Monday, December 31, 2018

New Year's eve


The photo here is perhaps my favorite of all the photos I posted this year, my love and I, back when we were still brand new, posing for a selfie before we even knew the word.


And here we are now, the people I pray for first on opening my eyes each day. I am grateful for them, and also for you, each one of you who read here this year. May 2019 bless you with all the people and the experiences that make your heart soar.




Friday, December 28, 2018

Alien invasion explained


Last night, at just past nine, the sky over New York City suddenly bloomed a bright turquoise blue, the light pulsing in the clouds above Astoria, where my son and his girlfriend live, yet visible as far away as Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx.

My son was asleep on the couch. His girlfriend S. was sitting at the kitchen counter watching something on YouTube when she noticed an eerie blue glow at the window, followed by a rumble like thunder that lasted for minutes, and the house lights flickering off before coming back on. When she looked out the window she saw all her neighbors  at their windows peering out too, and people were gathered in the street, pointing.

"It looked exactly like an alien invasion," she told me this morning. "I was completely freaked out."

She woke my son to show him the sky, and he said, "Oh, it's probably an explosion on the electrical grid. There's a Con Ed station over that way. I bet something blew."

"But why is the whole sky that weird color," she asked him. "And why does it look like the explosion is happening in the clouds."

"Electric fires burn on a blue spectrum, and the color's reflecting off water droplets in the clouds," he said. He was so calm that S. relaxed, too, even though the whole scene had looked to her like something right out of the movie Independence Day.

As it happens, our son's theory was right. Indeed, the news soon reported an explosion at the Astoria Con Ed station. It looked like this.

We have a saying in our family: #RadFacts. My son's name, plus whatever arcane fact or explanation he comes up with, which is always, always correct. That's because my son has the kind of brain that catches and holds everything that enters his consciousness. He's like his dad, and namesake, that way, so really the hashtag works for them both.

As you can imagine, the tweets all night were crazy, with people posting photos and videos from all over the city, and everyone reflecting on the possibility that the Con Ed fire was a cover story for actual extraterrestrial contact. My favorite tweet of all was this one from MSNBC's Katy Tur:

"Folks on Twitter reacting without surprise to the prospect of an alien invasion in NYC is peak 2018."

It sure has been that kind of year.


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Write drunk, edit sober


I love that cup that my daughter gave me for Christmas. It was something she heard me say when I was struggling through difficult parts of the book I just finished writing. Sometimes I would be stuck, or I'd feel far behind where I needed to be to meet my deadline, and needed to keep working come evening. So I'd pour myself a glass of red wine and catch a second wind, my inner critic silenced for the moment by the wine, allowing me a few more hours, a couple thousand more words. But anything written under the influence had to be scrupulously edited while sober, I told my daughter, because while some of it could be surprising in a good way, some sentences would be overwrought and florid and simply had to go. Write drunk, edit sober, that's the rule, I'd joked, and she captured it on a cup she had made just for her mama.

Christmas was low key, with just my husband, my son and me. We opened gifts, we cooked, we dozed, we watched movies, we ate. It was lovely in its way. We missed our girl who was with her boyfriend upstate, having a rollicking time. He has a large family and they do Christmas the way we do Thanksgiving, only more so, with matching festive pajamas for everyone, and Christmas stockings with embroidered names hung over the fireplace, and family breakfast at one aunt's house followed by dinner for the large extended clan at his mom's. Truly, it's the kind of Christmas I always wished I could create for my kids, but almost all of our extended family lives elsewhere, plus I'm simply not made that way. But I'm glad my girl is getting to experience a version of the high octane family Christmases I knew growing up (though we didn't do matching pjs).

She felt a little guilty about not being with us, I could tell, so I kept assuring her that it was a fine and wonderful thing that she was sharing that kind of Christmas with her boyfriend's family, who lovingly folded her in. We were invited, too, but none of us wanted to spend hours on the highway traveling there and back, and my husband and my son both had work the day before and after Christmas and just wanted to chill at home. My son seemed exhausted and more somber than usual. The fire academy is no cakewalk. But neither was paramedic training, and yet even as he felt slammed with work for nine months, my boy loved it. "Who knew I preferred challenging my brain to challenging my body," he said last night. He's lost weight, seven pounds in two weeks, and he was coughing a lot from one of the smokehouse exercises they did on Christmas eve. "Don't make a blog post about it," he said, so I won't.

How do you blog when you're melancholy and worrying about some things, and you don't want to write about any of it? You're sick of your own nostalgia for a time long past, and there is really nothing to be done. You're sad, but don't want to inflict that on your loved ones, and there's not even work to distract you. What a delicious thing, really. The magazine is in the week between shipping one issue and starting to close the next. My manuscript is done and the editor is traveling, so no revisions yet on that, and my next project is still in the contract stages and might or might not happen. One never knows until the contract is fully executed, but I don't have to panic because for now I have the magazine freelance gig and another editing gig in the wings. I have the luxury of choosing any number of paths through this day, not to mention many inspired Christmas gifts expressly designed to amp up my enjoyment of this good lucky life.

My son and his girlfriend gave me an absolutely gorgeous table top easel and brushes, so I could actually finally paint something. I also have a puzzle going on the dining table, and I've been streaming the The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and could keep going with that. I could curl up under a blanket in this freezing cold house and read Just Kids, that Patti Smith memoir that my daughter's boyfriend gave me, along with a Stubs movie membership, the year all paid, so I could also use that and go to the movies. Or perhaps I should schedule the spa day my husband gave me, with a two and a half hour massage of my choice included—my God, I have so many choices.

Or I could call a friend. One is in much the same place as I am. She is Jewish and doesn't celebrate Christmas, but her daughter was with her boyfriend's family, joining in their festivities, and my friend was missing her girl and feeling somewhat adrift. "I am in a state of pining for the old days," she texted me. "Whenever I stop working I can't find myself." "I know just what you mean," I texted back. I'm not sure if misery loves company, that has always seemed an ungenerous notion to me, but misery is certainly lightened by empathy. Her text made me feel less alone.

I got no pictures of my husband and son, as neither one wanted to cooperate with my camera. But here's a picture my daughter's boyfriend's sister sent me of my girl opening her Christmas pjs, and another of her posing in full festive attire with her love and Nina the wonder dog—can you tell I'm kind of fascinated by the matching pjs concept? I secretly always feel as if I'm failing at Christmas because I don't even know how to create a scene like this. Yet I love seeing my girl happy in that tableau. And I am right now reminding myself that there is no wrong way to do the holidays. The only thing wrong with my low key Christmas is my propensity to judge it as lacking somehow. I'm just trying to tell the truth here, to not pretend sweetness and light when what I'm feeling is a lot more layered. And yet, in a world where so many are having an incredibly hard time, I am aware of being extravagantly blessed. That, too, is the gospel truth.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Room Where it Happens

Not only are tickets generally unavailable for the Broadway musical Hamilton in New York, when you can find seats they are generally well over a thousand dollars. At least in the orchestra section, which is where my daughter and I sat. For every show, forty-six lucky lottery winners are seated, and on Friday night my daughter and I were among them! We paid ten dollars for seats that on that night had gone for $1,500 apiece. The Lucky Seat winners were ushered to the front two rows, center section, which put my girl and me at the end of the front row with our knees inches from the stage. I get why the lottery winners are given the front two rows. The view is just a touch too close to get the full effect of some of the staging, but that didn't detract from our enjoyment one bit. We could see every single detail of the action, down to the stitches in each handsomely rendered costume and the beads of sweat on Alexander Hamilton's brow.

We were blown away. I confess I sat through the first half secretly thinking, this is really great, but how could it ever live up to the hype. I said nothing of that of course, because my daughter was beside me with an expression of pure wonder on her face; she was utterly transported, and that alone transported me. And then came the second half, the personal tragedies and public strife, the comic relief of the English king, the song "Quiet Uptown," with tears running down Hamilton's face, the famous final duel, and by the time it was over I had cried and laughed and was emotionally wrung out, and I totally got it, the hype, the reason I will go back as often as I can, and why as I left the theater, I began playing the lottery again immediately.

Some photos of the action, not taken by me:






I couldn't help wondering what it would have been like to have seen show creator Lin Manuel Miranda in the title role, and to hear Leslie Odom Jr. (above) play Aaron Burr, this beautiful man with the lyrical voice belting out the show's signature song, "The Room Where It Happens." In the end it didn't matter; the current cast, with Michael Luwoye as Hamilton and Daniel Breaker as Aaron Burr, was excellent. Frankly there wasn't a weak link anywhere, from the voices, to the principles, to the dancers and crowd scene players, they all brought it. What a night.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

I won the Hamilton lottery!


Omg! I have been entering the Hamilton lottery every day since Thanksgiving, determined to keep going until I could finally secure tickets for the Lin Manuel Miranda musical. And this morning, I got a notification that I won, and that I needed to purchase my two tickets by 4 PM. The cost was ten dollars per ticket through the lottery! I went ahead and paid for them at once, even before I knew if anyone was available to go with me. I mean, obviously someone would be convinced to go with me! Ten dollars for a ticket that cannot currently be had for less than one thousand dollars apiece in New York City? A no brainer! It turns out that my husband can't go, as he has an unavoidable commitment on that night, but my daughter is over the moon about accompanying me! We went on for several texts, sending emojis and bitmojis and GIFs to communicate our excitement. We're going to see Hamilton! Wooo hoooo!


I did promise my man that I'd keep entering the lottery daily even after I see the show, in a quest to get tickets for a night on which he can attend. But honestly, I think my girl is more stoked than he could possibly be to get the first chance to see this show that she's been singing the soundtrack to for months and months. Stay tuned!

A joyful noise


Our choir concerts are done for the season. It was a lot of fun as always, and our lovely quirky bunch of amateurs made a joyful noise, which is what my high school choir director used to ask of us. I'll just drop this video of my fave number here. It was captured by my daughter on her camera phone.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Mood

I saw that image somewhere and the flood of right brain color drew me right in. I have been collecting art supplies lately, but I have yet to do anything with them. My son called me yesterday to ask what I wanted for Christmas, saying he had everyone covered but me, because I hadn't given anyone any clue of what I might be wishing for. I wish for nothing but their presence, and that's the truth. But I didn't say that. I'm trying not to be the clingy mother, to breathe deep and let them live their lives. When he pressed me for an answer in his lovingly bossy way, all I could think of was art supplies. You want canvasses and an easel, he asked me. That sounds lovely, I said, thinking it might get me one step closer to actually doing something other than just looking at my growing collection of art supplies. 

I feel sad today. It's probably nothing more than the seasonal blues, and the fact that it's gray out, and raining. And I miss my kids. I've been so happy of late, puttering with my love in our empty nest, the two of us so at ease, and me in a state of wonder that I had actually arrived at this place, having come to terms with the fact of my children out in the world, away from my oversight, making all sorts of adult life changing decisions without my input. But today, I am missing them something fierce. My daughter will be away this Christmas, starting next weekend, upstate with her boyfriend's family, a rotation they decided on when he joined us for Thanksgiving this year. My son may still come over on Christmas eve and wake up under our roof on Christmas morning, but it will be the first year that it's not the four of us, and of course, it had to happen sometime. He will spend Christmas eve with his girlfriend's family in New Jersey and then come here, and quiet as it's kept, he's saving my Christmas by being here. 

I don't know how to do Christmas as an adult. They is no way to recreate the large extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins and revelry, all the generations, getting together at one house, then another then another all season long. Now we are a lonely outpost in New York City, and I just feel melancholy as Christmas approaches, even though I made a kind of peace with how different Christmas is for me now compared to how I was taught it should be during my growing up years. I chose acceptance of this a few years ago when my daughter put her hands on my shoulders and said, "Mom, this is how we do Christmas. Low key is our tradition, and I love it."

This year, it doesn't help that I am completely at a loss when it comes to gifts. I know the main gifts I'm getting my husband and kids, but I always like to wrap up other little things for them, so the base of the Christmas tree looks full, and the opening of gifts will last longer. My husband shakes his head at this. He is of the school of thought that one gift per person is enough. But I sense that even he is feeling a bit of melancholy this year. This morning he said, "We should have a standing holiday event that we invite all our friends, to." When he said it, I just felt overmatched, though I didn't let on.

We went to a tree trimming party at one of our neighbor's homes last night, a woman whose son went to school with our son from pre-K through high school. It was our fourth year going to this event, which started as a housewarming when she moved into our complex. A couple of families of the children who went to school with our children have lately moved into our complex. We meet and chat on the pathways and even sit on committees together, and the man and I always talk about inviting them over. But so far we haven't. I think I just don't have to entertaining gene that my mother so richly possessed. Oh well, enough poor me. If I started counting my blessings instead, the list would be plenty long.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Sunday bright and dark

People wrote hopeful messages on old CDs, and hung them on the fence of our little country church in the middle of Harlem. They flutter and catch the light like irridescent wind chimes. They're quite beautiful as you walk by.

This afternoon the man and I are going to see the Soweto Gospel Choir. The tickets are an early Christmas gift from my cousin. And yesterday afternoon, my own choir performed the first of our three Christmas concerts in Queens. It was a standing room only crowd, with familiar faces and an average age somewhere above seventy, despite the little kids on the front row who talked non stop throughout the performance, and fell asleep in the final medley of carols. I felt so tired afterward. My whole body ached, and I climbed into bed by seven with my Kindle and settled down to binge watch the second season of Ozark on Netflix.

That series is dark. It starts out like a cross between Breaking Bad and Weeds, but there is something unrelieved about it, which makes me realize that both Breaking Bad and Weeds gave us a little room to breathe, a few characters we could relax with, sympathize with, root for. Ozark, not so much. The actors are all first rate—Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner, Skylar Gaertner—but everything just keeps happening to them, they're always reacting to horrific circumstances, and in the end it just feels like endlessly retreading a played out plot line, and no one, with the exception of the son, Jonah, truly evolves. The story is bleak and suspenseful, but somehow not bold. When I got to the last episode of season two, I felt relieved that it was over. I hear there will be a third season, but I might not watch.

*

The concert was fantastic. At one point the group did a tribute to Nelson Mandela, with haunting melodies and weaving harmonies, their voices soaring, and I looked over at my husband and saw the line of a tear glistening on his cheek and he smiled at me and squeezed my shoulder and I leaned my head back against his arm and thought how I will never take for granted the sheer joy and wonder of being able to share something so transcendent with my love.

The night was one wonderful arrangement after another, but my other favorite piece was their blow-the-roof-off rendition of "Amazing Grace." I can't even find the words to do it justice. The night was freezing cold, the walk to the concert hall across campus was long and winding, the house was packed and the man and I felt like sardines in seats a little too narrow for our girth, but it was all so worth it. Every person sang solo on one or more songs, and every single one of them could have been Aretha Franklin or Barry White if they'd been born in a different time and place. But they were born in Soweto, South Africa, and they came together for this magnificent chorus, and I was grateful to be in their audience, to feel vibrating through every cell their extraordinary sound.




Thursday, December 6, 2018

Construction


That was my view last week as I sat at my dining table every morning, editing the completed draft of my manuscript. I have now sent it off to my subject who is reading it and will then give me her changes. She says so far they are minor, which is a relief. And then on to the editor, and once she accepts what I've delivered, I can exhale. I have another project starting in the new year, a proposal followed by the book, assuming the proposal sells. And yesterday I learned that the magazine editing gig I picked up last summer has been extended to next summer. We have no formal arrangement. They hired me to edit one issue, asked if I could edit the next as well, and after that just continued sending me stories and paying me for the work. 

I held my breath hoping it would continue because it is a wonderful thing to have a regular paycheck, but knowing how short staffed and in transition magazines are right now, I didn't want to rock the boat by pushing for a contract. Instead I concentrated on making their lives easier through the work I do for them, and now they've extended the assignment. I hope all continues to go well, and that the assignment will be extended again next June. Editing magazine length pieces is the perfect complement to long form writing—a short burst sprint using completely different muscles from the marathon of crafting a book length work. Neither undermines the other. It's my dream set-up really. 

In other job front news, my son is now officially a New York City firefighter. He starts at the fire academy next week. He called two nights ago to announce that he had just completed his final shift as a paramedic. He has marched toward his ultimate calling like a solider, never taking his eye off the goal. And now he has fulfilled the dream he's held ever since he was nine years old, to be one of New York's Bravest. The journey isn't nearly over; there are still many challenges ahead, both physical and social, but I believe he will prevail through trials yet to come. He's anxious today, anticipating it all. This is how he's always been, anxious before the start, then a strong swimmer once he's actually in the water. Please pray for my boy. He's such a good and worthy soul. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Channeling joy



Just before I started blogging in 2008, I went to an acupuncturist who was also an intuitive. He told me that soon, I would be reuniting with my tribe of healers, and it would be of great comfort to us all. I have often wondered if he was talking about my community here, because I have encountered some of the most healing spirits right in this place. And some of you—Rebecca, Scott and Yolie, Susan, Gary, Glenn—I have even met in the non-virtual world, and now I can add to that list—drumroll please—Elizabeth and Oliver!

Elizabeth, mother of Sophie, Henry and Oliver, blogs at A Moon Worn As If It Were A Shell, and she and Oliver happened to be in New York City this past weekend for a family event. We met for breakfast at Sarabeth's on Tuesday morning. I was nervous, y'all. I even texted another of our blog friends here, who I knew would understand the angst about showing up. But of course, the moment Elizabeth and I wrapped each other in a bear hug on the sidewalk of Amsterdam Avenue, I realized I was meeting an old friend, one I knew under the skin, and already loved. It was amazing, the familiarity and ease between people meeting for the first time. And Oliver! What a great kid! I adored him. In truth, I already loved him, too—I've kind of known him since he was seven years old, after all—but he is every wonderful thing his mother writes about him and more.  We all talked and laughed and speared food from each other's plates, and it felt like drinking deep of a friendship that somehow feels older than we are.

We entreated Oliver to take pictures of us, and he so graciously did, but the one up top is my favorite, a moment he caught when we weren't posing, we were just channeling joy. Black and white or color, I couldn't decide, so I've posted both.

I know I haven't been around here much lately. I was going through a spell in which I was just so slammed with work, trying to finish the book (last week I did!), trying to stay on top of a new side gig I picked up, editing for a magazine (from home!), navigating hoards of much-loved company over Thanksgiving, and trying to restore my soul from the things that get reported nightly on the news. But after breakfasting with Elizabeth and Oliver, I wanted nothing more than to come back here, to this blogging community that sustains me, and for which I am ever grateful. Truly, you are my tribe.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Thanksgiving this year

It was hectic, exhausting and wonderful. The house was full to bursting, comforters, pillows and blankets were unearthed from every corner to cover trundles and couches and air mattresses, because the beds were all full. Twenty-four people shared our Thanksgiving dinner, and fourteen people (including my son and daughter) slept the weekend in our home, which seem unbelievable when you consider we live in an apartment, not a sprawling house.

Two of my nieces (one who lives in Boston, the other visiting us from Jamaica) were applying to college. One sat with her laptop amid a tangle of blankets and legs on the air mattress that spent most of Friday inflated in the middle of the living room. The other sat with her big sister at the kitchen island, which overlooks the living room, and everyone else milled around, warming up leftovers, animatedly chatting and binge watching Suits on Netflix. The soon-to-be-college students seem well prepared for the nonstop socializing that can be college life. They got their essays written amid the chaos, and they had many built in editors on hand, with me, my daughter, and my niece Dani, all of us veterans of this writing life. I think it made things easier for them to be able to talk through what each of their freakin' endless essays and supplements should be about, and then go off and write them. Actually they wrote them while sitting in the middle of everything. They didn't want to miss out on the fun.

My husband appreciated having some men around to keep him company—my son, my niece's fiancé, my cousin's husband, my daughter's boyfriend, who was spending Thanksgiving with us for the first time. "How did he manage?" I asked my girl later. "He was fine," she said, "but I think he was exhausted. He's used to going to dinner and then going home, not celebrating continuously from waking up until 2 a.m. the next morning."

The "kids" really stepped up this year, after my husband called our son and daughter into the kitchen and admitted his back was aching. He'd just pulled the turkey out the oven, and cooked almost everything else as well. All that bending. The good news is he no longer ignores what his body is telling him, after his brush with mortality last year. The kids sent us out of the kitchen and completely took over the warming up of previously made dishes, carving the turkey and the ham, and setting everything out on the table.

I'd cooked my corn and cheese dish the day before, and my girl cooked her apple pies alongside me, so that the kitchen would be free for my husband to do his thing on Thanksgiving Day. He is the main cook, the maker of the turkey and stuffing, the three cheese mac and cheese, the roasted vegetables and broccoli in garlic and oil, the glazed ham. My son makes the sweet potato casserole, my cousin makes the potato salad, one of our guests brings plantains, and others bring assorted pies for dessert. It's quite a feast. And my niece, aka my other daughter, is in charge of making margaritas from scratch after dinner, which kicks off the second part of the evening. We ended up playing a rousing margarita-infused game of charades; hilarity ensued. And at the end of the evening, the three wondrous sister cousins below (photographed at our diner breakfast on Thanksgiving eve) took over the clean up.

On Sunday, people began leaving. One by one the goodbyes were said. Our last guest, my cousin with whom I grew up like a sister, left to catch her flight back to Trinidad on Monday night. My husband and I drove her to the airport in wind and rain. And then it was just the two of us again, and a mountain of bed linens and towels to be laundered. "I love it when everyone comes," my husband said. "And I love when it's just you and me again." I know how he feels. The comfort. Gentle puttering. Deep ease.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Food and other drives

I was having the most pleasant dream. I was with my parents, my mother had fallen in love with a house somewhere in New Jersey, and bought it. It was nothing fancy, but she made it nice. She had that knack. I was there spending days with them as they arranged the place, and my daughter was with me. I slept in a room downstairs, which morphed somehow into a dorm room, and men came in to hang my pictures on the wall, but by the time they came I no longer wanted the pictures hung, as I'd drawn my own pictures on the walls. I was in this lovely reverie with my mom and dad and then the phone rang, startling me awake. It was to confirm a delivery for later today. I pressed the button for yes as the recording instructed and hung up, falling back onto the pillow. It was still dark. My heart was hammering. And then I remembered, my parents had already died. The call in the night that I had feared and dreaded had already come, twice. I settled my breathing down, and tried to catch back the dream. But it was gone. I comforted myself that they'd seemed happy puttering around together in that house.

And now we welcome the hordes for Thanksgiving. Today I'm going to move the furniture around in the living room for easier flow. And clean the house. My cousin Nicky gets here tonight. Tomorrow morning she and I and my daughter and my niece will go out for breakfast at our favorite Greek diner—Nicky craves diner pancakes on her first morning in New York. Then we'll come home and begin cooking as we wait for the rest of the party to arrive. My whole goal over these next few days is to take things as they come, to not get overly attached to an idea of how things should go, to let events simply unfold. Pray I manage it. As my friends here know well, it's not my natural state.

That's my girl working a Thanksgiving food drive outside her daddy's museum. People could either buy a bag of fresh produce to donate to soup kitchens and shelters or they could give money and my girl and her fellow volunteers would get the produce from the farmer's market themselves. This being New York, everyone gave money, because who has time. Our girl came home exhilarated from how much they raised to feed the city's hungry. Doing good makes her happy. I love how that works.

Okay, back to work until my niece wakes up and can help me move the furniture around. I'm grabbing every minute I can. I have to get the manuscript to my subject this coming Monday, and there's a house full of humans and a gauntlet of festivities between now and then. I find it so interesting that my husband and I did not grow up with this Thanksgiving tradition and now it is our family's favorite holiday. I wonder if that's because we got to invent our own way of doing it. Hmm.


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Looking up

I've had my head down, writing. I did manage to complete a full draft of the book late last week, as my due date barrels toward me. I am now deep in the editing, always the more fun part of the process, even though I'm assailed by doubts about whether what I've produced is good. I dream fondly of the days when people spent five, ten years on a single book, but how did they make a living? I certainly can see how much richer a work of writing might be if one had the luxury of living with the story long enough to allow hidden connections to show themselves and unforced poetry to tiptoe in.


In other news, the subject of the book I co-wrote last year, Lucy McBath, won her race in Georgia! Against all odds, she is now a congresswoman, an eventuality that was not even a glimmer in her mind when we began our process. But after Parkland, she decided to run. The kids were the same age as her son when he was taken by gun violence, she said, and they were fighting the cause of gun reform so courageously. She wanted them to have backup in the chambers of law, and so she decided to run in Georgia's sixth district, where she lived. She was an African American Democrat running on a gun reform platform in a white Republican district in the deep gun-loving South. And she won! This woman inspires the heck out me. Her book is here.

As for the rest of the midterms, it turns out that despite disappointments in the Florida and Georgia gubernatorial races, and the Texas senate race, and despite successful GOP efforts to gerrymander districts and suppress the vote, there was indeed a big ole walloping blue wave, as more women and people of color than ever before were elected to political office. This piece by Joan Walsh in The Nation sums up how I feel about what happened. I won't rehash it here. Suffice it to say that in the days right after the election, I didn't know how to feel, but now I think the results were a fine repudiation of the party of Trump, and may the trend continue into 2020.

And now Thanksgiving is upon us. Family members have already started to arrive. My niece came from college last night, my cousin arrives from Trinidad on Tuesday, and my other cousin and niece arrive from Orlando on Wednesday. Another niece arrives bright and early from Jamaica on Thanksgiving morning—and those are just the ones who are staying with us. My daughter and her guy, my niece and her fiancé, and my son will also sleep over on the nights before and after Thanksgiving, because tripping over each other in our small apartment is just part of the fun.


Friday, November 2, 2018

Gold

I'm working at my dining table, next to my expansive window, outside of which the trees have turned to spun gold. Earlier, before I moved with my laptop from the desk in my bedroom, a moth flew in through my window, it's wings were gold glitter, so shimmery I thought at first it was a butterfly. I tried to shoo it back out the open window, but it dodged me and flew under my bed. I decided it was a blessing.

The TV is set to the news, turned down low, a hum in the background. Every so often something jumps out: The reporter saying that 45 viewed that slaughter in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue as "inconvenient," a distraction from the story of the caravan "invasion." They're talking now about his plan to send 5,000 troops to the border, and to open fire on the migrants if someone throws a stone, which I take to mean that someone will surely be planted in the crowd to throw a stone. Of course, this caravan of asylum seekers will not arrive at our border for two months yet. Imagine, if instead of troops, we were the kind of nation that would send lawyers, social workers, doctors and teachers to the border, to help those whose desperation has led them there. But the election is next week, and so 45 is trying to whip his base into a frenzy of xenophobic fear and outrage, and we saw the sorrow that brought to Pittsburgh a week ago.

And yet. All this gold in my morning, like a whisper of something good in the world, telling me my efforts, small as they might seem, are not in vain. Do what you do, it whispers. We all have a part to play in turning this national nightmare to spun gold.

Monday, October 29, 2018

This loved man


His birthday yesterday was kind of perfect, with our children and their loves hanging out with us all day, and that, in itself was a party. It was exactly the kind of day my husband wanted, low key but convivial, with his beloveds around him, lounging and chatting happily into the night. Happy birthday, my love. At this no longer new stage of our lives, when we close the door at night and it's just us two, I feel the real gift of you, the comfort and ease of your company, and the deep blessing of shared history, and our precious children. I'm forever glad it's you.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

American Terrorism



Every day brings a new atrocity. Breaking news this morning is of a slaughter inside a synagogue in Pittsburgh. At least eight people dead, some police officers shot. It's being reported that the shooter had an automatic rifle and a handgun, and as he opened fire, he was yelling that all Jews must die. And now the orange psychopath is on TV saying if they'd had an armed guard inside the synagogue, no one would have been killed. The hatemongers have been unleashed, and by the president himself. I truly believe when he declared at the start of the week that he is a nationalist, it was the code his followers were waiting for to go out and wage a full on race war.

This was the third act of American terrorism this week alone, happening in concert with the fourteen pipe bombs that were mailed to critics of the president. Fourteen attempted assassinations. None of the bombs detonated because of a flaw in the making; the bomb maker, who is a rabid white nationalist and Trump acolyte, was thankfully not the star of his bomb making class (as someone on TV put it). Still, he attempted to blow to smithereens high profile critics of the president, including two former presidents, four members of Congress, two Democratic donors, an actor, two ex-CIA men, and a news network.  The list was given to him, name by name, in the president's vile tweets and hateful right wing rallies.

Elsewhere in America this week, a man walked into a Kroger store in Kentucky and shot an elderly black man in the back of his head. The man was with his grandson, buying poster board for a school project. The shooter then walked out to the parking lot and shot a black woman dead. He assured white bystanders they had nothing to fear because he wasn't there to kill white people. Just fifteen minutes before he killed two unsuspecting black people going about their lives on an ordinary day, this same man had tried to gain entry to a black church, but couldn't get in. So he went to the Kroger's instead.

Sadly, black people get killed in this country with such regularity the press barely covered the Kroger shooting. And now another massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. All three terrorists have been apprehended. All have drunk deep of the white nationalist Kool-aid. I'm just out here, bearing witness, forcing myself to look, to take it in, while trying to figure out what else to do.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Slipping into night

"Elections from North Dakota to Georgia may be stolen. The idiot king spews forth bigotry. The opposition party is threatened with attempted assassinations. A completely unfit attempted racist has been placed on the Supreme Court to judge the idiot king's obvious corruption. What little democracy this country ever had may well be entering its twilight. I hope I am wrong, but as night falls and the political winds get chilly, I am remembering Thomas Paine's admonition that we not be 'sunshine patriots' but winter soldiers. It is looking more and more like our charge is not to win a short term battle, but to settle in for a long campaign in a war that may well continue after our lives have ended. I am hoping against hope for a new dawn, but I think it's time to prepare for a long winter of discontent." —Jason Tebbe, historian

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Dear America

According to recent polls, some 47 percent of you are propping up a president who a few days ago declared himself a nationalist from a podium, over a loudspeaker, as some of you cheered, as if it was code to unleash the forces of hate to wage war.

You are giving credence and power to a man who declares the free press the enemy of the people, and a cadre of Republican minions too cowardly or morally bankrupt to stand against him, who in fact run all manner of racist and spectacularly dishonest ad campaigns in political races, who steal millions of votes in plain sight, whose nationalist rhetoric inflames the forces of hate to wage war.

This morning, the war was joined by those forces responding to the dog whistle, which was really a bullhorn. They sent pipe bombs to those who would seek to check their rampant, violent brand of nationalism. America, your president is stoking the flames of a race war, one in which white supremacists devote themselves to the destruction and nullification of all others. You might think I'm overstating things, that I too am being inflammatory, but I'm really not.

Today, several explosive devices were intercepted, one at the home of the Clintons, one at the home of the Obamas, one sent to CNN at the Time Warner building in midtown Manhattan. Also targeted by these letter bombs were former attorney general Eric Holder, ex CIA man and Trump critic John Brennan, congresswomen Maxine Waters and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and liberal billionaire George Soros.

This is America in 2018. We are no longer on the brink, but deep in the maw of a new civil war. The weapons have changed, and so have the battlegrounds. But the forces of division, bigotry, and hate look much the same. So when the activists and community organizers plead with us to get out there and vote as if our life depends on it, they are not speaking in euphemism.

Our very lives depend on what we do now.


Duality

As undetonated explosive devices are found this morning in mail sent to the homes of the Clintons and the Obamas, and to CNN in the Time Warner building in busy Columbus Circle, I'm posting my vacation pics from last weekend, where my daughter and I floated on a lazy river in Orlando and chatted and dozed under a cabana by the quiet pool and spent many wonderful hours with our cousins who live nearby. This lovely dream was invaded this morning by hell. The bomb story is developing.




Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Life's grace


That's us, back in the day, in a failed selfie attempt long before selfies were a thing. We weren't yet married, or even engaged. We were still brand new. Not unconnected to this, I'm sitting here musing on the fact that I was always a chubby, okay a fat child. In adolescence and for a bit into my twenties, I was what people might call “well covered.” In truth, I felt grossly fat, ungainly, but now I look back and wish I could be that size again, and I wish I'd appreciated it more. Having more girth, always, than the girls around me, who were all thin and willowy and effortlessly graceful, made me self-conscious in life, a feeling of being conspicuous in the wrong way that has persisted to this day. So I wonder sometimes that I should also be so lucky in life, to have met and married a man who is undeterred by my gains and losses and gains over the years, who treats me always as if I am simply me, the woman he married, and laughs with, and shares children with, who exasperates him sometimes, but with whom he has cast his lot, and is at peace having done so. We had a joking moment on the phone just now; he is at work at the museum and I am working at home, and after I clicked off the call, I just sat for a while staring out the window at the mid-morning light falling soft through the trees, and I just felt lucky.




Thursday, October 11, 2018

Cravings

I have been trying to just stand apart and observe my relationship with food this week, and what I see is that my emotions are a mercurial thing, they ebb and flow and swirl at the slightest change in the wind, and when they are roiling, I crave the narcotic of sugar: I read an article about an activist who is dying of ALS, and find myself craving an oatmeal raisin cookie. I listen to the news, and suddenly I want a key lime crumble yogurt. I hit a wall in my writing project, because I don't have enough detail and will have to interview my subject again, and anxiety flares, and I just want a slice of Milk Bar pie. They call it crack pie for a reason. Sugar numbs me, distracts me, blurs the edges. But it does so many other things besides, not the least of which is move the needle on the scale in the wrong direction. This feels exactly like addiction.

I'm remembering a man who lost more than three-hundred pounds by meditating. He said: "I had to gain control not of my hunger, but of my craving." Those words gonged in my brain. What yawning space inside me am I trying to fill, or anesthetize? I lost fifty pounds in the last year, and need to lose more, yet I can't seem to get my head back in the game. I am writing this in the hope of a new beginning. Yes, I know I can begin again in this second, that it's foolish to wait for circumstances to be perfect, for stress to abate. Stress never abates. And so I'm reaching for a kernel of motivation; seeking to unearth resilience; to vanquish despair and make the good choice. Thanks for letting me share.

In other news, I'm seeing images of complete devastation along the coast of Florida, houses reduced to sticks, forests kneeling all the way down. Difficult to believe that the steady, comforting rain outside my window right now is the remnant of yesterday's monster. This earth school is hard. But then it gives you colors like that tulip, which I think I should paint, and wouldn't that offer an infinitely more nourishing form of distraction, and perhaps a deeper soul comfort, than sugar.


Last night



The kids slept over. There was birthday cake and joy.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is this from a history professor, one of the clearest assessments of the current shape of fascism that I've read. This isn't your daddy's fascism, which is why so many haven't grasped that it's not down the road, it's here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Some infinite thing


"The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over ... The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting—the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing."—David Foster Wallace

The photo is from Jake's Treasure Beach, a magical corner of Jamaica. I'm dreaming of being there, and waking up to the infinite sea, and the shades of blue in that room.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

He made me a mother

I gave birth to this edgy, kinetic child twenty-seven years ago this week. From the time he was young, he knew he would never work in an office. He loved going to work with dad, roaming through collections of fish skeletons, identifying new specimens in the lab, watching the beetle colony process bones, exploring all the strange and magical wonders back stage at the museum of natural history. When he came to work with me at the magazine, however, he was bored to tears. The rustling of papers, the tap-tap of keyboards, conversations about adjectives, dangling modifiers, attribution. "I'm going to work outside when I grow up," he declared. "I'm never going to sit at a desk."

And now he is a paramedic, in and out of an ambulance all day. He has chosen a profession in which is matters not one bit if he covers his body in tattoos, and I am beginning to wonder just how far he will go with that. For his birthday this week, he sat for his fifth tattoo, this one the largest yet, a sailing ship and a rose on his forearm, the beginning of a planned sleeve. It's quite beautiful, though still a little red and raw, and the inked lines darker than they will ultimately be. But I'm still, after five tattoos, trying to get my head around the fact that my child's once untouched canvas of a body now bears these markings without my counsel or consent.

If there's any stronger evidence that our children belong only to themselves, the choice to tattoo the body is right up there. He approaches it like he's acquiring art. He researched this artist's pieces for months, and when he saw that he would be visiting New York from his home in Germany, he immediately made the appointment. All I can do in the face of his attraction to tats is hope I like his choices, and suck it up if I don't. I had to learn that lesson one summer when he had a friend who claimed to be a tattoo artist attempt a piece on his ribcage. It went awry, and is unfinished to this day. I mourned for months. I finally had to come to terms with the fact that I have no control over the decisions he makes about his physical person. Meanwhile he learned that just because someone is a friend doesn't mean you put the canvas of your body in their hands. You have to live with that ink forever. He has a plan to rescue and finish that tattoo next year, when he's replenished his coffers from this one. He's done the research and identified the artist he believes can fix it. His preferred style, he tells me, is grayscale neo-traditional.

Happy twenty-seventh turn around the sun, my beautiful boy. Your unfolding continues to be a wonder. We love you so.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

The persistence of joy

Last week was a devastating one for this country. Next week promises to be no less so. This was what it looked like in my house as we watched the judiciary committee vote on Friday afternoon when, in a surprise development, Senator Jeff Flake called for an FBI investigation into the supreme court nominee's past, after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford courageously and credibly testified that, back in high school, he had sexually assaulted her. Like so many women, I'd cried watching her testimony. The White House has since placed limits on what and who the FBI is allowed to investigate, so I predict more sham proceedings in this matter.


These lovelies were at my house waiting for my daughter and her boyfriend to get home from work. My kids, my niece, and their loves were all heading to Ithaca for the weekend to attend Apple Fest with their cousin, my other niece Dani, who is a senior at Ithaca College and will graduate in May. My son and my niece also went to Ithaca College, and my daughter and her boyfriend went to Cornell University in the same town, so it was old home week for all of them. My son's girlfriend and my niece's fiancé called themselves "the Ithaca virgins."




From the pictures they sent me yesterday (because they know me and know how much I love glimpses of them living their grown up lives), I don't think there are any virgins left in the group. That's Dani and her roommate and bestie in the middle of the group selfie. They were paired in a double in freshman year and have lived together every year since. I love when that happens.


I post these pictures to remind myself that joy can be persistent, even as we fight for our country, even as we call our senators and march in the streets and have conversations outside of our silos and write.



And yesterday, more intentional acts of joy: The man and I, and our friend Leslie, went to see the exhibit of Georgia O'Keefe's Hawaii paintings at the New York Botanical Gardens. After viewing the vibrant canvasses and marveling that I was looking at works touched by the master herself, we spent a wonderful afternoon wandering through nature, strolling and riding the tram through the woodlands and around the extensive gardens, and reveling in our fresh air exhaustion come evening.


I'm going to try and copy one or more of the paintings in the exhibit. I'm pretty sure they won't look anything like the originals, but maybe I'll have a derivative work that served to calm my jangled news junkie mind as I was creating it, that will teach me something about the delicacy of brush strokes and the blending of color, and that will please me to look upon afterward.