Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Out in the world

Baby Harper and her parents are in Argentina, touring wineries and having culinary experiences with her paternal grandparents. There she is with her mom in Buenos Aires, beside a statue of a firefighter saving a child.

She stole her daddy's whole face.

Little girl is living her best life.

And—she took her first steps this week!

Meanwhile back in New York City, my daugher and I went for a Saturday morning breakfast at Metro Diner with my cousin Nickty, who's here from Trinidad, and our niece Dani, daughter of Nicky's sister.

It's a tradition: On the first morning that Nicky arrives in New York City from wherever she's traveling from, we go out for diner pancakes. For Nicky, who spent every weekend with me in the city back when she was in college in Washington, D.C., this is a defining taste of New York.

It's been a minute since I've shared a taxicab selfie. This one, taken yesterday as I traveled to see a new doctor, offered kind light. My former PCP went off to join a concierge practice, a quality of life decsion, she said. I don't fault her, but now I'm at a loss, as I certainly can't pay twelve to fifteen thousand a year to join her new practice, the province of business executives and the casually wealthy. I did like the doctor I saw yesterday, a young woman with a gentle spirit, who was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. She's very proactive, jumped right into diagnostics, made referrals, and observed a condition in me that absolutely no one else had identified, which is likely the cause of all the body pain I have that is not really joint related, and therefore not quite arthritis. For so long I've wondered where I took a wrong turn onto the path where my body is just one big inflamed instrument. Turns out I didn't take a wrong turn. I was born with this, my mother and her sisters likely had it, too. Though it was never formally identified in them, the condition is probably why my mom, slender as she was her whole life, suffered with flares of body pain, as I do. There's no cure really, just treatment to manage the symptoms and arrest the progression. The doctor referred me to a specialist to investigate further. Now, I know.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Father and son

Today my son and some of his crew were assigned to cover a short handed fire station near his dad’s museum. He called his dad and invited him to stop by the fire house, where the other fire guys took the obligatory pictures of father and son in front of the fire truck. One of the chiefs told my husband he had done a good job, raised a fine son. My husband beamed as he recounted that. Later, our boy shared the photos in our family chat. “It was visit your son at work day today,” he wrote. Those are my men, both good ones, too. The fire chief spoke true. 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Some people can walk only part of the way with you

The breakup of a decades long friendship can shatter the heart as severely and painfully as breaking up with a lover on whom you projected your hopes and dreams. Some friendships, the most intimate and significant ones, are repositories of our hopes and dreams, too. These friends are people with whom we wore no social masks, we felt able to be our fullest and most authentic selves with them, and when that suddenly breaks down, for reasons that are devilishly difficult to grasp, the hurt and sense of betrayal can leave us reeling. Figuratively bleeding. My son went through the unraveling of such a friendship two years ago. There was some mental illness involved, and it was heartbreaking and apparently irrevocable. I don't think any of us have yet gotten over it. 

Now my daughter is reeling, too, because a woman she considered to be "her person," a primary relationship since childhood, has pulled away, apparently feeling that my daughter has not involved her sufficiently in wedding planning. Of course, that may not be the heart of what is happening at all. Who knows what deeper conscious and unconscious stories are at play here? I certainly don't. But on the surface of things, this friend plans lavish weddings for a living, and my daughter decided to give her a break from all that, to not lean on her in that way, which she felt would have been taking advantage of their friendship. There's probably a seed of something deeper in that my girl also felt that with her friend's expertise involved, she might lose sight of her own wishes and vision for her ceremony. 

And then there is another friend who my daughter grew close to during the two years she lived in Boston, and I'm surmising that her longtime friend might be feeling a bit displaced by that new friendship, even though my daughter loves this woman she came of age with as devotedly as ever. I can't really explain it all, not even to myself, because I can't for the life of me fathom how these two beautiful and once happily loving friends came to this. Through tears, my daughter told me yesterday, "I don't know if we can get back to what we were, but I want to know that I did everything in my power to try for that." Sadly, her friend has resorted to passive aggressive (my assessment) vagueness and social distance and as my girl put it, "She won't even get in the ring with me." 

I guess what this post is really about is the fact that my daughter's heart is absolutely breaking, and I don't know how to help her. And when your child's heart is breaking, your own heart feels like splintered shards of glass in your chest, and somehow, you have to keep on breathing through it, trusting that eventually, your child will pick her way through the minefield, regain a more certain footing, and even if the friendship she so cherished is never the same, even if it is lost completely, she will find herself again, and be okay. 

Monday, April 8, 2024

Eclipses and Earthquakes

We're having a near total eclipse of the sun today, which is supposed to peak at 3:25 PM. This on the heels of last Friday's earthquake at ten-twenty-five in the morning. At 4.8 on the Richter scale, the quake caused a couple of cracks to open up near the ceiling in my house. It felt like a subway train was rumbling by under the building, and my house guest and I, who were both working in the living room, looked at each other as if to say, are you feeling what I'm feeling? Soon everyone was texting everyone else, confirming our shared reality. And then, this being New York City, it was business as usual after that, even with the aftershock at six that evening, which I barely felt.

I've been busier than you'd imagine with all the housekeeping stages of getting the book ready for publication. The last two weeks have been absorbed by my editing gig for the magazine and responding to the copy editor's queries on the book, an endless process because, with great respect, she explained every single change she made in a margin note, which then required a response from me and/or my subject okaying her change, or asking that she stet (keep) what was originally written, or pointing out the alternate edit we decided to make to address the question raised. I've never before had a subject who was so with me in the trenches at every step.

It helps that we have a similar working styles, are similarly obsessive, so I understand what she's doing when she contemplates whether a subordinate part of a sentence should be set off with a comma or an em-dash, or whether a noun should take the article "the" or "a." She cares about these things as only one other writer I have ever worked with cared about them —Isabel Wilkerson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste, who is the subject of the amazing and profound Ava DuVernay film, Origin, currently in theaters and streaming.

I edited Isabel when I was a magazine editor; I loved working with her because not only was she a brilliant and nuanced observer of the human condition, but she also cared so much about every word and punctuation choice. Well, I've found another such soul. Occasionally, I don't agree with a change she wants to make, but most of those times, I just take the change, rather than debate it with her, because I know she has thought about it deeply, and that she's hearing the rhythm of each and every sentence in her head. Other times, we have lively conversations about why an edit maybe shouldn't be made, and I prevail in those engagements maybe half the time. It's her story. She gets the last word. I just feel gratified I got to take this journey with her.

I'm heading over to my friend's house now to watch the eclipse from her balcony. She has the requisite glasses, and an unobstructed view of the sky. Maybe I'll get a picture worth sharing. See you on the other side.


Wednesday, April 3, 2024

April showers

One of my daughter's friends, a young woman who is one of my heart daughters, is here with us for a couple of weeks as she's been having dizziness and nausea spells, and needs eyes on her just in case. She had been staying with her parents, but they are away for two weeks, so now she's with us while her doctors try to get to the root of her issues. The bathroom reno also starts this week. Tomorrow is demo day, so she will be treated to the sounds of tiles smashing and breaking all day. After that, the noise should be more tolerable. My cousin from Trinidad is also passing through New York City twice this month, on her way to and from a medical conference in Washington, D.C., so she will be with us on two weekends as well. When I scheduled the bathroom reno for April, it was because I thought it would be a time when nothing much was happening, the book almost put to bed, but it turns out to be a month in which we will have houseguests after all, and I'm just grateful they're the easygoing kind.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Easter this year

Here's an album of things that are good in my world. We went bowling on Saturday to mark our girls' birthday; there she is with her mama on one side and her cousin on the other. We had a fabulous family time.

There we are again, my niece about the bowl a strike, my daughter enjoying some wings, my son and husband deep in conversation, my son in law to be in the foreground, crushing every game. How I love all these people.

The last book I collaborated on, Belonging by Michelle Miller, is now out in paperback. My New York Times bestseller! Michelle is the one in pink at the center of the display, and she’s a co-host of CBS Mornings. Her story recounts her poignant search for the mother who walked away from her at birth. One of my former editors took this photo on her travels. I'm sharing it here because the books I write are my babies of another sort. I’ve heard books referred to as children of the mind.

My nephew Brett, who as a musician goes by Walking Eagle, competed on The Voice recently. During that experience, he spent a month before the show aired with scores of other singers who were selected to audition. He made us proud on the show, even though he didn't get very far. But in the process he became good friends with Huntley, who went on to win the whole dang thing! Well, Huntley tapped Brett to join his band, and now they are on a multi-city tour. My nephew is so talented, and such a decent soul, so passionate about music, and now his dreams are starting to take flight. I could not be happier for him. 

Last, and definitely not least, our youngest Harper participated in an Easter Hat parade at her day care in Dallas. Her fancy headwear was made for her by her paternal grandmother, who’s retired now but spent her career as a fashion designer. It's a beautiful Easter hat, and it took first place at the parade, even though Harper wasn't quite sure what the hoopla was about, and what was that thing people kept trying to balance on her head? But isn't she just the cutest, even with that serious side-eye?


The news is on in the background. Honestly, it's unbearable. I was going to get on here to write a screed about the threat that the GOP nominee, the orange man, represents to us all, and my rage at the photo he posted of Biden hog tied in the back of a pick-up truck. Anyone else in this nation would already have been arrested for inciting the kidnap and murder the president, because that was essentially what Trump was doing, but somehow, as he hawks his sixty dollar bibles, and doxes the daughter of the judge in his criminal hush money trial in New York, and proclaims himself the chosen one, likening himself to Jesus at his rallies, the law just wrings its hands and let's him continue to burn our nation down. But you know, I can't. I'm already tired, hollowed out by rage and bewilderment, and much as I hate to admit it, by cynicism too. He's going to skate, isn't he?

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Our heart

 Today is her birthday. I'm so grateful to be her mama.

I love you my darling girl. So do we all.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

This is the year

Today is my daughter's last day of her twenties, tomorrow is her birthday, and in July she and her love are getting married. Here they are looking like too-cool-for-school Brooklyn people, brownstone steps, wine, sunglasses and all. My niece Dani took this photo of them soon after they got engaged. They're looking in different directions, yet their body language is connected and comfortable, and they look happy. They're deep in the throes of wedding planning now, and they seem to be managing it harmoniously. It's something I've always noticed about them, they work well together when it comes to tasks, they divide and conquer, neither one a shirker, both of them backing each other up. They've been together ten years already, ever since their sophomore of year of college. They both got promoted at their jobs recently, and this is the year they're doing the thing, saying the vows, making it all official. My girl wasn't quite ready before, but now she is, and may these two lovely and loving people be very happy together. He's taking her out for her birthday tomorrow evening, and then on Saturday, her love, her cousins, and a friend will join her dad and me in celebrating her when we all get together to go bowling. This is what she asked for, a bowling party. It brings back fond childhood memories, she said. We'll have birthday cake and bowling alley food and it will be big fun. My baby is a woman onto herself, y'all. What a wondrous being she has become. May she and her beloved walk in light and lovingness always, forever and ever, amen. 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Tonglen—"I breathe out love"

After my conversation with my friend yesterday, I looked up the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Tonglen, and here is what I found:

Tonglen practice, also known as “taking and sending,” reverses our usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In tonglen practice, we visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath. In the process, we become liberated from age-old patterns and begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others ...

Usually, we look away when we see someone suffering. Their pain brings up our fear or anger; it brings up our resistance and confusion. So we can also do tonglen for all the people just like ourselves—all those who wish to be compassionate but instead are afraid, who wish to be brave but instead are cowardly. Rather than beating ourselves up, we can use our personal stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world. Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us. Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.

When I feel helpless at the chaos and pain of our world, I can pause and breathe in suffering and, with intention, breathe out love. This is something I can do.

There's more here.

The photograph is by Xan Padron.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Twas a good week (plus update)

By all accounts they had a fabulous time on my girl's bachelorette weekend in Puerto Rico. My nieces told me this group of six was a perfect easygoing meld of good vibes, and my daughter confirmed that with a Friday cocktail class, a Saturday boat ride, pool afternoons and dancing nights, everything couldn't have gone better. Then on Monday, I met my daughter and two nieces (the ones on the right, above) in Dallas and we spent the week thoroughly entertained by little Harper, below with her Titi Kai.

And now I'm back in New York, wrestling with tile choices for the upcoming bathroom redo. I want blue hex floor tiles the color of the ocean I grew up with. White for the wall tiles and a light oak sink vanity, and 2"white and gray hex tiles for the walk in shower floor, accessorized by a cute free standing shower bench in teak. I'm also thinking brushed nickel fixtures instead of shiny chrome. I considered gold, but I'm a seventies child, and back then, gold fixtures looked dated and gaudy, so even though they're cutting edge now, I can't quite go there. I'm still uncertain about all my other choices though. My desire for color collides with my desire for classic neutrality. I’m trying to remember it’s not that deep.  

Update on Sunday, March 17: I spoke with a dear friend on the other coast this morning and she told me something I never considered. I lamented that I was so stressed over renovating a bathroom and how ridiculous that was given that children are dying in Gaza. She said that my stress wasn’t about the bathroom; it was merely a convenient place to put my angst about the state of the world. We can’t keep it all inside us so we find ways to spend our existential despair, bit by bit, on whatever and whomever is before us, and in this way, we survive. She counseled me breathe while whispering a Tonglen mantra—“I breathe in suffering”—inhale—“I breathe out love"—exhale—and to honor my angst regardless of where and how it shows up, to let it flow through with judging it. I think she has no idea how much her words helped. I am thankful for wise friends.