Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Big Brother

Photograph by Anastas Michos
My friend Tas took this photo. It's part of his New York City subway series. Those eyes looking right at you, just perfect. This is the city in which I live. These are the platforms my loved ones travel across every day. I am always astonished and thrilled by the way true artists see. I could have stood in this same spot and not perceived what he did. I could have tried to take this picture and not understood to crop it in just this way.

The photograph reminds me of George Orwell's 1984, which might be a loose metaphor for the way our culture is evolving. But I don't want to talk about Wikileaks. I'm still working out what I think about all that.

Something sort of related: I saw the movie The Social Network with my out-of-town relatives last weekend, and I keep thinking about Mark Zukerberg, the kid at Harvard who founded Facebook. He has disputed how he's portrayed in the movie, and I am not in a position to know what is true. Still, I suspect the movie tells a version of the truth, which is that this Jewish kid, brilliant and brusque, borderline Aspbergers, felt deep in his marrow like a social outsider and created a network to impress girls and give the finger to the entitled rich white boys who snubbed him.

He may have been manipulated by Sean Parker, the Napster founder who single handedly crushed the retail aspect of the record industry, who was cannier and greedier than Zukerberg for sure. But this outcast kid from the most exclusive bastion of entitlement in the nation, feeling the pain of being different, his sense of his own superiority frustratingly unheralded, transformed the world. He changed forever the way people communicate and share information, all so he could tell a few people who wouldn't acknowledge the power he felt within himself, Fuck You. 

You just never know where inspiration might show up. It is never all sweetness and light. It is more often darkness and sorrow and fury and anxiety and pain. The trick, I suppose, is to turn the hurt into something creative and ultimately cathartic. It's a neat trick when you can manage it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ta-da!




Here are the cinnamon rolls my daughter made last night. She wasn't as happy with them this time because the dough didn't rise very well so they weren't as light and fluffy as before. She thought it might have been too cold in the kitchen or she got a bad packet of yeast. But I'm here to say that not only did she finish her homework while waiting (and waiting) for the dough to rise, the rolls were delicious! That glaze she made with a touch of cream cheese was yummy. And her dad even preferred the heavier dough of this batch. Still, I know she will be making these again, soon, trying to perfect the recipe. Life is just one big work in progress, isn't it?  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I think it's love

The crowds are gone, the college students have gone back to school, the cousins (all but one) and nieces and nephews and friends have all returned to their cities, and our home is quiet again. We are having a blissfully slow Sunday.

I got a cold sometime over the holiday. I think I took my son's because as soon as I got sick, he got better. I pushed through until this morning when we packed the cars and waved everyone off in their different directions and then my head began to spin and I wanted nothing more than to climb under the covers and sleep. Which I did for two delicious hours this afternoon. It was the kind of sleep where you hear everything happening in all parts of the house, my husband yelling "Touchdown!" at the football game on TV in the living room, my daughter's homework papers rustling at the kitchen table, the little girls in the apartment across from us skipping with their grandmother to the elevator down the hall. And yet it was a restful sleep. I awoke near five and lay there with my eyes closed until my daughter landed with a body thud on the bed beside me.

"Mom," she moaned, putting her face right up to mine. "I'm so bored and I want to cook and I don't want to do history."

"What do you want to cook?"

"I don't know," she moaned again, then sat up. "Do you think the recession will be over by the time I get out of college?"

"Yes, definitely," I said, believing it.

"Really?" She brightened visibly. "Because I want people to have enough money to come and eat at my restaurant. I want to be a famous chef."

"That's great, but didn't you tell me before that you didn't want to be a chef?"

"That was because I didn't think I could be successful in a recession." she clarified. "I want to be Pisticci, not Blue Angel"—the former being an Italian restaurant we frequent, the latter being a promising Thai restaurant that went out of business in a few short months.

"But Pisticci is thriving in the recession," I noted.

"That's because they established their fan base before everything crashed," she explained to me patiently.

I chose not to argue her point. Instead I said, "If you want to be a successful chef, then own it. Claiming your dream is the first step." I think I say things like this because of the personal growth stories I too often find myself editing at my job.

"Great!" she exclaimed. Then: "Mom, I want to do cooking classes." She ran out of the room, came back in with her laptop, and started Googling culinary schools in the city. "I want to start now," she said definitively.

She looked up the French Culinary Institute and saw that the amateur series cost upwards of $7000 for a few months. "Well, that's not happening," she said. She clicked over to the Italian Culinary Institute, which offers an 8-class series on the Essentials of Italian Cooking, including pasta, meats, antipasti, sauces and desserts. She has to be seventeen to enroll, and the next series starts two days after her seventeenth birthday. "Yesss," she exulted. "Someone is smiling on me!" And right then and there, she began to solicit her parents permission to apply—and agreement to pay.

She would attend classes two evenings a week from five-thirty to ten-thirty, and she swears that she would keep up with her schoolwork and not let her grades slip. I told her go for it.

Next she clicked over to a cooking blog she recently discovered and her voice took on that moan of sincere desire again. "Mom, look at this food photography. I want to make food look like that! Our kitchen light is too yellow."

From there we began to analyze how the blogger had styled her photos, the white seamless backdrop, the pretty cloths, the simple plates that didn't compete with the food. I said, "Well I have all these pretty tea clothes and napkins and table cloths that my mom gave me. They've just been sitting in the linen closet. Now I know why I have them!"

We found that kind of funny since I am not much of a lace and embroidery person and while we were laughing she decided to remake the cinnamon rolls she made two nights ago, which all our house guests ooohed and ahhhed over. But while she was happy with the taste of her first-time experiment, she was less thrilled with how the rolls were photographed. She posted the pictures to her food blog anyway, but now she has decided to redo the rolls and try photographing them differently.

"But, don't you have history homework to finish?" I dared to remind her. She gets huge volumes of history homework every night, a couple of hours worth at least.

"I have to wait for the dough to rise," she said happily. "One hour after I make it, and then another hour after I roll it up with the cinnamon. And then it goes it the oven. I'll do history while the dough is rising and finish it while the buns are baking."

And with that, she jumped up, pulled on her boots and jacket and went to the store to buy yeast and flour.

Definitely true love.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Embrace the Blur

On Thanksgiving day, I made such a nuisance of myself with my little red Canon camera that when people saw me coming they waved their hands in front of their faces and shooed me away. It didn't help that I dislike using flash. I prefer the richer colors and fuller dimensions of natural light to the flattened, washed out pallor of flash photography, but indoors late in the day that means people have to sit relatively still for you if you're going to avoid the blur. Actually, I don't mind the blur. I have a whole lot of photos from our Thanksgiving gathering that are blurred and lovely, because you can still see the connectedness and the love. I feel affection for the imperfection of those images and the way they suggest life is happening without artifice.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was shared by relatives and friends who live in New York City as well as some who came from as far away as San Francisco, Boston, Columbia, Maryland, and even Port of Spain, Trinidad. My cousin who lives in Trinidad came to surprise her sister who lives in Maryland, who travels with her daughters to be with us every year at this time. My cousin from San Francisco came to support her sister from Boston who is in the midst of a divorce. We had many sets of sisters in attendance this year, and a few men, too: My husband who did most of the cooking, my son, his best friend, two cousins-in-law, my 7-year-old nephew. There were 23 of us in all. The house was wonderfully crowded and comfortable. My 92 year-old aunt didn't feel up to joining us, so later in the evening about a dozen of us, nieces and nephews and grands, trooped over to her apartment to bring her dinner and dessert and wrap her in our convivial mood.

Here is a snap of my kids taken before the festivities. We had moved the living room furniture around to create more empty space for "flow." My husband retired to the bedroom while everyone else issued energetic opinions and instructions about how everything should be rearranged. As my husband famously commented at our wedding about the relatives who were about to become his family, "Everybody is a general. There are so soldiers here."



Friday, November 26, 2010

Cousins


Occasionally my family will get still enough for me to capture a moment like this one. My daughter and niece were simply sitting at the kitchen counter listening to family banter on Thanksgiving day and enjoying the fact of their easy, playful sisterhood.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The color of my wings





"Wake at dawn with 
winged heart and give thanks
for another day of loving."

—Khalil Gibran

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homework





My son and my niece have each faced a challenging semester workwise, and at certain points they have sounded incredibly stressed on the phone. Their mothers have worried about their state of mind, wondering if they were discouraged to the point of being depressed. Apparently they both found this highly amusing, since between the stressed phone calls to their parents they have been enjoying college life as much as ever. My niece told me she and my son had discussed it, and they both agreed that before they considered jumping into any gorges, they would just come home. Their mothers could rest assured of that.

Now that they are home for the Thanksgiving break, I can see that in fact they are both quite fine, sense of humor intact, laughing easily. They just have a lot of work. My son says he plans to do very little of it while he's in the city, that he's going to take this week as a mental health break. My niece has the opposite approach. She has been up bright and early each morning, books in hand, setting up at our kitchen table where she can be surrounded by all the proceedings. My daughter has her usual eleventh grade homework and she, too, likes to work in the midst of everything.

Tonight, despite his declaration that he was doing no work this week, my son got into the action for a little while, reviewing an anatomy lecture, and our friend E., who goes to the same college, was here too. The boys fell away first, drawn to the Sunday night football game that my husband was watching, but the girls continued working intently. Later, though, everyone became engaged in rolling out homemade pasta, a communal undertaking that took much longer than anticipated and facilitated riotous stories and sincere sharing, with dinner of garlic shrimp and linguini not making it to the table until close to midnight.

Our internal clocks are completely awry. I'm glad my daughter only has to get through two days of school this week. She and I are back to normal today, by the way. When she woke up this morning, I was in the hallway, and she walked right over to me and put her head on my shoulder. I held her close and she held me back. As my friend deb of Talk at the Table, says, when parenting a teenager you have to practice "grace and patience and new every morning." That's just what we did.

Raising

"Night Light" by Lorenz Odom

Raising teenagers is such a hard thing. They want to be out with their friends at all hours, they're always sure everyone else is having the time of their lives and they're missing out, and they are deeply capable of shutting down their spidey sense when a situation turns dicey. They assume they are invulnerable, they will find their way, and thank God, mostly they do. But my heart can barely take it. I worry. What's new?

Last night, my daughter wanted to go to a party with her friends, including one who I think of as particularly level headed. When she and my daughter are together I believe they watch out for one another, make sure nothing goes so far they can't bring it back. Well, the details were kind of sketchy last night, a Beacon party at somebody's house, a fundraiser for a summer service trip, they didn't know whose house exactly but they rattled off the litany of their friends who would be there. I know and love all these kids, but I don't for a minute think the presence of many good friends at a party means the situation won't be dicey. I kind of wanted to say no (my daughter says I always want to say no, and that might be so), but I didn't. I trusted her to use her judgement, to call us if things began to unfold in unsafe ways.

Well, the party was wall-to-wall people, it got busted up by cops, they had to run out of there, but she didn't call us. At around 11 p.m. I sent her a text asking how things were there. No answer. I called her phone. No answer. I called her friend's mom to ask if she'd heard from her daughter and that's when I found out they weren't at the party anymore. I started calling my daughter's phone insistently and eventually she called me back. Their friend who just got his driver's license had come to get them and they were just riding around in the car, being together, having fun. I didn't like how aimless that sounded but I was willing to go with it provided I liked the answer to my other question. Who's in the car? She named them. Nice kids, but there were seven of them. In an SUV that holds five. That's when I said come home now. She argued and argued. Her dad and I didn't budge. She came home with her face screwed into an expression of holy pissed off-ness. No doubt her friend was angry, too, but she was her usual lovely self and scrupulously polite about the whole thing. Her mom picked her up soon after.

I knew I should wait before trying to talk to my daughter, but I was mightily pissed off, too. And frustrated at the degree to which she has no idea of all the ways things could have gone so wrong in every part of the evening.

But she was fine. Her friend who was driving even came upstairs to our apartment when he dropped the girls home so he could tell us good night and possibly mitigate things. He's a great kid and I thanked him for going to get the girls and refrained from lecturing him about having seven teenagers in the car. With my daughter and her friend now back in my home, his car would once again have a legal number of passengers. Our gift to him.

My daughter did the "You never let me" script which made me furious, given that all I ever do is let her. More than I really want to and more than I sometimes should if you want to know the truth. I let her and I trust her, and usually her judgment is impeccable (as far as I can tell). But when she doesn't show good judgment, when she puts herself in harm's way, as she did by running out of the party last night and then not calling us, instead waiting around on a late night street corner in an unfamiliar neighborhood for her friend to pick her up so she could pile into a car already full of shrieking teenagers, and then she comes home all pissy instead of strategically apologetic, then I have to reevaluate things.

It is such a crapshoot, getting our children through the teen years in one relatively whole piece. I recently read an essay by a mother who decided when her teenager was a fractious 14-year-old to just take her hand off the wheel, to surrender and make peace with all the dire possibilities, rape, drugs, kidnapping, heartbreak, disease, death—all of it. She let go and she gave in and she prayed and prayed, and her daughter made it to eighteen and into college, a little bruised but alive, and now they have begun to mend their relationship.

Is that really what this adolescent passage requires? Because while I don't judge that mother, while her approach sounds to me at this moment like the promise of relief, like powerful faith even, I don't know if I am capable of doing what she did. I think my heart might seize and stop long before we made it through to the other side. I worry so.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Eataly and such pleasures

Nicole Bengiveno for The New York Times

The view from inside
My daughter and I finally made it to Eataly last weekend. That's the Italian food mall, more like holy ground for foodies, that opened on Twenty-third Street a few months ago. My daughter visited the original Eataly when she was in Italy last summer, and heard then about the one that would soon open in New York. She could hardly wait. And then school started and she was swamped with homework and soccer, and I was occupied with my mom and long story short, it took us this long to get there.

After waiting in a line that went around the block (the line moved quickly, admitting twenty-five customers every five minutes) we stopped for gelato, vanilla hazlenut for me, lemon and raspberry for my girl. Then we meandered through the aisles full of gorgeously packaged foods and fresh ingredients, with my daughter reliving her experience last summer as she happened across items she had used at the cooking school in Asti or learned about as part of the Slow Food Movement she was studying. It was fascinating to watch her pick out fresh produce, the way she tested one tomato and set it back down, then another, then chose the third. The way she held the asparagus up to the light, the sure manner in which she passed the sage in front of her face, then rolled her eyes heavenward with a sigh of pleasure. None of this sort of food play had ever been remotely thrilling to me, but on this day I got such joy watching the way natural food speaks to my child.

Bundles of freshly cut spaghetti
The best part was when we stood at the pasta counter so she could order freshly cut spaghetti. The people behind the counter seemed to move in slow motion, even blinking in slow motion, which no one seemed to mind. As we stood there waiting for the woman behind the counter to package our two bundles of spaghetti, wrapping it up in brown paper with as much care as one might handle an expensive gift, the man standing next to us smiled knowingly, then asked how we planned to cook the pasta. I pointed to my daughter and said, "She's the cook." My daughter answered that she was going to just toss it with freshly made tomato sauce and maybe some basil, and he said, "You know what would be great? Saute some sage in olive oil, don't be shy with the sage, but watch it so it doesn't start to get brown, then mix that in. And take a handful of salt, this much"—he opened his palm and drew a circle to show how much—"and toss that into the pasta water when it starts to boil. The spaghetti will drink it right in and give you great flavor." My daughter asked for a couple of clarifications as I stood aside and enjoyed her delight at exchanging cooking notes with an obviously seasoned chef. Afterwards, when we went back over to the produce section to get the sage, my daughter and I both had the feeling that we recognized the man from the Food Network. That made it one of those serendipitous New York City experiences, a brush with celebrity that was generously human and sweet.

The smells were heavenly
Back home, my girl whipped up the sage infused olive oil just as the man who might have been a Food Network chef had instructed, and mixed it into her pasta. It was delicious! My husband and I enjoyed the pleasure of our daughter making dinner for us. It was all ready in barely any time at all, from which I learned that fresh pasta cooks in three or four minutes, not the 20 minutes or so it takes to rehydrate the pasta I'm used to, and then cook it. This is something real foodies know, but I had no idea. I learn so much from my daughter.

On another note, the college kids arrive home for Thanksgiving break tomorrow night. I can hardly wait to look into their eyes, hug them.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Going to my happy place

My husband and daughter were being their delightful silly selves
at Sarah Lawrence College after the prospective student tour.
This photo is all the reminder I need of what is precious and good. 

It's not about the doors

Stressed in that tight, clenched, knotted-at-the-core-of-me way. I'm so raw underneath. This morning, another kitchen cabinet door came off its hinges and I felt like the thing was just fucking with me. I wanted to rip all the poorly-installed doors off their hinges and start again. But when would we ever replace them? My husband and his electric drill have been patching that inherited problem week after week for nine years now. We will have to endure more. The money is tied up elsewhere. Cleared the mail box last night after willfully ignoring it for a week. I didn't know why I was ignoring it until I saw that fat envelope informing us that our tax returns from a long-past year have been selected for "examination." Damn. But can you tell I'm veering away from really delving into what is stressing me? I wrote it all down before and then I inadvertently deleted it. I take it to mean I was oversharing. Or God wants me to just be quiet for a minute.

I'm listening, God.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day Trip

November 2010

We have begun. College visits, that is. Back when I started this blog we were touring schools with my son, who is now a college sophomore. Now it's my daughter's turn. She is in 11th grade so we have time yet. But we decided to do leisurely visits to schools within driving distance this fall, and then plan a more intensive trip to see a few colleges further afield in the spring. Last weekend we went to see a school that was literally a 15 minute drive north, much too close to home for my daughter. "I thought this would be a road trip," complained the girl who loves nothing more than a road trip complete with a night or two in a nice hotel.

But she was game anyway, since we teamed up with one of her closest friends in the world and her family for the visit. Her friend's mom Isabella and I are also friends. We possess a mutual difficulty with all things unresolved, and a similarly obsessive turn of mind, and so we have set out to find the exact right schools for our daughters, encouraged by our girls who are just happy that we're keeping each other occupied and out of their hair! It was perfect, really. Isabella and I compared notes, the men and older sister looked on amused, and our girls listened and toured and revealed little of their thinking, except to each other.

Isabella and I ended up liking the school so much that my husband teased that we could be roommates and they could visit us in the dorm on weekends. Ha! In fact, my daughter does not yet know if she will apply, in part because the school is only 28 percent boys. She wants a more equal male-female ratio. But the school does not require SATs or ACTs. It has no tests. You take just three seminar-based classes per semester plus a 20-30 page conference paper or project for each class, which you develop yourself in conjunction with the professor. There are no core requirements either, just a course catalogue that your browse through and pick whatever the heck you want to take. The setting is really pretty, especially now in the fall with the changing trees. It did kind of have the feel of an exclusive girls boarding school, but everyone was really sweet/funny/quirky/open and all around campus there were hand-drawn posters inviting us to "Fuck Gender," "Bend Gender" and "Reverse Gender."

The program is definitely writing intensive and boasts alumni from Alice Walker to Barbara Walters to Rahm Emmanuel. Students end up writing a hundred or more pages a term, which I know our girls would have no problem with. They wrote their autobiographies in 7th grade, which were roughly 100 pages each, churned out with great inspiration between February and April of that year. They were amazing poetic excavations of their young lives. And having produced them by going deeper and deeper through several rounds of drafts—under the guidance of the most extraordinary teacher, Carol O'Donnell—our girls have never again doubted their ability to produce thoughtful, engaged, well-crafted writing.

Since there are no majors in the traditional sense, the young man who was doing the tour (the admissions staff made sure there were many young men in evidence) asked each of the prospective applicants what they were interested in pursuing. I got very still waiting to hear what my daughter would answer. "Cooking, photography and writing," she said.

The photo above is of our girls filling out their visiting forms before the info session. The one below was taken when they were in kindergarten. They were at their school's farm and were soaked head to toe from building a dam in the river. They are so beautiful, these girls. They are part of a soul cluster that has loved one another since that time. They are soul mates, really.

June 2000

Friday, November 12, 2010

As if they were locked rooms

100 filets by Christine Lebrasseur

"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903
in Letters to a Young Poet

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Poem by My Daughter (Veteran's Day)

Soldier 

One two one/ Left left right
The passing fires
Leave no room to consider

He doesn’t know it yet
There, behind him
He is leaving a hole
One that will be difficult to fill
With blood and beginnings

He pastes on a plaster mask
Stitched with frail scotch tape
And his confidence
Shatterable like the delicate glass
He destroyed

He stomps
To break up the grainy soil that reminds him
He drips with sorrow like their memories


K. Ang Arrin
Spring 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

South



My mom left today. She is on her way to Jamaica to my brother's home where she will be for the next three months. A family friend who had come to New York for a wedding this past weekend, traveled with her. She is, finally, too frail to travel alone. She was exhausted just from the task of getting ready this morning, and from the packing, which has gone on for three days straight. It tired her because she couldn't trust herself to remember everything, and so no matter how many times I assured her that I had already packed an item or taken care of a detail, she still had to check it again. I could see her running up and down her mental list, flustered by the certainty that she was forgetting something crucial. I was exhausted myself, and doing my level best not to be irritable. Because I knew the moment she was wheeled onto that plane and out of my sight, my eyes would sting, my center would knit from missing her.

She was stooped over this morning and also bent to one side. More stooped than she has ever been, and she couldn't make herself stand straight. I helped her into her clothes, trying not to make her feel self-conscious or worried at how breathless from exertion she was, how shaky on her feet. She kept pulling small things from drawers and closets, things she had always left behind before, and I knew it was because she thought she might never come back to her apartment here, that she was saying goodbye to it for good. We both pretended, though. I told her I would come and get her when the weather turns back warm. She smiled and hugged me and said nothing.

We were late leaving for the airport because the getting ready couldn't be rushed. But still she insisted on going upstairs to say goodbye to her sister. At 88 and 92, they know each goodbye just might be the last, and of course, the tears came after. But the goodbye itself was a thing of wrenching beauty. My aunt thought my mom was already on her way, that their leave taking of the night before would have to suffice, so when she heard my mom at the front door, she was out of her chair and shuffling towards us at a pace we hadn't seen in years. Her face was alight with pleasure, it made me think of a child's innocence and wonder, it hurt to see it, the simple joy of seeing her sister one more time. They hugged each other in that careful way that their complaining joints allow, and held each other's faces in their hands for a long time. Just smiling and looking into each other's eyes. Beaming love. I wanted to take a picture but knew it would be an intrusion. And I knew that as long as I live I will never forget the sight of such love.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I have a new boss

This is the nature of my commute today. 

And this is what I'd rather be doing. 

Push came to shove, last Friday. My boss announced she has decided to leave the company. As of today, we have a new interim boss who will run things during the search for a permanent replacement. No time to write this morning. Got to get my tail in to work and start proving myself all over again. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that at my job November is when the revolving door starts ushering folk out of the building so the company can meet its end-of-year numbers. Pray for me, people. We have high school and college tuition to pay. Employment is essential.

The top photo was taken from a New York City rooftop by my daughter. The second photo was taken in Nassau, Bahamas by one of my nieces.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Life on Pause











I spent a serene few days enjoying my small space last week. I took some time off from work and for four days I woke up to the quiet of my home, the leaves changing outside my window, the sunlight slanting through. My husband was at his job, my son away at college, my daughter at school and my mother just a few short steps across a courtyard. Feeling their presence in my house, I rambled amid the comfortable clutter of books and papers and family pictures, lovingly used candles, painted ceramic pieces made by my daughter, the birthday cake she whipped up for her dad on Thursday night after winning her semifinal soccer game, the armoire that holds my trusty laptop and a crocheted angel and keyboard dreams, the spanking new orange dutch oven my husband wanted for his birthday, the broken cabinet door in the kitchen, fresh laundry waiting to be folded in my son's room, the soothing maple floors scuffed in memory-rich places, the red wooden hearts and the batik green tablecloth my mother-in-law gave us one Christmas, all of it quietly breathing its history around me, allowing me slowness and simplicity, fostering peace.

I love my house on such days. It's a city apartment with abundant light and just enough room for our family, but not so much that we don't have to tumble over one another daily, relishing our individual absurdities, finding humor in small things. And for four days last week, I also got to be alone in this space for hours at a stretch, knowing that my loved ones would find their way back to me at some point in the day. In the meantime I could enjoy solitude untouched by loneliness—for me a rare and beautiful break in the proceedings, life on necessary pause.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Midterms


It's been two years to the day since Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. I still believe in the man, and I am convinced that the outcome of the midterm elections this week is less about his policies and more about a national mood of frustration with the broken political process in Washington. 

Still, given the new Republican majority in the House and the reduced Democratic majority in the Senate, I hope Obama won't saddle his next two years with trying to reach across the aisle. The Tea Party Republicans on their way to Washington have no desire to work with him on anything. Indeed, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told the National Journal that his party's overriding goal for the next Congress is to ensure that President Obama does not get re-elected. "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," he said. He couldn't have made the GOP agenda any clearer. In other words, Republicans are committed to the failure of government and the American people be damned. 

Ironically, Obama is that rare politician who actually believes that politics is about bettering the lives of the people. History will show that even though he may be losing the PR race, he has already accomplished major initiatives despite the gridlock in Congress. It may now be time to take the fight outside of the system. Mr. President, there are more of us with you than all the Fox News pundits and Tea Partiers would have you believe. 

Art was borrowed from today's post at mouse medicine. Thank you Kim!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Three Loves



I took this picture of my husband and two children on March 31, 1994, the morning after our newborn daughter came home. My son was two-and-a-half years old and his protective nature was showing itself even then.


Paper Chase

I posted a lot last week. That's because I was off from work, hiding out from the workaday world on a delicious staycation. I spent a lot of the time with my mother and the rest of it meandering to wherever I felt called. Now, I'm back in the office and even though life continues to come at me from all directions, I don't have a moment to process what I'm experiencing, much less feeling, so I'm setting down here a couple of the Major Occurrences that I want to come back to, unfolding events that are leaving their mark on the lives of people I love.

1. My Aunt Maisy, 85, heard yesterday that her lung cancer has returned, and in a harder to treat presentation. Her daughter, who is like my sister in every sense, is scared this time. She and her mom have a complicated relationship, which I may or may not go into later. My aunt's son was deployed to Afghanistan three weeks ago. He doesn't yet know about his mother's newest diagnosis. Aunt Maisy is a hell raiser and I love her to pieces. She says she wants no surgery or chemo, she isn't in any pain, just let her live out her life in peace. Even though her sisters are debating her on this, I have to admit I can see her point.

2. My other cousin, the evicted addict, is finding her feet, sort of. She is in an outpatient rehab program and some days are more successful than others. But what really gives me hope is that out there on her own, she has connected with a small group of women who are also part of the program, and they are trying to motivate and be there for one another. My cousin has never been part of any group, unrelated by blood, that truly valued her. She had only that man who abused her, her mother who enabled her, and her relatives who were most often pissed off with her. Now for the first time in her life, there are these women around her who she calls her friends.

3. My son emailed the head of his department asking to meet with him to get some guidance on his program. They set up a meeting for this week. He also got himself a tutor in the course that he is failing, and doesn't seem quite as tightly wrought when I speak with him. Not that he's telling me much. I called him last week and he was brusque on the phone. "Mom, I'm busy." I let him go. "Alright, we'll talk another time." We said goodbye and I threw in "I love you, son," just as he clicked off his phone. A moment later, my phone rang. "I hung up before I could tell you I love you, too," he said. We both laughed in warm conciliation. He didn't have to call back, and most days he wouldn't have bothered. But on that day, he did.

Okay, I have to get back to work. Page layouts are piling up on my desk. Scroll down for the outcome to my daughter's soccer championship game two days ago. I posted an update at the end of One more game to win it all. And no, they didn't win it all. But it was a good night under the lights all the same.
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