Saturday, March 30, 2013

The man I love

whose eyes look out from that painting on our bedroom wall, and whose purple-clad shoulder hides the rest of his face, rose early and went down to the flower district to choose his blooms. It's Easter, and as he always does, he is doing the altar arrangements for Easter Sunday service in honor of his mother, four years gone now.

His mom used to teach flower arranging, and he took his first class in that fine art with her, after learning that a young lady he was interested in was also taking the class. He was a teen, then. He is a master, now. He used tropical flowers—birds of paradise, red and white anthuriums—to create the arrangements, which were beautiful, more so than I have managed to capture here. I will try to get a better photo of them on the altar tomorrow.

Later, we joined our friend for lunch in the outdoor court of Harlem Tavern, and sat under a red umbrella and watched all of humanity walking by, every description of human, while a New Orleans style band played. But it was the sky I wanted to capture, so blue it was. I believe spring has arrived. 

And then, when we came home, my husband declared himself in a way that made me cry, I won't share it here, I will only say it was everything, and then he gave me this Faberge-style purple-enameled egg for Easter, and I love it so, and I love him so. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

1,000th Post

So I made it. One thousand posts. More words written in this one place than maybe two or three books combined. Some days I thought I would close down this blog and go quietly away. I felt revealed. I felt shy. Some days I felt the weight of all the words here, all the life that tumbled through them for good and ill, and I wanted to just start anew. But I kept on going, you kept me going, this gathering of souls that feels like home, whose aches I wish fervently away, whose words astound, inspire, provoke and ransack my heart, and whose brilliance makes my eyes water.

In five years of writing this blog, I have often glimpsed the absurdity of private catharsis on this most public of stages, and yet still I continued to write what I had not yet shared with my own kin, in part because I could not untangle the threads until I wrote them here. Sometimes, it felt as if I was holding myself together with those unspooling lines of black type. I also wrote about my son and my daughter, wanting to create a record for them, wanting to hold the moments captured in photograps, in their eyes, remembering the long-ago psychic who told me they would know me better than I could imagine. I wanted that to be true. I told myself that strangers who happened by would not care. I had no idea that in time those strangers would become friends who could not be more real to me if I wrapped them in my arms and never let them go.

There is a word, seven rows up in the center column of that list. Thankful. I have had the occasion to use that word quite often of late. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for my community of souls. I am thankful for you. I am thankful.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cupcakes and such

These are her birthday treats. She chose the flavors. They look fairly intact after shipping. I wonder who she'll be sharing them with later? Those coconut ones look scrumptious. I swear when I was ordering them I almost ordered another dozen for my husband and me to share in celebration of her day. But I restrained myself. They are from Georgetown Cupcakes, which she had long been wanting to try. 
This was the photo collage my son put up on Facebook in honor of his sister's birthday. He wrote, "I guess you grew up. I can't push you around any more. Happy birthday, little sis." And then he posted a photo taken the day after our girl was born, with him him and his dad and his sister, and he wrote, "This pic in now 19 years old." They'll see each other later, one of the perks of the two of them going to college in the same town. Meanwhile scores of messages have been scrolling up her wall, with friends posting old photos of her. Nobody does birthdays like Facebook!

It's sort of weird not being with her on her birthday; this is her first one since leaving home, but she sounds happy. She posted a photo on Instagram of her dorm room bed covered in balloons and gift bags and birthday loot, so I'm guessing her birthday isn't going unnoticed among her friends, even if she did complain about a paper due for tomorrow. I told her, chin up, I always had final exams on my birthday, whereas she had a good run of having hers fall in the middle of spring break or during Easter holidays.

Happy Birthday Beloved Girl

Age 4 going on 5

The moment she was born, I felt this sense of relief, like a long slow breath released, and a recognition. She was here. The doctor placed her scrunched up little form on my chest, and I traced the whorl of hair at the top of her forehead with my finger and felt the deepest peace. She is, indeed our peacemaker, the one who can insert a light comment to dissipate tension, as she did just last weekend, when my son and I clashed over a certain tone of voice in the airport, and then on the plane I tried to explain to him what in his tone had so offended me, and he replied by explaining how my tone had also offended him, and then we both apologized stiffly, our girl sitting in the seat between us smiling serenely, almost beatifically, watching it all. And then as we sat in righteous huffy silence, her brother and her mother, she put an arm around each of our shoulders and said, "There, there, now don't we all feel heard," as if we were two years old and learning to use our words, and it made us all burst out laughing, even her dad who was across the aisle and refusing to get embroiled in any of it.

Age 18 going on 19

One of her aunts likes to say she is like water, cool and soothing, flowing around and through the rough spaces, refreshing everything. We feel so nourished by her presence. This child knows, above all else, how to make a person feel loved. She does this magnificently. And today she turns 19 years old. We love you, our dear sweet girl. There is not another soul in this world like you and we are so abundantly blessed to be your family. May your most wonderful dreams be realized now and forever, our darling girl. Amen. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Based on what I read here, many bloggers who write their lives have a curious push-pull relationship with posting. I get it. Sometimes I'm so tired of hearing myself talk or I start to feel exposed or can't call up the words. But the urgency to write usually wins out—that and the desire to stay connected to the community of like souls I have found here. And truly, I would post photos of my children every single day if I had enough photos, but they live away from me now, so there's that. I miss them, but you already know that, so this morning, let me just say thank you, all you dear ones who left me comments yesterday, for your concern about my being under the weather. I'm doing a lot better; the skies are crystal clear. Today I'm just going to post what I saw on my way to and from work yesterday. This city, even the gritty parts, can be so dazzling on a clear blue day.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A constant cause

"I am not feeling any better because I cannot stay in bed, having constant cause for walking. They say I leave at night by the window of my tower, hanging from a red umbrella with which I set fire to the forest! "

— Camille Claudel

Another bed. It's not really hard to figure out where I'd rather be today, but I am holding fast to my red umbrella lest it shoot flames upon the unsuspecting. I am back at work after spending yesterday at home, not in my sick bed as I had intended, but at the computer, editing stories and inserting revision notes as if it were any other workday. Today I am still a little lightheaded and just the slightest bit shivery, but there is too much happening every minute to miss another day. My attention to detail is somewhat shaky, I've had to redo a letter three times, and I can honestly say there are too few of us here to manage to big ideas we consistently skip across the table. I am exhausted from dreaming big. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

The ease of years

I keep looking at these photos I took of my mother and my son, at the devotion between them. I can't share these photos on Facebook. The way my mother has aged, so suddenly and deeply, is distressing to some of my family members, it makes them gasp with pain and pity, and I don't want to put her out there like that. And yet, I feel perfectly at peace sharing the photographs here, in this even more public forum, where the only people who come around regularly are those whose hearts are open and willing to see what is noble and tender in these photographs, and not flinch at the diminishments of age. This is my mother who is 91. This is my son who is 21. There is such love between them. I marvel at it. I—who always felt the need to be formally well-behaved around my father's parents, whom I loved, but with decorum (my mother's parents died before I could know them)—am blessed to witness the closeness between my mother and my children; between my mother and her grandchildren there is no reserve at all, only deep familiarity and care.

You have my whole heart

While waiting to see what the Supreme Court will rule about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act tomorrow, waiting to see if the justices will strike it down and allow people of any gender who love each other to marry, I'm browsing photos of grown up bedrooms, because I am playing with the idea of completely redoing ours, getting rid of the desk and the computer there that no longer works, putting the printer in the armoire, filing papers, shelving books, throwing out magazines, clearing clutter. Time to move the home office and former homework central out of there and maybe bring in a romantic old-world candlelabra. My husband likes a white room, and I might too, except that sometimes I want to paint the walls midnight blue with red acccents, or turquoise and green, or shell pink and lemon yellow. Maybe that's why my husband likes white walls. He has no idea where my imagination might lead us if he gives in to color. For years we lived with rose-colored walls, then when we moved we decided on an all white loft-like feel to go with the maple wood floors. Now I might be ready for color again, at least brightly colored accents. Of course I haven't yet lifted a finger to effect this transformation, but stay tuned.

(Neither of these rooms is mine.)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Nothing Much to Say

I can never getting enough of seeing the evolution of faces, my own, my loved ones, anyone's really. It fascinates me. Here are my three in 2002 and now. My son and daughter are 10 and 7 in the first picture, my niece is 13. In the second photo, taken a week ago, they are, from left to right, 18, 21, and 23.

My daughter turns 19 this week Thursday. I ordered Georgetown Cupcakes to be delivered to her on her birthday, a custom assortment. We were on the phone together and she chose the flavors. We also mailed a gift that arrived this weekend, but the mail room is closed, so even though she got the notice that it's there, she won't be able to collect it until Monday.

I feel sort of weak and cleansed, fresh from a long shower but exhausted by it, too. I am on the mend from a virus of some kind, but not mended quite yet. I am cosy at home with my husband who is watching March Madness college basketball after solving the day's problems at church this morning, dipping into his pocket to meet various needs, coming home with his wallet empty, his sense of purpose activated. That little community church is so full of need. As its warden, my husband is the center that holds, the one who has a rapport with all demographics, the educated liberal intellectuals, the homeless and at risk, the lost and found souls who gather there, all of them so needy in some way. My husband's need is to be useful, to help keep the ship afloat during this transition between priests. They are so lucky to have him. As we are.

I have a strange sense of peace this afternoon, but I miss my children, too. I am okay with their being away from me. The hard part is not knowing the shape of their days, what experiences are transforming them minute by minute, not being able to keep track as they become who they will be. It can't be helped. This is what it means to release them. Perhaps in my next life I will choose a culture in which everyone lives in close proximity on the same compound. Or at least on the same island.

My cousin Maureen said to my children last week: "When you grow up all together as we did, all the cousins, and you spend so much time together, you remain close for life, no matter how many months or years come between you. When you see each other, you pick right up where you left off. The way were raised, all of us together on a small island, it was wonderful." My children seemed to be really listening.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ten Dreams of Home

I am glad the weekend's finally here. Having travelled to Jamaica and Florida during the last two weeks, I am relishing the thought of curling up in my house and nursing this cold that seems to be trying to claim me. At work, daydreaming about exactly this, I found myself searching out excerpts on the subject of home. Here are ten that spoke to me.


“I let it go. It's like swimming against the current. It exhausts you. After a while, whoever you are, you just have to let go, and the river brings you home.”
― Joanne Harris, Five Quarters of the Orange


“What is home? My favorite definition is "a safe place," a place where one is free from attack, a place where one experiences secure relationships and affirmation. It's a place where people share and understand each other. The people in it do not need to be perfect; instead, they need to be honest, loving, supportive, recognizing a common humanity that makes all of us vulnerable.”
― Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child's Heart


“It’s funny. When you leave your home and wander really far, you always think, ‘I want to go home.’ But then you come home, and of course it’s not the same. You can’t live with it, you can’t live away from it. And it seems like from then on there’s always this yearning for some place that doesn’t exist. I felt that. Still do. I’m never completely at home anywhere.”
―Danzy Senna


“That's what so many people didn't understand about life. The real world is the one within the walls of homes; the outside world, of careers and politics and money and fame, that was the fake world, where nothing lasted, and things were real only to the extent they harmed or helped people inside their homes.”
― Orson Scott Card, Hidden Empire


“He didn't think he belonged here, so she was making him face some uncomfortable facts. People adapt. People change. You can grow where you're planted.”
― Sarah Addison Allen, The Peach Keeper


“It may be argued that the past is a country from which we have all emigrated, that its loss is part of our common humanity.”
― Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands


"We don't get an endless number of orbits away from the place where meaning first arises, that treasure-house of first experiences. What we learn, instead, is that our adventures secure us in our isolation. Experience revokes our licence to return to simpler times. Sooner or later, there's no place remotely like home.”
― Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz


“You don’t have a home until you leave it and then, when you have left it, you never can go back.”
― James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room


“The desire to go home that is a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the center of the world, that center called love. To awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to cease to speak and be perfectly understood.”
Rebecca Solnit, Storming the Gates of Paradise


“The nice thing about being away from home is the feeling of excitement on returning to it!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Happy Chef

The text I got at around 11 p.m. last night from my girl, who is spending her spring break working long hours as a student chef in the kitchen of a very fine Tuscan restaurant: "Just got out from my shift. Love my job. I get paid to have fun haha." What could be better, I thought as I turned over and drifted into uncharacteristically untroubled sleep.

One Week

That week spent in Jamaica, in my brother's house, with my mother and my son, was a gift. It was one of those moments when we were exactly where we needed to be, so that my mother would not brood in her room alone, staring out at the hills. We did little else but be with her, watching games shows together, talking and not talking, and me holding my mother in those moments when she became overwhelmed by the reality that her sister had died. I encouraged her to cry. I told her it was natural to cry, to not keep grief bottled. She said she wanted to be strong for everyone. I asked her to be vulnerable for us, so that we might mourn together. At last she broke down and sobbed, whispering over and over, We've had such a good life, we've been so blessed. And then she slept. And my son played video games, waiting for her to awaken. And we talked about everything, all the sharing that can only happen unforced. There was sorrow in the air, but the week was charmed, too, a moment out of time, the three of us together, necessary and right.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

All is story

For years now, one of my cousins has insisted that I am to write the history of our family. She says she knows this because our great grandmother Amanda comes to her in her dreams and tells her things, and this is one of the things she told her. I always laugh and demur, because my cousin tells me this like it's an imperative, a criticism that I'm tarrying over my given task and need to get started. And, too, our great grandmother Amanda is so convenient in her comings and goings to this cousin, and the pronouncements that attend her appearances often seem to be after the fact, and with a big dollop of story thrown in. But now I'm thinking, why take issue with a little storytelling, especially since it has recently occured to me that I am in fact writing a kind of family history here on this blog, even if most of my family members don't know it exists. So maybe my cousin does speak to our great grandmother Amanda from time to time. Who am I to quibble with her claims of channeling this famously sweet spirit in her dreams?

As I was musing on all this, another cousin (there are a lot of cousins) sent me a New York Times piece on how giving one's children a family narrative, sharing stories that give them a sense of being connected to something that has weathered upturns and downturns and endured for generations, can make those children more resilient. Two researchers did a study through the course of years, and found that those children who knew such details as how their parents met, where their grandparents went to school, why that cousin was arrested, how this one's grandfather won the battle with alcohol, how that aunt loved to make a sale, were able to manage life's little and big crises more readily.

Which got me thinking again. I write this blog for myself, as a way to process, often for my own sanity. But sometimes I write it for my children, too, including my niece who reads here, as a record of our lives, a preservation of memories, and—it turns out—as proof that sad times, inconvenient emotional chemistry, occasional squabbles and sketchy actions by some family members, do not outweigh the gift of loving one another. Through the years I have watched this family enfold those of us who falter, never condoning bad behavior, demanding that we come correct, never hesitating to tell even the scalding truths, yet never letting each other go. This is the legacy of my mother and her siblings, the nine, and of their mother Ione, and also of her mother Amanda, who speaks to my cousin in the night.

The photo is of Aunt Maisy's back yard in Orlando. I can still see and hear my children and their cousins a decade ago playing slip-and-slide in a plastic pool on that lawn.

Apple picking

That's Aunt Maisy on the right in her shades, and my cousin who is like my sister behind her, and her husband and her boys, who are really my second cousins, but I call them my nephews. I just wanted to put this photo of one of Aunt Maisy's last good days where I could see it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

We sang for her and that night we danced

I don't know where to begin to tell you about Aunt Maisy's grand send-off. There is no way to tell everything. I cried during every hymn, remembering Aunt Maisy in the church of my childhood, up in the choir balcony singing with gusto. I cried hardest when her oldest grandson sang the song he had written, strumming along on his guitar, the first time the family had heard him sing and seen him perform. His mother worries about his grades, but I think the universe just wants to make sure he doesn't get sidetracked from his music, his gift is so pure. A Jamaican-American Sioux channeling Jimi Hendrix, he won in two categories at a regional arts festival the weekend after his grandmother died. He won for songwriting and guitar solo, and has been invited to perform at nationals in both categories. That's when his mother knew that what she heard—fondly she thought—as a beautiful sound, was in fact the real deal. The church gasped when he sang, and it seemed so right that his musical coming out should be in church, in honor of his choir-singing grandmother. He told us his song was the last one his grandmother heard, that his mother had played a tape of it for her on the day she died. Aunt Maisy was sleeping most of the time by then, but when she heard her grandson's music, she opened her eyes and smiled. To me, he sounds a little like Simon & Garfunkel though he's only one soul, but it's his own sound too, folk rocky, gentle, impassioned. My daughter looked at me, her eyes saucers. She's heard her cousin play his guitar often, but the voice was new. "I didn't know he could sing like that," she breathed.

At the house afterward, waves and waves of family members wandered through, assembling and reassembling in different rooms, in new configurations, laughing and sharing memories and a meal, reconnecting. My husband, my brother and my son sat and chatted as men together, and I felt gratified by how easy they are with each other. My daughter and her guitar-playing cousin, kindreds by virtue of age and temperament, fell into their usual stream-of-consciousness quirkiness. The younger kids raced through the yard, playing catch and soccer in their church clothes. My niece who will be a dentist was folded back into our so-called "Normal" family (it's an inside joke); we hadn't seen her since her graduation last May. She and my daughter, when they first were reunited the night before the memorial service, squealed and fell into each other's arms.

Late in the evening of Aunt Maisy's send off, a cohort of cousins—from Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Jamaica, New York, New Jersey and the Bahamas—decided to make a video of themselves doing the Harlem Shake. With one of their uncles holding the camera, they did take after take on the back porch, with festive and absurd hilarity. As we watched the playback on the living room TV, the cousins decided the old folks should do a Harlem shake video, too. We were game, and we did. And as we jumped around ("like poppy show" my cousin Maureen said) and waved our arms and wiggled and jiggled to the music, my son shook his head and said, "Only Aunt Maisy could call up such a ruckus." He spoke true.

The photos here are of my young ones, now coming into their own and internalizing the sense of family loyalty and connection just as we did, taught by the nine siblings of my mother's generation. Family was sacred to Aunt Maisy, who loved fiercely and vociferously, never hesitating to tell home truths as she saw them, because as far as she was concerned, love demanded the truth. Little disagreements were not to be feared—they could be weathered. They always were. It's Monday morning, and my kids are back at college and my husband and I are off to work. Life is heartbreakingly good. I am exhausted and filled up with love.

And one more.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Garden Wall

Among my mother's things I found this photograph of the cousins standing on her garden wall in St. Lucia. They were spending the month of August with her as usual. I think the year was 2007. I love the exuberance of these children in their grandma's care.


We're back in New York for one night. Our daughter will travel down from college overnight then the four of us will fly to Orlando with the family tomorrow to celebrate Aunt Maisy's life. My mom called to make sure my son and I had got home safe. Her voice on the phone sounded strong, bright. I had worried, leaving her this morning, that she was depressed. She sobbed as she hugged us, her voice a weak whisper. Hearing her just now, I exhaled. I will hold on to the sound of her voice on that call.

While in his home this week, I said to my brother, "Do you find that the hardest part of taking care of mom is the emotional part?" He shrugged and said, "It is hard emotionally, but I can't take on everything that she feels because most of it I can do nothing about." I didn't think he was being callous in saying that. I envied his realism. He cares deeply for her. He does everything he can for her. But old age is a hard passage and most of what is hardest about it cannot be alleviated. As my mother herself used to say, "What cannot be cured must be endured." It was good to be with her this week and hard to leave her again. Every moment counts now. I suppose this was always true but now I am more aware.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Yesterday we took my mom to see her sister Grace, who had been ill and in the hospital since January. Grace is back home with her daughter's family now, but still weak and recuperating, and she and my mom had not seen each other in over a month. With the sister between them now gone from this earth, and Aunt Grace having so very nearly gone too, they felt the void of each other's presence even more keenly. They greeted each other like lost lovers reunited. That's exactly what they were. So many people came by the house when they heard the sisters were together. I wish I could write more and share more pictures and maybe I will when I get back to New York. My son is here with us. He says, "Your chariot is here, Grandma. Wherever you want to go." He takes her walking. He lies across her bed and watches games shows, calling out the answers with her. She's gotten him addicted. There they are, my mom doing strengthening exercises down the hallway and at the window, her grandson ever watchful.

Please forgive my being absent from your blogs this week. I will be by to catch up on all that is happening when I return home, which may not be till next week as we will be in New York for only a day before heading to Orlando, Florida for Aunt Maisy's grand send off. It's going to be something of a family reunion, as these affairs so often are. In the meantime, know that I think about you and carry you with me more than you would probably imagine.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Post Dated Checks

So Aunt Maisy is gone and it's not quite real. She is the little solemn-faced 6-year-old second from the right in the photo above. In truth Aunt Maisy was hardly ever solemn. On Facebook, in email, in phone calls and via texts, everyone is sharing their memories of her, and so many of those memories make us laugh! Aunt Maisy pinching our cheeks and making gurgling noises as if we were two years old, even until we were grown. Aunt Maisy trying to discipline us when we were children, she mad as red ants at whatever was our infraction, and my brother daring to tell her a joke as she raged at him, and Aunt Maisy dissolving into laughs. Aunt Maisy could never resist a well told joke. She saved them up for months so she could share them at her famous Thanksgiving dinners. They were highly anticipated family events, looked forward to by all, especially the part of the evening when everyone was sated and sort of drifting, and Aunt Maisy would say to one and then another and another, "I have something that would look just right on you. It's the perfect thing." She used to go down to the wholesale district and stock up on scarves, gloves, nighties, stockings, socks, ties, lingerie, blouses, handkerchief sets, little things you might need but seldom got around to buying, all so she could sell them to us. The point wasn't the money. None of us had much money anyway. Most of those gathered were my generation, not too long out of college, or starting new families, or setting up fledgling business ventures. When we demurred with this excuse or that, Aunt Maisy would smile conspiratorially and say, "I take post-dated checks, you know." How could we resist? It was always so lively in her bedroom with her wares spread across the bed, and all the aunts (never the uncles, come to think of it) and cousins and in laws trying on item after item, preening before the mirrors, cheerfully soliciting and proffering opinions, and then at last writing that check, feeling not at all forced, just wanting to be part of the joy in there, to walk away with something Aunt Maisy had picked out just for you. We post dated our checks sometimes months in the future, and Aunt Maisy would smile delightedly and do a little dance over to a corner of her bedroom carpet. She would lift the edge and tuck our checks safely there along with a growing company of other post dated checks. Sometimes I think we wrote those checks just so we could see Aunt Maisy do her little jig and file them under the carpet. The hilarity that attended her filing system never got old. I realize now I can't remember a single one of my checks ever being cashed. For Aunt Maisy, it was the pure thrill of the sale.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Aunt Maisy died at 3:30 am this morning as the snow in Fairfax, Virginia fell slowly over everything. She is the first of the six sisters to go. She was 88. I miss her dearly. I will be in Jamaica with my mom for the next week (not doing the retreat after all), and then in Orlando, Florida for Aunt Maisy's memorial service. Once again, the family is gathering.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Showing Up

My mother's view

I will be flying to Jamaica in a couple of days to spend a week with my mom. Even better, my son is going, too, having decided to spend his spring break squiring his grandma around. He wants to get her out the house, even in a wheelchair, taking her for walks under the impossibly blue sky. He wants her to sit on a bench in the garden and feel the sun on her shoulders. He is being trained in the mechanics of human motion so he knows how to get her down the stairs safely. For sure he inspires confidence. He makes my mother feel taken care of and safe. She is thrilled he is coming to see her. Yes, she's thrilled about me too, but it's her grandchildren who strum her heartstrings like no other.

And yes, while I am there, I will attend that weekend retreat in the hills that my cousin, the life coach and spirit talker, is holding. My brother kept saying, "Helen is running it?" Because you know, we remember each other as children, and she was our little cousin, a blithe giggling spirit, eyes dancing. And now, so many depend on the advice she gives, gentle and affirming and dosed with such good humor. My weekend will be profound or it will be wacky. Either way, I will be happy to be there with my cousin and her clients in the hills of the place that was my first home.

But first, I have to get out of the city. Ooooh boy! I am proud of myself for having determined to go, because really, it does seem that I am throwing a lot of details up in the air and trusting others to take care of them. It is a good start that I understand that I am not as essential as I think to the process of closing this short-staffed magazine. Still, there is so much to do before I go, so much to hand off, and it really is the worst week I could possibly take off in the closing cycle. But the greatly gifted writer who is my friend and who is about as OCD as I am, has agreed to cover for me, and though she will make different decisions on things than I would, I know her decisions will make sense, and everything will get done. I am grateful to have such a colleague, even if we squabble sometimes (in a plainspoken and ultimately productive way). She's part of why I love my job.

Also before I leave, I will be sitting around a conference room table in lower Manhattan for two days, judging entries for a certain magazine award competition. There will be publishing industry muckety-mucks around the table with me, and it's a big deal to be a judge for these awards. It's made my week crazier than it needed to be, there was so much reading and deciding to be done ahead of time. But when I was asked to do this I knew I needed to say yes, even if I didn't know what I would wear, even if I am leaving for the airport right after the second day of judging.

Something I'm working on is showing up more in my life. A friend from many years ago, who had moved with her family to Austin, Texas, was in town last month and she left a message on my voice mail asking to see me. I am so much fatter than when she knew me, back in my 20s and 30s. All I could think about was the look that would flicker in her eyes as they first settled on me, and I didn't return her call. And this is a woman I love, whose hand I held in the delivery room as her youngest child was making his way into the world. Her husband, a photographer, was out of town when she went into labor. And yet I didn't return her call last month. I'm trying to let go of self-recrimination, I'm so very good at it, but I do need to say I'm a little ashamed. So I'm intending to do better, to be better, to show up.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

There are many ways to win

We witnessed another of those ways yesterday at the regional collegiate track and field event. Our son and his training partner and fellow heptathlete Alec had both performed less well than they wanted over the two day event. Alec, who is a spectacular athlete and was seeded first in the field, had DQ'ed in shot put after fouling three times. His dad was in the stands, the first time he'd been able to attend one of his son's college meets, and I wonder sometimes if the presence of parents don't make our children a little nervous, no matter how nonchalant they seem. Our son, who was seeded tenth, jumped a lower height than he is capable of in the pole vault, getting eliminated from that event early. There was now no way either one could amass the points to finish in medals, and they both considered not running the final 1,000 meter race. As has been explained to me, that race, after two full days of competing, is excruciating. But in the end, both young men did run. They ran it for their coach, whose brother in law had died unexpectedly at age 38 just a couple of days after States last week. When they told the coach they didn't want to run the event, he said, "This is the last indoor meet of your college career. Don't go out that way. Run it for me, and cross the finish line together." And they did. They ran the race together, marking each other's time, step for step as a tribute to their coach and the way he always pushed them to be better. After the race, I watched from the stands as all three men hugged each other. I couldn't see from where I was but I sensed there were tears. It was beautiful.

 That's his dad's hand, loving him. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Physical therapy

These are my instructions for minimizing pain when ambulating:

To walk properly you must lift and bend through the knee, throwing the feet forward and parallel to each other, not diagonally out to the side, wooden solider-like.

Hold the shoulders up and flared back, chin angled upward, eyes full speed ahead, torso unslumped, with a tightly contracted core.

Perform the prescribed leg strengthening exercises multiple times on awakening, in a cab, at your desk, walking to the art department, wherever you are, throughout the day.

Don the right shoes, properly supportive with a high arch and a spongy cloud-like inner sole. This will make all the other instructions possible to carry out. It will be a revelation.

I know you probably already do all these things without thinking, but when it comes to walking, it seems I never learned the proper way.

The photo here is not, however, of my walking shoes, but my son's athletic ones, propped against a hurdle at the Armory, where for four years of his high school career, he competed in track and field for Fordham Prep. He is back there today, competing in heptathlon in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference, also known as regionals. He titled this self-portrait #homesweethome. If I can slip out of work early I'll be able to catch him doing high jump. And tomorrow, I'll be right there in the stands again, chest high, chin angled upward, my recently acquired, properly supportive rubber-soled boots propped on a blue metal chair as I intermittently scream my lungs out, also know as cheering.