Saturday, January 19, 2019

Onward we march (updates)

Despite the ginned-up controversy surrounding its leaders, I'm here for the intersectional Women's March all day long. As I write this, crowds are gathering at Freedom Plaza in Washington DC to march for your rights and mine. I truly believe the same forces of division that gave us Trump are now endeavoring to drive a wedge between women in an effort to splinter our mass uprising. Don't fall for the hype. I can share so many articles on the fake outrage, which has sadly sparked legitimate concerns on the part of those who aren't looking behind the screen. The hate mongers refuse to acknowledge the multiple instances in which the four co-chairs of the march have unequivocally disavowed the anti Semitism of which they have been accused. The agents of the carefully orchestrated defamation campaign refuse to acknowledge the numerous Jewish groups supporting the march, or the contingent of rabbis who stood up to endorse its leaders after meeting with them to discuss the ugly smears. I could link all those pieces, which somehow don't show up in a routine Google search (what's up with that?), however, I'm only going to link one piece, which appeared in The Nation yesterday, written from the perspective of a Black Jewish writer, Nylah Burton. There is more real humanity and questioning in this piece than in all the hyped up front page articles and click bait stories in the weeks leading up to this day. You may not agree with this perspective, but I'd like to suggest that this writer offers a frame for deeper conversations to be had, interrogations designed to heal rather than inflame.

A Vital, Vulnerable Conversation With the Leaders of the Women's March

I wish everyone could appreciate the intersectional beauty of this diverse group of organizers who after the debacle election of 2016 were asked to bring their respective marginalized communities into the tent so that women everywhere could be represented in the first Women's March on Washington.

I also want to share this, by crowd-funded artist and musician Amanda Palmer, who I think gets it exactly right.

And this photo, taken by my niece and goddaughter, student journalist Danielle Lee, who covered this year's Women's March for her college news site. As the sign says in clever iconography, Hope trumps Hate. That Cat-in-the-Hat riff is rich, too.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dreaming as therapy

I am fantasizing this morning about going away for a week to Treasure Beach, Jamaica with my children and their loves, to a place where we can just be, with the sea at our front door and island vegetation kissing the wraparound front porch, where we would lounge and read and talk and laugh and eat, in between mornings at the beach, the exploration of nearby wonders of nature, and twilight dips in the pool. The house comes with a housekeeper and a chef, who will apparently arrange a bonfire on the beach and other delightful excursions. While Rome (America) burns, one can dream.

While I daydream, let me just say I applaud Nancy Pelosi for cancelling the State of the Union address, for boldly exercising her power to do so. How ludicrous it would have been for Agent Orange to sit pompously in the House and pretend the state of the union is anything but catastrophic disarray.

Some people have already received eviction notices because their paychecks have been halted by the longest government shutdown in history. Medications cannot be purchased. The president claims to be invested in border security, yet with this ongoing shutdown, in which he is holding one million American workers hostage, our borders have never been more insecure. A man waltzed onto a flight with a gun in his hand luggage this week, because TSA workers are calling in sick at the job where they are being asked to work without pay. Instead, some are driving for Uber and other car share services to make ends meet, to feed their families. Meanwhile Mitch McConnell hides out in his hideaway office (yes, that's a real thing) and refuses to call a vote in the Senate that will certainly pass with enough of a bipartisan majority to not only reopen the government, but also to override any veto the president might make. 

I have never witnessed such moral cowardice as is on display in the current Republican party. I do have some excitement about some of the newly elected Democrats though, and how about 29-year-old Alexandria Osario-Cortez, the congresswoman from New York with massive social media clapback skills, whom the far right loves to hate. In her, and in Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Agent Orange has met his match. Thank God the Dems knew better than to put a newbie in Pelosi's place. These are serious times, and she knows what's what.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Love lives here

My beloveds are all with people who we have come to love dearly, and how wonderful that is. The first and last pictures here are from my niece's engagement photos. It's apparently a thing—you have to document your couple hood before you say your "I do's." This is the year!

Friday, January 11, 2019

The man and the boy

This photo was two and a half decades ago, on our son's first birthday. Our friends in Ft. Lauderdale, our son's godparents, unearthed this slice of history when we visited them last week. I love this photo, my son's intense curiosity for the world, and the pure love and joy on my husband's face, the protective way he holds our child. This boy is a man now. He's going through a lot at this moment, but he's standing firm. May he know his true path and be guided by his angels in its unfolding. Amen.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Big exhale

My editor at the publishing house said I did "a terrific job" on the book collaboration I just finished. Her edits are very light, she said, the manuscript "very clean." Her main issue is the title, which will need to change, but I already knew that. I had turned in the manuscript with the title my subject wanted—Unapologetic. It's her story after all, even though I suspected it would not be the final choice, because there's another book in the activism arena with the same title. I did like the title—Love Is Not Done—initially coined way back in May when I turned in the first chapter and chapter summaries, but my subject wondered if it might be a little "soft" for her public messaging.

This woman gets so much hate in the mainstream press and on social media, though she gets fierce love, too. She fights for all of us, she doesn't back down. She is indeed tough-minded and unapologetic, but when you get to know her more, you discover that while she is a loud voice and raised fist at the center of the resistance, away from the glare she is a pure loving heart. It's her cross to bear: She feels injustices against others so keenly. She is righteous and activated. It's why she fights. It's why despite the right wing smear campaigns and lies told about her, she doesn't quit. No matter what you might read about her online, we are better for her commitment.

I won't say her name here, of course. Not yet. But it looks as if we'll have a book! Can I tell you how hard this was to write? At the end of it, I wondered why I would ever choose to do this again, and maybe I just needed to go get a job in what I imagine is the serene atmosphere of a flower shop. In truth, this manuscript felt like the hardest one yet, for any multitude of reasons, including the fact that the story felt so critically important to me, and it was continuing to unfold in real time. But now it has been delivered and accepted, and my relief feels like a wave of something I can only understand as exhilaration. This feeling, right now, is why I do this work.

Monday, January 7, 2019

We flew South for a few days

And it was divine. We stayed with dear friends in Ft. Lauderdale, and as we told them, five-star hotels have nothing on their hospitality. They are the warmest, kindest, most generous souls, this lovely couple whom we have known since before we had children, who broke our hearts by moving away from New York. Twenty-seven years ago when I was pregnant with my son, they painted and decorated our entire nursery as a shower gift. They have impeccable taste, are in the real estate business, and their home is gorgeous and elegant yet every corner is welcoming and comfortable. My cousin from Virginia was also there with her family, and the first day, we all went to the beach. The last day, our friends held a "fish fry" around the pool, with fish soup, blue crab, pepper shrimp, escovitch fish, festival (a kind of biscuit we make in Jamaica) and the most delicious jerk pork I have ever tasted. They knew we have relatives in the area, and wanted us to have an occasion to gather with them—that's how thoughtful they are. My love and I relaxed completely in their company, and in the company of my cousin and her family, and it was wonderful. Now there's a plan afoot for our three families to rent a sprawling house in Martha's Vineyard for a week this summer, a reprise of the group trip we took to my cousin's husband's reservation in Montana when our kids were small. The kids are all grown up now, and some are with fairly serious significant others. The plan is for us all to gather, and bask in love. I hope we really do it. Stay tuned.

Soulmates on Hollywood Beach

Walkingeagle clan

Not a care in the wind

Stay salty, my friends

Never underestimate a Jamaican at the domino table!

Our younger hosts, so grown up

The feast

He made some bangin' fish soup and pepper shrimp

My nephew serenaded us

The view each night as I turned in

One more, our lovely hosts twenty-six years ago when they still lived in New York, with my son, their godson, who was then one year old. He adored them then, and does so still. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019


Here's a piece by by an artist, Blu Smith, whose work entrances me. I'm over here pretending to be a grown up. The truth is too tiresome to tell. But the man is here, and his gentle company makes me smile. And we're going out to dinner with friends, fellow empty nesters as it happens. If we do it right, the baby birds do fly.

Monday, December 31, 2018

New Year's eve

The photo here is perhaps my favorite of all the photos I posted this year, my love and I, back when we were still brand new, posing for a selfie before we even knew the word.

And here we are now, the people I pray for first on opening my eyes each day. I am grateful for them, and also for you, each one of you who read here this year. May 2019 bless you with all the people and the experiences that make your heart soar.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Alien invasion explained

Last night, at just past nine, the sky over New York City suddenly bloomed a bright turquoise blue, the light pulsing in the clouds above Astoria, where my son and his girlfriend live, yet visible as far away as Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx.

My son was asleep on the couch. His girlfriend S. was sitting at the kitchen counter watching something on YouTube when she noticed an eerie blue glow at the window, followed by a rumble like thunder that lasted for minutes, and the house lights flickering off before coming back on. When she looked out the window she saw all her neighbors  at their windows peering out too, and people were gathered in the street, pointing.

"It looked exactly like an alien invasion," she told me this morning. "I was completely freaked out."

She woke my son to show him the sky, and he said, "Oh, it's probably an explosion on the electrical grid. There's a Con Ed station over that way. I bet something blew."

"But why is the whole sky that weird color," she asked him. "And why does it look like the explosion is happening in the clouds."

"Electric fires burn on a blue spectrum, and the color's reflecting off water droplets in the clouds," he said. He was so calm that S. relaxed, too, even though the whole scene had looked to her like something right out of the movie Independence Day.

As it happens, our son's theory was right. Indeed, the news soon reported an explosion at the Astoria Con Ed station. It looked like this.

We have a saying in our family: #RadFacts. My son's name, plus whatever arcane fact or explanation he comes up with, which is always, always correct. That's because my son has the kind of brain that catches and holds everything that enters his consciousness. He's like his dad, and namesake, that way, so really the hashtag works for them both.

As you can imagine, the tweets all night were crazy, with people posting photos and videos from all over the city, and everyone reflecting on the possibility that the Con Ed fire was a cover story for actual extraterrestrial contact. My favorite tweet of all was this one from MSNBC's Katy Tur:

"Folks on Twitter reacting without surprise to the prospect of an alien invasion in NYC is peak 2018."

It sure has been that kind of year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Write drunk, edit sober

I love that cup that my daughter gave me for Christmas. It was something she heard me say when I was struggling through difficult parts of the book I just finished writing. Sometimes I would be stuck, or I'd feel far behind where I needed to be to meet my deadline, and needed to keep working come evening. So I'd pour myself a glass of red wine and catch a second wind, my inner critic silenced for the moment by the wine, allowing me a few more hours, a couple thousand more words. But anything written under the influence had to be scrupulously edited while sober, I told my daughter, because while some of it could be surprising in a good way, some sentences would be overwrought and florid and simply had to go. Write drunk, edit sober, that's the rule, I'd joked, and she captured it on a cup she had made just for her mama.

Christmas was low key, with just my husband, my son and me. We opened gifts, we cooked, we dozed, we watched movies, we ate. It was lovely in its way. We missed our girl who was with her boyfriend upstate, having a rollicking time. He has a large family and they do Christmas the way we do Thanksgiving, only more so, with matching festive pajamas for everyone, and Christmas stockings with embroidered names hung over the fireplace, and family breakfast at one aunt's house followed by dinner for the large extended clan at his mom's. Truly, it's the kind of Christmas I always wished I could create for my kids, but almost all of our extended family lives elsewhere, plus I'm simply not made that way. But I'm glad my girl is getting to experience a version of the high octane family Christmases I knew growing up (though we didn't do matching pjs).

She felt a little guilty about not being with us, I could tell, so I kept assuring her that it was a fine and wonderful thing that she was sharing that kind of Christmas with her boyfriend's family, who lovingly folded her in. We were invited, too, but none of us wanted to spend hours on the highway traveling there and back, and my husband and my son both had work the day before and after Christmas and just wanted to chill at home. My son seemed exhausted and more somber than usual. The fire academy is no cakewalk. But neither was paramedic training, and yet even as he felt slammed with work for nine months, my boy loved it. "Who knew I preferred challenging my brain to challenging my body," he said last night. He's lost weight, seven pounds in two weeks, and he was coughing a lot from one of the smokehouse exercises they did on Christmas eve. "Don't make a blog post about it," he said, so I won't.

How do you blog when you're melancholy and worrying about some things, and you don't want to write about any of it? You're sick of your own nostalgia for a time long past, and there is really nothing to be done. You're sad, but don't want to inflict that on your loved ones, and there's not even work to distract you. What a delicious thing, really. The magazine is in the week between shipping one issue and starting to close the next. My manuscript is done and the editor is traveling, so no revisions yet on that, and my next project is still in the contract stages and might or might not happen. One never knows until the contract is fully executed, but I don't have to panic because for now I have the magazine freelance gig and another editing gig in the wings. I have the luxury of choosing any number of paths through this day, not to mention many inspired Christmas gifts expressly designed to amp up my enjoyment of this good lucky life.

My son and his girlfriend gave me an absolutely gorgeous table top easel and brushes, so I could actually finally paint something. I also have a puzzle going on the dining table, and I've been streaming the The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and could keep going with that. I could curl up under a blanket in this freezing cold house and read Just Kids, that Patti Smith memoir that my daughter's boyfriend gave me, along with a Stubs movie membership, the year all paid, so I could also use that and go to the movies. Or perhaps I should schedule the spa day my husband gave me, with a two and a half hour massage of my choice included—my God, I have so many choices.

Or I could call a friend. One is in much the same place as I am. She is Jewish and doesn't celebrate Christmas, but her daughter was with her boyfriend's family, joining in their festivities, and my friend was missing her girl and feeling somewhat adrift. "I am in a state of pining for the old days," she texted me. "Whenever I stop working I can't find myself." "I know just what you mean," I texted back. I'm not sure if misery loves company, that has always seemed an ungenerous notion to me, but misery is certainly lightened by empathy. Her text made me feel less alone.

I got no pictures of my husband and son, as neither one wanted to cooperate with my camera. But here's a picture my daughter's boyfriend's sister sent me of my girl opening her Christmas pjs, and another of her posing in full festive attire with her love and Nina the wonder dog—can you tell I'm kind of fascinated by the matching pjs concept? I secretly always feel as if I'm failing at Christmas because I don't even know how to create a scene like this. Yet I love seeing my girl happy in that tableau. And I am right now reminding myself that there is no wrong way to do the holidays. The only thing wrong with my low key Christmas is my propensity to judge it as lacking somehow. I'm just trying to tell the truth here, to not pretend sweetness and light when what I'm feeling is a lot more layered. And yet, in a world where so many are having an incredibly hard time, I am aware of being extravagantly blessed. That, too, is the gospel truth.