A Healthy Heart

I cannot bear my son Hayden leaving for college in 10 days and then again, I cannot wait for him to go. I was reminded of this when we went for his heart check up.

On Friday, Hayden was released from the pediatric cardiology unit at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Dr. Pass guaranteed the heart would last another 80 years. Hayden asked, “90?”

“I can’t guarantee 90.”

Being back in pediatric cardiology sent me in a tailspin, remembering the angst as I stood outside the ER, my son in surgery for his tachycardia, his rapid rate. He had gone under general anesthesia three times to fix this. The last time, June of 2009, Dr. Pass fixed it.

He is fine and we have almost forgotten how far we have come and how we lived through nights in intensive care.

I am proud of how we managed. I did not make too much of it or too little of it. I did not cover him in bubble wrap, hover over him like a hot house flower or put him on meds. (Well, actually he was on medication, a beta blocker, to prevent tachycardia, but only briefly as it seemed to make him groggy.)

Because he had this heart problem, my heart was connected to his. I watched over him, making sure if he did go into tachycardia, on the playground after school, that he would stand on his head and his heart rate would return to normal, often, he reported, with a somersault in his chest, not slowly back to normal, but with a thud.

On Friday, I told my boy/my 18-year-old man, “You were brave, never complained. You never asked, ‘Why me?’ You got through it. I am proud of you.”

And I got through it, too, with the buoyancy of my daughters to help. Because when you have one sick child, there is nothing like the life raft of two healthy daughters to carry you home.

Maybe in some ways, the girls were sidelined by his heart challenges and, yes, his charisma. This, more than anything, is why I am looking forward to my son going off to college. Because my Catherine and Charlotte deserve the limelight too. My 15-year-old daughters are separate and complete universes. They have been referred to as “the girlies” or “the twins.” They are their own people.

They are ready for their closeups. Their healthy hearts, too, are worth celebrating.

Be grateful for the healthy heart.

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Me and the kids (at Barbara and Chris’s wedding a couple of years ago).

Purposeful Living

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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Don’t Go

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.

I Need ME TIME!

At book club, one of my friends asked, “How are the kids managing with you working so much?”

“Kids?” I asked. “Kids? What kids?”

But I felt reassured last night. A fellow teacher told me, after I declined Happy Hour to come home to work, “It’s good you work a lot. Better to be a parent of benign neglect than a helicopter parent.”

This is a recurring theme with me, so skip the next coupla paragraphs if you’ve read this from me before. But I feel so badly that my kids’ father has Parkinson’s Disease that I do too much for them. I work too hard to provide every fabulous thing or vacation they need (or want). (Did I mention H. is going to Patagonia, Coco to Costa Rica, and Cate may go to Alaska?) I want them to have a happy childhood despite their father’s disease.

But then, I get the feeling, What about me? After organizing the whole family, I get resentful, “I’m working too hard! I need some ME TIME!”

I just saw this news on Facebook of a women’s writing conference. This warmed me — the thought of women writers sitting barefoot on the grass, talking about nothing or everything, at Skidmore College. Chatting about childhood, mothering, girlhood, international sisterhood! How nice is that! Maybe I’ll sign up. It’ll help me get me through the winter.

An Arctic wind is rattling the scaffolding outside my apartment window. I have so much housework to do. Loneliness settles in. I need parties and gatherings, but also need to burrow down, sort through papers and plans and permission slips. I need to dust and vacuum.

I need to do all that, I also need to work. So let me get back to my freelance writing, lesson planning, and sound design. And then get to the housework.

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PS If you’re looking for writing support, the WordPress courses are superfun. They start in February (which is tomorrow!)

Snow Day

not a flake has fallen and we are consigned home.
i like working, teaching, much better than staying home.
i find the work of housework endless and there is no pay.
which leads to resentment.
but for the work of work, i get thanked and paid.
and I interact with adults with whom i can make jokes.
the joking part of work is almost my favorite part.
that and being paid.
but maybe because of my husband’s illness and his slowness
or my children’s, i don’t want to call it laziness, but i will call it laissez faire.
i feel like i am always pushing a stone up a hill with housework.
and there is the haunting ernest hemingway question — did he have to clean house as much as i do? i may not be at the same literary level, but dang, if i couldn’t be a better writer, if i wasn’t a woman and didn’t have to clean so much.
i have said this a million times, but i need more household help.
and now that today is a snow day,
i have to be the household help.

For no reason, here are some pics from the Pasadena Rose Bowl parade this year. (I never got them up when we were in California a month ago, this New Year’s.) 

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I was cracking up. Every time this woman tried to take our pic, her finger was in the way.
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These two love each other.
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Loved the celebration of Spanish heritage and the cowboys in the parade.
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So many moving parts on the parade floats!
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We had sunny days in California. (Not snow days)

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Happy Everything!

We’ve only been here a few days but already we’ve had fun in the sun. And occasionally I do start humming, It never rains in California. Hardly a cloud in the sky. Mini golf and tennis. Walks./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/83f/8618875/files/2014/12/img_7749.jpg
We’ve taken long walks in South Pasadena, caring for a very nice dog, Zazzy. I see how dogs bring joy. Zazzy seems to love unconditionally and she just wants to play. I’m not a dog person, so this is a new experience for me.

Getting out of NYC and to LA has given us time to be together. Think. Chill.

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We’ve stopped for cinnamon rolls.

Met up with old friends like Carol in Malibu.

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We went to Paradise Cove in Malibu for lunch and beach time. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/83f/8618875/files/2014/12/img_7683.jpg

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The girls. The boys./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/83f/8618875/files/2014/12/img_7685.jpg
And then more time to hang out.

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Going for walks. Reading books. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/83f/8618875/files/2014/12/img_7675.jpg

Make your day count

let it go.
be silly. have fun. get out of bed in the morning. make your bed.

get out of your own way.

too much to do. every day is a new beginning. this is the season of the new. leading to Christmas. to new life. to a new year.

disappointments are natural. my son’s college application process was too easy. last night he hit a glitch. don’t want to go into the details. (the kids tell me, “you post too many facebook pics!” “you’re too obsessed with social media.” “you tell everyone everything.” yes. yes. yes.)

tell a story. make it good.
make it meaningful.
it’s enough.

it’s today. today is all.
i have it all. i have today.

i have been subbing. and i heard that one of my students, one who causes me no trouble, a nice kid, has something seriously wrong. (like, really serious!) why does this happen? not that i would want it to happen to one of my mischief-makers but maybe that would explain why she doesn’t listen or why he shouts out. but why the quiet, kind one? it so sucks. makes me not believe in God. makes me hurt for all the stupid injustice. life’s unfair.

why the shooting of unarmed teens? of one mother’s son? why, God?

when I get to heaven, i need a lot of answers.

until then, i will make today count. tell a story. make it meaningful.

then, let it go. have fun.

i’m choosing a word for 2015. it is happiness. what’s your word? what’s your story?

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We took the ferry from Essex to Charlotte. From New York to Vermont on Thanksgiving weekend. So beautiful.

 

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Coco can’t believe the sunset. It happens every single night. The sun sets. I want to notice the sunrises and sunsets.