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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rainy day story

This week, driving back to the city in the rain, I was telling my husband that I might need to completely change my line of work, maybe even go back to school. That's how low I was feeling about what was ahead of me, the hoops to navigate to secure continuing work. I just didn't have the heart for it, and while I love the work itself, the writing and the editing, the helping someone else achieve a heartfelt dream, I just don't have the right constitution for the sales conversations. The story I have been telling myself is this: Most people don't really understand what I do; they think it's little more than placing commas. They have no idea how long it takes or how all consuming it can be. When I tell them the fee, I imagine they think I'm tripping. My super successful ghostwriter friend says I just need to get comfortable sitting with the gulp of silence that follows as they digest what's real. This is my livelihood, after all. She says I have to trust that people who know the value of my work will find me. But the thought of having this money conversation again and again just leaves me depleted. I know it's a necessary aspect of a freelancer's life, but I dreamed of escape. Then I arrived home and checked my email and a wonderful writer who has numerous YA books and a raft of awards and even a TV series made of one of her books, was asking me to edit her new book, and another writer wanted to hire me to edit a proposal she has to craft; "I need your eye," she said. I have another coaching project in the wings, and another prospect as well, so I thought, well maybe I'm supposed to stay where I am for a while longer, see how things go. I'm not on the other side yet, however. I'm still in my head, making up stories that stick pins in me, which might explain the slow leak, the brooding insecurity, which is not, but feels like despair. I need to tell myself a new story, one that corrals my free floating anxiety about the future and settles me peacefully in the present moment. Because, as I noted to my husband, in this moment we are actually okay.



Thursday, October 29, 2015

Green eggs and Ham

Dr. Suess was the theme of our girl's takeover of the dining establishment run entirely by students, all in their senior year, in the Restaurant Management class. One half of the class (each section has about 20 students) does back of house, cooking the entire menu, while the other half does front of house, serving and interacting with patrons, and midway through the semester they switch off, so that every student gets both front and back of house experience. And every student also gets to run the whole show for one night, pairing with another student to cover front and back of house, and to come up with special menu items on a theme. Our daughter and her partner, friends since year one, were flawless. "We've been planning this night for three years," they assured us. Their families got the best seats in the house, a window with a view and the fireplace right next to us, and from there we watched with awe as our daughters ran the show.


I could go on and on, but I think I'll just put up a photo album from the night, and let that tell the story. I'll just say that the young restauranteurs were radiant and their pop up was a smashing success, hitting the prescribed maximum of 60 covers, with no mishaps but for a vegan order that had to be redone because one of the chefs sprinkled bacon bits, and there was also a small panic as they tried to figure out whether the pasta had been made with eggs (it hadn't). None of this was visible from where we sat, practically levitating with happiness as our girl in her chef whites and cat-in-the-hat inspired chef's hat, brought out our order herself, and hugged us laughing. Her fellow students who were the wait staff made sure we got the best service; the class is clearly a collegial crew and parents are the most special of patrons on management nights. I cannot even describe the wonder of seeing our child so capable in the world, and not even nervous. She was having fun! It was extra special for my husband because yesterday was his birthday. He said dining at his daughter's "place" was one of the best birthday memories ever.


While our girl managed kitchen operations, the front of house was run by Lauren, our daughter's suite mate from freshman year. They started planning this night back then.


Truly, I thought I would burst, I was so proud. And our girl didn't seem in the least bit overmatched or self-conscious. She has gifts, that one.


One of the specials of the night was this delicious pesto pizza with mozzarella and mushrooms, prosciutto and a cracked egg. It had a little heap of arugula on top of it too, but I gave that to my husband.


Our girl's bf brought her flowers in a green theme with a burst of yellow to represent the egg idea. He definitely racked up some brownie points. His lovely mother and sister and aunt drove three hours to be there to support our girl on what they called her "culinary debut."


Her housemates, Gillian and Rae, were also there. Gillian is the vegan whose order caused a minor flurry in the kitchen. She's charming and funny and was good natured about the wait.


Sam and Henri dined with us. So many of our daughter's friends, including the crew she did the writing program with in Rome last summer, showed up to support her restaurant management night. They knew what a big deal this was.


The tomato soup with basil and cheddar toast was delicious I heard. So were the truffle fries with truffle oil, parmesan, parsley and a garlic aioli. (Our girl texted us from the kitchen to tell us to be sure to order the truffle fries.)


Every dish we ordered, she brought to our table herself. We felt so special and were unabashedly star struck.


I ordered the specials created by our daughters of course, but if I hadn't, I'd have ordered this seafood gumbo, which I have it on good authority, was divine.


Every so often I looked up and glimpsed our little girl, all dressed up in a chef uniform and pretending to be grown.


I had the mascarpone cheesecake for dessert. The student managers weren't allowed to create a themed dessert special, as it would leave the other dessert offerings undersubscribed. This was a new policy this year, and it was the only bummer for our girl, who has been devising dessert specials for years.


The restaurant management team was very happy with how the evening went. And when it was all done they gave us a tour of the kitchen, which happened to be the same kitchen my daughter walked into while touring the school as a high school senior, deciding on the spot that this was where she wanted to attend college. How life turns. How beautiful it can be.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Restaurant pop up

We are up north, the man and I, attending the dining event that is our daughter's restaurant takeover, a night when she and a partner take over the running of an established eatery, directing the staff (all students) and adding menu items on a theme. It's part of their course requirements, a class called restaurant operations, and their theme tonight? Green eggs and ham. Stay tuned for the menu items inspired by that! I'll report in later.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cousins

One of my cousins just joined the Facebook revolution and she was busy putting up photos this week. I copped this one of my children and their cousins, taken in Jamaica at my brother's house in March. They had all just lost their grandmother (my mom) but by God they had each other. I just love the picture.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Life unspooling

Yesterday was my daddy's birthday. He would have been 92. If there is a heaven, and we do in fact reunite with loved ones there after we leave this earth, then he and my mom were celebrating it together for the first time since he died 19 years ago. It was weird not to have my mom to call to acknowledge my dad's birthday. I could have called my brother, but it didn't occur to me. I imagined him out in the world, doing his life. I tried to do the same. Then I saw he'd written a sentimental post of Facebook, about missing our parents and how he and his sister were now orphans, and that's when I knew he was feeling it too.

Some people called to check up on me, cousins, aunts, to make sure I was doing okay and to tell me again how much they had always loved my parents. On the surface of it, I was doing okay. I even finished the first draft of my book yesterday. Daddy, with his impeccable work ethic, would have approved. Then I went out for cappuccinos with a woman I hadn't seen in 26 years. We worked at Life magazine together back in the day, then she moved to Manila, Cambodia, Australia, finally settling in Bangkok where she raised her son as a single mother and went unapologetically gray, then white-haired. She looks like a Renaissance painting, stunning really. We immediately fell into sharing our lives, as if no time at all had passed, and as if, to tell the truth, we had been closer back then than I'd realized.

There were so many lovely nuances to our reunion, but I don't have the energy to delve. I'll only say that seeing her helped bring me back to myself, helped me conjure who I was, who I can be. I need that right now—to know that I mattered. I feel sort of blah recently, everything blunted, removed. I get this weariness of myself sometimes, and I begin to plot geographic escapes, like holing up in a beautiful room in Paris and writing myself out of the sadness. Maybe I'll book an Airbnb and go edit my book on the Seine.

(As my friend, who edits UN documents, said yesterday, "The work we do, we can do anywhere. We're free.")



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Then and now

I posted a photo of myself on Instagram, a black and white version of an airbrushed photo that appeared on the inside back cover flap of an anthology I edited back in the day. My husband took the picture. When I posted it yesterday, lots of people liked the photo at once, told me I looked pretty. I felt like a fraud. Vain and wishful and foolish. "That was then," I wrote in comments. I wanted to add, I sure don't look like that now. But here's what's weird: I didn't really look like that then.

So I have a question: Do you ever go through periods in your blogging life when you just don't know what to write about anymore? Everything that occurs to me seems silly and uninspired and I've said it all a million times before. Lately, my life just feels small. And I just can't seem to muster much interest in myself. This worries me because if I don't write here, how will I connect regularly with all you whom I have grown to love? I'm just going to trust this is a passing phase. And that not everything I am feeling in this moment is necessarily true.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Meditation station


You'd be surprised how meditative losing yourself in a complicated jigsaw puzzle can be. There are all sorts of good reminders in the process, for example, even when you can't see the whole, you can just keep finding the next piece of the puzzle, and eventually you'll get to the end. Plus, it empties your mind of your worries, and when you get up from the puzzle, you tend to find that all sorts of connections have been happening in the background, solving your questions while you looked away. Of course, if you have a lot of work to do, better not to have a puzzle going, or maybe that only applies if you're a little OCD, as I am. I tend to want to keep going till I'm done.

I think I've given my niece and my daughter the puzzle bug. We have had such sweet companionable afternoons sitting there puzzling along together, our attention absolute. So much so that my daughter texted me this a little while ago: "Craving a puzzle."


The last farm festival in the old place

What a whirlwind of a week it's been! I learned something valuable, that I have enough of a track record in this business that people will take my calls. And meet. And work with me. Why didn't I know this? It was a good week and I'm thankful for everything it held.

I feel calmer now. It's Saturday. The only showing up I plan to do today is among dear friends at the last farm festival of its kind put on by Manhattan Country School, the Pre K-8 school my daughter attended. It's not actually the last farm festival, just the last one on East 96th Street, as the school is moving to a larger location on the Upper West Side next year and the first grade parents, who are responsible for the whole gargantuan event, will have to reinvent this decades old tradition.

A lot of the kids now in college who went to the school are coming home to attend, along with many of their parents. Parents of kids who can't make it home (like my girl) are also attending, and I imagine congenial groupings of these alum parents will just sit and chat at tables in the street, which is closed off to cars for the event. We'll listen to band music and watch the kids jumping in the bouncy house and going back and forth on the hay ride and getting their faces painted and their hair powdered in rainbow colors, and we'll remember when it was our year to stage the event, and how bone-weary we were at the end of it, but how elated too because our silent auction had broken the fundraising record set the previous year. After the festivities, we might get a meal together at the Greek diner on the corner for old times sake, and then I will cart home a bag of farm produce and homemade pesto and pickle relish and marmalade, and maybe also one of Elin's apple pies, with the flakiest most buttery crust you've ever tasted.

My daughter told me she is sorry the school will be moving from the East Side townhouse where it has been located since 1966, with its shabby chic elegant living room and grand curving staircase and odd shaped classrooms with massive windows and the fire escape on which the girls sat to work out their differences in fifth grade and the loft that Jasmine fell out of in fourth grade, a scary moment that became, my daughter said, the funniest moment of their lives when Jasmine started laughing. She said she wanted to send her future children to school in that building, and now it won't be the same. "But they'll still have the farm," she said, cheering up. And so they will.

Up top is a farm festival photo of lifelong friends; my girl is on the left. Below, one of my favorite pics of The Six, on farm trip in seventh grade. These days are worthy of nostalgia, I'd say, except their gifts are with us still.







Thursday, October 15, 2015

Connection/ Disconnection

Some things are happening over here but I don't want to jinx anything. Life has been moving quickly this week, with new connections and old reconnections across the board, and I'm convinced all of this is unfolding because I opened myself up to it, I came out of hiding, hard as that is for me. The possibilities look promising, and I am trying to have faith that what is to be, already is.

In the midst of my high anxiety at showing up all over the place, I haven't been posting or commenting as much. I've been faithfully reading your blogs on my phone when I fall into bed at night, but trying to comment from the small screen is tedious and iffy. If you have a Wordpress blog, after I've painstakingly tapped out the comment, it just disappears. This didn't used to happen, so I'm not sure what changed. In any case, I'm keeping up. I'll be back to posting more regularly soon, but in the meantime, here's something I ran across while swiping screens on my phone in bed last night, my husband next to me reading on his Kindle.

Photographer Eric Pickersgill, who teaches in the Fine Arts program at UNC Chapel Hill, wanted to show how disconnected people have become in everyday life, so he removed all electronic devices from this series of photos. The project, which he titled "Removed," was inspired after he saw a family sitting next to him in a cafe. Here's how he describes the scene on his website:

Family sitting next to me at Illium cafĂ© in Troy, NY is so disconnected from one another. Not much talking. Father and two daughters have their own phones out. Mom doesn’t have one or chooses to leave it put away. She stares out the window, sad and alone in the company of her closest family. Dad looks up every so often to announce some obscure piece of info he found online. Twice he goes on about a large fish that was caught. No one replies. I am saddened by the use of technology for interaction. This has never happened before and I doubt we have scratched the surface of the social impact of this new experience. Mom has her phone out now.

The image of that family, the mother's face, the teenage girls' and their father's posture and focus on the palm of their own hands has been burned in my mind. It was one of those moments where you see something so amazingly common that it startles you into consciousness of what's actually happening and it is impossible to forget. I see this family at the grocery store, in classrooms, on the side of the highway and in my own bed as I fall asleep next to my wife. We rest back to back on our sides coddling our small, cold, illuminated devices every night.






See the rest of the project here.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Note to self



“Avoid providing material for the drama that is always stretched tight between parents and children; it uses up much of the children’s strength and wastes the love of the elders, which acts and warms even if it doesn’t comprehend. Don’t ask for advice from them and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is strength and blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.” 

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


Sunday, October 11, 2015

My sweet girl is home


That was the general mood last evening.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Cool as. Not


I'm in a swirl of overthinking and trying to figure out potential projects, and wondering do I want to take on this one project just because it's a sure and fairly well-paid thing or am I safe enough to pass on it because it is unsettling, even disturbing to my spirit, and not in the good way.

The good sort of unsettled feeling is when a project excites and frightens me because I want so much to do it and do it well but I don't see the path there yet, I'm just putting one foot in front of the other, taking the next right action and trying not to hold my breath. The other kind of unsettled feeling is when I think I should take on a project and it's mine if I want it, but my spirit is fighting it, kicking and screaming really—I don't want to do it, but can't articulate exactly why. Or I can, but I don't because I'm too busy judging my reasons, I'm mired in shoulds.

It could be I just need more information, I don't do well with uncertainties, with unresolved stretches or great unknowns. It kicks up such anxiety in me, such flat out fear. But fear of what exactly? I need to remind myself, I am safe. All is well. Repeat after me, Rosemarie.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Alchemy


I attended two conferences in the past week, and didn't blog at all during that time. It's unsettling how quickly I can fall out of the habit of blogging regularly. I'm starting to put some pieces in place for a new venture I am imagining, but it's a fragile bud of an idea right now, so I'm not ready to share. I'm excited when I think about the possibilities, but I'm also daunted, wondering whether I can actually make this happen, whether people would actually pay for this thing I want to offer, in the form I want to offer it. When I think about it sometimes, I get so overwhelmed I just want to climb under the covers and go back to sleep. I heard somebody say once that excitement feels just like fear in the body, so maybe this is excitement more than fear. The trick is, no matter what name it goes by, I have to weather this jittery feeling, not let it turn me aside, because I think I'm on to something here. I just have to jump, have faith in my idea and my ability to do this thing I dream. Sorry to be so oblique. I missed you all.

Photo: "Sundays in Jamaica" by Adrian McDonald


Monday, October 5, 2015

Birthday Boy

My son turned 24 yesterday. Twenty-four! We regaled his girlfriend with his birth story, and she sweetly indulged us as we all reveled in the way his intense curiosity about everything was evident even during birth. We had some laughs. His friends came over for most of the afternoon, and my husband made his favorite meal, ropa vieja, and then we sang and had cake, but we didn't do the now-traditional birthday tequila shots as he was kind of exhausted by the end of the day.

My boy is healing well from his ACL surgery. The doctor told him to put the crutches away a week ago, and to take off the leg brace two days after that and start walking as normally as he could manage. He also started physical therapy last week. The doctor said he was three weeks ahead of where most people are in healing from this particular knee surgery, which didn't surprise me one bit; my son is very fit and very determined. Plus with his EMT training he's been icing the knee and attending to it like a pro. He sometimes does too much though, and then his body reminds him that he's still healing. He gets more easily exhausted and sometimes even feels sick. He's also lost 8 pounds from not working out. I have a child who loses weight if he doesn't work out in a gym. The fates have a sense of humor.

Happy birthday, beloved boy!


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