doily

A Piece of Me

I love to run to the Britney Spears song “Piece of Me.” But I haven’t been running lately.

Like Britney, everyone wants a piece of me — a piece of ass or a pound of flesh. No one seems to add to me. No one but chocolate and wine and cappuccino. They give without asking and I love them for it.

My kids want the $20s in my wallet. I’m the bank. My husband wants me to replace the ink cartridge in his printer — because now that H. has gone to college, I’m Tech Support. Yes and when H. comes home, he wants clean laundry; I’m the laundress. He also wants a dinner bigger than Trump’s ego. As for work — my writing job wants my stories written last week and at my teaching job, my students want to be entertained and given straight As.

Don’t they all know I could be fricken’ Hemingway if only I had the time?

Well, let them extract their pound of flesh, I could use to lose a few pounds. But take from my hips, not my brains or heart. Not my wallet. Go ahead, take. I still have a lot to give. I am not a placemat. Do I mean doormat? In any case, I am not a mat that you put dirty dishes or dirty boots on.

I am a doily — a small, pretty, lace thing. Delicate and grandmotherly. I survive this period of my life because someday, I’ll be a grandmother. By then, maybe my kids will no longer pick my wallet or expect a meal or clean laundry. They will see in me the things I am really good for. And do really well. Play. Tell stories. Make jokes. Sing silly songs. Write poetry. Walk (not run) in the park. Sit on a park bench.

I do look forward to growing old and returning to my childhood. A second childhood when no one extracts a pound of flesh.

2015 in Review

I have not written in a while. I have been very down about national and international events. Honestly, I came unhinged with the lack of civility in our nation’s political conversations.

And yes, I’ve been occupied with my own personal business — producing A Christmas Carol to raise money for refugees, finishing my first trimester teaching, churning out articles for response magazine.

But I want to look at 2015 first nationally. And then, personally.

One sadness is the way politicians live in the pocket of gun lobbyists. I thought our representatives were supposed to represent We, the People. Not the Moneyed Interests.

Don’t take  my word for it. guns kill people every 16 minutes. Read Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times (August 27)

■ More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides every six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

The Paris shooting and the killing of civilians sickened me. We are to live the Golden Rule, regardless of religion. I will never forget the message from one of the three who died in the Boston marathon bombing in 2013. The message was pretty straight forward.

peace

The racism in society — the killing of innocent black people, children, women is ridiculous. I was especially upset by the killing of Sandy Bland, who seemed to me, someone whom I would have been friends with. She should not have died. Nor a child with a toy gun. WTF is the world coming to? Thank God for advocacy like Black Lives Matter.

If I were president, I would make every police force in the country train every one of its officers in diversity. When I was on jury duty last year — in the voit dire — the two majority opinions from the hundreds of ordinary New Yorkers — who were being grilled to become jurors – “I hate guns. I distrust cops.” It is more than a PR problem. Police departments are not seen as protectors of the people, they are seen as the enemy.

It may be that we are not attracting our best and brightest to the police force or to our political arena. Many of our candidates are not that bright. But Hillary is and so is Bernie. I support Hillary because she has experience in the Senate and as Secretary of State. Hil (and yes, Bernie, too) speaks civilly of and to others.

I met Clinton in ’95 at the Women’s Conference in China, she impressed me then — speaking on women and children’s rights. And she impresses me still.

I would not tolerate the meanness, closed-mindedness and xenophobia of our Republican candidates’ words in my classroom or on the playground. I certainly do not want it from my country’s chief executive.

When I was in Dublin this summer, a chatty Irish gent told me he used to dream about visiting the U.S. but not any more. He said, “Too many guns in the U.S.” We are on the verge of losing our international street cred.

I love when we tear down walls, not build bigger ones. Look at Germany. I love Merkel. Those Germans are amazing in their welcome and hospitality of refugees. Taking in a million. And our vast country, our America the Beautiful? We cannot even take in ten thousand? Please.

On a personal level, this year I have tried to engage in small acts of kindness. And make a positive difference right where I am.

I am proud Chris and I raised $850 for refugees through Rutgers Church and Church World Service at our staged reading of A Christmas Carol with Chris as Scrooge.

Professionally, I accomplished a lot. I am now a high school English teacher. And also managing editor of response magazine. I am blessed to end this year with two part-time jobs I love. I worked hard and put in my time, but career-wise, I was also lucky and at the right place at the right time in 2015.

Another personal achievement – I blogged every single day of October on mindfulness.

I got my first child off to college which has been bittersweet. Overall, I’m proud. Some days, I’m lonely. The family dyanmics shift.

This was a good year for my family and travel. I enjoyed my writing workshop in Dublin. My daughter Char traveled to Costa Rica and Bermuda. Catherine went kayaking in Alaska. Hayden went to Patagonia, Chile. Chris went fishing in Canada.

About Chris

This is often an interesting topic for people. But I am reluctant to share. As if it is not my story to tell. Let me say this.

Chris’s health is declining. Daily tasks, like shaving, are becoming more difficult for him. This is the nature of a chronic disease like Parkinson’s – it is not his fault or our family member’s failing. It is not that he is not loved enough or does not love enough. It is the way this disease unfolds – no one stays the same.

Yes, we all change, slow, grow, decline. We are not in stasis. Unless we die. Then we are done. And we are all dying but we are not all done. And though Chris is having more difficulty in tasks like moving from sitting to standing, he still has a great fighter’s spirit and a raging intellect. He still has much love to give and receive. He is not done. But we are getting to a point in our family where we need more help. (I have to finish this post so I can get to physical therapy for a bad back.)

Asking for help is anathema to me. I started counseling a couple of months ago to work on this.

I started a Caring Bridge blog for Chris (Although neither Chris nor I have updated it.) as a place to update people about Chris’s health in a smaller more private setting than this blog or on Facebook. (If you want me to include you on that, you can send me your email address.)

Things I’m Going to Do in November

I’m happy that I wrote and posted every single day of October. I was part of a challenge to write every day. My topic was mindfulness.

Now that October’s over, I plan to:

  • rest
  • write more in-depth essays
  • query some magazines and newspapers
  • tidy my beautiful, rambling NYC apartment
  • connect with and encourage other bloggers and writers
  • work my a$$ off at my awesome jobs
  • go for my annual physicals
  • get a bit more creative with my writing and social media
  • write some poetry
  • revisit my novel
  • make mixed media art
  • plan Thanksgiving, Christmas, (and still dreaming of Cuba)
  • get to yoga or Pilates class

The month-long writing challenge taught me:

  • I have something to say about mindfulness
  • Because I committed to this topic, I sought opportunities to reflect on mindfulness
  • Sitting still for 10 minutes is really all there is to mindfulness
  • I did not have to write perfectly. I could repurpose old photos and a couple of old topics
  • I wanted to quit but I didn’t
  • I did the best I could
  • Consistency is more important than perfection
  • I did find a few typos as I looked back, but basically I write well and fast
  • I can do my own thing and still take good care of my family
  • I don’t want to call myself an expert, but, well, a-hem I know a few things (humble brag)

This fall has been different for my fam — with my son off to college and my husband Chris directing a play in Florida; the girls and I have enjoyed our estrogen-fest at home.

I still do that mom-thing of trying to be there for everyone and everything and then, suddenly, ‘Hey, what about me!!! Whaaa!!’ And I can get sorry for myself.  But despite the inevitable stress and conflict, our home dynamics are pretty calm. It could be because of this writing and mindfulness challenge. Or it could be we’re all getting older.

Whatever the reason, it’s all good. Happy Halloween!

Writing the Details

Set your scene with three or four details. Here are ten ideas of what Pat Carr meant by sensory details and then an example from my story set on a playground.

  1. Odor – wet sand
  2. A time of day or season – end of summer
  3. Temperature – warm and humid
  4. Sound – children laughing
  5. Important object – small charm bracelet
  6. Dominant color – beige
  7. Dominant shape — circles
  8. Something that can be touched – curly hair
  9. Taste – rain in the air
  10. Certain slant of light – late afternoon sun

I love numbering 10 things. Pat was inspired by Emily Dickinson, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant.”

Light is so important.

This is a repost from when I attended Southern writer Pat Carr’s Memoir and Fiction Writing class at the International Women’s Writing Guild. I wrote this from a sun-soaked bench, cloistered in a square at Yale University.

Pat Carr’s writing exercises, like this one, can be found in her book Writing Fiction with Pat Carr. Her new memoir is One Page at a Time: On a Writing Life.
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I still love bookstores. I visited the nearby Barnes and Noble while the girls were in a singing lesson.

I love the UN

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At the mic is Betty Reardon, called a midwife to UN Resolution 1325, the reason for this three-day celebration and call to action. My friend Nicole Goodwin is on the far right.

Reporting on the peacemakers at the United Nations civil society today, I noticed that women leaders come in many ages.

And it’s not just the many-aged women who are amazing, so are the men. Last night, Dean Peacock asked the people gathered to challenge harmful stereotypes of masculinity.
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Also last night, I heard Iraq Veteran Against War Matt Howard, who said that “Iraq and Afghanistan are not the root causes of our problems. Militarism is.” There is something wonderful about men who work for peace and who support women who work for peace. In a world that is corporate, consumer-driven, militaristic, I love the peacemakers.

Today, my friend Nicole Goodwin, an Iraq veteran and fellow writer, spoke of the trauma of witnessing torture. Her essay in the New York Times, Talking With My Daughter About My Service in Iraq, shows me how complicated we all are. How we want to protect our children. Stay sane ourselves.

I learned so much today.

I love the United Nations.
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I love the idea of it. And I wish more people loved it and its capacity for creating a peaceful world.

Silence

So it is an art piece at Brookfield Place near the World Financial Center. Is there a message? Does art need a message? Ten people dressed in white sit calmly. Or walk in silence. Take a break. Write in their journals.

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Maybe the performance art piece is meant to prompt reflection.

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Because you walk by the reflecting pool to get there, it is hard not to be reflective.
What is silence? Why do we write?
Life tells us to. We do what is required.

imageWe are a part of a performance art piece. We sit and work. People walk by. Some contemplate silence.

This art piece 9-5 was created by Ernesto Pujol. 

Reblog from Response

So honored to work with United Methodist Women. Here is this month’s column in response.

From the Shelter Island Retreat.
From the Shelter Island Retreat.

I cried in church last week. The song “Here I Am, Lord” moved me. I was coming to terms with worries and sorrows—my children growing up, and my husband’s Parkinson’s Disease.

I felt embarrassed crying in public, worried that my fellow worshipers would think I was weak or in need of help. I know intellectually that church is a safe place for tears—after all, we cry for joy at weddings or with grief at funerals. But I could not shake the feeling that I should not be crying on an ordinary Sunday. At times, I am caught in this trap of caretaking, feeling I should be the one to comfort others and not need comfort.

Then I remember that it is through our tear-filled, vulnerable moments when we discover what truly matters. The next day I read this quote from Brené Brown in her new book Daring Greatly: “Vulnerability isn’t good or bad. … Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.”

I cry because I am vulnerable and because I care. Perhaps, like me, you have tears for yourself, family, work, church, community, nation or world. After a good cry, we can share our vulnerability. I like to write about my emotions. After expressing feelings, we can then roll up our sleeves and see how to make it better. This can-do attitude, of which United Methodist Women is famous, resonates with me.

Some of the articles in this issue of response offer opportunities to discuss the vulnerable places in our lives and communities. In Rachel Patman’s Bible study, “Holy Nagging: Advocating for Domestic Violence Survivors,” we are led to talk about unequal status and power and control. We can also read one woman’s experience of growing up in an abusive situation and her resolve to not pass on that abuse to her daughter in “Ending the Cycle” by Samantha York.

Take note of “Strengthening the Ties that Bind Us” by Laura Sonnemark for National Justice for Our Neighbors. This story may inspire you to volunteer. Or follow in Dixie Liggett’s footsteps, described in “Having a Heart.” Visit a local community center, send funds to a mission partner on the border or organize a churchwide workshop, providing the facts around the United Methodist policies on immigration. Build a supportive community so that all women feel welcome into United Methodist Women. Notice the times and places where you tear up, be it reading, writing or singing in church on Sunday. Set aside judgment about how women express their vulnerabilities.

After all, emotions are a gift from God, a chance to share our common humanity and show us what really counts. Believe that your prayers and tears are heard. As the first line of the song “Here I Am, Lord” by Daniel Schutte, expresses, “I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.” Take comfort.

Subscribe to response. Read the response blog.

Pajama Day

I better not be the only teacher dressed in my jammies today. That could be a real nightmare.

I like School Spirit Week. It seems like when I was in high school the highlight of the school year was Homecoming. And every Friday and Saturday nights, we’d go to all the football and basketball games. But I’m not sure if the jocks would come to our shows — our musicals or as we called them, our ‘straight’ plays. They likely came to our Variety Shows.

I like the fancy night out. I like cake.
I like the fancy night out. I like cake. I like enthusiasm.

Showing spirit and enthusiasm can be anathema to teenagers. Teaching high school I see that the slouchy sarcastic kid is sometimes the revered one. But, of course, the eager, upright kid is just as valuable, (especially to the teacher!)

“Students, show some enthusiasm. Life is short. You are young and beautiful. Smart and creative. Run! Stumble then get up! Run with that idea again!” Still, they slouch.

When I have met my daughters’ teachers, the ones who stood out, the ones we remember are the passionate, enthusiastic ones! People like the charisma of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is entertaining. Try it!

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

-True enthusiasm is a fine feeling whose flash I admire where-ever I see it.
Charlotte Bronte

Central Park

I don’t think anyone took a bad picture in Central Park today. The beauty of the changing leaves. The sudden sunshine after a grey morning. Reasons to feel grateful. Alive one more day. image

I had a ton of chores and work assignments to dedicate myself to this afternoon. But why? Why? Really? My friend called and invited me out to Chamomile Tea near the Sheep’s Meadow. We sat on a tall rock and chatted. Percussionist drumming. Rollerskaters’ disco beat pulsing.image

Leaves falling like snowballs.image

Riding my bike out of the park on 72nd. Guitarists sit near the Imagine memorial, strum, “All You Need is Love.” Strawberry Fields behind me. Sunset ahead of me. image

Mastermind Mentoring for Women

“Own the room. Stand in your own power.”

“Women tend to personalize when things go wrong. (Conversely, give away the credit when things go right.)”

“In small international business ventures, women are less likely to reinvest in their business.”

This was the conversation I walked into at the NYU Alumni Day today. I left my other workshop on Creativity a little early when the psychoanalyst’s powerpoint broke down (and he did not seem that creative with what to do beyond his prepared presentation.)
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So I crashed the Stern business school workshop on masterminding mentoring for women.

Here’s an example of a workable way to get a new job: Meet with the new company and let them know, “I’m thinking about what to do next.” Jennifer Gootman advised. She asked them, “What do you need? This is what I love and what I bring. What is it I can do for you?” This came from her reading of Lean In.

Marisa Santoro was also on the panel and shared her productivity secret. It is three-fold:

  1. time management
  2. self-care
  3. systematize

On number 2 she said when you take time for self care, “magical things happen.” Also, “have five power friends.” And a time management tip: stay off Facebook.

Karen Rubin said take small steps. “Take the next step.” This helps build up confidence. She was starting a coaching business and asked her friends, “Do you know anybody who might want coaching?” Even though it was hard, she did it. It got easier. “Push yourself beyond your comfort zone.”

Rubin also said — and I love this — given two groups: the smartest and the most diverse, the most diverse group always makes the best decisions (not the smartest.) And she said that what millennials are looking for are the same things that women are looking for (i.e., to be parents, sane hours, etc.)

Interesting. I never went to business school. But on my NYU reunion day, I get to pretend I did. Inspiring!