Saturday, December 31, 2022

New Year's Eve with dear friends

Got sent this photo five months later, and went back and added it for the record. I adore these people. We have now been gathering together through various life stages and in various formations for twenty-five years.

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 he needs. 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, WNBA 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. 


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. 



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.


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.