Monday, July 22, 2024


I've written so many posts in my head, but the world is swirling too fast for me to make the words settle down into coherent sentences. Whatever I write changes in the next minute, and we're all watching it happen in real time anyway, so I let it go, and never quite get around to exploring my thoughts here.

My daughter gets married this week. That beats bullets—or broken teleprompter glass—grazing the orange felon's ear at a campaign rally. Out on the street, I passed someone railing to his companion, "The fucker missed!" The fucker was dead a moment after he pulled the trigger, as sharp shooters on another roof had already trained their rifle sights on him. Beats me why they waited for the would-be assassin to get so many shots off. One rally goer, a firefighter, dead, his widow refusing to take Biden's condolence call, because her husband wouldn't have liked that. Never mind that their candidate went golfing the next day and didn't even bother to reach out.

My daughter gets married this week. That still beats Joe Biden putting the good of his country over his personal drive to do good, and dropping out of the presidential race due to the incursions of age. He endorsed Kamala Harris, and the entire Democratic bench is now lining up to support her. Though I was ridin' with Biden, a transformative president (despite, it must be said, his troubling fails in Gaza), and would have voted for him even if he was comatose (there was really no alternative), when he stepped down yesterday, I felt a jolt of excitement that the race is now completely new. The prosecutor running against the felon. VP Harris’s rollout speech today was electrifying. I’d say she’s pinned the fascist and is ready to prosecute this campaign.

But amid all this, my baby girl is getting married this week, and that’s where I’m fixing my gaze. Her dad is making her bouquet. She and her love are over there in Brooklyn working out seating charts and writing their vows. I can hardly wait to be in the room, incandescent with love, all of us watching these two souls pledge to go forth in this life together, and then I will exhale.

Thursday, July 11, 2024


My son and his wife went to Lake Como, Italy, where as part of a wedding party they stayed in a charming Mediterranean villa with the bride and groom's families. My son said they had an amazing time, and that he may be ruined for every other hospitality experience for life. I love that my children are able to get out in the world and have adventures, that they can know geographies as varied as the green hills and shimmering waters of the Caribbean islands and the Renaissance churches and cobalt lakes of northern Italy. My daughter in law sent me this photo of them taken the day they arrived in Milan, before boarding a train north to meet up with the wedding party at a place called Villa Lario. They're back home now, tired but still with that soft vapor clinging to them that life can be so damned magical. 

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Social recap, styling notes, and a thought about the debate fallout

After her wedding dress fitting last week, my girl and I went for dinner and margaritas at our favoritie place by the river. We laughed, we shared tender heartfelt things, and at one point she cried, still gutted by grief, even as she prepares for her happy day. As the tears fell, I quietly held her hand, marveling at the way one can allow the rain to fall while never relinquishing the sun. But that's life, right? It's never just one thing. And so just two days later my cousins from Virginia and Maryland came to town so that we could all attend the funeral service of another cousin, Derrick, the patriarch of our generation, who recently died. Our generation of twenty-nine Stiebel first cousins is now only twenty souls strong on this earth, with my brother as the new patriarch.

Derrick loved music, used to engineer his own speaker sound systems, and he and his wife were famous for basement dance parties at their home on Long Island. At his service, everyone joined in singing Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" as a moving send-off ("Don't worry, 'bout a thing, 'cause every likkle thing, gonna be alright ..."), and the repast afterward, held on the upper floor of a Uniondale firehouse, was a rousingly DJ'ed dance party. Derrick was in his eighties when he died. He had a good innings, and everyone was in the mood to celebrate his life, and to remind ourselves of the particular blessings and joys of growing up close to so many cousins.

Continuing the social round, we rang in my son-to-be's thirtieth birthday on July 4, at his family's cookout in upstate New York. My daughter and her love took off early the next morning on a flight to Maine for the first of three weddings this month, which will culminate in their own. I took the advice of some of you here and consulted with a stylist about what I should wear as the mother of the bride. The upshot is I now have three good options, all of them quite simple, nothing fussy, which means I will be comfortable in any of them. I will probably go with the a floaty green tunic over white for the photos, but who knows, I might change into a second look for the reception! 

One of the stylist's most critical contributions was advising me on what garments worked well together, and also sourcing accessories that I love—well, the metallic gold sandals look great, but I think I'm only going to wear them for the pictures, and change into my old faithful Finn Comfort sandals afterwards. But the necklace and earrings are a definite win; they totally lift the whole look, and they didn't break the bank either. But the thing I am most grateful to the stylist for is that she brought in her tailor and is having the pants and gauzy white shell altered to fit my specific body. 

The stylist is a gorgeous woman, who is herself plus size, and she had me ordering smaller and smaller sizes, thereby demonstrating to me that I have been wearing tops four times larger than my actual size, and that I should be wearing pants two to three sizes smaller. At one point, trying on a garment, I complained to the stylist, "But I can feel the armholes of this blouse," to which she replied, "That's because it fits you." It was a revelation. Once I knew my actual size (she took all my measurements), I realized that a blouse I loved that I thought didn't come in a large enough size to fit me, could actually be mine. So I ordered it. It arrived. And it fits! It is one of the three options.

So that's my wedding news. As for my daughter, she is refusing to overthink the details. "My dog died, I'm not stressing it," has become her mantra and, you know, it's actually a very healthy attitude. This new sense of perspective is carrying her through.


A word on that disastrous debate showing by Joe Biden, which is all anyone can talk about, even though the orange wannabe dictator lied his way through the whole thing, and made outrageous promises about all the fascist actions he will undertake once in office, and the revenge tour he will embark on to neutralize his enemies. With the Supreme Court conservative majority ruling he is immune for official acts—and, not incidentally, reserving the court's right to determine what actually constitutes official acts—such revenge might well include tribunals and worse. You may think I'm being hyperbolic, but if Trump gets back in office, it's well within the realm of what's possible. 

Now everyone is calling for Biden to step down, and right after the debate, I thought he should too, but now I think we all better strap in and go along for the ride, because if anyone is actually depending on who is on the Democratic ticket in order to vote blue, then we're in trouble. Apart from the fact that Biden will have more moral people in positions of authority around him, helping to guide the country forward, the only criteria for this vote is to ensure that Trump and his Heritage Foundation Project 2025 handlers do not win the White House in November. If Project 2025 is implemented, women, immigrants, LGBTQIA people, teachers, the disabled, pregnant people, the elderly, Muslims and all other racial and religious minorities will have hell to pay. Social security, Medicare, the Department of Education, the FBI, and Environmental Protection Agency will also be abolished, and that just for starters.

The first step, on day one, will be to fire thousands of federal workers and replace them with Trumpers willing to sign a loyalty pledge and do as he directs. Go look it up. Believe me, even if you think you have nothing to fear from a second Trump presidency, unless you are a straight White man of some means, you'll be just as f*cked as everyone else.


I'm just really gobsmacked as I contemplate the extreme duality of life, right now. Life is good. Life is horrifying. Both are true.

Monday, July 1, 2024

It appears we are properly f*cked

The Presidential immunity ruling by the Supreme Court is in.  

In her prescient 1993 novel Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler tried to warn us of the future she saw us rushing inexorably toward.

Today, in a 6-3 decision, with Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson dissenting, the Roberts court ruled that presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts is "absolute." They declined to decide what constituted official acts in connection to the January 6 insurrection, however, instead sending that back to the D.C. District Court to be decided within the guardrails the decision outlined, including the edict that private communications by the president that include references to his core constitutional powers must be excluded from consideration.

So if Trump consulted with the Justice Department on how to throw the election to himself or do some other nefarious thing, even and up to assassinating a political rival, that would be excluded because a president consulting with Justice Department is an official act. And of course, every action related to January 6 that the district court rules to not fall under the umbrella of official conduct will be appealed ad nauseam, so the litigation will go on forever.  Trump will never be held accountable.

Chief Justice Roberts basically wrote the decision to gut all the criminal cases against Trump, but especially Jack Smith's January 6 case. For example, Trump’s speech at the Ellipse exhorting people to go to the Capitol and "fight like hell" to shut down the certification of the 2020 election by Vice President Pence and Congress must be excluded from evidence, because that speech was given in Trump's official capacity as president.

It gets worse with almost every sentence the Chief Justice wrote. “In dividing official from unofficial acts, courts may not consider the president’s motives,” he opined. Does this mean Trump can now appeal the New York hush money 34-count conviction because some of the evidence introduced might now be considered official acts, like his conversations with White House staffer Hope Hicks? And what does it really mean that in both official and private acts the president's motives cannot be considered? The whole New York hush money case turned on his criminal motives!

The Supreme Court's six conservatives have essentially created an imperial presidency. Can you imagine what Trump will do under cover of this ruling if he wins in November?

Justice Sotomayor wrote the 3-person dissent, joined by Justices Kagan and Jackson, with Justice Jackson also writing her own dissent. 


From Justice Sotomayor's powerful dissent:


Justice Sotomayor further elucidated the dangers of "absolute" presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for so called "official acts":

Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune...

Never in the history of our Republic has a President had reason to believe that he would be immune from criminal prosecution if he used the trappings of his office to violate the criminal law. Moving forward, however, all former Presidents will be cloaked in such immunity. If the occupant of that office misuses official power for personal gain, the criminal law that the rest of us must abide will not provide a backstop.

With fear for our democracy, I dissent.


Justice Jackson's dissent was also much quoted in news reports:

Justice Jackson, a brilliant and deeply moral jurist, was appointed to the Supreme Court at perhaps the most nakedly political moment in its 233-year history, and yet I continue to be grateful for her strong principled voice, and that of the Court's two other progressive women, going on the record with their sharply reasoned and blistering dissents.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

A little rain

We watch movies and serialized dramas. We read books. We’re riveted, compelled by the artistic rendering of human pain. We cry for the people in these stories, we cry with them, knowing from our own human walk how agony scrapes us bare. We can’t look away when we see life mirrored in this way. It doesn't matter that the stories may not be real, because we know that somewhere, someone is suffering in the ways portrayed. I’m thinking tonight how pain is part of our human journey. We incarnate here to experience it, because without it, how would we ever know the sense of joy. How would we ever grasp the feeling of surpassing peace. I need to learn to not fear emotional pain, mine or my beloveds. To not shrink from it. To allow it and to know—really know—we will not be destroyed by it. Into each life, a little rain must fall—my mother often said this, quoting Longfellow. Tonight, as I brood on the ineffably sad ending of One Day, the fourteen episode Netflix series I just finished watching, the memory of her murmuring these words comforts me.

The photo is of Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall, who play Emma Morely and Dexter Mayhew in One Day. The series starts slow, and I actually stopped watching at episode four, a bit exasperated by some of the characters' choices—perhaps I was too far away from my own misbegotten youth to be sufficiently patient with Emma and Dex's twenty-something confusion and missed cues. But my daughter and nieces urged me to keep watching the will-they-or-won't-they love story, which spans fourteen years. The series did get better from that point on, with each character's growth and story arc holding my interest till the end. I have some issues with the Dex character's family and background being fully explored and developed on screen, and the Emma character's family and background being missing in action, but I'm still glad I stuck with it, and it certainly afforded me a good cry. Possibly all sorts of other sorrows jumped on board, recognizing their chance to escape captivity in that convenient release of tears.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Just life

We had heat waves, lightening storms, and flash floods this past week in the city, extreme weather that I've mostly watched from inside my house. I walk in my garden sometimes, and sit on a bench and turn my face to the sun, but it's been a slow week, blessedly so, as my left leg is wonkier and more achy than usual, and my right foot has developed some kind of pain along the arch. I am a crooked sight as I walk, rocking side to side, and I must be getting wiser because for once, I don't even care.

My son-in-law-to-be went to Tulum, Mexico, with ten other guys including my son, for his bachelor fling this past weekend. I worried about my girl being alone in their apartment while he was gone, for the first time without the frisky energy of Munch. I was ready to go and spend the nights with her, but she and her cousin Leah flew to Dallas instead, to hang out with my niece Leisa and the delightful Harper while Harper's dad was off partying with the boys. I heard the guys had a great time and didn't get up to too much mischief, while my daughter and nieces enjoyed the company of Miss Harper. They sent me pictures and videos of them sun hat shopping, eating out at restaurants together, Harper in tow, and my girl in the pool with Harper for her swimming lessons. Though there's still something sad in her eyes, my daughter looked happy and fully in the moment—who can be anything but with Harper in the house? Babies are healing souls.

Harper was bushed after a day of liming with her mom and her two auntie besties. Looks like she fell asleep in the middle of trying to remove her shoes.



Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Love in bloom

Our daughter's bridal shower was last Saturday. It was a joy to see the different sides of the bride and groom's families, and their various friend groups cheerfully mixing and getting to know one another. And baby Harper was the hit of the party, padding around laughing and pointing like a little tipsy person in her fire engine red sandals, thoroughly entertaining and entertained. 

My lovely daughter in law was my partner in pulling off this endeavor, and she was absolutely the MVP—making the signs, coming up with games, and getting the game cards printed at Staples from a template she found on Etsy and customized. She also created a beautiful floral ring for a photo backdrop; she worked out the design in her living room, then she and my son carefully dissembled it and transported it to the venue. Meanwhile my nieces and son helped hang photo garlands and laid out a fabulous charcuterie grazing table while my girl’s in laws to be brought deviled eggs, a yummy pasta salad, and the cake from upstate. Suffice it to say, a lot of folks contributed. 

We did the shower in rooms next to the roof deck of the apartment building where my daughter and her fiancé live. The theme of the event was “Love is in Bloom,” and we had buckets of flowers and greenery as well as an array of antique style bud vases that guests could use to make their own DIY bouquets to take home. I loved seeing everyone selecting their blooms and happily making their floral arrangements. It was the perfect bridal shower activity, and the buckets of flowers were festive!

I'm wrangling low level anxiety today, the sort that is a tangle of worries, none of them perfectly clear, just a looming sense of unease, which might very well be chemical or else based on imaginings rather than anything real. I'm absorbing the sorrows of the world again, it feels as if I have no protective outer membrane. I plan to just stay close to home today and try to distract myself from thinking/brooding on things that may just be life inexorably happening. What must it be like to have a quiet mind, as my husband does? What must it feel like to walk through the days with a settled heart. I’m reminded of the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, in which a character declares, "Everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not yet the end." I'm here, my friends, trying to trust that as I concentrate on drawing full breaths. 

My niece Leisa told my daughter that even though she is sad about losing Munch, especially in the way he died, she should still allow herself to feel happy, because she is getting married to her love, and this is also a joyful time. There it is again, the trick of holding two competing truths and allowing them both to be fully what they are. My daughter seemed to manage this on Saturday. She enjoyed her shower and her beloved did too. She told everyone gathered that they were “feeling the love." And truly, to me, she was pure light. Here are more pictures.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Seventy five years ago. And now

On this day in 1949, my parents were joined in matrimony. They had a wonderful partnership, which lasted forty-seven years, till my father died in 1996. They had their challenges, of course; I witnessed them from the inside. But they met them squarely, and love endured. I pray they're looking down on my two, my son almost two years married now, and my daughter making the commitment in just a few weeks. I'm thinking a lot about marriage today, how even the charmed ones are wildly imperfect, and no one other than the couple knows what happens between two people who pledge to walk through this earthly life in tandem. I imagine there has to be some indefinable magic, a sustaining friendship, and maybe also a lot of luck. Love is primary, yes, but you have to keep choosing it. I suspect it helps to start with people of bedrock good character, stubborn faith, emotional resilience, and a liberal sprinkling of beneficial karma, too. 

These two lovely couples are getting married in July, one at the start of the month and the other at the end. And last night, we got news of a third member of my daughter's cohort group who is planning to tie the knot at City Hall at mid-month. Three weddings of kids who started out together, all in a cluster. Tell me, friends, what bit of wisdom would you share with these couples standing of threshold of saying "I do"?


Monday, June 10, 2024

Saturday outings

We took our son's in-laws to see the new wing of my husband's museum on Saturday. It really is an impressive building. He also gave them a behind the scenes tour of his department, explaining how the ichthyologists do their work. We saw two of the special exhibits, the one about elephants, and one called Invisible Worlds, which is about life at the microscopic level. I especially loved being immersed in the visual narrative of the second exhibit, losing myself in the swirling images and color. After, we all went out to dinner, and as always when we spend time with my son's wife and her family, it was easy, warm, and good. Here are some pictures (including rare full body snaps of me).



In the evening, after our son's in-laws were back on the train on their way home to New Jersey, our daughter's soon-to-be in-laws arrived. They were sleeping over with us after spending the day with our daughter and their son/brother, having driven from upstate to offer support in our children's time of grief. My daughter and her love are just so sad. It is excruciating for me to just stand back and allow them to manage what they are going through, I want to jump in and fix it all, as if I could possibly take away their pain. I can't. I just have to watch and know that they are struggling, that they are reliving again and again waking up and finding that Munch had died. My daughter had set her alarm to check on him every two hours through the night, and when the 3AM alarm woke her, he was gone. "We wailed for hours," she told me. I cannot even imagine it. They were so connected to that dog. He made my daughter so happy. No matter what kind of day she had had, he was there to cuddle and coo with. And now they are in the apartment with his toys everywhere, but he's never coming back home. I think he chose his time. My daughter described how, the night before, he came to her bedside and nuzzled her hand, and she petted him peacefully. I think he was saying goodbye.

Friday, June 7, 2024

A breath at a time

I did the video call with my potential new book subject on Wednesday afternoon. I loved her at once. She seemed kind, and humble, despite having reached the stratosphere and making history in her chosen endeavor. Now she has a new mission, born when she and the baby she was carrying almost died. Yesterday she chose me to be her collaborator. 

So now I know what my next project will be, though the details are yet to be worked out, and we won’t get started in earnest till the fall. I feel smiled on by fortune, even though my heart is shredded for those I love who are grieving such a cruel loss. 

“This innocent little being entrusted to our care and we didn't save him," my daughter said last night. Her dad and me, and her brother and sister in law, sat with her and her soon to be betrothed around a table on their roof, eating take out. One of their friends came by and dropped off cupcakes. Another brought a home-cooked casserole.  

The bridal shower is in a week. I asked my daughter if she wanted to cancel it. "No," she said. "Life keeps on." She and her love are so very sad, but they are taking care of each other, too. This being human is holding two contradictory truths at once, and allowing them both to breathe. No way out but through.


Photo by Danielle Lee