Sunday, March 30, 2014

My girl came home

A few of her friends who happened to be in town for spring break came over last night to sing happy birthday to her and share in cake and revelry. These were her longtime friends from MCS days, fifteen years and counting, plus a newer friend from college, a girl named Henri whom I immediately adored when I met her last Thanksgiving.

My women friends came too, the mothers of these children. We have forged our own independent connection over the years, so that when we get together for a meal, sometimes we don't even talk about our children.

We kept everything simple. Cake and pizza and seltzer. My daughter and her friends provided their own entertainment, laughing and chatting non stop, while we women talked softly in the kitchen and in the living room my husband and son, and one of his friends, a former housemate from college, watched March Madness basketball on TV. It wasn't as segregated as it sounds. Everyone weaved in and out of the groups, and my children sat with their heads close for a while, catching up with one another, talking about I know not what.

I am so happy to see my daughter. I depend too much on her sometimes. She has a mysterious ability to lift the mood in a room, just with her laugh, which bursts from her like light, her eyes dancing, the sound like music filling my parched soul. I am grateful beyond words that she is here. We three buffeted souls needed her. I know this is hardly fair, maybe it is too much to burden her with, to find such comfort in her young, carefree spirit, but there you are. I hugged her close and felt a healing begin. I am crying again.

So I wrote the obit. I don't know if anything I write could possibly do my aunt justice, but I've done my best. I need a reader, which would normally have been my mother, but she can't be the one anymore. It will only make her weep. My cousin in Virginia will read for me, and tell me if there are any wrong notes, glaring omissions, self-indulgent paragraphs. It is too long, but my other cousin in Boston, a graphic designer who is doing the program, told me she will make it work. I am remembering a minister who used to be close to our family once saying that the biblical phrase. "In my father's house there are many mansions," should in our case be changed to "In my mother's house are many cousins."

My heart is shredded from the storms of this week, some created by my own internal chemistry, some unbloggable, but in the midst of it all, I am finding so much to be grateful for. But it is strange: I recognize my vast blessings intellectually, but am having trouble actually feeling them.

Tomorrow, we travel.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

While Waiting

I need to write Aunt Winnie's obit for the program. I keep waiting for inspiration to strike, for joy at the memory of her to fill me, booting out the sadness, the free floating feeling of anxiety and angst, which might be grief or something else, but whatever it is, I don't want to write about Aunt Winnie and how wonderful she was to me, to all of us, while marinating in anxiety, while trying to get free of the unruly thoughts that assail me, the fist that has closed like a vise around my heart, my throat which feels brimmed with tears. I push them down, because who can cry all the time. I think I have never felt so alone. I am sorting through photos sent to me by family members. I am gathering them for the picture spread of the program. Here are a few.

The sisters and brothers (and one friend), circa 1934
My great grandfather had an impressive mustache, no?

Me and my mom and two cousins. The cousin on my mom's
left did the whole eldercare dance with me. Faithfully.

I love this pic of my aunt. You can see the 70s feminist
and civil rights rabble rouser with her curly fro.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy 20th birthday my love

I am so happy and privileged to be your mother.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

It all feels so hard. I am made of tears.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


We're deep in the planning of Aunt Winnie's memorial service and the details are endless. Hardest for me is cleaning up and clearing out Aunt Winnie's apartment so that family members who are coming for her service on April 5 will be able to stay there. Her home had literally become a hospital wing; that bed she used, the one that pumped air under her body continuously to keep her papery skin from breaking down, was a huge and complex piece of electrical machinery. I didn't grasp quite how complex it was until I watched the men dismantling it and packing it up today.

Her room is empty now, the carpet stained and old, the walls bleak and tired, the furniture scuffed from decades of use. The house looks sad, and Aunt Grace, who will be staying there with her two daughters and three of my other cousins, was on the phone last night, crying, saying she didn't think she could walk into that apartment again knowing that her sister was gone from there forever. So much hard life occurred in that place, as Winifred slipped from us by inches, skin and bone at the end, her body curled tight, her cheekbones sharp, her eyes sunk deep, hair thin and white and feathery. I see her there, even as I collect and compile photographs from her earlier years, and try to bring back the way she used to be, her eyes alight with some mischief, a woman onto herself, striding ahead of the pack, the rest of us following like eager ducklings in her wake.

Going through her things this afternoon, I found a folder that held a literary magazine I had contributed a short story to in college, and issues of the college newspaper that contained stories I had written, the newsprint yellow and brittle with age. My own mother had not kept these things. I had forgotten I'd even written these stories. But there they were, faithfully preserved by Aunt Winnie, who pretended not to be sentimental, but kept my student writings in a red folder tucked among a pile of photo albums next to her chair.

Here's a picture I found. It was taken at my daughter's baptism. She is the baby and four of the sisters are clucking over her, each of them knowing what's best and no doubt arguing happily about it. That's Aunt Grace, Aunt Maisy, Aunt Winnie and my mom, Gloria. I love the way they are all holding my child. My daughter would grow familiar with the tornado of woman energy that whipped up whenever the sisters were together, but by the look on her face in this photo, she wasn't quite used to it yet.

My girl will be 20 years old in two days. Next week, we are going to St. Lucia for her spring break as planned, and will return for Aunt Winnie's service at the end of the week. By the time we get back, family members will have arrived from everywhere. I'm a little stressed right now, but I know we will manage to send Aunt Winnie off in grand style. She deserves no less.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Cool Hip Aunt from America (repost)

Aunt Winnie died last night. She was 95 and at 4:55 p.m. she simply stopped breathing. As I told a friend this morning, she went very peacefully. She was trying to tell her home attendant something, but couldn't get it out, and then she let out a breath and just departed, eyes steady and glass-green, the light slowly going out. She had just finished a meal of pumpkin soup and apple pie, and her home attendant had just given her a sponge-bath. I think she was trying to say "Thank you."


Repost from May 14, 2009:

That's my Aunt Winnie, in a portrait made around the time she got married in 1949. She will be 91 this September. I'm sitting here remembering her as she was, the funny, opinionated, energetic woman who used to visit us from New York in the summers, with her curly gray afro and piercing green eyes. We loved her madly. She was the cool, hip aunt from America who understood us better than our parents.

And she was a feisty. Once, when my son was three and came home from preschool with a scratch on his face, she bent all the way down and put her nose to his and said, "Did you hit him back hard?" My son, parroting his parents' instructions, told her, "I don't hit!" She straightened up, looked at him with a frown and said, "So how do you plan to defend yourself?" Her sisters say she was always like that. Figuratively, a brawler.

She was the oldest girl of nine children, a gifted pianist who left Jamaica because she got tired of having to give all her little brothers and sisters piano lessons. "They never practiced," she complained to me once. "My mother cared for them to learn music, but they didn't."

She was the fourth in our family to migrate to America. The hoards came after her. She eventually sponsored all eight of her brothers and sisters, and the multitudes of their children. We have a joke in our family: If the U.S. government had known how many of us would follow Aunt Winnie to America, they would never had let her immigrate back in 1947.

She was officially the first Black employee of Barnard College (she says she was the second, that there was one woman there before her, but she was passing for White). My aunt rose through the ranks and eventually ran the college's Department of Office Services. She was the only director who did not have a college degree.

On her annual visits to Jamaica, she lectured her nieces on the importance of getting good grades in high school, and on the value of attending a women's college, and one by one, as we came of age, she had us apply to Barnard. She stressed that our grades would have to get us in, but if we made the cut, she would help to get us decent financial aid. Eventually six of her nieces migrated to New York and enrolled. 

She employed us all. After classes, we xeroxed hundreds upon hundreds of pages of professors' lesson plans, sorted mail, made deliveries of printing plates downtown, and ran the addressograph machine. My years at the college overlapped with three other cousins', and my aunt made sure our work hours seldom coincided, because she didn't want us chatting and socializing on the job.

One cousin and I did manage to work together in my aunt's office one summer. We'd hang out till late at night with our friends on campus, then head off to work each morning. We were living with my aunt. One morning, after a night of particularly spirited carousing, we didn't wake up on time. My Uncle Charlie, watching my aunt gather her things for work, said, "Aren't you going to wake the girls?" My aunt responded, "Let them sleep. While they're asleep, they still have a job. When they wake up, they'll find out they've been fired." We laugh about that now. But she didn't fire us. She just lectured us and made us work that day for no pay as punishment. Work was serious business.

Ironically, my aunt is the reason we are all here in America and able to take care of her. Two of the six nieces she helped get to Barnard now act as her power of attorney and health care proxy. And when it became clear that her daughter's troubles were putting her 6-year-old grandson in jeopardy, a third niece took him to live with her family in Virginia. The truth is we would all do anything for my aunt, because when she could, she did everything in her power for us. She was so generous to a fault, loyal and true. Every one of us is who we are today because of who she is and what she taught us and how she has lived her life. She is our big sister, mother, aunt, advisor, champion, friend. She is our beloved matriarch.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Carpe Diem

Let's look on the bright side.

When I am between projects, I can wake up slow and make myself a one-egg omelet of cheddar and onions and sip my coffee slowly while catching up on the scandalous Scandal or maybe Downton Abbey.

I can work on my own lovely endeavors for a spell or cross the courtyard and sit with my 95-year-old Aunt Winnie and chat with her home attendant in her sunlit room.

I can meet an out-of-town friend for a late lunch to celebrate her new book, and we can raise a glass if we choose, because the day is ours.

I can go to a movie in the middle of the afternoon at the theater with the red leather power reclining seats if I want, and I can fall asleep if the movie doesn't hold my interest and it will feel like a delicious escape.

I can watch March Madness basketball with my husband, who is home sick today.

I can color my hair in a risky shade.

I can meditate on what's good and practice not worrying.

I can plan a birthday party. My girl turns 20 this week.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This Life

May I vent?

Just a bit.

I was up for a project filling in for someone going on maternity leave but I just learned they offered it to someone else. A four-month paycheck would have been nice but no dice. I didn't even bother to tell my family.

My friend just called to tell me about some other jobs I might apply for and I heard myself telling her, "Maybe I'm not ready. Maybe I'm going to have to hurt a little bit more to get really motivated." But my severance runs out next week. Hurt is waiting in the wings.

Could be, too, that I'm hiding out from the disappointment. I was really kind of crushed when I got the email today that they'd offered the position to someone else. If I'm being honest, I imagined that someone else to be younger, slimmer, white. I imagined he or she was deemed to "fit in" better than the editor who interviewed me thought I might. They say people hire who the ones they want to go out and have cocktails with. I'm sure this is true.

I have a payday coming for the job I just completed, but after that, who knows? I'm trying to trust that I will be okay. The story I have long told myself is that this particular life—in this particular body, in this particular place, adjacent to these particular people—is not about the pain of having no money. I've been able to indulge myself with this story because even during those periods when there was very little coming in, there was enough. Enough to meet my most basic needs, if not my simple wants. Enough to help provide for our family. Enough.

It seemed to me therefore that this life of mine was about other lessons. The clues always have to do with pain. What aspects of my life have caused me the greatest measure of distress? Those were the signposts—things like body comfort, the physical body, learning to treat myself with compassion, learning to risk mind-bending, heart-exploding love for others knowing you have no control over what might come and how that might undo you.

These are lessons I am learning still. But now, money is starting to cause its own measure of concern. And that worries me because I have been known to declare to my husband, "If I don't worry about money, I won't have to," a superstition that always makes him shake his head dubiously as if to say, "Do you."

I feel like the girl at the dance who didn't get chosen, who stands in the corner making up the reasons why.

Okay, I guess that's enough of feeling sorry for myself.

Thanks for letting me share.


Here's what else happened today.

My husband called from work this morning. My son and I were home, as my son doesn't go to his coaching job till 2 pm. My husband asked if our son could come and get him at work; he was feeling dizzy and unwell. My son and I jumped in the car and went to collect him. His coworker walked him out to the car, because he was feeling very lightheaded.

On the way back home, my son asked him lots of questions about what he had eaten and what activities he had done and then told his dad that even though he had sworn off sugar for Lent, he should drink a glass of mango juice when we got home.

When we got home, our son took out his stethoscope and blood pressure cuff to check his dad's numbers. He said, "Okay, Pops, sit here. You didn't educate me for nothing." He wondered if maybe his dad's recent healthier eating and newly regular gym schedule might be having a positive effect on his usually high blood pressure, so that his blood pressure medication might now be too much. He instructed him to go and see his doctor so see if his meds need adjusting.

My husband drank the glass of juice our son handed him and did begin to feel steadier. He ate a protein lunch and now he is dozing in the chair right next to where I am sitting. Before he drifted off, he said, "You know, I called my son and when I put down the phone I wanted to say to my coworker, 'EMT is on his way,' but I didn't." There was pride in his voice. You could tell he felt taken care of by his son.

When I think about it this way, on balance, this is a good day.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A good forgettery

By Sunday morning all was well again, and that is how it is I suppose: All is well some days, not so much other days, but if we manage to hang on and not do anything too destructive to ourselves or the other person, we just might get through to the other side. I remember reading in a women's magazine a story about the secrets of lasting marriages. In it, they had asked long-married couples for their prescription for success. There were a lot of nuggets of wisdom, but the only one I remember was from a woman in her eighties, married 48 years. She said, "You have to have a short memory. You have to be very good at forgetting because you're not going to work everything through, you're not going to solve everything, and sometimes you just have to forget about it and move on." Words to that effect. It rang so true to me. My mother and aunts call this having "a good forgettery," something they all practiced to get past sibling squabbles their entire lives. I don't really know what was up on Friday and Saturday, and I've decided it no longer matters.

My husband took me to the annual orchid show at the New York Botanical Gardens yesterday, because he knows I love orchids, and he also finds them to be the most sensual flower ever. We took lots and lots of pictures as we walked the labyrinthine paths and that was when I exhaled and relaxed into our okayness once more. It was a good, simple day with my love, whose light had fully returned, no doubt in partial response to the dissipation of my own gloom and doom. We are so at the mercy of random electrical storms on these plains.

Here are some of the sights and the people we found wandering through that hothouse of extravagant natural and manicured beauty that was the orchid show.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What I saw, what I heard

Movie theater on West 84th

West 73rd Street store window

The church of Hal

"It is hard to know where our stories are going as they are being written. That is the mystery of faith"

—from the Jason DaSilva filmWhen I Walk as quoted by Hal

Don't blow up the dolly house

Well, there you go. I tempted the fates, got caught by hubris. I dared to suggest all is well and sure enough, it isn't. My husband is in his cave. I don't know if I drove him there or not, maybe I did. Or maybe I was just absorbing some energy from the air between us that made me act out last night. He refused to go there with me, he was very mature. He said, I am trying not to fight with you. I was grateful for that. I had lobbed dynamite at his cave to try and smoke him out, to try and see what's up, and of course, it makes him go deeper inside. He is so deep inside this morning it's like he's not here. His robot self is here, but he, his light that dances, has completely disappeared. I don't know what is up. I feel terribly insecure, despite 28 years of marriage and weeks upon weeks of good humor and harmony, suddenly, this distance again, and the stories I make up. I am trying to remember that I absorb darkness as much as I absorb light, and that sometimes what feels like my own tragedy is really someone else's, and I have lost the boundary of where they end and I begin. I don't know what is up with him, why he has shut down. Is it me? Of course it's me. Of course it's not me. It is both. I need to stop trying to reach him, stop trying to find him inside the empty eyes and monotone answers, which always feels to me like a withdrawal of love. Baby, it's cold inside. I need to leave the house early and stay gone all day, so that I will avoid the temptation to light that fuse, cause the kind of explosion that could wreck us for sure, even if we have survived such explosions before. Somehow, when we are in this hollow, the dark airless pit, it seems as if this is how it's going to be from here on out, as if something fundamental has been broken. I am trying, like a grown up, to remember that we have been here before, we have passed through this valley before and made it to the other side. I just need to swallow the words that arrange themselves in my throat, ready to fly like knives, the flouncing of a scared child, unsure of her safety, unsure she will survive what comes. Where was that child born, I wonder? In the wine I drank Thursday night with my women friends? Is that what has upset my chemistry? In a childhood of functional and dysfunctional alcoholics, none of whom were cruel to me, but who I was always so aware could be lost to me at any moment? Where did I learn that nothing is ever for sure, and why do I fear it so? This might be just the weather inside me, a hurricane I'm cooking up all on my own, but I don't think so. I'm responding to something. All is not well. I do not feel emotionally safe. Am I aching for something that does not exist? Is emotionally safety ever and always an illusion? This morning, I don't actually know.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Red Glitter Hearts

I am having a rare and lovely day of being able to choose what I want to work on. My monster project is done, it was well received, and I don't yet have another pressing commitment, so the day is deliciously mine. It's cold out, but sunny. The men are at work and I have the house all to myself, it is full of peace today, and tonight I will meet two of my women friends for dinner, then come home and curl up next to my love. I lay awake for hours before daybreak this morning, but the usual angst that comes during predawn wakefulness never made an appearance. My mind skipped like stones across a clear pool, and I let the ripples take me wherever they wanted, and I was mercifully free of anxiety. At one point I looked across at my husband, holding fast to sleep before the alarm rang and he'd have to wake and get dressed for work, and I marveled at the fact that for almost three decades now I have shared a bed with this man, spent my most vulnerable hours of the day next to him, all worldly artifice abandoned, and it suddenly seemed like the most intense act of intimacy I could imagine. Now here I am at my magic light box again, and when I look up, I see those glittery red hearts that sit on top of the armoire where my laptop lives. I want to declare that all is well, but my superstitious nature won't let me. It whispers that as soon as I say it, it will no longer be true, something will blindside me, so I won't say it, I will leave it unsaid and allow it to continue to be so. Happy Thursday.


Two buildings exploded at 116th Street and Park Avenue in East Harlem yesterday morning at 9:31 a.m. It was a gray morning, not a clear blue one, but it brought back memories of the day two other buildings exploded, and everything was forever changed. The death toll is rising, now at seven souls. More than 60 people sustained injuries. Tenants of surrounding building cannot go back into their homes. Their windows blew out and their apartments are unprotected from the elements. The temperature fell last night into the 20s and heavy rains came down.

My friend Leslie, who lives six blocks away, felt her apartment shake with the boom. We had dinner last night because she was still feeling shaky, reliving the emotions that rocked her after 9/11. When you live alone, she explained, these things slide more deeply inside you, because there is no one around you to show you that life is continuing on. You might as well be alone on the planet.

I cannot fathom people just going about their day, an ordinary morning just like any other, and then their whole world is in rubble around them. It was a gas main explosion apparently. The people in one building had been complaining of smelling gas for weeks, and there were apparently no carbon monoxide detectors in the apartments. Compounding the hell was a sinkhole that opened up beneath the concrete and steel debris, so that heavy vehicles and rescue machinery had to be carefully brought in. The rooftops of surrounding buildings were covered with firefighters, the streets still filled with EMT uniforms. Overnight, new flares bloomed as the remaining fuel from the leak burned off. Today, the recovery and clean-up continues. My son isn't there with them. Not yet.


My daughter majors in hospitality management and so even though she has courses with serious-sounding names like microeconomics or financial accounting or organizational behavior and leadership skills, occasionally her classes look like this.

I have no idea what they are doing with all that butter and flour. This is my girl's favorite class this semester. It's called Food Service Management Theory and Practice, but she calls it Culinary. She says her school specializes in giving fun classes dreadful sounding names.
Here she is with two of her fellow hotelies. She adores these kids. It's so odd to me that there are people in her life who she feels so familial toward and yet I don't know them. The days of seeing all the corners of her life are long gone. This is the natural way of things but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I miss my girl but I'm glad she seems to have made good friends at school. She's a little stressed out this week because she has four prelims, which is what they call midterms. But the pictures say she's definitely managing to mix in some fun!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stone and Spring

"One wintry night in Wyoming, a group of men come calling to collect a debt—the life and service of Stone, the young woman at the center of this strange and mythical frontier tale." 

Brittany Tuttle's novella is a potent work of art, the writing so deceptively spare, the world that springs to life in your imagination so fully realized. Elizabeth's review of the book says it better than I ever could. I, too, was seduced, mesmerized, unsettled and finally enthralled. Our Vesuvius at Home is an extraordinarily gifted storyteller. I have said before that some of the best writing I read anywhere is happening on blogs—and by bloggers.

You can get the book here.

Going there

These are all places in St. Lucia, where I will be going with my daughter and two of her college friends for spring break at the end of the month. We won't be staying in any of these luxury homes. We will be staying at my mother's house, which has been undergoing a renovation that includes a new and much needed roof, repair of water damage from the last hurricane, pulling up the old carpet in the bedrooms and den and putting down easy-to-clean tiles, refurbishing the bathrooms and powder room, painting everything, reupholstering some of the furniture, and so on.

The house now looks nothing like it did when my mother was there, so I am having a little emotional storm about that, and I need to prepare myself. I need to now think of it as a house in St. Lucia we can go to, that is steps from the beach and adjacent to a very lively part of town, dining and entertainment wise, and how lucky are we to have that. I have no idea if I will even like the new decor. I haven't yet seen any pictures, but the real estate agent, who is responsible for renting the place to short term renters and earning a commission from that, likes it, so I suppose that is what matters.

I have a knot in my chest as I write this, remembering the house where my father last lived with my mother, the house my children went to each summer growing up, to spend the month of August with their grandmother and their cousins, and how much they are who they are today because of those summers. I pray that I make the transition to the new life of that house with enough grace and gratitude, and how blessed I am that my daughter wants to make this trip with me. We will all have a fine time, no matter what, and life carries on.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Counting for something

While scouring for receipts in my wallet in order to send in my expenses for this story I have just completed, I ran across this slip of a photograph tucked among business cards from long ago, from people I can barely remember. This is my husband in our first year of marriage, before children, before the Twin Towers fell to the ground. I have carried this photo of this man I love in my wallet ever since that year, and it was apt to find it anew yesterday, those Twin Towers at his back, because yesterday our son got the news that he had passed his EMT certification exam and is now officially a New York State EMT. We're so proud of our boy. This is another step on a path he chose on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers were cut to the ground. That's my son, below. He is now just four years younger than his dad was when I married him. I have been lucky to be surrounded by good and purposeful men.

My son's desire is to save lives, and he is training himself to be able to do so. My husband saves lives in another way, as warden of his little church in Harlem with it's huge homeless outreach program. Two weekends ago, as the snow came down furiously on a Saturday afternoon when the homeless outreach crew was out in the neighborhood handing out sandwiches and looking for people who needed to come inside, they passed a mound on the sidewalk. Something didn't look right, so they turned back to investigate. What they had seen was an old mattress and underneath it, huddled on another mattress was a family, shivering in the cold. I have not been able to get this image out of my mind, a family sandwiched between two torn, stained discarded mattresses, able to see no other way to weather the below freezing temperatures and snow swirling down. The homeless outreach crew brought them back to the church and set them up on cots as they made calls to find them shelter. I keep wondering what would have happened if they had not noticed them there. A lot of snow fell that day. 

I am made differently from the men in my life. I do not have their common touch or their selflessness and level of commitment. I once told my husband that I would be so overwhelmed trying to solve the entrenched problems of people with so little hope and even less means. It's so huge and mind-boggling, I told him. He shrugged. You do what you can, he said simply, and you trust that your little bit will count for something. For that family riding out a snowstorm huddled between two mattresses on an icy side street in Harlem, it counted.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lunch is served

Lentil soup and steak-like portobello mushrooms steaming hot from the kitchen of an empty post-lunchtime Max Soha as I tap-tap-tap on my keyboard, fielding emails and phone calls and setting up interview times and checking off how many more pieces of information I still have to track down in the two days remaining to me, my reporter hat precariously perched, the golden source out of the country, frantically scrolling through my growing list of experts to find the perfect replacement, knowing finally what my work wife means when she says it's the reporting I love, it's getting the knowledge all to myself, the deep knowing of things, but then I have to write it and that I hate, trying to whittle it down to its essence when the truth of it is so much larger and will never be captured in a single story. Reporting, writing, editing, they are such different hats, and the muscle to make the hats sit properly needs to be exercised and I am grateful (I think) for the opportunity to exercise the reporting muscle again, to flex it so hard and so furiously that I have almost fallen in love with it again, even though I think the story I'm writing might read like rubbish but my reporter friends tell me it always feels that way and to just power through. One more week. Popping a chiclet from its sleeve, coffee cup at my elbow, reporting, transcribing, writing, connecting, all of it far more arduous than you ever think it will be, and not nearly enough thinking time, and I can't wait for life after to rush back in so I can breathe again and pay Aunt Winnie's bills and spend my cousin's morning commute on the phone with her instead of rushing to my computer, setting up my tape recorder for yet another 8 a.m. interview that always turns out to be exhilarating in some measure but how many more? One more. Just one more.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Just saying hey

I actually have lots to write but no time to write it because every spare moment is being spent on meeting this crazy short timeline for this crazy big and amorphous project that I have had to create an outline for, and I fear I was overambitious in what I promised, and they loved the outline and so now I have to deliver. Every single moment from now until I turn in the whole thing on March 10 is accounted for. I have so many interviews still to do, tapes to transcribe, sections to write, experts to follow up with, and whenever I fear I have bitten off more than I can chew I make myself look at the post-its that my cousin Helen made me put around my room—"I am the perfect person for this job" and "Everything I need comes to me at the moment I need it" and "I am committed" and "I don't know how I will but I know I will because I always do"—and you know what, it helps!

My husband is in the kitchen making two big pots of seafood gumbo for a Mardi Gras jamboree tonight at the little activist church where he is the warden, and he is doing great service, humbly and patiently, chopping and stirring, Premiere League Soccer on the TV, and he just told me that each pot works out to about one hundred dollars in ingredients and I find that astonishing but that is the cost of living in New York City.

My son left yesterday to travel to Ithaca with his team for a regional track meet, and he's staying on for a few days since he went to school in that town and has friends still there. His sister is also there. She texted me yesterday from a Top Chef type competition at her school at which she had signed up to be a judge, and she said, "Mama these are the times I realize what a good choice I made." Ithaca is such a great college town, despite the below freezing temperatures and feet and feet of snow. How lucky that both my kids got to attend and enjoy school there. My niece, too, who always said, "Ithaca is most beautiful on the day you are leaving it, and you always want to return."

Anyway, got to get back to work. I miss my usual immersion in blog world and spending time with all of you, but I'll be back soon enough. The pictures of my kids are just because.