Thursday, September 3, 2015

Us two

We clash so much, this boy and me, and yet we are so much the same. We had a big skirmish in the middle of Home Goods on Tuesday, when he became highly offended over something I said as a joke. At least I thought it was a joke. He did not. We are fine again, but we couldn't help noting ruefully that had his dad been with us, the tiff would never have happened. His dad would have told us both to "knock it off."

I love and adore my son and am grateful that after our verbal skirmishes, we are usually able to talk about it and clear the air. A therapist told me this is a very good sign. I am also glad he has his sister to go to when I am driving him crazy. I could go to her, too, when he is driving me crazy. She always seems to understand, and is a gifted mediator, but I know it's not fair to make her our referee. So I go to my husband instead, who just sighs and says, "You two."

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The presidential race reality show

I feel like I have ADD lately, which is affecting my ability to write thoughtfully here, but I guess it's okay to skate the surface sometimes on your own blog. I think I just need a break from all the catastrophic thinking that swirls through my brain constantly. Not that it's stopped swirling, but for the moment, I've stopped trying to decipher what it all means. Maybe this is how you live in the moment.

In that spirit, here are some opinions—really more like impressions since I've barely been paying attention—about the current crop of presidential hopefuls.

Donald Trump—I'm convinced he's there for his own ego, masterfully manipulated by Bill Clinton into entering the race, and now he is happily causing chaos in the other GOP campaigns like a fat kid splashing in a mini backyard pool. He's turned the whole presidential race into an over-the-top reality show, complete with helicopter rides at the fair. He's a truly scary dude, though, if you listen to the things he actually says, and when he kicked Latino journalist Jorge Ramos out of his press conference in Iowa, and then one of his entourage told Ramos to go back to his country, even though Ramos is a U.S. citizen, well, I was just done with the bloviating blow-hard candidate. Again.

Jeb Bush—He looks either bored or pained whenever he flashes across my TV screen, as if he's thinking, Do I really have to do this? How on earth did I get myself into this? But when he starts talking I feel as if I'm back in the Dubya years, and his brother is still prattling on about the various wars in the Middle East he started for the greater glory of oil, and the Chaneys and the Wolfowitzes of the party are just licking their lips with glee that they'll get to walk back onto center stage soon. Um, no.

Dr. Ben Carson—I used to absolutely adore this man. I was inspired by his story of overcoming poverty, going from a child in special ed to the top of his class once he got a library card, and then going on to become a world class neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins who performed the first ever successful separation of twins conjoined at the brain. I even made my son write a paper about him in middle school; I though he was a role model every little black boy should know. But then. The man got into politics. Good Lord, why? He opposed Obama's health care plan saying it took us back to slavery or some absurd statement like that. And then he started sprouting his views and with dismay I thought, Oh Ben, I never really knew you. And now he's tied for the lead with Trump in Iowa. What?!

John Kasich—He said some things in the first GOP debate that surprised me, in that he's a Republican who seems to think it's our collective responsibility to take care of the poor, and while he doesn't personally agree with marriage equality, it's the law of the land, and he respects that, and if his daughter were to come home tomorrow and tell him she was gay, he would love her the same as ever, what parent wouldn't? Pretty revolutionary stuff coming from the right.

As for the rest of the GOP field, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and the whole 32-member carnival of right-wingers angling for the crown, one word: Yawn.

Hilary Clinton—Of everyone in this field, I would vote for her, but I'm just not excited about it. Why is that?

Bernie Sanders—I know I should be more revved up about him, too. His politics are progressive right down the line and he's not running a scorched earth campaign in which he tries to bury his opponents. He's all about the issues. But there is nothing about him so far that has made me want to take a closer look. I'm bored. Maybe it's still too early in the cycle.

Joe Biden—You know, I'm not mad at Uncle Joe. With him, you know exactly what you're getting, and that's not a bad thing. He's a heart-on-his-sleeve resilient sort, by nature cheerful, even though he's certainly had his share of personal tragedies. If he runs, he just might give ole Hilary a run for her money. Stay tuned.

One thing I do know, the excitement I felt going to the polls in the last two presidential elections will not be there this time around. None of these candidates are a patch on this guy, and I'm sure going to  miss him when his term ends. But I hear he might be coming to my neighborhood, possibly taking a faculty position at Columbia. How cool would it be to walk down the street and see the man himself? It could happen.

Who's your leading candidate at the moment? Or are you trying to sleep through the noise?

Monday, August 31, 2015

So long

"If you change the way you look at things, 
the things you look at change."

—Wayne Dyer

I sat in his audience once, listening to him riff about life and the great joke of it—how seriously we take it, how malleable it is, if we only knew. I was there to do research for a writing project, but I quickly saw that the research was a ruse; I needed to be there for me. I'd been looking forward to hearing him again at a conference this November, but it is not to be. The great man died last night in Maui. Thank you, Wayne Dyer, for your life. I hope you're having a grand homecoming celebration, kicking up your heels with those other great teachers, Oliver Sacks and our dear Alice, on the other side.

Breakfast of champions (not)

I clearly chose a weight challenge for myself in this life, I have no idea why or what lessons I hoped for my soul to internalize, but every day in this body I have to be conscious of every morsel I put into my mouth, because I have only to look at food, really any kind of food with the exception of vegetables, which I don't love, and the pounds fly on as if magnetized.

Some days I don't feel like being conscious. Some days I want to start the morning with blue mountain coffee with condensed milk in it, the way we made it in Jamaica when I was growing up, and if there are no eggs left for me to make a one egg omelet with onions and one ounce of cheddar for an all-protein breakfast (for the initiated, 5 points), well, I just might have that little circle of marscapone cheesecake, sprinkled with blueberries and raspberries and garnished with bright red slices of strawberry (11 points plus 4 for the condensed milk for a total of 15). But it's not just the points; it's the sugar, which sets me up for a day of craving things that don't mean me well. So now I'm sipping the creamy coffee as I type this, and all that is left of the dish of cheesecake is a sprig of mint and the red stain of raspberry compote. Oh? Did I not mention the sauce?

They say confession is good for the soul. But sometimes, looking our self-defeating behaviors square in the face can be depressing as hell. Oh well. It's Monday. The deed is done. Time to begin anew. (One thing I do remember about addiction: It's always easier to begin anew after you've had your fix. Denial is a b**ch.) Good morning.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Yesterday, Today

After two weeks of a full house, including my husband at home on vacation and my daughter back from New Orleans in her last week before school, and my son and friends over and my cousin from Trinidad here for her niece's freshman installation (we make it a big event in our family), I am home alone today, and I relish it. I loved having everyone around, and who knows why it feels lonely when they leave sometimes and at other times it feels peaceful, but today, it's the latter. Maybe it has something to do with talking to my daughter by phone first thing this morning. She sounded, in a word, happy.

My cousin, who I grew up with more like a sister, left for the airport early this morning. We had a lovely time roaming the city together yesterday. We went down to see the reflecting pools at Ground Zero, then ate mussels and crab cakes at a restaurant that used to be a parking garage and now boasts an indoor park, and then we walked a bit of the High Line, a park in the sky built on an old elevated railway line. It was crowded as usual, and my head was spinning a bit from the two glasses of Malbec I'd had with lunch, so we came home after a while and I took a nap. I am not a very good day drinker! I loved having my cousin here for the week though, and we talked deeply over lunch yesterday, sharing never before shared heart things without judgment, and that felt freeing.

The house is quiet now. I have just cleaned up the hurricane that hit the kitchen in which my husband cooked jambalaya last night, and tidied up my daughter's room where she and my cousin stayed. The living room still needs my attention; cushions are tossed everywhere, but I'll do that later. I have just made myself breakfast of a cheddar and onion omelet and matcha green tea, and I'm about to get back to work on my book project, which feels deliciously like spending time with a very grand lady of 97 years, the good doctor, my subject. I do have a concurrent assignment, but I am waiting for two stories to come in for that, so today is all mine to spend with the good doctor.

In other news, since March when my mom died, I have gained back half of the weight I lost. This depresses me no end, but I am climbing back onto the wagon now, trying to turn it around. It's a clear blue day out there, not a touch of humidity in the air. I hope you are all doing well with the inevitable transitions that come at this time of year.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Yet another move in day

This weekend we attended yet another college move in day, this time for my niece, who is starting her freshman year at the school on the hill across town from my daughter's school. She's going to the same college from which two of her older cousins graduated, one of them my son. My girl is excited beyond belief to have her "little cousin" so close by. They'll overlap for only one year, as my daughter starts her senior year this week. We also delivered my girl back to her school, although it didn't entail the usual fanfare of getting her stuff out of storage as she is living in the same house she lived in last year, and most of the summer just past. She has two new roommates and the atmosphere seems lovely. We did take her shopping for groceries and supplies to help set her up for the semester. My niece's parents did the same shopping run. 

There were so many of us in my niece's dorm room helping her get set up. Her dad and her uncle, once they had delivered the suitcases and trunks and bins, elected to wait outside, so it she had her mother, two aunts, a sister and a cousin, all offering suggestions on where to put what. I must say my niece was remarkably composed and in charge, allowing us all to help her unpack but being very clear on how she wanted to set up the room. I was impressed. Her room looks fabulous, with a purple, pink and blue color scheme—girls are so different from boys when it comes to these things. Or rather, the girls in my family are much different from my son, who pretty much just deposited his things in the dresser and closet, made the bed, and was good to go. There was no sense of decorating the space at all.

We had lots of laughs, and my other niece, who had wanted to make the trip but couldn't in the end, texted us to please stop having fun without her. In response my nieces and daughter sent her even more videos and snapchats of the fun. My daughter, husband and I then left to get brunch with my daughter's bf's family, and then we all went back to her house to meet up with our cousins, so everybody could meet everybody. It was very festive and happy. At last we all hugged the college kids and told them to have a good year and to take care of one another, and then we got into our respective cars and hit the road back to the city, leaving them to enjoy what we fondly remember as perhaps the most carefree time of our lives.

I wonder if the college kids know how relatively unencumbered they are right now? I don't think so. Which is as it should be. Everything in its turn. Here are some random pics from the weekend just past.

This weekend was also the 29th wedding anniversary for my husband and me. We've gotten very accommodated to delivering children to college on our anniversary and spending the night in a hotel room. Unlike last year, this hotel room was the bare minimum, but my husband gave me the most wonderful gift, a pair of teardrop shaped gold earnings with an amethyst stone, my mother's birthstone. He said, "It's your first anniversary without your mom and I thought you would like having earrings with her birthstone." They are perfect. Even though I sobbed when I saw them, wearing them makes me smile. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Distraction. Love.

We're driving our girl and one of her friends back to school tomorrow. Packing is in full swing. We had lots as laughs as she spent a good hour in front of the bathroom mirror taming that mass of hair. I was the brush and flat iron holder and giver, and our conversation roamed everywhere. At one point she thanked me for not being a Jamaican version of a Tiger Mom. "I'm not?" I asked her, thinking of the high school scholar program I made her apply to in 7th grade, and how she threw herself across the bed crying and wailing that I was ruining her life. "No, you're reasonable," she said. "I think you would be upset if we didn't have good moral character and if we were irresponsible and lazy. But other than that, you let us choose our lives." I'll take that. And trust it will all work out. Now we're heading across the street to get tiny pots of gelato which we will eat outside under the trees as night falls.

See? Distraction. Love. And going outdoors. Thank you everyone for your absolutely wonderful suggestions on my last post. I will go back to that comment stream again and again. It's so rich. So wise.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Knee jerk

What do you do when you brain is spinning in an obsessive thought loop and you can't make it stop? Instead the thought just gets bigger and bigger and more elaborate, and you're walking around looking normal but you're quietly hyperventilating and wondering if you'll survive this thing you might have conjured but are having physical and emotional reactions to as if it were real.

It is my nature to brace for the worst, but this is no way to live.

Thoughts? Advice? Tricks?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Into the breach (once more)

The house is full again, my daughter is back from her trip to New Orleans (she brought us beignet and hurricane mixes), my cousin is here from Trinidad, and this weekend we're all heading north to Ithaca to bring my daughter back to school for her senior year, and to help install my niece in her freshman year of college. My niece lives in Maryland and we'll meet up with her and her parents and sister in Ithaca. My husband and I will celebrate our 29th anniversary while we're there, or rather, we'll be doing the five hour drive back to the city at some point on that day.

Who knew when we were picking a date to get married that we would spend a stretch of years moving kids back into college on our anniversary. We don't mind, really. Next year, the thirtieth, both our kids will be finished with college. We might do a big trip to somewhere, just the man and me, to mark the milestone. Hopefully we'll have the disposable income once college tuition is no longer in the mix, though I am still a freelancer, so fingers crossed the work keeps coming.

We've told our kids they're on their own financially for grad school (we'll help here and there if we can). My daughter has spied a master's program that has her imagination going, and my son, after declaring with force upon graduating from college that he had no intention of going to grad school, actually asked us the other day how it was that we hadn't encouraged him to go to grad school. We reminded him of his declaration, and while he didn't remember it, he had to admit it sounded like him. He's not so absolute on the matter anymore.

He has to have surgery for his torn ACL in September. He put it off so he could do all his trips and adventures that were already planned for the summer, including hiking up a mountain in Colorado. With his torn ACL, he still rides his bike to work every day; the knee doesn't seem to be slowing him down. He explained that he could run a 100 meter dash on that knee, but if he had to stop suddenly or swivel in any direction, it would give way. He says a person can live with a torn ACL, but he's an athlete, and wants to be a firefighter-paramedic, so he cannot. I have heard that the recovery from the surgery is painful, and it will be a full year of rehab before he is completely back to normal.

The pictures are my kids and my niece at 3, 5 and 7 and then sixteen years later at 19, 21, and 23. Both photos were taken at family events in Orlando. You know how much I enjoy these then and now juxtapositions. I think what I love most about the top picture, apart from the great effort my always active son is making to stand still for the camera, is how protective my niece is of her little cousin even then. The sister bond was already strong.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hunger Games

That's Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in The Hunger Games. She's all grown up, and such as badass.


The houseful has run its course. Everyone is gone again, but for my husband and me. My daughter and her BF went to explore New Orleans for a few days, my son is off with friends by the lake, my niece returns to D.C. for the new school year in the morning, and I'm here, my husband at work, me at home, alone again.

Lonely is a state of mind, something within you that is not being touched, not being fed. It has nothing to do with who is around or not around. It has to do with how you look out at the world, the sense you make of it, the empty place inside you that you neglect to fill, because maybe you don't know how.


I really need to get out more. Pour into myself. Feed my own soul.

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