Stay Away from Gravity

So, this morning, this happened.

It was 8 am and I was walking around the block after walking my kids to their school bus stop. I noticed this piece of edifice on the sidewalk. I looked up wondering where it fell from. Like a jigsaw puzzle, I found the niche.


So I called 311. (I did not call 911). While I was getting transferred to the building department, busybody that I am, I pointed out the brick-like piece of architecture to every dogwalker and child walker who passed.

“Look at this piece of architecture! It came from that building right there.” I was not put on hold for long. I gave the address to the building agency (grateful that our city infrastructure was intact — that the government shut down did not reduce the response time.)

And boy, did they respond! 20131007-090004.jpg

Officer Iosilevich came knocking at my door. See, my doorman, who had been tipped off by my neighbor, pointed out that I was the complainant in this edifice-falling potential disaster. I remind you. I dialed 311 — not 911. (I love 311, the city’s hotline number.)20131007-085926.jpg

This was the fallen cornice — as big as a brick. You can see the impact on the sidewalk. Within 30 minutes of my call, I got that knock on the door. I discovered that four firetrucks and two cop cars had responded. 20131007-090031.jpg



Officer Iosilevich told me it was a good thing that I called. I wondered if the building owners would be fined or required to make their building safe.

I went back home. It wasn’t even 9 am and I had begun my job, saving the city, one complaint at a time.

Incidentally, at lunch time, I headed down to 57th Street to the Carnegie Hall block where I was going to see the movie Gravity at the Director’s Guild. But the street was closed due to a wobbly crane atop a building. I could not get down the block to see the movie Gravity, but I appreciate the gravity of gravity.

Don’t let fear win

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.

Because fear doesn’t win. Love wins.

In times of stress, I know I have to:

  • Connect with friends and family more
  • Work out more
  • Do more self care
  • Eat and sleep well

How do you cope?

at Harvard
Last month the kids and I visited Cambridge and Boston.

Why I Couldn’t Sleep Last Night

I tossed and turned, my sheets wrapping around me and my melancholy.

I’ve said it before, Mommy needs a good night’s sleep. And last night it just wasn’t happening.

Here are some reasons:

  • I had worries about getting up early to buy and deliver breakfast to 22 kids at the church lock-in at 7 this morning.
  • I do too much.
  • Chris, my husband, is returning home tomorrow after a couple of weeks of being away. It’s an adjustment.
  • I am worried about the expense and commitment of getting Chris help with daily tasks of living for his Parkinson’s Disease.
  • It’s 9/11 weekend. It’s depressing.
  • I’m not exercising much, because of my foot pain.
  • I’ve focused too much on the kids and establishing their back-to-school routine.
  • My bedroom is too hot; the air conditioner is too loud.
  • I went to a MeetUp last night for writers who perform; had a couple of beers. Felt a little jazzed.
  • I did not write much.
  • I have anxiety about work and the possible downsizing of our agency.

I guess that’s enough. I finished Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz yesterday. I so identified with his discovery that we are open to forgive and love other people way more than we accept ourselves. The point of everything, every encounter — even our encounters with ourselves in the middle of the night — is love.

That is, instead of withholding love to change somebody, I poured it on lavishly. I hoped that love would work like a magnet, pulling people from the mire and toward healing.

This is tough. I have to find a way to love and forgive everybody, including myself; I need more help. Some problems can be resolved with more help and more love, and some with healthier behaviors. Here’s how I answer myself on last night’s worries:

  • I had to take one of the girls to the pediatrician's office for her ear infection. This was in the waiting room. My thoughts, like cogs, go round and round.

    You delivered the breakfast.

  • You like being busy. Being busy and happy pays off.
  • You’ll adjust to Chris’s return. You have your own travel plans.
  • Just spend the money to get Chris help.
  • This weekend will pass.
  • Exercise any way. Swim. Bike. Run. Do yoga. Do physical therapy for foot.
  • The kids are doing great.
  • Leave the air conditioner on.
  • Decompress with a book or herbal tea, not a beer.
  • Write more.
  • Let go of the work worries; there’s nothing to be done about them any way.

Writing all this has helped. I need more coffee. Maybe later, I can sneak in a nap. (Or exercise.)

Wave Hill, a Treasure Box

It’s a best-kept NYC secret, bustling with life. The bustling is done by the Cabbage White Butterflies who never got the memo that summer’s officially over now that school’s started. No, the butterflies don’t know. They flit in Riverdale on September 11th at Wave Hill, an easy-going, beautiful, educational, art/nature place.

All the things you love — art AND nature — wrapped into one FREE afternoon — Yes, free! The kids and I arrived at 11:55 am, just in time to discover that the center is free until noon on Saturdays. (Should I mention that the free morning is thanks to Target? Yes, I will because they also support the bustling hip, trendy MoMA Friday nights! Thanks, Target!)

The family art sessions are always fun. Always. I did wonder as we stepped into the big, dark cottage and saw all the toddlers and elementary school kids wielding glue sticks whether my three (freshly pressed) middle schoolers would still dig the magic of family art and the loose and loving guidance on some funky crafty nature project. But hooray, they still dug it! (H. did mention, “I never want to come back here in my entire life.” But rest assured, he’s big on hyperbole and I, who am also given to exaggeration, stayed strong. I replied, “We’re coming every Saturday for the rest of your life.”)

The first assignment for the family art session? Friendly and gorgeous Ilse instructed, “Take a walk around and collect dead nature specimens. Then, return to the cottage and make little accordion books that will fit neatly into your little decorated nature treasure boxes.”

I remembered around Thanksgiving one year at Wave Hill, we made corn husk dolls, taught by young Native Americans. Another time we looked at pictures of Matisse’s cut outs and tried to cut out flowers likewise.

The leader then was a lovely guy named Noah, who Ilse informed me retired in the Spring. He was always gentle and enthusiastic and welcoming. Ilse said, “I’ll send your regards to Noah.”

But I don’t think he specifically knew me or my kids. I think he was just one of those souls who treat everyone like a long-lost friend. (Any way, Thanks Noah!)

The new staff, Ilse, is, like Noah and wonderful Martha Borrero, who is still there, welcoming, glad to see you when you walk into the space.

As usual, we pushed the boundaries of time. Martha rang a bell to let us know that it was 1 pm and family art time was ending. We were still creating, gluing, drawing, cutting out shapes, filling our little nature boxes. We finally tore ourselves away.

We ate at the café outside. I love museum cafes. Museum cafes are a bit pricey but delicious. And eavesdropping is so much fun. The guy behind us was saying, “I have time. If I don’t find a girlfriend right now, it’s fine. I have to pay my bills, get out of debt, become more responsible.”

The kids talked about whether burning money is a federal crime. I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. As my 4th grade teacher used to say, “What am I? A walking encyclopedia?”

We departed by way of the gift shop, where we bought local honey and honey sticks, the kids’ favorite sweet treat.

September 11th is a very tough day for people like me who love New York City. The reason we love and live in NYC is that there are magical gems throughout the city — places like Wave Hill, full of butterflies and breezes, views of the Palisades and the Hudson River. What’s not to love?

Next year’s 9/11, the 10th anniversary, is going to be hard. I’m already planning to take the kids to Wave Hill again. If you want to go with me, let me know.