Sunday, April 28, 2024

A needed dose of joy

I'm just undone by how adorable they are!


Friday, April 26, 2024

History lesson

This was the scene on Columbia University’s campus at midnight two days ago. The numbers of protesters swelled as the university president threatened the students with police action. They had camped out to protest the mass killings in Gaza. Someone pointed out that these kids are the Sandy Hook generation, the same age as those first graders who died would have been, had they survived the 2012 massacre. The kids in college now were also teenagers when Parkland school shooting happened, and they marched for their lives in 2018. School has never been a safe space for them. They’ve been protesting  all their lives. That blew my mind.

I’m finding it hard to write here. It’s all too much. The Trump trials. Gaza encampments on college campuses. University presidents calling the cops on peacefully protesting students and professors standing in a circle around them to protect them. Arrests and suspensions and charges of trespassing for tuition paying college kids, including at Columbia, my alma mater,  just up the street from my home. People more exercised about student idealism and activism than about the bombs dropped on Palestinian homes, hospitals, children, so many children, about Israeli hostages taken by Hamas who may never be recovered, not that Netanyahu cares, about the dead World Central Kitchen volunteers whose three cars were surgically targeted, leaving neat ash blackened holes in the roofs of each vehicle, the precision missiles killing the aid workers as they tried to get food into Gaza. 

I’ll vote for Biden when the time comes because the alternative is still more unthinkable but I’m sick that he keeps sending arms to Netanyahu. I’m sick that abhorring genocide in Gaza is reflexively labeled as antisemitism, and that people listen to bad actors spewing hate and refuse to see what’s really happening on college campuses, Jewish and Muslim students in solidarity with one another, Black, Brown, White, gay, straight, students of all perspectives and persuasions, and faculty members too, joining forces, linking arms, agitating for our humanity, for peace. I do know this though:

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Out in the world

Baby Harper and her parents are in Argentina, touring wineries and having culinary experiences with her paternal grandparents. There she is with her mom in Buenos Aires, beside a statue of a firefighter saving a child.

She stole her daddy's whole face.

Little girl is living her best life.

And—she took her first steps this week!

Meanwhile back in New York City, my daugher and I went for a Saturday morning breakfast at Metro Diner with my cousin Nickty, who's here from Trinidad, and our niece Dani, daughter of Nicky's sister.

It's a tradition: On the first morning that Nicky arrives in New York City from wherever she's traveling from, we go out for diner pancakes. For Nicky, who spent every weekend with me in the city back when she was in college in Washington, D.C., this is a defining taste of New York.

It's been a minute since I've shared a taxicab selfie. This one, taken yesterday as I traveled to see a new doctor, offered kind light. My former PCP went off to join a concierge practice, a quality of life decsion, she said. I don't fault her, but now I'm at a loss, as I certainly can't pay twelve to fifteen thousand a year to join her new practice, the province of business executives and the casually wealthy. I did like the doctor I saw yesterday, a young woman with a gentle spirit, who was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. She's very proactive, jumped right into diagnostics, made referrals, and observed a condition in me that absolutely no one else had identified, which is likely the cause of all the body pain I have that is not really joint related, and therefore not quite arthritis. For so long I've wondered where I took a wrong turn onto the path where my body is just one big inflamed instrument. Turns out I didn't take a wrong turn. I was born with this, my mother and her sisters likely had it, too. Though it was never formally identified in them, the condition is probably why my mom, slender as she was her whole life, suffered with flares of body pain, as I do. There's no cure really, just treatment to manage the symptoms and arrest the progression. The doctor referred me to a specialist to investigate further. Now, I know.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Father and son

Today my son and some of his crew were assigned to cover a short handed fire station near his dad’s museum. He called his dad and invited him to stop by the fire house, where the other fire guys took the obligatory pictures of father and son in front of the fire truck. One of the chiefs told my husband he had done a good job, raised a fine son. My husband beamed as he recounted that. Later, our boy shared the photos in our family chat. “It was visit your son at work day today,” he wrote. Those are my men, both good ones, too. The fire chief spoke true. 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Some people can walk only part of the way with you

The breakup of a decades long friendship can shatter the heart as severely and painfully as breaking up with a lover on whom you projected your hopes and dreams. Some friendships, the most intimate and significant ones, are repositories of our hopes and dreams, too. These friends are people with whom we wore no social masks, we felt able to be our fullest and most authentic selves with them, and when that suddenly breaks down, for reasons that are devilishly difficult to grasp, the hurt and sense of betrayal can leave us reeling. Figuratively bleeding. My son went through the unraveling of such a friendship two years ago. There was some mental illness involved, and it was heartbreaking and apparently irrevocable. I don't think any of us have yet gotten over it. 

Now my daughter is reeling, too, because a woman she considered to be "her person," a primary relationship since childhood, has pulled away, apparently feeling that my daughter has not involved her sufficiently in wedding planning. Of course, that may not be the heart of what is happening at all. Who knows what deeper conscious and unconscious stories are at play here? I certainly don't. But on the surface of things, this friend plans lavish weddings for a living, and my daughter decided to give her a break from all that, to not lean on her in that way, which she felt would have been taking advantage of their friendship. There's probably a seed of something deeper in that my girl also felt that with her friend's expertise involved, she might lose sight of her own wishes and vision for her ceremony. 

And then there is another friend who my daughter grew close to during the two years she lived in Boston, and I'm surmising that her longtime friend might be feeling a bit displaced by that new friendship, even though my daughter loves this woman she came of age with as devotedly as ever. I can't really explain it all, not even to myself, because I can't for the life of me fathom how these two beautiful and once happily loving friends came to this. Through tears, my daughter told me yesterday, "I don't know if we can get back to what we were, but I want to know that I did everything in my power to try for that." Sadly, her friend has resorted to passive aggressive (my assessment) vagueness and social distance and as my girl put it, "She won't even get in the ring with me." 

I guess what this post is really about is the fact that my daughter's heart is absolutely breaking, and I don't know how to help her. And when your child's heart is breaking, your own heart feels like splintered shards of glass in your chest, and somehow, you have to keep on breathing through it, trusting that eventually, your child will pick her way through the minefield, regain a more certain footing, and even if the friendship she so cherished is never the same, even if it is lost completely, she will find herself again, and be okay. 

Monday, April 8, 2024

Eclipses and Earthquakes

We're having a near total eclipse of the sun today, which is supposed to peak at 3:25 PM. This on the heels of last Friday's earthquake at ten-twenty-five in the morning. At 4.8 on the Richter scale, the quake caused a couple of cracks to open up near the ceiling in my house. It felt like a subway train was rumbling by under the building, and my house guest and I, who were both working in the living room, looked at each other as if to say, are you feeling what I'm feeling? Soon everyone was texting everyone else, confirming our shared reality. And then, this being New York City, it was business as usual after that, even with the aftershock at six that evening, which I barely felt.

I've been busier than you'd imagine with all the housekeeping stages of getting the book ready for publication. The last two weeks have been absorbed by my editing gig for the magazine and responding to the copy editor's queries on the book, an endless process because, with great respect, she explained every single change she made in a margin note, which then required a response from me and/or my subject okaying her change, or asking that she stet (keep) what was originally written, or pointing out the alternate edit we decided to make to address the question raised. I've never before had a subject who was so with me in the trenches at every step.

It helps that we have a similar working styles, are similarly obsessive, so I understand what she's doing when she contemplates whether a subordinate part of a sentence should be set off with a comma or an em-dash, or whether a noun should take the article "the" or "a." She cares about these things as only one other writer I have ever worked with cared about them —Isabel Wilkerson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste, who is the subject of the amazing and profound Ava DuVernay film, Origin, currently in theaters and streaming.

I edited Isabel when I was a magazine editor; I loved working with her because not only was she a brilliant and nuanced observer of the human condition, but she also cared so much about every word and punctuation choice. Well, I've found another such soul. Occasionally, I don't agree with a change she wants to make, but most of those times, I just take the change, rather than debate it with her, because I know she has thought about it deeply, and that she's hearing the rhythm of each and every sentence in her head. Other times, we have lively conversations about why an edit maybe shouldn't be made, and I prevail in those engagements maybe half the time. It's her story. She gets the last word. I just feel gratified I got to take this journey with her.

I'm heading over to my friend's house now to watch the eclipse from her balcony. She has the requisite glasses, and an unobstructed view of the sky. Maybe I'll get a picture worth sharing. See you on the other side.


Wednesday, April 3, 2024

April showers

One of my daughter's friends, a young woman who is one of my heart daughters, is here with us for a couple of weeks as she's been having dizziness and nausea spells, and needs eyes on her just in case. She had been staying with her parents, but they are away for two weeks, so now she's with us while her doctors try to get to the root of her issues. The bathroom reno also starts this week. Tomorrow is demo day, so she will be treated to the sounds of tiles smashing and breaking all day. After that, the noise should be more tolerable. My cousin from Trinidad is also passing through New York City twice this month, on her way to and from a medical conference in Washington, D.C., so she will be with us on two weekends as well. When I scheduled the bathroom reno for April, it was because I thought it would be a time when nothing much was happening, the book almost put to bed, but it turns out to be a month in which we will have houseguests after all, and I'm just grateful they're the easygoing kind.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Easter this year

Here's an album of things that are good in my world. We went bowling on Saturday to mark our girls' birthday; there she is with her mama on one side and her cousin on the other. We had a fabulous family time.

There we are again, my niece about the bowl a strike, my daughter enjoying some wings, my son and husband deep in conversation, my son in law to be in the foreground, crushing every game. How I love all these people.

The last book I collaborated on, Belonging by Michelle Miller, is now out in paperback. My New York Times bestseller! Michelle is the one in pink at the center of the display, and she’s a co-host of CBS Mornings. Her story recounts her poignant search for the mother who walked away from her at birth. One of my former editors took this photo on her travels. I'm sharing it here because the books I write are my babies of another sort. I’ve heard books referred to as children of the mind.

My nephew Brett, who as a musician goes by Walking Eagle, competed on The Voice recently. During that experience, he spent a month before the show aired with scores of other singers who were selected to audition. He made us proud on the show, even though he didn't get very far. But in the process he became good friends with Huntley, who went on to win the whole dang thing! Well, Huntley tapped Brett to join his band, and now they are on a multi-city tour. My nephew is so talented, and such a decent soul, so passionate about music, and now his dreams are starting to take flight. I could not be happier for him. 

Last, and definitely not least, our youngest Harper participated in an Easter Hat parade at her day care in Dallas. Her fancy headwear was made for her by her paternal grandmother, who’s retired now but spent her career as a fashion designer. It's a beautiful Easter hat, and it took first place at the parade, even though Harper wasn't quite sure what the hoopla was about, and what was that thing people kept trying to balance on her head? But isn't she just the cutest, even with that serious side-eye?


The news is on in the background. Honestly, it's unbearable. I was going to get on here to write a screed about the threat that the GOP nominee, the orange man, represents to us all, and my rage at the photo he posted of Biden hog tied in the back of a pick-up truck. Anyone else in this nation would already have been arrested for inciting the kidnap and murder the president, because that was essentially what Trump was doing, but somehow, as he hawks his sixty dollar bibles, and doxes the daughter of the judge in his criminal hush money trial in New York, and proclaims himself the chosen one, likening himself to Jesus at his rallies, the law just wrings its hands and let's him continue to burn our nation down. But you know, I can't. I'm already tired, hollowed out by rage and bewilderment, and much as I hate to admit it, by cynicism too. He's going to skate, isn't he?