.

.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Freestyling

It's been an eventful couple of weeks. So much water has flowed under the bridge and I've been busy freestyling in the rapids, swallowing lots of river foam but mostly staying afloat. I mean that both in terms of my emotional life and my work life, which is a bit in high gear. I had meetings with editors and their teams this week. I was in a supportive role. The star of the show was the woman whose book I've been contracted to write, and she was charismatic and passionate. I think she sold it, except she wasn't actually selling; she was being fully authentic, and it came through. The other good news is, the proposal we wrote garnered some strong interest, and the agent believes we might get a book deal. We'll know for sure next week, when the bids are supposed to come in. It was fascinating the degree to which every room we were in had a different tone and temperature. Every editorial team focused on different aspects of the story, so it's hard to know who will be motivated to close the deal.

In any case, if the magic works, I will be working on writing this book for most of the rest of the year. The woman who is my subject is very emotionally open, and we have built trust during the process of crafting the proposal, so I'm going to have faith that all will be well. And the fact that I'm nervous right now about whether I can actually pull this off, well, that's just part of it. I like to imagine that in some parallel universe this book has already been written, and I just need to lean into it, channel it, listen to my subject, hear her heart, and do my best. It's exciting stuff—we're splashing in the big river now. I hope I'm not jinxing anything by prematurely reporting this here. Please send good thoughts.

In other news, my daughter is all moved in to her new apartment, all painting and plastering work completed. She and her boyfriend, my son and his girlfriend, and I spent last Saturday at Ikea, giving our opinions on items to outfit her space. She bought a rug, curtains, bathroom stuff, kitchen stuff, and it was all so much fun hanging with that crew. Then on Sunday, which was Easter, we gathered again. They all came over to our house, along with my friend Leslie, for my husband's smoked brisket and my corn-and-cheese casserole, followed by a pitcher of margaritas made from scratch by my husband and daughter. We watched a movie together, and hung out just chilling and talking late into the night, and then my children and their significant others went home, and I got to experience how sweet it can be to have them in my house, and then hug them goodnight and settle into a peaceful night with my husband. It helps that they're both connected to lovely people, who I got to know well and become very fond of while my kids were still living at home. All in all, a very emotionally grounding Easter for this new empty nester.

My sweet friend Leslie brought me those flowers, which are called ranunculus. All week I've been reveling in their delicate shade of pink, and their layers like saucy crinolines.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Where I'm From





“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.” 

—Beryl Markham in West With the Night


I'm thinking about the fact that I am from a beautiful place with turquoise seas, and now I live in a concrete city, and call it home. For the first time in the decades since I left my birth country at age 18, to attend college in New York City, I have begun to wonder what my life might have been like had I never left that sparkling blue place, or if I had returned. It is too late now. This is the place where I made a life with the man I love. Our children were born in our adopted land and this is where their yesteryears are buried deep. To "go home" now would be to leave them behind, and I have no desire to do that. Perhaps, in the end, home is not a place at all, but rather, it is the people you love best, and with whom you choose to share your days. Still, look at that clear blue water. It helps to remember that no matter how far away from it I travel, by birth, I can still call it mine.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pinterest Dreams

I'm so not zen.

I want to be so much more zen than I am. Take my daughter's apartment, for example. The bathroom walls need to be scraped, plastered, primed, painted, a big job ensuing from the damage that occurred when the people upstairs were renovating their apartment, and doing a messy job of it. When they removed the bathtub, water poured down the walls and caused the paint to crack and peel in an unsightly way. The management company says they will fix it, but I've been trying to arrange this for three weeks now, and the stops and starts, promises not kept, contractors who don't show, are making me want to scream. Today, finally, the job is supposed to be done, yet I waited in the apartment after my daughter left for work, and at two hours past the appointed time, no workers had yet shown themselves.

This is not life and death. I recognize this. So why does it unsettle me so to have these tasks outstanding, and to have no control over how and when they will ultimately get done? Why can't I just breathe and know that if today passes and the job is still not done, we will simply have to reschedule. What's so crazy-making, so jarring to my soul, about that? I mean, some people have real problems.

I think, deep down, I am trying to unlearn the muscle memory of being responsible for that space, of being charged with making it a home that my elderly mother could settle into, and find comfort, visual harmony, peace. My mother is no longer even on this earth, and yet I am still so emotional about that space. Perhaps because I oversaw the original renovation of the apartment, transforming it from a dark, dingy hole into an airy, clean, light-filled studio; and perhaps because I labored to keep it pristine for my mother, every corner swept, every surface dusted, every handprint on the wall wiped clean; perhaps because I know every inch of that space, I have to force myself to let go of the imperative to care for it that was once so ingrained, because now that space will be inhabited by my daughter.

She is young and strong and creative. She will make the space hers. She will sell or put out any pieces of furniture or items of living that she does not want, regardless of my opinions about how useful to her they might yet be. My mother's beloved oriental rug, which she had to be encouraged to splurge on, because she loved it so—that's going out. It looks old to my children's eye, and I get that. The Queen Anne style coffee table with its dark polished wood and curved legs, that's going out too. Again, it's grandma's style—old. In it's place is a crisp, rectangular, iron and wood coffee table, which looks great, and yes, young. And that is just the beginning. The couch, the armchair, still perfectly good pieces, they'll need to find new homes, because images of a Pinterest gray couch dance in my daughter's imagination.

I'm writing this here to root out the lingering attachment and yes, ownership, I feel toward that sweet studio among the trees. My mother loved it, and I loved that I was able to create it for her. But now she is gone, and we who are still here are in a new phase of life, and we must—I must—embrace it and move forward.

I thought for a moment that I would rescue the items my daughter chooses not to keep and bring them into my own apartment, but as my girl said, "Mom, you can't absorb a whole apartment worth of stuff into your already fully furnished home." She was right. I began to understand how it is that old people's houses get so crowded with stuff. People they love die and they try to salvage the once-cherished pieces, now orphaned. I totally get it now, but I'm not going to do that. Instead, once my girl is fully ensconced in her new place, and our little nest is truly empty, I'm plotting with my husband to give our apartment a makeover, a room-by-room refresh, so that our space can feel light and Pinterest airy too.


Photo from Decorist


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Letting go

After all my contractor angst, my daughter has decided to paint the apartment herself and has taken the day off from work to do so.

"But I wanted to turn the apartment over to you as a pristine jewel of a place," I told her.

"You will be giving me an even greater gift if you allow me to learn how to do it myself and enjoy the process of making it mine."

How could I argue with that? She manages me, that one.

The painters and I met for breakfast at the diner across the street from the home improvement store, then went and bought the paint and brushes and spackle and scrapers and paint pans.

"Oohhhh, this is just like icing a cake," my daughter said later as she smoothed spackle over picture hook holes in the wall.





Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Life from both sides

Today is just one of those days when I feel miserable and out of sorts in my body. Nothing feels effortless, everything feels like an arduous uphill climb. Even so, I will have to show up for not one, but three different meetings. One is a lunch appointment with a sociology professor my agent wants me to meet. She has an idea for a book that my agent thinks is promising but she needs help organizing and structuring it. My agent is interested in her ideas and wants me to help her whip them into shape. But my brain feels dull, my emotions are blah, and I'm just not in the mood to be insightful and smart about anyone's project right now. I will do my best, of course. I will show up.

The other two meetings are with contractors. My mother's apartment is being transferred to her grandchildren and I want to get it spruced up and ready for occupancy. This home repair imperative feels so overwhelming, not to mention expensive. I am seeking a contractor who will assess the job and say, Okay, I understand exactly what needs to happen here, I will provide all the necessary materials, and I will come in and complete the job in a day or two. This week. For a price that won't make you gag. I already had one contractor meeting this morning. That is definitely not what happened.

I'm heading out to my lunch meeting how. I hope it will be an encounter that leaves me feeling energized and thrilled to be in association with someone who has a passion for something. Because at the moment, I am sorely lacking in passion. I am as gray as this day.

*

As it turns out, the woman I had lunch with today was fabulous and woke, and she has hired me to help her write her book proposal. So yes, the best happened, her passion flowed right into me, and I drank it up like a thirsty soul. And now I have another project, one that I can already see will have much to teach me, and life can be so darned good and right, even when you're struggling to put one foot ahead of the other. I keep forgetting that the trick is to not give in to the lie—to hold out for the possibility of better. The day has definitely improved. Our teachers are everywhere around us, and I believe I just had lunch with one of mine.

As for the contractors, the second one was quiet and meticulous and clearly knew what he was about. I was on the verge of hiring him, but then my cousin called me to say that, didn't I remember, one of our other cousins is a contractor, this is what he does for a living, and why didn't I call him and see if he might know someone who might give me a better price, or even do the job himself. And so now my cousin the contractor is going to paint the apartment and do all the plaster repair that's needed, and when I emphasized I'd pay him what the job is worth, he said, "You, my dear, get the family discount." Little by little we chip away at these problems that can seem like such mountains until we look, and look again.

Today has been educational in so many ways. Mostly, I need to stop hyperventilating and look for the solutions that are already there and waiting to be discovered. Or something like that.





Saturday, April 1, 2017

Supreme


She accepted a 10-day gig watching over a rascally little French bulldog, who must think she's in heaven, so much attention and play does she get from my girl, and her boyfriend too. Maybe it's the two of them that are in heaven with this dog. You'd think she was their child. The dog sitting is actually happening at her boyfriend's house, where there are three roommates to take turns with the walking, feeding, playing and other dog related tasks, but they brought little Supreme (that's her name) over to visit the other night, and she was so excited she promptly peed in our house. My husband cocked one eyebrow and said under his breath, "Let's see how long this takes to go from being a novelty to being a job." With those three, the novelty doesn't seem to be in any danger of wearing off, however. In the midst of this, my girl will be officially moving out this week, so things are really changing around here. At this moment, my husband is alone in the living room laughing heartily at something on the TV. I love to hear him laughing like that, with no audience but himself.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sock Puppets


Is anyone watching Homeland this season? I think they made a smart choice in pivoting from stereotypes of Middle Eastern terrorists to a more nuanced exploration of global intelligence networks. I suppose, given the times, no one will be particularly surprised that in the current storyline, American agents are deeply complicit in the espionage, and may even be behind the terrorist act at the center of the season—and that's not really giving anything away.  Carrie (Clare Danes) has left the CIA, now works for a legal nonprofit, and is raising her daughter in Brooklyn, and Peter Quinn (played by the fantastic Rupert Friend) is back in action, though badly injured in brain and body during the finale of last season. I think his performance this season is Emmy worthy.

But this is not a review. What I really want to talk about is the ninth episode titled "Sock Puppets," in which one of Carrie's associates discovered a huge clandestine operation of hundreds of tech professionals, each one creating and deploying scores of fake online identities, known as sock puppets, which then flood social media feeds with misinformation and propaganda talking points given out each day. In this way they create a loud false narrative about how the American public feels about issues in the news, and hijack the national conversation with ginned up outrage.

I watched the episode with my mouth hanging open, finally understanding all the obviously fraudulent twitter accounts of black women praising Donald Trump. Black women is a demographic I know well, and I could always tell which accounts were inauthentic, yet they had whole histories behind them, years of tweets, and now I understand how they are created, and how so much of the noise out there is manufactured trolling, well paid tech people spinning alt-right fictions in secret to push an ugly political agenda.

Trump and company are known for using sock puppets, but I didn't really grasp how that worked until I saw that episode. Yes, the Homeland series is itself fiction, but that episode was based on something real, and was intended, I believe, to offer us a glimpse inside how all this fake messaging works. All that to say, we are living in murky times. Look for the gold.





Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Happy birthday to the girl who is our heart

Happy birthday to our beautiful and beloved daughter, who came to us 23 years ago today, and made our lives brighter, sweeter, richer, and filled with laughs! We love you so much, my darling girl. Blessings on your head, always.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Catching up


I have been sick. In bed sick. Can't lift my head from the pillow sick. This has not happened to me in years.

I am on the mend, as you can see by the fact that I'm writing here. I can hold my head up again without feeling as if I'm going to pass out.

The wedding was lovely, a long, long day (I was already getting sick I think), but festive and full of joy. It was strange to be among so many people I was meeting for the first time and have them all saying, "We love your son!" The groom was the brother of our son's girlfriend, who was one of the nine bridesmaids. Her family is clearly as fond of our son as we are of her. He also seems well plugged in to her circle of friends. He always was very social, that boy of ours.

I was going to give you details, like the bride and groom's adorable ten month old son rolling down the aisle in a silver painted toy car bedecked with tulle and bows, and the beautiful rainbow of humans who made up the bridal party, and the rousing DJ at the reception, who had guests of all ages out on the floor doing the electric slide. Even me, with my wonky hip and my feverish brain. It was all big fun, but I am suddenly too tired to be descriptive. I did note that our son seemed so happy to have us there. He seemed proud and pleased to show off his family, and even to dance the electric slide with his mama, which touched my heart.

Another thing that touched my heart: On Sunday, after I had been in bed and eating nothing most of Saturday, my husband awoke and said, "I'm going to nourish you today. They say we're in this together in sickness and in health, so I guess this is the sickness." And he did feed me, an omelet for breakfast, ackee and saltfish (my absolute favorite) for lunch, and poached salmon in rosemary for dinner. I felt a lot better by the end of the day, and this morning, I even did some work. But I still knew I was going to miss choir tonight. I think I might climb back into bed now.







Friday, March 24, 2017

Going to the chapel and I'm...


Well, no, not me.

My son's girlfriend's brother is getting married, and we've all been invited, so we're getting all dressed up and going to a wedding an hour away in New Jersey this afternoon. It's always a privilege to witness as two young people take their vows and commit their lives to one another. Maybe I'll get a family photo of the four of us looking presentable. There are precious few of those.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kind eyes

For Mary and Barbara, who wanted to see a picture of the dog with kind eyes, here he is, along with another snap of my girl on a donut raft. I just love the picture.




Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hair and other stories

She's over Canada right now, according to Flight Stat. She's been traveling since yesterday, and will certainly be exhausted when we pick her up from the airport tonight, while I will be elated to have her home. She seems to have had a fantastic time during her ten days in Shanghai, Bangkok and Krabi. I hope her jet lag won't last too long because in ten days she'll be packing up and moving into her own place. My babies are all grown up! After all the trial runs of college and summer camps and trips abroad, the nest will soon truly be empty. I'll let you know how that goes.

It's later now.

She walked out of customs wearing loose batik pants bought for $5 on a beach in Krabi, and a smile like the sun, even though it was already midnight. Her boyfriend rode with us to the airport to surprise her, except she knew he'd be there, and didn't believe him when he texted her while she was inside waiting for her bag, and said he couldn't make it. They burst out laughing and hugged and rocked when they saw each other. They're sweet together.

Her Senegalese twists held up well; in fact she said she might never again travel without them, they were so easy to manage. Her hairstyle was the source of great curiosity in both China and Thailand, with people asking to take pictures with her, and some women actually touching her braids while chattering at her in the language she couldn't understand. She assumed they were asking permission. My daughter didn't get offended. She found the whole thing amusing, even when, on a bus from the plane to the terminal in Shanghai, a group of older women surrounded her, asking her questions and examining her twists. One woman even began to unravel the stands of one braid until my girl smiled and removed the braid from her hands and said simply, "No."

In Thailand she and Gabby did everything, including taking a boat out to the eight islands, spires of rock rising out of the blue green water, which  always look so majestic and serene in photographs, but when you actually go there, our girl said, "It's Disneyland." Lots and lots of tourists. But everyone very considerately steps out of the way of other people's photographs, so the pictures shown back home perpetuate the impression of isolated serenity. Then there was the dog she made friends with on the morning she and Gabs woke before dawn to go down to the beach and watch the sunrise. The dog seemed to be waiting for them, and followed them down to the shore. His eyes were "kind and magical" my daughter said as she scrolled to a photo of the dog and herself with noses almost touching, gazing into each other's eyes. She promised me she didn't kiss the strange dog, though they definitely bonded. There were many more stories before she turned in at past 2 am. She has work in the morning.



Friday, March 17, 2017

Derek Walcott, who knows me by heart


I just heard that Derek Walcott has died. When anyone asked me to name my favorite poet, his was the only name that came to mind. He was a Caribbean person, like me, a St. Lucian who became a Nobel Laureate, while living just down the road from the house where my mother spent her final years. He wasn't by any means a perfect human, but he inspired me. I saw the world I knew in his lines of verse, but it was the way he strung words together that mesmerized me. In 1962, he wrote:

I seek,
As climate seeks its style, to write
Verse crisp as sand, clear as sunlight,
Cold as the curled wave, ordinary
As a tumbler of island water

Because of him, I knew I could aspire to be a writer, despite being from a small place. I wrote my senior thesis in college about how his Caribbean identity informed his art, which over the course of his 87 years included not just his often operatic poems but also plays, essays, stories and watercolors. And throughout my life, whenever I have felt stuck on a piece of writing, it is his books I pull down from my shelf, as fuel, as instruction, as reason. Now, he has gone to wherever it is we go next, and he has left us holding such treasure. Here is one of his best known poems. It is also one of my favorites. I've posted it here before.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving 
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott


What universe?


I wake up each morning and wonder: Is this real life? Because the unthinkable is playing out before our eyes. We have a bigoted, narcissistic toddler running the country, one with not the slightest whiff of empathy, and he is the puppet of a white supremacist alcoholic anarchist who has stated to all who will listen his intention to destroy the structures of government and restore privilege and power to "true" Americans, by which he means white people. What he fails to clarify is that he really means white people with pots and pots of money, whose privilege and power are very much intact. The rest of Trump's supporters are supposed to content themselves with the notion that they are still higher on the white nationalist totem pole than their black and brown neighbors who might be struggling right alongside them. For some Trump voters, it will be enough. But others just might wake up and see that they, too, are among the disposable citizens. Maybe they'll help the rest of us hold the line, before our frailest elders are no longer able to count on daily nourishment from Meals on Wheels. Someone I know and love said that when she worked for Meals on Wheels, some of the people she brought food to each day actually cried when she walked in the door. For so many of them, she was their only human contact that day. And school lunches are also slated to be cut in the Trump/Bannon budget, because the children who need it, aren't doing better in school because of it. Honest to God: That is the reasoning. I don't know who measured their performance before and after, I haven't seen any studies or facts and figures, but is that really how we measure the need for the school lunch program? Let Johnny and Jane go hungry dammit because they aren't going to grow up to be rocket scientists anyway (although if the HUD secretary is any indication, they just might manage to become neurosurgeons).



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Reflection



She is the picture of joy, laughing on a beach in Thailand. She inspires me.

*

This morning I tweeted these words: 

The moment when you realize there are some people from your past you may never see again in life. And it's ok.

Without going into reasons, I felt the need to write those words down, to acknowledge their truth, and to move the melancholy that came with them outside of myself. 

Later in the morning, I logged back into my Twitter feed to delete those words, as they had served their purpose. I was stunned to see how many times this single tweet had been liked and retweeted. What? I'd thought it was an oblique sentiment, meaningful only to me, but I was wrong. I didn't delete the tweet after all as it seemed to have some resonance. It is a sad thing to come to terms with the fact that some relationships are unlikely ever to be what they once were. Too much has come between you. It is an odd comfort to know that the realization, and the regretful resignation it brings, are simply a part of life, experienced in some form by many.

The sweetest thing, though, was this note in my inbox from someone I haven't seen in a decade, a woman who now lives in L.A., who was only six years old and wearing a frilly yellow dress when I first met her: "This reminds me to remind you that I love and miss you very much," she wrote. And there was more, which I won't encroach on her privacy to share, but thanks to her, my mood was transformed from sadness and melancholy to love and gratitude—for all of it. For what is forever gone, and what is still to come.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Off to Choir


I'm off to my Monday evening choir rehearsal, along with my friend Lisa, who lives two buildings over, and my friend Michelle, who I used to work with, and my friend Alison, who I grew up with in Jamaica and who now also lives in New York. We are four of a choral group of 28 voices, a beautifully diverse group in terms of age and ethnicity, and best of all, they are a quirky bunch. I love quirks in people. I love it when people can't help but express exactly who they are, and so Monday nights are a pleasant, stress-free respite from the daily grind. This term, one of our selections is Ave Verum, in Latin, which Alison and I sang eons ago, when we were in high school and part of the Queens Girls Choir. We first learned the song during our two-week summer workshop in the country, at a girls boarding school in Malvern. I am taken right back there every time we pull out that piece of music. It's pretty amazing how the words all came back to me, as if they had been waiting, all these decades, in a gentle groove in my brain. Oh, cab's here. Gotta go!

Shanghai



I was this young, once, but definitely never this cool. These are two of the snaps my girl sent me yesterday. Her social media posting has fallen off because it's apparently censored for visitors and you have to get a code to bypass the censorship. She used her friend's student code the first day, but it used too much data, so now she's just texting occasional photos. She looks happy, which makes me happy.



Sunday, March 12, 2017

Making memories


My angst has abated now that my girl has landed safe and sound in Shanghai, and is exploring with her friend of 16 years. Thanks for all your positive comments on my last post. I believe all that lovely energy spirals out into the world, surrounding our intrepid travelers. Our girls are making new memories together, and I am loving following their Instagram and Snap stories. That's a still I pulled from a Boomerang video they posted. My daughter texted me yesterday to say the 16-hour flight over was "smooth and comfortable" and the Airbnb they're staying in is "VERY cute!" They move on to Thailand mid-week.

Meanwhile my darling niece is here, spending her college spring break with us in the city. She went to church with her uncle this morning, and we're all heading out to the movies soon. A huge nor'easter is headed our way in a couple of days, with predictions of snow accumulations of up to 18 inches. I told my niece to start planning her binge watching menu for that day, because I plan to wait out the blizzard mostly from inside. Oh, I might venture out my front door just to experience it, to turn my face upward into the snowflakes as my daughter and I usually do, but beyond that, my warm cozy apartment is where I'll be.

I am doing the final line edit of a manuscript, which is back in my hands after a couple of conceptual editing rounds between the author and me. This reading is an absolute pleasure. The book sings. I am swept along. Her storytelling is riveting, brutal, humane. I hope she gets a book deal after this, and perhaps she will, as my agent is the one who sent her to me, which I take to mean she already believes in her story. I will feel very proud to have been one of the doulas for this book. I love my work.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Traveling mercies

My sweet girl is bustling around, cleaning up her room, scrubbing the bathtub, doing last minute laundry. She's getting ready to leave for her big adventure. It's snowing outside. I am concentrating on breathing.

One of my nieces arrives tonight to spend her college spring break with us, so she'll be staying in my daughter's room. They won't see each other as my girl will arrive home on the day after her cousin returns to school. A few days after that will be our daughter's 23rd birthday even though I still see her as that little girl with the butterfly painted on her darling face.

My daughter's boyfriend gave her all sorts of "stay safe" precautions, as did his family. "Unless your father has a skill set we don't know about," his mother said, "bear in mind the movie Taken." But why do we worry so? I think it is movies and TV shows not to mention the nightly news that sell us the idea that the world is so dangerous. In fact, the vast majority of the world is benevolent, and my daughter's spirit is so kind and loving I choose to believe that she will attract only those energies to her.

She is meeting one of her lifelong friends in China, the inimitable Gabby, who is attending grad school in Shanghai, and together they will travel to Thailand. I am so happy for them, so gratified by their friendship, which began in second grade. Oh, to be young and footloose and called by the big wide world. My two have always been adventurers. They and their cousin traveled all over with their grandma at a very young age, my mother in her wheelchair, the three little ones around her like happy chicks, and they haven't stopped looking outward since.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

More Adventure Girl

My mother used to say, "Don't rush you life." The fact is, I am constantly rushing my life, thinking, Oh I will be so happy when this thing I am worrying about is behind me. 

Right now, I will be happy when March 20 arrives, and my daughter will have traveled to China and Thailand, and will have returned. I hope she has a fantastic time, and that above all, she is safe. I am thinking of my friend who calmly told me her daughter was going to Israel on a birthright trip, then traveling around Europe by herself for a few weeks with a possible side jaunt to Turkey. I hyperventilated for her.



Friday, February 24, 2017

The Best

On opening my eyes this morning, I reached for my phone, and after scrolling through headlines for the Washington Post, I tapped on my blog reader and began my rounds. Among my stops, I read Mary Moon's gorgeous report on being at the circus with her grandkids, and Elizabeth's sublime reflection on love, all kinds of love, and having a strong back, and the redemptive power of friendship and art, then Grady Doctor's musing about the kinds of men her tender boys will grow up to be, and Rebecca's continuing exploration of her island, and by the time I got to Sabine's memory of the final days of her beloved mother in law, I was weeping, big fat tears on my pillow, and that's how my day started.

I lay there, gutted by memories of my own. Memories of my own mother in law, who was one of the kindest, most loving, faithful, and hardest working women on this earth, who I am forever grateful was one half of the magnificent pair of souls who raised my husband. Today, I am missing my mother in law fiercely. Everything changed in the family after she died, the bonds loosened, she had been the glue. I am no longer mourning how things settled out, I am at peace with what is, knowing I can love from afar, send prayers over the water, and let it be. Still, I miss how we all were when our Nana was alive.

Most of all, I miss her visits to New York to shop wholesale for her store, and the bags and bags of clothes in our living room, as night after night, Mom folded and packed, folded and packed, the children flattening the billowy plastic dress covers into neat piles, all of us talking, laughing, watching TV, telling lively stories, always, always the stories. She was so careful not to intrude on our parenting choices. She never once instructed how we should raise or discipline our kids. I knew it was a conscious decision on her part, and I was grateful to her for it. And when my own children become parents, I hope I will remember her example, and the freedom and ease it allowed in our relationship. I pray my children will be as lucky in their in laws as I have been. I had the very best.




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gastronomic forays

While people marched in Not My President rallies in the city yesterday, I took a breath, turned in my proposal, and then traveled to the Lower East Side with my daughter so that she could share with me a dish that she says might well be the best thing she ever tasted. The restaurant is Tuome on 5th Street off Avenue B, and the dish is snow crab with noodles in a squash and dashi butter sauce. It was as advertised, the flavors so subtle, yet assured, definitely one of the best dishes I've ever had as well. Everything was divine, the crispy deviled eggs topped with chili and the brussels sprouts with bulgur, blue cheese miso and prosciutto crisps—and I don't even like brussels sprouts. I loved sharing it all with my girl, whose palate is very sophisticated, and who literally swoons over a meal such as we shared last night. We're already planning our next foray, maybe to the Beatrice Inn, which used to be a celebrity hub but is now under new ownership and much more down to earth, inviting mere mortals to enjoy the inventive cuisine. And that's the fun of it: My girl knows the backstories, who recently bought where and revamped the menu, who used to work there, who did the decor or the PR. I love these gastronomic adventures with my daughter, a time out from our lives to catch up, roam, discuss, dream.



Saturday, February 18, 2017

Holding Space


That picture is meant to hold space for me, its serene beauty to calm me. Everything feels dire, even though intellectually, I know it's not as dire as I'm making it. I know you don't know what I'm talking about and that's probably best. The picture's pretty anyway.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A bigger world

It's possible I am depressed. Maybe it's time once again to seek out therapy, both the talking kind and the physical. I have great freedom in my life. I could go anywhere and do anything on any given day, and yet I stay close to home, because most of the time everything aches and gallivanting around the city is the last thing that seems appealing. But lately, I have begun to feel as if I wasting my good lucky life. Perhaps I need a new doctor, one who will truly chase down the cause of the pain that flares throughout my body, causing me to walk in an awkward, broken way, a smile on my face to mask the ache of motion. I try not to talk or write too much about this, but it is ever-present. I want to travel with my husband but know that a walking vacation is not in the cards. This limits where we can go, how we can explore. I feel like a burden and a limitation on his life if you want to know the truth. It doesn't really help that I suspect people think this pain is because I don't seek out more exercise rather than that I don't seek out more exercise because of this pain. Ah, well. Poor me. This is a poor me post. Still, I'm going to start getting out more. Make myself a bigger world.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I love my Valentine

Tonight, for Valentine's Day, the man made me his delicious lobster dinner, and for dessert we had that glorious fruit tart, and it was just the two of us, and lovely.


Monday, February 13, 2017

We workers

So, I finished the book proposal. An entire draft, 54 pages, done. Now I just have to read and edit from beginning to end, and then all that will be left it to screw up my courage and turn it in! I hope those waiting for its delivery will not be disappointed. I've done my best. And I will take their revision notes with grace.

My son has been working long hours lately, double shifts and overnights at the EMS station. He has an apartment to furnish. "Are we rich yet?" he said to me the other night as his dad and I drove him home so he wouldn't have to take the train. Really, the offer to drive him was just an excuse to spend time with him. Now that he no longer lives with us, he's more forthcoming about his days, and I love hearing the stories. He loves his job. He doesn't get paid very much, but he goes home feeling as if he made a difference to someone every single day. 



Saturday, February 11, 2017

Missing you bad


In his piece "The Madness of King Donald," New York magazine writer Andrew Sullivan captures the surreality of these post-Obama times. Here's an excerpt from his most recent column:
__________

One of the great achievements of free society in a stable democracy is that many people, for much of the time, need not think about politics at all. The president of a free country may dominate the news cycle many days — but he is not omnipresent — and because we live under the rule of law, we can afford to turn the news off at times. A free society means being free of those who rule over you — to do the things you care about, your passions, your pastimes, your loves — to exult in that blessed space where politics doesn’t intervene. In that sense, it seems to me, we already live in a country with markedly less freedom than we did a month ago. It’s less like living in a democracy than being a child trapped in a house where there is an abusive and unpredictable father, who will brook no reason, respect no counter-argument, admit no error, and always, always up the ante until catastrophe inevitably strikes. This is what I mean by the idea that we are living through an emergency.

__________

It's no wonder I'm waxing nostalgic for a time when this was what a meeting with the president's top advisors looked like:


If only this were a movie, and the hero was right now striding up the path to our rescue.


But the hero is gone away. We didn't appreciate our 44th president when he was here doing his utmost for us. Now we have to do for ourselves. My husband likes to say, maybe No. 45 will make America great again, just not in the way he imagined.

All photos by Pete Souza



Sunday, February 5, 2017

I Am An Immigrant


My first U.S. passport photo, 1986.  

Uncharted


The man and I got together with dear friends last night. One of them is a SAG awards judge, so all the nominated movies are sent to him so he can fill out his punch card. The plan was to drink wine, eat chili, and watch one of the Best  Picture nominees in anticipation of the Oscars later this month. We settled on Arrival, which was a fascinating story of alien contact, but utterly confusing to most of us. When it was done, my husband, the scientist, made one comment that proved to be the key to understanding the plot, It was the detail we'd all missed. Suddenly, amid a chorus of Ohhhhhhhs, we got the whole meaning, and now we really liked the movie and wanted to watch it again. But it was late by then so we disbanded and went home.

I love this crew. It's so easy with them. We met when our children ended up in the same kindergarten class at a school that required intensive parent involvement, and we became close. Our kids are also close, but their friendship is completely independent of our friendship at this point. The conversation did of course turn to politics. We were all proud that the ACLU lawyer who'd won the stay on the Muslim travel ban last weekend was an alum of our children's school, whose central curriculum was and is social justice. Is there anything more needed in our country now? Of course, the Muslim ban executive order has logged several more chapters by now, and is unfolding still.

I want to make a record of all the disturbing orders coming out of the White House, and about the white supremacists, Steve Bannon and Steve Miller, who as the president's closest advisors have created one constitutional crisis after another. I want to write about how Trump is repealing financial laws that protect consumers, to directly benefit his own businesses. And so much more. But it's all happening so fast I can't begin to get it all down. But I'm watching and listening, and every morning I make my calls to my state reps, both Democratic and Republican, about whatever travesty happened the previous day. Is it enough? These are uncharted waters. 

On a more pleasant note, my son and his girlfriend have the most charming apartment in a great part of the city—lots of nearby coffee shops and wine bars and sidewalk cafes. Apparently young people moving out on their own are relocating to Astoria in droves, because the rents in Manhattan are just too high. They've brought a bustling hipster vibe to an older immigrant community originally settled by Greek and Middle Eastern families, with a good representation of everyone else. My son's new apartment has great light, and a view of the city across the river which is particularly lovely at night.

I'm remembering now that when I first came to this country forty-one years ago, I saw snow for the first time in Astoria Park. One of my cousins lived in the neighborhood back then, and her sister and I were visiting her for the weekend. Now my son, the U.S.-born child of immigrants, is setting up his first independent home in this neighborhood.

All the kids will be here tonight to watch the Super Bowl and to partake of my husband's famous charred barbecue wings. I notice on TV they're casting the game as a match between Donald Trump's team, the New England Patriots (QB Tom Brady is a Trump acolyte, at least according to Trump) and Rep. John Lewis's hometown team, the Atlanta Falcons. It's kind of ridiculous, really. All the same, I'm rooting for Atlanta.



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Moving Day

My son and his girlfriend are moving into their own place today. My boy was up at 3AM packing and ferrying his things to the car. Moving day has dawned cold and snowy, but if memory serves, that sort of things doesn't matter when you're young and strong of body. Still, the snow is coming down really hard now. I hope they're managing okay.


My cousin texted me this earlier: "In 1984, the psychiatrist Otto Kernberg described a sickness known as Malignant Narcissism. Unlike ordinary narcissism, malignant narcissism was a severe pathology. It was characterized by an absence of conscience, a pathological grandiosity and quest for power, and a sadistic joy in cruelty." All that to say, things Trump related are going to get worse before they get better. But they will get better. As long as we stay conscious, continuously take action, and don't lose our will. The planet is counting on us, and that's not hyperbole.

On a happier note, I can't wait to see my son's new digs tonight! Because life goes on.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Worst breakup ever


Social media used to be social. A place where we shared our lives in quirky, funny, sentimental ways. Now social media is the place where people scream, begging others to wake up to the danger of the authoritarian state that, in one short week since the departure of the grown up, has become our new reality. The flood of executive orders flying out of the White House is surreal. As he signs each one, the new president is smug in the way of a grade schooler relishing the havoc he is causing.  Look what I can do, his expression says. Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou.

The people who surround him are even scarier than he is. We can see him coming, see his crazy writ large, but Pence, Kushner, Bannon, Sessions, Flynn, they will come around the corner and quietly gut you with nothing but a flicker of self-satisfaction in their eyes. Hoping for Trump to exit stage left means we will have to deal with Pence, who is every bit as dangerous in his way. Don't think he and the rest of them haven't been winding up Donald like a toy and setting him on spin, and he's just too stupid to see or care.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the entire senior management staff of the state department resigned (or were fired). Meanwhile a judge ruled that Melania Trump can sue a blogger who reported rumors circulating about her during the campaign. Also yesterday, the president's senior advisor Bannon told the New York Times that the media is "the opposition" and they should "shut their mouths." I can only assume this was not fake news.

At breakfast this morning, as I birddogged an electrical issue at my mom's house in St. Luica, which is currently rented, I said to my husband, "At least if we have to get away fast we have a place to go." We both fell silent then, stunned by the fact that we weren't really joking.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

My son is moving across the bridge

My son and his girlfriend found a great apartment across the bridge in Astoria. It's larger and sunnier than anything they looked at in the city, with a newly renovated open-concept kitchen, beautiful wood floors and a great view of the skyline. I haven't seen it yet, but I pored over pictures and I "walked" around the neighborhood on Google maps. It's a third floor walkup, but they're both super fit, so they'll be fine. And now life changes again. My son moves out in a week, which I suspect will be good for our relationship. He always likes me more when he isn't living with me! And what fun to be setting up your very own apartment exactly as you wish. Big excitement around here!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Dystopia


They say what you focus on multiplies, so I am trying to focus on the decent, the loving, the good. But where do you draw the line between focusing on the good and keeping what is dangerous in sight?

My friend Brittany is bearing witness on Facebook in a powerful way. Last night she posted this:

"I hope everyone is paying attention. The National Park Service had their freedom of speech revoked for tweeting a fact the president didn't like. Then they had to apologize for tweeting that fact to have their freedom of speech reinstated. Then the account for the Badlands park tweeted facts about climate change--a simple act that was understood to be an act of rebellion under Trump's regime. And now those tweets have disappeared. Meanwhile, the EPA has been banned from speaking to the press and their grants have been frozen, and four journalists are facing felony charges after being arrested while covering inauguration protests. This is what I feared would happen, but not even I thought it would happen so quickly."

I'm putting it here so we can keep what is happening in plain sight.

Also in the news, President Snow plans to authorize building a wall along our Southern border with Mexico, to keep all those brown people out. Because let's face it, his immigration reform really only applies to brown people. It definitely doesn't apply to Slovenian lingerie models who may or may not be legal but can find work in America anyway.

For those who don't get the President Snow reference, suffice it to say I sometimes feel as if we've been plunged into the dystopian reality of The Hunger Games.

I was talking to my cousin this morning, about the fact that everything is coming at us so fast and furious, we have no time to oppose it by conventional means—through the courts, at the ballot box—and we don't even know quite where to focus our attention. I think this is President Snow's plan. What do we do, Mary Moon asked yesterday. What is our best move now? Because surely, as a nation we cannot afford to go numb. This is how fascism puts down roots in our throats. I can barely focus on doing my daily life. I keep thinking I'm letting the moment for critical action slip by. But what is the critical action we need to take now? I'm sincerely asking. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Aunt Beryl, you were the sweetest soul

Today would have been my mother Gloria's 95th birthday. This morning, one of her dearest friends in this world closed her eyes for good. Aunt Beryl and her husband Uncle Clinton, who later became my brother's first in laws, lived down the street from us on Paddington Terrace when we were growing up. Our families were close, and in fact, Uncle Clinton gave the eulogy at my own father's funeral in 1996, and my husband and I stayed in their home. Their daughter Hilary is one of my dearest friends in this world. Our sisterly bond was forged in our teens and easily survived her later divorce from my brother, and her relocation to Germany, where she now lives with the love her life.

Aunt Beryl, age 90, died at 8 AM this morning, after months of her body slowly shutting down. I like to believe that on this day, of all days, my mom came to meet her friend, and welcome her home. I just spoke to Norman, my birthday mate, and one of Beryl and Clinton's two sons. He said his dad doesn't yet know his mom is gone. Since last I saw Uncle Clinton, the fog of Alzheimer's has claimed him, and his children aren't quite sure how to break the news to him that his life's great love is gone.


That is my husband, with my mom (center) and Aunt Beryl (on the right) in one of my favorite photographs ever. I sent this and other photos to Aunt Beryl and Uncle Clinton on the occasion of their 60th anniversary in June 2014. How can I explain what she means to me, how deep this loss feels. I will just post for posterity the letter I wrote to her and Uncle Clinton, and the one I got in return. It only begins to capture their place in my life, because those years on Paddington Terrace were absolutely formative.  

Our letters:

Dear Aunt Beryl and Uncle Clinton,

On this, your 60th anniversary of marriage, I just wanted to let you know how very much you both mean to me, and what a large and wonderful imprint you have left on our lives.

How blessed our family was when we moved to number 37 Paddington Terrace in my fourteenth year, only to discover that you lived just down the street. What a gift it was to wander barefoot into your home, always sure of welcome, to be able to sit huddled with Hilary in her room giggling over our teenage journals, to play ping pong with Norman (my birthday mate!) and Robert and Derek and Huey, and to be greeted in all these endeavors by your great warmth and kind and loving oversight.

Those years on Paddington Terrace were the sweetest anyone could imagine, and this was in no small part because of you both. You cannot know the depth of love I hold for your family; and Rad has since come to love you as much too. (Not to mention, Uncle Clinton, he thinks Aunt Beryl is one of the most beautiful women he has ever seen! Don't tell him I told you!)

I wanted to share with you some photos we took when last we were in Jamaica at your home. They are photos of the two of you, so beautiful and bonded, such a glorious love, and of Hilary, Robert and me, one fraction of the old Paddington Terrace crew. And there is one more photo of older vintage, of Aunt Beryl, my mom Gloria, and Rad, a photo that Rad says is with two of his favorite ladies.

May God continue to richly bless you both on this wonderful anniversary, and may we all learn from your great grace and wisdom and goodness unerringly displayed throughout these full 60 years. May you celebrate many more such milestones together, and continue to be a shining example for us all.

We love you so much. Thank you for being a part of our lives.

And from her iPad, Aunt Beryl replied:

Thank you for your lovely letter on our anniversary. It warmed our hearts and certainly contributed to our having a contented day. You were all our children and it is good to know that we are remembered with affection. We love you all still and wish the best for you and your children. Lots of love from Uncle Clinton and Aunt Beryl

There they are, still hale and hearty in 2014. Below is the old Paddington Terrace crew on a beach-going day in the summer of 1975. I moved from Kingston, Jamaica to New York City for college two months after this photograph was taken. That's me with the Afro in the middle and Hilary to my left, arm linked with mine. Truly, these days were charmed, and Aunt Beryl and Uncle Clinton helped make it so.




Sunday, January 22, 2017

Woke AF


There were 637 marches in solidarity with women's rights and human rights around the globe. All were peaceful, and all exceeded expectations in terms of numbers. So many people marched that I feel no need to try and evoke the experience here. Everyone has their own memory of it, either from standing shoulder to shoulder in the crowd or hearing tell of it from one who did. Perhaps the energy of the inauguration day was so heavy and murky, that to balance it, the world spontaneously chose brilliance, chose hope and optimism, chose to harness the energy of the divine feminine and all those who stand easily in its light. So many people decided only on the night before the march, after feeling the gloom of the inauguration, to go out and join the protest. Everyone was searching for a way to turn their dismay at the tone of the new administration into something positive and powerful. That's my niece in the photo above, after she marched in Washington, D.C. I sense that, having staked out the high ground, people are feeling a lot less depressed about the political reality in which we find ourselves today. The mood now is more like: Woke AF so bring it on!










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