I pleased and that allowed for creativity and independence.  I remember my childhood as a continuous internal monologue within those four walls, inside my kid-head with my kid-drawings and my kid-music.  Creating that kid-space was more important than any in my life.  I am sure of that. 

When I had my first apartment at college, I asked my mom to come and decorate for me.  It was an old Bostonian, six-story walk-up studio and I had a dismal array of hand-me-down furniture, but the touches my mother made were incredible!  By the end of a single day, I had house plants and elegant fabrics hanging in open doorways and drapes on the windows and furniture arranged in such a way that each of the areas were casually defined: there was an area near the apartment door that had a foyer table used for keys and mail on which my mother left an enormous vase of home-grown lilacs, my office which had a used banker's desk that looked much more regal than any standard-issue college furniture, and a beautiful bedroom with complimenting dresser and side table.  It felt like an "adulthood" home.  I was a 20-year-old, working at my first full-time position in an architectural firm and I couldn't wait to be in my pretty space at the end of each day.

In the fall of 1996, before I left for my Architectural study abroad in France, I wrote an essay called "Creating Space".  It was for a scholarship through Eddie, my stepdad's, union and would potentially award $5,000.  As I recall, it was supposed to be about the what's and why's on my chosen educational path.  Like with most things, I procrastinated.  I mean, I had a boyfriend and studio and a life and six classes and Boston and dreaming of France for the next six months and who had time for writing a stupid essay on "Creating Space"?  I think after the umpteenth time of my mom and Eddie urging me, I sat down, opened the vein of my miniature self and bled onto the paper why and what made me originally love space.  After all, architecture is just the involved process of Creating Space, right?  (My theoretical friends, i.e. Sue, will just LOVE me for this simplification).  At 4 o'clock on the day the essay was due, when his office was just about to close for the weekend, the guy that I knew in my college's postal department sent it out for overnight delivery - without charging me.  I thanked him profusely and crossed my fingers with a vague inkling that no one would even open the envelope, never mind read my essay inside.

A month later, I received word that I had won. 

My mom called me, crying of course, proud that I was awarded the scholarship, and she read back to me the photocopied essay that she neither knew I wrote nor that I had sent in by the skin of my teeth.  In 1996, I didn't own a computer, so the essay was handwritten, and therefore, I don't have a copy of it.  But I know that it was a short, down to the minimally required counted-word memoir of growing up with a mother who wonderfully transformed my teeny bedroom into a house and about a childhood living in tents and other created spaces that I felt happiness and freedom and personal expression.

By the way, that is only half the reason I wanted to be an architect.  More to come on that.

After this awful 2015 New England winter of unrelenting storms and 110" of snow and parking bans and a civic infrastructure that, for the most part, collapsed, I set out this spring to create an outdoor porch space that I would truly enjoy.  Anyone north of the Mason-Dixon owes it to themselves to spend as much time outdoors and getting some well-deserved Vitamin-D while they can. 

I purchased a narrow loveseat that perfectly fits the width (down to the inch!) of my porch for lounging and reading, a bistro table for lovely, intimate dinners for one or for two, outdoor carpets, and many planted herbs and flowers.  Sue gifted from her incredible store, http://makegoodstudio.com/, the green outdoor lumbar pillows now on my loveseat and a color scheme was born!  I feel as if I have gained a new room.  From my porch, I see the quiet fog of Dorchester mornings, breathing in the fresh salt air that I missed while living in DC for six years.  I see milky pink sunsets that silhouette the Jones Hill Victorians from my porch, bumblebees feeding on my begonias, and other neighbors lounging in their backyard spaces.  It's a place that I can have both coffee and wine with and without others, where I can think, write, and eat there.  It is the happiest place I know at the moment and it is all mine.  I plan to love the fuck out of it until Cold and Raw November reminds me of the marvelous gift of space I gave to myself this summer and its eventual hibernation until next year.
Until then, I'll be writing, reading, and everything else a well deserved summer brings.  Find your space and promise me you'll love the fuck out of it, also.

Love, AT


February 15, 2015

Givin' Away Some Art

The Massachusetts Cultural Council gives away grants to artists and writers every year.  When I moved back to Mass in 2011, I found out about their grant program and immediately wanted to enter some of my work.  They only give grants every other year in the category of Photography and I missed the deadline two years ago. 

Well, let me correct myself: I didn't actually "miss" it.  Instead of dedicating myself to what would turn out to be only a few hours of work, I found every excuse in the book, including accepting other plans on the day that I had slated to format my photos, to allow the deadline to slip.  I have vowed since that time, that I would under no circumstance let anything get in the way of submitting this year.  On January 26th, I submitted five pieces of photography to MCC and I now await several months until the announcements are made.

I've often ruminated on the question: What does it mean to be an artist?  I consider myself a hack writer, an occasional artist, a photography enthusiast.  But never a serious artist.  I started this blog a few years ago to explore art, its origins within myself, its sometimes difficult integration into a life whose career focus is not art, and to make it, despite all of the plans to be made, and chores to be done, and responsibilities that seem to want to do everything to keep me from it. 

Do we all look for a little recognition in what we do?  For me, submitting photos was to have an endorsement of sorts, a high-five in the "You're Alright" category.  Doing what you love shouldn't require recognition, necessarily, but I think it's okay if you get it in the process. 

But hence, today's piece of writing was more about my friends than it was supposed to be about me.  The preceding was merely background.  So, let's get on with it, ay?

Back in January, I asked friends and colleagues to offer feedback on four different "galleries" of photography.  Ones own opinion of their work is sometimes skewed due to personal attachment and therefore my intent of asking for feedback was to find out what other people think is good photography.  Thank you, friends, for your time and your feedback.

In return, I offered to give away to two randomly selected people a piece of framed art or photography of their choosing.  Today, I put together the list of folks who voted, cut up the hand written names, and selected two while blindfolded.  Okay, I was not blindfolded....but I did look away.  Well, the results are in and you'll just have to go here to see them: www.alysontherrien.com/contest.html.

August 24, 2014

Open a Vein and Bleed

Well, I am all packed and ready to go which means two things: I woke up too early and I could have had more champagne last night.  I just thought it would have taken so much more time, this packaging up a week of life to go somewhere, elsewhere. 

It can be difficult to know what to pack when you don't really know what to expect.  I registered for this writing course on a whim, telling myself "Just do it....Why not?".  When your heart makes you take a leap and not your head, when that's all you're used to, it can be hard to reconcile. 

But away I go.  I haven't carried this much on my back since I traveled Europe in 1997.  And yet, this time is not much different than then.  Oh sure, I have more fine lines (a girl's way of saying "wrinkles") and gray hairs now, but there is an air of hope and adventure and excitement that is similar.  I went to Europe all those years ago with the intent to absorb, to be a sponge and a student.  This week, I don't even have to leave the state to do the same thing.

The only way to shake things up is to break out of your comfort zone.  I feel kind of like that kid on the first day of attending a new school, nervous and curious, intimidated and shy; a little bit like I don't belong and they all do.  And after all, I am just a hack blogger who maybe, someday, will write her first book.  Then there's the other side of me that says, "Fuck yeah, let's do this!" 

"There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter, open a vein and bleed." -Red Smith

Inspiration and creativity come from within, all one needs is a conduit.  Let's do this.

August 2, 2014


On the Occasion of her 40th Birthday....

Twenty years.  That's how long Sue and I have been friends.  That's half of our lives.  A true Renaissance woman, Sue seems to have the golden touch in everything she does: teaching, cooking, art, photography, fashion - all of that, and she's beautiful, too.  But I think it's her core values that are her biggest achievement.  She is a hub of reason and stillness, somehow making sense of this often crazy world we live in.  She is daring and courageous, brilliant and funny, kind and sensitive, honest and loving.  All the characteristics I admire in a human. 

Over these twenty years, we've shared too-many-to-count wine induced cries, infinite laughter, philosophical talks on just about everything, analytical discussions on the men in our lives, and many a delicious meal together, mostly a result of her impressive culinary talents.  On occasion, we have even gotten ourselves into trouble...savory-spicy moments that only we know about.  Alas, some stories are too good to tell.  From the mundane to the esoteric, Sue can talk about anything and, by the end of the conversation, have you believing it and loving it - whatever "it" is.  I sometimes crave her company, like a bold and juicy Napa wine, and with the first sip, the flavor is rich and surprising and always satisfying.  She keeps on getting better.

Oh sure, we've had our small share of disagreements - how could two strong minded women not?   But those caveats have become the very foundation that shores up our growing tower of support and love for each other.  Women distinguish themselves from men in this way.

I love her infinitely: For the woman she has been, for the woman she is today, and for the woman she is still yet to become.  For all the ways she celebrates each moment of life and for her deep insight that I sometimes lack.  She so often shows me the way.  I occasionally wonder how and why she puts up with my quirks and sometimes naïve questioning of the world and the people in it.  But like ying and yang, I realize we just fit and then I stop wondering.  Some friendships are not deserving of  dissection. 

Khalil Gibran said, "In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.  For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed."

Happy Birthday, my friend.


August 12, 2013

Holes in Your Bucket

The first time I called David's office and inquired about his services, the receptionist told me, "He sometimes uses tuning forks, crystals, bells, and other methodologies."  I was skeptical, at best.  Having my chakras aligned was something I was only doing at the urging of both my mother and a two-dollar-per-minute palm reader, named Soraya.  She looked at my palm for ten seconds and said emphatically, You MUST HAVE your chakras aligned - you've had a tough two years.  Little did I imagine it would require tuning forks and bells...and other methodologies.  Was I getting myself into some aboriginal ceremony that would cast some voodoo-like spell on me?  Considered further, I had just been through a painful and turbulent couple of years with a stunted marriage and its respective divorce.  What more harm could voodoo have on me anyway? 

I met David in his studio on a Tuesday night where we spoke quietly in a comfortably low lit room for several minutes.  He asked questions the way a doctor does, sussing out the reason I had come to him.  I told him about my recent divorce, but I also found myself telling him details of my life that I had not talked about with anyone.  He listened quietly and intently, with a gentle presence, before having me lie down on the table in the middle of the small room.  David began to survey the seven points on my body, the chakras as they're called, gaging the flow of energy, explaining only very little about what he was doing.  Shortly after he began, I thought to myself, Here comes the voodoo. 

While he worked, David talked slowly about the way energy moves through people - Up the front of your body, down the back and around again, ever-circling us - while identifying any possible misalignments or blockages along the way.  He likened these energy blockages within my body to "icebergs", frozen areas of my life force that kept me from, energetically speaking, "running smoothly".

I watched and listened to David closely.  He was a man not yet out of his 50's, but with an intuitive wisdom and inner calm that draped him like a magician's cloak.  His subdued cheerfulness and steady nature reminded me of a priest, or, better yet, a medicine man.  David's appearance, though, was startlingly normal - beige trousers with a sweater vest and white collar shirt.  His combed-over hair looked like a toupee with its thick, monocolor of an unnatural amber hue.  Before our first meeting, I imagined this person to look much different, perhaps with a clergy-like robe, or some gypsy or hippy type effects, piercings or tattoos maybe, something that on the outside said, This man will melt my frozen energy chakras with tuning forks....and bells.  Alas, no.  His appearance gave off an average Middle America-type persona.  Interesting, how quickly I needed to label him.

But there was something about David.  Something special about him.  He was the kind of guy that could put you at ease with words or his gaze.  He had an encyclopedic knowledge of human energy and chakras and shared incredible insight with me on his views of the metaphysical world.  It was pretty fascinating.  Some of it was hard to swallow, but he made it sound so believable.  And I really wanted to believe.  At one point he said, None of what we think is existence is real.  It brought me thoughts of The Matrix, and wondered if my head was about to be plugged into a port. 

As David began to assess my chakras, his hands hovered down the center of my body, stopping at various intentional points, circling for several moments and then moving on to another point.  When the time was right, he raised his hands in the air, arhythmically tapping and clicking his fingers together, before turning to his notepad where he scribbled numbers and notes that looked no clearer to me than hieroglyphics on an ancient stone wall. 

He turned to me, dangling a crystal pendulum over my abdomen, and said with genuine compassion, You have many holes in your bucket.  Holes in my bucket?  Holes?  Unsure of what it all really meant for me, I knew for certain having holes in places I shouldn't have them sounded like a fairly bad prognosis.  Without intention or control, tiny streams of tears rolled over my temples and down my cheeks.  It wasn't quite as much crying as it was surrendering to the news.  I didn't even know I had a bucket, and the one I had came with holes.  Great.

His back was turned to me as he wrote the last of his notes.  I cleared my throat.

What do the numbers mean?

Well, he said, pointing to the list of numbers associated with each chakra. This is your Crown chakra, related to the head and understanding.  He pointed to the number, let's say 9.

In comparison, he ran his finger down the page and stopped at -3.

This is your Sacral chakra. It is associated with human pleasure and sexuality. 

Similarly, my heart chakra - linked with love and compassion - also received an implausibly failing grade.  He went on to explain that these were the areas which required the most attention and realignment.  That in order for the energy to flow through my body in a healthy way, these needed a lot of work.  It made sense. 

I signed up for several more sessions with David.  I saw him weekly for five more weeks, each time noting in short form what might be on my mind that day before reclining on the table for some more Voodoo-tuning fork ceremonies.

To this day, I am not quite sure what David actually did.  I don't understand the things that he seemed to believe down to his very core.  And that's okay.  Every one of those six times I left his studio, I felt a growing euphoria that was so tangible that it felt like it dripped from my skin.  I was unmistakably grateful from within.  I was okay with the unknown because it worked for me, without explanation or reason.

My sessions with David ended and about three months later, he called me out of the blue.  He wanted to know how I had been and if I would be interested in having more sessions with him.  I declined.

David, thank you for everything you did for me.  It was truly remarkable. 

He simply said, You're welcome.  And that was the last time I spoke to David. 

About a week before I was moving back to Boston, I passed him on the street.  I recognized the comb-over toupe hair and his friendly face.  He was standing there on the corner, not moving or going anywhere in particular, and we locked eyes.  I continued to walk by him without saying a word, but his expression instantly read that familiar, I've got your back, sort of look. 

July 25, 2013


I cooked lunch and knew the apartment had been quiet for too long.  She was in her favorite room in the house - my bedroom.  It is a mature and luxurious realm for a 9-year old's tender mind.  To her, it's a wonderland of big-girl cosmetics, pretty colors and adult furnishings, girlish pieces of clothing and jewelry slung in seemingly random places, and a large mirror which had been lowered to accommodate her height. 

She is so sweet and young that putting on her "big sister's" makeup is a splendid experience.  Admittedly, even being in my (hehem) late 30's, having the occasional opportunity to reach into my best girlfriend's cosmetic bag to use something new-to-me can be a small excitement.  It's interesting that, even though there's a margin of 30 years between us, my little sister and I are not that different:  We're still both girls. 

Noticing the atypical quiet in the house, I tip-toed into the room to catch a secret glimpse of her clandestine activities.  She stood there, reflecting on herself in the mirror.  "Don't look yet, Alyson.  Don't look!", she said adamantly, as if she were planning a grand unveiling of her masterpiece and I couldn't sneak a peek one second before.  I agreed to not look until she was completely done and took a seat behind her on my bed.

What I loved more than anticipating the lavishly-applied lines and colors on her face, was that I noticed she had slipped her feet into a pair of my linen high-heeled shoes.  No doubt what attracted her was the feminine bow at the tip of the shoe.  I also noticed - she still had the same socks on that she had just hiked in one hour earlier and that her tiny, but growing, foot was dwarfed by the size 8 1/2 adult shoe. 

Once she was ready, she took her final stroke with the brush and turned around in a dramatic swoop to let me admire her.  Like an artist, she was so proud of her work - and, you know, she looked pretty good.  I smiled and gave approval of her makeover and we began to adjourn for lunch. 

Just before we left the room, I turned to her with my camera and thought, I never want to forget this sweet, innocent moment.

April 9, 2013

A Eulogy for Nonna

A lot of people will give you advice about writing someone's eulogy:  Don't speak too fast.  Remember to speak loud enough.  Don't worry if you get emotional.  Keep it to 2-3 minutes.  Just speak from the heart. 

What I found out from the process is that you never know where to begin or where to end or what's in the middle because summing up someone's life in front of grieving loved ones in a span of just a few minutes is not very easy. 

Like a lot of writing, your first sentence, which you might initially think is brilliant and poignant, could ultimately get scrapped.  You could end up writing a collection of anecdotes from family memories that would make very little sense to anyone but yourself.  You could search the internet and google your loved one's name and see what turns up for inspiration.  You might even find old stories that show your loved one with a well-known diplomat and wonder what it was like to be standing next to them. 

And then you could ponder how your retired and widowed, 60-something year old, white-haired Grandmother became an activist and avid rally leader when, to you, she was your sweet and loving Nonna.  You may even recall memories of playtime and cookie baking, story-reading and simple games.  You remember hide-and-seek and fruity pebble cereal, ice cream cones and Buttonwood park.  And then you see a series of yellowed-paper articles written about her that read words like "passionate" and "activist" and "rallies" and "leader" and wonder how, as a kid, you could have missed this sort of other-life.

But it makes total sense to me now.

Women are not simple creatures.  We posess an inward-outward life that makes being a lady deep and sometimes complicated.  We are warriors and leaders to the outside world but to those who know our hearts: loving, giving, and vulnerable. 

And that's where writing a Eulogy to Nonna began.

When someone that we love leaves us, we cannot help but to feel sorrow.  But today is not a tragic day.  Nonna’s long life is one to be celebrated and remembered.  It was one that was filled with happiness, love, and laughter. 

She was a loving wife, she raised an incredible son, my Dad, Dutchie, and she was an exceptional grandmother, a doting auntie, and a caring friend and neighbor.  She was a true lady, in every sense of the word.  The world is a better place because of her having been in it. 
Outside of her family life, Nonna was a passionate activist.  She cofounded the Mass Senior Action council, an organization that she was extremely passionate about.  More than 30 years later, the council now has over 1000 members with the same purpose - to help others in need.  She rubbed elbows with presidents, senators, and diplomats.

On the battlegrounds of the many legislative and grass roots committees she was involved in, she was a woman of purpose and fierce determination.  If you have the opportunity today, I encourage you to look at some of the photographs of her in action and see if you don’t agree.  She was a force to be reckoned with and a woman who fought for her rights and that of others, displaying strength to give rise to change.  I respect and admire this. 

But in her home, with her family, she was caring, generous, and sensitive, even sometimes vulnerable.  The love she had for her family was paramount, and in my opinion, her best accomplishment. 
This, I believe, is the true heart of a woman – determined and steadfast yet gentle and loving.  This was my Nonna.

She has departed us in the same way that she lived – with dignity and grace.  If she is looking on us now, she is surely overjoyed, if not a bit humbled, to see all of us together today rejoicing in her life and her spirit. 


November 21, 2011

Feeling Thankful

If nothing else, the last six years have shown me you have to be alert and look out for the often vague and obscure signs pointing you in the right direction.  Life presents unexpected twists and turns and if you spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, you're kind of missing the point.  I was led back to Boston, my hometown, a move I never would have made had I not been paying attention to the signs.  It's been an interesting transition, trying not to cut the tethers of a former home, maintain them from a distance, while beginning anew in a changed place that I remember loving so much.

With the dust of the move settling and with the world's spin slowing down, I find myself nearly upon Thanksgiving, living in a new home and not having to travel very far to break bread with my little family for the holiday.  My house has been warmed with the constant presence of family and friends and I have a new job that I love and am challenged by everyday.  Nearly every year that I lived in Washington, I made the trip back to Boston for Thanksgiving.  I traveled sometimes by plane, sometimes with a U-Haul in tow (much to my parents' chagrin), needing to off load stuff that wouldn't fit into a studio-sized apartment. This year, however, I will travel an hour by car to my parent's home, with one of my favorite people, Ryan, and a heart overjoyed to be here.  I have a lot to be thankful for. 

Looking back to 2009, with overloaded plates of my mother's delicious meal, my family and I toasted to our well-being.  There was my divorce and my Dad and Stepdad had each had their respective surgeries.  And though none of us were quite out of the proverbial woods, we were getting there, inching toward regaining our health.  It was a good holiday - we had each other and life, which had proven to be turbulent during that previous year. 

One year ago, in 2010, I spent Thanksgiving in Washington, with my dear friend, Keith, and his wonderful friends.  It was well-attended by a prism of people with varied histories and colorful lives.  We all came together, many of us not knowing anyone but our hosts, to share a holiday of incredible food (three types of turkey), wine (copious amounts of wine), and many laughs.  Washington can be a cold and transient place but even if for just one day, we were family.  It remains one of my most treasured memories of living there.

What strikes me most about looking back at the unexpected events of the past is having the ability to cherry pick from it the lessons learned.  Of course, I have the luxury of distance and hindsight and with that comes a certain philosophical outlook.  Admittedly, when you're down in the trenches you aren't thinking how wonderful it will be to know what lessons you will seemingly pirouette out of the quagmire with.  Friends of mine and I talk now about where we all were only one year ago and how in 2012 things will be evermore different than they are today.  I find that rather exciting. 

For me, there is very little I would change about my past.  You can beat yourself up for the mistakes, but what good would it do?  What's the saying about life giving you lemons...add vodka?  No wait, wrong adage.  It'll come to me.

Life ain't perfect.  And I am so thankful for that.

June 19, 2011

My Tale of Two Fathers

You don't have to go very far back into my family history to discover it's an interesting one.  I've told the story a thousand times, possibly more, and it seldom fails to entertain - and even raise a few eyebrows. The best parts, if you ask me, have taken place in the last 30 or so years - coincidentally, not long after I began to walk this earth - but it really began earlier than that.  The abridged details go something like this:

My mom and dad were hippies who weren't married when they had me. They broke up, amicably, a year or two after I was born. My mom met my stepdad, Eddie, when I was three and they were married when I was five. Dad met Leslie, my stepmom, when I was eight.  They dated for a decade before marrying when I was in my second year of college. I was in both of their weddings - a flower girl in the former and I read a poem in the latter.  Neither set of parents had other children.  We vacation, celebrate birthdays, and spend holidays together.

The typical family structure, though, is learned from an early age. The image of a Nuclear Family is ingrained in our psyches and deviations from this model somehow don't feel right to the tender mind of a five year old. I was about to watch my mother walk down the aisle with someone other than my Dad, and I had some difficulty in accepting this transition. My childish, naive desire was to have my birth parents together living the "true" image of family. What perhaps none of us knew at the time was that our family would become one of the truest parts of our lives.

It was while I was in the seventh grade - Middle School - that they went to the Open House together, as parents often do.  Yet it was my Dad and Stepdad who were in attendance.  It's one of many stories that is well-versed in my family: Mr. Losert, Principal at the time, was speechless with shock, eyes wide as saucers, when he saw Dutchie and Eddie walk through the front doors together.  He was familiar with both my Dads and who they were in our small community, either athletically or collegiately.  The obligatory questions were asked and both of my Dads explained that my mother had become sick that night and they would both be filling in for her.  I had taken for granted this event at the time, as most teenagers take for granted many things that do not directly affect their lives.  But more so because that was the behavior I had always known - family acting together for the benefit of each other and their one daughter.  It was the status quo and it worked for us. 
I was brought up by both of my fathers, having lived with Mom and Eddie five days a week and spent the weekends with my Dad.  My childhood is a fond collection of comingled memories where both of my fathers exist.  Still in the early stages of our father-daughter relationship, Eddie attached training wheels to my bike and patiently taught me how to ride it on the old, Livesey Park outdoor skating rink.  Dad and I, during our weekends together, would watch professional wrestling on Sunday mornings and play out our own match right there on the living room floor.  Eddie had always been an excellent golfer and he and I would often play mini-golf together or go to the driving range.  A protege, I was not, but I always loved spending that time with him.  I love New England summers as much as Dad does and we would pack up his big, blue van with a cooler of sandwiches and cans of soda and take off to the beach for the entire day.  The only thing I loved more than a day at the beach was the gloriously inevitable pit-stop at the ice cream shop on the way home.  Lucky for me, Dad loves ice cream as much as I do.
During my high school years, Dad always came to my track meets, sometimes Eddie joined him and I remember how proud I felt to see them standing together.  One particular memory I have was the state track meet, my very last in high school, and it was my 18th birthday.  All four of my parents had shown up to watch.  I had done particularly well that day and after my events, they all piled back into one car to leave - Moms in the back, Dads in the front - but not before I heard my father's voice bellow from the open car window as they drove off, Happy Birthday, Alyyyyyyyyy!!!!  It always felt so right that they were together.
On holidays and other occasions when I visit Eddie and my Mom, Ed always tells me ten or so times (I usually lose count) how good it is to have me home.  Whenever I talk to my father on the phone, he often tells me how proud he is of me before we hang up, even though I may not have done anything to specifically warrant it.  They always showed me unconditional love.  I'll never understand what it is like to be the father of a daughter, but Fatherhood, and the love they each showered me with, always seemed to be effortless and expressed with grace.  Fatherhood came so naturally to them and they made being their daughter easy. 
In early 2009, Dutchie and Eddie both became seriously ill within months of each other.  It was an unthinkable, implausible experience to be faced with the mortality of the two closest men in my life at the exact same time.  Eddie was diagnosed with Myelofibrosis - the scarring of bone marrow tissue - and Dad developed advanced prostate cancer.  There was an incredible outpouring of support from family, friends, and the community for each of them and their respective diseases.  Dad underwent surgery to remove the cancer in its entirety and Eddie had a stem cell transplant and sustained a near-eighteen month recovery.  The endurance of their spirit as well as the support around them is a true testament to the great character of these two men.  They are both healthy now and, for that, we are all incredibly lucky and grateful.
At Christmas, my mother's dining table is always crowded with our little family, Grandparents included.  It's always the best meal of the year, likely due to her excellent cooking, but also because we are together.  These past two years have been particularly poignant with a toast made to health, life, family, and happiness.  Following dinner, and after several bottles of wine, the five of us play digital bowling or some other game on my parents' Wii.  We have the time of our lives, laughing and acting silly. 
Today, as I share this story about my Dads, what is self-reflection for me and my Father's Day gift to them, I acknowledge that I wouldn't be who I am if it weren't for their presence in my life.  Along with my Mom and Stepmom, it is because of Dutchie and Eddie that I am a human who is loving and respectful, friendly and kind, patient and accepting - all the things I have collectively learned from them.
Happy Father's Day to my two Dads.

Dutchie, Aly, & Eddie, 2005

June 5, 2011


I was naked and begging to be wanted.  I was trying to seduce him but the look on his face only showed disdain for me.  Even though we were just newlyweds, it had been months and I was fed up with his excuses.  I had run out of reasoning - his and my own.  I wanted to understand why I had entered a marriage that so quickly turned cold.

Twenty minutes earlier, sitting alone in our dark dining room, as I had done so often, I slugged back two glasses of wine.  I needed the alcohol for courage, but also to dull the disappointment that I knew was inevitable.  I was so god damn disappointed all the time that I had forgotten what satisfaction felt like.  But most of all, I was angry: at him, but really at myself for letting him do this to me, to us.  Drinking was a great way to get in touch with that anger - and I was angry a lot during that time.

With solid intentions, I trotted up the stairs to the bedroom where I knew he would be lying in bed reading.  I was a 10-pound thinner version of myself now, comfortable and confident in my own skin, but still feeling a sort of doomed anticipation that this attempt would end as so many others had.  It confused me, but gave me a goal - a puzzle to solve - and a resilient determination to not give up.  My attempts to persuade and seduce occurred more often and aggressively, but were all deflated in some way or another.  It was as if he was challenging me and I was sure that my determination would outlast his many acts of withholding.  He was going to concede, so I thought, to having sex eventually.  

But let me first clarify: Sex isn't just sex.  It is a vast and complicated landscape of need and emotion, pleasure and trust - many things of the physical and subconscious realms that we so seldom even consider.  (And let us not forget that it's good-ol' fashioned fun.)  Sex is Love and connection.  It is physical desire, but it is also channeled through the desire for affection, attention, nurturing, and comfort.  These are the subtleties, the bi-products, of Love.  Sex is, or better yet, should be the affirmation that Love is present.  At its best, it can be a beautiful soul-baring experience.  At very least, we should hope, it is proof that base physical desire is reciprocal.  Hey, I can imagine worse things.  But when sex is continuously denied by someone you love, the connection that it creates can't exist.  Within the context of sex, it is through the connecting, the response one receives, the acceptance and return of ones desires and affection that one feels Love.  Well, that's my opinion of it, anyway.

For him, it was a nuisance, an uninvited duty at the end of his day - like taking out the trash.  My desire for him complicated his life and muddied his own desires, whatever they were.  There was no connection lacking for him by way of having or not having it.  Sex was, after all, not about connecting for him, but an inconvenient obligation that he thought he could wriggle himself out of once we were married.  And wriggle he did, with one excuse or another.  You know the typical ones claiming headaches, fatigue, or an artificially aggrandized dissatisfaction with the state of the world.  With every excuse he made and for every one of my failed attempts, a block was mortared into the growing wall between us.  Why do you need this?  Why are you keeping track?, he would ask me.  Why aren't you?, I would say.  The tethered bond I had once felt to this person waned with each day we didn't communicate about the enormous elephant in the room. 


He didn't bother to look up as I pushed the door open and walked into the bedroom and so he didn't see that I wasn't wearing anything.  To him, it didn't really matter what I was wearing or not since what was on offer had little appeal anyway.  Despite knowing that, I slunk, provocatively, from the foot of the bed over to where he was laying.  I noticed his grasp on the book became stronger, as if to avoid my advances by pretending to read.  I grabbed hold of it in an effort to throw it aside but he held on tighter so that it became a barrier between us.  A look of frustration and annoyance came over his face but what I noticed most was that he looked afraid of me.  I thought, at first, it was fear of what I wanted to do with him.  I now know, it was fear of what I would only months later find out.

I was once again denied, not surprisingly, and I couldn't bear it any longer.  Don't you know it's been four months since the last time?  Have you fallen out of love with me?  Are you having an affair?  Because I was so exhausted by my own sickening curiosities, I asked all of these questions and more.  Deep into that night, a pregnant pause filled the room, flooded with his inability to speak the truths that needed to be said.   Many hours brimmed with our private internal monologues.  My stomach ached with wanting the truth but I was overwhelmed with an apprehension to know it.

Finally, breaking the silence, his mouth opened to speak what would become the most unforgivable lie ever told.

You used to be thinner and I'm not attracted to you anymore.