Thursday, March 28, 2024

Our heart

 Today is her birthday. I'm so grateful to be her mama.

I love you my darling girl. So do we all.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

This is the year

Today is my daughter's last day of her twenties, tomorrow is her birthday, and in July she and her love are getting married. Here they are looking like too-cool-for-school Brooklyn people, brownstone steps, wine, sunglasses and all. My niece Dani took this photo of them soon after they got engaged. They're looking in different directions, yet their body language is connected and comfortable, and they look happy. They're deep in the throes of wedding planning now, and they seem to be managing it harmoniously. It's something I've always noticed about them, they work well together when it comes to tasks, they divide and conquer, neither one a shirker, both of them backing each other up. They've been together ten years already, ever since their sophomore of year of college. They both got promoted at their jobs recently, and this is the year they're doing the thing, saying the vows, making it all official. My girl wasn't quite ready before, but now she is, and may these two lovely and loving people be very happy together. He's taking her out for her birthday tomorrow evening, and then on Saturday, her love, her cousins, and a friend will join her dad and me in celebrating her when we all get together to go bowling. This is what she asked for, a bowling party. It brings back fond childhood memories, she said. We'll have birthday cake and bowling alley food and it will be big fun. My baby is a woman onto herself, y'all. What a wondrous being she has become. May she and her beloved walk in light and lovingness always, forever and ever, amen. 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Tonglen—"I breathe out love"

After my conversation with my friend yesterday, I looked up the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Tonglen, and here is what I found:

Tonglen practice, also known as “taking and sending,” reverses our usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In tonglen practice, we visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath. In the process, we become liberated from age-old patterns and begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others ...

Usually, we look away when we see someone suffering. Their pain brings up our fear or anger; it brings up our resistance and confusion. So we can also do tonglen for all the people just like ourselves—all those who wish to be compassionate but instead are afraid, who wish to be brave but instead are cowardly. Rather than beating ourselves up, we can use our personal stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world. Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us. Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.

When I feel helpless at the chaos and pain of our world, I can pause and breathe in suffering and, with intention, breathe out love. This is something I can do.

There's more here.

The photograph is by Xan Padron.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Twas a good week (plus update)

By all accounts they had a fabulous time on my girl's bachelorette weekend in Puerto Rico. My nieces told me this group of six was a perfect easygoing meld of good vibes, and my daughter confirmed that with a Friday cocktail class, a Saturday boat ride, pool afternoons and dancing nights, everything couldn't have gone better. Then on Monday, I met my daughter and two nieces (the ones on the right, above) in Dallas and we spent the week thoroughly entertained by little Harper, below with her Titi Kai.

And now I'm back in New York, wrestling with tile choices for the upcoming bathroom redo. I want blue hex floor tiles the color of the ocean I grew up with. White for the wall tiles and a light oak sink vanity, and 2"white and gray hex tiles for the walk in shower floor, accessorized by a cute free standing shower bench in teak. I'm also thinking brushed nickel fixtures instead of shiny chrome. I considered gold, but I'm a seventies child, and back then, gold fixtures looked dated and gaudy, so even though they're cutting edge now, I can't quite go there. I'm still uncertain about all my other choices though. My desire for color collides with my desire for classic neutrality. I’m trying to remember it’s not that deep.  

Update on Sunday, March 17: I spoke with a dear friend on the other coast this morning and she told me something I never considered. I lamented that I was so stressed over renovating a bathroom and how ridiculous that was given that children are dying in Gaza. She said that my stress wasn’t about the bathroom; it was merely a convenient place to put my angst about the state of the world. We can’t keep it all inside us so we find ways to spend our existential despair, bit by bit, on whatever and whomever is before us, and in this way, we survive. She counseled me breathe while whispering a Tonglen mantra—“I breathe in suffering”—inhale—“I breathe out love"—exhale—and to honor my angst regardless of where and how it shows up, to let it flow through with judging it. I think she has no idea how much her words helped. I am thankful for wise friends. 

Thursday, March 7, 2024

News from my small corner

This gorgeous crew, plus one more friend who is joining them from Boston, is touching down in Puerto Rico as I write, all of them set to celebrate my girl on her bachelorette weekend fling. I asked them to send me pictures so I can live vicariously, but I'm not holding my breath. Still, I will enjoy thinking of them together, my daughter and her three cousins, her sister-in-law, and the friend from Boston of whom she once said to me, "The friendships you make as an adult, when you're both fully who you are and choosing each other, are rock solid." There are other celebrations planned along the way to the happy couple's nuptials in July, including a gathering with her childhood friend group known as The Six, and a bridal shower thrown by me, to which all comers will be invited. I'm not a good event planner, that is my daughter's forte, so I have a bit of agita about planning the shower. But it's still a couple of months away, and so I don't need to enter full blown anxiety over the matter quite yet. Also, her wedding dress arrived at the shop this month. This thing is happening!

The book I've been working on went up on Amazon last Saturday, and technically I'm now allowed to share my role in its writing, but I won't just yet. I still feel a bit shy. I'll just say the pub date has been set for September 3, so I'll definitely post about the book then, if not before. Now that we're coming to the end of the publishing process, I have to say, this project felt charmed from the start, as if all the souls who participated in the book's making had got together before we ever incarnated into this life and said, let's all find each other and do this cool thing when we get to planet earth. 

My son, who drove his wife, his sister, and two cousins to the airport this morning, is going with me to the tile store tomorrow to choose tiles for the back bathroom redo. Now that the book is done, I'm ready to embark on that upheaval, and as usual, I don't trust my choices, but it helps to remember I don't have to achieve a House & Garden bathroom, just one that is clean and neat with a nice walk in shower, and tiles that are classic and timeless. The home improvement project continues. The good news is I still like my kitchen reno two years later, and the front bathroom is okay, too, though those white hex floor tiles show every speck of dust, something to keep in mind as I consider floor options this time around.

My agent asked if she should start putting my name back out there. I told her not yet, which in this freelance life feels risky. No idea yet what the next job will be but I think I want a little down time, with just the magazine editing for a while. Here is the puzzle on my dining table.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Looking forward and back

I'm off to Dallas in a week to see this darling little girl and her parents. She's nine months old already! Her mama texted me this morning and said, "Want to come to a Harper party when we're back from PR?" to which I responded yes with several exclamation points. My daughter and three of her cousins and her sister in law are all headed to PR next week for her bachelorette getaway on a beach, in a place with a pool and karaoke, and two of their number, my daughter and my niece Leah, will be traveling back to Dallas with Harper's mama afterward to spend a few days with that precious little one. Her dad, who works from home, will be traveling, so it will be good company and help for Harper's mama, who will probably need to be back at work in her dental practice. Harper will be in good and loving hands with her aunties and me. Plus, I'll get to hear all about the bach party on the beach while it's still fresh for the revelers. My girl has come up with a reality TV theme for the trip, including a Survivor challenge day, as all the young women on the trip are big Survivor fans (as I am). So! Dallas to see magical little Harper! I'm excited!


Last night, as part of our church's 200th anniversary celebration, I attended the showing of a film, The Philadelphia Eleven, about the first eleven women to be ordained as Episcopal priests, against the wishes of the male bishops of the church, the majority of whom had voted down the idea of women in the pulpit at their 1973 convention. A year later, three bishops went against the church brethren and ordained eleven women deacons as priests anyway, holding the service at a Black church in Philadelphia. The Black minister at the Church of the Advocate queried his congregation as to whether they would support the act of ecclesiastical disobedience and they overwhelmingly were in favor of ordaining the women. Black people understood the value of civil disobedience in moving society forward.

This was in 1974, fifty years ago now, yet it seems so recent. I have vivid memories of my life in that decade yet I have no real time recollection of the fight to recognize women priests in the Episcopal Church. In fact, it never occurred to me back then that women could not be priests, at least in the church denomination in which I was raised. How oblivious I was. The women who were ordained were threatened, harassed, and vilified; the men, supposedly of God, who opposed them said the most hateful, misogynistic things in their desperate quest to uphold patriarchal power. The film was affecting, such that if I had seen it in my youth, I might well had climbed aboard that train, or at least covered the story when I became a journalist. Male priests who invited the women to conduct services from their houses of worship were actually put on trial by the conclave of Episcopal bishops and admonished, and even drummed out of the ministry. 

Here's the trailer for the film, and the first eleven women.

It wasn't until 1977 that the Rev. Pauli Murray (right) became the first Black person perceived as a woman (she was nonbinary) to be ordained to the Episcopal ministry, which made it somehow more meaningful that the first eleven woman, all of them White, had been ordained in a Black church. One of those eleven women, Merrill Bittner (third from right in the second row of photos above), moved me unaccountably. She had been a shy, reclusive girl who somehow fell in love with the Episcopal church and dreamed of the priesthood. As a young woman, despite her core nature, she stepped into that bright, hostile spotlight for a cause she believed in. She later left the ministry, disillusioned by the men as much as by the need to be constantly on stage. As something of an introvert myself, one who dislikes being on stage, I felt such admiration for the fact that she understood the historical moment and didn't shrink from meeting it. 

The little church in Harlem of which I am a member sponsored two of those eleven women deacons fifty years ago, and was at the forefront of the fight to have their ministry legitimized. I may not be in the pews on Sunday very much, but I do love that little church where my husband is a pillar of the community. The ministry is his path not taken, though he is no proselytizer. Rather he is a man of deeds. As head of the 200th anniversary committee, he hired a catering company run by ex-offenders to feed the audience at last night's showing. The food was good, too, and beautifully presented. 


And now I am off to binge watch Slow Horses, which a few friends have recommended to me. I hope I like it as I have absolutely nothing else planned for this Sunday. I may take a walk around the gardens later, sit in the sun, and maybe read a bit more of the brilliant, searing, and often hilarious Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America by Michael Harriot. I'm otherwise unfettered, and trying to lean in to the possibilities of that. What movies or series have you streamed lately that you might recommend?