Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Did I hear that right?

So Santorum thinks the idea that college should be an option for everyone is snobbery?

So Santorum thinks college is liberal indoctrination and nothing more?

I can't even.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

All Stars

My daughter is watching all-star basketball with her dad. She is newly a fan of the New York Knicks, Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields in particular, and she has set herself the task of learning all the players and their special talents in much the same way as she set herself the task of mastering the playground hanging loops when she was four. "So he's the new three-point shooter they just recruited from China?" she'll say, committing J.R. Smith's details to memory. It's a thing of beauty to listen to their banter. Senioritis is in full effect in our house. Hours of nightly homework have eased or been moved aside to make way for Knicks basketball. Her daddy's as happy as can be. That's the two of them on a fishing outing some years ago. The vibe is pretty much the same.


We watched our boy compete in heptathlon at States this weekend. We saw him high jump and pole vault, live streaming on our laptop, his dad and me, shoulder to shoulder across the bed, glued to the screen, always finding our boy in the crowd, lean and loping, watching him clear the bar, again and again. We saw him come third in high jump. His dad attended his track meets every weekend while he was in high school. He kept looking for our son's high school track buddies and having to remind himself this was college now. He said, "Finally, I get to see my son compete again!" We miss that boy.

Blog Neighbors

Sometimes I think I might just close up this blog. It might be a moment when I'm feeling particularly exposed, or feeling stymied by what I cannot fairly write here because it will infringe unreasonably on another's privacy, or because I know the thing I might be feeling will pass, and I don't want to put it out there knowing that as soon as I press "Publish" it will already be a lie, and so I don't write sometimes, the words just fill my head, a jumble of thoughts and feelings trying to find their way to light, and I wonder, why write on the blog if I can't write everything that arises in me, and then I pay visits to my blog neighbors instead, and I find Ms. Moon putting the Republican race in brilliant perspective and Tearful peeling back the meaning of the universe in a moment of hard-won domestic peace, and the Grady Doctor wrestling with hard and magnificent truths in painful counterpoint while Elizabeth explains how a day in the life of beautiful Sophie is made to work with the help of her extraordinary brothers, and my spirit brother Mark reporting that his application to sponsor his partner of 22 years, French citizen Fred, co-parent of the four most photogenic children on the face of the earth, has been denied, putting the appeal in motion, and Mel and Debra, in the same place I am, watching our baby chicks fly, and ellen breaking it down about why she's breaking up with Oscar, and Miss A in Brooklyn making it happen, day by day, not all of them easy, and really all of you, I could go on and on, but instead I'll just say that when I feel tempted to shut this thing down, I find myself here again, reading your words, feeling the great privilege of being privy to your lives, and understanding how much I'd miss you if I couldn't come here and be with you sometimes. I learn so much from you. I root so hard for you. You make me cry. You make me cheer. You remind me how far our connections are flung, and how very near.

I Heart You

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Some Love

If you feel inclined, please go here and give my girl some love. She is a good girl. Truly. And I want her to get into college. Will your love help? Who knows? Maybe some admissions officer will happen by her blog and say, Oh my, this girl has some love, and then he or she will admit her because who wouldn't want her beaming loving radiant self on their campus. What? It could happen!

Monday, February 20, 2012


Since the beginning of the year, I have watched in full:

Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey

Each one has immersed me in another world, and I'm a little disoriented coming back to myself, leaving my new found dream life behind. I'm moving on now to Friday Night Lights. Lots of brain noise these days. It seems to be affecting my ability to write here.

The girl I love is away working at winter camp this weekend. The boy I love, having decided to forgo that alcohol soaked college rite in Ft. Lauderdale, is considering staying in his college town and working during spring break. He has an incentive to save as his girl is a plane ride away in England.

There is a loneliness that comes with your children leaving home, even for rehearsals as my friend Isabella calls these little leave takings. I feel the particular sort of lonely that I knew in my twenties, except now I am standing still and staring it in the face, not running away as I did back then. How fascinating to realize that the absolute absorbtion of raising children can so effectively hold that loneliness at bay. It's back now. My old friend.

I don't think men admit this loss the way women do. I could be wrong, but everywhere I look, mothers are reeling from missing their now grown babies, they are collapsing silently under the weight of it, while fathers appear to just keep on keeping on, as if everything is still the same. It's a generalization, of course. It doesn't always play out this way. But from what I can see, it often does. Maybe it has its uses. When I stumble these days, I look at my husband, stoic and pressing on and I set my compass, knowing there's no way around it, I have to do that, too.

Here is a photo of me the year I got married. I was 29. This recently unearthed image was part of my mom's 90th birthday slide show. I wish I'd appreciated myself more back then.

And here is a Hipstamatic shot my girl took of us in December. This is me now. Life giveth. Life taketh. Life moves us on. That's just how it goes. I'm not mad at it. I'm steeped in love.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Water World

This painting, posted by Moses's grandma, rather reflects how I am feeling. There's something so Frida Khalo-esque about it. You'd think I'd find that rippling sea, dipping as if to a waterfall, unsettling, and yet this image comforts me, the depth and vividness of the red and the blue, the rootedness of the bedposts, the hopeful moon. No, I don't find the dreamer's journey unsettling at all. To me, she looks girded for a great adventure.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Of the People

The minister at our church is moving on and my first response when I heard was selfish regret that he won't be the one to preside over my Aunt Winnie's funeral. He knows the family so well. He buried her husband, my Uncle Charlie, and last year, her son, whose death no one had foreseen. He is such a good man, so generous of spirit, so radical and non judging. His eulogies are so loving. He has run an activist little church, full of petitions and marches and sit-ins and letter writing campaigns. He was arrested when he refused to vacate a church yard during the Occupy Wall Street protests. His is a ministry in the true sense of the word, in a church that welcomes everyone into its pews. One choir member, our friend Charles, who has been living on the street for decades, and might prefer it, organized the people who collect cans and bottles and redeem them for five cents each. He helped them start a union called The Redeemers, and they went to Albany to agitate for their rights, as stores were trying not to pay them for the bottles they brought in, because the store owners would much rather keep all those five cent coins in the till, even though the redeemers were cutting down on litter and toxic landfill and trying to buy a crust of bread to boot. Our church gave Charles a place to organize, a home base. Our minister is a champion organizer, a good man who meets people where they are. He doesn't waste time expecting everyone to do or be what they should. He starts from what is, and he circles your shoulders with his arm and walks a pace with you. My aunt loves him because he has never made her feel as if he looks down on or in any way condemns her addicted daughter. He goes to her home to give her communion, walking up the path in his wide-brimmed brown suede hat and frayed black coat, the host and a flask of wine in his pocket. And you know, I don't go to church much. It's not my thing, although I do pray. But Sunday service is my husband's comfort, and my mother's. When my mom is in the city, they walk to church together every Sunday, and it does not surprise me one bit that when it came time to baptize our firstborn, my husband found a church that is of the people, because he is a man of the people, a socialist at heart, and so is our minister, a Kentucky-raised boy by way of Amherst who plunked his family down in the center of Harlem, raised them there, and now will be moving to Vermont to help care for his wife's family, leaving us to find another good and radical soul to fill his rather enormous shoes. As church warden, my husband will have to oversee this happening. He has a task ahead of him. Meanwhile, I grieve quietly that this good man, this man of God, will not be there to say words for my aunt when her time comes. He would have known just what to say to honor her life. He would have helped us do her justice.

Photo by Ozier Muhammad/ New York Times

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Painting by Nathan Jelani Taylor

“We must not cease from exploration.
And the end of all our exploring 
will be to arrive where we began and 
to know the place for the first time.” 

—T. S. Eliot 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Goodbye, Whitney

My husband is at church. My daughter is at a sleepover, having helped throw one of the six a 19th birthday party last night, and I am here alone in my house on this Sunday morning, listening to Whitney Houston as the tears fall down. It is more than that she takes me back to a particular time in my life when I was young and poetically lonely and she was brilliant company on the record player. It is more than the fact that at our wedding party we danced to her songs. It is that she didn't make it after all. She spent her whole life in the grip of her addiction, and she never managed to get on top of it for long. She wasn't victorious in that fight. In the end, she went down for the count. How amazing the work she did in spite of it.

My cousin Helen, a healer, firmly believes that we each come here with a life script, and we make deals before we are born with our supporting cast of characters, usually souls we have loved over many lifetimes, just as they make deals with us to support the life script they have chosen, so we each can learn the spiritual lessons we have set for ourselves. She believes children choose their parents and choose the path they will travel. She believes our addicted cousin Pearl (not her real name) is living the life she chose for herself. She chose to do it the hard way, Helen says, but make no mistake, she is learning, and she is teaching, too.

Here's a strange thing: Whitney in that photo from her debut album cover looks like my cousin Pearl. I am sure some of the sorrow I am feeling this morning is for Pearl's struggle, too.

I have not felt like writing much lately, words feel stuck, and yet this morning, when my heart is aching for the loss of Whitney, aching for her mother Cissy and her daughter Bobbi Kristina, this is where I have come. You are the ones I know I can I tell. Thank you.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whitney Houston, 1963-2012

I remember when I used to listen to her first album on repeat. I was in my early twenties, alone in my first solo apartment, and I felt as if she was singing everything I felt, just for me. She was company. Her voice was a marvel. Thank you, Whitney. I was always rooting for you. I hope you are somewhere free.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Good Morning

This room has a pleasant feel, I said.
It is a house to me now, she replied.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Long Jump

My son is away at college. I don't see or talk to him nearly as often as my heart wishes. But I do stalk his Facebook page from time to time (okay, often). Here is what I found on my last tour. Yes. More flight. It would appear that the theme this month is flying—my children's flight and my own diminished ability to fly, but the part that involves me is a post for another day. Suffice it to say that what I am dealing with mechanically at the moment makes me all the more awed by the seemingly limitless way my children's bodies are able to move, to leap and jump and run and soar. I don't take it for granted. I want them to see themselves as I see them, their power and possibility, and I hope they live in such a way as to preserve the dazzling grace and motion that is theirs today.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

No Fear of Flying

"I pick the prettiest part of the sky and I 
melt into the wing and then into the air, 
till I'm just soul on a sunbeam." 

—Richard Bach

That's my daughter above. She's the dancer in front. This photo, which I converted to black and white, is a crop from an image that I posted with the rest of the Dance Concert photos a few days ago. To see the original photograph, go here. I posted this image again because I wanted to see it larger. I wanted to zero in on my girl. I love her concentration and sense of flight here. There's also a serenity in her expression, no angst or fear, just the feeling of doing it. This image reminds me that she is indeed taking flight. She's worked hard for this. And she's ready. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Color of the Sun

I kept wondering why I was so drawn to this photo. This morning I suddenly understand. The yellow looks like the sun where I'm from, and that blue is the same as the sea, and that word Jyry, my mother says it all the time, Jehovah Jireh, she says, meaning God will provide everything you need, so don't worry so much, don't worry so.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Breaking Good

On Elizabeth's recommendation, I watched all four seasons of Breaking Bad in the last few weeks, and now I am in withdrawal, sorely in need of another Netflix series to cosy up to on my sweet little Kindle Fire. Any suggestions? I loved the arc and the layered characterizations on Breaking Bad, and the way everything (with maybe one tiny exception) was completely believable in how it evolved, or at least, allowed me to suspend belief and not get mired in skepticism or glaring plot holes. The series absorbed me in a different way than the Showtime series Homeland did, but the engagement was as complete.

Here's what I've found: This kind of engagement with a compelling series watched curled up in a chair with my little Fire is a good a Prozac, y'all. It completely drowns out the brain noise, drawing me into a whole world outside my incessant rumination and worry. I get so caught up in the story unfolding on the small screen (a beautiful richly colored, nicely detailed little screen by the way, the perfect size, and nobody's paying me to say that!) that I can allow the stories playing out in my real life to unfold without my anxious interference. I can dip in as needed and be mentally occupied otherwise. No wide open brain space to cook up dire scenarios!

So help out my family, people. What series would you suggest I try next? As context, in addition to Breaking Bad and Homeland, I have loved or am loving The Good Wife, Nurse Jackie, The Big C, Rome, and Six Feet Under, to name a few of the shows I have found particularly absorbing. I'd welcome movie suggestions too.

Thank you in advance for any ideas you may have, or for just being here and reading this. I'm off the root for the Giants in the Super Bowl now, along with my husband, daughter and niece, who came to town this weekend with her squash team. She decided to stay overnight and travel back to school tomorrow. The table is full of fixings, spinach dip and cut veggies, chips and salsa, cheeses, crackers, and the best barbeque wings ever, all courtesy of my husband. The beer is cold and the vocal chords are tuned up and my son is texting in regularly. We're having a party over here! Let's play ball.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Speaking of Facebook, this is my son's profile pic at the moment. The comments are proliferating. My favorite: "Chillin in air."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Dance

"Are you strong enough to stand
Protecting both your heart and mine?"

From "Heavy in Your Arms" 
by Florence + The Machine

The photo above is from a dance choreographed to Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," which my girl was in. That's her, second from the left. The three images immediately below are of moments from the dance my daughter choreographed at Dance Concert 2012. Her dancers performed to the music of "Heavy in Your Arms" by Florence + The Machine. My daughter said the dance was about struggling with the worst pain you've ever felt and then finding someone there. The images here are a mix of amateur shots that showed up on Facebook, and professional images taken by the school photographer. Oh, these beautiful children.