Tuesday, March 31, 2015

This loved face

I was intrigued on my last post by some of the comments suggesting that the Quann sisters look like the women in my family. And then it hit me: They look like my mother as a young woman! No wonder I found myself gazing into their faces; there was something much loved about the contour of the cheekbones, the point of their chins, the softness of their eyes, the willowy stances. Even the particular burnished brown of their skin reminded me of my mother, who from photos I've seen was every bit as stylish as the Quanns. The pictures here are of my mother as a young woman, right around the age the Quann sisters are now. Do you see a resemblance? What do you think?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Quann Sisters

Identical twins Cipriana and Takenya Quann of Brooklyn are stunningly gorgeous and they're revolutionizing fashion. Those sweet faces. The sisterly body language. The vintage layering. That crown of hair! Yes, it's all their own. These pics are from their website, Urban Bush Babes. I'm mesmerized.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Today she is 21

Twenty-one years ago this incredible spirit child was born and I have been humbled and grateful to be her mother. My darling girl, I am so happy you chose us as your family. I do not take lightly the great privilege and blessing of having you as my child. I wish you everything in this life that your pure heart desires. Mostly I wish you a light heart and a quick laugh in the face of all life's uncertainties. Know, always, you are equal to anything.

So, wonder of wonders, I actually baked that cake though my girl added the Caribbean blue color to the icing. We sang and cut the cake a day early since we wouldn't see her on her actual birthday. She is in Washington D.C. with her brother and cousins, celebrating turning 21. What a glorious looking crew. My lovely niece promised to send me photos throughout the weekend so I can vicariously participate in the celebration!

The outfit my daughter is wearing was picked out for her by her cousin, aka her big sister, who had it waiting for her arrival. She instructed my girl to get a very particular style of shoe to wear with it. We went shopping for the shoes yesterday and my girl settled on a pair of nude-colored sky high heels that I am quite sure set that outfit off dramatically. I so glad she has a big sister like my niece to take social and fashion control at times like this. Happy birthday, my sweet girl. We love you so.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The lovely conversation I just had with my daughter who is on a bus on her way home for spring break

Making myself appear

I just want to say thanks for the friendship here. Thanks for allowing me the sense that we are sitting around on a breezy verandah together sharing our lives. Thanks for the company on long nights, the commiseration on days that outright suck, the cheers on days that don't, days that might even soar.

I'm not soaring right now but I'm trying to stay in the consciousness that life does not suck, even if your house getting flooded does. They came and pulled up 15 gallons of water from the carpet in my daughter's room, and they lifted the corners and blew industrial strength fans underneath, across the padding, drying it out. The carpet however is still wet and cold underfoot, though no longer sopping.  The remediation of this flood is a several days-long affair. The men are coming back on Saturday to saturate the carpet and under padding with special enzymes to prevent bacterial growth, then steam clean and deodorize everything. Saturday can't come fast enough. We won't even mention the expense.

So here's what's good. My girl is coming home tonight for spring break. She and her brother will go to D.C. this weekend for a cousin lime (hang out) to celebrate her 21st birthday. I gather this will involve the bar scene at some point, but I know my niece in particular will watch out for my girl. The kids will be back on Sunday and then I'll have a whole week of my girl being home. Sweet.

I need to get back to writing. I can't seem to focus, but I have got to. Time is ticking away. I have also in the past week been invited to attend two different conferences, one in Atlanta in April, and one Asheville, North Carolina in May, all expenses paid, and I'm saying yes! I'm practicing saying yes and working through the anxiety later. Who knows what gifts may be waiting in the form of new people, insights and experiences? I'd love to blow my thinking wide open. I'd love to shake off my secret social fear, stop being so self-conscious and self-critical, put myself out there, let myself be seen. Most people in my life have no idea that showing up socially is hard for me, because once I make myself appear on the scene I am generally quite functional. The trick is to stop hiding out and make myself appear.

There are many more creases and folds in this face than the picture shows. This was taken in Jamaica on a day we spent in the country with my cousins who had come from Canada. I tend to like best strategically angled soft-focus photos that crop out the body—basically photos that lie. This is not quite making my whole self appear, but I'm getting on the road. (Can a Books & Bakes salon be far behind?!)

Last night my husband and I lay on our bed listening to music that our mothers loved, choirs singing hymns as familiar to us as our childhoods, and we lay there against each other with tears rolling down, and we didn't have to say anything to understand that we were both feeling like the orphans we both now are. I am so numb most of the time I appreciated being able gain access to the feelings for a little while. Then we both got up and did the rest of our evening, the way people who mean to keep on keeping on, do.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Just Chaos

We had a flood last night, a plumbing disaster in the back bathroom, and now the wall to wall carpeting in my daughter's bedroom and the hallway outside it are soaked through. The water squishes underfoot, and my head hurts something awful this morning and I just can't deal.

Except of course, I have to. I can see what has to happen. We'll need to pull out the carpeting and padding and install completely new floor coverings, otherwise we risk mold and such. My son, always a good man in a pinch, already picked up everything he could off the floor and opened the windows and turned on the fan in there.

It doesn't help that all three of us are sick. My son had just taken NyQuil and curled up to go to sleep when the flood was discovered. His dad and I were pretty impressed with how he sprang into action.

My daughter's 21st birthday is this weekend and she is coming home for spring break tomorrow and she will not have the use of her room. She shrugged when I told her this. Said she'd set up shop in the living room. Her brother also offered her his room.

I feel overmatched by this. Just the thought of moving all the furniture out of the room to pull up the old carpet and padding, clean and disinfect, and then lay down new carpet, is making my headache this morning more like a migraine. Even though my husband and son will likely do most if not all of the moving, I will still need to call and make the arrangements with the contractors and see it through. I guess we'll be edging around furniture stacked up wherever until all this is done.

On top of this I have a book party to attend tonight at which I need to show up. I'm so tempted to cancel but I'd be letting down a friend. Or maybe just myself, because I do think my friend would understand. I'm letting myself be carried on the tide.

Oh God, I can't deal.

Except of course, I will.

Monday, March 23, 2015


"There's a crack in everything. 
That's how the light gets in."

—Leonard Cohen

Saturday, March 21, 2015


I need some recommendations for series to binge-watch, as that seems to be the only thing right now that can keep my attention. I have already binge-watched all of: Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, Homeland, Transparent, House of Cards, Brothers and Sisters, Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Orange is the New Black, Dexter, Girls, Nurse Jackie, and most of West Wing. I loved all of them except Dexter; I only watched it because my daughter was hooked and I wanted to see what she was letting into her brain. In retrospect, it creeped me out a lot and I hated the finale. But my girl seemed okay!

Speaking of my daughter, she's helping to run some huge conference on her campus today, put on by an organization called the Women of Color Coalition. I'm so proud of her and so awed by how capable and imaginative and organized and action-oriented she is. Who knew my dreamy little girl would grow into this passionate, powerhouse of a young woman? Who is still quick to laugh, who still brings light wherever she goes, and who, along with her brother and her dad, is no less than my salvation.

Here she in with her friend Henri in a photo I love. Henri is another one who gives off light. She wrote me the most beautiful letter after my mom died. It said in part:

"There's a poem in Portuguese that deeply resonates with me. It's about loss and what it feels like to lose a loved one. Translated, it says: Saudade (the noun for that feeling when you miss someone) is accompanied by loneliness. It's when the love has not gone away, but the loved one has."

My mom must be pulling strings wherever she is, though, because as much as I miss her, I am very aware of my blessings. This place, you all, that is a blessing, too.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Inclement weather

I found that anti-bad vibes shield somewhere online, I don't recall where, but I kind of like the sentiment.

Everyone thought the winter was over, but the snow is coming down out there today with surprising intention. I don't really know what to do with myself. I don't feel like working; I don't feel like reading; and I've already watched all of the most recent seasons of Girls and Nurse Jackie this week.

I wander from window to window in my house, looking out at the snow, remembering how it came down like this for an entire day and a half after my mother died.

I'm trying not to talk about it too much. It gets old, I'm sure.

I know. I'll go take a shower, get dressed and take a walk in the snow.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How are you doing?

People ask, how are you doing? The only response I can call up is "Fine," because I can't really think how else to answer the question.

I mean, you can't really say to people, well, I stay in bed as long as I can each morning, trying to wring out every last minute of sleep.

You can't say, I have been parked on the living room couch for two days, letting the phone ring unanswered, watching the latest season of Girls.

Or, I haven't gotten dressed in street clothes or gone outside all week, except for Monday night when I showed up late to choir rehearsal and Tuesday evening when I went to a first appointment with a new therapist that my friend Isabella recommended.

On the way there, I thought, I feel nothing at all, I feel numb and disconnected, as if my mother is not really gone, just away in another country, so why am I going to a therapist? But then, one minute into the session I was crying and I hadn't even been aware that tears were so close to the brim.

I sit sometimes in an empty room and stare at the walls, and then I come to, and I don't even know what I was thinking.

I have to find my way back into work, which hasn't happened yet. My friend J., who is also writing a book, and who has pretty much the same delivery due dates as I do, said to me this morning, "Just start reading your notes. That will get your head back into it. Then write just one sentence. That is all. Do only that."

By some strange coincidence she has also had a death in the family last week, a beloved uncle, so she is grieving, too. She sent me flowers today.

We have such an unexpected friendship. We worked together at the magazine for years, editor and writer, an award-wining duo many times over, same obsessive compulsive work ethic, same love of the rhythm of language, but so apparently different in personality, one introverted and mostly in the background, the other cynical and in your face, and in appearance, too, me the fat one, she the exercise fanatic, thin and petite, and yet we developed a great loyalty and understanding in those years. We didn't realize how deep our friendship ran until we both got laid off and the communication now became freely chosen and still we continued to talk practically every day.

All that to say, I have support. I really do. My husband. My children. Cousins. Very dear friends.

How am I doing?

Not fine.

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