Health Care for All

I believe in covering children for health care. I believe in health insurance for families of disabled people and those with preexisting conditions, like Parkinson’s. My husband has Parkinson’s Disease and he has been on Social Security Disability for years. He has also taken early retirement.

These supports were important to us as a family – they kept us afloat as I changed jobs from writing to teaching. As I started a small business. And as Chris received less work as an actor.

I feel ashamed to see Congress stripping away the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). They voted down support for young people on their parents’ coverage, veteran’s health, and CHIP, Children’s Health Insurance Program. They gutted programs at 1 in the morning when they thought no one is looking.

I am looking.

It is hard to look. I am still in such a state of shock for our country and, these days, I turn away more often than not.


I’m in a pretty hectic job; our daughter is going away to a semester school; my family house, Skenewood, is sold; my son is home from college. And every night I have to help put dinner on the table. I cannot do everything. But I can do some things.

I am going to the women’s march in DC next weekend.

I’m not giving up. I’m saying my piece. My peace. I’m seeking peace.

I believe in Obamacare, in health care for all. I believe in looking out for the marginalized, especially children and people with disabilities. Having health care has helped me and my family survive. I believe it is a right not a privilege. We can do better.

Stay Happy-Go-Lucky

“I will never stop fighting for justice.” I told my daughter at the kitchen table, the morning after the election.

“I know, Mom,” she said.

I was glad that she knew this. I was glad that I had not lost the fight. I have been focused on teaching well and not so much on writing well over the last few months. I have felt defeated by this beautiful country that I love and the election results. But I refuse to give up. Je refuse. 

I will find beauty. I will make sure kindness wins. I will serve others. Throughout my journey, I will remain happy-go-lucky. It is my rebellion – to fight for happiness and to remain carefree. Despite my cares. I worry, mostly, about the progression of Chris’s Parkinson’s.

Last night Chris and I watched The End of the Tour about David Foster Wallace. Chris loves getting movies from the library. I love movies about writers. It’s a win/win.

It’s more like, if you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do this.

-From David Lipsky’s Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to post on my blog every other Sunday morning before noon.

Yesterday, Jolain and I went to the Cloisters. Here are a few photos from the day.

The Common Good

Last night, I had book club; a group of nine of us who’ve been meeting for, like, 14 years. This month we read Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, a national Book Award finalist. It is magical and disturbing; and although it is fiction it seems undeniably true. For that, I am so sorry.

Last year teaching Seventh Grade Social Studies, our class discussed the underground railroad. And it is a common misunderstanding for Middle Schoolers to think the slave path towards freedom is actually a railroad. We celebrated Sojourner Truth in that class. And we talked about what made her speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” so good – the repetition, the asking questions of the audience, the passion.

I’m grateful for my book club for all the times we’ve read and discussed books. We never run out of things to say. And there’s always another great book out there. The previous month we’d read Fredrick Backman’s A Man Called Ove. And next month we’re reading Melanie Benjamin’s The Aviator’s Wife.

Great friends and good books are keys to happiness. Joy is found in our everyday blessings.

Have a reservoir 

I took this picture at noon today near the reservoir in Central Park. I love working in a place where I can step outside and be surrounded by beauty in an instant.

I sat on a bench for 15 minutes. I set aside my smartphone and looked around.

Beside me, there was a young woman, an older woman in a wheelchair, and a middle aged woman. The middle aged woman had a Caribbean accent and she kept telling the woman in the wheelchair, “Your granddaughter is here. She came to see you.”

And the two, the caregiver and the granddaughter, both stroked the older woman’s hair. The woman in the wheelchair was unresponsive. But the two were undaunted. They were loving. They kept talking to the grandmother, caressing her.

Noticing their affection feeds my soul, makes me realize that people are basically good. And ultimately, love wins.

The reservoir in Central Park is a popular tourist spot. It is so vast. And seems, almost an anomaly. Maybe even obsolete. But the reservoir in the middle of a city park is necessary — a place to rest or glance across.

A place for ordinary kindness. So needed. So natural. So true.

 

Change is good

It’s bittersweet. The General Board of Global Ministries, (a.k.a. The Board, Global Ministries, and GBGM) closed its New York doors on Friday. When I started working there — at the Women’s Division, which was then conjoined with GBGM, I could not believe my good luck — a beautiful office space, amazing intellectual and faith-based women leaders, and wonderful multilingual coworkers.

I was going through a divorce and this job was a happy distraction from my loss. I threw myself into my work.

My position lasted six months and then I was let go. See, at the time, the staff association prevented any temp from staying longer than half a year. But I came back a few months later, as a consultant, supporting the United Methodist Women by helping write a handbook, policies, and international reports.

When the web was being developed, I became the part-time reporter for GBGM, writing about the agency’s national work . When my daughters were three years old, I started back full time at the Women’s Division. And then within a few years, I was staff writer on the communications team for GBGM.

I was there until 2012 but I never really left. Since I first set foot at 475 Riverside Drive in something like 1991, I have always loved the vibe — the internationalism, the celebration of diversity, the empowerment of women, the concern for the marginalized.

While the office is closed, some staff continue — having moved to a smaller space in Atlanta. United Methodist Women will remain in the New York space. But almost everyone in my beloved Communications team of GBGM has been let go.

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The empty 14th floor at 475 Riverside Drive

It’s sad. I will not be able to stop by and share coffee or tea with colleagues whom I’ve known and loved for decades.

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the view from my old office.

I don’t want to idealize my experience. It was not always sunshine and roses. Like in any job, there were some tough times — when I felt I was not paid as well or respected as much as my male colleagues. I was bypassed for promotion.

But, all in all, I learned a lot. I grew a lot. And it seems like a lifetime ago that I went to GBGM for the first time — I had taken the 2 or 3 train, instead of the 1 train to the wrong stop, arriving all sweaty and out of breath to report to Sister Mary Louise Head, the office manager at the Women’s Division.

I’m proud of my work at GBGM. And now, over these few years, I’m amazed I’ve been able to reinvent myself as a teacher, also work I am challenged by and love. It’s meaningful. I like making a positive difference.

There is no substitute to good, purposeful work in contributing to a sense of happiness. I’ve been blessed and continue to be blessed with good work. This makes me happy.

change

Have a Hobby

Happiness is doing something for which there is really no good reason.

I took a photography class today with Charles Chessler. We are friends from drama school way back when. I love his enthusiasm for life.

We met at the High Line to learn what makes a good portrait shot. We tried out various ways of lighting our model, the wonderful A.B. Lugo.

Here are a few unedited shots I took on my phone. The workshop inspired me to play around with my good camera. I want to capture some nice profile pics for people. I’m a good photographer, always getting better.

It was a beautiful day — a perfect antidote to the disquieting political revelations this week. It’s good to know there are good men, fun things to learn, and a beautiful city to explore.

 

Wonder Women

wonder-womanThis year the United Nations celebrates Wonder Woman’s 75th birthday by making her an honorary ambassador for empowering women and girls. In 1998, Winnie the Pooh was an icon for the year of friendship.

Women need friendships like Pooh and Piglet’s. We need to rely on our superpowers — especially during this election season. There is so much vitriol from the Republican camp; it sickens my soul and my heart.

We need to uplift one another. We need to tell our stories. The writer Kelly Oxford launched the hashtag #notokay on Twitter for women to share their stories of inappropriate touch, harassment, abuse. Tens of millions of women are adding their stories. The flood of women’s reports shows that we are hungry to be heard. We have rights. And the women who tell their stories — especially those women who report having been assaulted by the Republican nominee — are courageous and exemplary women.

One of Wonder Woman’s driving force is her search for truth. We need Wonder Women like that.

We also need Pooh.

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As much as the message, I have always loved the artwork of the Pooh stories.

Your style may be slow, sweet, and gentle like Pooh or righteous, authentic, and athletic like Wonder Woman. But be you. Use your personal style for good. Know that you do not have to be passive about the political scene. Participate. Tell your story.

For my part, I have made some calls, attended some events, and donated some cash for Hillary. I am looking forward to celebrating my Wonder Women and Hillary after the election. I celebrate all who tell their true stories.

In my recent quest for happiness, I came upon a blog that said usefulness is intrinsic to happiness. Agreed. Be useful. It will make you happy.