Saturday, March 31, 2012

Family of Origin


Some days, you just need to feel connected to your source. Isn't my mother beautiful? Doesn't my brother look happy? And look how my father's posture reveals his intent to guard and protect. It was the very core of who he was. No wonder he chose the law.

As for me, that curiosity in my face is a large part of who I am. My family will tell you I want to know the details of everything, especially people's hearts. When we were growing up my brother would halt my incessant questions with an irritable, "Stop interrogating me." I wanted to know. My mother and father would answer all my questions, however, patiently and honestly and thoroughly. Their philosophy was if I was old enough to be curious about a thing, I was old enough to have the truth. They felt if I opened a book to read it, then I was old enough to take it in. There was no nervous oversight of the information coming to me, no sense ever that a category of information was "beyond" me. I appreciate them for that. They helped shape a future journalist.

I look at my own children now, wading deeper into the stream of their lives, ready for their own futures to claim them. I hope we gave them what they needed. I hope we did okay.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Maggie Speaks True

Maggie May's post today is a powerful piece of writing that should be required reading on the Trayvon Martin case. You can find it here. 

I Love The Warden

I've been working from home the last two days, and just being with my husband and my daughter makes me happy. My girl is off for spring break and my husband took this week off work so he could go to the church every day to get the lay of the land as warden since our minister is leaving. My husband wants to be ready to help foster a smooth transition, and also wants to know just what the minister's every day demands are, so he can be better informed about what kind of person they are looking for to fill this man's very large shoes. My man has been incredibly lighthearted in this work, lending his shoulder to unloading cartons of food for the food pantry, writing up referrals for social services, attending a conference on helping parollees reintegrate successfully into life outside of prison walls, sorting and boxing donated clothes, handing out mail to the many people whose transient circumstances cause them to need to use the church as a permanent address. This man's soul is lifted by the opportunity to be of service.

His good mood wasn't even rocked when he brought home a new flat screen TV to replace our old behemoth with its fading colors last night, and I didn't like the picture quality of the brand new model. My daughter was shooting me meaningful looks, and finally she took me aside and whispered, "Mom, Dad went out of his way to surprise you. Be considerate." But you know, you have to live with a TV for a long time, and we have only one in our house, and this screen was unwatchable to me and couldn't be adjusted as far as we could tell. But my husband didn't get bent out of shape, or worse, withdraw into the cave. He just said exasperatedly, "Good Lord, I'll take it back tomorrow!" But then he looked at me sideways and said, "Happy now?" And I saw he was okay. Not at all bruised by my ungraciousness, which wasn't really ungraciousness because I loved that he wanted to surprise us, I love him, but I had to be honest, was all.

Maybe the ministry was his calling after all. I remember him telling me that when he was 11, he had announced to his parents that he wanted to be a minister. In time, he went another way, following his love of the ocean into a life as an ichthyoloist. But I can see that his work with the little activist church for which he is the warden fulfills him greatly, and believe me when I tell you that a contented husband is a wonderful cohort indeed.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cake and Candles

Even though it was a school night for them, four of my daughter's closest friends arrived at her door to surprise her for her birthday. And another friend, a classmate who was taking her to a Knicks game last night, came early too. She had no idea they were coming to sing and eat cake with her until they poured through the front door. The sole gentleman, holder of the Knicks tickets, arrived first. He looked on gamely as the girls squealed and hugged and laughed and twirled in a grand pile-up in the kitchen. Since the group had been planning her actual birthday gathering for Friday night, she truly was surprised. 

Still on spring break, our girl had been fighting a post-Mexico cold, and had earlier stretched out on the couch and fallen into a deep afternoon sleep. While she slept, her dad and I ran around getting a cake and cupcakes and flowers and a couple of small gifts from her grandma and brother. Not from us, though; our 18th birthday gift to her was the trip to Mexico. I put it all out on the table while she continued sleeping. As her dad rustled up a batch of penne in vodka sauce with spicy sausage for the hungry hoard, I arranged the tulips and put out the red velvet cupcakes and vanilla on vanilla sprinkle cake and the gift bags with bright tissue paper. 

At 4:30 pm I woke my girl and told her that her friend who was taking her to a Knicks game would be arriving soon. No, she mumbled. He's not coming till 6:30. I said he had called to say he would be there by 5. She opened her eyes then and focused on me groggily. He called and said that? she queried, clearly confused. Well, I called him and asked if he could come earlier so he could share in the cake, I covered up. She bought that. 

When he arrived, she was still in her room getting dressed. So he sat in the living room, waiting to surprise her. Her face, when she saw him, and then the rest of them, was worth the surprise. She had thought she was having a quiet family day, then going to the Knicks game later. Instead, she got to blow out candles with some of the people she loves best in the world. And after the Knicks game, she went out to dinner with other friends from her high school, so she ended up celebrating with almost all the demos who are part of her heart circle. 

She got home well past curfew but I didn't have the heart to grumble. She was happy. She hugged me lots and thanked me for arranging the surprise. It was low-key and perfect, she said. I was happy too.

Were you surprised?

Singing happy birthday.

Make a wish!

Let's eat cake.

Let's eat some pasta, too.

Thank you, Grandma! (Urban Outfitters gift card).




Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The girl we love is 18 today


At this moment, I have no words to adequately express how blessed we are to be the parents and brother of this child. She is a gift in every sense. She makes us feel loved. She laughs easily and often. She works hard and adores her friends. She is deeply connected to family. She is everything a parent could dream. And then some. Happy birthday, our darling girl. You deserve everything wonderful that is coming to you. The beautiful thing is, you appreciate it too.

From some reason, I am remembering the day you came home from the hospital, a swaddled little bundle, and we laid you on the bed. Your brother, who was two years old, hovered over you, not leaving your side, bouncing all around as if on a trampoline, entranced by your wrinkly wriggly newborn form. He has been your protector from that day forward. As you are his. We love you so very much, sweet precious girl. Forever and ever, no matter what. Amen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

#ReadthebookDUDE

In this month of March in the year 2012, it is impossible to avoid race as a social construct and its toxic place in our lives. Trayvon Martin. The Republican primaries. And now, The Hunger Games. Seems a lot of moviegoers were appalled that the characters of Rue, Thresh and Cinna were portrayed as Black.

Cast members of The Hunger Games

In the book, when we first meet 12-year-old Rue, we are told, "She has dark brown skin and eyes" and is very small in stature. Anyone who noticed that description would say the casting of Amandla Stenberg, who stole the show in the action flick Columbiana, was perfection.

The divine Amandla Stenberg

Author Suzanne Collins wrote the other District 11 tribute Thresh, played by Dayo Okeniyi, as having "dark brown skin," and did not specify skin color for the character of Cinna, the Capitol stylist played by Lenny Kravitz. It's a little stunning to discover the degree to which the casting of these characters rattled some folks. Consider the tweets that scrolled in.




Lest you think these sorts of tweets were arriving in dribs and drabs, one news organization was nice enough to do a compilation, so we could see the sentiment was quite widely felt.


The website Jezebel helpfully noted: "These people are MAD that the girl that they cried over while reading the book was 'some black girl' all along. So now they're angry. Wasted tears, wasted emotions."

An interesting aside: Katniss, the main character in the book, was described as having "straight black hair" and "olive skin." Many people imagined her as Native American, but blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jennifer Lawrence won the part. No one tweeted complaints about that (although though there was some snark about her not being skinny enough—I could do a whole other post about that). But there was this tweet, in response to all the madness. Now you know.



Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chemical Sunday

I feel so bereft some mornings when I open my eyes. Today is one of those days. I am thinking of Aunt Winnie across the way, bedridden but smiling like a happy child when I walk in the room. It touches me and breaks my heart at the same time. I am thinking of the way her face exploded into a million lights when my daughter told her about the college letters.

I am thinking of my mother telling me on the phone this week that she doesn't want to die in my brother's house, it would ruin it for her grandchildren. And then telling me that she is going home to St. Lucia for two months, she has business to take care of there.

One day, I left my office in the middle of the morning and took the elevator up two floors to the family counseling center that I saw listed on the elevator directory. For weeks, whenever someone gets into the elevator and presses that floor, I ask them do they have counselors up there; do they do individual therapy? Finally, I went up there and made an appointment. The next day I cancelled it. Too close to the job. I know I need help. I miss Saint Eleta, but she is in another city, retired and approaching eighty now. I need a place I can go and process everything so I don't burn myself up in a conflagration of hollowing out pain. Since these feelings are at mostly odds with the external realities of my life, I can only assume they are chemical.

I wish I were the kind of mother who knew what to do to mark a daughter's eighteenth birthday. I feel useless and lacking in imagination. There are such swathes of emptiness everywhere, or is it inside me? 

Don't worry, children. These tides will pass.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Almost 18


Next week she turns 18. 
This child made of light.
Look at her then. 



Everybody's Son

Not only did they not arrest Zimmerman; not only did they not test the weapon he had discharged and sent him home with it, losing potential evidence, but they took this dead child, who weighed 100 pounds less than the man who killed him and who was running away, and who had nothing but candy and a can of iced tea, and they tested this child's dead body for drugs... The clock's ticking, Florida. When are you going to arrest this guy? My home state, if you can't figure this out, this is not complicated, we can help you. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or a liberal, this is shameful.

That was Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe, this morning. The quote may not be exact as I was typing furiously as he spoke, but the content and the sentiment are exact. I argue with Joe Scarborough a lot in the mornings, talking back to the screen as I sip my coffee. But this morning, Joe spoke for me. I know a lot about the Trayvon Martin case from my own interest, the nature of my job, and from the zeitgeist, but I did not know police took his dead Black body and tested it for drugs. For some reason, that is the ultimate indignity. I don't know why it hits me that way, but it does.

Because if he had tested positive for drugs, would that have justified his murder?

One of my neighbors, a dipped in red conservative, argues that Black males are targeted because Black males commit crimes. Indeed many do. Raised in homes fractured by generations of poverty, inadequately educated, with no vision of what might be possible for their futures, many do turn to crime. But the fact is, White males commit more crimes than Black males proportionate to their numbers in the population as a whole, yet young White males have nothing to fear should they decide to cover their heads with a hoodie on a rainy evening in the neighborhood. They are not the face America conjures in the mind's eye when it thinks the word criminal.


Update at 1: 45 pm: Moments ago, Obama weighed in on the tragedy. He said, "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon." There was something about his face as he spoke. The pain we all feel was etched there. I thought about what Michelle Obama said on 60 Minutes back in 2008 when her husband was running for president. She was asked, "Do you worry about Barack's safety?" She replied, "Barack could get shot going to the gas station or to pick up a carton of milk, so no, I don't dwell on that." I remember feeling so chilled by the almost mundane truth of what she said. I remember holding my breath till I heard my husband's key in the door, because he was at that precise moment on an errand to pick up a carton of milk from the store.

This is not usually the stuff I want to talk about here, but it is just bubbling up right now, spilling across the surface, the pervasive consciousness behind the super consciousness that attends our everyday functioning. The watching out for. The incessant prayer loop in my head. Bring them home safe. Bring them home safe.



My Lovely Critics

My darling girl arrived home from Mexico tonight safe and sound. Brown as a berry, happy how it went, eyes dancing, eager to get to the next adventure, which was

The Hunger Games!

The movie. At midnight. She bought tickets weeks ago when they went on sale, and announced we were going together. 

So we did.

She carefully affixed her mockingjay pin to her sweater and off we went into the night.

The theater was full of college kids, who didn't want to wait an hour more than they had to. Now, it's almost 4 a.m. My daughter and I are wide awake, thanks to the cups of strong coffee we had before the movie, her excitement at having finally experienced it, and my joy in having her home. She and her brother, who also went to the midnight show in his college town, are on the phone, deconstructing what worked, what didn't, the details they wish had been included. Such fans they are! 

My daughter wants more backgrounding on the character of Rue.

My son wants more of the cave scene and the love story. 

I think they should make movies together. That's about all I'll say about my lovely critics. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The score, for me, was particularly haunting.

And the company was sublime. 





Thursday, March 22, 2012

One World



"I never believed in Santa Claus 
because I knew no white dude would 
come into my neighborhood after dark." 

—Dick Gregory


Even though I'm tempted to contextualize the heck out of it, in this week of charged news stories about hate crimes in Sanford, Florida and Toulouse, France, I'll just let Dick Gregory's quote stand without commentary. Not gonna lie, though. It did make me laugh. 






Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Swish


I just like the picture. As a toddler he was battery-powered, like the Energizer bunny. I remember his uncle asking, "Does he ever stop?" His dad said, "He has two settings: Full speed and asleep."


Somebody's Child

I just listened to the 911 tapes from the evening 16-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain. The boy looked suspicious to him and he called the cops. The teen, who is Black, had gone to the store to buy Skittles for his little brother during half-time of the NBA All Stars game. Skittles and a can of iced tea were all he had on his person when George Zimmerman came at him. Numerous calls from neighbors in the gated Sanford, Florida community poured in to 911, all reporting a young man screaming for help. On one of the calls, you can hear Trayvon screaming. Then a single gunshot. Sudden silence. The man on the 911 call moans, "Oh my God, oh my God, he's dead."

The first of the 911 tapes is from Zimmerman himself. He tells police, "This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something. He's just staring, looking at all the houses. He's got his hand in his waistband. Something's wrong with him." Police told Zimmerman not to go after the young man, but Zimmerman chased him down anyway. The teen called his girl friend and told her that he was being followed by a strange man, he didn't know why. The girl told him to run. He said he didn't want to, but he eventually did run. Probably, he knew that a young Black man running is instantly taken for a criminal. He was no criminal. Treyvon Martin had no record. George Zimmerman, on the other hand, had past violations, including an assault of a police officer. Yet police questioned the shooter and let him go that same evening. No charges were filed.

Apparently, Zimmerman claimed self-defense under Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which allows a person to shoot to kill another person so long as he says he felt threatened. If there is no one around to refute the claim, well, I suppose you just might walk free. It's a bad law, currently on the books in 16 states and it sorely needs to be changed. Even so, that law does not apply here, because Zimmerman pursued a child doing nothing more than walking along the sidewalk to his father's home. Zimmerman went after this child despite explicit instruction from the police not to do so. On the 911 tapes, as he decides to ignore the police, Zimmerman mutters a racial slur, he calls the teen a "damned coon," and he also says, "These assholes always get away." Clearly, the only one threatened in this scenario was Trayvon Martin, who so many people heard screaming for help before a gunshot silenced him.

A lot of folk are asking, if the boy who was shot had been White, would they have let Zimmerman go so quickly? No one is asking this: If the boy had been White, would the watch captain even have noticed him walking home from the store? Everyone knows the answer to that question. It's Danroy Henry all over again in the sense that, in the rooted consciousness of the nation, a Black boy is first and foremost a suspect. Guilty of something.

Global Grind writer Michael Slotnik made much the same observation:

"I will never look suspicious to you," he wrote. "Even if I have a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers on. In fact, that is what I wore yesterday. I still will never look suspicious. No matter how much the hoodie covers my face or how baggie my jeans are, I will never look out of place to you. I will never watch a taxi cab pass me by to pick someone else up. I will never witness someone clutch their purse tightly against their body as they walk by me. I won't have to worry about a police car following me for two miles, so they can run my plates. I will never have to pay before I eat. And I certainly will never get stopped and frisked. I will never look suspicious to you, because of one thing and one thing only. The color of my skin. I am white...

But, let's be clear. Let's be very, very clear. Before the neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, started following [Trayvon Martin] against the better judgement of the 911 dispatcher. Before any altercation. Before any self-defense claim. Before Travyon's cries for help were heard on the 911 tapes. Before the bullet hit him dead in the chest. Before all of this. He was suspicious. He was suspicious, suspicious. And you know, like I know, it wasn't because of the hoodie or the jeans or the sneakers. Cause I had on that same outfit yesterday and no one called 911 saying I was just wandering around their neighborhood. It was because of one thing and one thing only. Trayvon is black."

I look at the pictures of Trayvon Martin and all I can see is somebody's child. I pray for a world in which that's all everyone sees when they look at these pictures, too.

Here's the thing. I didn't want to write about this. I didn't want to put this sadness on my blog. It was one time too many. I tried not to know the details, to pretend it hadn't happened. But I couldn't do that in the end. I felt I owed it to Trayvon's family to bear witness to his short life and senseless death. Even if they eventually get justice, his family will never be the same. You can sign a petition calling for further investigation here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Magicker


True story: My daughter chose the high school she wanted to go to when she was 9 years old, leafing through brochures and catalogs lying around the house during her older brother's high school search. She looked through one catalog in particular and then announced, "I am going to this high school." Four years later, she did, soulfully navigating the crazy-making high school admissions process in New York City. Back when she first informed the universe of her intention, I asked her why she wanted to go to that school. She said, "The cafeteria looks like the dining hall in Harry Potter." I didn't question further. She was a foodie and a believer in magic, even then. The photo above was taken on Friday last, in said cafeteria. My city girl is now on a beach in Mexico, with two friends and one of their mothers, experiencing spring break in paradise. As she weighs where she will go to college, may she ever continue to work hand in glove with the universe.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Back in the day

After our external hard drive crashed, obliterating years of photos that we had stored there, my husband went looking in closets and drawers and forgotten corners for hard copies of some of the photos we lost. He has begun painstakingly converting slides and negatives to digital images, an undertaking that is full of unexpected adventure as we relive moments from our shared history. Here is a random sampling of some of the photos recently unearthed. The first was taken on our honeymoon in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Most of the rest were taken in Antigua. The last, of course, was snapped in our very own kitchen in New York.

Our daughter said, Daddy, you look happy. He said, I am.

We found her feeding Nana's dog bites of a chocolate chip cookie.

He loved to run even then, and he was fast, too. So was his cousin.

My sweet boy

Beautiful bindi cousins

Flower child

Heaven in blue

Saltwater world with children I love

More children I love dearly

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Born Lucky


In their early teens, my daughter and her five best girl friends from grade school used to wander around the Upper West Side, window shopping and laughing and sometimes stopping to ride a quarter-driven hobby horse like the one in this photo. My girl is old enough to vote now, and will do so in the next election. This photo of the horse, unattended except by the gumball machines, strikes me as an apt metaphor for the ephemeral nature of childhood.

Will it always be this way? I miss my children before they even leave. My son was here last weekend, and the morning of the day he was supposed to leave to go back to college, I awoke with my heart tender and sore. Today I ache from missing my daughter, who's going away with friends for spring break in Mexico next week. She hasn't even left yet. The girl is going to college, for heaven's sake. She's spending summer in some woods as a camp counselor. She is leaving home. Following her brother out into the world. God, please keep them safe.

I have loved every second of raising my children, even those moments that were so very hard. My husband whispers to me these days. He says, This is what's supposed to happen. This is how it's supposed to work if you're lucky. And we are.



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Good Lady


"Beautiful young people 
are accidents of nature, 
but beautiful old people 
are works of art."

—Eleanor Roosevelt   


Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring Forward


Something is working in my unconscious and I am doing my darndest to bring it up to the surface, to shine that light on it that makes all scary shadow monsters merely life-sized. This is just life, the swim and flux of it, the gap between perfect and real, the what is.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Afternoon

My son is home! He arrived late last night and leaves again on Monday night. He called from the bus to tell his sister he was craving New York City pizza. So that's what we had for dinner last night. He looks good, seems relaxed and easy in himself. He is on the long couch reading the second book of Hunger Games, while watching the Knicks play the Sixers in basketball. Across from him, my girl is on the love seat next to a young man who is visiting. Like my daughter, he has just gotten into a school he wants to attend. The two of them are doing calculus and giggling over private jokes they think no one can hear, while also watching the Knicks. My husband is in the armchair next to them, also watching the Knicks. I am behind them with the armoire open, tapping out this word memory, because my children have forbidden me to pick up my camera today. Their protests do not make for good photographs, so unless I decide to ignore their protests, these words will have to do. It's a sweet Sunday afternoon. All of us cheering or moaning in unison depending on what's happening in the game. My daughter wanted to introduce this young man to her brother. She told him that he had to be on his best behavior because her brother is more protective of her than her dad. This might actually be true.


Into the Void

Yesterday, for a couple of hours, my blog disappeared. When I tried to log in, Blogger said I didn't exist and invited me to start a new blog. I cannot tell you the slow panic. All the photos I have stored here, all the moments I have set down, important to no one else perhaps, but urgently significant to me. I sat tapping buttons and firing off messages to the void for close to two hours. And then, suddenly, it was back. I immediately backed everything up over at WordPress, trying to make peace with the reality that everything can go poof without warning, engulfed in virtual flame.

Google is big brother. I don't think it was a mere accident. Call me paranoid, but I think it was all a ploy to get more of my information. I think they said, We'll show you, because I kept refusing to supply my phone number when I logged into gmail. Now they have it all, they kept asking for more and more pieces of me in the name of solving my "issue." And then, the fact that there is no human you can call, no soul you can petition about the theft. All this to say, back up your blogs, people. There are are no guarantees.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Resuming the Dance


Bear with me. I am lately obsessed with the dance, the way bodies can move in space, the art of their shapes, the fluid motion, the way they hurl themselves into the air, knowing that everything is possible. Was such movement ever possible for me? I hated running as a child, it never felt comfortable on my body, and decades later, I learned that might have been because my left leg is shorter than my right. My knee joints also hyperextend, and the ligaments that hold them are like loose elastic, not protective at all. My son might shake his head at this explanation, as he knows the correct terms for things, and the anatomical relationships of things. He would say, you have to move anyway, even now, no matter that it hurts, it is the only way. Once, I danced, though. Growing up in Jamaica, I had a gifted teacher whose body, like mine, was not the dancer's ideal, but whose love of the dance, and grace and knowledge, were boundless. I should never haver stopped dancing.


These photos by Andrew Eccles are of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company dancers.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Swan Diaries


Is this not an exquisite photograph? It showed up in my news feed today, with this: "Ballerina Aesha Ash was recommended to leave the corps of the New York City Ballet because the master in chief basically told her she had accomplished all she could as a Black dancer. After the decision to leave, Ash joined Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, a company based in San Francisco, where she soared. Ash has been featured in Pointe Magazine, Dance Magazine, New York Times, and San Francisco Chronicle. She also started a blog, The Black Swan Diaries, so that all those following in her footsteps might learn from her story as well that of as other Black dancers who share their experiences. She was also the dance double for Zoe Saldana in the film, Center Stage."

The photo made me gasp. Turns out it is part of a portfolio of fine art prints staged by the dancer herself as part of her urban arts project. Go here for more.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Morning Voices

“I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed to trap them before they escape.” ― Ray Bradbury

Marylinn Kelly posted that quote a few days ago, along with a wonderful post exploring what it feels like to be unable to live within one's morning voices. She used the metaphor of visiting relatives, which rather delighted me:

"My morning voices feel short on pep, lacking conviction and seem to wonder aloud when they will be allowed to go back to their bed. It is not a dry spell. It feels more like a too-small house being taken over by too many relatives with boundary issues who didn't bring even the most essential items since they knew they could mooch off me. I feel like I've been sleeping on the floor of the sunporch, then spending the rest of the day trying to clean the kitchen and not succumb to the vapors, though that would give me an excuse."

Reading her post, I understood more keenly that my best writing hours are immediately after waking, and when I have to rush out the house to work, to put those morning voices to the task of making a living, well, they escape, they run amok, they are squandered. I don't write. If only there were some social innovation that allowed those who awaken full of voices to spend the morning listening to what they have to say, and faithfully setting that down. I miss the days when I could do that. I am glad to have had any such days at all, and I keep the faith that I will know such mornings again in the future, maybe when all the college tuition has been paid. Until that time, it is good to know one's purpose, and to feel it worthy.

Not unrelated, here is a photo from last night of my college-bound girl, talking to the boy (no, not her brother) with a tiara on her head.




Monday, March 5, 2012

The Letter Came

She took out the sheet of paper and read the words, "Congratulations! The admissions selection committee has approved your application..."

She has actually been accepted to three colleges so far. This was the fourth. As she read the letter, tears filled her eyes. She almost couldn't speak. Finally she whispered, "Oh thank God, I have gotten into a school where I want to go."

This was a big day.

Now we can exhale.

I am so very proud of her, so very happy for her, so very moved by the way this works.


She got the job

My daughter called me at work this afternoon, her voice strumming with excitement. She snared an internship at a little Italian restaurant that emphasizes fresh food preparation, an approach similar to the slow food movement, which she studied with a chef in Asti, Italy two summers ago. The best part? She found this position herself, through asking around and sending out scores of emails inquiring about internships and finally tracking down a tip that her history teacher from last year knew the owner of this eatery. She went to talk with her history teacher, who brokered the introduction. She went to meet the owner of the restaurant, an intense Italian woman who oversees all the cooking herself, after school today. The woman interviewed her and then gave her the job!

Oh, the backstory is she applied to be able to end her senior year classes on May 4, and spend the rest of the school year doing an internship. She was one of a handful of kids granted permission to do so, but they had to find the internship on their own, and have it approved by the internship coordinator at their school. She wrote on her application about wanting to gain experience in the pasty arts or in Italian cuisine. In a sense, this is her first successful job search!

Our daughter does have an after school job two afternoons a week helping teach a theater class for middle school kids at her school. She didn't have to search out that job though. It came to her. She was asked to assist with the class by one of the teachers who chaperoned her South Africa trip last spring break, when she taught photography and theater arts to kids in two township schools. She said yes to helping out with the after school class even before she realized she would be getting paid. Her first check arrived in the mail on Saturday. She likes getting paid! So does our son, who works as a lifeguard for the swim team and for open swim hours at his school. He buys his own books and plane tickets. Talking about our children and their self-procured jobs, my love and I slapped our palms in the air tonight, hoping that maybe we did something right.

Not counting chickens or anything. No sireee Bob. I'm praying, is all.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

I Mean to Shine




Each of these paintings is a metaphor for me this morning. Together, in just this sequence, they tell a story of where I find myself in this moment, but I can't put it into words yet. The sense of them is just sort of floating inside me, illuminating something not fully formed as a conscious understanding. Something about the purest forms of love and lives intertwined and the imperative of reinvention, an inkling. I thought I'd share the paintings anyway. To me their titles are richly suggestive, little poems all on their own. From top:

"These Treasured Children Always Shine" by Melody Postma

"Heartwood" by Andrew Saftel

"Butterfly" by Eric Zener



Thursday, March 1, 2012

Life as Art

There was a happy post that was writing itself in my head yesterday morning as I traveled to work along the river, the day overcast, the river as I love to see it, moody and grey, blustery, full of art.

The post in my head meandered around the quite wonderful time I had had at work the day before, when I was elbow deep in editing a piece of writing I loved, from a writer I have loved for years. She offered up such riches, but because we never give anyone enough time to truly craft a piece anymore, all deadlines are ridiculously short and barely accommodate the muse, her piece was a few hundred words longer than the space allotted and still a little unwieldy, occasionally going off on tangents that led nowhere. But oh it felt like an honor to work with that piece, to try and take it where it wanted to go, and would have gone if the writer had had another week. Mainly it was about pruning and shining a bit so that the jewel might assume its full sparkle, and by the time I got home at 9 pm, I felt, not exhausted from the long day, but exhilarated! The next day the writer called to say she felt the edit had been "loving" (that was the word she used) and she had only one small change. I was reminded that when you do work you love, you feel energized, filled up by art.

The unwritten post also wandered by my daughter's quest for the perfect prom dress. Now that midyear grades have been sent and soccer season and dance concert are behind her, all focus has turned to prom. She's head of the fundraising committee for prom ("Damned initiative!" she grumbled) and she and her prom crew are gearing up in earnest. When I walked in she was browsing red carpet dresses, and moaning that she had indeed found the perfect dress, but she couldn't have it, because it was an Elie Saab number that Mila Kunes had already worn at last year's Oscars. My girl loves the dress so much, nothing else compares. Never mind that she would have wanted to chop the thing and make it a short skirt rather than a gown. The upper half of the dress had her swooning. These are happy problems, I told her, kissing her head.

So I really sat down here this  morning to write that I felt like shit. Everything hurts. Every bone and joint, even ones I didn't know were part of the action, and the kitchen is a mess after an explosion of cupcake baking last night, with the dishwasher not cleared, and dang it, I have to be at work early this morning so I'm going to just leave it for the cupcake baker to clear up when she gets home from school. But you know, writing about the happy things from the day before, tapping back into my good mood, darn if I haven't lifted myself above the poison that was in me when I woke up! Blogging is therapy. Life is full of art wherever I look. I am grateful for that today.
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