Sunday, January 31, 2016

Business Casual

I'm not feeling much like writing here lately, perhaps because I'm doing so much word work away from here, but I also don't want to abandon this space, where so much of the recent history of my family has been recorded, along with so many wise and sustaining comments from all of you. I'm thinking I'll do what our dear friend Yolie did one summer, just post pictures for a while, maybe with a caption, maybe with a quote, maybe with a thought, or maybe with nothing. My daughter texted me the photo here yesterday. She's back at school in the snowy north, and she and her friends, both also seniors, are at a women's empowerment retreat in Syracuse this weekend. The dress code was business casual. She texted that she made her friends pose with her before they left their shared hotel room for the morning workshops. She wrote, "I told them it's for my mama." Love those young women. Don't they look ready to take on the world?

Thursday, January 28, 2016


I think this is a gorgeous picture of my babies. I love those radiant faces and the way the photo captures their sibling-cousin togetherness.


I've been watching the Amazon Prime series, Transparent, about a Jewish American family in California whose secretly trans father finally decides to live her truth openly, transforming from Poppa to Moppa, as her three grown children now call her. The acting is amazing; easy to see why season one swept armfuls of awards at the Emmys.

Anyway, toward the end of season two, a character says, "I'm NATO—not attached to outcome."

Well, that struck a chord with me, the control freak who can't help herself as she tries to engineer all outcomes. I've been thinking about it a lot, the idea if being NATO. And I wonder, does being not attached to outcome require the belief that if we just keep doing what's ours to do, things will turn out okay? If only I could release worry and be truly NATO.

I'm working on it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Feeling Quiet

The Nor'easter Jonas dumped 27 inches of snow on the city last weekend, and it was quite beautiful to watch from the comfort of our apartment. It snowed continuously from Friday night until Sunday morning. My daughter and I did venture out at 2 a.m., without coats, just to experience the first snow of the season.

On Monday our girl left to return to school for her last semester of college. I keep writing those words as if that will help me grasp them. I still can't wrap my head around the dizzying speed with which her college years have gone.

Meanwhile yesterday my son tried sprinting on his rehabilitating knee, but it bit back, not yet, no, no.  Nevertheless, he is almost healed. By May he should be fully back to where he was before tearing his ACL while playing soccer—on concrete. He's in a new job at his company, with more responsibility, in fact he's now doing two jobs combined into one. As my dad always used to say, the reward for good work is more work.

I'm immersed in page proofs for Dr. Simmons' book, trying to work as fast as I can to make sure the book will be ready by her 98th birthday at the end of March. Maybe we'll have a big book party.

I'm feeling quiet these days, just doing my work, doing a lot of thinking, trying to be mindful in all my relationships, to treat them with loving care. But I'm still reading you all. I'm still right here.

That's how it looked as I cabbed it to choir rehearsal on Monday night. Two days later, the snow is turning to murky gray lakes on street corners.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Today would have been her birthday

Your first birthday on the other side. I like to think you and Daddy are kicking your heels up together.  I didn't put this up on the day itself, because I missed you too much, even though I had the presence of mind to be grateful you were no longer in pain. But now, it seems like such a gap in the record, and so, belatedly, I'm posting this to mark the day your cherished being was born in this world. In another month, I will mark the day you left us, and were born to the next world. I imagine you happy and at peace there. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Home life

Our girl will be heading  back to school in a few days for her final semester of college. The snowstorm Jonas, arriving this weekend, will likely delay her departure for a day or so, but I'm not complaining. We've been binge watching Jane the Virgin till the wee hours of the morning and engaging in roaming conversations about any and everything. Having her home has been lovely. Hard to believe she'll be back in the city full time just a few short months from now.

Our son is still here with us, our third roomie, my sweet boy, though he's making plans to move into his own place come summer. He and his dad were brewing beer in our kitchen last evening. His dad gave him the home brewing set-up for Christmas. Our son read the instructions and said, "Pops, this is a two-person job." His dad said, "Well, son, I was counting on that."

Meanwhile, my girl and I are happily working on and off on a puzzle that she gave me as a  Christmas gift. She had it custom made from one of my favorite family portraits. I didn't even know you could do that. So cool!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Opening gambit

The story seems to begin with catastrophe but in fact began earlier and is not a tragedy but rather a love story. Perhaps tragedies are only tragedies in the presence of love, which confers meaning to loss. Loss in not felt in the absence of love. "The queen died and then the king died" is a plot, wrote E.M. Forster in The Art of the Novel, but "The queen died and then the king died in grief" is a story.

This lovely passage opens The Light of the World: A Memoir by Elizabeth Alexander.

The book is simply gorgeous.


I'm having one of those days when I wonder if I should be doing something completely different with my life. People don't really want to pay what deep developmental editing costs; some of them simply can't unless they already have a book deal, so although I get nibbles all the time from people who want to hire me, when we get to the point of talking money, it's often "Oh, that's more than I was thinking." I had such an exchange today. The agent seemed to think my estimate was reasonable, but the writer, who is on round three of revising a potentially wonderful book that her agent believes in but hasn't been able to sell, thought it was out of reach. For every ten money conversations I have, it seems only one or two results in us moving forward and doing work together.

It's disheartening.

It's life.

It's up to me how I look at it, though.

My cousin Helen, who is a spiritual success coach (and I say that with absolutely no irony), told me that when I start thinking, I know I'm worth this and the people who won't flinch at paying me what I'm worth are out there, looking for me, then people will step up to the plate. Until then, she says, they'll read my energy, the belief circling in the air around me that says, I know you won't pay me this, because, you know, in your shoes, I might not want to pay that either. Helen insists it's not a matter of what people can afford, but a matter of what they choose to invest in. I know very clearly that I'm good at what I do. That's not conceit talking, just experience and a love of the work. But I don't seem to trust people to know what it takes to do what I do, and why it costs what it does. Yet, I have to make a living. I need to be realistic about that. Helen says I have a scarcity mindset, and I need to adopt an abundance mindset. But maybe I have a little touch of it, because so far, we've done okay. I mean, we just paid my daughter's last college tuition bill. We did that, for her and our boy. We saw that through. And here's the crazy magical thing: I never for one moment doubted that we would.


My anxiety, though, is not about being okay today. It's about whether I will still be okay six months from now. Today, I want to run away, not deal.


Okay, back to work, because at this moment, I still have work, quite a bit of it, in fact. But there's nothing sure in the pipeline for when these two projects are done, even though there are a few more money conversations waiting to be had. I kind of wish someone would call me up and say, I'd like to hire you and I'll pay you X, and then I'd say, Done, because X was more than fair.

It's happened before.

Okay, universe, more of that please.

Friday, January 15, 2016

When I began it

“How would it be,” said Pooh slowly, “if, as soon as we’re out of sight of this Pit, we try to find it again?”

“What’s the good of that?” said Rabbit.

“Well,” said Pooh, “we keep looking for Home and not finding it, so I thought that if we looked for this Pit, we’d be sure not to find it, which would be a Good Thing, because then we might find something that we weren’t looking for, which might be just what we were looking for, really.”

“I don’t see much sense in that,” said Rabbit.

“No,” said Pooh humbly, “there isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it on the way.”

―A.A. Milne

Thursday, January 14, 2016


After an entire decade of rocking the same prescription (mostly through inertia), I finally got new glasses. At near and middle distances, I could see well enough with the old ones, but I was definitely missing something when trying to watch, say, a Broadway play from the rafters. My daughter and a young hip sales associate at the optometry place helped me pick out these tortoise shell Burberry frames, which the lovely sales associate said had arrived in the shop only that afternoon. I'm cutting edge stylish y'all. In truth, I couldn't see much without my prescription lenses, so I had no idea how I looked, but my daughter seemed to think these frames were the ones and that was enough for me.

I finally picked them up yesterday and was shocked by how much clearer and brighter the world around me suddenly seemed. Once home, my son pronounced the frames "somewhat hipster" and said he liked them on me "a lot." My husband's response was less sure. He studied me for a long while then mused that the style seemed a little old fashioned. I totally got what he saw. I had frames not unlike these when I was 11 years old, and again when I was in my twenties. Except back then, the lenses were so thick my eyes were like little fish swimming at the bottom of a Coke bottle. My eyesight is still just as bad, but technology's come a long way, baby.

I put the top photo on Instagram last night, and some people who love me pronounced the glasses "super cute, Auntie," and "retro hip." I can just hear Elizabeth laughing at my strategic "mama selfie" crop of me and my retro hip frames.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Me and Kale

This is what my daughter made at her job today and brought me home: salmon poached with cilantro, lime, honey and garlic and paired with a massaged kale, quinoa, pomegranate and avocado salad in a light honey mustard vinaigrette. Oh my. Who knew I even liked kale?!

Trundling along

I keep thinking about what I was doing a year ago, when my mother hadn't yet died, when the world and love still held her captive inside her broken body. I know wherever she is, she is free, and she understands everything, and I would not ask that she still be here with us, suffering as she was. And yet, I am still experiencing each new day as my first without her, the first Christmas without her, the first January without her, the first brand new year in which she will not be.

I am trying not to let inconsequential things derail me. I fail a lot. I have to talk myself down almost continuously, reminding myself that in fact, everything that truly matters, is more than okay, My daughter is working while on her winter break, as a chef for a therapeutic yoga based treatment center for eating disorders. She feels happily challenged to prepare delicious but healthy and non-triggering menus, and she enjoys the clients, therapists, nutritionists and yoga instructors she's working with,  and the fact that the center is a new and still evolving model.

They told her they'd like her to come on board full time when she graduates this May, but I think they still have to work out the details, so I'm not sure what will happen there. My girl also got offered another job with a Fortune 500 company, but she is torn, not wanting to say yes to something she doesn't think she will love just because it will look good on her resume, yet feeling some pressure. The pressure is coming mostly from her program, which puts a high premium in its graduates leaving school with good jobs already secured. Her dad told her to relax and trust that she will know what to do and when to do it.

My son also just got offered yet another promotion at his job. They seem to really appreciate his work ethic and sense of responsibility. He's busy trying to put things in motion for the next phase of his working life, and while I have my opinions about what might serve him as he moves forward, it's not my place to give him advice unless he asks me for it. He's fully grown now. And he seems to be managing just fine.

A group of us celebrated my friend Leslie's birthday with one of our Sunday evening pot lucks, and last night, on her actual birthday, I went out to dinner with her and her son and some friends from her other circle, including a couple who just happens to be my upstairs neighbors. We had a lovely time, as we always do in these intergenerational gatherings. That's a photo of the birthday girl and her man-child, a gifted drummer who's about the graduate with his music degree and whose two bands are playing lots of gigs and doing very well. Leslie and I met when our children were in kindergarten together, and we became enduring friends.

Here's a recent photo of some of our beautiful children with a couple of significant others in the mix. Through the years on this blog, you've seen childhood pictures of most of these young adults, and look at them now—those full-bearded boys! Just more evidence of time trundling on.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Personal history

The families of the two lovely young people above got together yesterday for a Broadway show and dinner, and it was a blast. We saw On Your Feet, the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. The music, as expected, was rousing and wonderful, but what I hadn't counted on was the dramatic heft of personal history, and a touching love story, which had my husband and me in tears throughout most of the second half of the performance. At the end of the show the entire audience was on its feet clapping and dancing and singing along. I loved it. We walked out of there feeling happy and emotionally cleansed, and then we went to dinner at our favorite restaurant, Bettolona. After, we came back to our place, and my daughter's bf's mother wanted to see baby pictures of our girl. My daughter, being who she is, also delighted in showing them photos from her purple glasses and braces stage, which brought howls of laughter. Here is one of my favorites from another era. In truth, I think all her stages are darling.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

To abandon oneself, to be light

So the new year dawned, and while I am in finishing up an editing job and moving along with the steps required to publish Dr. Ellamae Simmons' memoir slash autobiography so that she can hold the bound book in her hands before her 98th birthday on March 26, apart from those occupations, the months stretched out ahead of me, a blank field, project free. I do have a couple of irons to test against fire, some prospects to explore to see if there's anything for me there, but at the edge of everything was a quiet anxiety about when and from where actual paid work would show up next. I tried not to worry, to remind myself I've managed so far. I resolved, and resolved again, to trust the fates, or trust myself, or just plain trust. I'm happy to report an agent reached out to me today with not one, but two possible projects. Nothing firm yet, but things look promising. Perhaps these are my lessons for 2016. Trust. Be light.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The president on guns

President Obama was emotional as he spoke of the 5- and 6-year-old first grade victims of the Sandy Hook mass shooting and the almost routine gun massacres in America. The President vowed to do everything in his power to help reduce gun violence. He announced that he will use his executive powers to redefine the category of gun dealer to include those who sell firearms at gun shows, thus closing that gaping loophole by requiring the same background checks on prospective buyers as are mandatory in gun shops. Obama is taking other steps too, using his executive powers to bypass Congress and the need to have that fractious body co-sign his actions. While some on the right are accusing him of overreaching his role as President, I couldn't be more proud of him for finally taking this stand. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/ AP)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Puzzle pieces

We had lots of houseguests over the holidays, cousins from Maryland and from Trinidad, plus friends of my children staying over. This, in addition to actual work and a significant degree of mental numbness (a rather effective way of holding nostalgia at bay), has left me little time or inspiration to process my life enough to write about it. I'm just going along, swept up on a tide of doing the next thing that needs doing, and then the next thing after that. All is well, really. All around me, life is happening. Here's proof.