Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Moving Day

My son and his girlfriend are moving into their own place today. My boy was up at 3AM packing and ferrying his things to the car. Moving day has dawned cold and snowy, but if memory serves, that sort of thing doesn't matter when you're young and strong of body. Still, the snow is coming down really hard now. I hope they're managing okay.

My cousin texted me this earlier: "In 1984, the psychiatrist Otto Kernberg described a sickness known as Malignant Narcissism. Unlike ordinary narcissism, malignant narcissism was a severe pathology. It was characterized by an absence of conscience, a pathological grandiosity and quest for power, and a sadistic joy in cruelty." All that to say, things Trump related are going to get worse before they get better. But they will get better. As long as we stay conscious, continuously take action, and don't lose our will. The planet is counting on us, and that's not hyperbole.

On a happier note, I can't wait to see my son's new digs tonight! Because life goes on.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Day Nine

There is so much going on my head is spinning. I don't know how to report on it. I'm exhausted just from trying to keep up. Elizabeth just wrote on Facebook: "It took nine days to break nearly everything this country stands for." That just about sums up where things stand.

Thank God for the ACLU and the two women judges who last night managed to put a stay on Trump/Bannon's excutive order banning Muslims from seven countries. It is worth noting that none of the seven countries on the list have been implicated in a single action of terrorism against the United States.

Muslim countries with which Trump does business, like Saudi Arabia (from which 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 hailed) were not included in the ban.

Nor was there any ban on white males from Charleston, North Carolina, or Newtown, Connecticut. Thought I'd throw that in.

Travelers from the seven countries holding valid green cards were included in the ban, and were not allowed to re-enter the United States until the stay was issued last night. By then, many passengers had been put on planes back to where they traveled from.

At airports across the country, people gathered to protest the fascist order. In New York City, someone drove a van with several little girls in hijabs out to the airport so they could see that they were supported, it was not all hate.

At dinner last night, before the courts challenged the constitutionality of the Muslim ban, I said to my friend, "People keep marching yet Trump keeps issuing these insane executive orders and no one who can seems willing to stop him." She said, "It is important for us to gather and show the world that we don't agree with those orders." She's so right.

When I got home my cousin called me from DC with the news that the ACLU had brought suit and a judge had put a halt on Trump/Bannon's Muslim ban. She said, "We're fighting! Oh, I'm so happy, we're fighting!"

There is so much to fight at every turn. This morning I learned that while people marched yesterday, Trump installed Bannon, the unelected white nationalist, to a permanent seat on the National Security Council. With the same executive order he removed from the council the nation's top intelligence person and top military person, relegating them to "invite only" status. We did not vote for Bannon and yet he seems to be running the president like a wind-up toy.

I'm exhausted, but by no means down for the count.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Worst breakup ever

Social media used to be social. A place where we shared our lives in quirky, funny, sentimental ways. Now social media is the place where people scream, begging others to wake up to the danger of the authoritarian state that, in one short week since the departure of the grown up, has become our new reality. The flood of executive orders flying out of the White House is surreal. As he signs each one, the new president is smug in the way of a grade schooler relishing the havoc he is causing.  Look what I can do, his expression says. Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou.

The people who surround him are even scarier than he is. We can see him coming, see his crazy writ large, but Pence, Kushner, Bannon, Sessions, Flynn, they will come around the corner and quietly gut you with nothing but a flicker of self-satisfaction in their eyes. Hoping for Trump to exit stage left means we will have to deal with Pence, who is every bit as dangerous in his way. Don't think he and the rest of them haven't been winding up Donald like a toy and setting him on spin, and he's just too stupid to see or care.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the entire senior management staff of the state department resigned (or were fired). Meanwhile a judge ruled that Melania Trump can sue a blogger who reported rumors circulating about her during the campaign. Also yesterday, the president's senior advisor Bannon told the New York Times that the media is "the opposition" and they should "shut their mouths." I can only assume this was not fake news.

At breakfast this morning, as I birddogged an electrical issue at my mom's house in St. Luica, which is currently rented, I said to my husband, "At least if we have to get away fast we have a place to go." We both fell silent then, stunned by the fact that we weren't really joking.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My son is moving across the bridge

My son and his girlfriend found a great apartment across the bridge in Astoria. It's larger and sunnier than anything they looked at in the city, with a newly renovated open-concept kitchen, beautiful wood floors and a great view of the skyline. I haven't seen it yet, but I pored over pictures and I "walked" around the neighborhood on Google maps. It's a third floor walkup, but they're both super fit, so they'll be fine. And now life changes again. My son moves out in a week, which I suspect will be good for our relationship. He always likes me more when he isn't living with me! And what fun to be setting up your very own apartment exactly as you wish. Big excitement around here!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


They say what you focus on multiplies, so I am trying to focus on the decent, the loving, the good. But where do you draw the line between focusing on the good and keeping what is dangerous in sight?

My friend Brittany is bearing witness on Facebook in a powerful way. Last night she posted this:

"I hope everyone is paying attention. The National Park Service had their freedom of speech revoked for tweeting a fact the president didn't like. Then they had to apologize for tweeting that fact to have their freedom of speech reinstated. Then the account for the Badlands park tweeted facts about climate change--a simple act that was understood to be an act of rebellion under Trump's regime. And now those tweets have disappeared. Meanwhile, the EPA has been banned from speaking to the press and their grants have been frozen, and four journalists are facing felony charges after being arrested while covering inauguration protests. This is what I feared would happen, but not even I thought it would happen so quickly."

I'm putting it here so we can keep what is happening in plain sight.

Also in the news, President Snow plans to authorize building a wall along our Southern border with Mexico, to keep all those brown people out. Because let's face it, his immigration reform really only applies to brown people. It definitely doesn't apply to Slovenian lingerie models who may or may not be legal but can find work in America anyway.

For those who don't get the President Snow reference, suffice it to say I sometimes feel as if we've been plunged into the dystopian reality of The Hunger Games.

I was talking to my cousin this morning, about the fact that everything is coming at us so fast and furious, we have no time to oppose it by conventional means—through the courts, at the ballot box—and we don't even know quite where to focus our attention. I think this is President Snow's plan. What do we do, Mary Moon asked yesterday. What is our best move now? Because surely, as a nation we cannot afford to go numb. This is how fascism puts down roots in our throats. I can barely focus on doing my daily life. I keep thinking I'm letting the moment for critical action slip by. But what is the critical action we need to take now? I'm sincerely asking. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Aunt Beryl, you were the sweetest soul

Today would have been my mother Gloria's 95th birthday. This morning, one of her dearest friends in this world closed her eyes for good. Aunt Beryl and her husband Uncle Clinton, who later became my brother's first in laws, lived down the street from us on Paddington Terrace when we were growing up. Our families were close, and in fact, Uncle Clinton gave the eulogy at my own father's funeral in 1996, and my husband and I stayed in their home. Their daughter Hilary is one of my dearest friends in this world. Our sisterly bond was forged in our teens and easily survived her later divorce from my brother, and her relocation to Germany, where she now lives with the love her life.

Aunt Beryl, age 87, died at 8 AM this morning, after months of her body slowly shutting down. I like to believe that on this day, of all days, my mom came to meet her friend, and welcome her home. I just spoke to Norman, my birthday mate, and one of Beryl and Clinton's two sons. He said his dad doesn't yet know his mom is gone. Since last I saw Uncle Clinton, the fog of Alzheimer's has claimed him, and his children aren't quite sure how to break the news to him that his life's great love is gone.

That is my husband, with my mom (center) and Aunt Beryl (on the right) in one of my favorite photographs ever. I sent this and other photos to Aunt Beryl and Uncle Clinton on the occasion of their 60th anniversary in June 2014. How can I explain what she means to me, how deep this loss feels. I will just post for posterity the letter I wrote to her and Uncle Clinton, and the one I got in return. It only begins to capture their place in my life, because those years on Paddington Terrace were absolutely formative.  

Our letters:

Dear Aunt Beryl and Uncle Clinton,

On this, your 60th anniversary of marriage, I just wanted to let you know how very much you both mean to me, and what a large and wonderful imprint you have left on our lives.

How blessed our family was when we moved to number 37 Paddington Terrace in my fourteenth year, only to discover that you lived just down the street. What a gift it was to wander barefoot into your home, always sure of welcome, to be able to sit huddled with Hilary in her room giggling over our teenage journals, to play ping pong with Norman (my birthday mate!) and Robert and Derek and Huey, and to be greeted in all these endeavors by your great warmth and kind and loving oversight.

Those years on Paddington Terrace were the sweetest anyone could imagine, and this was in no small part because of you both. You cannot know the depth of love I hold for your family; and Rad has since come to love you as much too. (Not to mention, Uncle Clinton, he thinks Aunt Beryl is one of the most beautiful women he has ever seen! Don't tell him I told you!)

I wanted to share with you some photos we took when last we were in Jamaica at your home. They are photos of the two of you, so beautiful and bonded, such a glorious love, and of Hilary, Robert and me, one fraction of the old Paddington Terrace crew. And there is one more photo of older vintage, of Aunt Beryl, my mom Gloria, and Rad, a photo that Rad says is with two of his favorite ladies.

May God continue to richly bless you both on this wonderful anniversary, and may we all learn from your great grace and wisdom and goodness unerringly displayed throughout these full 60 years. May you celebrate many more such milestones together, and continue to be a shining example for us all.

We love you so much. Thank you for being a part of our lives.

And from her iPad, Aunt Beryl replied:

Thank you for your lovely letter on our anniversary. It warmed our hearts and certainly contributed to our having a contented day. You were all our children and it is good to know that we are remembered with affection. We love you all still and wish the best for you and your children. Lots of love from Uncle Clinton and Aunt Beryl

There they are, still hale and hearty in 2014. Below is the old Paddington Terrace crew on a beach-going day in the summer of 1975. I moved from Kingston, Jamaica to New York City for college two months after this photograph was taken. That's me with the Afro in the middle and Hilary to my left, arm linked with mine. Truly, these days were charmed, and Aunt Beryl and Uncle Clinton helped make it so.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Woke AF

There were 637 marches in solidarity with women's rights and human rights around the globe. All were peaceful, and all exceeded expectations in terms of numbers. So many people marched that I feel no need to try and evoke the experience here. Everyone has their own memory of it, either from standing shoulder to shoulder in the crowd or hearing tell of it from one who did. Perhaps the energy of the inauguration day was so heavy and murky, that to balance it, the world spontaneously chose brilliance, chose hope and optimism, chose to harness the energy of the divine feminine and all those who stand easily in its light. So many people decided only on the night before the march, after feeling the gloom of the inauguration, to go out and join the protest. Everyone was searching for a way to turn their dismay at the tone of the new administration into something positive and powerful. That's my niece in the photo above, after she marched in Washington, D.C. I sense that, having staked out the high ground, people are feeling a lot less depressed about the political reality in which we find ourselves today. The mood now is more like: Woke AF so bring it on!

We the People Are Greater Than Fear

Yesterday at the Women's March in D.C., Gloria Steinem said, "The constitution doesn't begin with 'I the president, it begins with 'We the people,' so don't try to divide us!'"

I love the posters by Shepard Fairey, the artist who did the famous Obama "Hope" poster in 2008. I want to frame these powerful women and hang them on my wall, along with the Obama "Hope" image.

I told my husband, "We're going to be the new version of those old people who had portraits of JFK, MLK and RFK painted on black velvet and hanging in their homes." He shrugged and said, "So be it."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March, NYC

My loved ones marched for our rights today. So many people turned out in New York City that the Women's March route was jammed packed from one end to the other, with crowds spilling into side streets and adjacent avenues, and for hours no one could move. I was so proud of my husband and daughter, and my daughter's boyfriend, turning out for the cause. I watched the mammoth marches all over the country, and the world, from home. I could not march, as I have pain and mobility issues, and this is part of the reason my husband decided to march, for me. But as day turned to night, and the marchers kept going, no one dispersing, I wanted so much to be a part of this massive movement. I felt lonely and left out. I know it is not the way I am supposed to be feeling on a day when the forces of resistance have been so thrillingly mobilized.

What I meant to do when I sat down here was to write about these two days in which the world changed. Yesterday, as the Obamas flew off in a green military helicopter, my heart was heavy and tears flowed. I changed the channel after that. I only watched the inauguration to bid farewell to the Obamas. I had no stomach for the spectacle of the new president, a man of stunning dishonesty, moving into the White House. And now on TV,  press secretary Sean Spicer has just taken the podium in the White House briefing room to berate the press for reporting that Trump's inauguration crowds were sparse compared to Obama's. WTF? He was clearly sent out there by his boss, who earlier had tweeted out a photo of Obama's crowds in 2009, pretending they were his. The press corrected him, and Trump is apparently apoplectic. Well, he achieved one thing: The stunned newscasters are now dissecting Spicer's angry, petulant statement, and are no longer covering the marchers. I think I should stop writing now.

My husband just texted that he is on his way home.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thank you, President Obama

This is the final day of the presidency of Barack Obama, the finest president of my lifetime. I have no adequate words to express just how dignified this president has been in the face of, let's just say, opposition. He has managed to keep his empathy and humor through it all, which I think is evidence of his fierce intelligence, bedrock goodness, and ability to take the long view. Plus, let's just face it, the man is cooler than just about anybody else on the planet. I think I'll just mark this day with photographs of our president with children over the course of the past eight years, because he has been a powerful role model for young people of all backgrounds. Look at the joy. Children know.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hey there

There's stuff happening behind this screen, and under normal circumstances I'd be posting about it all, but I'm so immersed in this chapter I'm writing, I seem to have no brain cells left over to compose my thoughts here. A few notes:

1. My son and his girlfriend are looking for an apartment. They put in an application for a garden apartment that they quickly realized was nicer than anything else they were seeing, but the owner seems reluctant to rent to them because they are not married. In 2017! She is afraid if they break up she will be left holding the bag financially. Isn't this why they ask for guarantors? I am philosophical. If it works out, cool, if not, they'll find something else. They already saw another place they like, though the second one is much further away from us, just across the bridge in another borough, so my son wouldn't be able to stop by and borrow the car as easily as if he lived just a few blocks away. There are certainly worse things.

2. My husband sliced off the top of his index finger with the fancy dancy chef knife our daughter gave him for Christmas. He and I were a comedy routine, both of us bent over the bathroom sink trying to stop the bleeding. We managed to wrap the finger with about a hundred band aids. Fortunately, our son, who is an EMT, came home from work soon after and treated and bandaged the wound very professionally. It was a bad cut, but a clean one, taking a corner of the nail bed. My man seems to be a good healer because it's sealing over very nicely. The man tried to be all blustery and macho and to tell our boy he was fine and didn't need his ministrations. My son wasn't having it. I was rather impressed with how he strong-armed his dad into just sitting there and letting him take care of him. I told him as much. He chuckled. "I don't take that mess from difficult patients who don't know what's best for them," he said. Good man.

3. My girl will be flying off to the other side of the world in March, meeting up with one of her friends in China and going on to Thailand with her. Right as news of the shooting at Fort Lauderdale airport was coming across the airwaves, she called to tell me she had booked her flights to Shanghai and Bangkok. "Wonderful," I told her. "You'll have fun." I got off the line and sent up a quick prayer for her safety.

4. My kids' significant others have been here a lot lately, and I enjoy their company. My kids are so happy around them, and the six of us laugh and talk and have a generally good time. The other day, we all watched the Ben Affleck movie The Accountant, which I would recommend. It was one of those rare psychological thrillers that answered every question I had by the end. And it kept us riveted. At one point I looked around the living room at everyone, their eyes glued to the screen, and I thought, This is a very fine gathering.

Okay, back to work. Please know I'm reading your blogs, but mostly on my phone late at night, and tapping out comments are a challenge. I'll be back to my regularly scheduled programming soon. Wish me luck on this thing I'm doing! I'm a little in the weeds.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Birthday girl

My friend Leslie had a birthday this week. A few of us women got together for a late brunch this afternoon, because when we go too long without checking in with one another, we start to swirl off into space. As the saying goes, women give each other back to themselves. Or something like that. Happy Birthday, Leslie, my ace running buddy, my lovely friend.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Figuring it out

That's my daughter sitting in my work space; her expression captures my mood. I'm working on a book proposal. Everyone in the nonfiction book business will tell you proposals are the worst—way harder than writing a book. You have to wear so many different hats at once, and be dashing in all of them, killing it on the sample chapter, the overview (which is like another sample chapter, plus the why of it all), the chapter abstracts (meaning you have to have the entire story arc already in view), the marketing and promotion section (ugh—publishers are all about platforms these days), the competitive analysis (double ugh), not to mention random bells and whistles like evocative photographs sprinkled in just so and superlative quotes about the author from high profile influencers who will catch an acquiring editor's eye.

So that's why I've been a little scarce in these woods. And while I don't want to bore you with the details, sometimes it helps to just process, to say out loud, I wrote one thousand words of the sample chapter today only to realize it wasn't working, and I needed to stop wrestling with it, needed to just throw it out and rethink my whole idea about what the sample chapter should be.

I need to remind myself that this was not time wasted.

Tomorrow, I will begin again.

Class Act

At first, I wasn't going to watch Obama's farewell address last night. I'm just so jaded lately, though I do love my president. But then I ran across this clip of the Hamilton cast singing "One Last Time" to the Obamas, and it put such a lump in my throat, I decided I had to tune in one last time. 

I'm so glad I did. Everyone in my house gathered to watch the closing chapter of this president's extraordinary dance with history. No one made a sound. It was a powerful speech, but we have come to expect that from this gracious and brilliant man. At one point, he urged us all to get out of our silos, log off social media, and truly speak to one another, find common ground. He was, as always, a statesman, that intellect and wit shining through, that bedrock belief in our innate goodness, still not extinguished, despite all he has been put through.

It was only when he thanked his wife for her support these past eight years, that raw emotion broke through. He teared up, as Michelle mouthed "I love you" and his daughter Malia cried at her side. Sasha was apparently at home studying for an exam. What a fantastic family they are, and how privileged we have all been to have Barack and Michelle as our President and First Lady. Truly, he will be remembered as one of the great ones, just a completely superior human being in every way. Was he perfect? No. Did he wake up every single day with the intention to do his absolute best for this nation? Yes, I believe with all my heart he did. 

Some have said that America didn't deserve President Obama, but he gave us his all anyway. Maybe that's why he feels like family. I am going to miss him the way you miss family who always wanted the best for you, who saw your promise, who worked tirelessly to make your life, and your children's life, good.

 Plus, isn't Michelle's husband just the coolest?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Thou mammering plume-plucked fustiliarian

Too good not to share! We'll need these in the days ahead. Just for fun and practice, think of the qualling boil-brained puttock about to become president and leave me a description in comments!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The freelancer's petition

“It's a little frightening to pray for today's bread. That means I must pray again for tomorrow and believe again for tomorrow. My greedy heart is willing to be corrupted by a little bit of riches so that I see my warehouse full of loaves. I can make a good argument about how God won’t have to be bothered with me every day if he would only advance me about ten years worth of bread.” 

― Gayle D. Erwin

Maybe I will

On New Year's Day, I worked. I got a sweet little assignment slipped in between the two big ones, and the email asking me if I was interested in taking it on was in my mailbox immediately after I pressed send on the first job. That is the second time that has happened, and I believe I should take it to be a sign that the universe, my angels, God, my mother, my own soul will take care of my material needs.

So anyway, I worked away, sitting at the dining room table in the midst of my family, my husband and son and my daughter's boyfriend watching Giants football. My son's girlfriend was also here, mostly reading, while my daughter and one of her friends, the beautiful Gabby—who lived with us in the summers after seventh and eighth grades, when she and my girl were in that scholar program, and who is now attending grad school in China—chatted and laughed as my daughter folded her laundry and prepped lunches for her week. The entire scene was a continuation of the sweetness from the night before, a warm feeling over everything.

When will it ever be this way again, I wonder, my children roaming through the house with people they hold dear, because it is their house, too? We are about to move to a new stage as a family, and a year from now, the original four of us will pay rent in three places, no longer in one. So I'm trying to be present for every chaotic moment right now, and that's why I took my computer out to the living room and did my work there.

Yesterday was different. My husband was home on vacation and parked in front of the TV, my son was at work, my daughter and Gabby were in and out all day, the two of them a fashion parade depending on what social imperative was calling them. I swiped that glamor shot of them from my daughter's Snapchat. They don't mind.

As for me, I worked a little, enough to finish up editing the text for an upcoming museum exhibition. And then I lay in bed with my Kindle, watching season three of Transparent (it didn't engage me as much as the previous seasons; the characters have become gratingly self-absorbed, but I did love the closing act of the finale) and then season three of The Fall, a British psychological thriller that while compelling in a cerebral way, unsettled me and gave me nightmares.

And now here I am, alone again, trying to blow away the vapors of bad dreams. It's rainy outside. The house needs attention of the sort that matters only to me, and I have a long to-do list written on a red Post-it stuck to my laptop. It is time to get serious about 2017. I confess I am sitting here wondering if I can afford to steal one more day of languor, pushing the world away, listening to the rain, reading and dreaming, maybe sweeping and dusting and tidying up a bit, but that is all. Maybe I will.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Holiday Family Album 2016

We brought in the new year with dear friends, but before our family went off in our different directions, we pre gamed 2017 with our children and their loves. My daughter had a bottle of champagne she'd been given back when she graduated college in May, and she wanted to share it with us. I was kind of tickled that our kids wanted to celebrate New Year's Eve with their parents before everyone took off to be with our age cohorts. We broke open the bubbly and all sat around the counter and toasted and shared stories and laughed. My heart swelled, being with them, enjoying them, secretly wondering if this was a peek into our future. Then before we all split up to ring in the new year at our different venues, we posed for photos together. Even my son allowed it. Who knows what 2017 will bring. I hope for more of the good from the year just past, as well as for extravagant and wonderful surprises that will lift us higher still. Happy New Year all you beautiful people who read here. Thanks for riding shotgun on the roller coaster that was 2016. May the coming year be good to you, and may we all rise to the challenges before our world. You know what? I think we will.

And here's a photo of me with two of the loveliest young women in the world. They are very much alike, these two, quick to laugh, wildly witty, with such tender hearts. The second picture is of my daughter and me two nights ago. She took me to see Chicago on Broadway. We had such a blast together. The tickets were my Christmas present, but the true joy was the delight in spending time with my girl. 

Happy 2017 everyone!

Please share (or think) one thing you wish for your life this year.
Wishes have power.