For some reason I feel incredibly tired today, like I'm moving underwater. Weird. I went walking with a friend and neighbor last night, the two of us having engaged the battle of the pounds, and now we aim to add intentional exercise to the equation. I enjoyed walking and talking with her. We have so far known each other only in a casual way, though we lived for a while in the same building. Our sons are a year apart, and we'd sit on a bench when they were small, and share stories about schools, homework headaches, that sort of thing. One day, after our boys were grown, I realized I hadn't seen her in months. I saw her husband in the laundry room and asked him how she was doing. He said, "You know we're divorced, right? She lives in a different building now." I was shocked.
Back when we were both in the thick of parenting, I used to see her and her husband going for summer evening walks together, and I thought how connected and loving they seemed. Just goes to show you never know what's going on inside any marriage. Anyway, she and I met up again in the year-long weight loss group I joined. I was thrilled to see her in the room the first day. I always liked her wry, laid back demeanor. Last night, our children now grown, we shared stories of ourselves instead, and it was lovely to finally start knowing each other in a richer way. Unfortunately, it was freezing cold, so our bench sitting at the end of our walk didn't last too long. But we've pledged to make this a regular thing, so our friending will continue, I think.
Thanksgiving is a week away, and we have relatives flying in to spend the holiday with us, the usual suspects, two cousins whom I adore, and two nieces, whom I adore. They're flying in from Orlando, from Trinidad, and taking the bus from upstate, and everyone will be staying here. My other niece who now lives in the city with her boyfriend, announced she's sleeping over here the night before and the night of Thanksgiving, so she can be part of the revelry. And her best friend, who's been with us for Thanksgiving the past few years, will be traveling from Philly with her new boyfriend. My daughter's friend from college, who's feasted with us the past two years, will also be joining us again this year, though she'll probably stay over with my daughter at her apartment across the courtyard. My cousin from Boston is also coming, but she will stay with her sister in the Bronx. I heard a rumor she's bringing her new boyfriend, too.
On Thanksgiving Day, we count twenty-five or so guests for dinner, and I'm already getting quietly anxious about cleaning the house, spreading all the beds with fresh sheets, and creating the meal, even though most of the cooking is done by my husband. He insists he is up to it this year, despite his recent medical odyssey . My daughter will help with the very crucial basting of the turkey. Meanwhile I'll keep whisking cooking bowls and utensils into the dishwasher and running it on cycles so the kitchen doesn't get too overwhelming.
Even though I'm eager to see and spend time with everyone, this is usually the time of year when I wonder if maybe I need medication. It helps that my husband's mood is so mellow these days. It mellows me out, too. I hope when he goes back to work he'll be able to keep the intense stress of his workplace at bay. It's been the main silver lining of his recent illness, the chance to be away from there and reconnect with himself. But now he's eager to go back, to feel useful again. I swear he carried his whole department on his back most of the time. He is sorely missed.
On another note, can you believe Congress is trying to sneak another repeal of Obamacare past us by tacking it onto the tax bill? I suppose they think people will be too distracted by the holidays to notice or too confused by the details of the enrich-the-rich tax plan to puzzle it out. Time to start calling our representatives again. It never ends.
Well, this was a ramble. Thanks for reading here, sweet friends.
There is so much crazy in the news I don't have the heart to write much here. But this guy is doing okay. He's not mad at anyone or anything in that picture. He's just concentrating on calculating the tip on our lunch bill yesterday. That's his face in response, it's quite fierce, resting bitch face we call it, but when he smiles the sun breaks through. Rocks my world every time. Yesterday his doctor cleared him to return to work in December. And at this moment, on this freezing cold day, he is in the kitchen making pumpkin soup.
Across the country, Democrats won down the line, rejecting the politics of exclusion and hate. Women in particular brought this election home. In Virginia, in monsoon rainstorms yesterday, they stood on line to cast their votes for Ralph Northam for governor, the gun safety and preservation of healthcare candidate. The turnout everywhere was higher than expected, with voters delivering a trouncing. And how good was it to see that guy on the right again. Let's keep this train rolling into 2018.
At the front entrance to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City sits a statue of Teddy Roosevelt astride a horse, with an African American man walking on one side of him and an Indigenous man on the other. The rider is in full military uniform while the men on either side of him are partially unclothed. A little more than a week ago, someone spattered red paint at the base of the statue, which has long been criticized as "a condescending expression of a power relation."
A group called Decolonize This Place released a fascinating statement in the aftermath. "Now the statue is bleeding," the group stated. "We did not make it bleed. It is bloody at its very foundation. This is not an act of vandalism. It is a work of public art and an act of applied art criticism. We have no intent to damage a mere statue. The true damage lies with patriarchy, white supremacy, and settler-colonialism embodied by the statue."
In other recent acts of protest, red paint was daubed on the hands of the Christopher Columbus statue in Central Park, and the word "racist" was scrawled across the base of the statue of a doctor, J. Marion Sims, who conducted gynecological experiments on enslaved women without anesthesia.
The mayor has appointed a panel of artists, historians, preservationists and activists to come up with a plan for monuments that represent a history of subjugation and hate. New Yorkers were also asked to share their opinions in an online survey. The paint of Teddy Roosevelt has since been removed, and the hands of Christopher Columbus have been washed clean. Most locals, when asked how they felt about the red paint protest, were not fans of the action. "I didn't even know what this statue was, to be honest," one man told a Gothamist reporter. "I've walked by it a dozen times. Now I can see why that's offensive for some people, but I think there are better ways to protest a statue than chucking red paint all over it, right?"
So what do you think: Reprehensible act of vandalism or socially constructive art criticism? Something else entirely?
Out of respect for the journalists at Gothamist who reported on these events, and whose workplace was shuttered overnight by a billionaire owner disgruntled that they'd voted a week ago to unionize, I'd love to hear any and all thoughts on the red paint activism and/or the historical monuments issue.
My friend just called to tell me that one of the people killed in the terror attack on the Hudson River bike path yesterday was a high school classmate of her son. She is reeling at the news, identifying with the mother of that slain young man. She says she keeps finding herself standing on street corners, sobbing.
When my cousin in Virginia called me yesterday, and asked, "Do you see what's happening in your city?" I was oblivious. The TV was tuned to Fixer Upper, and I was all but ignoring it as I worked. "Turn on the news," she said, and when I did, I began urgently texting loved ones to make sure none of them had been on that path at three something that afternoon. Any one of them could have been. But my daughter was at work. My son was dropping off his rent check in Astoria. My niece was just leaving the hospital in Newark where she works. Everyone else I reached out to was safe.
I heard five of the eight people killed were Argentine tourists, in the city for a thirtieth high school reunion and out for an afternoon bike ride. Even with six degrees of separation, it seemed unlikely that I'd be connected to any of the remaining three who died. I was wrong. And now you who read here are connected, too.
Today is the final day of IV infusions for my husband. He is at this moment giving himself the second to last treatment, with the final one tonight. Another step toward full recovery.
For his birthday on Saturday, our son came over. He arrived on Friday night, using his key and standing in the doorway yelling "Surprise!" He was smiling and pleased with himself, like a five year old who knows he is always a lovely surprise. He stayed until Sunday night, just hanging out with everyone, watching football with his dad, and intermittently disappearing into his old room to study. He has tests every week for the year-long paramedic course, and if you fail more than two, you're out of the program. In a class that started out at 60, the attrition in two months has been severe, 12 people already gone. So far, our boy is doing well, grades in the 80s and 90s, and he's certainly learned how to study. It helps that all that medical stuff is endlessly fascinating to him, especially in an emergent setting. He might have been made for this.
On Saturday our daughter and her boyfriend came over to help celebrate, along with his mother, whose birthday was a couple days before my husband's, and his sister, who cooked and brought a raft of delights, a scrumptious full course meal. My man made his famous seafood gumbo, and I took care of the cake, ordering a chocolate one and a vanilla confetti one from Momofuku Milk Bar. The latter is lately my family's favorite kind of birthday cake, and the 6" version is small enough so that we aren't left eating cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner the following week. Which neither my husband nor I need. We sent the remainder of the chocolate cake home with the upstaters on Sunday morning, while our son finished the confetti cake for breakfast. We all had a lovely time, and the birthday man and the birthday woman judged the low key festivities perfect.
Then on Sunday night, my husband's uncle, his wife, and their son drove from New Jersey to have dinner with us. His uncle had triple bypass heart surgery twenty years ago, at the same age my husband is now, so the two of them exchanged war stories. It was fantastic seeing them. My husband's cousin, who was 13 years old the summer I met him (my husband was a tender 23) has grown into a fine and handsome family man. I could see my son in him, a couple decades down the road. It was amusing to be in a room with these four generations of men, all of them bald with beautifully shaped heads, all of them well over six feet tall. I felt grounded in an odd way by this visible reminder of the bond that is family. We missed you Bruce!
And now, back to the week. I was tossing with anxiety all last night. I barely slept, rehearsing an encounter with the insurance people this morning. There's no such thing as coasting along, breathing into a respite. As daybreak edged into the room I kept watching the clock, waiting for the hour when I could finally make the call. At 9:13 AM, I dialed the number on the registered letter that arrived at our door last evening. It's not yet resolved, but I will bird-dog it until it is. My husband is philosophical. They got it wrong, he says. We'll make it right. In the meantime I am sitting here with that peculiar hollowness in my chest, the shallow agitated breaths, adrenaline surging and surging.
But the weekend was really good. And tomorrow they will remove the PICC line from my husband's arm and he'll begin the next stage of his healing.
In the midst of a wacky week, I completed two editing assignments and also made word count on the book! Well, almost. My contract says I am to deliver 75,000 words and I am at 74,314. My friend, who is a bestselling star in this book ghostwriting business, says I should add those 700 words and observe the contract to the letter. And so I shall. Still, for all intents, I have completed a full draft of the book, meeting my self-imposed deadline, and now (after adding those 700 words, and I know where I will insert them) I can print out the entire manuscript and start to edit. The best part. It's always easier to fix something that isn't working when you already have words on the page.
But to the wacky week: For starters, last Sunday, my daughter, my niece, my cousin and her husband and I auditioned for Family Feud! Here's what I posted on Facebook.
Ione and James Stiebel, by the way, are my grandparents, who raised nine children and instilled in them all a deep devotion to family. I'm forever grateful they did, because three generations later, the sense of belonging is as strong as ever. My husband is always amused when my cousins and I talk about "Stiebel women do this," or "Stiebel women are that," and none of us actually carries the name.
More delightful wackiness: My son's girlfriend S invited my daughter, my niece and me for a night of Writing and Wine, which was being hosted by the mother of one of S's childhood friends. We'd met the friend, Justin, at S's brother's wedding, where Justin and my daughter, seated next to one another, riffed on everything and laughed like old friends. The Writing and Wine event last Tuesday was held at this really happening hipster bar in the West Village. The teacher and I were the only people in the group out of their twenties. I felt uber cool to be part of that scene in an area of town I hardly ever get to anymore. It turned out the lovely teacher and I knew lots of people in common. She provided us with a title, a theme and a choice of three characters and three prompts. We put pen to paper in three 20 minute sessions of writing, sipping lots of wine to grease the flow of ideas. And let me tell you, the wine did its job.
My daughter's story was set in Medieval times, and my niece wrote from the perspective of a little brother wolf. All the stories that people shared were funny and wonderful. I especially loved S's story of The Pumpkin Thief, a pumpkin who kidnapped other pumpkins to save them from ending up in Thanksgiving pie. I was too embarrassed to share my story, which sounded as if written by a lovelorn 13-year-old girl who'd read too many Mills & Boon romances, with a little spy espionage thrown in. The plot got crazier and crazier with each sip of wine. I particularly enjoyed the third writing session, when we had to partner with someone we hadn't known before the class, and recount our stories so the other person could borrow one of our characters to introduce into their own story. And vice versa. Of course the very best part was being out with my girls. When the teacher asked me how we were connected, I said, "They are all my daughters."
Okay, dear friends, I'm off to add those 700 words in the middle of my all but completed manuscript. I'll be back around to all your lovely blogs, soon.