Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Going to the water

My girl and I are going away to a place where there is a long and winding lazy river. My daughter said, "The last time I was on a lazy river, I only got out because, well, it was starting to look a little wrong for me to stay in any longer, but with you, I don't have to worry about that. I swear I'm going to ride that water all day long." And I'll be right there flowing along beside her.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Happy 22nd Birthday my darling girl

Our girl is 22 years old today. That's her official grad portrait; the original is sharp with brilliant colors and detail, but I copied it with my phone camera and couldn't manage to get rid of the glare. Hard to believe in two short months she will be a college graduate. It's such a cliche to say how quickly the time went, but I'm saying it anyway. The birthday girl insisted on baking her own cake, a layered ombre number with blue macarons on top. She was in the kitchen mixing and fixing most of the afternoon, ably assisted by her bf, who made her a personalized app for her birthday (because when you know how to write code you can do that). She's home for spring break and tomorrow she and I will travel to warmer climes where we plan to swim and float and daydream the hours away. I'm so thrilled she wants to do this with her mama. The cake she made was a thing of beauty, like its maker. How blessed we are to be hers.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

I am poured out like water

There's so much crazy in the world, so much meanness and mayhem and violence, that at times I have to construct a bubble around myself, and not let the news inside me. For sanity's sake. So it was this week with the bombings in Brussels, a city to which my son will be traveling in three short weeks as he embarks on a month long jaunt around Europe with a former college roommate and fellow decathlete. They're meeting in Finland where my son's friend now lives, and after Denmark and Sweden, they'll travel around Europe on that rail line that let's you buy one ticket and go everywhere. They're stopping in Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague and some other places too, and it sounds like the perfect adventure for young men not yet encumbered with more long term commitments. My son was ready to quit his job for this trip, but his boss gave him the time off, so he's lucky. He's still have an income when he returns.

Anyway, I was very intentional in the way I didn't allow myself to get sucked into all the details of the Brussels attack, although there was one detail that pierced me—a pair of siblings, brother and sister bound for New York City, on the phone with their mother while waiting in line to check in. They had called to let her know they'd arrived at the airport safely, and would see her when they landed. As they spoke, the mother heard a sudden roar, like a crashing wave, and then the phone went dead. The terror and torment she must have felt as she waited for news haunted me, but I didn't give in to it—until this morning. It has now been confirmed that her two children died in the Brussels airport explosions. I doubled over, imagining her grief.

I went to church this afternoon because my husband was understudying the role of Jesus in the Good Friday passion play. I haven't been to Good Friday services since those three-hour-long marathons my brother and I sat through in our youth while visiting our cousins every Easter in Montego Bay. But I thought I should go today and support my husband. He wasn't supposed to be in the play, but the person cast as Jesus had taken ill, and they asked my man to step in.

The script arrived with a handwritten notation, "Emergency stand-by Jesus," which amused me, because my husband is definitely a man you'd want to have on emergency stand by. As I listened to the dramatic reading of events leading up to the crucifixion that forever changed the history of our world, I was absorbed by the players standing in moody shadow on the altar. I was thinking somewhat irreverently how handsome I find the man I'd married, a rooted presence at center stage, in jeans and sneakers and red polo shirt and tweed jacket, taller and bigger than everyone else, a man you could dare to lean on.

And then suddenly I was thinking of that mother again, her children lost to her in a shattering blast, their lives turned to ash in a moment. My eyes fell to a page in the Book of Common Prayer that lay open on my lap. It was the reading up next, Psalm 22, and my eyes landed on these words:

I am poured out like water, 
And all my bones are out of joint
My heart is like wax, melting inside me.

It's a good description of how it feels when the protective bubble pops, and the world with all its blood and horror presses in. 

So I looked back up from the prayer book, and kept my eyes on the man.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My lovelies

That was the man last Sunday, just back from church and full of mischief. And that was the girl a year ago, at what was her third birthday party in as many days. She was turning 21 after all. Her birthday is coming up again in six days. Her friends at college already had a surprise early birthday party for her last weekend. The surprise was ruined by an unwitting text, but great fun was had anyway. And that's my boy, heading out to his track coaching gig, proper hydration in hand. These are my lovelies, the ones who, no matter what else is happening in the world, make my everyday sublime.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Moody Sunday

Feeling very sad about things I cannot control while not handling things I can control very well. My throat feels thick with regret. I made a decision, realized almost immediately it was the wrong one, the inconsiderate and self-defeating one, but now I am stuck with it. It's not anything dire, but it was impolite, a tiny arrow slung to the heart of a longstanding relationship. I am so very sick of being in this body, even though I know I should love it, and myself. It feels like a prison today, like quicksand sucking me under. I should have gone to the fancy tea party my friend is holding this afternoon. But I cancelled. It was just one too many commitments in a string of days confronting a sudden and heart wrenching challenge, being social all the while. "Put on a spring dress," the invitation commanded. I think, for all my other justifications, that might be why I cancelled. I am so weary of myself I couldn't stand to attend to myself enough to make myself presentable. Too late, I realized it was one of those things I should have made myself do. My friend was offended, maybe hurt. Now I am in limbo, harsh self-talk muttering in my brain, tears welling, not just for this, for other things too, the things I cannot control.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Women with freedom hair

I went out to dinner last night with two powerhouse women with big freedom hair, both of them authors I've worked with in the past, one a college professor who years ago hired me as an editor at a magazine. She is the ultimate connector, the woman who knows everyone. When I was laid off three years ago, and the company was trying not to count the years I'd worked for the magazine before their monolithic corporate forces acquired it, this woman was the person who called me up as soon as she heard and advised me to call her friend, an employment attorney. Her lawyer friend not only billed me at well below the going rate, she was completely successful in resolving the situation. This friend with whom I had dinner last night was also the person I called when I wanted to find a new agent; she went into her virtual rolodex and gave me names, and even called ahead on my behalf. She's also referred people to me for work, and she made me look good last year when I was hired to edit a commemorative issue for a museum's 90th anniversary and she said yes to writing one of the articles. I'd do anything this woman asked of me, because she's just one of those people. Turns out she had asked us two women to dinner last night because she felt at an impasse. She wanted to brainstorm about the next stage of her life, and get our input. The three of us ended up having an animated conversation about what we wanted from life now, how it had changed from previously, and how we might put the pieces in place to make the fantasy come true. Women together. It can be magic.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The dream is real

Overcome: My Life in Pursuit of A Dream is now up on Amazon and available for preorder. I am given to understand that the price one will actually pay will be a good bit less than is shown, as Amazon discounts all its books by 35 to 40 percent. The official pub date is March 29, 2016. I'm so excited to attend the book launch/ 98th birthday party for Dr. Simmons! I'll be flying back to Oakland for it in mid April. There will be pictures.

In good faith

I love this moment from last Thanksgiving. I see these faces and feel nothing by joy in their existence. They remind me of the promise that exists in the world, even if my niece does look a little skeptical of whatever it is my daughter is telling her.

Things have been a little unsettled over here lately. A dear friend is facing a situation I can't write about, but it's fairly consuming on this end. I do wish I could post about what's happening, as writing helps me process, but there are larger privacy considerations. In the meantime I'm wading deeper into research for my next project, which is at hand. I'll need to start drafting next week, so I'm buried in transcripts and other reading this week, trying to master the language, history, people and preoccupations of a particular world. As always at the beginning of a new project, I'm nervous, not yet sure how I will accomplish the work, but knowing that having undertaken it in good faith, somehow I will.

Speaking of good faith, I'm very moved by the sincerity with which my son, now 24, is listening to the presidential race debates and political news shows, and the care with which he is analyzing the various candidates' positions. He's so much more versed in their policy positions than I am; I tend to be rather impressionistic in this process, going with my feelings about what I see and hear. My son is more methodical, delving more deeply, with an intention that seems to me very pure. Today he took a quiz on the issues at ISideWith.com, in an effort to clarify what matters most to him and where he falls on the continuum of values and belief on each issue. He just emailed me the results. No surprise, he's a far left leaning progressive, and Bernie Sanders is the one whose ideas most align with his. But Bernie is followed quite closely by Hillary Clinton, and then by Jill Stein of the Green Party. I think it's important to be idealistic when you're young, and my son is certainly that. But I'm very impressed by the thoughtfulness he's bringing to the question of who deserves his vote. He's not taking this decision lightly.

Against the blaring backdrop of the 24/7 political news cycle, what's your style of assessment and/or what considerations matter most to you?

Friday, March 11, 2016

When we lived in a pink house

Our first apartment had "dusty rose" walls. He called it pink. I found him unbelievably hot so he could call my color choice whatever he wanted. We were such footloose kids, playing house, marveling that we now got to build sand castles day in, day out. Thirty years later he is still my favorite sandbox buddy, rock solid in a crisis, my best friend.

Near poets in shadowed space

“We are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.” 

― Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

First look

"I am almost one hundred years old now. With the passage of years I have developed a hard-won peace and a deep sense of gratitude for the great gifts that have been bestowed on me in this life. I now want nothing more than to share my experiences as evidence that no matter how bleak the moment we are living through, we can overcome. We will overcome. But we may need the help of another person who believes in our vision as strongly as we do. I have come to appreciate that in medicine and in life, our greatest human need is for the hand that reaches out to touch another; the hand that closes around another’s and pulls that person forward in a supportive embrace."

Ellamae Simmons, M.D.
From the introduction to Overcome: My Life in Pursuit of A Dream

Last night I received first proofs of the book. The truth is I am wracked with insecurities about it, about whether I have done this woman's extraordinary life justice, and there are small things I'd like to fiddle with (like, should the cover have had a gloss finish instead of a matte one). But we must go forth in order to have printed books in time for a book party we're planning to hold in Oakland with the inimitable Dr. Simmons as the guest of honor. Her 98th birthday on March 26 is coming up fast. I'm really looking forward to seeing her again. I hope she will be pleased by the outcome of our joint self-publishing endeavor. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016


My son and my niece travelled to their old college stomping ground Ithaca this weekend to hang out with my daughter, who is in her senior year of college there. Their cousin Dani, also attends college in Ithaca, and the four cousins apparently had a fabulous time together, even if the sleeping arrangements were a bit crowded. My son was coaching a track meet at Cornell on Saturday morning, and my daughter had a step performance on Saturday night, and they all attended everything together, joined by my daughter's boyfriend who attends her same school. They cheered each other on and sent out occasional glimpses of the fun over Snapchat, and I couldn't help thinking that wherever she is, their grandmother was smiling to see them all together in supreme joy and comfort like that, completely entertained in one another's company. My son and niece are driving back to the city as I write this, and I am sure I will hear some hair raising stories of visits to old haunts, like the legendary Moonies just off the Commons, where your feet just might stick to the floor. My mother and her eight siblings instilled a deep love of family in their children, and I can't even describe how gratifying it is to see it so fully expressed in yet another generation.

Friday, March 4, 2016

One year

My brother wrote this on Facebook today. It says everything.

One year ago you took your last breath as I held you. Life stripped of all its trappings, the emblems of mortality condensed. So misleading if you don't know. A speck in the passage of time, but a huge hole in the lives of those you touched. Dearly beloved mother, wife, sister, aunt, relative, or friend, you are gone but never forgotten. You live on in our memories and thoughts daily. We all miss you so much.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hope is the thing with, you know

As the world goes crazy around us, I look into my child's eyes and realize how much goodness there still is in the world. Emily Dickinson's feathers, perched in the soul.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Anything, Everything

“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” 

―Shel Silverstein


I've been doing my best not to give too much energy to what's happening in the GOP race, but this requires some focus y'all, because some truly scary shit is going down.

Yesterday I talked about GOP frontrunner Donald Trump refusing to disavow the Ku Klux Klan, after former Grand Wizard David Duke endorsed him. When asked if he would disavow this endorsement, Trump said he didn't know enough about "Duke and his group" to say whether he would reject it. What, really, does Trump need to study up on about the Klan? Is this man proposing to be president really so ignorant of the nation's history? Yesterday, I tried to dismiss this idiocy as just more proof that Trump doesn't actually want to be president. He seems to be trying desperately to torpedo his chances. Sadly, people will keep voting for him.

That was my position yesterday, anyway. I subsequently deleted all mention of Trump from yesterday's post, because I didn't want to sully the memory of my lovely girls weekend with his name. But today, I'm on that horse again, because yesterday at a rally at Valdosta State University, Trump asked his security detail to removed 30 to 40 black students in attendance, even though those students were merely standing silently in the bleachers.

From the HuffPo story this morning:

"I think we got kicked out because we're a group of black people," a tearful student said in a video posted by USA Today. "I guess ... they're afraid we're going to say something or do something. But we just really wanted to watch the rally ...."

Another student said the group decided to stand quietly in the bleachers wearing black attire as a statement. The group had no intention to disrupt the candidate, the student said.

The incident happened the same day Black Lives Matter protestors interrupted a Trump speech during a campaign stop in Virginia. At that rally, a
Time magazine photographer was thrown to the ground in a chokehold by a Secret Service agent after stepping outside of the press pool.

The protesters at Radford University in Virginia, by the way, were eject for chanting, "No more hate! No more hate! Let's be equal! Let's be great!"

Is this violent, racist, mysogynistic, xenophobic candidate proposing to be president of only the white people in America? Is it really okay for a presidential candidate to trample on any group's right to gather in a public place, or to deny them their first amendment right to protest peacefully? Not to mention, these students were on their own campus! 

Valdosta police chief Brian Childress insisted the incident wasn't about race. "What I resent is now some of these folks are going around saying it was a black issue," he said. "That’s total nonsense.”

After rereading what I just wrote, I feel sick. 

I keep posting about Trump because I think it's important to keep a record of what is happening, how this ugliness gathers momentum. I read an op ed piece yesterday by a Nazi concentration camp survivor who warned that the way Trump is speaking and behaving reminds him chillingly of the way Hitler behaved as he came to power. All I can say is I pray the forces of reason and tolerance in this country prevail in November and are able to put a Democrat back in the White House. I don't really care which one. I wonder if I will ever again feel as galvanized as I did by the candidacy of Barack Obama? Such a decent human being. I can say at least that there was one truly inspirational president in my time.