michael benjamin

Visiting MASS MoCA

G and D and kids came to spend the day w/us yesterday, and we hopped over to MASS MoCA where M is working to see the museum (the hit for the kids was the Miss Rockaway exhibit, very very cool), and then after-hours go went in to see what he's been working on.

Keeping tired kids away from the walls was a bit scary, one touch can ruin a spot as most of them aren't varnished yet.

An insane amount of detail work goes on, repetitive and crazily perfect things done by hand, slowly, over a period of months. The process seems as important as the piece, if not more so.

Some of the pencil line drawings (I didn't get any pics of those) had teams of 3 people just sharpening leads all day, while others drew straight lines, in various combinations, over and over again.

Michael worked on this one, with one other person, for a couple of months. Taping, painting many coats, untaping, taping, fixing, etc. No color touches itself.

This is his current project, and a scribble drawing, which is his favorite. He's managing a team of green interns, which adds to the joy of trying to get it right the first time. Fixing is painful, slow, and sometimes involves repainting and starting a section over. He's always coming home with graphite smears all over him. That's all drawn with scribbles of pencil.

More pics here, and more to come.


M discovered on Saturday that april 1 was tomorrow ... and he didn't have to leave until then. yay! one extra day to sort things out. I've been a bit of a wreck, and couldn't put my finger on why other than the fact that we'll miss him. realized finally this morning that i needed some kind of acknowledgment of what he was asking me to do (take solo responsibility for weeks on end, give up alone time, etc ...) and he formally did so. feel much much better, perhaps i'm a stickler for protocol? i'm willing to give whatever is asked by him (i think) but hadn't been asked.

He'll be reachable while there as there's a regular phone line into the apt he's been assigned, thank god! the only one that has it :). he also has 2 twin beds and a queen, but since he only signed on for 2 months they're not sure if they can get it for the summer also (for us), but we shall see.

someday i'll tell the 'story of us' for those few of you that don't know it, but not today. it seems the impending separation has brought up lots of things relating to how our relationship is structured, and some of it is painful. seems to be the way of things.

the countdown

M leaves on Monday morning for the beginning of the MA job ... and we have no idea how many months of it he's going to take (at least 2) maybe up to 5. I've been getting done what I can, am squeezing in a race Sunday morning, and registered for a half-marathon in early May, so I'll HAVE to find ways to get runs in by begging and swapping kid-care. I'll do it all on the treadmill if I have to but that's not good training at all really for an urban run.

The kids know, well, make that D knows and Fynn is clueless. He'll be the hardest hit in some ways, he (fynn) is SO attached to his dad. I'm knowing I'm going to miss him, but not thinking about it as much as I can help it because it won't help me deal. Trying to come up with fun things to mark the time with the boys, like treats and convincing friends to come visit. Anyone up for a trip and free place to stay in NYC?! Company will be heaven in the next few months.

The things that make me realize I'm dreading it? And perhaps resenting it tremendously? ok, not perhaps, I am resenting it. I've had 2 dreams, the 2nd one this morning, in which M has been deliberately/casually cheating on me. And not hiding it at all. In both cases I've woken up furious. I have not a shred of fear that he has or will do such a thing in terms of fidelity, but art is his other wife. There's no doubt about it. And in this case it feels like she won.

It's not just about the good pay and references and connections he'll get, it's about wanting to go, do something he really enjoys, and make a bit of a name for himself. A chance to paint every night and batch it for a few months. He'll miss us badly I know, but not in the same way. I know most of the resentment comes from how it was decided, not the decision itself. We'd talked it over and agreed it wasn't a feasible idea. Then the project leader called to get his answer, and he blurted out that he'd come for 2 months at least, until school got out. I sat there listening, stunned and hurt. I do see now that it's a very good thing, and support it wholly, but part of me is still angry I guess.

The other downer I found out last night ... every cell phone company has coverage up there except ours (t-mobile). So for now there will be no way to communicate unless he borrows a phone. Perhaps he can get a regular pots line put in, or get cable internet and use skype (there's cable tv already) ... or just get a cell phone w/a different company for the duration of the project and let his current one lie dormant. Seems the cutting off is going to be more complete than I realized, at least for the short term.

To keep myself motivated, I'm plotting what projects I can get done before he gets back ... paint/grout the bathroom, get the yard trimmed up/planted, boxes sorted, things donated or hauled away, etc ... some of them things that are much harder if there are more people in the house. I can shower at the gym for a couple days while grout dries :). And we won't talk about how often my boys are bathed. Nope, we won't. More often than my sheets are changed, but that's not saying anything at all!

Speaking of showers, I do need one.

Oh, and there's a new thing growing in my sidebar (not the ads that have been there awhile, click away, click away!) that's a list of books. I'm starting to plot and scheme on a bigger project than I've ever taken on, but this would be a whole family/whole life kind of project. The list will grow, and already has big clues in it.

Last thing, I'm going to fix the Flickr badge, I am ... I treated myself to a Pro account, finally!!, and went organizing-happy over there.


things have settled down a bit, at least emotionally. i distracted myself well today, resulting in some feelings of accomplishment at least!

michael got a new website. at last!! i designed his last one for a birthday gift about 7 years ago I think? it's still hidden here for a few more days, but that will disappear soon. getting the journal properly ported over was easy, but getting the links fixed? ugh! between his penchant for naming files with lots of spaces, and the different ways he uploaded photos (and my lack of forethought) it was rather a pain. holler if you find anything missing or mucked up! he loves getting comments of course :) he's off at the studio again to work on getting stuff together for the show, I'm sure I'll be throwing together a postcard tomorrow as soon as he gets pics to me and approval from the gallery owner.

side note: watching the academy awards out of my left eye, and so far my favorites rock! marketa and glen are singing falling slowly (a bit dressed up, but the same thrashed guitar :), and marion cotillard just won best actress for her amazing portrayal of edith piaf in la vie en rose, a movie i loved. michael sang an edith piaf song at our wedding. fabulous movie too. hoping the once crew gets it for best song. (edited to add ... they did :)

ran again today, as well as a thirty minute speed run on the treadmill yesterday (after taking forever to figure out how to work the thing!) did 5.5 miles despite a lack of sleep and the most draining day of my period :). felt good. really good in fact, that i wasn't totally drained in the end, but still had energy and could have gone a lot farther. never could have said that even 2 months ago.

distractions can be good. i still have things to figure out. the fact that the finances are rather it the toilet isn't helping the overall stress levels, and is rather testing my faith at the moment.


snow at last, snow at last, thank god we have snow at last! spent 2 hours out in it, shoveled for my workout as i couldn't really run, and feels wonderful.

the boys had a ball, though fynn was frustrated he couldn't pick things up and ended up with bright red hands after having ditched the mittens.

michael built a snow ramp that turned into a 'gator, and a snowman of sorts. d danced, threw snowballs, helped, ran around, and was in almost 6-year-old heaven.

spent the afternoon doing up michael's new website, all of a sudden, because he confirmed yesterday that he's getting a solo show in manhattan from march 4-18! another wheeeeee .... starting to get closer to what we came to this city for, 4.5 years in. lots of scrambling to do with PR and all that.

in other news, found a roach er "waterbug" on the kitchen counter this evening. first ever in the kitchen, and one of only about 6 we've found in those 4.5 years. wheeeeeeeee.

The weekend

It was a good one. A long one. And an exhausting one.

Saturday I took D to a birthday party for one of his classmates, who recently moved out to the boonies (read: the very last stop on the subway that goes out into Queens near JFK). It was to start at 12, and as most kiddie parties are 1.5 to 2 hours long I did my best to arrive on time. We got there at 12:15 after a mad morning scramble to get the farmers' market shopping done, as well as buy and wrap a gift.

We were the first arrivals, and the mom was adding balloons to a perfectly 'manicured' and decorated apartment. I mean decorated ... every doorway, ceiling, table, and surface was either spotlessly clean, or covered with pink princess stuff. M, the birthday girl, was in a cute princess dress and had her hair done up. Her 3-year-0ld brother was also dressed up, and D was in his "Ape that lives in a canyon" costume, complete with cape, beaded collar, belt, and light saber. I'm sorry I failed to document it, it was pretty good though I have no idea how an ape comes into it! They settled down right away to room showing, trains, and lego. The mom had vast pots of homemade soup on the stove, just in case people came in cold. I had some, along with samples from the huge chip trays and grape platter.

As she rushed in/out bringing an ice cream cake, more pop, pies, and who knows what else, a few more kids/moms trickled in. Four other kids from their class were soon running up/down the hallway and getting underfoot. The mom continued to rush around, and eventually disappeared to take a shower. By the time she got out and dressed, paid for the 6 pizzas that were delivered, made a salad, cranked up super-loud techno music and turned on the gigantic flat-panel TV, the party appeared to be underway. It was 1:45pm, about when I'd expected to be gathering coats to leave!

The women kind of gathered around the kitchen and she commenced to share the sordid tale, in great detail, of her recently-separated husband and his exploits and habits, along with his total lack of interest in the kids. There were two other single moms in the group, so the discussion was lively and full of advice and sympathy. She's a super over-achiever in my book, but I can really relate in some ways. She's Cambodian, and says that it's truly cultural to take care of every little thing possible for your spouse and kids, treating them like kings. She'd done this for nine years, along with providing financially for everything. She leaves her house at about the time my boys wake up in the morning, takes a train and bus and walks to deliver kids to school and a sitter, takes the train into the city for work, and repeats it in reverse at night, arriving home somewhere after 7pm. Then the whole homework/dinner/housework routine.

I was exhausted listening to her, and felt sympathy. I also felt it a bit of a wakeup call as to my own overachieving tendencies, or desire to have it ALL thank you very much.

More people arrived around 3, the cake was FINALLY cut and devoured at 4:30, and we caught a ride home from friends in the neighborhood. My ears were a bit worn out between the music and the talking, and I was ready to crash.

Before I crashed, I sent M to the studio to work on his art overnight, and asked that he get home in time for me to run Sunday afternoon, and then have a date.

Sunday when he got home I was napping, and feeling sniffly and tired still. I tried hard to find excuses to not go running, but eventually ran out of viable ones and got out the door. I'm finding the statement that long-distance running is more than 50% a mental game to be very very true. The negative self-talk that springs up is amazingly consistent! How can I possibly run any farther than last week? What if it makes me sick? My ankle hurts. I'll get stuck too far away from home and be too tired to walk back. I'll have to use the bathroom too many times. I'll get dehydrated and the fountains aren't on ... yadda yadda yadda. You get the idea.

I escaped, started my run, and talked myself through about 40 little points of wanting to quit or give up, and ended up getting in 9.5 miles in 1:32. The thought of running for over an hour and a half was so laughable just 4 months ago that it's hard to imagine. That was more than 1/3 of a marathon :). It felt absolutely wonderful.

Then the day was capped off with a date with my husband, including a visit to his studio (first time in over a year I think), getting to see his latest painting that's about our relationship, some fabulous sushi, a visit to our old roommate S in the east Village, and then a 2.5 mile long hunt, at midnight, for the crab rangoon that I was craving. We passed umpteen japanese restaurants, McD's, Dunkin Donuts, and Starbucks that were still open, but not one single chinese joint. And we went thru the village, circled Union Square, and up as far as 20th street. Go figure. I sadly settled for some horrible Taco Bell (scary at 1am with a girl puking in the garbage bin and a *really* horrible bathroom. We ended up with a cab home as I was literally staggering with exhaustion by that point.

A good weekend :)

Day 18 - Connections

When I hired a coach 6 weeks ago, I did it because I was stuck in a coaching rut that was quickly turning into an I Can't Coach rut, and a coach friend of mine wanted a logo design. I bartered cash plus a bit of coaching for the logo, and think I've come out ahead of the game. I HATE promoting my coaching, as it means I have to promote ME, and that's incredibly hard for me to do. I can't show a logo and say "I'll make you one till you like it", nor can I churn out pretty word .docs and .ppt files in record time, making people wonder how I did it, and willing to pay nice bucks for it. I have to sell someone the idea that a conversation with me can change their life, and they should pay me handsomely for it. That terrifies me.

I think I've helped prove my own point in the last month ... that a coach can make a difference. I'm not full of connections, as my coach seems to be (I'll get to that) but I can help people see what's possible, and that it's certainly not as impossible or scary as it looks. You just have to break it down, at least most of the time. In the last month, I've started co-hosting a weekly radio show, been introduced to the editor of an online Family magazine with the thought that I might like to write for them, and talked to about 40 people and counting about donating money and/or stuff to the race in december. I've shifted my focus I guess from "where's my next client" to having fun, doing what I like to do, and seeing what comes of it. The knocking on doors part I hate, but it's getting me to what I DO like in that it's making the race possible. Nothing much happens when I sit home and hope that somebody somewhere will stumble across my website and want to hire me on the spot.

The radio show was a direct result of my coach telling me to contact this woman she knew, and the possible writing thing came out of joining yet another networking site and having someone see my biz name and get intruiged, introduce themselves, and offer to intro me to this editor. No idea if anything will come of it, but it's better than not having the chance.

Speaking of connections ... M's got a gallery owner who's agreed to look at his work this week, so he's off to the studio tonight to pull together some pieces to show. In typical Michael fashion, he was at a packed gallery opening in Soho, left and saw this gallery was open but empty, so went over to check it out. He got talking to the man who owned it, and as the guy needed to run out for something he offered Michael $20 to watch the door for a few minutes. He countered with "I'll do it for free if you'll look at my work" and hence the opportunity :)


I've been in the doldrums a bit since school started, and can't seem to find much motivation. I thought that once Douglas was in school I'd start flying through projects, find new clients, and so on and it's not quite happening. Finally yesterday a friend called for some input on on some e-mails she was writing to potential clients, and to catch up after weeks of silence, and her enthusiasm kicked me in the butt. I promised to send out an email to all my past clients before the day ended, which I did, and felt a thousand times better.

I have a huge mental block on promoting my coaching, as it means promoting ME, and I struggle with that. Pay big bucks for my time, and have nothing tangible/visible in return. Right! But I think I found the words and tone to use, and have two responses already of ladies who want to sign up. They won't find me/think of me if I don't say 'hey' once in awhile!

Really been in a purge mood lately, throwing out, 'curbing' (brooklyn-style recycling), and consolidating. I hate building up stuff, and feel much better when it's pared down, usable, and findable. I just had a lady pick up Douglas' old highchair today thru Freecycle, as Fynn had learned to kick off the tray and it was virtually useless. Now I have to tie him into the clip-on-the-table one as he stands up and shrieks after the first few bites. He is so determined to eat his own way (no spoon feeding this one!) that I've given up.

Douglas seems to be on a defiant rampage, so I'm betting I need to look at my own attitude and see what needs adjusting. I know I'm missing fellowship and the routines I used to have (or feel guilty for not having) and that's part of it. He's reveling in school and his new/old friends, and it's amazing how much more confident he is this year, not that he ever lacked too much in that department. His reading is way ahead of what level they're teaching in school, and I'm not sure if there's anything to do about that, or a need to, as long as he's not bored and acting up. He still gets in trouble for being silly, but that's his nature, not boredom I don't think. He's in the Lead program, which is all I can get him into w/out paying for tests and then private school, and he's only in Kindergarten for crying out loud! But it's hard not to cringe when his homework involves writing/reading the words I/a/me and he's reading Shel Silverstein and Richard Scarry and Tintin to himself. I'm VERY thankful that he just plain loves to read, and does it every morning now as soon as he gets up. He makes a beeline for the orange chair in the kitchen and curls up with a book until he gets hungry or we appear to make breakfast, whichever's first.

Michael's been offered a job next summer which has it's temptations but would be really hard to handle for me ... 6 months working at MASS MoCA putting in an entire wing of Sol LeWitt (Michael helped draw that one) work. Six days a week for 4 weeks, 5 days off ... repeat for 6 months. We'd not see him for weeks at a time, and it would be hard on all of us, especially through the summer! I don't think he could be away from his Building Mgr responsibilities here for that long at a time, aside from the family/kid/studio time issues. Perhaps he can negoatiate a 4/day/week thing, or just do a couple of months. The money offered is way better than what he's been getting (75% raise) so that's the major temptation. Waiting to see what opens up. Meanwhile he has two to three local jobs in for Sol in the next couple months, and landlord work, so he's not in the work doldrums at least! He also got into a show upstate later this month, yay! May it bring more work. I'm getting resigned to him never being home on Saturdays, which is hard and the boys and I are tired of each other by then, but we're surviving ... at least while there are tons of stoop sales every weekend!