Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer loop

I'm moody as hell, old mental tapes playing on a loop, but at least I'm having the good sense so far not to act on them as if they are truth. I have a medical procedure tomorrow, nothing serious, but anything involving hospitals unsettles me. My nerves are sort of jangled. We've had house guests all week, and they left this morning. My daughter also left to return to school, and her research job, and there's a big yawning space when she goes. But my son and my niece are here, and of course that dear sweet man, so I'm good, really. My girl will be back and gone again, and back again and gone again all in the next month, so I'd better pace myself.

Had a wacky and wonderful time with my daughter and niece at the Mexican place in the neighborhood yesterday. We had a Happy Hour mango margarita each, along with our tacos and deviled eggs and jalapeƱo cornbread and baked beans, and we were silly and giddy together. My niece could not get over the fact that she could now consume cocktails in public with her cousin, this was her baby cousin after all, how could she possibly be old enough? How could she be indeed?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Lady G Status

My niece is at a wedding in upstate New York, and she sent me this pic on Snapchat. I made a screen shot of it, which is a real old fogey thing to do, but I thought she looked so cool and I wanted to save it. Then I instagrammed it with the hashtag #grandtheftphoto, which is our thing, and she liked it at once, so then I thought it would be okay to post it here, too, for my own record. My daughter assured me my darling niece is just way too gangsta to care. Inside joke there. She arrives back in the city tomorrow night, and all of us here (we have a full house this weekend, including friends in town from St. Lucia) can't wait to see her. She doesn't just look cool, this girl, she's the coolest.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Holding it down

My neighborhood, which is a university neighborhood, empties out in the summer when the students leave. The streets are quieter, the days slower, and the sense is that almost everyone is at the lake somewhere, leaving those who couldn't get away to wander in the concrete and asphalt lands and find seats in restaurants that usually have long wait times and hail empty yellow cabs at will.

Further downtown, it's a different story. I don't go to midtown that much these days. When I used to work in the heart of Rockefeller Center, right across the street from Radio City Music Hall, I'd go outside for lunch and meld into the crush of office workers and tourists, and the sense there was that everyone had come from the lake to the city, leaving working stiffs to dream of escape to less hectic locales.

I went to midtown yesterday for MRIs of some problematic joints. I lay on the table for one-and-a-half hours, the machine clicking away, a discordant music as I daydreamed. A reader said in comments here recently that people taking care of her medically makes her "crack along [her] fault lines." Oh, how that resonated. I am now in a round of doctors appointments and follow ups with specialists and on and on and on. It really is time consuming to get on top of one's health when one is not in perfect health. But the trickier part is the way all this is making me feel so breakable, and I swear seeing inside my body has made the pain flare. I feel glued together lately. But with old, cracking, worn-out glue. I sometimes wonder if I wasn't doing better when I was just pushing through, ignoring the body's whimpers. I felt mentally tougher then.

My son has surgery scheduled on his torn ACL, which didn't stop him from hiking three miles up the Flatiron in Boulder, Colorado with friends this weekend past. And he rides his bike to work every day. The leg muscles around his knee are so strong they support him. He probably could have passed the fire department physical endurance and agility test but then he'd have needed surgery right after being hired, and he thought that would be in poor faith. So his dream has been delayed a bit. I am sure there is a larger purpose to all of this, though I have no idea what it is.

Full house this weekend: Family friends from St. Lucia—people who my kids grew up with during their summers with Grandma—will be in town and staying with us, plus my daughter will be home to do another one of her guest chef gigs and my niece arrives on Sunday to stay for the rest of summer. My son also arrived home from his trip to Denver yesterday, so all the young people will be back under my roof, plus assorted significant others visiting. Cue music. The babies are coming home.

Photos: 1) Thai Market restaurant during a Friday afternoon business lunch was oddly empty. My daughter doesn't like the idea of umbrellas indoors, but I'm a sucker for the color red, especially paired with gold. 2) A lovely chamber chamber trio practiced during set-up for St. Mary's garden party and silent movie fundraiser last Thursday. My husband was The Man.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Woman Power

Guess who's back in town? My lovely niece, our reigning queen of bad television, with whom I watched all six episodes (so far) of the Lifetime series UnReal, about the making of a reality TV show and all the psychological trickery that goes down behind the scenes. And then she fell asleep on the couch under the red blanket, while I worked at my computer in the armchair, which prompted my husband to say when he got home from work, "Well the house looks familiar." Love this one. She's fresh from dental school exams and leaves Friday morning to accompany her little sister to a squash tournament in Barbados, but she'll be back at the end of the month to spend the remaining weeks of summer with us in New York. As my son said when he heard she'd be with us for a few weeks, "Well at least one of my sisters hasn't abandoned me." His other sister, of course, is having a fine summer doing marketing research for a documentary film while living on campus upstate. She seems happy, which makes me happy. (So I won't mention that my son has been diagnosed with a torn ACL, which will require knee surgery in September and several months of rehab. He's taking it fairly philosophically, so I'm taking my cue from him.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


I'm sad. I'm not sure what is going on. I went to the orthopedist last week and got a look inside my body and I've been feeling fragile and depressed ever since. What did it trigger in my emotional body, I wonder? Summer is always a hard time, I think. I'm so very lonely, even surrounded by people, tears pooling right behind my eyes. I am so weary of myself, so very weary and I need to get past this because I plan to be around see my children's children not just born, but grown up, and that's all there is to it. Sometimes, though, I feel I could easily lie down and never get back up, and writing that made the waterworks spill over, because it's the truth we're not supposed to admit, much less set down in cold hard type, that we're so tired, and so weary of ourselves that we can't quite see how to go on. Except I will go on. Don't worry about that. I'm just having a moment. A month.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

His heart

My son got a new tat, this one for his grandfather who died a year ago this week. With my son, you have to catch photos however you can. I snapped this one of him lying on the couch dozing in and out and watching the third season of House of Cards. But there's the new tat, in honor of his grandfather, the great and good and loving man for whom he and his dad were named. His grandfather's nickname was Shadow; it's what everyone called him, because of a hat he used to wear as a young man that reminded people of the comic book character. Our kids used call him Grandpa Shadow, and so my son got the word "Shadow" tattooed across his heart, in a font that looks like the line of a heart monitor. He came home and surprised us with it. His dad didn't say a word, just wrapped him in a man hug and kissed his head.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


It's one of those mornings when I'm sitting at my desk trying to work and tears are just rolling down my face. I think it's chemical because none of the reasons I can think of for these tears seem to be enough. Maybe it's all the little things together stirring up a sorry-for-myself soup. It's the kind of day where I just need to go off on my own because I'm liable to have my feelings hurt by any little thing. Plus the house is a mess and I don't feel like doing anything about it. I miss my mom, her wise counsel, her calm assurance always that everything will be okay.


I'm in the cafe at the bookstore now. My preferred seat next to the huge arching window became available almost as soon as I walked in, and I'm all set up there with my computer open and the writing going quite well, and properly distracting me from myself. In the midst of this I just had the strangest experience. Two women sat at the table beside me talking about past life regressions and Michael Newton's book Journey of Souls, and at last I couldn't help turning to them and letting them know I'd read all about that stuff too, and we had the most wonderful, warm and comforting conversation, which made me think we were supposed to sit next to each other in this cafe this afternoon, and make a soul connection, even though from all outer appearances we are so very different. We exchanged emails and plan to be in touch, which we may follow through on or not, it doesn't matter. They already gave me a gift. I wonder if my mother sent them. They are both gracious ladies, just like she was.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Weeds

One of my three current editorial projects is now complete and my collaborator sent me these beautiful flowers as a thank you. I'm happy she's happy! She is a rock star and I hope I get to work with her again sometime.

I'm back to the book now, the first half of which is due this month. I had a great interview with a person peripheral to the story this morning. It reminded me that I really do love reporting. I'm just so curious about how lives unfold. It has also just occurred to me that I'm going to have to do endnotes, there is so much history covered in the life span of the good doctor, the woman who is my extraordinary 97 year old subject. I've had to do tons of research as I go, to make sure I'm getting it right, and of course, I can't just dump secondary facts or quotes into the narrative without sourcing them. This is a rather belated realization. Fortunately I've been keeping track of my sources.

I have no idea how people wrote books containing actual historical detail before the internet. I imagine they just moved in to the library, and got very familiar with its card files. And took a lot longer to complete things no doubt. Capote, the biography of Truman Capote by Gerald Clarke, for example, took eight years to complete. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, which won a Pulitzer, took 11 years to complete. I am trying to do my subject's life justice in just one year, yet these are the books I'm looking to as examples of what I strive for. Talk about aiming high.

From her writing retreat at Hedgebrook Elizabeth posted a Virginia Woolf quote the other day. For me, it was right on time, the perfect description of what it feels like to undertake something so ambitious as a book. I'm reposting it here, because it reminds me that I am not going it alone, and I am still on the path, even when it feels as if I have fallen into the weeds.

"Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted people’s parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and pompous; next the plain and simple; now the vales of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world."

Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

"A ribbon tied around a bombshell"

This image was posted on Instagram by many different people yesterday to mark Frida Kahlo's birthday. I don't know who the artist is who evoked Frida crying tears of paint. In a life so wracked by physical and emotional pain, Frida would have liked the metaphor I think.

A few years ago I wrote about Frida and the notion I once had that one must suffer for art. I no longer believe that, even though it is true that many artists do suffer. Perhaps these artists absorb the world in a way others don't, and are left no choice but to find an outlet in what they create.

The French writer Andre Breton once described Frida's work as "a ribbon tied around a bombshell." I was so struck by that. Throughout her life, Frida tied and retied that ribbon in the face of almost certain detonation. She possessed such fortitude. She bequeathed us its power in her art, those haunting canvases of painted tears.

Monday, July 6, 2015


My husband and I had a busy, fun weekend, starting with a picnic in Riverside Park on Friday with dear friends, then a barbecue and 21st birthday celebration with a lovely family in Newburgh on the Fourth, then a get together with some of our neighbors to watch the World Cup soccer final, a blow out with the U.S. women trumping Japan 4-2. No suspense at all, as the first three goals were scored in the first fifteen minutes, but the company was grand. In between I worked furiously to finish the final line edit of the manuscript I'd been hired to revise, thinking all the while that I am one of the lucky ones who gets to do work I sincerely love. I now have to turn back to the book I am ghostwriting for the 97-year-old warrior woman, as the first half delivery is coming up in two weeks. I'm kind of excited to get back to it, and her. Here's a pic of the birthday boy with my girl and snap from our Friday picnic.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


The jobs report this morning noted that unemployment is at its lowest point in 7 years, down to 5. 3 percent, but this promising statistic is driven by the fact that more people have dropped out of the workforce; they simply stopped looking for jobs.

I wonder: What happens when people stop looking for jobs? How do they live? And then I wonder if I am counted as having dropped out of the workforce, since I stopped looking for a job when I realized that I was competing against my 33-year-old self, who already had a well-developed work ethic, was maybe even a tad obsessive, but had the luxury of accepting a salary that was a very small fraction of what I was making when I was laid off from the magazine some twenty years later.

One day, I got real and admitted to myself that if I were an employer and I had to choose between my 33-year-old self and this woman who limps when she walks, I'd choose my former self, too. I know so much more now than I did then, so I'm not saying I was necessarily better then, but I knew enough to get by, more than get by. I was already on my way.

And so now I work from home, always a little bit anxious that the next job won't present itself, but so far, that has not been the case. I remember my cousin Helen saying to me once, just decide what you want, how much you want to make for the year, and put it out there. Write it on a post it and put it on the mirror. Then let it go. You don't have to worry about how to make it happen. You just have to believe that it will.

You know what? I wrote that number on a post-it, but I put it in my desk drawer, not wanting to announce my magical thinking to the world. And a month later an assignment showed up out of the blue. The how of it all had been engineered in full.

Just. Like. That.

So now I have a little yellow post-it on the side of my closet in full view. In my handwriting, it says, "Money comes to me easily and frequently." My children both guffawed when they saw it, but then they shook their heads and each one said some version of, "Okay, Mom, do you."

I'm still in a state of wonder at how things have turned out.

Wondering if I can do it all again.

And I shall.