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.