Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bree Newsome, Superhero

Just coming up for air to record that this happened. (Can't believe they put that flag back up over the South Carolina state house after Bree Newsome's thrilling act of civil disobedience.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Gone into her life again

They come and they go, and the air shifts and shifts again, and we adjust endlessly.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” 

—Howard Thurman

President Obama's very bad very good week

Our president had to give a eulogy for a senator and a minister slain in a Charleston, South Carolina church by a hate-filled madman, but then he sang "Amazing Grace" from the podium, in a voice threaded with sorrow and weariness, yet a voice that held in its cadence the will to keep fighting, to keep the faith, to keep on.

The day before, the Supreme Court of the United Stated had upheld Obamacare subsidies, once again refusing to dismantle the law. I personally love calling the Affordable Care Act Obamacare, because years from now when it is just a fact of American life, his name will be attached and he will get all the credit, just as so many try in the present to heap blame. But his back is strong. His health care plan prevailed.

And then. And then. On Friday morning the Supreme Court ruled that all people have the right to marry whom they love, regardless of gender. When the news hit, just in time for Pride weekend, landmarks across the country lit up with the colors of the rainbow, including the White House.

Banner headlines blared that the president's legacy had been sealed, which of course sent the GOP hacks into a collective freakout. They called for the abolishment of the Supreme Court, saying the justices were unelected so who were they to make law anyway? Where were these critics when the court gave George Bush the presidency over Al Gore back in 2000? They were pretty happy with the justices then.

My husband likes to say that everyone is playing checkers while Obama is playing chess. And he's right. All these victories didn't just happen. Obama has been moving pieces around the board for six years. It helped that a wide enough swath of America, perhaps not the most vocal swath, but certainly enough hearts and minds, finally brought about critical mass in the court of public opinion, led by a courageous president.

None of this "just happened."

History will tell.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A wedding

My son is at the wedding of one of his friends. They are somewhere in Connecticut. He just posted this on social media, with the caption "And we're down a man." May I just admit it boggles my mind that my son's friends are starting to get married? And that he is now the age that his dad was when we met? In any case, that's my boy, smack dab in the middle, looking rather debonair.

A simple good day

Yesterday I ditched my work for a few hours in the afternoon for a wonderful ramble with my girl. We went to brunch, we did mani pedis, we shopped, we wandered, and later we went to the supermarket so she could come home and make her dad and me her roasted cauliflower with its buttery, nutty flavors, along with salmon steaks for dinner. Simple and delicious. Fast, too.

For those of you who asked, she says the roasted cauliflower is nothing more than florets separated from the stalk and arranged in a pan then drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. The pan is then put in the oven for however long it takes for the florets to get caramelized and slightly charred in places. She says you can add cilantro and lime, but that it really isn't necessary, and she actually likes it better without. I couldn't stop eating it! It was so delicious it felt almost sinful and yet it was entirely virtuous.

My girl heads back to school tomorrow where she'll spend the rest of her summer as a researcher on a film about bicultural identity formation. She'll be back and forth between there and the city, though, because she has a couple more chef gigs scheduled. She also has fallen back in love with her city; she says that when she was in Rome, as much as she was enjoying herself, it struck her how extraordinary it is to be from a place like New York City. She's looking forward to moving back when she graduates college next year. It is endlessly fascinating to me to watch my children becoming who they are.

Love Wins

When my daughter was in eighth grade, she and her class led their school in a city-wide march on MLK day at which they delivered speeches they had written supporting the rights of individuals to marry whomever they love. Their teacher called them rainbow superheroes because of the tie-dye capes they wore.

So you understand why my daughter just ran in to my room yelling, "Oh my God, did gay marriage just become legal across the country?! Did that just actually happen?!!!!"

OMG! They did it! By a margin of 5-4, the Supreme Court of the United States has just legalized marriage equality nationwide! I'm so happy I could cry.

It is breathtaking!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mise en place

At Whole Foods, she asked the server behind the fish counter for 4 pounds of tilapia, and he said, "Are you a chef?" She shrugged, not quite sure how to answer. She said finally, "I have a job." And so she does, a gig as guest chef, preparing a Mexican feast for a Cook & Dine meal support program at a therapeutic nutrition center. She'll guide the clients through preparing a wholesome meal, and then they will all dine together with a therapist and a nutritionist, who will talk with them about healthful eating and lead them through mindfulness exercises.

My girl spent yesterday finalizing the menu (fish tacos, red cabbage and onion slaw, roasted cauliflower with cilantro and lime, and a black bean, avocado, cherry tomato and corn salad), and last night she cooked some of it for dinner, working out some of the details. Today she shopped and prepped and organized and packed up her ingredients and supplies like a pro, and now she is somewhere in midtown, doing her thing, decked out in her official chef whites.

She'd almost forgotten she had her own, because she's been using chef whites supplied by her school for the past three years. Yesterday she washed and pressed the entire outfit, jacket and apron and blue checkered pants and the cloth that tucks in at the waist (it's called something other than a cloth, but I can't recall the proper name), which she got when she attended a slow food cooking school in Asti, Italy in the summer after tenth grade. The jacket even has the insignia of the school fancily embroidered on the pocket.

When she remembered she had her own chef whites buried somewhere in a closet, she jumped up from the bed where she had been typing up an Excel sheet of ingredients and prices, and she said, "Oh my God, yes, I'm legit!"

Called by us universe

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”  ― Albert Einstein

Thank you for your thoughtful and open-hearted comments on my last post. I am less angry now, though no less hurt, but more philosophically removed. That boy who shot those nine people as they sat praying in church is a profoundly lost soul. I am trying to rise above and release him to whatever karmic retribution will be his to face. He is definitely not who I imagine when I say blithely we are all one, energies flowing together like an ocean. My deepest impulse is to reject the notion that we could exist in the same universe. And yet I know this world crippled that boy. Failed him bitterly. Made him a monster. Put the hate in his heart and the gun in his hand. No mas. I am not big enough to take this on nor wise enough to penetrate the mysteries. I'm too impressionable, my emotional membranes too permeable. Perhaps that is why people forgive. They need to move on, to let back in the memory of good. This is me, moving on.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Reaching for grace

I'm having trouble writing here because I don't want to write about the boy with hair in his eyes, welcomed into the prayer meeting at a historic Black church in Charleston, guided by an arm around his shoulders to a seat next to the pastor, who sat there for an hour listening to a minister and a librarian and a coach and a teacher and a grandmother, the faithful, as they searched out the good, who then rose to his feet and pumped bullets into nine of them, telling a tenth that he was leaving her alive so that she could tell what happened there.

I don't want to write about the fact that the families of the dead got up in court a day later and told that hate-filled boy that they forgave him. I have not forgiven him, and I don't believe the families truly can forgive him so soon after he murdered their loved ones. I think they are just saying the words, reaching for grace, but it made it all the worse for me that the shooter just stood there with dead eyes as these people spilled their sorrow at his feet. My cousin thought it was God in action. I couldn't feel it if it was. I hated it. I thought it was the devil himself standing there with those empty eyes, with no shadow of remorse for the atrocity he had committed.

He was obsessed with the Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray cases. He had become radicalized by the Trayvon Martin case, which brought him to the conclusion that Black people were taking over his country. This, according to some rambling manifesto he wrote on some White supremacist website. I laughed bitterly when I heard that. I couldn't help wondering how this taking over the country business was working for Travyon.

In Charleston, all the flags flew at half mast in honor of the dead, except for the Confederate flag, which continued to fly high, insult to injury, insult to murder.

Fathers day was lovely for us, all of us together for the day, my daughter making her dad's favorite creme brûlée, my son being a big goofy boy, everything easy and good. I felt so lucky and blessed to call this man the father of my children, and for us to be there together enjoying the two we have raised, who have grown into such good human beings. But every time I tried to write about it, I just felt as if the world was in flames, and how could I not acknowledge that, even from my sweet corner, where my mercies seem almost extravagant. Don't get me wrong, I'm so grateful for these mercies, this family of mine, this life. God in action, my cousin says. Yes. That.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Kalief Browder was arrested at 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack. He had not stolen the backpack and refused to say that he had. In a gross miscarriage of the criminal justice system, he was kept in adult jail awaiting trial for three years. He suffered untold abuse from guards and inmates, and spent months at a time in solitary confinement, before he was finally released, never having his day in court. Earlier this month, unable to shake the sadness that had stalked him since his time in prison, he killed himself.

An American Kidnapping by the brilliant Ta-Nehisi Coates lays out Kalief Browder's tragic story. Coates writes, "I care not one iota what Rachel Dolezal does nor what she needs to label herself. I care solely, totally, and completely about what this society does to my son, because of its need to label him."

What gets me every time is that these dead Black boys all look like living breathing boys I know and love.

And now a church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina leaving nine Black worshippers dead. A hate crime. An act of terrorism.

This fucking world.

I have to keep my focus on the good, or I'll literally lose my mind.

Head down. Blinders on. Back to work. I have a deadline to meet.

And tomorrow, my girl's coming home.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


That was the view from where I sat this morning, having a brie and apple omelet in a neighborhood diner as I read on my Kindle. I was doing research for an editing project, getting familiar with a book that my author says informed how she wrote her manuscript. At a certain point I looked up and noticed the mix of colors, the reds and deep yellow, the man's purple shirt, the electric blue shopping bag, the greens and pinks of the chalk on the black board. It seemed such a vibrant yet harmonious mix, and it led me to thinking again how fortunate I am that I can work like this, in a fifties-style diner on a Tuesday morning, the street outside almost empty now because the Columbia students have left for the summer, and the beat of the neighborhood is winding down. As I sat there, time slowed. I felt a simple peace.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Such a world

I flew home from San Francisco last evening, and now I have to put the book project aside for a few weeks to dive into an assignment that came my way the day before I left for the Bay Area. It's Sunday, and I'm exhausted down to my bones for some reason, maybe nothing more that cross-country travel and a touch of jet lag, but there will be no rest for my weary today.

Last night at 2 a.m. New York time I got a series of texts from my daughter who is traveling with a few of the students from her program in Sorrentino, Italy. They said, "Mom, I miscalculated with this trip and ran into a lot of surprise costs and now I am sort of out of money." "Is it possible to wire some?" "I'll pay you back."

I texted her back, "Are you in trouble? How quickly do you need it? How much do you need? This minute or is later today okay?" She didn't respond for over an hour, during which time I lay awake in the dark making up all sorts of dire scenarios in that catastrophic brain of mine, because I knew if there were trouble, this casual tone might be how she would pitch it, not wanting to worry me. (Although I do hope she would just tell me if there was a problem. I'm always better when I know what I'm dealing with.) Anyway just as I was starting to swirl my imagination into a panicked frenzy, producing actual symptoms like a racing heart and a pulse thudding loudly at my temples, she texted, "I'm not in trouble!" "No trouble!" "Smiling and safe!" And she sent a picture to prove it. Does she know her mother or what?

My husband is the one with the link to her bank account, so I asked him in the dark if he could transfer some money to our girl in the morning. He stirred from sleep and mumbled that he'd been checking her account daily to make sure she still had funds but had stopped a few days ago because she'd been managing so well. Then he groggily reached for his phone and in less than a minute, he'd made the transfer. She got it immediately and texted us effusive thanks. Such a world we live in!

She told me that their group of six young women is staying at an Airbnb, and apparently the owner is being like an aunt to them, driving them around, making sure they don't get lost. She said Sorrento might be the most beautiful place she has been. How lucky they are, or rather how lucky I am to be able to rest easy in the knowledge that they are being looked out for. The truth is, the world is a far kinder place than the steady torrent of horrendous news stories would have us believe. Today they take a boat ride to Capri, or maybe given the time difference they've already gone and returned and are on their way back to Rome now so as to be there for class on Monday morning.

They have one more week and then they fly home. The month went at warp speed, as everything in my life seems to these days. Where did I read recently that mindfulness can slow down the speed at which time unfolds? To the wise one who wrote that, thank you for that needed reminder.

Bay Area Photo Album

I met up with my cousin and her wife for dinner while I was in the Bay Area last week. Before dinner my cousin took me on a tour of the Mission District murals, since the last time I was there my husband wasn't feeling well and we had to abandon our plans. This time, we ran across a street artist painting a new mural. He kindly allowed me to take his picture as he worked. Watching his almost meditative act of creation was a real highlight for me. The rest of the photos I snapped in and around Old Oakland or the Mission. The picture of me with the painted eagle feathers was taken by my cousin. How brave I am, posting a full length photo of myself, defying "the usual vanities."

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The joy and anguish

My daughter is having so much fun in Rome now, and she is working hard too. She had no idea how much writing would be required. She had imagined gallivanting around the city and turning in a poem or a story every so often, but no, they have to complete several distinct pieces every single day. But everyone's in it together so it's not so bad. I asked her if she thought the intensive approach was improving her writing. She said, not her writing so much as her ability to write on demand.

Her childhood friend who spent a week with her in Rome, who is back in New York now, told me that the apartment my girl shares with seven others is huge and light filled and beautiful. I also hear that my daughter and some of the girls in the program are going to Capri this weekend.

It's fascinating to me how as a mother, I can derive such keenly felt joy from what my children are going through, almost as if I am experiencing it myself. I can also be anguished by what happens to them. Like what has happened with my son: He injured his knee playing soccer at camp yesterday. He is ON CRUTCHES and may need an MRI. He has self-diagnosed a torn meniscus. It looks as if he will now have to defer his FDNY appointment for medical reasons. All these months he's been at the very peak of physical shape and the week before his physical agility and endurance test he injures himself. So long he has waited for this chance and now he will have to wait and reengage with  uncertainty some more.

My daughter texted: "Maybe the universe doesn't want him to join the fire department just yet and decided to send him a big fat message." I couldn't help smiling because her sentiment reminded me of the Bill Nye video Mrs. Moon posted the other day. And yet, thinking of it this way is the only thing helping me to put this is perspective. It is not the end of the world. It is a setback. That is all. The main thing now is for my boy to take care of that knee.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


It's 6 a.m. and I'm wide awake. I'm in Oakland, but my body clock is back in New York, which means I'm functioning as if it's 9 a.m. and way past time to be at my desk.

Yesterday was a long but really good day with my subject, a 97-year-old doctor whose book I am ghostwriting. She is whip sharp, her eyes dancing and assessing at the same time. Her brain isn't what it used to be, she says, but give her time and she'll find that telling detail in the caves of memory. I adore her. I suppose that's okay, to fall in love with your subject, to find inspiration and grit and wonder in the details of her life.

I have written 10 chapters so far, including a foreword in my voice setting up the book, and an introduction in her voice, and we have decided that I will read the chapters to her, and she will interrupt me to offer corrections if anything is inaccurate, and fill in specifics where needed. Yesterday we got through five of the ten chapters. Today, we will continue. She is a great sport, indulging me in all the tiny facts I seek, understanding that a book-length piece of writing requires such details as the smell of the air as an oil-soaked burlap wrapped cross burned in the yard. There is so much history here. At every turn, this extraordinary woman's life brushed up against the story of this nation. But she didn't just witness history, she went out there and made some of her own.

To my relief, she seems happy with what is on the page so far. She closed her eyes and tears spilled from their corners, and she said, "I am just overcome." She said I had given her a feeling a great accomplishment, that finally she had done something with her life (an overstatement, given how much she has already done with her life!), and I rushed to say, "No, no, no, not yet, you're not done yet. You have to hold your book in your hands so don't start feeling too accomplished yet!" We laughed then, because she knew exactly what I was getting at. And she promised she wasn't going anywhere yet, so don't worry about that.

We got through one of the hardest parts of her story, the thing she had not shared with anyone before she started writing her book, the thing she wasn't sure whether to include. When she told it to me before, she said, "You have a problem on your hands now. How will you write that? I don't know what words you will use." Yesterday, when I read her that chapter, she kept her eyes steady on me, her slender tomboyish body perfectly still, and when I was done she said, "The crisis is past. You did it."

She is prone to superlatives; it's one of her very endearing qualities. She is grateful for everything, but she's canny and suspicious, too. She said, "I cannot ever repay you for what you are doing for me," and I said, "But you don't understand, this is a great gift to me, too. A privilege and a learning. It is I who should be thanking you." It went like that. The two of us, grateful, laughing, crying, being.

I am so glad I didn't miss this, or her, in this life.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Defying Gravity

When I stride along on the moving walkway at the airport, I feel the effortless forward glide regular walkers feel on unmoving ground.

This array of complimentary spirits was set out right next to the breakfast buffet. Now that could make the ground move a bit.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The List

I'm getting on a plane in the morning, heading to the Bay Area for work. I will be on my own in a nice hotel with all the amenities, in a rather nice part of town. I will spend my mornings and afternoons with my subject, and write or research or read or wander the rest of the time. I imagine going to the movies on my own, and sitting on the waterfront daydreaming. But first, I have to punch through today's To Do list.

1. Send contract: I did manage to email the contract letter for the editorial consulting job I got hired for this week. Freelancing is an exercise in faith that the next job will show up. This week, one did. Hallelujah.

2. Fedex documents: A few minutes ago, I finally put together the Fedex packet to be sent to St. Lucia, with all the notarized documents pertaining to the renting of my mother's house. My husband will send it off for me tomorrow, since I couldn't manage to send it myself all last week, despite the fact that I got it together enough to go get all the paperwork notarized and ready to go one week ago. God bless that man.

3. Do laundry: I called the hotel just now and learned that they have a washer and dryer on every floor with detergent and fabric softener provided so guests can do loads of laundry if they choose. Guess what I'm choosing? One more thing I can strike off today's list. Don't judge me.

4. Pack: Oooooohhh, I hate packing. Can anyone explain why that might be? It doesn't seem rational how much I hate packing, or the anxiety it provokes in me.

5. Get grapes, strawberries, cheese, crackers and flowers. Gelato for dessert: Some of my women friends are getting together for a pot luck of light fare this evening. Guess what? While I was typing this my husband texted me from the supermarket asking what I needed for the pot luck because he could pick it up for me. Lord, I love that man.

6. Touch up toenail polish: I got the same red color that is currently on my nails but chipped in places, and I proceeded to dab at the imperfections. My feet look like I was attacked. Oh well, break out the nail polish remover. Oh wait, we don't have any in the house. Texted my husband at the store to add that to the list. He did.

7. Get estimate and schedule electrician: We had a mix up with an air conditioner installation this week. The unit was beautifully installed before we realized it was the wrong voltage, so now we need to have an electrician change one of the wall outlets to 220 volts. This requires running many feet of wire through the walls, but not, thankfully, breaking any walls. This list item I did in full, including leaving the check for the electrician which my sainted husband will deliver to him tomorrow.

My husband will be on his own this week, as my son is away teaching and certifying lifeguards for camp this week, our daughter is still in Rome, and I will be on the West Coast. Given the penchant my list has for bleeding onto my husband, it's a safe bet he's looking forward to the solitude!

Rocks and Crowns

My niece was in town this weekend, as was her dad, my brother visiting from Jamaica. We had a rousing fine time Friday night sampling various wines from my husband's collection, and yesterday, watching on TV the Belmont Stakes (American Pharaoh!) and the UEFA finals played between Juventus (Italy) and Barcelona (for the uninitiated that's a high-stakes European football league that my brother, husband and son follow quite passionately).  My husband made delicious jambalaya, a spinach salad with cherry tomatoes and yellow peppers and pomegranate seeds making a beautiful mix of colors, and a home made vinaigrette dressing. There were seconds served, and then thirds.

As the handsomely groomed horses stood at the starting gate, I innocently asked why this race was such a big deal. My husband and my brother gasped in unison, stunned that I had managed to camp so resolutely under my rock. My niece confessed that she had been keeping me company under the same rock, so the men explained that if American Pharaoh won, it would be the first time in 37 years that a horse had won the Triple Crown, sweeping the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. The last horse to win was Affirm in 1978. Another winner, Secretariat, had a movie made about him; his 93-year-old owner was in the Belmont Park stands yesterday. So yeah, I was up to speed by the time the race was run, and able to appreciate history being made as American Pharaoh led start to finish, or wire to wire as they say.

My niece, that morning, had gone to the hair salon to see the ever amazing Jocelyn, who recently broke the wrenching news that she is closing her shop. My niece, my daughter and I are in a state of shock, not sure what we will do now. As soon as my niece heard the news, she got on a bus from Washington D.C., where she is in school, to New York so that Jocelyn could cut her hair one last time before she closed the shop. She also wanted to ombre color it, which she trusted no one but Jocelyn to do. The results were quite lovely.

My son was on the other end of the hair spectrum. Having inherited his father's hairline, he shaved his entire head yesterday. He wouldn't stand still for a picture, so I had to catch what I could as he came in to torment/ bid his cousin goodbye before leaving for work. I think he looks kind of cool with that bald head. Like his father, my son is pretty unfazed about his hairline, which is the only way to be I think. It doesn't seem to get in his way, um, socially.

Friday, June 5, 2015

5K Race

So proud of this man. He did the JP Morgan 5K race with the crew from his museum again this year and beat his time from last year by 10 minutes, without even trying much. He thinks he was more fit from the 5-borough bike tour he did with our son last month. He was elated when he came home last night, probably from all those exercise endorphins cruising through his system. When he checked his Fitbit and realized that he'd bettered his time, he grabbed me a planted a kiss on me. Nothing like a happy husband. He's already looking for the next race, feeling strong like a champion, which in my book, he is. I made him promise to send me a race selfie from every event. I'm getting quite a collection.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


1. Couple at a bus stop. I loved the warmth and familiarity in their shared body language so I asked if I could take their picture.

2. Jin Ramen and Noodle Shop, a piece of heaven under the train tracks.

3. Inside Jin, waiting for take out. The place is always full and among its patrons eating is a serious business.

4. Shenanigans with my son and friends as they returned home from a rugby game last Saturday. I was bench-sitting.

There and Here

Let's not pretend that I'm not living vicariously through my daughter as she gallivants around Rome. She looks like a confident woman of the world.

Here she is with some of her group after visiting Villa d'Este, an Italian renaissance garden and villa that served as inspiration for one of their writing assignments. 

Meanwhile back home, I ran into my heart son E while running errands yesterday. He's a wonderful artist with a very sweet and gentle nature. He wants with everything he is to be a good person. And he is. You might remember this more solemn face of the young artist from many moons ago.

I snapped this photo last night as my husband and son were wrestling in the laughing way they used to when our boy was 8 years old. He's bigger now, but the energy is the same.

Transcending Gender

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Child of God

My nephew, in lieu of a summer job, slings his guitar over his shoulder every morning and heads to Old Town, Virginia where he earns his keep as a street musician. His dad took that photo of him setting up, above. Yesterday, his mother called him as he was headed home on the bus. "Did you make a lot of money today," she asked him. He hesitated, then said, "I did something different today. I'll tell you about it later." 

His mom, my cousin who is like my sister, forgot to follow up until this morning, when she asked her firstborn son how the day before had gone. It turns out this beautiful young man, feeling grateful for all the cash he had earned from playing on the street (and believe me, he does very well with this), decided he wanted to give back. So he left his guitar at home, put sixty dollars in his pocket and took the train into Washington D.C. to a part of town where he had seen many homeless people. And that afternoon he took three homeless men to lunch, one after the other. He sat with each one as they ate and talked with them and listened to their story. One was 57 years old who said he was being watched by the FBI and that Bill Clinton was trying to kill him. Another, in his forties, cried because he hadn't seen his family in years. The third was an addict who hadn't been able to kick the habit. My nephew talked with each of these men about their lives and what they were feeling. After the three lunches he had twelve dollars left so he gave it to an elderly apparently homeless man whom he often sees sitting on a bench near the bus shelter.

His mother was moved to tears. She said, "The next time I am complaining to you because there is a science experiment growing in the bathroom that he hasn't cleaned, please remind me that my son is a very good person." 

The thing that strikes me most powerfully about his giving back was the way he acknowledged each of these men's humanity. He didn't just press a few dollars into their hands and leave. He bought them lunch and then sat and talked with them, and by the very act of spending time with them, asking about their lives, listening to them, he let them know they were valued.

He is 19 years old, this boy. But his soul is as old as the hills.

News of the day

I'm elated today and the source of this joy is my children. I'm elated for my children. I can't spend a lot of time writing here today, as I need to give all my writing juices to the book, but last night my son got the notice to report for the physical agility test for the FDNY, which is the first step in the process of actually joining the fire department. If you've been reading here awhile, you know that to be a firefighter-medic has been his dream. (His other dream is to coach the U.S. National Track and Field Team, so let's hold that thought too, shall we?)

My choir had the last of our spring concerts last night. It was at the Library for the Blind, which is quite a distance out in Queens. My husband kindly came to pick me up and drop three of my fellow choir mates home afterward. While we were in the car on the rainy highway back to Manhattan, my son called in on the speaker phone. He asked where we where and when we'd be home. His dad told him, and he respond cryptically, "Well, I have some good news for you when you get home."

My husband and I tried to surmise what the good news could be and we both quickly landed on the FDNY. I'm always kind of tickled by how our kids have never questioned that what makes them happy will make us happy. When we walked into the apartment our son didn't say a word, just handed us the letter. We all hugged and I asked him how he felt. "Excited and nervous," he said, which I think is how it feels when you are passionate about a thing. The process still has a lot of playing out to do, but if our boy passes all the tests from here on out (physical, psychological, medical, etc) I think it means he gets hired and then will do an EMT refresher course at the FDNY Academy before hitting the streets in the rig.

Meanwhile a poster landed in my email box last night from a nutrition and yoga center that is hosting a collaborative Cook & Dine group to teach healthy and enjoyable eating this summer. It is led by a therapist, a nutritionist and a guest chef who will be none other than my daughter! I knew this was in the works but when I saw the poster with my daughter's picture and official sounding bio, alongside a New York University trained professor and therapist, and a Columbia University trained nutritionist and yoga instructor, I was pretty darn excited for her. She may not want to own her own restaurant any more, but look, she's still being a chef.

So that's my news for today. Now back to work. I've got to get to a certain word count before I head back out to Oakland next week to sit down with my now 97-year-old subject and go over what we have so far.