new york city kid in arkansas
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Troy and I were just watching old home movies from Christmas 2006 when Huck was a few months shy of two years old, and there’s a moment when Max the dog comes right up to the camera and looks at me with his excited, anxious eyes. It was doubly heartbreaking to see both my old dog and my old baby in forms I’ll never see again. Not to mention our 36 year old forms that we’ll also never see again.

New Year’s Eve will break your heart every time.

Much easier to look back twelve months; everything is more recognizable. This year started with Huck on an exciting school trip to Florida and ended with him happily at home drinking cup after cup after cup of tea. If given the choice, he will always choose the latter. Other noteworthy moments of 2019 included “Hamilton” in Chicago with the Tacketts, our new orange Subaru, “The Wolves” at TheatreSquared, a spring break friends’ reunion here in Fayetteville, birthday Adirondack chairs for the well-used back yard, goodbye to viola, a summer off for all three of us, a short film called “Animal,” high school for Huck, a wonderful new head of school for us, piano and choir, the start of a book club and a GSA and a writing group, Troy’s daily swims and my daily dog walks, a fun-filled hay ride with the Nickels, more trips to Kansas than usual to be with my parents, Troy writing and illustrating his children’s book, and the first ever Christmas morning in matching PJs (thank you, Mama Judy).

May 2020 bring peace and joy and lots of laughter to us all!

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Merry Christmas Eve from the three of us, happily tucked into our cozy living room with a gift-filled tree, a roaring fire before the afternoon turns spring-like, coffee, tea, books, candles and the anticipation of this evening’s present-opening. Though Huck is taller than me, he’s still the same Christmas Loving Child that is bound by tradition and can hardly concentrate due to his excitement. He’s just like his Aunt Jeni and me: Christmas Eve is the best day of the year.

This season was short and sweet and filled with all the usuals: Huck’s choir and piano performances, festive fun with friends, town square lights, Eureka Springs, The Magical Forest, finals stress, hygge evenings by the fire, and the mailing of 100 Christmas cards. This year’s (the 28th) reveals a shrinking mother and a sky full of beautiful math equations, which perfectly sums up the year. With Huck, every conversation is a Wonderland. (And if you don’t hear from us for a few days it’s because we’ve promised him a Christmas Break Settlers of Catan Marathon. Please send provisions.)

Merry Christmas!


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On Thanksgiving night Huck coined the phrase, “My tummy’s taken a tumble,” and I’ve been using it ever since. ‘Tis the time of year when our tummies take tumbles, and maybe our hearts and minds, too.

We spent the holiday week in Kansas, first with the Salina Hottmans and last with the Wichita Schremmers. There were tumbles down Memory Lane, in more ways than one, tumbles of laughter, nine year olds and dogs. My mom’s 75th birthday resulted in several family members across Kansas making the trek to Marc Street to celebrate, including a very special 18 year old KU college freshman. We decorated my parents’ Christmas tree, watched George Bailey remember his wonderful life and helped my mom remember hers. The Wichita portion of Thanksgiving included games galore, a massive family reunion and a hip hop workout. The whole week was filled with Huck reading “Romeo and Juliet” for English class, often saying things like, “Finally you guys are able to help me with my homework.”

One of my favorite parts of every year is Thanksgiving morning. All I really want out of those hours is a comfy place to sit with a never-ending cup of coffee, a fire roaring, the Macy’s Parade on TV and people I love nearby. It doesn’t always work out quite right, but this year it did.

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A late afternoon neighborhood walk with Sunny …

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For Halloween this year Huck dressed as himself: a tall, slender 14 year old high school freshman full of homework anxiety, prone to migraines, excelling in every class. Scariest costume to date! Standing next to him, I was the Incredible Shrinking Mother.

This glorious month of October was all about Huck losing his iPhone, a fun fall visit from the Nickels, a production of “101 Dalmatians” starring 63 small children, a lovely high school choir concert, six adorable home grown pumpkins from Troy’s patch, more fireplace fires than I can count, binge watching “Dark” on Netflix, exciting parent/teacher conferences, much practicing of Kabalevsky’s Op. 1, No. 13, 3rd mvt on the piano, the purchase of a “new” iPhone, the breathtaking beauty of the changing leaves, and the absence of a Halloween costume.

As if to bring the message of Change home loud and clear, on Halloween Eve we arrived from work & school with plans to carve our three pumpkins, only to discover that Troy’s & Huck’s had been taken right out of our yard. Huck had lots of homework anyway and wasn’t sure he could afford the break, and since I can’t stand carving pumpkins Troy inherited mine and created his yearly work of art without us.

On this last night of October, we three visited the square and watched families trick-or-treat like we used to do before heading into Tiny Tim’s for our traditional special occasion dinner, followed by a gathering with old friends and too much candy.

Not such a different Halloween after all.

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This is a picture of my mom and little sister Jeni, circa 1978-ish. My mom still wears her hair like this and still chooses that same spot on a now less plaid-covered sofa, but Jeni has finally stopped showing her undies in every picture. My sister found this in an old album last week during her stay with my mom while her husband Nathan took my dad to the Grand Canyon for a bucket list trip of a lifetime. The Tacketts are two of the most selfless people around – ask anyone who knows them – but what they did for my parents last week will forever live in my heart as their biggest act of love yet.

My sister Lori worked over Labor Day weekend so she could join them mid-week, bringing flowers and cooking lasagna, and I was able to come for the very tail end of the week. I found two happy women waiting for me, one lavished with delicious home cooked meals, daily pedicures, nightly movie fests, and non-stop one on one attention. The other full of stories of their wonderful week so far together.

On Sunday my dad returned from his vacation also full of stories. This was pretty special for a man who can no longer leave town, but I knew he was relieved and happy to be home with his companion of over 50 years. Plus he didn’t fall into the Grand Canyon even once.

We’re all back where we belong now, a little more tired and a little more grateful. Happy birthday, Nathan, and thanks for the idea.

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Huck’s in High School! Aside from his bus being over an hour late on the hottest afternoon known to humankind, he and his 500 pound backpack had a fine first day. Back when he started kindergarten I channeled all my anxiety into his lunch containers. Oh, those were the days!

The older Huck gets, the more vivid my memories are of being his age, and I remember high school (and my discovery of almost everything I love) very well. His school is gigantic – nearly 3000 students – and I’d like to take this moment to thank the upperclassman who helped him find his way from Room 1907 to Room 3907 on day one. His freshman schedule includes Pre-AP Algebra II, AP Human Geography, French, Choir, Pre-AP Biology, Pre-AP English and my favorite … Virtual Health & PE.

PE ON A COMPUTER! (I tried to talk Huck out of this decision until I realized it would have been my dream come true back in the eighties.)

At our school last week, we were treated to a talk by clinical psychologist, New York Times best selling author, and standup comedian Wendy Mogel who begged us not to ask our kids horrible questions with one word answers such as, “Do you like your teacher?” and “Are you excited for school?” Instead she suggested six words to get a real conversation going: “I thought of you today when …”

That’s easy.

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Earlier this month Troy and I went to the library while Huck was at Sewing and Quilting Camp making fabulous pillows, shoulder bags and mug rugs. After choosing some books, I stood on the second floor staring out a large window overlooking the construction site below for our library expansion. It was quite a view, and I stood there for a few seconds imagining what it will all look like when it’s complete. Then I decided to head downstairs and look for Troy, but I forgot that directly behind me was one of my all-time favorite sculptures. This sculpture isn’t small, it’s actually quite enormous and impossible to miss. Miraculously I ran my body into it as I turned, immediately feeling embarrassed and giggly as I awkwardly gathered my things and shuffled out of the room, gently touching my head as if to assure the onlookers that I was fine. It was such a jarring moment, to go from my sweet daydreaming to hitting a very large, very hard surface, albeit a beautiful one.

I think that’s how it’s going to feel returning to work next week.

Along with a trip to Kansas, the second half of our summer will best be remembered as the time Troy became famous in the neighborhood for building and planting a pumpkin patch. His natural gardening tendencies make it sometimes hard to believe he lived in New York City apartments for 16 years. Most July mornings I can be found reading in my Adirondack chair in the back yard while Troy works on the other side of the fence in our side yard near the street. Approximately every 7.5 minutes I hear a woman’s voice say something like: “That looks so neat! What is it?” Then Troy exclaims in his special farmer-dialect: “It’s a pumpkin patch! I’m tryin’ out pumpkins! What do you think?” Woman’s voice: “I love it! How did you do it?” Sometimes these admirers are simply walking by; sometimes they actually pull over in their car for a bit. All I know is, it happens over and over again.

I think that’s how it’s going to feel returning to work next week.

Ready for High School: To Be Continued.

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Here in Fayetteville we three are enjoying a leisurely summer with no place to go except the pool. Troy and I have been denied the teacher-perk of summers off until now, and so we’re trying to cram years and years of relaxation into a couple months. Or at least I am. Troy is up at the crack of dawn each day swimming laps and working in the yard while Huck and I sleep like angels.

Our summer halfway-mark highs so far include Sunny turning seven (in dog years we three adults are the same age now), our new orange Subaru, the Pride Parade, watching my mom sing to Troy’s ukulele playing, movie-making,¬†Troy’s “On the Row” tour, the Tacketts in our town and their town, “Les Mis” at the Walton Arts Center, Dan & Michele, Lake Michigan and … wait for it … “Hamilton” in Chicago!

How lucky we are to be alive right now!

Our lows: Troy’s four hours at the DMV (the unimaginable), the Margulis-Miller family moving to New Jersey (everything is legal in New Jersey), driving in downtown Chicago completely lost (stay alive, stay alive) and the constant threat of thunderstorms. I’m never satisfied!

Perfectly in character, Huck is ready for high school to start. Troy mentioned something about “missing the kids” the other day. Me? I’m content taking a break, reading my books, floating in my pink innertube, singing the “Hamilton” soundtrack, and sleeping in every morning for a few more months.

That would be enough.

My nephew & niece are GORGEOUS!

It’s possible that “My Shot” will one day replace “Sisters, Sisters” as our go-to number.

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This brag blog was brought to you by Aunt Jeni, who insisted.

Somehow we have an actual high school student living with us now. He can usually be found in his dark bedroom lit by Christmas lights, listening to his favorite music through ear buds with a cup of tea while playing on the computer, knitting or reading as he embraces his brand new, very lazy summer.

In the last few weeks, back when he was a busy eighth grader, Huck had one special event after another, just like every student in America. The month began with his spring piano recital where he played his favorite instrument with poise and great skill, reminding us how far he’s come in a couple of short years. He received the Directors Award at his beautiful orchestra concert followed the next week by Outstanding Musician at his choir concert where we were treated to dynamite “Footloose” choreography. Also at that choir concert he served as the tireless stage hand, bringing out stools, chairs, microphones and even an awkward piano in between his own performances. I knew he was in his element as the kid who will do whatever the adults need him to do. He gets this from his father. Afterwards I didn’t know which I was more impressed by, his art or cooperation.

Next was his elaborate GT puppet show where we finally understood the abstract things he’d been describing to us for months. He took this whimsical project very seriously, and again I found myself equally proud of the puppet construction, creative writing, solid performance and deep commitment to his teacher and classmates.

Then came the end of year Ramay Junior High awards ceremony where he received all kinds of recognition in the form of certificates and shiny medals for his straight As, school involvement and musical achievements. By the time I picked him up after his final final on the last day of school at 10:45am, he was teary-eyed and sentimental, something he gets from me. As he filled the backseat with his end-of-year loot he said, “I just realized I’ve been wandering around with a huge puppet that says FREE MONEY.”

And I hate to brag, but for the first time since we moved here six years ago, we three finally have the summer off together. There’s the usual plans for the pool, reading marathons, travel and sleeping-in, but there’s also a high school reading list for English and biology, the ACT, French & American Revolution musical theatre, the making of a short film and Troy’s four city Prison Stories tour of “On the Row.”

I’m officially ready to embrace my brand new, very lazy summer, too.

Proud Braggers