Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Social anxiety

I'm supposed to have lunch with my agent today. I am internally resisting the idea of getting dressed in my publishing best to go into the Flatiron District for lunch with my uber cool, uber thin, uber elegant agent, whom I love, by the way. She's awesome and supportive, and I feel so lucky to be represented by her, but lunch, showing up in person, that's another thing entirely.

It's snowing outside, so there is a chance we might reschedule, because she knows about my gimpy leg and doesn't want me to slip in the snow. But the snow is tapering off, and the streets might be all cleared by lunchtime, so lunch will probably happen. Why am I like this? Why is it so hard to just go places and be myself like normal people?

Is this social anxiety inborn and if not, where did it begin? The thing is, I am only like this in certain contexts, the publishing world of agents and editors being one of them. I keenly feel like I don't fit, which is nonsense. Everyone fits who feels like they belong.

Of course, if I have to, I will show up and do my best impersonation of a socially competent human being. But it takes such energy, even though afterward, I'm often glad that I did it—and even more glad that its over. When I think about it from the outside looking on, it seems supremely silly. And yet the agony I'm going through right now, the churning inside, is real. The feeling of it is real.

I just emailed her suggesting we reschedule. Now I just feel stupid.

Update: Just spoke to her by phone. She was fine. We rescheduled for three weeks from now because she's traveling in the interim. I need to remember these things are never as loaded for the other person who can't hear the cacophony in my head.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Almond flour cheese biscuits

I made these cheese biscuits with almond flour, butter, garlic, cheddar, mozzarella. Almond flour and coconut flour are my new go-tos because they're lower in carbs. We're trying to ditch white flour and sugar altogether in this house. Well, except for what's lurking in the ingredients of packaged foods. We're cutting back on those too, in a bid to eat food that remembers where it came from. Not a bad deal since those cheese biscuits qualify. They were good, too. Here's the recipe.

I'm almost through with hell month, and I'm going to make all my deadlines. Two of the three projects have already been completed and turned in, and the last is due this coming Monday. I'm almost out of the tunnel. And then, oh the irony, I will be beating the bushes for more work. That's life when you're a freelancer. I hope I won't be too anxious about when and from where the next job will arise to enjoy the break.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Happy 96th Mom

Today would have been my mom's 96th birthday. I will never stop missing her. Today is also the day my Aunt Beryl left us a year ago. Her daughter, Hilary, texted me first thing: "Remembering two beautiful women this morning." I texted back that they are playing bridge in the unseen and smiling on us. I like to think it so.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Lifers in L.A.

Here are a couple more pictures from the magical trip, where our girl saw not just her sister spirit Henri, but two of her lifers friends, boys with whom she has walked in lockstep since pre-kindergarten. These two both live in LA now. The children of movie industry people, they both found jobs in that field after graduating college. They're all masquerading as grown ups, and yet I look into their faces and still see their precious 4-years-old selves. I don't think that will ever change.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The other shore

Having moved away from my homeland when I was eighteen years old, and spending my twenties as a reporter jumping on planes two or three times a month, I now mostly travel vicariously through my girl. She has a touch of wanderlust, a lovely feeling (mentioned by some of you in the comments of my last post) that the world is hers. I love that. On Instagram, she captioned these two photos "Happy on the west coast." She came back from her weeklong trip talking about moving there, not necessarily to L.A., which is where she was, but she wants to check out San Diego. I groaned. "Oh God, do you mean we're going to have to get on a plane to see our grandchildren?" She just laughed. California whispers to her soul. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The itinerant's sense of home

In the last years of her life, when she was living in my brother's home in Jamaica, my mother used to wake up to that view. I look at it now, and it steals my breath. Sometimes, I can't quite hold on to the feeling of being from this place, the understanding that no matter how far I travel it will always be mine. This is the land of my birth. Lately, I have begun to wonder why I left it. It's too late now. My children are planted in the land of their birth, which means that is where I will stay.

My girl is flying home from LA today, after having what appears from her social media posts to have been a fun-filled visit. Here's a photo of her and Henri, who became one of my favorites of the friends she made college. Henri, who grew up in Hawaii and Botswana and then went to a private boarding school in the Midwest (Ohio or Indiana, I can't remember at this moment), now lives in LA, and she had a whole agenda of activities planned for our girl. Much like my daughter, her spirit is joyful. I love these young women together. Henri, who used to stay with us sometimes on the way back to college, once talked with me about the itinerant's sense of home, the way it is always shifting, never quite rooted, always with a whisper or a side-eye of but where are you really from? I knew exactly what she meant. I am an American citizen, yet after 43 years of studying and living and working and raising a family and paying taxes in this country, I still feel as if my claim on this place is fragile, understood by some as illegitimate. When I speak my piece on the current goings on in government, I can always hear the unspoken, then why don't you go back home? But this is the land where my children were born. And so I will stake my claim defiantly, and express my opinions as vociferously as I choose, because my children's rights to this land, and all that is in it, are inalienable.

Safe travels home, my berry girl. See you when you land.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Clearly now

I'm under pressure with two deadlines over here, an edit of a manuscript and the finish of a proposal, for which I still have to craft a sample chapter. So I may be scarce for a while, maybe just posting pictures. I should note, however, that I turned in my book to the publisher this week. The editor hasn't read it yet, she has other manuscripts queued up, but my subject was happy with how her story turned out and her agent was happy, and my agent, after spending yesterday on her couch reading, sent me the most wonderful note last night. I don't want to blow by these milestones. They matter. The editor is the one to please, of course, but I'm still relieved that two very tough readers did not think the book sucked.

Here's another rediscovered photo, this one of my parents with my daughter the month after she was born. My girl is in L.A. right now, visiting college friends and lifer friends. Yesterday her social media was full of boomerangs of the Santa Monica Pier, the waves doing a cha cha on the shore, the pilings under the boardwalk, riding a bicycle along a concrete path, daredevils in the skate park. This is the trip she abandoned at the airport gate last Labor Day weekend, when I called to tell her that her dad would be having surgery the following day. I find I still watch my husband closely, trying to make sure no symptoms are missed, the fantasy of complete control. He's been casting his mind back lately, realizing that his heart had been going bad for years, and he ignored all the signs. Everybody in New York is tired, he used to say. He sees more clearly now.

All is well.


Happy birthday to my dear friend. I love this laughing picture of her with her son. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018


My aunt's funeral service went off with many hitches. First, the snow storm caused flights from everywhere to be cancelled, leaving my brother and niece stranded in Jamaica. My cousin from Nassau who was supposed to deliver the eulogy, and our cousins who were traveling up from Florida also had their flights cancelled, but the Virginia, Maryland and Boston cousins drove or took the bus, despite the so called bomb cyclone that dumped so much snow and blanketed the Northeast in subzero temperatures.

The service itself was an exercise in acceptance. There was no program, and therefore much confusion about what was supposed to happen next. The priest clearly knew nothing about our aunt, and should not have bothered to deliver an address of any sort, as his words only highlighted his lack of preparation. My cousin Helen was sitting beside me. I turned to her and whispered, "I think they needed more support with planning. I feel awful that I didn't offer more help." Helen beamed her bright impish smile and whispered back, "That is just self-abuse. Let it go. Everything is happening exactly as it's meant to." I relaxed then, and let everything be just what it was.

At the repast after, the food didn't arrive for hours. The service had been a morning one and most people hadn't eaten breakfast, including me. Despite almost everyone being ravenous, the milling around and catching up with family was lovely. My cousin Winsome had found a box of photographs in her garage that had belonged to our Uncle Charlie, who died ten years ago now. She had sorted the photos in different envelopes to be parceled out to family members, and we all pored over each others pictures, remembering who and what and when. That was definitely a highlight.

My own envelope included photos of my children as babies and toddlers and at birthday parties for which Uncle Charle usually baked the cake. My daughter and niece immediately started snapping photos of the photos and posting them on social media for my son, who was out of town at an alumni track meet, and their cousins in Vancouver, who also weren't there. Not to be outdone, I'm posting one of my favorite photo rediscoveries here.

It's Sunday afternoon now. All our houseguests are back on the road heading home, and my husband just walked in carting bags of groceries. He plans to make zucchini noodle lasagna for dinner. He just said to me, "You know, I love when the kids come by and hang out with us, and I love having our extended family stay in our home, but there is a certain joy I feel when I know I'm coming home to just you." After 31 years of marriage, his words made my heart smile. Our nest isn't empty at all.

Thursday, January 4, 2018


We have family coming to town tomorrow. My brother and my niece are flying in from Jamaica, and my cousin and her husband and three grown boys are driving up from Virginia, all staying with us. They're coming to attend our Aunt Fay's funeral in New Jersey on Saturday, the eighth of the nine elder siblings to whom we must say goodbye. The weather isn't cooperating. The Northeast is experiencing something called a bomb cyclone of snowfall, a blizzard whipped by hurricane force winds. Several inches have already fallen on the city, and tomorrow, when the snow ends, is expected to be a deep freeze. I am working away, trying not to slip into the familiar anxiety that assails me whenever company’s coming. The house is clean, but cluttered from the holidays, and the Christmas tree is still up, though well past its prime. But the snow is pretty, especially from inside. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Waitress The Musical

 This darling girl of mine

 gave her mother a Christmas gift of a Broadway show

which made her mother super happy because

the gift involved spending time with her girl. 

In keeping with the show's theme, pie was served seatside

and so was wine, for a price of course

which totally helps explain why the show is a hit.

We laughed, we cried, we loved it.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Today's reality

The secret, she told me, is you have to be willing to throw it all out and start again.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Good and plenty

Last night, we were supposed to ring in the new year with friends, but the man and I were exhausted, and I seemed to be coming down with something, my head ached and felt full of wool, and so we stayed home and dozed and woke at midnight to wish each other a happy new year and hold each other close.

Then today, we went to lunch with some of the same friends from last night, and ate butternut squash soup and black bean chili and roasted chicken, and it was a lovely way to begin the year. I always feel so sustained when I am with this crew.

And later, when we got home from lunch, our daughter and her boyfriend came over just because it was a brand new year, and we chatted and laughed and heard about their New Year's Eve, which they spent with my niece and her boyfriend, and a few other friends. They appeared from the photos to have had a rollicking good time. All in all it was a story of good and plentiful food and drink, and the simple pleasure of being together. And these pictures of my daughter and her guy, and my niece in a moment of revelry, both swiped from social media, snaps of joy.


We spent the last day of 2017 with our son tromping through the freezing cold lot of a Bronx car dealership, snow and ice and salt crunching beneath our boots. Our boy ultimately purchased a used 2014 Jeep Compass in pristine condition, clean car fax, certified with one previous owner and no accidents and regular servicing, in an indigo pearl, for a price well below the Kelly Blue Book number, because it was the last day of the year and the dealer wanted to meet annual quotas and also, our sales person was a mensch who really worked with us to make the purchase possible. It's like our boy found the perfect snowflake. He's so relieved, though he's a bit worried about how he will afford the new bills, but then, this child of mine always worries about money.

I am so poor, he wailed one day before Christmas. You are not poor, I told him. You don't have a lot of money right now but don't buy in to that poverty mentality because you have options many don't have. I am poor, he insisted, irritated by my woo woo optimism. I went to my room and got a one hundred dollar bill I keep hidden away for the unexpected, and I went back to where he was sitting on the living room couch and I floated that bill down over his head and said, you are not poor, you have a hundred dollar bill raining down on you and it's all yours. He had the grace and good humor to smile, but he refused to take the money, so I said I would hold it for him should he need it anytime soon, and he said, okay, Mom, I get what you're trying to tell me.

And yesterday, after finding that car online a week ago, and calling and making an appointment for a test drive, and then visualizing the car as his all week, but with the edge of anxiety that is part of who he is, his wish came true. And later he sat between his dad and me, filling out all the paperwork, and his dad and I smiled at each other over his bent head, pleased to be asked to go with him to give our opinion and support, and back home that night, my husband said: We helped our boy buy his first car today. That was a nice way to end the year.