I received my press credentials for this weekend’s New York Times Travel Show at the Javits Center. I love this event. I love the expansiveness and beauty and diversity of the world. I have been three times — I’ve learned something new each time.
I have been blown away – I see myself climbing Machu Pichu, snorkeling with sharks, parachuting from a plane. In fact, last time, I did mountain climb, not only on a climbing wall but through Virtual Reality goggles, which, honestly, made me queasy.
My kids, my mother, and my niece have joined me. They, too, loved sampling the free snacks, snatching the give-aways, and taking in all of the vibrant colors. One time, my kids and I actually went scuba diving at the Travel Show. I’m not kidding.
This year I intend to attend more lectures and discussions. Last year or the year before, I attended one on how to travel in luxury — on a budget. I love travel.
Last month’s trip to Italy totally ignited my wanderlust. My motto is ‘Travel begets travel.’
The world is full of color, jewels, food, gifts, adventure. On a cold New York City morning in January, you may not be able to travel the world, but you can get out of bed and travel to the Javits Center.
The autumn is bittersweet. There are forecasts that another polar vortex will swirl our way this winter.
To prepare for any possible NYC Seasonal Affect Disorder, I’ve just booked airline tickets for a couple of weeks for the whole fam to got to Southern California over Christmas and New Year’s.
How lucky is my family – to have friends for whom we will house- and dog-sit in Pasadena. I like making new traditions in new places. Most Christmases, we have ensconced ourselves in the Big House in the Adirondacks at Christmas. And then to shake things up, we might’ve gone north from there to Montreal for a night or two – for Boxing Day shopping or a swim in a hotel pool.
But my husband’s family has decided to close the Big House for winter. The family is choosing to save money. (The heating bill at Christmas is usually at least $100/a day). Besides, the mansion is for sale this year. And a lot of family members are in transition.
I wrote this as I headed out to a retreat on the Long Island RailRoad. I passed pumpkin patches, vineyards, and horse farms. The leaves on the trees were just so beautiful this weekend. While I was California-dreaming about Christmas, I was also trying to remain present — live in the moment with all of the beauty right in front of my eyes this October.
I’m a believer in the sharing economy. I think the world is changing. We are no longer worshipping at the altar of capitalism. We are divesting. I love minimalism.
The point of life is not to accrue, but to share. The more you share, the richer you are. Here are my examples: On my blog, I’m oversharing. I’m into carsharing and bikesharing.
And I’ve jumped into housesharing. My first experience was a few weeks ago with AirBnB – it was wonderful.
Chris, Hayden and I were in Vermont. We were visiting the girls at camp. Charlotte was in the show, Twelve Angry Women, an all-female production of the classic Twelve Angry Men. The show got out late so rather than driving back across Lake Champlain to the Adirondacks, I drove us fifteen minutes to a neighboring town of Essex Junction. We stayed with Mike and Iris whom I’d booked with on AirBnB.
Mark and Iris, 50 ish, greeted us at the door at about 11 pm. They showed us in to a screened-in porch and laid out a cheese and fruit platter. They were friendly and very good listeners. I’m a huge fan of deep listening. But they were good talkers too. We chatted about politics, parenting, and the arts. We could’ve talked well into the night. But finally, we went to bed.
Hayden had his own room and so did we. We had a private bath. I think the two bedrooms were formerly their grown sons’ rooms. Breakfast was lavish, delicious, and healthy. Mark and Iris have opened their house to 70 some travelers over the past four or five years. They said everyone’s been interesting and nice. Their experience with housesharing has been great.
A week or two ago, Hayden and I trekked across several states, staying with family, friends, at hotels, at a guest house in Chautauqua. Outside of Cleveland, we were going to stay at another AirBnB – a former Brooklynite, actress and writer – Hello, new friend! But that didn’t work our –some glitch in the listing and they didn’t have two rooms. No worries, I received a full rebate. And we had an even better time with old friends.
I asked Hayden, “Among all the places, the half dozen, where we’ve stayed in the past few weeks, where was your favorite?”
“With Mark and Iris,” he said.
Chris and I are going back to stay with Mark and Iris on Sunday. The girls are in another show — this time, my darling has the lead in Drowsy Chaperone! (brag!)
Because of our housesharing experience, I’d love to open our big, gorgeous, family-friendly apartment to weary travelers, but I think it’s still a sticky wicket in the city. (And I do not want to jeopardize our lease.)
In any case, I’ll find new ways to share. That’s the trend and the currency that counts.
I’m not giving up red or white. I’m not giving up sweets, trashy TV, gossip or coffee. Been there, done that.
In fact, I might even drink more, watch more Shark Tank, eat more sweets, dish on the neighbors, and hit the latte bar.
Seriously, you know, I’m a righteous soul. I’ve got to do something for Lent.
I’m going to take up some things that make me happy:
Eating a plant-based diet*
Having people over for dinner*
*These last two were inspired by Pastor Andrew’s sermon a couple of weeks ago at Rutgers Church.
On second thought, having dinner parties may be challenging, given that I’m going to be traveling too. (My friend Barbara Wheeler-Bride just wrote an awesome blog post about one of my parties, Thank you, Mary Beth, at Busted Halo. Thank you, Barbara.)
If you want to join the decluttering challenge and do some synchronous cleaning, I can add you to a super-secret Facebook decluttering group. Just message me.
I want to blog more because I have been learning so much through starting my own business. I want what I’m learning to be useful to other people.
And why travel? Just because. I’ve been a little down this week. And travel always makes me happy. In fact, I’m writing this from beautiful Nokomis, Florida. (Thanks, Nicole and Brendan for hosting me!) Next week, the family and I will be on spring break at Circle Z dude ranch in Arizona. Then, just my son and I head to Charlotte, North Carolina to look at colleges for him.
While in Charlotte, I’m offering a really fun and creative workshop, Spiritual Journeying, with Cindy Sloan. We’ll be making collages and writing about moments from our lives. We’re offering the workshop on Sunday afternoon, March 23 at Dilworth United Methodist Church ($29). Please come and tell me what you’re giving up for Lent. Or if, like me, you are just giving up.
I stayed at Caldwell House in Salisbury Mills, NY. It was a perfect get-away. I love the city, but only because, occasionally, I get away to the country too.
See, it was the night before I was about to host a writing weekend at Kirkwood House in Cornwall-on-Hudson (and there will be another — in June — check it out at boot camp for writers upcoming stuff), and I was nervous.
But spending one night in this charming B&B made me feel like everything was going to be all right. (Yes, cue the Bob Marley music — “Don’t worry ’bout a thing.”)
Every cozy bedroom room was stocked with a comfy robe and an iPad! What!
On the Thursday night, at the suggestion of the innkeepers’ daughter, I walked through the backyard of Caldwell House, rounded a corner and there I was at an Irish pub, Loughran’s. I sang Irish songs along with the locals. And the songs made me laugh and brought a tear to me eye. And so I needed the beer to chase it all down — to make me forget me troubles. Or, me ole anxiety about how me weekend would go.
One patron at the bar noticed me eyeing her IPA (I’d never tried one) — and so this older gal pushed her frothy mug over to me and told me, “Try it!” Thank you!
What! People are like that when you leave NYC. Strangers tell you to try their drinks and they don’t want anything from you but a bit of conversation and a laugh. (Kids, don’t do that. Only adults can drink from strangers’ mugs.)
The hosts of Caldwell House, John and Dena Finneran, are super nice and smart. John totally encouraged me to have confidence about my venture of writing weekends. He’s a corporate marketing dude from California who, with his lovely partner, moved back east to run this family biz. He gave me some needed advice on how to use social media — like use it regularly and use Google+.
The breakfast was lovely and abundant and my room was pretty and comfy. I felt refreshed to offer my own hospitality at Kirkwood House in Cornwall-on-Hudson, the next town over.
Part of the reason I want to host another writing weekend at Kirkwood House is so that I can stay again at Caldwell House on the Thursday night and sing along with the locals and snuggle into a big comfy bed and go for a walk in the country.
You know, when I see tourists dragging a suitcase from a Manhattan hotel to an airport bus, I say – to whomever I’m with – or inside my head, if I’m not with anyone, “Those poor people have to leave New York City. And I get to stay.” Maybe I shouldn’t be smug about NYC. Because one reason I love NYC so well is because I get to leave it. Regularly. And there are so many beautiful places and people to visit nearby. And Caldwell House is one such place.
I am a lighthouse. I stand tall, watch for shipwrecks, give light.
Earlier in the day, we’d walked to the lighthouse and I said, “Let’s walk out on the jetty.” But we didn’t.
In the morning, my mother stretched in the bay. I think she missed her daily Chicago yoga when she was visiting me on the East Coast. At the bay beach, mom was bitten by little bugs and wanted to go to the ocean side and so we did. She left for the airport at lunchtime.
That night of the full moon, we climbed the lighthouse steps. I told the girls, “Go ahead! Scamper up! I am going to take my time.” I got dizzy in the spiral staircase. But I love spirals.
All the metal, echo-y steps were the same. Looking up and looking down were the same. It was hard to orient myself.
I think I would like to live in a round building. When my son lived briefly in a yurt at camp, he said there is nowhere to hide when there are no corners in your cabin, so campers were more engaged in conversations. And he said, that campers were closer to nature, and could hear people talking outside the yurt.
Maybe round structures like yurts and lighthouses are more a part of the elements. Round buildings fit in better with nature, like tree trunks and whirlpools. And spirals.
The girls stopped in a windowsill and asked me to take their pic. The flash blinded us.
While standing in line, I thought about the last time I was at Barnegat Light with my son. We kept singing the jingle, “Stronger than the Storm.” And I thought, maybe I don’t always have to be strong. Maybe it’s okay to be weak or vulnerable. What’s so great about being strong? That’s a very male quality. How about I value a more female quality — being soft and round, like a mother?
Yes, I know the sun sets and the moon rises everywhere. I just don’t notice it. Maybe I am not a lighthouse after all.
I believe more people should learn conflict mediation skills and fewer people should carry guns.
I was thinking about the Girls Leadership Institute (GLI) workshop that my daughters and I attended last year. A key factor in resolving conflict is TALKING, not fighting, not fearing each other.
The talking solution may sound girlie, sissy, touchy-feely. But in fact, if more people talked about their feelings and fears, there would be less trigger-happy people and disputes.
Look at what a girl can do when you look at Malala Yousafzai who had been shot by the Taliban for speaking up. She celebrated her 16th birthday by speaking to the United Nations in favor of educating girls.
Personal gripe: Last year, when I worked for the faith-based women’s group, I wrote a curriculum on using conflict resolution skills in small group settings for a young women’s training. Despite being riddled with conflict, even the women’s group saw conflict mediation as a low priority.
If my 16-year old son were walking the streets of Florida, no one would feel alarmed. This case was definitely about race. The Paula Deen incident shows people talk about race in private, but not in public.
We say nothing. We are afraid. We don’t want to offend. We avoid conflict. But talking (writing) is the best solution. And we may need to employ conflict mediation skills to let one another talk without judging. Use “I” statements and all. We need to learn to talk about tough stuff. I do, any way.
What the hell, Florida?
My father belonged to a neighborhood watch group in Florida.
Last year, I asked him if he saw anything worrisome. He said once he saw a group of Hispanic men hanging out near a park at night. He called it in. The cop said leave them be. My father said the group claimed to be a soccer league, but my dad did not see any soccer ball.
He never saw the group again.
Once I was at a cocktail party in the Adirondacks and I met the writer Nell Irvin Painter. She wrote the book, “History of White People.” She was about to go on the Daily Show to talk about her book. She was studying art. We sat on a comfy couch and talked about Princeton, art, writing, and race. Her book sounded brilliant.
We shared some laughs. I wanted to read her book about white-ness and the construct of race. I have not read it yet.
I was at another cocktail party in the Adirondacks. (Apparently that’s the only place where I go to cocktail parties. (Though once I went to cocktail party at Gay and Nan Talese’s house. That’s another story. (Charlie Rose was there.))
Back to this friend in the Adirondacks — she said that the U.S. should’ve never fought the Civil War. This idea was anathema to me. She said, ‘We should have annexed the south because southerners were and are such a drain on the country. The north would accept all people as free people. The south, because of its bigotry, would implode. All would be welcome in the north. We would thrive.”
Again, it was provocative cocktail party talk.
I want to take my kids to see Gettysburg.
Once I went to Gettysburg with college chum Jeff Carey (T. Jefferson Carey). I was splitting up from my first marriage. He was going through some shit.
We took this crazy road trip in his really crappy car. We totally made all these connections about how the Civil War was a metaphor — for my marriage and for our families, for our divisiveness within ourselves, and for our country, even today.
I kind of remember him burying something on our road trip — some kind of talisman — under a tree. Or maybe he dug something up. I can’t remember. It was a long time ago.
I do remember that Jeff and I bought this tape. We played the dramatic tape in his tapedeck as we drove around listening to the story of the bloody war at Gettysburg. I remember crying over that tape’s dramatic narration of Gettysburg — where brother fought brother.
I want my kids to hear and learn about Gettysburg. I want, as a country, for us not to forget the Civil War. I want us not to forget Trayvon Martin. I want us to listen to people like Malala Yousafzai and Nell Irvin Painter.
I want fewer people to have guns. I want to read books and talk about race. I want people to learn how to mediate conflict and talk about race and gender, like we learned to through the GLI.
After all, this is the least we can do to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
We kept singing the New Jersey jingle, Stronger than the Storm, when I visited Long Beach Island last weekend. Small businesses on the Jersey Shore are back.
The beach is beautiful. The Atlantic Ocean is freezing, 59 degrees, but there’s nothing the board of tourism can do about that. The ice cubes in the ocean didn’t stop us from dashing in. And dashing out, victorious, refreshed.
This stronger-than-the-storm theme applies to my life – raising my rambunctious teens, hanging tough with Chris, working on a novel, freelance writing, and all the while, procrastinating on the much-needed workout.
I admit some of my life’s storms I seek. I am a storm chaser. I could take the easy way out of town. But I like a challenge. It feels like starting my own biz is a perfect storm. But one that I can ride. I don’t think it will swamp me.
Sometimes, I avoid the storm, hunkered down in a safe sanctuary. I plug in my ear buds and wait for the storm to pass. I read a book, escape through literature.
Sometimes I seek safe sanctuary by making art. I started making collage art again. Making a collage is like creating and resolving your own storm. You get caught in the whirlwind of creativity. My teacher Mariano says, you can’t make a mistake with collage.
I rode out Hurricane Sandy last fall. I was leading a writing weekend in the Adirondacks. I was alone in the Big House.
Outside the third floor bedroom window, a big tree rattled the window screen. The scraping of the branch sounded like the knuckles of a witch trying to get in.
I beat it back to the hunkered-down city rather than stay alone in the mansion. I made it back to my wild and restless kids, my somewhat overwhelmed husband, my weathered city. I stayed stronger by rushing back home.
I should know I cope by rushing in. Just like I rushed back into the Atlantic weekend, though the waves hit me hard and the water was an ice cold bath. Life is all about rushing back in.
I took one of my favorite dates, my 16-year old son, to see Jekyll & Hyde. Whenever the show got the tiniest bit ballad-y, I felt his bony head on my shoulder. Awwww, how sweet! Where else can a mother snuggle with her teenage boy except at a Broadway show?
My son’s favorite part was the moment when Jekyll exploded with emotion at the portrait of himself. There are projected fireballs which I think probably reminded my son of his favorite date, his Call of Duty Xbox game.
That scene is towards the end of the musical when Jekyll faces his evil incarnation, Hyde. I love stories where psychological aspects of a character or personality are played out. But this musical is not a study in the psychology of multiple personalities, it is a study in singing.
Side note: the young woman in front of us, who we eavesdropped on, was an expert on Jekyll & Hyde productions. (According to the cast whom we met before the show at a swank brunch, these Jekyll & Hyde groupies are called Jekkies (like Trekkies! Funny, no?)) This Jekkie liked the scene better when the actor talked in two voices to himself, à la Sybil. We liked it this way though. Explosions!
Okay, onto the actors! I noticed early on that Constantine Maroulis reminded me of Fisher Stevens and I couldn’t shake that separated-at-birth association. Hey, lots of women found Fisher Stevens sexy, right? Michelle Pfeiffer, for one. I remember seeing Constantine on American Idol, I thought, Wow! This guy can sing! And emote! And woo you with his passion.
And you will think that too, especially when he sings, “This is the moment!” A show stopper! The dude has it, even if, in his Dr. Jekyll character, he does remind you of Fisher Stevens.
So, onto the women.
If the two aspects of a male are kindly doctor and wicked psychopath, the two aspects of a female, are — yes, you guessed it — virgin and whore.
However, the two women playing these two archtypes never let their acting or singing stoop to cliche. They were even better than their male counterparts in the arts of wooing, emoting, singing! Deborah Cox as the good-hearted whore, Lucy, was OMG! She made a cartoon character complex, human, sympathetic. And Teal Wicks was not a simpleton virgin, but a smart and sophisticated Victorian.
The supporting actors were all delicious. I could eat them up. I especially loved Jason Wooten and Blair Ross. I was sorry when their wicked, wicked ways had to come to an end. My son especially could not stop talking about how the bishop met his fate.
I think there’s something in this show for you, even if you don’t have a teenager or a crush on Fisher Stevens.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Jekyll and Hyde and the Serino/Coyne group for the tickets and the brunch. The opinions on this blog are always my own.
So some cowards want me to be afraid. But I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to take up their fear. I’m going to keep loving people. I’m going to keep loving strangers even. Just because some idiots want me to be afraid, doesn’t mean that I have to. If fear is contagious, then so is kindness and hope. Sometimes hope is a harder mountain to climb, but I like a challenge.
I know it’s natural to catch the contagion of fear. It’s human. I may feel the fear but I won’t let it poison me.
I’ve been here before. After 9/11, I felt the collective fear. At that time, I’d wake in the morning and wonder if it was all a bad dream. Or I’d lay there and just wish that years would pass quickly so that the tragedy would be only a mild ache instead of a a pervasive pain.
And yesterday, I felt that poisoning pain again.
Still. I’m not buying fear. Instead, I’m buying the instinctive hope of the people who rushed to help. I’m buying the hugs and calls of loved ones checking in on each other.
I will always remember the line, blocks and blocks long, of people who wanted to donate blood to Red Cross after 9/11. Millions more people wanted to help than hurt one another.
Healing, like creating, is hard work. It takes a minute to destroy and years to rebuild. Still, I’d rather be in the business of rebuilding: lives, loves, hope.
Living with someone who’s chronically ill, I live with fear and worry. Parkinson’s Disease has challenged my husband, affected his posture, his walking and more. But I’m not going to let Parkinson’s win either. I’m not going to let a fairly inevitable trajectory of decline ruin my hope for him or for my family. Not today. I have hope today that from the ashes come some sort of new life and some inevitable spring.
I am going to hug my darlings close, write, teach, try to make my small corner of the world a little better than I found it. That’s what I’m doing today. And then tomorrow, I’m going to get up and do it all over again.