Saturday, May 26, 2018

Walks with Wiz

I've been walking a lot more lately, having embarked on a buddy exercise program with my friend and neighbor. We used to try and meet up to walk, but that only worked sporadically, so now we have a system where we text each other the evening before and say what we plan to do for exercise the next day, and then we text each other once we've completed it. We don't judge the exercise plan, we just cheer each other along. We also agreed to start by setting a very low bar for ourselves so we almost could not help but achieve it. It's working! For the past three weeks, on six of seven days each week, I have done some form of exercise—walking, yoga, or strength training with bands and presses, sometimes a mix of all three. My friend is a walker, and she also works with the exercise bands, and best of all, she had a wonderful gallows sense of humor about all this.

My very favorite way to exercise is to meet my daughter when she walks the various dogs she takes care of while their owners are away. Currently, she's dog sitting a little guy named Wiz. His owner travels a lot, so Wiz is with my girl a lot. Wiz does not like to walk. I've never seen such an indoor dog. He goes out, does his business and then tries to run back inside. My daughter isn't having that: a dog needs exercise, and so Wiz walks, and along with the two of them each evening, so do I. Wiz gets taken outside in the morning and late at night, too, but for me the sweet spot is the walk when my daughter gets home from work. Yesterday, we went out earlier than usual, because my girl was supposed to meet friends for happy hour at an outdoor beer garden. Oh to be twenty-something with the city at your feet!—though I don't remember having nearly as rousing a social life when I was her age. Maybe because she grew up in the city (while I came to it later) her roots here are deep and wide, with many different circles of friends. She was wearing a bright red top that looked festive yesterday, and the blooms were out in the garden, and I wanted to take pictures. My darling daughter is not nearly so compliant about that as she used to be. But yesterday, she obliged me.

In other news my son passed his state boards and is now a New York State paramedic! He got a 95 on his final. He really studied hard all year and now he has just one more exam to go—regionals—and then we will attend his graduation in early June. He's hoping to get placed at a station house in Brooklyn, where he did his fieldwork, and enjoyed the variety and challenge of the calls. My husband once said of him that he's a kid who reaches the top of a mountain and then looks around to see where the next peak is that he can climb. He's already climbing the next peak to becoming a full fledged firefighter, his lifelong dream. I know I've said this before but my mother's heart wishes he would stay on the medic side of emergency rescue. He actually loves being an emergency medic, and is also now thinking of going back to school to become a nurse practitioner. Another mountain. May he continue to climb.

As long as I'm posting photos of my family, here's another one, this of my husband, who I can never manage to get good pictures of because as soon as I lift my camera he scowls at me. But we were out having dinner at our favorite neighborhood place the other night, the doors were flung open, the evening was balmy, and life felt easy and good.


I had coffee with a friend last week, Gary from the blog Follow Your Bliss, whose class of delightful first graders I had the privilege of reading to last year. Gary teaches at the American Sign Language and English School in the city, and he had invited me to read and talk with his students about writing their own stories. He and I had been friends online for years, but it was our first time meeting in the flesh. Strangely for me, I wasn't even nervous. I already adored him. His entire demeanor is kind. Unfortunately, both then and last week, we forgot to take a picture together, because isn't that the cardinal rule when blog friends meet, to create photographic evidence that we breached the physical universe, and exist beyond virtual space? (The photo here is from Gary's instagram feed. He gave me permission to use it.)

The book I shared with his students, some deaf, some hearing, is one of my favorites: Thank You, Mr. Falker, about a dyslexic girl who doesn't understand why she can't learn, or why the other kids call her dumb, until a special teacher unlocks the world for her. It's a true story, written by author and illustrator Patricia Polacco, who was the child in the story. As I read, another teacher signed alongside me. I can never read this book without my eyes getting blurry. I chose it because in a way, Gary is like Mr. Falker, the kind of teacher we wish all children could have. He makes the world so much larger, not just for his kids, but for everyone, even the well-known Broadway actors, directors and playwrights who accept his invitation to come and read to his class, and find the experience as revelatory for them as it is for the kids.

Last week over almond cappuccino, Gary shared some stories from his years as a deaf education teacher. I couldn't stop thinking about them afterward. But what I'm remembering this morning is the way, when Gary speaks, he also unconsciously signs what he's saying. It's very beautiful, a mesmerizing dance of gestures, a language of dimensional grace.

Friday, May 25, 2018

T'Challa Forever

A lot of people didn't really understand why a movie about a black superhero resonated so deeply for black folks. This clip captures some of the reasons. To be honest, I'm not much of a Jimmy Fallon fan, but this segment with Chadwick Boseman, who plays Black Panther, was everything. I'd totally missed this when it aired (as I said, I don't really watch Jimmy), but one of the speakers here is the daughter and grandson of my friend. I worked with this woman for many years at the magazine. She was the copy chief, and always one of my favorite colleagues. She happened into the bookstore cafe where I was working yesterday afternoon, and saw me tapping away in the far corner. It was a happy reunion. She told me her daughter and grandson had done this segment, and last night she sent this to me. I love it so much I'm posting it here. If you watch, click and make it full screen. The facial expressions are worth it.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Love spray | Olga | Reading is Rad

“The magic of the street is the mingling 
of the errand and the epiphany.” 

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust   |   Photo by Jay Fung


I'm heading out to a cafe to do some work, because so far today I have done nothing but sit in front of the TV. Is anyone else watching the final season of The Americans? It could hardly be more gripping, and the acting is outrageously good. The series finale is next week, and everything appears to be exploding, but quietly—more of an implosion actually. And then I watched an episode of Fixer Upper, wishing, as I do come summer, that someone would just come in and make over my house. In the kitchen, the dishes are piled up from last evening. I looked at them and walked away. Memorial Day weekend is here. These warm weather holidays leave me invisibly reeling and out of sorts. I'm always convinced the rest of world has scintillating outings planned, while I stare at a sink full of dishes, and wrestle with a book outline that is taking much too long to reveal itself. So now I am packing up my laptop and heading to the bookstore cafe. Surrounded by similarly solitary strangers, I'll try to co-exist with this "poor me" melancholy for a while, hoping it will grow bored of acceptance and ride on through. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

All too much

I don't have the heart to write in any depth about the Pakistani exchange student who was among those gunned down in Santa Fe, Texas last week, or the teacher who went back to work to help pay for her husband's cancer treatments, who lost her life in the hail of bullets, too. Or the girl who tried to tell the shooter for four months that she wasn't interested, who was the first one he came for when he walked into that art classroom with murderous intent. They need to arrest that boy's father, whose guns were so unsecured that his son could just take them to do violence on an otherwise ordinary morning. More American children have died in school shootings this year than soldiers have died in theaters of war. I'm worn out from bearing witness to the relentless wheel of atrocities unleashed by white boys with Nazi leanings. I'm drowning in all the stories of black folks who find cops descending on them for just living their lives. The latest is a black man who was out for a walk with his son in the park. Apparently someone reported "a suspicious looking man with a baby." He's a lawyer who stayed home from work because his baby wasn't feeling well and thought a walk in the park might be cheering. I saw his picture. Dark skin, sweet smile, cute cafe au lait baby. Nothing suspicious at all. Fortunately, the park security guard saw nothing amiss either and merely warned the father about the unwarranted complaint. I need a fucking break.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Harry and Meghan

I was so moved by the wedding of Harry and Meghan. There were so many moments: Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, her eyes shining with emotion as she watched her daughter marry the English prince. I couldn't take my eyes off her. She was just so solitary and beaming and dignified, valiantly trying to contain the wonder and love bursting out of her. She was Meghan's only blood relative in that grand sanctuary, and she was enough. Meghan had all the support she needed in Doria.

Then there was Prince Harry's face when he saw Meghan, the small quick smile of relief that this was finally underway, she was here. Oh, and the way Meghan had walked into the church alone, with her friend's twins holding aloft her sixteen-foot train. She was powerful. A woman in charge of herself. And as she drew next to Harry, the way he looked at her and said, "You look amazing," and bit his lip, oh my God so sexy, and said, "I'm so lucky." As so many people said yesterday, find you a love who looks at you the way Harry looks at Meghan.

Mostly unspoken was the memory of the solemn child walking behind his mother's casket so many years ago, his ginger hair bright in the sun, his eyes deep in shadow. That hurt little boy was happy now.

Other moments: The way Harry removed Meghan's veil, his care for her showing in the small adjustment. The kiss at the top of the steps; they both closed their eyes. Again his care and attention as they descended the steps, and climbed into the horse drawn carriage, Harry helping Meghan navigate her dress and train, simple and elegant yet still voluminous and treacherous to movement.

More highlights: The black gospel choir singing a shiver-inducing rendition of "Stand By Me." Episcopal bishop Michael Curry bringing the cadence of the black church to his sermon on love. The young cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, 19, playing "Ave Maria," my mother's favorite. Two little brown girls among the children who marched up the aisle behind the bride. The hymns that I could sing by heart from my own churched childhood and years at an Anglican school. The carriage ride through the town of Windsor, the bride and groom relaxing into each other. And later, that stunning Stella McCartney number that Meghan stepped out in for the evening reception, her shoulders glorious, and Harry looking like his feet weren't quite touching the ground, and he couldn't wait to get her to himself.

Last night, my husband, a true romantic, watched the entire ceremony with me, beginning to end. We both knew how Harry and Meghan were feeling, the joy and soul-deep comfort of being each other's safe harbor. This morning, I had a wedding hangover. I opened my eyes and smiled.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Poppies with my poppies

I can't even explain how much fun this was. After a long day of interviewing for my current project, then an hour and a half commute back home from Brooklyn in heavy traffic, I thought I would be too mentally exhausted to commit to painting a Georgia O'Keefe poppy while sipping the Pinot Noir my daughter brought for us. My three girls had arranged for us to do the class together as a mother's day gift to me. In the cab on the way there, my daughter admitted she was wiped out from the workday, too, but she'd already paid for the session, and my niece and my son's girlfriend were meeting us there, so there was no question of not going. I'm so glad we didn't miss this night. And what an energy booster and mood brighter daubing paint on canvasses turned out to be! We had a blast, the four of us, though it's hard to tell whether we painted poppies or hibiscuses. Of course, sipping vino from plastic cups, we didn't really mind which flower went home with us. This wine and paint thing with loved ones is simply the most enjoyable art therapy I can imagine. I can't wait to do it again. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

I love my 'hood

A friend, a woman I went to college with, offered me her Brooklyn brownstone as a place to interview my subject for the new book I'm working on. Our first interview was in a Greek diner, and while we did okay, we're going to have to wade very deep into her stories to accomplish a manuscript of 75K words, so we will need a bit more privacy. For various reasons her home is not an option. I thought of inviting her to my home for our interviews, but people I know who do this work insist I shouldn't do that. It blurs an essential line, they say.

In any case, my subject lives in Brooklyn, and it would be a hassle for her to have to travel all the way to Harlem each time we meet. I need to maintain a low barrier for entry, making things as easy as possible for her, so she doesn't get spooked by the intimacy and invasiveness of this process. My last subject, whose book will be out in August, had no trust issues at all. She dived into the deep end, holding back nothing, believing I would know how to frame her stories. She also knew she would get to read the manuscript before anyone else, and that she could make any edits she needed to feel comfortable. After all, it's her book. In the end, she was fearless. I think it has to do with the fact that the very worst day of her life had already happened, her son was killed, and if she could survive that, she could survive it all. Her agent noted that she was his only client who signed off every call with, "Bye! Love you!" And if you said it first (because we totally loved her by the end), she would chime in, "Love you more!"

Anyway, the woman who offered me her brownstone in Brooklyn as a place to conduct interviews works down the street from me at our alma mater, Barnard College. Two days ago I gratefully went to her office to pick up her keys. It was so strange to be on the campus with so much changed, and so much still the same. The sleek glass towers are all new. The baroque brick and stone buildings, colonized by ivy, are exactly the same as I remember. And yet, when I pictured myself in that place, even though I still live in the neighborhood, it felt like another life.

I went out to dinner last night with one of my former colleagues, who is also a dear friend. She and I were both deputy editors at the magazine, and we both got laid off a few months apart in 2013. We agreed that even though our editor in chief didn't do right by us, being laid off turned out to be a gift for each of us in different ways. I don't feel the sting of it anymore. I can now understand with more than my intellect that it wasn't personal: cutting the deputy editor role was a cost saving measure in a season of austerity. I do hope my new equanimity is not because the woman who laid me off was herself laid off last month. I want to think I am bigger than the secret sense of validation I felt at the news. But maybe I'm not, even though I know what she's going through right now and don't wish that on anyone. Anyway, it was good to see my friend, who lives in Washington DC but was in town to do some reporting for a story she's working on.

I've been doing a bit more walking lately, striding resolutely through the pain. What's different is that I found shoes that actually make walking easier for me. They sort of pitch me back onto my heels, changing my whole posture, and they are well cushioned, so that the motion of putting down each foot doesn't jar my already jarred joint structure. The shoes are sandals, so I couldn't wait till it got warm enough for me to start wearing them again. They're ridiculously expensive, yet I'm considering ordering a couple more pairs, just to have them on standby. As for my walks, they're a modest notion compared to our marathon walker Mary Moon, but I'm strolling around the neighborhood, logging steps, distance, time, elevation, and even my average heart rate on my Apple Watch, because the other day my husband showed me its very cool workout mode, which I find to be a rather motivating feature. And on my walks I take pictures. Like Steve Reed. See? My blog pals inspire me!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Perception/ Truth


I saw this writing life cartoon in the New York Times and it kind of spoke to me. Every frame feels like the absolute truth except maybe the last one. Instead of renown, for me a more accurate word would be reassess, or maybe reinvent, or even just relief, because while there's no real glory at the end of the writing process, it does feel as if an enormous amount of pressure has been lifted—and then you have to start again from scratch, and it feels like a whole new ballgame every time. 

In other news, I think it's time to color my hair. There's a lot of, um, silver coming in. It really popped out when I used this new filter on Instagram, but I kept the filter anyway, because it nicely smoothed out my folds and creases. This face is not the whole truth.

Today, I went for my annual checkup which I have not done for almost two years. It was fairly painless, because when the doctor sent me to another floor to get a mammogram (also way overdue), and I found out I'd have to wait an hour to be seen, I decided to reschedule. Before that, my doctor was very pleased with me for losing fifty pounds since she last saw me, and though she's skinny herself, she told me all about the food changes she had made in her household and how they'd helped her lose 17 pounds. I tried to listen generously, even though I confess the thought crawled through my brain that if I had started out at her previous size, I wouldn't even have thought about trying to lose. Different strokes. Who was it who said each one's perception is her own truth, or was it the other way around?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Coming in September

Feel free to pre-order!

Here's the back cover copy.

From the national spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety and leading gun violence prevention advocate comes the riveting memoir of a mother’s loss and call to action, as well as her faith-based exploration of how the nation’s gun laws put a deadly target on American lives.

Standing Our Ground is Lucia Kay McBath’s memoir of raising, loving, and losing her son, and the story of how she transformed her pain into activism. After seventeen-year-old Jordan Davis was shot by a man who thought the music he and his friends were playing on their car stereo was too loud, the nation grieved yet again for the unnecessary loss of life. Here, McBath goes beyond the events of that day and the assailant’s defense—Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law—to present an emotional account of her fervent fight for justice, and her spiritual restoration and resolute faith as she awakened to a cause that will drive the rest of her days.

More than McBath’s story and that of her son, Standing Our Ground keenly observes the social and political evolution of America’s gun culture, making this a must-read for anyone concerned with gun safety in America. 

Lucia “Lucy” McBath is a mother, wife, businesswoman, and activist for social justice. After a 30-year career with Delta Air Lines, her second career is focused on legislative reform that will make communities safer for every American. Lucy holds dual roles as the national spokesperson and faith and community outreach leader for Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. In the 2016 presidential campaign she served as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton as one of the Mothers of the Movement. She continues to advocate for common sense gun laws.

Rosemarie Robotham is an award-winning author, editor, and literary collaborator. A former senior editor at Simon & Schuster, she also served as the deputy editor of Essence magazine. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Monday, May 7, 2018

There was a birthday

I'm a little in the weeds with my May deadlines, and working to get through the gauntlet. All is well. I  keep repeating that to myself, especially when I feel panicked. It is unnerving to me to not feel in control, and in this new project, I often feel as if I'm flying blind and taking the next steps on pure faith. This is no doubt a soul lesson for me.

My birthday was last week Thursday and all the kids came over, and we took a group picture, per my request. No one resisted me because, well, my birthday. My daughter set up the phone and triggered its camera remotely with my Apple Watch, which you can see on her wrist. The picture is a little blurred, but I love it anyway. This is us. Ha ha.

Who are your favorite people to celebrate literally anything with?