.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Continuous reinvention


After working for seven days straight my son has the day off today. One year out of college, he and his friends are starting to make moves on the job front. They've all been working their first jobs and now have a better idea of what they want and how to position themselves. There are doors opening, light spilling through. He's out buying a pair of dress pants for an interview tomorrow as we speak. Send good thoughts.

My daughter meanwhile is still in Chicago where she attended the Pride Parade on her day off yesterday. I love the way she gets out there and does things without needing anyone else in tow. I'd like to be more like her if you want to know the truth.

I've made an appointment to see a communal writers room in the city, one of those open concept spaces where there are desk stations and comfy chairs and large windows with natural light pouring in, which writers who become members can use as they choose, 24/7. If the work isn't going well at home, you can go there to write and feel a part of a community of other writers working away. My friend Martha belongs to this particular writers room. She's written three novels in that space. It calls itself an urban writers colony. If I like it, I may join the community so I can change my work environment sometimes, and see other people working, too.

When the woman called to set up an appointment for me to see the space, I was so distracted and weird on the phone, just something about the moment she caught me in, the way the conversation went. I thought, they won't want someone so strange-sounding as a member, and then I thought, wait a minute, they know strange. This is my tribe.

I feel as if I'm slowly setting up a whole new life, now that I have decided to keep working for myself. I really do get that companies are not likely to hire me at my age, or pay me for the experience I have amassed in three and half decades of working for magazines and book publishers, or contribute to my retirement. Why would they when they can get a thirty-something year old, pay her half as much, and move her on long before she retires? This is the corporate way in America in 2014: Once you turn 55, you better have a gig of your own to fall back on. If you're a woman, anyway.

I'm not sure why this is happening more often to women than to men, but it is. Fully two thirds of the mothers of the boys who were in my son's middle school class, all highly competent women my age, have been laid off from their jobs of many years. A couple of the fathers have been laid off, too, but many more mothers. It sucks to be an older worker in this economy. But I'm not bitter. My son is back home now, and he's in the kitchen cooking up a late lunch for himself. I'm editing a manuscript in front of the TV and the Germany-Algeria game is on. It feels companionable and good in here. I feel free.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Friday


I saw that picture on Twitter. Someone posted it to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a campaign launched in June 1964 to register African American voters in Mississippi, where Black folks had been sorely disenfranchised. That summer, courageous young people died fighting for our right to vote, and now the gains are being systematically dismantled.

As a young girl I had such a crush on civil rights activist Julian Bond. Too young and far away to participate, I followed the goings on of the sixties in the pages of Ebony and Life magazines, never dreaming I would one day write for them. Or rather, I did dream it, which is no doubt why it came to be. I have definitely seen that picture of Julian Bond as a young man before. I love the hope and optimism written all over him.

My lion-hearted cousin and her two daughters are in town from Maryland for the weekend, the younger one here to visit colleges. We laugh all the time when we're together. Even the serious stuff can take a turn into hilarity. I grew up so close to this cousin. We were the only two girls our age amid a cluster of boy cousins, and so we were always shipped off to our grandparents in the country together. Today, she is a cyber optics engineer. Or something. I don't truly understand what she does.

I'm glad they're here. The truth about freelancing is I love working from home on Monday through Wednesday, but by Thursday I start to feel a little isolated and uninteresting, as if I have nothing to contribute because I've been in my head so much with no input from the outside world. I'm learning what works and what doesn't in my new circumstances. I've decided that I shall have to put some organized activities in place to facilitate regular interaction with the world at large. Maybe join some kind of club. Volunteer for a cause. Sing in a choir. Run for my contentious co-op board. Resume physical therapy sessions. Schedule a regular mid-afternoon movie date with myself.

In light of the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, and the difficult issues so many people I love are currently dealing with, I do fully recognize that just being able to think like this is evidence of how crazy good my life is. This is what they call a happy problem.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Selfie couture


On her day off yesterday, she sent me this selfie from the dressing room of a thrift store in Chicago. She was vey taken with that jacket she found for only $18. She hadn't yet picked up her first paycheck, so she was torn as to whether to go for it. She finally did buy it, and proceeded to wear it to dinner that night with a new friend, a woman her age who just started working at the company where she's interning.

She says she's on her feet morning till night as happens in the food and beverage field, and she wondered if she should have stayed in New York and done the more glamorous sounding restaurant group internship she had been offered. And then she said, "Who am I kidding, the work would have been the same, and I wouldn't have had the experience of living in my own rather nice apartment and discovering a whole new city. I'm finding I really enjoy being on my own." You're not lonely?" I asked her. "Not at all," she said.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The present is prologue


My husband wanted to know who was this man whose photo I had so boldly taken. The only boldness was in enlarging him to be the central focus of the frame, which I did when I noticed his soccer-star good looks and peak physical fitness, juxtaposed with the two older gentlemen on the street outside the restaurant. One day, if he is lucky, this Adonis will be like them. The present is prologue.


I went out to brunch with two women friends on Sunday, to a place I'd never tried before. It was called Elizabeth's, which made me think fondly of you know who, and it had a sidewalk section that was designed to look like the porch of a genteel Southern farmhouse. The day was cool and breezy and my friends and I talked about our lives and did friend therapy with one another and it was lovely.


Here is the more pulled-back version of the photograph up top. I can't decide whether I like it better in black and white or color. Maybe I'll come back later and remove one of them. An informal survey: Which one do you prefer?


I've been dining out a lot lately. It is practically the main pastime in New York City, and I have to admit I enjoy sitting in sidewalk cafes in the good weather and people watching with my friends. I think the yolk of that egg looks like a perfect yellow sun.


And now, I shall get back to work ghostwriting a book proposal that is encouraging me to play with the notion of manifesting our reality through our thoughts. It takes a lot of thought energy to do such a thing, especially when we have spent decades unconsciously thinking thoughts that—the wisdom goes—got us to where we are now. I am recognizing a fundamental paradox, a misunderstanding many of us have with ourselves, that we are somehow doing life wrong or not quite adequately, that we need to be other than we are, and seek experiences other than we are having. It's all fascinating to contemplate, and I feel a kind of peace in this moment, surrendering to it and not wishing it to be any different. Tomorrow, I may lose this consciousness entirely. But for now, this is what is. 


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Can you do what the Tao asks? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?

"Knowing love, I will allow all things to come and go, to be as supple as the wind and take everything that comes with great courage. Life is right in any case. My heart is open as the sky."

From Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, a film by Mira Nair

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There is a distressing situation in the life of my extended family about which I can do nothing, or rather, if there is an action for me to take, I can't yet see it. And so I hold on to these words and trust in the wisdom of the Tao.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Amigos


After shopping for needed items and before seeing the movie The Fault in Our Stars, my niece and I had a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant called Amigos where we were served impossibly fresh and sweet pico, just-made and perfectly limed guacamole, grass-fed burgers and a frozen mango margarita for me and a plain unfrozen margarita with salt for her, both in chilled mason jars. We watched the France vs. Switzerland World Cup Soccer game as we ate and sipped and chatted, all this sinfully indulged in at mid afternoon while my son, my daughter and my husband were hard at work. In honor of our family's work ethic, my niece and I made sure to enjoy our delicious escape from responsibility. Later, at the movie theater, the one with the red leather power recliners seats, we reclined and shed a tear along with the middle-school girls and their parents taking up the full two rows in front of us, who were seeing this tearjerker about cancer kids as a birthday party outing. A handsome, young-looking man handed out bowls to all the girls before the film, then filled them with popcorn while a slender red-haired, middle aged woman handed out napkins and drinks and a pudgy middle aged man took pictures of the birthday girl and her friends. My niece and I decided they were mom, dad and stepdad, all bearing equal responsibility for that gaggle of soon-to-be-weeping tween girls. It's a good film. As my niece said, "It wasn't treacly. It had just the right amount of cynicism for me."


Friday, June 20, 2014

The Universe Is Abundant


My niece and I went to this uber cool book party in Harlem last night, and I saw so many people from my former life, colleagues I haven't seen in forever, and though I almost didn't go, I was happy I showed up because we were all genuinely happy to see one another. It helps to know that people remember you and respect your work and even think as fondly of you as you do of them. Just before I left, one woman said, "I need to have a very short business conversation with you." She pulled me aside to let me know that she and her sister have started a publishing company and their first book is a huge anthology on a well-known feminist poet and author. She told me that in her imagination I am going to line edit the book, and said they even have a Kickstarter campaign going on right now so they can pay me to do it, but she just needed to have this conversation with me now so she could move this idea from the realm of fantasy to the concrete.

This woman has been there for me in my work life: She hired me 20 years ago at the magazine I used to work for, and though she long ago moved on from it, when they eliminated my job last fall, she  immediately called me up with the name of an employment attorney who was her friend, and said if I needed her, she had already told her about me and all I needed to do was call. I did in fact call this wonderful and amazing attorney and she ended up negotiating a more fair severance package for me than the one I had initially been offered by the rich monolithic corporation. What is it Michelle at just eat it likes to say? The Universe is Abundant. Of course I told my friend yes. I don't know how much they will pay me or what their schedule is but I do know it is a huge and still unwieldy work, but I said yes. How could I not? Some things you do just because you're supposed to.

I should have taken a picture of my niece and myself, all dressed in the de rigueur black that everyone in New York publishing circles seems to wear, with our bright red lipstick and glittery accessories. We looked very cool. All my friends and associates were fascinated by my petite niece, who looks 14 but is in her second year of dental school. They all said, "Good for you that you didn't choose publishing!" because everyone has felt the pinch of that shifting industry. One woman, a much celebrated author whose name you might know, and whose work you would certainly know, put her hands on my niece's shoulders and said, "Let me look at you. My God you are beautiful!" She repeated it several times as my niece just laughed. But my God, she is!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Normalcy

My much-loved niece, the Queen of Bad Television, is on her way at this very minute, on a bus from Washington D.C. to New York to spend her dental school mini break with us. She'll be here till next Monday and I'm excited to see her. I have a little idea in my head that if my daughter is off this weekend, we might even hop a plane to Chicago and hang out, the Normal family (inside joke), together again. Or else we'll just paint the town in New York. I'm in a house of mostly men these days, my husband and son and my son's friends. It will be nice to balance the scales with a little bit of woman company for a few days.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Prom story


I love the face-paint photo of my wonderful guitar-genius nephew, who is a fairly unusual mixture—part Assiniboine Sioux and part Jamaican, a Christian folk rock Jimi Hendrix/ Bob Marley combo with the gentlest and kindest nature.


That's my nephew again, dressed to the nines for his prom last Friday. Apparently, his uncle won an Academy Award for playing his chauffeur in a rented black luxury car. His uncle addressed him as "Sir" throughout the evening, and when he got lost between the prom dinner and the prom dance, he told his backseat passengers formally, "I'm sorry, Sir and Miss, but my GPS isn't working. I'll need to call headquarters for directions." At which point he pulled over and called his sister, my nephew's mother, acting all the time as if he was talking to his dispatcher. My nephew's prom date did not have a clue that she was being chauffeured all night by her date's uncle, an army man of significant rank.

It also worked out well when, at the after party, when some kids starting swilling bottles of alcohol and bringing out other intoxicants, my nephew and his date just strolled outside to their waiting limo, where the chauffeur-uncle was taking a nap while waiting for them. The prom date's father, also a military man, this one with Pentagon connections, was apparently pleased to see his daughter, also a gifted guitarist, returned home at a fairly civilized hour and unimpaired. All in all, it worked out exactly as my cousin would have wished, and her son could not have been more pleased by his uncle's courtly performance.

My own daughter's prom night two years ago was a whole lot different. I'm going to put it down to the difference between New York City and the suburbs of Northern Virginia, the difference between my cousin and me, and most especially to the difference between an uncle-chauffeured limo and a rented party bus, which is how my daughter's crew travelled. Suffice it to say the party bus kids got home from the after party well after noon the next day. But my girl was in one piece and happy, so all's well that ends well in the prom stories of these beloved young people.






Sunday, June 15, 2014

Favorites File


This photo, taken in Antigua in 1995, is forever in my favorites file. It captures the safety and comfort  and well being my children feel in their father's presence.


My son posted this photo on Instagram today with the words, "Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me everything. Love you Pops."


This photo, taken just a month ago when we went to help pack up our girl from her sophomore year, is also now one of my favorites.


My husband posted this photo of his dad as a young, newly married man. Under it he wrote, "Happy Father's Day to the one who taught me how to be a man." My son, I now see, looks like his grandfather. 


And my own dad, walking me to the church on my wedding day, dropping last minute nuggets of advice about married life. He stayed in love with my mother until the day he died, and that was one of his great gifts to us.


*

Happy father's day to all these good men I am privileged to love.
Counting my lucky stars today.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Antithesis


My husband came home last night with a little white box beautifully tied with a shell pink ribbon, each miniature pastry inside a perfect sculpture. I didn't touch a single one, they looked so pretty all together like that. My man also made me stuffed dates wrapped with prosciutto, and poured fizzy Prosecco into the pair of champagne flutes we got as a wedding present, the ones that are his favorites that we use only when it's just us two, and we had a fine evening together, vanquishing my melancholia, which he knew had been advancing all that day.

I love that he cared.

But this morning, on waking, the weirdness again, the unmoored feeling, the free floating sadness whose source I cannot place. It's as if I'm drifting out in space all by my lonesome, despite all evidence to the contrary. I know it's my own brain that is tricking me, my own internal chemistry giving rise to these brooding thoughts, this sense of being lost on the plain.

Going to watch Fifa World Cup soccer with my man today. Going to let his passion for the game wash over me. Passion is the antithesis of inertia. Maybe.

I love him.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Girl made of light


She finished her first week of work. So far so good. She's enjoying the elder residents. Some of the elegant and feisty older women, she says, make her want to throw her arms around them and say, "You remind me of my Grandma!" I don't have many details because we've only talked on the phone once. She told me about a resident who called her over during dinner the first night to meet her table mates, one of whom was a alum of her school and started singing some anthem when she heard my girl was enrolled at her alma mater. My daughter joined in apparently and they had a rousing singing session followed by much jollity. Other times, when the older folk are just being themselves, because after enough decades on this earth we certainly learn how to do that, my daughter has a hard time keeping a straight face; she just finds their brutal honesty and lack of caring what others might think so amusing. She wants to laugh with delight at how freely they express themselves. She just texted me. Someone sent her flowers. I think she's smiling wide at this moment. I made this portrait of her the day before she left because, well, she let me.




What inspires

It's pouring rain out there and inside my house is dark with comforting pools of yellow light. It's the kind of rain that makes you glad you don't have to go anywhere or do anything but stand at the window and admire its commitment.

My daughter texted me after her shift was done last night. She said, "Work was quite long but Im feeling pretty fulfilled from it, Im enjoying myself."

My guitar-playing nephew in Virginia has his prom tonight, and my cousin (his mother) was just on the phone telling me about how expensive limousines are, and so what they've decided to do is to rent a black luxury car for $65 for the day, and have her brother dress in a black suit and be his nephew's chauffeur for the night. They won't tell anyone that the limo driver is actually his uncle, a soldier of some rank (I can never remember the actual rank) who has done two tours of Afghanistan and one of Djibouti, who is contributing his services as a graduation present. The one wrinkle is my cousin, the soldier, is a talker. He loves nothing more than a good difference of opinion. In fact, his sister long ago learned to just agree with whatever position he takes, because it frustrates him no end, and he will actually jump to the opposite argument just to get a debate going. I find him endlessly entertaining, but my nephew is worried. He keeps asking his mom, "Now you're sure he understands he's not to talk at all, right? He's not going to start asking my prom date about her opinion on the insurgency in Iraq is he?" Knowing his uncle, it's a legitimate concern. Even so, I think their plan is genius.

Speaking of cousins, the one who is an addict was at my door at 6 a.m. this morning asking for money. She has rung my doorbell at this ungodly hour three mornings this week. I made the mistake of giving her a twenty last weekend and now she thinks I am a mark. I did not answer the door. I can never get over how hard addicts work for the next high, and I can't help but wonder how everything would be different if they could put that energy and intensity into a pursuit that wasn't slowly destroying them. But it's an idle reflection because we all work hardest at what inspires us, and I suppose the high is still what is inspiring her.

The rain is easing now. I have work to do. Lucky me, it's the kind that inspires me.

I'm so taken with the colors here, the blue of the morning split by the orange-gold of the sun.



Photo: benlomy



Thursday, June 12, 2014

House Tour

It's been rainy and gray out all week, and I've had no appointments to call me out of the house, which has been heaven, until today. Today I am starting to feel restless, detecting a touch of cabin fever, swirling thoughts. My children are both away, and it's just my husband and me. The evenings have been unstructured and easy but now I need a change of pace and I doubt my love will want to do anything other than stay in. I get it. He's at work all day, and sometimes has meetings after, so when he gets home, he just wants to roll up the sidewalk behind him.

It's been a good week overall. I have work into the foreseeable future, with contracts that will take me through next February. I could always use more work, of course, assignments in and among the longer term projects, but for now, things are rolling along in a reassuring way and I am building all sorts of new muscles work wise. The key is keeping track of everything and staying on top of what's due when and what it will take to meet that. I like working this way.

But today, my chemistry is a little awry. I have a slight cold and a sense of constriction and unease in my chest, which is how my anxiety shows itself. It's been asleep in me for weeks, but now it seems to be stirring again, and I am trying to stay very conscious, to understand that it is only my thoughts that are creating this unsettled feeling, perhaps fueled by my internal chemistry, and maybe the need for blue sky. Nothing outside of me has changed very much. All that has changed are my thoughts about everything, especially my mother and how fragile she is, and how easy our phone calls used to be and how hard they are now.

I miss my kids of course, the nonstop commotion, their friends coming in and out, my son's bursts of hyperactivity and goofiness, my daughter's quick laugh and keen sense of the absurd, the life they bring to our house. The tidiness of everything is kind of nice. There is no sign of the chaos that reigns when they are in residence.

Exhibit A, my daughter's room last week.


And here is the same view of her room this week.


And this is my son's room at the moment. I would never ever take a photo of what it looks like when he is here. Picture clothes carpeting almost every surface and you get the general idea.



And the hallway. Notice the lack of shoes and bags tumbled against the bookshelves.


The living room, with no socks strewn about, no hoodies and accoutrements of the outdoors tossed on the couches and dining tables.


No boy, fast asleep in front of the television.


The kitchen counters unnaturally clear of dishes and debris.


Yep, it's neat and quiet in here. But who am I kidding. I miss the noise and the chaos. I might even miss the mess.

There's a plan forming to meet up with a friend tonight for dinner. I think we will drink wine. 


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

65 years ago


My parents said their "I do's" surrounded by family and friends. Theirs was an enduring love story, one I got to witness up close, so I know the truth of it. My dad died 18 years ago, and my mom, still missing him as nakedly as the day he stopped breathing, sits in her chair in my brother's house in Kingston, looking out at the hills, her body frail, her thoughts roaming through memories.

Above, my parents as newlyweds in 1949 in front of their first home in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Below, my new favorite photo of my parents, taken on Christmas Day 1994, the day after my daughter walked for the first time. My mother was 73 and my father 70. He was already sick with a relapse of the cancer that would take his life just 14 months later, but we didn't know it yet.

That charmed Christmas in St. Lucia, so perfect in recollection, was the last time I saw my dad walking. He was in pain, but bearing up for the rest of us. I remember as I waved to him when we were leaving—knowing finally how badly he was feeling because for the first time ever he didn't make the trip to the airport with us—I suspected we had crossed a watershed. Such gloomy thoughts. Here is a happier one: I feel like the most blessed child on this earth to have had these two as my parents.




Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Elizabeth and Sophie and Hope for a Sea Change


I look at that 18-year-old photo of Elizabeth Aquino and her daughter Sophie, taken from Elizabeth's blog, and I am undone every time. Elizabeth's eyes are so full of fierce hope, so determinedly upbeat, but look closer and you see the exhaustion in her eyes, the red-rimmed telltale signs of sleep deprivation and recent tears, and, I imagine, the dawning realization that the medical twilight zone she and husband Michael have entered in their quest to find a cure for their infant daughter's debilitating seizures, may not soon end.

Elizabeth's memoir, Hope for a Sea Change, published by the women's e-publisher Shebooks (for whom I am an editor), is now available for just $2.99 on Amazon and will be available on Shebooks.net starting tomorrow. Even though I had already read it, I downloaded it this morning and began it anew. I could not stop reading. Once again I was drawn in forcefully by Elizabeth writing, the clinical details woven with raw emotion, the horror and the hope. Reading her memoir of Sophie's first year and some of life, after her diagnosis, I am both broken and illuminated, the experience a mixture of sorrow, wonder, reverence, humility, disbelief, outrage, awe.

You might think you know our beautiful Sophie's story from Elizabeth's blog, but Hope for a Sea Changes brings home the origins of that medical odyssey in a much fuller way. Not only is Elizabeth's account of her family's story in real time powerful beyond measure, but it is instructive, too, an absolutely necessary document in the medical treatment—and in hindsight, mistreatment—of epileptic seizures of the sort Sophie suffers. This family’s harrowing search for healing, which ultimately takes them from the tradition-bound New York medical establishment to alternative therapies in Los Angeles, is parenting at its most extreme. It brings me to my knees.

I hope everyone will buy and read Elizabeth's book, which is part one of a longer work that will ultimately include Sophie and her brother's growing up years in Los Angeles, and the recent and unprecedented cessation of Sophie's seizures for weeks at a time through medical marijuana. Download Hope for a Sea Change to your Kindle, Nook, iPad, computer or smartphone by going here. We all need to be educated. We all need to help turn the tide. Thank you, Elizabeth, for writing this book, for showing us so bravely how you do it.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

This community

Denise said goodbye to the man who loves her this weekend. The moment of his leave-taking left me in complete and sacred awe. I sat at my computer, reading her words, in tears. As wrenching as it is, some deaths can also be beautiful. This one was.

An hour later, I was live streaming the epilepsy conference in San Francisco at which our own Elizabeth Aquino was presenting. I was blown away by her power and conviction, by her beauty and assurance and truth. She said someone told her later that she was like "a bomb dropped in that room." She is telling Sophie's story, telling about the relief of her seizures brought about by cannabis, advocating for research, for compassion, for moral courage. She is changing lives.

Elizabeth's book, Hope for a Sea Change, about Sophie's first year of life, will be published by Shebooks.net in three days, on Wednesday June 11. I can hardly wait. Here is Shebook's description:

"When her three-month-old daughter Sophie is diagnosed with a rare seizure disorder, Elizabeth Aquino and her husband, Michael, are thrust into a nightmarish world of impossible decisions, toxic drug cocktails, and talk of brain surgery on their tiny child. As they grapple with the harrowing progression of their child’s seizures, they grow to understand that the doctors know little more about how to heal Sophie than they do. They are in a terrifying no-man’s-land. This narrative of unintended medical trauma and the search for healing through alternative means will sear you with its stubborn hope, unexpected grace, and abiding love."

Here's the cover:



Documenting lives

Both my children are traveling right now. My son is on the road from upstate New York driving four hours to Connecticut where he will spend the week training and certifying lifeguards for summer camp, the same one that he was a camper at since age 11, then a counselor, then a unit director. He's not working at camp this summer though. He's just training and hanging out with the counselors, many of them his long time friends, before the kids arrive, and then it's back to the city and his job at the sports club. He's also going to continue coaching track and field, and still has his sights set on working as an EMT, although to his frustration, most of the jobs posted ask for a minimum of one year experience. He has a lot of freedom right now. He lives rent free with his parents, though he contributes in myriad ways to the financial, physical and emotional health of the household (even if the floor of his room is always littered with clothes), he hangs out with friends whenever he wants, and there are many of them around, he visits friends in other parts of the country, and he works as many shifts as he wants at the sports club, sometimes seven days back to back in a row. He has the sense that he's waiting for his life to start, but to me it looks as if he's creating something that allows him to mix work and play on his own schedule. He and a couple of friends might get an apartment together once he gets an EMT job, the idea being that the income will be more regular. Whatever he wants. The rules of this game have changed since I graduated college. Kids aren't automatically going on to grad school any more, not unless they are pursuing a passion, because it's too damn expensive a holding pattern otherwise. He's a good boy. He'll make a life. He is making a life.

My daughter meanwhile is in the air, traveling to Chicago where she will spend the next two months working as a dining services management trainee for an assisted living community. She hopes she will love it, that it will feel like a calling, creating high-vitality, antioxidant rich, gourmet meals for seniors and in surroundings that make them feel elegant and cared for. She decided she didn't want to work in a restaurant again this summer, that although she loves the food and beverage aspects of the hospitality industry, she might in fact not like restaurant work. With so many elders in her own family, and people all around us worried for their old folks, she thinks it might be a worthwhile occupation to contribute to one's golden years being something other than a s**t show. This particular internship pays rather well, and the organization is basically permanent stay luxury hotel or country club-style living for seniors who are well enough off to afford assisted living facilities that are rich in amenities and activities, but my daughter wonders how she might replicate the model to create something that people of lesser means could also afford. This is her thinking. It's important to be idealistic when one is young.

There was a suggestion made on my last post that my children certainly lead well-documented lives. The comment left me with the uncomfortable question of whether the person thought I might be violating my family's privacy, or else being intolerably self-indulgent in how I write about them. I wasn't completely clear on why the observation pricked me, but it stung enough so that I immediately took down the post, and found myself unable to write another one while I processed my feelings. I suppose what I've arrived at is that documenting our lives is the point of this blog to begin with, to document my life and the life of my family, to put it right here in one place as a record, to celebrate my extravagant blessings and to explore some of the harder realities too.

Which is not to say I tell everything about my life, or my husband's or my children's lives. Even though the blogosphere can sometimes feel like old friends gathered around a kitchen table, still there is so much I never broach here, because in fact I do respect my children's privacy. I never put up posts that they might feel uncomfortable with, but they're the Facebook generation so that gives me quite a bit of leeway. Still I was pitched to that edge that I suppose all bloggers must navigate: writing for oneself or writing for one's readers. In an ideal world, one hopes to do both, but considering it anew, I realize that if I must err on one side or the other, then I am most definitely writing this blog for myself first, as a way to see my life whole, to feel the great ocean of gratitude at being the mother of these two particular children, to process my own fears and anxieties, to set down the tenor of each day, to keep myself rooted. Sane.

The truth is, sometimes I don't know what I am feeling until I write it down. And sometimes I cannot hold on to what shines and heals me until I fix its light and shadow in a photograph. So I accept that this friend (a person I very much admire and care about) may ... what? ... disapprove of? ...  some of my blogging choices, but if it weren't what I needed to write for myself at that moment, then I would not be writing it. And if a photograph didn't have enough meaning for me as to make me want to collect it in this place, then I wouldn't be posting it. It gets tedious, I am sure. I remember when my own mother would talk what felt like incessantly about my brother and me to other people, glowing with pride in us, I would say to her, "Mom, please stop. These people are going to hate us." But she didn't stop. I guess I won't either. That's just how it is.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

The girl and the boy and the man

Our girl leaves in a couple of days for Chicago, where she will spend her summer doing an internship. She's had so much footloose fun with her friends these last two weeks, activities day and night. This afternoon she hung out with friends with whom she went to high school and tonight she and a whole other group of friends, the ones who call themselves Lifers, will be going to a concert in Brooklyn. I stand at the door of her room chatting with her as she expertly applies black eyeliner, so grown up and sure though I still see her little girl face so clearly. She throws a green army shirt into a bag in case it gets nippy later, and she's off. I hug her as she goes out the door and I say, "Is your phone charged?" I'm still learning to let go.


My girl still mostly ignores my camera, which I love. My son on the other hand has to be snapped surreptitiously, before he turns and gives a baleful stare and says, "Really?" But he did allow me to take a photo of him as he went out the door, on his way to New Jersey to overnight with a friend. Such indulgence! He'll be back tomorrow morning and then he'll be gone again, upstate to spend the weekend with another friend, and then to camp for the week where he has been hired to train and certify the counselors as lifeguards in anticipation of the summer session. My lovely husband (who is doing a 5K corporate challenge with his museum coworkers in Central Park tonight) and I will have the house all to ourselves next week, lately an unusual situation, but in its own way a pleasant interlude.


Can I just say how proud I am of my husband for that 5K? He just texted that he's all done and on his way home. He crossed the finish line at seven hundred and something out of 15,000 in his age range. He sounds happy and accomplished. Onward.



Monday, June 2, 2014

Love is the what


I'm wondering why lately I have allowed myself to comment at length about my spiritual beliefs, where they coincide with another's and where they don't, when in fact, I long ago promised myself never to get drawn into religious pissing matches or any kind, that nothing good could ever come of asking someone who doesn't believe as you do to acknowledge your perspective.

So I'm really stunned by my impulse to respond when my beloved Mary Moon, who knows very clearly her reasons for not believing, sets them down, as she did in her brilliant and searing post yesterday. In some crazy part of myself, it made me want to say to her, but you are one of the most Godly people I know, you are goodness and honesty and courage and radiant light, you welcome everyone onto your porch, you bless us all.

But maybe it's just semantics. Maybe Godliness is just a word some people use to label a certain way of being in the world, and Goodliness works just as well.

I do believe in God, but not the fire and brimstone God of the Old Testament, who Mary aptly calls an asshole, which made me laugh out loud. My mother is a religious woman. Her faith has been a great comfort to her, and as advancing age takes more and more from her, I am grateful she has it. But while I was growing up, she gathered us each morning to read the Bible as a family, the four of us kneeling around my parents' bed, reading the scriptures of the day. Some of those verses horrified me. How could we worship a God who would permit a man to offer his daughter to random men, who would condone genocide and other atrocities? And yet, I have always felt the presence of a loving spirit in my life, and so I decided that the Bible was merely a book written by flawed humans with an agenda, and as I got older I learned that this book had then been revised again and again by men in positions of power, who deleted and added to the stories in ways they thought would achieve their own ends.

Don't get me wrong. There are verses of great beauty and poetry in the Bible, alongside the murder and mayhem. But for me, it is still just a book, not the unfiltered word of God. For me, God is love. That is the beginning and end of it. The words God and Love are synonymous in my understanding. God, for me, is not a deity in the sky with a flowing grey beard but rather the Love we express in the world.

I could get into all manner of other beliefs I flirt with, the possibility of past lives, of parallel universes, karmic ties, conceptions of life after death, but I won't. For all I know we're all lying hooked up to virtual worlds via electrodes a la The Matrix, creating our own realities for reasons only we can know, and sometimes not even consciously. I mean, anything is possible, which is why belief is personal. We have no absolute way of knowing what is true or not anyway, and it could be that whatever we believe becomes true for as long as we believe it, because our thoughts are just so powerful as to make it so.

I am not endeavoring to convince anyone of anything. Not at all. I have always resisted it myself when someone tried to proselytize to me. I am merely trying to understand what has driven me to engage in religious discussion when I so explicitly promised myself decades ago not to do so. I think what I have arrived at is that I am sometimes overcome with loving, and in those moments I feel such a powerful sense of connection and oneness it is as if the external realities are illusions, a parlor trick rooted in our limited human understanding, and if we could see fully, we'd know that we have never been separate at all.

See what I mean? Why am I even writing this here?

Happy Monday.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

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