Girl Cave

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My girls and me at camp yesterday. Girl (and woman) power!

I propose modifying this popular concept of a Man Cave. Let’s create a Girl Cave.

I thought of this when I dropped my girls off at their all-girl camp yesterday. A Girl Cave is a place to regroup and recharge and be oneself, kind of like camp.

Batman had a cave; Batgirl needs one too. And Catwoman.

We all need an escape from the maddening crowd. Especially in New York City, our lives are hustle-bustle busy. We try to make time for a nightly family dinner, but lately, even that’s been a challenge.

For some people, their homes can be a cozy, warm place, a cave or a nest from which to fly or return. But honestly, my home is a worksite for me. There is always decluttering and tidying that must be done. (Chris is no longer good at picking up and if I don’t try to keep a semblance of order, the whole house of cards may tumble. Or so I think. (Likely, they do fine without me. But I like to think I am irreplaceable.))

I need a Woman Cave. Why do men get the Man Caves? Maybe my upcoming writing retreats will provide a cave-like fortress of nurture, relaxation, fun, rejuvenation for me.

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This is a Girl Cave. (Girls’ camp!)

After all, it is through my writing that I recharge, that I escape into my own Woman Cave.

Purposeful Living

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As a life coach and co-leader in the online course, Write the Love Letter to your Teenage Daughter, I was sharing my values. I really want to pass on resilience, creativity, and kindness to my children.

Yesterday, I mentioned to CoCo, “See how lonely it is when one of you kids is gone?” (Her twin sister Cate is kayakying in Alaska.)

CoCo agreed.

“You kids are my purpose,” I said.

“How can kids be your purpose? What about people who don’t have kids? They have purpose too.”

“Right. Each person has her own purpose. And purpose — not things or achievements — provides meaning and joy.” I said. “But every one of us has to find her own journey and purpose.”

Am I too obsessed with my own kids? Am I a helicopter parent? It’s no secret I swamp my media channels with pictures of my kids. (And they are not always too happy about it.) I facebrag. I post their pics on Twitter and Instagram.

I can’t help it. I love them. My husband is challenging; my children are challenging — but they give back. Maybe this crazy family is the reason for all of my struggles.

But as my chicks fly the nest — in the coming months, the girls head off to nearly two months of summer camp and my son to college — What is my purpose then?

After my three kids, my purpose has always been my work. I have always been a writer and now am pursuing teaching. Have been having so much fun and meaning teaching at prep schools. I love the kids and the teachers.

Am also loving this recent editing work — connecting with writers, implementing a social justice vision for response magazine.

My main thing is — as my purpose and my focus may shift — I choose to remain intellectually curious, to be kind, to love without condition, and to come at life with a slant of creativity. (Tell all the truth, but tell it slant. – Love Emily Dickinson)

To persist. To pursue.

I guess all of this is why I chose the title, To Pursue Happiness for this blog. It is in the pursuit and not the attainment that we find our purpose. We find our way. (For more on why we choose our titles – check out All about me.)

BTW, happy Father’s Day, to all the dads and men who have mentored, loved, and parented. My husband is an amazing father — full of love.

And for you fathers, I bring you flowers from the Lyndhurst rose garden in Tarrytown, New York. For more flowers, visit my Pinterest Flower Board.

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A Message in a Bottle

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Have been co-leader on a (write the love letter to your teenage daughter) life coaching call for three Saturday mornings over three weeks. It’s been wonderful to stop and look around.

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Char dancing at a dance concert at the end of year.

Sit for a minute on life’s journey to assess where you are and how far you’ve come.

Maybe like me, your June is a shifting kaleidoscope.

My son graduated from high school, got a job, wants to buy a car — all in less than a week.

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Mom and Me and an Act of God.

My mother came and went, visiting from Chicago. We walked and talked. She offered unasked-for advice. She also offered unasked-for love. We picnicked in Riverside Park, walked the High Line, wandered in Central Park, took in a Broadway Show (“An Act of God with Jim Parsons).

One of my 15-year old daughters set off for 12 days of kayaking in Alaska last night.

The other daughter came home at 1 am last night, causing me to worry with a heart attack. (She was repentant. Blamed the West Side Highway traffic!)

Chris gathered some of his friends from First Grade for a reunion dinner party at our house last night. It was lovely. When I first met Chris, I was deeply attracted to his friends and the way he loved them. Funny, isn’t it? This is such a lovable quality — having nice friends. But Chris is slowing down a lot. Because of his Parkinson’s, he seems older or frailer than his friends.

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We went to the Museum of Natural History. We went to see Nature’s Fury. And then, as usual, lay under the big blue whale. Meditation. Ah.

When? Why? How did we all grow older? Why did my kids grow up? I told them not to! I said Stay Little! They were the cutest little darlings. Does all this mean I am ageing too?

The life coaching call reminds me to embrace the memories; celebrate the moment; choose joy; stay true; stay present. We make mistakes; we make amends. We hang in there. We have a family motto, “Jones Kids never give up.”

In the midst of my busy family life, the life coaching call is a breath — a slowing down — to take it in. Celebrate this moment. We have so much. Gratitude wins. Love wins.

I jot down my thoughts and dreams and hopes for my family. I send them like messages in a bottle. Hope they reach the shore. Hope my daughters and son (husband, mother, extended family, friends) know I love them. Believe that love is enough.

PS Remember to join me at the Irish American Bar Association’s Bloomsday June 16th! Another busy week. But this one will be less family-centered and more friends, work, writing-centered. Thank God.

Am also getting psyched for my trip in July to Ireland with the Dublin Writers Retreat.

 

Konmari Adventures

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“My criterion for deciding to keep an item is that we should feel a thrill of joy when we touch it.” – Marie Kondo The life-changing magic of tidying up.

To be honest, only one or two items of my clothing sent a shiver of joy up my spine. Most of them sparked a memory, a regret, a story. (Poor Barbara had to to me listen to me travel down memory lane when she came over to help me declutter on Friday afternoon. Thanks, BW!) I like my stuff. I just don’t love it.

So the process is this: hold an item of clothing in your hands, ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” Yes? keep it. No? toss it.

So I gave or threw away about five or six garbage bags full of clothes. I have about one-quarter of the clothes I started with. image

This is before.

And this is after

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It took me two afternoons. I have several empty drawers now. (I have two dressers and I think I am going to get rid of one of them.) I am trying to love what I have.

This is such an awesome concept — Keep what you love. I love these housekeeping movements. I was a big fan of Flylady. Because of her, I keep my sink clean and shiny (her first rule).

I do believe our culture is too materialistic. We have too much. And we think accumulating more will solve our problems. But our stuff needs tending. We have stuff and we have to think about it. Our stuff swamps us — does not free us.

I learned about Marie Kondo’s book and movement from a NYTimes article and from a friend in a writing group. Konmarie-ing is becoming national obsession. So is minimalism. I wish I were a minimalist. I have noticed when traveling — like when we were in California at Christmas-time — the less I have, the less I worry about. And the more time I have to read a book, walk in the park or ride my bike. It is, after all, experiences that delight us, not things.

Less stuff means less housekeeping and more time for Facebook. There is a popular Konmarie FB page – and a Flylady friend and I started a Declutter FB group to post our goals.

Incidentally, my blogging has been sporadic in 2015. I have felt ambivalent about writing without pay, getting too personal, and besides, I have had so much work — teaching, editing, writing. But this summer, I am aiming to post every Sunday morning. I am rebooting my business and my home life. I am trying to keep what I love and discard the rest. I love blogging. It sparks joy.

Join Me at Bloomsday 2015

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Last year I pretended I was going to Dublin as I celebrated Bloomsday with the Irish American Bar Association in Lower Manhattan. But this summer I really am going to Dublin for the Dublin Writers Retreat (Join me!)

Just goes to show that sometimes you dream on your blog and your bloggy dreams come true.

I am going to dream (and hoist a few) at this year’s Bloomsday celebration again and see what dreams may come. (Join me!)

JoyceUlysses2Let me remind those of you who were not English majors and who do not live with your noses in books: Bloomsday is celebrated June 16th, chronicling one typical, working class day in Dublin, 1904.

Joyce found the extraordinary in the ordinary. But I don’t think he did meant to write some exotic literary masterpiece. He meant to recreate a city’s ebb and flow. And now, every year on June 16th, dozens of places in the world read or enact or discuss or celebrate this literary day. And I am one of them.

I find that Bloomsday is a more authentic holiday for the Irish and the Irish American diaspora than St. Patrick’s Day.

In the US, the book is also one reason we do not censor. It had been banned until 1933 because it was deemed obscene and pornographic. Judge John Woolsey lifted the ban, writing:

“In writing ‘Ulysses’ Joyce sought to make a serious experiment in a new if not wholly novel literary genre.

“Joyce has attempted- it seems to me with astonishing success- to show how the screen of the consciousness with its ever-shifting kaleidoscopic impressions carries as it were on a plastic palimpsest not only what is in the focus of each man’s observation of the actual things about him, but also in a penumbral zone residua of past impressions, some recent and some drawn up by association from the domain of the subconscious.

“The words which are criticized as dirty are old Saxon words known to almost all men, and, I venture, to many women, and are such words as would be naturally and habitually used, I believe, by the types of folk whose life, physical and mental, Joyce is seeking to describe.

“If one does not wish to associate with such folks as Joyce describes, that is one’s own choice.”

So, zoom back in your consciousness, people, to present-day Ireland.

I believe Marilyn Monroe was super smart. She dug Ulysses too.

I believe Marilyn Monroe was super smart. She dug Ulysses too.

Who are ‘such folks’? A minute ago, ‘such folks’ were marginalized. But today, isn’t Joyce rolling in his grave? Don’t you wish that Oscar Wilde could somehow know that Ireland is accepting of homosexuals — the first country to legalize same-sex marriage? Whoah! I am even more ecstatic to visit Ireland now. For a spirit of openness and tolerance and — dare I say — love for people is blowing! And this can only be good.

In other news, our vice president’s 46-year old son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer on May 30. And this reminds me: gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Life is short. So short. Too short.

Celebrate Bloomsday. Celebrate every stupid, ordinary day! For in the ordinary, there is magic.

I will be at the Irish American Bar Association of New York’s Bloomsday celebration, pontificating on the beauty and wonders of the ordinary. Join me.

Get all the details and purchase a ticket here.

Don’t Go

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I remember the first time my little darling took this hill. My heart was in my throat. I could barely look. Would he make it? Would he wipe out, yelling for me, all bloody?

Now every time I approach this hill at 79th and Riverside, I smile to myself. It’s really not so steep. What was I afraid of? Sure, there’s an ever-so-slight feeling that you are out of control as you descend, but just barely.

Why did I worry?

image My little darling is 18 now. In the fall he will head off to college. I am feeling that same insecurity. Should I let him go? What if he falls? I have to let him go. I can’t look.

I want to yell. Be careful! You are going too fast! Hang on! image

He has to take the hill. He has the need for speed. He has to feel the pull of gravity.

Incidentally, this little guy in the picture did fall after I took this pic. His father sauntered over slowly, got him back upright. He shrugged at me as if to say, Look, no bruises, no blood. As if to say, No biggie. “Do it again!”

My girls are growing up too. I could not believe how adult they looked on camera.

The amazing teacher Ellen Park gave them a coaching session for on-camera work. She told them to show their thinking in their monologues. She did not judge. She talked about finding the luminosity of You-ness. To find their own voice. Their own way. Not her way or my way. But their own way.

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Find your own voice. imageFind your own hill. Let gravity pull you down. Enjoy the ride.

This is a lesson for me. I want to seize the wheel. I want to drive my kids’ course. I want to be sure that they don’t fall. I want to wrap them in bubble wrap and send them out into the world.

But I’m not going to hover over my little darlings.

They are going to fall. And when they do, it’s really no biggie. They’ll get up. And take the hill again. Or find another hill. Maybe even a steeper one. Oh God, NO! This is so hard for me.

My Day

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In one week, we will have this explosion of blooms in Riverside Park.

In one week, we will have this explosion of blooms in Riverside Park.

My one today. My new today.

A new year. A new day. Sun streaming in my window. Calling me out.

I get out my bike. I ride around Central Park. I color Easter eggs.

I plan a little party for my son’s high school graduation. I RSVP to a dinner party.

My friend is coming over and we are making sushi tonite. And she’s giving me a massage. She’s a masseuse.

In college we had a cooking club; we made sushi. My life has not changed much since college. Although I live 65 blocks uptown from where I lived in college.

And in college I lived on Washington Square and Fifth Avenue and yes, for a little while on 34th Street. Living in New York is all about the real estate. Oh, I lived on 204th Street too and on 21st Street. In New York we don’t ask What you do? we ask Where do you live? As if, it defines us. Ah yes, you live on the Upper West Side. That explains it.

I am so lucky. To have the Upper West Side.

And I have awesome, crazy, creative kids. My husband is a caution. A challenge, but every single day, he tries to keep it together. That’s better than most. Keeping it together is good enough.

He made me an omelette for my birthday. And almond croissants. How nice is that?

My daughter Cat told me tonite that there will be a blood moon.

I may go for a swim now. Or to yoga. Maybe Pilates.

I do have freelance work to do. And must put in my time. I think I could give myself time off today for good behavior.

This was from the Easter Parade a few years ago. How fun is this New York City tradition! Happy Easter!

This was from the Easter Parade a few years ago. How fun is this New York City tradition! Happy Easter!

I need to paint the apartment.

I need to read my book for book club. We are reading the Boys in the Boat.

I need to plan my trip to Ireland. Am I really going to go? How hard it is to organize myself. I am much better at organizing my family.

This is my day. I am not crazy about getting older. But I consider the alternative.

And as I tell Chris, when he feels down, “You have a lot of love still to give.”

“Yes,” he says. “And a lot of love to receive.”

A birthday is a day to receive and I am not that good at acceptance. I would rather be the giver.

But oh, all right, if you must, then, give me a gift.

I tell my kids, “With me, it’s always the same. You can give me chocolate, a candle, a journal.” And so they do. And I am very, very grateful.

That is today’s Daily Post: Write op-ed piece, IMHO (In my humble opinion) that you’d like to see published.