Sunday, March 31, 2019

Perfect Saturday

My niece and her fiancé came down from Albany again this weekend, and my son and his girlfriend also stayed over, for the big celebration of my daughter turning 25.

 My niece did a jigsaw puzzles while I sat in the midst of the fun and worked on my celebrity adjacent book proposal.

My husband and these guys watched premier league soccer and told many funny stories.

Then it was time to go to dinner at my daughter's favorite restaurant, a fish place called Seamores. We traveled in two cars. The man and I got the birthday girl and her guy. 

They're so beautiful, both of them. And they clean up nice, too.

My daughter wanted a picture of her parents kissing, and we obliged her. We looked a bit like what we were, old fogies playing around, and hilarity ensued.

My son and his lovely girlfriend—she smiled for my camera but he was, as usual, recalcitrant.

He did, however, indulge me in an insta-worthy mother-son moment. Although if you know him, you'd see from his expression that he's barely holding in the mischief.

The restaurant put sparklers on the lemon cake and we all sang rousing happy birthday.

Afterwards, the eight of us came back to our house where my man made apple martinis for all takers, and we watched Virginia beat Purdue in March Madness—all but one of us. Just as I bring my computer out to the living room and work there so as to be in the midst of it all, my son's girlfriend, who is not a night owl like the rest of us, falls asleep in our midst so as not to miss any of the fun.

From start to finish it was the sweetest day. And now it is the end of March; we are already a quarter of the way through 2019. As I turn toward April, I confess I'm hyperventilating a tiny bit over the work ahead of me. I got the contract for the second book on Friday. One foot in front of the other. A day, a breath, a sentence at a time. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

She's 25!

Our girl was born at 3:29 PM on this date twenty-five lightening fast years ago, and she has filled our lives with joy and light ever since. I tell her she's a crystal child, one who walks into a room and everyone suddenly feels less burdened, and they don't even know why. We will all celebrate by going out to dinner at her favorite restaurant on Saturday. She opted for low key this year with "the core eight," meaning her dad and me, her boyfriend and herself, her brother and his girlfriend, and her sister cousin and her fiancé. And she wants lemon cake from Buttercup Bakery, which I will make happen.

I've been working away over here, and haven't had much time to post. But there's so much I wanted to share: My son is almost at the end of his stint in the fire academy, the hell will soon be over, and in a couple of weeks we will watch him graduate as an FDNY firefighter. He did a rotation in a fire house a week ago, and went to his first fire. He called us afterward sounding as exhilarated as he did last summer when he delivered his first baby as an FDNY paramedic. He said, "I'm going to fucking love this job! I just have to get through the academy." I felt great relief, because the fire academy is boot camp and hell combined—think fire and water on freezing cold days and lieutenants trying to belittle and break your spirit, because anyone whose spirit can be broken they don't want on the team. They want only the ones who can be tough and unrattled at the worst of times, which a fire surely is. My son is not a quitter, though, and about halfway through, he adjusted to the hell of it all. "This is just what it is," he decided. And soon he will claim his longtime dream.

Meanwhile my niece and her fiancé are here again this weekend. They will be picking up their marriage license tomorrow. This thing is happening, y'all! I have to get back to work now, but just wanted to pop in to say that everything immediately important is going well at this moment, and I am remembering to be grateful.

Happy birthday to our darling girl!

May all that you dream come to be.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The living and the dead

The weekend was just lovely, with my niece and her fiancé and my son all sleeping over, and my son's girlfriend joining us today. My niece and her fiancé were here to help his parents move to a new apartment in Brooklyn. My son also stayed overnight on Friday because he'd just done his first stint at a firehouse in the city, and had to be up early the next morning to join his class of probies who had been "voluntold" to carry the 343 flags in the St. Patrick's Day parade, to represent the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11. He was out there in full dress uniform for most of the day, mostly standing in formation and not moving, and joking with his fellow probies that they're all broken in now, they show up and do what they're told. See the photo up top? My boy is in there somewhere.

He stayed over with us again Saturday night because his girlfriend was in New Jersey spending the weekend with her family, and my son doesn't love being alone. He's quite clear on this truth about himself. He's happiest when there is a least one other person around; the world feels sweeter to him then. When he first graduated from college he elected to live at home for the first two years, then he moved in with his girlfriend. While he was living with us, he'd come in at night and call out, "Hey roomies, I'm home."

I feel a little melancholy right now, for three different and distinct reasons I won't go into. The Sunday sadness descended on me after the kids left with a suddenness I wasn't prepared for. But my love is taking me to the movies in an hour, and I'm grateful for a date night distraction. It is silly to be sad about events that feel beyond my control. I wish I knew how to tuck the inconvenient emotions away in a box. As the Tearful Dishwasher would say, it's not what happens, it's our response to what happens that brings suffering. I know he's right, but that doesn't prevent me from getting sucked under, even though I know there is no real point to this suffering.

I've also been thinking a lot about New Zealand, and their government's response to the mass shooting at the two mosques last week, in which 51 people who were worshipping were murdered as the shooter live streamed the carnage. The instagram site Muslims of the World has been putting up portraits of the victims and telling their stories and I'm so moved by them. Most of all I'm moved by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's response to the tragedy. A day after the shooting she announced a ban on assault weapons and pledged that all 51 funerals would be paid for. She also promised the families of the dead that they would be financially supported for as long as it took for them to get back on their feet, even if it took years, regardless of their immigration status. The prime minister also attended funerals of the slain wearing a full hijab in solidarity with the grieving Muslim families. New Zealand is showing us how a moral society behaves.

Friday, March 15, 2019


I went to dinner with three women friends, then came home to my husband, and my niece and her fiancé, who are here again this weekend, and will be here next weekend as well. As my daughter says of them, "Man, they really hate Albany." They really do. In fact, they've decided to cut short their time upstate and relocate to Dallas in June. They plan to come back to New York City after a while, but who knows whether that will happen. I've seen that when people get a taste of how much easier life is in other places, they never quite make it back here. In any case, we'll have a reason now to visit Texas.

So, New Zealand. I've always imagined it to be one of the most peaceful places on earth, certainly one of the least violent. But yesterday forty-nine people were gunned down in two mosques in Christchurch by a white supremacist terrorist who fucking lived streamed the massacre on Facebook and left a manifesto in which he declared his admiration for Trump. I don't even have words.

Let me say instead that I'm just really grateful to the people who have found me in my newly private space, since it appears that my blog no longer updates on blog rolls. I have very few readers now, and I really appreciate every single one of you. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

"Serious eyes," my friend said

I'm not sure if I like the picture of me, but I like the enveloping Renaissance-red scarf and the tiny shimmer of pearls peeking out. I look sad here. I think I was anxious about something I can't recall. This face aside, I'm ecstatic at this moment. I got the book. 

Little ironies

I'm a bit slammed with work, panicked by looming deadlines, and wondering at the wisdom of hoping to be chosen to collaborate on a book that is wildly interesting to me, but one that will certainly make my life a little, no, a lot more stressful. I haven't heard yet whether I got the book I interviewed for. The beautiful and kind agent did email me last night to say a decision should be made this week. I'm trying to work fast and smart on my current projects, to clear the decks for the possibility of more work. In a way, I'm in a good place. If I get the book, I win. If I don't, I will be less stressed, so I also win.

We had houseguests this past weekend, my niece and her fiancé (left), and also a friend whose family lived down the street from our family when we were growing up on Paddington Terrace, for which this blog is named. As you can imagine, there were lots of laughs and reminiscences about those halcyon days. Our houseguest's sister was my brother's first wife; they later divorced, but she is still my sister. She lives in Germany with her true love now, both of them brainiac scientists.

Her little brother Robert, my onetime neighbor, joked that he used to come thirty-first out of thirty students in his high school class. It's a delightful irony, because he's now the CEO of an information technology company, has published two breathtaking photography books, bought a premium stretch of beachfront property on which he has placed a houseboat that he is renovating, and has dibs in numerous other business ventures besides. The newest? He was in the city this week attending a seminar to become officially certified as a matchmaker. His clientele will be executive women. He had the idea one week, located a well appointed office space the next week, identified who he could hire to run the business while he did his day job, and registered to acquire the proper credentials by the week after that. And while he was with us this week, in between impromptu comedy routines, he wrote his business plan.

My dad always said, the bottom five percent of any class will employ the top five percent. He reasoned that people who don't overthink the obstacles but dive right in are the ones who end up making magic. Better not to know the hurdles ahead, but to meet them as they come, he reflected. This did not mean he was remotely okay with my brother and me falling below the top five percent of our classes.

The photo is of Robert and me with another denizens of our Paddington Terrace days. On the right is Ian, who lived across the street from me with his older sister who was my age, and a younger brother. His dad was a judge, like mine. Ian now lives in upstate New York. He came to visit, as he and Robert were thick as thieves growing up. They're the same age, went to the same school, and were in the same grade. Ian, however, posted straight As, and was never less than second in his class. There are so many ways to be brilliant.

In other news, I've made my blog private for work reasons, and have tried to invite all of you who I know read here. There may be other regular readers who never comment—I wish there were a way to let them know they are welcome, too. If you have any ideas about that, please share.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

I am procrastinating

I sat doing a jigsaw puzzle, the winter sun pouring in. I felt guilty about not working on my proposal. I have completed the overview and am now working on the chapter summaries. In truth, I was thinking about them, and the arc of the book's narrative, as I hunted down puzzle pieces. As I've said before, a jigsaw puzzle is an excellent metaphor for figuring out a book. A piece at a time, the picture comes into view.

Last weekend was great fun, especially the engagement party for my son's friend and his fiancee. The guests were mostly drawn from the boy families in my son's middle school class—I suppose the moms in these families wrung our hands and puzzled out boy behavior together. It's the moms who stay in touch now, gathering sometimes and occasionally bringing the rest of the families together. The boys, now young men, almost without exception brought their girlfriends, almost all of them meeting the former middle school crew for the first time. My son's girlfriend, who is white, was taken aback to walk into a gathering that was almost all white. She knew my son went to a private school in the city but she'd imagined it to be more diverse than it actually was. She attended a very diverse public school in New Jersey, was the only white girl in her friend group, and is used to gatherings that include a more varied and multihued range of folks. We had an interesting conversation afterward about how people who don't know might have judged my son's school experience and her school experience to be exactly the opposite of what they were. Everyone adored her, of course. We all love her dearly and she gets my son. And there's a great bonus: She gets me too.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

I had an experience

I went to DC, I met my potential book subject, she was amazing and vulnerable and funny and wonderful. Her agent, for all his beauty, had a warm demeanor and kind eyes. I did my best. Once in the room with them, I managed to mostly forget about my awkward self and focus on her, diving into my curiosity about her life, my admiration for her courage and outspokenness in these times. I left there with my heart beating fast, all fluttery and excited because I felt as if I might really have a shot. But last night on the bus home to New York in driving rain, with each mile covered, I started once more to wonder why on earth she wouldn't choose someone local. As I told a dear friend this morning, I am at peace with whatever happens. I met a fantastic warrior woman. I had an experience. For now, it is enough. And if it turns into more, I'm ready.

Meanwhile, this morning in the city, it is snowing. My sweet man is in the kitchen making seafood gumbo for a Mardi Gras fundraiser at our church this evening. We won't be there this year. We have previous engagements that will soon require us to get out into the snow. The man and I are going to a play with a friend this afternoon. She invited us and another couple, because she thinks we need to meet each other and become friends. Our host grew up with the wife of the other couple. The husband is a Jamaican-born minister and author who commissions the most incredible and confrontational religious iconography, like this extraordinary piece titled "Our Lady of Ferguson and all those who have died from gun violence." It was on loan to our church for the past year. I have never seen a photograph of this altar-sized icon that does justice to the experience of viewing it in real life. The gold foil shimmers and it is simply stunning. The minister's aim is to commission religious iconography from every culture and religion on earth. From a Korean artist he had an icon written (I've learned that religious icons are "written," not drawn or painted) that reinterpreted the famous Botticelli painting "The Birth of Venus." In that icon, Venus is depicted as Asian in traditional Korean garb, but instead of a shell beneath her feet, she is standing on a lotus flower that rests atop the mushroom cloud of an atomic blast. Whoa.

Also on our dance card, tonight we will attend the engagement party for one of our son's friends from middle school. It is being held by his parents. Our son and his girlfriend are going too. My husband and I have been in closer touch with this young man's parents than our boys have been in recent years, in part because the groom-to-be now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he is studying law. This kid was my son's first friend when our boy moved to a new school in the third grade. He was so nervous the night before. "What if they don't like me?" he asked, his eyes pooling. The next morning he went into the classroom and was seated beside this boy, who immediately started talking to him about Harry Potter. I was watching from the doorway as my son, eyes suddenly dancing, engaged the conversation with matching animation. I exhaled, knowing he would be okay. Ever since, this kid has had a special place in my heart for the way he welcomed my son in.

Happy Saturday, my friends. See you on the other side of this chock-full day.