Thursday, May 30, 2024

Bed & Breakfast

The season of house guests is here again. Then again, is there ever an off season here at Arrindell Arms Bed & Breakfast, as my husband refers to our apartment? My cousin Andrew and his two daughters were with us for the week, the one on the left above recently graduated from medical school and doing her internship in OB/GYN in Jamaica, and the one on the right fresh from her graduation last weekend from Episcopal High School in Virginia, where she was a boarder. She heads to college in the fall. 

I made the three beauties pose for my camera before they went off into the city yesterday for all manner of exploration. They are a pleasure to host, all of them lively conversationalists who make themselves breakfast every morning from whatever offerings they find. My only task in welcoming them (other than cleaning the house and washing all the linens before they came on Monday) was to lay in a variety of grocery options, eggs, waffles, maple chicken sausages, strawberries, bananas, grapes, smoothie fixings, bagels and cream cheese, croissants and blueberry muffins—they do the rest. 

Then last night we had a festive gathering of the cousins. My kids and their loves, and another niece who now lives in Brooklyn, all hung out here till almost midnight, and as the non stop chatter swirled around me, I silently lamented that these lovely young people had been separated by an ocean as children. Now, hailing each other as adults, they were so simpatico, there was so much laughter and easy sharing, and I wished they all could have had the close cousin relationships I enjoyed when I was growing up, because we were all in the same place. But they're bonding now, and they will always know they have each other, should they ever need one another in some way. I love my family.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

One year old today! (More pictures)


 Happy birthday precious girl! 

You are so loved!



More pictures!

Saturday, May 25, 2024

The gaze of the world


My friend Rebecca The Poet posted that image on Instagram, and I thought dear god that child with her powerful sense of being has something to teach me.

It's the season of spinning over here, of me freaking out about things that in the scheme of things don't matter much, like what I will wear to my daughter's wedding, the mother of the bride who can only wear flat, comfortable shoes, nothing fashionable, and whose shape is such that nothing fits of the garments that appeal to me, and the things that do fit are unbearably dowdy, yet one has no choice but to wear a garment that fits I suppose. Maybe I'll wear something from my closet that is already broken in, that I've worn a million times before, that everyone has already seen me in, but a garment that allows me to forget about myself, to not keep tugging at it, adjusting it, overthinking how I appear to others in it, and besides, I am peripheral to the main event anyway, because at the end of it my daughter and her love will be married.

Sometimes I still actually envy my mother for her slender grace, the way she could don any dress she chose and look perfectly elegant. I can still hear her when I was an ungainly child, tugging at my dress, my socks slipping down into my patent leather shoes at the heel, I can still hear my mother telling me gently, "Darling, once you get dressed just forget about yourself," and I thought back then, easy for you to say, and I think it even now. But she meant well. She ached that I couldn't seem to get comfortable in my skin, I saw her noticing it, agonizing over it. She took me to dressmakers to have my clothes custom made, so we would no longer have to endure the sessions in clothing store fitting rooms, trying on garment after garment only to walk out empty handed once again. I love her for trying, though, and for loving me, even though I struggled to love the rotund little girl who stared back at me from the seamstress's mirror.

But what if, in my own head, I could see myself as physically fluent as that ballerina, as light as air, as unconcerned with the gaze of the world as the child in that picture. Now that would be a trick worth mastering.

Thank you dear friends for your thoughtful and supportive comments on my recent post about my husband's sparse communication around medical issues. I took the post down, because the health information is his to share, not mine, but I will hold your comments close, especially those that clued me in that our marital dynamic around health is more common than I might think, that men often protect their vulnerabilities in this vault-like way, and also, as one kind soul said in response to my not knowing whether to be angry or scared, "Be neither angry nor scared. Just listen."

I asked my daughter the other day, what am I afraid of at the core? Is it that disaster will strike and I won't be prepared—as if one can ever truly prepare for disaster. For now, life is rolling along, and I have the nerve, despite the larger world being on fire, and possible surgery in my husband's future, to be concerned with the gaze of other people.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Album cover

Nephew. Composer. Singer and songwriter. Guitar savant. Old soul. I recently wrote about him and linked one of his recent releases here. Fresh off touring with the blues-rock band Huntley, he has new music coming soon.

Monday, May 20, 2024

I just love the picture

My girl was in Boston this weekend with a dear friend. Looks like they had a good time. I swiped this from social media because I can't resist my daughter's joy. Deep ease friendships are a balm. 

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Sound of Music

Here’s a video recording someone just sent me of our choir singing “The Hills Are Alive” from a Sound of Music medley at our recent concert. I’m putting it here so I can find it again easily. See if you can spot me in the lower right hand corner as the camera pans by. I’m standing next to my friend Lisa. We’ve been singing in choirs together for going on ten years now. I love singing with her, and knowing that we’ll get to see each other at least on rehearsal day every week. We usually go out for soup afterward. This choir we joined post Covid is mostly made up of people who have quite fascinating former pursuits. I am one of the few non-retirees. I never tire of discovering who my singing mates were in their lives before, when few of us were at liberty to meet at 1:30 on a Wednesday afternoon because we were holed up in offices somewhere. People now have more freedom to design a hybrid work life, doing some days in the office and some from home. Normalizing remote work is a gift the pandemic gave us, but honestly, I watch my kids and they’re working just as hard, maybe harder, on the days they work from home. I work hard from home too, which is why I relish the break that a midweek choir rehearsal offers to a group of amateurs who want to make a joyful noise.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Tulips and two reflections

“We are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
― Carson McCullers

“His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly's wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless.”
― Ernest Hemingway


My niece Leah gave me those tulips for Mother's Day.  I love them, and her. The two quotes I stumbled across in my interweb travels this week. Why did they speak to me, you might ask. The first plumbs a kind of nostalgia for the places in the world I will now never visit, not in this life, because my body doesn't work as it optimally might—if one can be nostalgic for experiences one has never had. The second quote is the why of the first, a lament on the loss of effortless flight. It's not that I cannot still travel. I just need to figure out a different way to do it. Even with its pain flares, my body still carries me through each day, and I need to remember to be a bit more grateful for its tenacity, which is to say, mine.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Room reveal


The bathroom renovation was completed yesterday. I'm a bit shy to show you the reveal, maybe because it’s such a small space that I can’t get a good photo of the entirety of the room. Try to picture those ocean colored tiles in the foreground to be less elongated and more symmetrical. The rear wall in the photo also appears less narrow in real life, and there are some nice bright towels on the wall you can't see. But this is it, a clean new bathroom, one I might walk into somewhere in the Caribbean. I wonder if you can appreciate this without seeing the gloomy grayness of the space before. I'll spare you. 

Next up is our bedroom, where I envision a custom designed and built closet system helping us out with the room's current state of being overrun by too many things, too many of them broken or in need of being purged, and furniture that is way to big for the space. What on earth was I thinking when we moved in twenty-three years ago, and I ordered the furniture pieces to be delivered without taking a single measurement. This feels like the highest hill of all to climb in the slow reclamation of our hard-wearing apartment. We seem to be working at a pace of one project or so a year, which means we probably won't get geared up to undertake the master bedroom till the new year. I might hire a space designer to help us with this one as I feel totally out of my depth. All I know right now is, it will happen. The how isn't so clear yet.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Imposter syndrome, chemistry, and good vibes

I traveled downtown to meet up with my agent for drinks last evening, she of the sylph-like form and impossibly glamorous mien, around whom chunky mortals like me feel, well, let's just say less than socially cool. But I went. I didn't cancel, as I have done twice already this year. And today I am happy to have sucked it up and gone, especially since I am once again looking toward the next job, and my agent may yet be instrumental in said job somehow finding me. 

My daughter says I was "serving lewks" in this picture of me in my carnival jacket and the earrings my husband gave me for my birthday earlier this month. I love those earrings, and sporting them last evening, along with my very loud and colorful over garment, made me feel somehow armored, festive, more able to meet the world of publishing sophisticates and to muster the pretense of being of that company, and not a a visiting imposter, the way I deep down feel.

Today, unrelated to last night's meeting, I have a call about a new book possibility. This one comes to me through my editor on the last book, who said kind words about me to her colleague. The book this other editor wants to talk to me about is one I would love to write. We shall see how everything unfolds. I am trying to be of the mindset that if I pass the chemistry test with a subject at our first meeting, and I am chosen for the project, then it's a book I'm supposed to do, almost as if it's already happened in a parallel realm, which is to say it's ordained. I'm superstitious that way, or maybe it's a close as I get to religion. The truth is, when it comes to signing on for a book, I'm attracted to those people whose energy I can imagine inhabiting for a year, someone I can fall in love with, a mensch of a person, because the collaborative writing process is the most intimate undertaking I've ever experienced in this work I am fortunate to do. Anyway, please wish me luck and good vibes, because I do think it's time for me to start getting serious about how I'll make a living for another year.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Giving Birth


by Warsan Shire


Baptize me

     now that reconciliation is possible. 

If we're gonna heal, let it be glorious.

One thousand girls raise their arms.

Do you remember being born?

Are you thankful?

Are the hips that cracked

     the deep velvet of your mother

     and her mother

     and her mother?

There is a curse that will be broken.



Yesterday was Mother's Day, and I was okay. A year ago, I sat on a high open terrace with my friend Jane, just days before Mother's Day and we agreed to release all expectations of how that day should be. For me, Mother's Day had been silently fraught ever since my very first one, thirty two years ago now, when my husband, usually a man of romantic gestures, failed to observe the day as I had expected he would. He had grown up in an island where on Mother's Day people gave thanks for their mothers in church and didn't get into the Hallmark aspect of the day otherwise. Once he understood my disappointment, he rallied, but if I'm being honest, my disappointment on the only first Mother's Day I would ever have, gave this day a brooding quality I never quite outran, or rose above. 

Outwardly, I kept things light and bright. Even after my own mother died, and the day would pierce me with missing her. I cried softly on waking and then became breezy once I stepped out of bed. Then, last year, Jane and I sat on her terrace with the springtime sun falling around our shoulders, and we dissected all the things women feel but do not say about mothering, and how it all crystallizes on Mother's Day, settling into a tender ache about which we do not speak. And then we just decided that henceforth, Mother's Day would be just another Sunday, merely a Hallmark confection, and we would let go of all expectations of the day, releasing the people unwittingly chained by those expectations, because how could they know about things we never said?

There is true power in two women sipping seltzer under a sun colored sky and just deciding. I know because last year and this one, I felt no angst as the day approached. I happily welcomed my children last year, and this year, when I knew my son would have to work and my daughter would be out of town to attend a friend's wedding, I felt no twinge, because after all, it was just another Sunday. But then my nieces texted me, the two who lived with us for a spell after college before getting launched, the ones we playfully call "the roomies." They wanted to know what I was doing for Mother's Day because they wanted to come over and spend it with me. 

Maybe they were missing their own mothers, but they did come over in the early afternoon, and they stayed till well into the night. We set out a brunch feast of quiche and chicken maple sausages, grapes and strawberries, blueberry muffins and croissants, waffles and jam, and avocado slices, and we made mimosas with the Prosecco and orange juice my husband brought home. We noshed and watched movies, a cheesy rom com (Mother of the Bride) and a diverting comedy caper (Queenpins) and then sat around the kitchen counter and just chatted, and later we put a few pieces into the puzzle on my dining table, and it was lovely—all the more so because I had no expectations whatsoever about what or how the day should be.

I read once that disappointment is expectation unmet, and that if we release our expectations we will avoid disappointment and could it really be that simple?



The poem is by the Somali British poet Warsan Shire from her chapbook Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth. It spoke to me on Mother's Day, but then all Warsan Shire's poetry speaks to me. The photo of her is by Amaal Said.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Gloria and Grace winked at us

We had a great time on Saturday, everything casual and relaxed, just hanging out together from one in the afternoon till almost midnight. I didn't take many pictures, which I think means I was more fully in the moment, but I did take that one of my daughter and me before she left, and I got a couple of pics of my kids and their sweethearts, too. I should have photographed the cake that both my kids made for me, using their Grandma Gloria's recipe. It was beautiful to behold—took me all the way back to my childhood, when there was always a pineapple upside down cake under the cake glass, ready to serve to whoever stopped by. In that picture of me with my daughter I see my mom's face in mine, and my Aunt Grace's likeness is there, too, and how lovely to see both their faces again. Aunt Grace was always the first one to call me on my birthday, even before my mom. I think she and my mom were winking at me in that photo to wish me a good birthday.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Birthday girl in a wildly spinning world

Even though I am back in the tunnel with work, juggling both the book and the next issue of the magazine, I should mark this day. The kids are coming over tomorrow to celebrate my birthday with me. And by kids I mean my two grown ones, their loves, the nieces, and Gabby, who lived with us for the month of April as she did a round of doctors appointments, trying to figure out why her body went haywire on her on the very day in February that she turned thirty.

She and my daughter and a few others of her friends were supposed to fly to Mexico for a milestone birthday getaway. Gabby is famously a world traveler; my daughter went to China and Thailand with her a couple years ago, but this time, they had to cancel. Gabby had been staying with her parents ever since, and came to us in April as her parents had to travel, and none of us felt comfortable with Gabby being on her own. Her symptoms have been random, mysterious, and scary, yet she's maintained such a robust spirit. She is a therapist, and teleworked from our home most afternoons into the late evening, since most people do therapy at the end of the workday. But last week her doctor advised her to take some disability leave, as sitting up in a chair for hours on end was aggravating her back pain. She's on the mend, I hope, thanks to a couple of iron infusions she had. I love this girl. She's been in our lives a long time. She and my daughter went to the same lower and middle school, and she also lived with us for two summers, before eighth and ninth grades, when she and my daughter attended the same scholar program.

This time around, she and I had such a great time binge watching TV shows that were absorbingly good (Apples Never Fall, Hacks) and deliciously bad (The Traitors, both the American and the British versions). Now that her parents are back from their travels, she is back with them in the Bronx. I do miss her company. While she was here, I worked at the dining table while she watched seasons of Ru Paul's Drag Race in the background, and I could concentrate fully while still feeling a part of the human world. She felt like a daughter, really, her energy generous and warm. She can stay here anytime. 

I am very much looking forward to seeing my son tomorrow. He arrived home from New Mexico tonight, after spending the week at bomb school with some of his fellow firefighters—yes, you read that right, bomb school. He called me for my birthday from the airport earlier, and assured me that the department does not have a bomb squad, and does not intend to send them to go and defuse bombs after a week of study. "It takes years of intensive training to be able to do that," he said, "but they want us to be able to recognize situations in which bombs might be at play and have some sense of how best to protect people." His wife, my daughter, and I all exhaled. 

My husband is making many flavors of scones tomorrow and my daughter is making me a pineapple upside down cake using my mother's recipe, and we are going to have a Survivor watch party in anticipation of the May 22 finale. We'll nosh and sip mimosas and just basically have a laid back family day. Then on Sunday, it's back to work, as the first pass pages of the book I've been working on all year are due back to the publisher on Monday.

There was much else I wanted to write about this week, but I didn't really have time. But why did a thousand police officers storm Columbia's campus on Tuesday night after students occupied one of the administrative buildings. Isn’t taking over university buildings what student protesters have always done? Wasn't this how Columbia students helped compel the end of the Vietnam War in the late sixties? When I was a student there in the seventies and eighties, we marched to end apartheid in South Africa. Now, on a growing number of university campuses across the country they’re setting up encampments and occupying buildings to end the war in Gaza. 

This was the scene outside Columbia three nights ago just a few blocks from my house. I was scared for the students, because there's no telling what happens when so many cops get involved. Students were roughed up, some were concussed, and hundreds were arrested. And one officer's gun accidentally discharged in their midst but no one was hit. I'm thankful it wasn't worse than that, but Columbia's president made a terrible and unwarranted call in bringing in police. The protesters weren’t violent, so why escalate? Don’t be misled by outside agitators saying and doing God-awful things to smear this peace movement. I’m choosing to keep my eyes on the courage and idealism of the students, who still manage to believe we have the power to heal this hurting world.

Oh, and this also happened, my choir had our spring concert and we sounded great! Hard to avoid making a joyful noise with sixty-five voices exhuberantly raised in song! Our closing number, a Sound of Music medley, was the hit of the show.

Look at that—I wrote a whole meandering post. I miss you, friends. I'll be back around soon.