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)

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.

 

Violent Images

Last night Chris and I saw the play Tamburlaine. At the 30-minute intermission, I told Chris, "This is the best production of Tamburlaine that I will ever see. And the worst." I said that about Cymbeline too. Glad I saw it. Don't need to see it again. 

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John Douglas Thompson (photo courtesy of Nigel Parry and NYMag)

It has my favorite actor, the Marlon Brando of our time, John Douglas Thompson, in it. Tamburlaine reveled in his own psychosis and had such a lusty love of blood-letting.

Thompson, in fact, is a gentle man, a bit of a friend. He played MacBeth when Chris played the porter in the Scottish play. Chris says of him, “He doesn’t shy away from the big parts.” (Othello, Emperor Jones, Julius Caesar). He is all in. So good. Exciting to see such commitment. And the whole stage rocks with turmoil.

But to what end? The play is loaded with buckets of blood and plenty of gore, including a scene where a tongue is cut out. Eeeeew! The play by Christopher Marlowe was first staged in 1587.

I overheard an audience member say, “This hasn’t been done since 1957 on Broadway.” And with good reason. It’s just an endless parade of marauding death.

On the way to the beautiful Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn, Chris realized he forgot his medicine.

“Do we go back home?” I asked.

“No.”

“I will just be slow.” Chris’s Parkinson’s medicine helps him move. Without it, he freezes. After the play, I put a hand on his back. On the way home, I pushed him along.

He was extremely slow walking to the subway, heading back to the Upper West Side. Then we got home and I had to tell Catherine she could not watch Django Unchained.

“It’s not a problem,” H. said. “She looks away during the violent parts.” He loves having a companion with whom to watch movies.

“I’m sorry. No,” I said.

“You’re too protective.”

“Yes,” I said. Believing that they secretly like that. Even thinking maybe Catherine wanted to be told not to watch that.

“Why? Why can’t she watch it?”

“I don’t want her to have those images in her head — of such violence.” I’ve never seen the movie, but I’ve heard. And yet, Tamburlaine filled my head with violence too. I don’t think I’m worse for it. Maybe it would’ve been okay. I don’t know. We live vicariously. But plays are different. The cast comes out for a curtain call.

We know it’s fake. We love the artifice.

We go slowly home.

A Poem for History and Heritage Day

Who was the nomad?
Was it you?
Did you use a walking stick?
A talking stick?
Did you find — as you journeyed — a sense of home?
Why did you leave?

Were you told to honor your father and mother?
But left any way
And now you are being left.

The natural right loneliness of the child, your child,
who fills his backpack, walks away and never looks back. Not once.
I don’t begrudge my children growing up.
I just didn’t know what you went through.
Until it happened to me.
It explains why everything fell apart.

Ancestors before me, have compassion. Forgive me.
I get to thinking it all began — I began —
when my grandparents and great grandparents came on a big ship
From Ireland and from Denmark and Norway.
Separate big ships. In the turbulent Atlantic sea.
Colliding in me.
Making my brothers and sisters too.
But mostly me.
I was born on three big ships crossing the Atlantic.

But I go back to fields and plains and caves.
Nomads.
Just like you.
We were all of us. Walking.
Walking with sticks.
Singing and laughing and arguing
And wondering who our children would be.

And now we set out, as nomads, again.

Where is your journey?
I hope you will find — as your journey — your way home.

Walking with a bag on a stick in Kenya
Walking with a bag on a stick in Kenya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wrote this and am reading this poem for History and Heritage Day, an alternative celebration to Columbus Day today at the Interchurch Center, NYC.  

Try Enthusiasm

When I am enthusiastic about a subject I’m teaching, my students are too. If I tell the little ones, “You’re going to like this drama game!” They do. It may be a drama game they’ve played before, like the mirror game. (The mirror game is when you stand across from a partner and mirror their movements. And then your partner mirrors yours.)

When my kids get fresh, I tell them, “Hey, your attitude is contagious. Try enthusiasm.”

We live in a snarky culture. For sure, I can be sarcastic. Because I’m witty. But sarcasm seems the opposite of enthusiasm. Sarcasm stands back in judgment. Enthusiasm jumps all-in, without a care for consequence.

Well, there is the consequence that you may be made fun of. As I am by my children. Regularly. (For my bike, zipcar, business, enthusiasm, whatever.) But then, they’re teens. I think sarcasm’s wired in teens.

I tell my kids, Most people are naturally shy. When you meet someone new, if you’re just a little bit out-going, you put people at ease. Enthusiasm is charismatic, fun and entertaining.

Me at the Climate March. (photo credz Pamela Cooper)
Me at the Climate March. (photo credz Pamela Cooper)

Here’s an enthusiastic picture of me. As you can see, I’m enthusiastic about the whole world.

On a side note, I like to think I came up with the hashtag #yellowpants Whenever I see someone wearing yellow pants, I think to myself “hashtag yellow pants.” I’m enthusiastic about my yellow pants. Because they were one of my last purchases at Loehmann’s. But that’s another story.

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” — Allen Ginsberg via the daily post  

Do you follow Ginsberg’s advice — in your writing and/or in your everyday life?

31 Days of Good Enough: On the Move

We were on the move. While talking to my pastor Laura, in the Climate March last week, I had an insight — I have to pay as much attention to and love my own children as much as I notice and love my students.

That seems obvious. But sometimes I come home from teaching brimming over with funny stories about the 6-year olds in my afterschool creative writing and reading class, and I can see (or feel) my children roll their eyes. My affection for other children does not take away my love for my own children. But I have to make sure that they know that. I have to encourage them.

Laura and I talked about this as we walked with hundreds of thousands along the Manhattan streets in the biggest climate change march ever. We were on West 59th, walking along Central Park South, discussing Eleanor Roosevelt and the recent fantastic PBS series on the Roosevelts.

And I had told Laura, “It just seemed that as Eleanor grew older, she was alone. Her life was not full of family and picnics and fun, but international travel and great causes.” Which, of course, I love. I love her internationalist impulse and her love for the world. But maybe she should’ve hung out with her family more.

When I went to college, I moved from suburban Chicago to New York City. And I just stayed. I am far-flung from my family of origin too. I want to be intentional about connecting with my mother and father and sister and brothers too.

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So for the next 31 days, I will be writing about:

  • How my husband’s Parkinson’s impacts our family
  • My son’s college search
  • Letting go of my desire to keep up with the Joneses
  • My take-aways from teaching
  • How and where I try (and sometimes do) get published
  • Decluttering my messy apartment
  • Trying to stick to a family meal plan
    and maybe even
  • Pursuit of fitness
  • And maybe some random (good enough) essays I’m working on.

Today’s message:
I am good enough. You are good enough. You don’t have to be or do better. Just accept that where you are is where you are. There is no perfect. There is today. I’m so glad we have today.

I aim to be a loving presence in my little sphere of the world.

I love the concept of Good Enough. I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be just right. But sometimes that hinders me from finishing things, from sending stories out, or feeling that I’m good enough. Lately, I’ve also been blessed with so much wonderful work. And so many great friends. And yes, a great family too! And that is so good!

Does Football Make You Violent?

I played football in fifth grade. I was the only girl on the team, the Vikings. I dropped out before we played a game, but I made the cut. I liked flag (or was it touch) football in college too. We played in Central Park a few times. It was always a great work out.

I am so sick of what I am hearing about football these days.

A few weeks ago, I heard the first disturbing fact: that 30 percent of professional football players will have some kind of early onset dementia.

The other disheartening news — the uber aggressive nature of the sport. I can’t watch it without wincing or groaning. My son, friends and students are in fantasy football leagues so I hear about teams and players. And you can’t help but hear about the players’ aggressive playing. On and off the field. And aggression is different than violence.

The excessive violence of the players — and the way it spills over into their personal lives — is disturbing. Are you kidding me? It’s 2014 and some huge professional athlete beats his little kid with a switch? This is fricken’ nuts. A football player beats his wife and before it’s revealed, he’s suspended for only two games? Ugh.

But at least we’re hearing about it. We’re talking about it. Maybe that’s good. Domestic violence is too quickly shoved under the rug.

We care too much about professional athletes.

I wish people cared as much about actors and artists as much as athletes. I wish we cared about teachers. I wish we valued public servants and sanitation workers. Nurses. Bus drivers. Astronauts. I don’t know. Anyone.

It is so crazy the amount of money that these professional athletes, teams, managers, leagues make.

It’s also this brotherhood thing — that women cannot play. It’s a closed society. I found it creepy when the whole Penn State scandal was uncovered. Male fraternal organizations and any male-dominated groups (churches, boards) creep me out.

not caring

There’s a meme going around: “This is me not caring about football.” The thing is, I used to care about football. Growing up in Chicago-area, you had to love the Bears. Plus I liked playing. I liked being a part of a team.

A few years ago, I met this Ph.D. candidate — a friend of a friend’s at a party. She was a coach at UVM. She did a study surveying collegiate athletes — to find out if they were more aggressive than other students. They were. She was surprised — perhaps, she was hoping to find more examples of teamwork and positive group dynamics in sports. Me, too. We can do better.

As a girl who played football, I know the sport can be fun and a great work out. But, let’s face it, I’m not going to be playing any more.

***

I wrote this from today’s prompt at the Daily Post: Today, write about anything — but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less. 

Status Update

So this week the kids went back to school. This is always a bittersweet time and a time to take stock. Here’s what’s going on.

My kids.

My son is in his last year of high school. All these years I’ve pulled him close and now I’m pushing him out of the nest. But his newly found independence comes with my hope that he make wise choices — around alcohol, relationships. I worry. So far, he’s been pretty good at keeping his midnight curfew on Saturday nights. My girls, too, are finding new friends, new activities, new ways of being in the world without me holding their hands. Though I still love to hold their hands.

My kids are my alpha and my omega. They are why I wake up in the morning. Them and coffee.

My writing.

I finished my novel and sent it to an agent and to Kindle singles. I think I may have to send it to more than one agent and one publisher. 😉 I like it. I think it’s breezy and fun. I say it’s like Breaking Bad for the suburban mom. People in my writing workshops who have read bits and pieces like it too.

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2A on the corner of Avenue A and 2nd Street. I’m reading Mon., 9/8/14 — show starts 8:15 ish.

I am psyched to be invited to read at a fun venue tomorrow night, Monday. And I do think my funny, short essays are the pieces that I can sell most easily and people love best.

My small biz.

I have a crazy patchwork quilt of work. But my most important and steady work is my writing, web and social media work for SPSARV. I love Juliana, Art, Christie and Rhina so so much. In every gratitude list, I include SPSARV because I am so crazy lucky to work with such super smart and super nice people. They are my mainstay.

My biz teaching writing workshops is on hiatus — I have hosted dozens of awesome weekends, meetups, and classes over the last two years. And been a guest speaker at a bunch of conferences. I know it takes three years to get a business going. The things is: I’m just barely breaking even at Boot Camp for Writers. Maybe it’s the cost of renting space that’s killing me.

I’ve gotten other teaching work steadily. I have been tutoring and teaching 12th graders for college applications. Next week I start teaching a creative writing and reading class for first and second graders. So excited. And, on occasion, I still help with videography for Columbia University and corporate trainings.

My marriage.

I don’t know what to say. It’s not easy. I love my husband. It’s no secret that chronic illness throws a wet blanket over the romance. And maybe after 19 years and 3 kids, no marriage is lovey dovey, flowers, candy and joy joy joy.

Still. Chris and I are best friends. We go to a lot of movies and theater together. We love our family dinners, card games and conversations about the kids. But he has been thoroughly obsessed with his new translation of Turgenev’s A Month in the Country which will open in January ’15 at the Classic Stage Company. (The cast will include — name dropping alert — Peter Dinklage and Taylor Schilling.)

I cannot begin to say how important and meaningful life is for my husband because of his amazing talent and creativity. And steadiness. Despite his limitations (read Parkinson’s Disease), he still makes a huge contribution to the theater community.

My fine art.

I have not been making short films or fine art lately. I may go back to my collage class at Art Students League. I love getting my fingers dirty with paint.

My spiritual life.

At times, I doubt God exists. The randomness of illness and war is just too senseless. I try to act as if. I try to believe that I am not alone. I am a part of a bigger picture.

But I have big questions, Why Gaza? Why Ferguson? Why the beheadings of journalists? We are all humans. We would love each other if we sat down and shared a meal together. Instead, we’re bombing the shit out of each other. It’s too much.

I’m so sick of our countries spending billions to guard borders. I believe in social justice, the kind I’ve learned about in places like the United Methodist Church. We have to build bridges, not walls. We have to open doors of understanding. We have to talk less and listen more.

Parkinson’s and Depression: My Perspective

It should be obvious from my blog posts that my husband’s Parkinson’s Disease is not a death sentence. It is a “shit-this-sucks!” sentence. The disease has slowed down Chris’s ability to move and, perhaps, to think.

But it is not a stopping or a slowing down of the love he feels from and to and with other human beings.

Chris was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about 12 years ago. His first symptom was stiffness in one arm. It didn’t swing much when he walked. He seemed to have an ever-so-slight drag in his step. More symptoms, such as a mask-like visage and stooped posture, have appeared since the time of his diagnosis. The years have not been easy.

Chris still thinks he got a better deal with a Parkinson’s diagnosis than a diagnosis of A.L.S. or some other fast-acting kind of cancer. He thinks Parkinson’s is not the worst disease.

Like Robin Williams, Chris is (and was) an extraordinarily talented comic and dramatic actor, conversationalist, and, yes, humanitarian. Chris is not acting that much anymore. He’s winning awards for his translations of Chekhov. He’s working on writing projects and directing plays. (He’s still a pretty good conversationalist and humanitarian.)

More importantly, he continues to excel at loving his children and his family. That is essential.

Now, about depression.

This is tough to talk about. Chris was briefly on anti-depressants (Lexapro, I think) for a malaise or depression that may have appeared around the same time as his Parkinson’s. He felt that the pills did not help. He felt that it was just one more damn pill to take. He has to take a lot every single day to keep his neurons firing.

The neurologist did not push these pills. He addressed my complaints about Chris’s symptoms by suggesting that they fit the criteria of apathy, not depression. And apathy, Dr. Ford said, is more annoying to the people living with the apathetic person than to the person who has the apathy. (And there was a bit of joking that I, as the complaining party, was the one who needed the antidepressants. Not the identified patient. But I declined.)

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Chris and his friend Dan are making a documentary about their life in the theater and with the disease of Parkinson’s http://www.theendgameproject.com/

Apathy, turns out, is not an uncommon side effect of Parkinson’s.

From my point of view (and I have encouraged Chris to write from his perspective), depression, apathy, and Parkinson’s Disease – these diseases do, in fact, totally suck. They deplete the quality of life. Because Parkinson’s is a chronic and progressive disease, the symptoms continue to worsen. The disease and its symptoms require a person to constantly fight inertia or apathy. Or depression.

And for some, perhaps Robin Williams, who carried a compounding of diseases, the heavy weight of the battle was too much to carry. (I am not judging. I am writing from my own point of view. I know that we — every single one of us — is fighting his or her own battles. I cannot judge. Only love.)

From my experience, the part of a human being that is capable of giving and receiving love does not seem to be affected by Parkinson’s Disease. Perhaps, one’s capacity for love is what makes us human. And life worth fighting for. (But, again, it may not be enough.) Is love, in fact, what makes life worth living?

Just for today. One day at a time.

When all else – body, mind — fails, perhaps, we should celebrate when love remains.

The Sharing Economy

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.

AirBnB

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.

 

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Charlotte (in black and white) argues a point. Twelve Angry Women. Jury room dispute.
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Fenton Memorial Deaconess Home in Chautauqua Institution, one of our stops on the road trip.
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Our beach on Lake Champlain. Sharing room on the raft.