Thursday, December 22, 2022

Work looks so different now


My beautiful coworkers this week. Video conferencing and data crunching and problem solving other techy corporate stuff I don't begin to understand. But they're brilliant and hardworking and charming. I'd hire them for anything.

 
Also, Fireboy and his lovely wife of three months stopped by. They wrapped their Christmas presents here, laughing behind closed doors, with him teasing her about her Pinterest gift wrapping aspirations and then being suitably impressed by how gorgeous the packages were. The man came home from work early to be part of the fun. “It takes so little to make me happy," he said later, when we were both in bed. His children and their loves around him. That is all. In this, we are the same.


Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Catching sunlight

 

Had a kickoff Zoom meeting for the new book this morning. The energy from every person on the video call felt wholesome and pure. I am so excited by this new project I can barely sit still to actually start writing. Oh, I'm plenty scared, too. I have to do this story justice, there is no room to fail, but isn't that always true, and isn't it also true that when we don't quite hit the mark, it cannot be counted as failure if we resolutely retrieve our oars, place them back in the water, and keep rowing for shore. There will be both sunlit days and obscure nights on this journey, but dear God, what a gift I have been given, and the message I take from the Story People card posted here is that I need to trust the words dancing through my subject's memories. I need to open my whole heart and let them find me. And so we begin again. Please, please, and amen.


Sunday, December 18, 2022

'Twas festive and the tree was trimmed











"Where's the Fireboy?" my cousin Andrew wanted to know after I posted this album on Instagram. Earlier this week as we trimmed the tree and decorated holiday cookies and sipped mulled cider, Fireboy was working a 24-hour shift, during which multiple fire houses were battling a massive and decidely suspicious fire at the police evidence warehouse in Brooklyn. Some firefighters were injured, thankfully none of them critically. My boy wasn't actually working the fire, as he's currently assigned to the department's press office as he waits to be medically released back to active duty following his knee surgery. He's fine, actually, but the department wants to be very sure that when next he climbs into a fire, that knee is fully healed and supportive. I appreciate that. In the meantime, he jokes that he's getting a small taste of his mama's profession. I remember when he used to come to work with me when he was a kid, and I was an editor at a women's magazine. All he saw were people sitting at desks tapping away at keyboards, and it bored him silly. That's when he knew he needed a more active vocation. On some level, he had already chosen his path.

My new choir held its holiday concert yesterday, and as I always say, we made a joyful noise. There are many more of us in this choir than in my last one, mostly retirees who can meet up on a weekday afternoon. I loved all the musical selections, including a haunting Hanukkah piece "Ose Shalom," a joyful Paul Laurence Dunbar composition "Ring Out," and the always rousing "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah. I thoroughly enjoyed the singing season with this new group, with rehearsals held in a church walking distance from my home. My friend Lisa is an alto with me (it was she who recruited me to join), and we have now made friends among the choral members, some of who regularly invite us for coffee after rehearsals. And yet, during yesterday's concert, I found myself fondly remembering the quirky crew from my last choir, and really understanding in a new way how our former choral director worked with us to make sure that all our entrances were strong and in unison, our enunciation clear, our rhythms cohesive, and our sound on pitch. We really sang well for such an amateur choir, even with our famous weak links—I count myself among them—and I am appreciating our efforts so much more in retrospect. 

My husband and some other friends attended yesterday, and we went out for hot soup afterward. As two of our number were very worried about the rising rates of Covid and other respiratory viruses in the city, we sat outdoors, but the temperatures were definitely frigid, and even with the heating lamps suspended above our table, I was chilled to the bone. How I relished the warmth of my home last night, the man and I each sipping a perfect pour of wine from our Vinebox advent calendar, given to us for Christmas by our son-in-law-to-be.

My girl and her love happened to be in Mexico this weekend, attending the wedding of two Indian friends. It involved four days of celebrations, and guests were asked to wear traditional Indian attire for two of the events, a style of dress I personally find to be very beautiful, with its vivid jewel tones and elegantly flowing garments.

Our girl sent me that photo from last night. Don't they look lovely? This is the, count 'em, seventh wedding our newly engaged couple has attended this year, including the wedding in September of my own son and his lovely bride. I guess people are making up for the two years lost to Covid, when so many nuptials were postponed. Or maybe my girl and her love are just in that time of life when their age cohorts who have a mind to marry are tying the knot. Even so, seven weddings in one year is a lot of weddings, and all I have to say about that is—Ain’t love grand?


Sunday, December 11, 2022

The world keeps on

I awoke on Thursday morning to the news that Brittney Griner had been freed and was on a plane on her way home. I cheered! I had feared she would disappear into a Russian gulag, and we would never know what had become of her. Of course, Republicans rushed to criticize President Biden for exchanging Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as the Merchant of Death, to secure the life and liberty of a 6-foot-9, Black, lesbian, NBA star with locs who had been convicted in a Russian court of possessing vape canisters containing cannabis. 

Given the immediate and sustained "Free Brittney" outcry in the States, Putin finally had a political prisoner he could use to secure the release of Bout, who was serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. for his crimes. They'd been trying to bring him back to Russian for years. Biden tried to bargain for the simultaneous release of another American prisoner, U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, jailed since 2018 as a spy, but Putin would only grant freedom for Griner, or nothing, and in the end Biden opted for the bird in the hand. 

The Republicans crowed that Brittney Griner's Black gay life was not worth the deal, and that Whelan had been left to languish. Trump crowed loudest of all, despite the fact that when he was in office, he did nothing at all to try to bring Paul Whelan home. As Whelan's own brother tweeted, Trump never once mentioned Paul Whelan's name, so he doesn't understand all his self-righteousness on the matter now. Heaven forbid Biden should ever get credit for positive outcomes, however mixed. I'm glad he chose to bring Brittney Giner home, even as he continues to work for the release of Whelan and another American, Marc Fogel, a former teacher at the American School in Moscow, who was also sentenced for cannabis possession last year. 

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Time magazine chose Volodymyr Zelenskyy as its Person of the Year. A good choice. Also in the running were the protestors in Iran, who would also have been very deserving. The magazine editors also had Elon Musk on the short list—ugh. I find that just typing his name is as distasteful to me as typing Trump's name. They are two of a kind, the worst.

*

I've been watching the Netflix documentary series Harry & Meghan, and I definitely recommend it. It's not bitter and snarky, it just means to set the story straight from their side of the lens, and the real villains, three episodes in, are not the royal family so much a the British tabloid media and the deeply ingrained attitudes to race born of Britain's past colonial relationship with much of the developing world.


Episode three in particular puts in stark contrast just how that colonial relationship worked to enrich Britain and impoverish the colonized countries, with all their precious natural resources being plundered and shipped to the British Isles. Even when slavery was abolished, the plantation owners were compensated to the tune of many millions of dollars each for the loss of their human "property"—crazily, this was a fact that neither my husband nor I had known. We both looked at each other in shock.


I have great respect for Harry, who talks about unconscious bias at one point, and how we all have it, but that once it is pointed out, brought into awareness, one has a responsibility to do better. Most of all, the documentary is a portrait of a couple simply falling in love, and it's quite beautiful to me to see they way they each glow in the sight of the other. I don't know what the final three episodes will bring, whether Will and Kate and Charles and Camilla will ultimately escape unscathed, but I will be watching this Thursday along with so many others, lovers and haters both. But as Trevor Noah said in his farewell speech on the Daily Show this week, he is grateful even to the haters, because they, too, added to his ratings score. Unsurprisingly, Harry & Meghan is number one in viewership on Netflix right now. I, for one, am pulling hard for their family. I'll leave you with a tweet someone posted that made me laugh. 

 

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In case you had any doubt, we are most definitely following World Cup football in our house, and what hard-fought quarterfinal games there were this week! I'm rooting for Morocco to win it all, as they're the first African team ever to make it to the semi finals, and they beat powerhouse teams to get there. Next they play France, another team I like a lot, so I'm guaranteed one of my fave teams in the final. I'm rooting hard against Argentina on the other side, and hope Croatia sends them home and advances. While the man and I were home with Covid, World Cup games were all we watched most days, and yes, I certainly developed some opinions.

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The kids are coming over today to help us decorate out little table top tree and to drink mulled apple cider and decorate cookies and generally get in the holiday spirit. In other news, the hoped for project seems to be coming through. I won't say any more except that, I'm excited and nervous, and once again leaning hard on the idea that in a parallel universe this book is already written, and so I just have to be an open channel. As my mother would say, Courage, dear heart. Just breathe.



Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Back to work

My man returned to work at the museum today, as their policy is five days after testing positive for Covid, if you have no symptoms without medication, then you go back to work and wear a mask for five days. My daughter in law told me about her friend, the maid of honor at her wedding, who also came down with Covid over Thanksgiving, her second time. Her husband tested negative. He is a teacher, and his school told him that even though his wife was down with the virus, meaning he had most certainly been exposed, if he was negative then he needed to come to work. For myself, a week and two days after testing positive, I feel fine, though the joint aches are back—I realize it was the OTC meds that kept the pain more quiet than usual last week. But I'm used to this body now, and I keep on. 

I have mountains of laundry to do from Thanksgiving, sheets and comforters and pillowcases and towels, and lots of errands to run, and today is the day I mask up and get back to it. Second pass pages for the book I wrote this year also just came through, so I'll need to sit in front of the big window, looking out at the view as I deal with those. You think a book is done once you deliver a manuscript, but in fact, the production stages can feel endless. I know some writers merely skim the pages on this round, but I feel as if I need to still read every word. My OCD won't let me trust that every last typo or word echo has been caught, every awkward sentence construction fixed. Something always slips through, but I feel less badly about that if I at least tried. The cover design of the book, which is titled Belonging and will be published on March 14, also got sent to us yesterday. It's the third version of a cover, and I like this one better than the previous two, although as the co-writer I have no say. But my book subject, the author, likes this cover fine, too. I can't share it here, yet, not until it goes up on Amazon. But my name is on this one, which tells the story of a biracial daughter's search for the mother who abandoned her at birth. My subject is happy with how the book turned out. Look at that. We made magic one more time. 

I'm in a rather strange mental space at the moment. The world feels so very removed, perhaps because I've been indoors for a week, away from the hustle and bustle of the season. I feel adrift somehow, out of life's flow. The photos here of me with my children, taken on Thanksgiving, are really about reminding myself that I am deeply connected to some other humans in this world, who anchor me. They're both busy, busy, busy at work these days, and their loved ones, too. These young people work hard. I hope, whatever you're up to these days dear friends, you're getting a bit more rest than they are.




Saturday, December 3, 2022

Covid Thanksgiving


Where to begin? I suppose with Covid. It finally found us, walked right in through our front door and spent the night, several nights in fact, before we understood we'd all been exposed.

In a bold return to our pre-Covid custom, my cousin from Orlando, along with her husband and their two daughters (one of whom now lives in Brooklyn and used to live with us) all arrived to be with us for the Thanksgiving holiday. My cousin from Trinidad was also here, as were my niece who is at college in St. Paul, Minnesota, and her brother who just started college in Ithaca, New York. It was our nephew's first Thanksgiving with us, as he and his sister live in Jamaica. He was excited to be here, having heard all about the weekend long gathering for years. Thanksgiving day this year also happened to be his nineteenth birthday, giving us an extra reason to celebrate. Only his older sister, who lives in Dallas with her husband, was missing from the usual band of revelers, and thank God, because here's some exciting news, she's expecting, and definitely didn't need to be in a house where Covid would soon be circulating. 

All started out as festive as if the pandemic had never happened, with eleven people staying overnight so as to wake up together in our home on Thanksgiving morning. A handful more joined us in the afternoon for the feast itself. We hosted a smaller number of guests than in years past, fifteen as opposed to the usual twenty or twenty-five, and this was perhaps our only nod to the times. Wednesday night was an uproariously good time, with my daughter and her love—her fiance—making tequila and apple cider mules for everyone, and my young nephew enjoying finally being a part of the riotous labrish. Labrish is a Jamaican word that refers to particularly delicious communal storytelling, often verging on scandalous gossip, through not mean spirited, it's joyous and full of laughter and interweaving voices, everyone bonding happily.

But the next morning, one niece wasn't feeling so well, and stayed in bed as the cooking and annual dog show viewing and World Cup soccer watching happened out front. She had come to New York from Orlando a few days early to spend the week with her sister in Brooklyn before coming over to our house on Wednesday eve. They'd had a wonderfully social time with my Brooklyn niece's friends, including the group's usual drag bingo bar date on Monday nights. Turns out she and her sister both picked up Covid that night, though only the out of town sister was feeling the effects. She stayed somewhat distanced from most of our guests during Thanksgiving, perhaps she already suspected she might have caught the virus, though few if any of the rest of us gave it much thought. We all had a wonderful time together, the meal, cooked almost entirely by my man, was as delicious as ever, but I did notice later that my niece left the party early and climbed into bed.

That night, before falling asleep, the thought finally surfaced for me, and I said to my husband: "Lexi seems to battling a cold. Do you think it could be Covid?" "Absolutely," he said. "Okay then," I think I said, “here we go,” and then we both went to sleep, because that is the stage of equanimity we've reached in this years long Covid saga.

The next morning, Friday, my cousin woke us early, asking if we had any Covid home tests. By then everyone suspected what would soon prove to be true, both her daughters were positive. My cousin and her husband soon tested positive as well. My Brooklyn niece, though she had only a minor sniffle that she'd initially thought was a seasonal allergy, immediately packed up her stuff and went home so as not to expose us any more. We set up the back room and bathroom as a comfortable isolation suite for the sick, and my other cousin Nicky and I wore masks in and out of there to bring them food and medicine. They slept almost continuously for three days.

Everyone was fairly nonplussed, even my niece in college, and we all know she is a champion worrier when it comes to Covid. I was most concerned about her and her brother, because they had slept on couches and air mattresses in the living room with my niece who had now tested positive. It was still too early for the rest of us to test, as the advice is to wait three days from exposure, which had been on Thanksgiving Day. I called all our guests to let them know our lovely dinner may well have been a super spreader event, apologized profusely, and asked them to test themselves on Sunday, and again on Monday if Sunday's test came up negative. They all took the news in stride, because again, this is the world now, and these things happen.

Cutting to the chase: Everyone but the man and me tested negative, even my cousin from Trinidad, my daughter and her fiance, and both college kids, who were in the house with us for another couple of days after my nieces tested positive. My son had only been here for dinner on Thanksgiving, as he had to work, so he was only minimally exposed. When I called on Sunday to tell him his dad and I were Covid positive, he said, "Well it took long enough to find you." His wife had gone to her parents in New Jersey for Thanksgiving, so thankfully she escaped the drama. 

Everyone checked in every day to see how we were doing, and really we weren't doing badly at all. It was like a bad flu. I had keen joint aches the first two days, and occasional chills and a swoony head, then an awful sore throat the second night and into the third day, and that was the worst of it. After that, it was as if I was recovering from a regular cold, the kind that in pre-Covid days we used to drag ourselves into the office with, infecting everyone else. 

It happened to be a busy work week for me, as the current issue of the magazine was set to go to press, so I worked every day, dosed up on decongestants. My doctor prescribed Paxlovid, just so I'd have it in the house, but she advised that I not take it unless I took a turn for the worse, meaning high fevers and trouble breathing. That never happened so I didn't take it. Neither did my husband, who had congestion and a bad cough for the first three days, and sat up watching World Cup soccer the whole time. My cousins traveled back home to Orlando and Trinidad on Tuesday and Wednesday as planned, my Orlando cousins still testing positive, but properly masked up. And that is the true moral of the story—that there are most definitely people on planes with Covid, who simply need to get home, who are possibly still contagious (though for my Orlando family it had been the requisite five days), so wear your masks while traveling, people. 

Now it's just the man and me in gentle quarantine, reading and working and dozing and watching World Cup soccer and movies as we wait for our home tests come up negative. Wow. I sure used a lot of words to say, we got Covid, but we’re basically okay.  


Thursday, November 17, 2022

Limbo

I'm going through a period in which I just feel sort of dull, which I hate to say is how I generally feel when not stressed to the max. I'm content in general, though not with the physical state of my body (stiffness and aches everywhere), but work is in a very gentle phase right now, slipping into my queue at regular intervals, a story or two from the magazine to edit each day, first pass pages to give a final read, an hours long video call with the editor of the book I just wrote that's coming out next March, in which we organized the order of images for the 16-page photo insert, some fifty pictures in all, for which I will now have to write captions. None of this brings the crashing anxiety of a blank screen and a whole book to bring into being from scratch, and yet that is when I feel most fully engaged with the work I am privileged to do in this life, most inside my being, not aimless and dull. 


As I wait for the hoped-for next project to come online (have faith, my mother would say), I sit in front of the big window in my light filled living room, doing gentle work, thankful for my life, and the people in it, yet dreaming of being at that table on a verandah in the hills of my island home, or visiting that yellow house in whatever corner of the planet it exists, and generally being out in the world, the way my friend who just hiked to Machu Picchu in Peru is, instead of sitting inside my house, living inside my head, waiting for the next rush of contracted terror and adrenaline, and calling it purpose.

So the midterms, they gave me some hope. The 24/7 media had us believing that most of America is made up of would be MAGA insurrectionists when in fact most of America voted in repudiation of facism, and threw down the gauntlet for democracy. Some of the margins were razor thin, it's true, and that's still concerning, but I believe we dodged a bullet, installing governors and secretaries of state in most of the battleground states who will fight for the integrity of our elections, despite gerrymandered maps and continued efforts at voter suppression. I hope this means that fairness and decency will prevail in 2024, and in the meantime, Dems won the Senate, which means they will be able to appoint more judges who might actually care to uphold the rule of law, and that's a much-needed thing. 


I ran across a quote that stuck to me back when I was a teenager. "I live in a small house, but I look out on a very big world." It occurs to me now that there are worlds within, and worlds without, and at the moment, I am in limbo between them. But Thanksgiving is around the corner. The first of our houseguests, my cousin from Trinidad, arrived this week. She is as easy to have as a true sister.


Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Co-piloting

My son and daughter are continuing the constant round of weddings, with so many of their friends tying the knot, in fact, that last weekend they had to divide and conquer, with my son and his bride of six weeks attending one wedding in New Jersey, and my daughter and her fiance of one week representing the siblings at another wedding in lower Manhattan. My new daughter-in-law posted that picture of my son and her brother and sister-in-law at the NJ wedding, with my newlywed boy looking too cool for school. I just like the picture. 

It occurs to me that Millennials and Gen Zs are not at all jaded by the idea of marriage. So many of them are stepping forward to commit, at least in my children's anecdotal experience. I saw a stat the other day that said that the incidence of divorce in the U.S. had fallen from roughly 50 percent a decade ago to roughly 40 percent today. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that so many of the couples currently getting hitched are doing so after relationships that have already endured for five years or more, many of those years living together. This premarital roommate situation is especially true in cities like New York, where rents are astronomical, putting a shared one bedroom in closer financial reach than two separate apartments. While this observation, too, is anecdotal based on my kids friendship circles, it could be the newly betrothed understand more completely just what they're getting into. 

The conventional wisdom on living together before marriage was exactly the opposite when I was coming up. Back then, people were convinced it was a bad idea, but perhaps the world, expectations, ideas about partnering, have changed. Curiously, despite the falling divorce rate, uncoupling among my own generation of Boomers has recently spiked. The pandemic challenges apparently did us no favors, with Alabama and Wyoming leading the marriage dissolution rates for whatever reasons. But of marriages being newly embarked upon today, roughly 60 percent of them are likely to go the distance. I think maybe modern life with all its newfangled stressors is hard enough to navigate and maybe it feels just a little easier with a co-pilot.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Engaged!

There's a lot going on in this little corner of our world. Life is happening at such a clip in fact that I've felt too caught up in experiencing it to be able to report on the happenings. But here's the lead story. My daughter and her love became engaged last weekend, and it was an entirely wonderful day that ended with the newly engaged couple arriving at a restaurant where my girl thought they would be having an intimate celebratory dinner, only to find her parents, his mom and sister, her brother and his wife, her sister cousin and her husband who flew in from Dallas to surprise her, and two other cousins (one of hers and one of his) waiting to toast their engagement over a family meal. 

My girl, who had FaceTimed us right after the proposal, had no idea that we would be waiting for her, and she burst into tears when she saw us, sobbing in our arms. They were happy tears, she assured us. "This whole day has been so amazing," she said, "and I actually had the thought that the only thing that could make everything more perfect would be to see my family." Her love anticipated that, too.

Oh it had been a day, one surprise after another planned by her now-fiance, who hoped to build anticipation while including people in her life whom she dearly loves, starting with brunch with her five best friends from childhood, followed by, among other experiences, a manicure with three college pals and a shopping spree with two women with whom my girl feels the most supreme comfort. Assisted by a non-binary personal shopper who brought their own whimsy and joy, my girl and her two besties had a fantastic time trying on fantasy clothes while laughing and snapping Polaroids and sipping champagne. 

All the family members  were already at the restaurant when my girl, who was running late, texted me: "Had a styling session with Brooke and Jasmine! It was THE MOST fun ever. Walked out with a brand new outfit that I feel very special in. Final stop is a hotel in midtown. Here I go!"

She knew that her love would be waiting, though she had no idea he had booked a room with a terrace overlooking the city where he had set up tea lights as a backdrop for the private proposal. There was more, so much more, the things he told my daughter that were so beautiful, ending with how much he treasured "the simplicity" of their relationship, their "deep ease" with one another. And then he was on one knee asking her to marry him, to which she replied, “Yes! Fuck yes!” She recounted her response later at the dinner table, and everyone, even her soon-to-be mother law, a retired schoolteacher, laughed delightedly at her conviction.

And now we have another wedding on the horizon, and a very happy couple—who met during their college freshman orientation and began dating in sophomore year—still riding the high of being newly engaged. 

Here's another picture, we joke it's a prom pose. It shows my parents first three grands and their loves, in various stages of making a life together. I know that somewhere in the unseen, Las and Gloria are smiling down, because their highest wish for their children and grandchildren was always and only this—that our lives be filled to overflowing with love. 

Four days after that magical night, I scored free tickets for the revival of 1776: The Musical, and my daughter was my date. The show is about the founding fathers debating and finally signing the declaration of independence, except instead of the white men in our history books, the signers are portrayed by actors who identify as female, trans, and non binary, and represent every ethnicity and body type on our American shores. It was powerful to see these non-male and non-cisgender actors reclaiming a passage of history from which they and theirs had been excluded. The performances were breathtaking, every voice soared. 

Afterward, my girl and I went for our usual pre- or post-theater dinner at Seamore's, the seafood place she loves, where she told me a lovely thing. "Were you nervous not knowing what would be happening next?" I had asked her about the day of the proposal, because I know my girl has a good strong strain of the anxiety that often claims her mother in the face of the unknown. "Not one bit," she said. "I never knew who would be coming around the next corner, or what I would be doing next, but I was happy and excited, because I knew Noel had planned the whole thing, and he knows me, so I felt emotionally safe." 

It was, I tell you, a balm to this mother's heart. 

One more picture, this one of my girls. I just love their joy.


Friday, October 28, 2022

It's my love's birthday!

Here is one of my favorite recent pictures of my man, taken when he was holding his niece's newborn and feeling blindsided by baby fever. I swear he has it worse than me, this yen for grandchildren. I look forward to every new stage to come with this beautiful man I married. How lucky my children are to call him dad and how blessed we all are to be sharing this life with him.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Refresh chronicles (plus update)


In the ongoing effort to fix what is tired and broken in our home, I've been mostly happy with our new living room couches and redone kitchen, however I think I made a poor choice on the newly laid floor. Maybe I cheaped out. I definitely didn't research the vinyl plank options enough, and made a quick choice based on the look of the surface, rather than doing due diligence by learning the pros and cons of the different materials and formulations. Perhaps I should have gone with a thicker, more expensive product, and now I can see us having to replace the floors yet again in a few years. 

There was one spot where the planks were popping up a bit, three adjacent boards buckling upward at the edges right where I sit in my rolling chair to work at the dining table. The contractor brought his flooring guy to fix the section of flooring today, and the guy sort of implied that the product might be inferior, that those planks right there might have been warped out the box, and this sort of thing can happen to lesser products despite manufacturers claims. I had known I wasn't one hundred percent happy with my floor choice almost right away, when I realized I didn't want to bring it into the bedrooms, even though my plan is to eventually remove the worn carpets in there and put down hardwood or engineered wood or good quality vinyl plank floors. I was quite clear that the floor I had chosen for the living area and kitchen wasn't it, even if it did look a whole lot better than the scuffed and scratched and worn through maple veneer over which it was laid. Oh well. Today's fix is turning out to be a much bigger job than anticipated, and I suppose I will just have to see how the repaired section holds up over time. Live and learn as my husband likes to say. In the scheme of life's problems, this feels like I'm complaining about a very unimportant thing. 

You can see the new vinyl plank floor in the photo above. And here is what the kitchen floor looked like before. I'd forgotten how worn through it was, I'd convinced myself it had character, but now I very much like the airy expanse of the new floor.  I also like having a place to tuck the cutting boards and sheet pans that used to live in the corner, and having enough task lighting so as to no longer need that $10 Ikea lamp that listed to one side, and throwing out enough junk so that we can now put the Instapot and other stuff that used to live on the counter into cabinets.

Update: They finished the replacement of the wonky section of floor and it looks good! Let's hope that everything lasts just a bit better than I think it will, okay? It will help that I've now put down a low-pile rug under the dining table since I'm going to continue to work in front of the big window there, and will continue rolling my work chair over the just repaired floor. Might as well protect it. So what if the blue area rug clashes with the red curtains. I find I actually don't mind. Of course I am now exhausted. Indulging in catastrophic thinking about insignificant things takes a lot of adrenaline! 



Saturday, October 22, 2022

Allowing the light

I had a 10 AM workshop on Zoom this morning, a group thing with seven other women led by a therapist who quotes Eckhart Tolle. It’s slated to run for four weeks of Saturdays and this was week three. We’re supposed to be working on not letting the past steal our power in the present, but really it’s just a bunch of women in video boxes inviting each other to share in a judgment free zone. The women, to a one, are kind. 

After I got off the Zoom session, which I did sitting at the dining table, I looked around my house and noticed the sunlight dappling its corners and I thought about the woman in the group who said she had decided that week to try pouring love onto the body she had spent her life hating, the body that had carried her this far despite such ingratitude—to use a soft word for the abuse and self-loathing so many of us women regularly heap on ourselves. And so she was practicing loving herself, and it had felt to her like an epiphany, she said, like light breaking through. 

I heard her words in the context of having gazed at my own face in the mirror just an hour before, literally reviling my reflection, and I thought how sad that I only see myself as I imagine others must see me and what would it be like to just love myself regardless? I stood in my house with golden light pouring in at the windows and thought how fortunate I truly am in so many ways and why don’t I just try to appreciate myself more. Love myself exactly as I am in this moment, every inch and wobble and ache and groove. After all, this is the body in which I breathe and move. This is the face I will continue to wear and it will continue to grow more creased and folded with age, and this still robust if achy body will eventually grow frail and that’s just life and what’s the use of resisting the grand cycle of things or wishing it to be any different? How much more power might there be in embracing each moment that I am instead? 

I really want to say that I will try. To be more gentle with myself. To pour love and sunlight onto this imperfect but earnestly striving human that is me. I whisper that I will try. But then I hear Yoda saying, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” I guess that means I must do. 



Friday, October 14, 2022

City life

"Whatever you may think of me. However bleak be the outlook/give me a page/carve lines for my rage/fuck your sage/genuflecting in that cage you think I can't escape from/pass me two metaphors/an alliterative phrase/three verbs/a well-placed noun, or two, is all I need to craft a tale of epic proportions/throw me an arc/a plot/a slot to present it/to someone/anyone, then watch me write the story of a girl who simply refuses to die."

I ran across those words by Jamaican LGBTQ poet Staceyann Chin, and they climbed right inside me and made me stop and read them again and again. So I'm putting them here, so I can find them whenever I need to remember that I can carve lines for my rage and write my way out of any cage, too.

I was out of my house a lot this week, as I've joined a Tai Chi class that meets on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, as well as a choir in the neighborhood that meets from 1:30 to 3PM on Wednesdays. My neighbor and friend Lisa is in that choral group with me, and we look forward to singing our hearts out every week, and catching up on our lives while traveling to and from rehearsals together.


That's the church sanctuary where our choir meets. I was fascinated watching a plasterer working from the scaffolds erected in front of the lofted stained glass windows while we serenaded his labor. We sing in masks, and it seemed very strange at first trying to get to know a new group of people whose lower faces I couldn't see, but somehow, in this new reality we inhabit, we are all starting to play nice with one another, exchanging names and stories, and revealing faces after practice once we're back outside on the New York City streets, laughing and waving as we take our leave, singing scraps of songs. 


I also traveled to lower Manhattan on the hunt for bathroom tiling options with my friend Jane on Thursday morning. We went to the Tilebar NYC showroom, which has been called the Apple Store of tiling places. It is indeed very shiny and spacious inside and the tiles are beautifully displayed. Jane and I wondered if they'd be too snooty and highfalutin' for the likes of us, but the sales people were lovely, and I do think I've settled on the wall and floor tile options for the front bathroom in our apartment. Our bathrooms are both quite small, and I have fairly simple tastes, so I'm going with a 2 x 12" white subway tile that has a slight relief on the surface, just enough to catch the light in interesting ways but not so much as to be a distinct pattern, something like in the picture below. 

I had also flirted with a Mediterranean or Moroccan style patterned tile for the floor, but my man hated it, and since I love him, I am going with a 4" white hexagon tile that is very slightly marbled with gray, the softest watercolor brush strokes rather than hard distinct lines, again just enough to add interest, so I hope. In this endeavor, I am holding on to what my friend Lisa said to me when I was losing my mind over whether I was making the right design decisions during the kitchen reno. "It's just a kitchen," she said. So my mantra now is, "It's just a bathroom." One that will soon be sparkling clean and new, no matter the tiling options. I'm eventually going to refresh the second bathroom, too. In that one we will swap out the tub to create a walk in shower (my whole body arthritis isn't getting any better), and I plan to use the same long subway tiles on the walls, but for the floor I might go with white penny round tiles as they seem to give a very classic and airy feel in the pictures I've seen. But I'm taking it one day, one set of decisions, at a time. 

Work wise I am at loose ends, but for the magazine editing gig, for which stories come through intermittently. I turned down an interesting book project because I am waiting and having faith that the book I really want to do will come my way, though this may not happen until the New Year. Nothing is certain, but if that book for which I wrote the proposal is indeed mine to do, then I don't want to be tied up with something else and unable to accept the job. So I'm doing a lot of jigsaw puzzles these days, going to Tai Chi classes, singing in a choir, binge watching Bad Sisters and 1883, and hunting for the exact right tiles that will please both my husband and me. This, I think, is what some might call a gentle life, and I'm grateful to be living it. Still, I want to do something useful for more than my own little self. The truth? I don't really know who I am or what my purpose is when I'm not busy working. 


Monday, October 10, 2022

Ways of being in this life


My friend Leslie took that picture. I love the color pink, the hints of orange, and the way she saw in this simple and elegant table arrangement something akin to the flounce of a dancer's skirt. Her eye sees the world in all its glory. That's just who she is.

I am sitting a my dining table editing the cover story for the next issue of the magazine, and on the TV behind me are commentators wringing their hands in a kind of disbelief at the naked and unfiltered racism and cynicism of the Republican Party. It's not a Trump story anymore, they argue. Rather it's a story about one party turning its back on the precepts of democracy, of decency, and fanning the flames of racial animus to stir up the unthinking and manipulated masses so as to preserve (they hope, and they may be right) their own grip on power. Power for its own sake. These so called public servants have no interest in governance, no interest or frankly even respect for the people who they have turned into their willing pawns. It is sickening to me, and it's not even that no one is calling them out. But the cries that the nation's house is on fire are falling on deaf or apathetic ears. They don't understand that when the roof caves in, it will crush us all. We are watching the twilight of an idea, the proclamation that we are all created equal, and that we are part of a system of government by and for the people. What a joke. I felt ridiculous even writing it down. I fear we are trundling down the track, disaster looming, and no one who can actually alter the trajectory has any interest in flipping the crucial switch. I don't even know why I bother to listen to the news.

But there are people in the world like my friend Leslie, who can capture and share what is beautiful in our midst. I don't know if there are enough such souls to save us in the end. I suppose we will see.


Friday, October 7, 2022

A Friday ramble


So many things in the news catch my attention and then swirl on through before I have a chance to record them here. Life comes at you fast. Yesterday for example, President Joe Biden commuted the sentences of everyone who had been jailed for marijauna use, long overdue in my opinion, given how variable those sentences were depending on race and socio-economic standing, and the fact that cannabis is now legal in much of the country. I still won't smoke any myself, because back when I did, I loved it too much, and I'm addictive by nature, so I will remain abstinent. I will also pray that those who do choose to use have a lovely heart-opening experience, and aren't nudged over the edge into some mental health crisis, as two boys I know were, though who knows it if was the pot that did it; they might have been slipping into crisis anyway and were trying to self-medicate. 

My children now know my whole addiction and 12-step getting sober story. "Why didn't you ever tell us when we were growing up?" they wanted to know. 

"Because if I had told you I was an addict, while telling you not to use drugs, you would have said, well you turned out fine, so what's the harm?" 

"Or, it might have convinced us that you knew what you were talking about," my son countered.

"Plus we have that family propensity to become addicted to substances," I reminded him, which I guess was a sort of non-sequitur. 

Fortunately for my catastrophic thinking brain, my son doesn't do any substances since, as a firefighter, he is subject to random drug tests, and my daughter doesn't enjoy how pot makes her feel. Yes, they both admitted to me that they had dabbled back in high school, when I thought they were both virtuously resisting peer pressure. Silly me. The things children admit to their parents once everyone is grown will make you give thanks that their guardian angels saw fit to work lots of overtime. Our boy has more stories than our girl, as our daughter as a teen tended to blurt out everything, while her brother rolled his eyes and said, "Why on earth are you telling them that?"

Well, that was a stream of consciousness post. I certainly never intended to write here this morning about my actively addicted twenties, but there you go. 

My daughter just sent me that picture of sweet pup Munch on their early walk in Halloween-ready Brooklyn. My girl and her love were both in bed sick this week; probably their bodies were exhausted after their whirlwind of attending four weddings in different cities in the span of a single month. They didn't know if they’d caught covid again, but they were too sick to go out and get tests. Finally yesterday they bought some at-home kits, and both of them tested negative. So I suppose they had the flu. Both are almost back to fighting form and feeling better for their week of enforced rest.

In other news, we're about to embark on a bathroom refresh. To the great relief of my husband, I’ve moved on from the idea of ocean blue hex tile floors (as in the picture) with a wavy white wall tile. It's a tiny bathroom, so maybe that would be just too much decor for the space.  I suppose simple is better, or at least safer. I can always bring in the sea blues through towels and a well-chosen shower curtain. As I've often noted, you can take the girl out of the Caribbean but you can’t take the Caribbean out of the girl.


 


Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Happy birthday to our beloved boy


 
This is the soul who chose me as his mother 31 years ago, and chose my husband as his dad. How grateful we are that he is ours, how enriched our lives are by his presence in our midst. On this his first birthday as a married man, I want him to know how proud we are of the man he has become, of his goodness and integrity and humor and courage and pure sweet-bossy take charge lovingness. We love and cherish you, son, forever and ever. Amen.


 

Monday, October 3, 2022

May you always laugh

This is the photo my son posted on the socials with the news of his wedding. I love that he loves to see her joy, and wish them both a lifetime of many more deep soul-stirring laughs.


Sunday, October 2, 2022

Another wedding!



One of my daughter's best friends since they were pre-kindergartners got married this weekend. Many of the parents of that class became close friends too, so some of us were there, along with a large cohort group of the class that went from pre-K to eighth grade together, who then stayed close through high school and college, and now as adult working people. Those who now live in other parts of the country booked their flights so they could be in attendance as perhaps the purest soul in the entire group betrothed herself to her true love. The absolute most beautiful thing for me, after watching the lovely Alyssa exchange vows with the gallant Jasper, was watching our kids together, the way they still fall over one another so easily, even now as they fold their plus ones into the mix, the easy laughter, their decades of shared memories imparting an effortless joy.

The groom works at the same non profit where my girl worked before she changed jobs in May of this year, so her former boss was also there, a man her whole family got to know at the various fundraising events they used to stage when our daughter was part of the events team, before she moved over to business partnerships. When we attended the dinners, her boss used to seat our family beside their big donor VIPs, because they trusted us to be socially pleasant and conversant enough not to mess up those relationships. When her former boss saw me at the wedding he came over with arms spread wide for a hug. "This is Kai's mother," he said, introducing me to his partner. "She's royalty!" And then he wanted to know how our girl was liking her new job. "Is she ready to come back to us yet? We miss her!" Music to a mother's ears.


Speaking of mothers, Alyssa's mom and I have talked each other off various ledges since the beginning. We tended to be similarly anxious mothers, our imaginations hyperactive and unrestrained, and our girls have told us many times that they are so happy we had one another to vent our fears; it took some of the helicopter mom pressure off of them as they tested their wings. It was a gift having one with whom I could be completely transparent about my most catastrophic thoughts. We both felt completely understood as we then proceeded to reassure each other, itemizing all the reasons why our worst case scenarios were unlikely. And look how wonderfully our girls grew up!

It was a beautiful wedding, different in its particulars from my son's more rustic affair, but with the same love energy charging the atmosphere. It was held at the elegant Prospect Park Boathouse in Brooklyn, with the vows and the reception taking place on the outdoor terrace beside the lake, and dinner and dancing inside the grand manse, with its handsome beaux arts arches and sweeping staircases. 

Of course, we took pictures and made videos, all the mothers, as we have always done when our kids gather, and then we exchanged our treasures in a flurry of texts the next day. And me being me, I also screen shotted some of the images our young people shared on social media, to augment my record here. These children indulge us mothers sweetly, even now. One young man, who went on to the attend the same high school as my daughter and who could always be counted on to escort her right to her door after late night parties, even asked to take a picture with me to send to his mom, who wasn't present. What a charmed class our kids were a part of. Few classes ever remain quite as connected as this one. They, we, are a soul cluster indeed. 

 

 
 


 
Aren't they so beautiful.