Welcome Home

A neighbor dropped off the cobbler and the soup.

I greeted him from behind the closed screen door.

“Welcome home,” he said; he turned away.

Small acts of kindness set down like homemade vegetable soup on your doorstep.

We live to lighten each other’s load, of course, we do.

Yet when someone lightens your load, it comes as a surprise.

The load unexpectedly lighter.

The heavy weight drops. You were unaware of how much you carried.

Just because of the soup.

Just because you’re anxious,

Doesn’t mean you’re not right to be. You still get to laugh.

A lot.

Laugh more.

While you dance and the floor collapses and the space expands.

And yes, in meditation, the rising and falling of breath, the expanding and collapsing.

The rising and falling of sunshine and moonshine, dance partners,

Taking turns.

Like this planet turning around the sun.

Life and home and welcome and distance.

Gone from the city for a week, in ways we are more connected.

We are more reflective.

Who knew walking the dog would save me?

I never had a dog. I’m liable to make mistakes.

Who wants to be perfect anyway?

Yesterday, I gave up. I said, “Forget the family dinners. It’s too much work for me. Too much bickering from the three of you.”

And then the kids cooked dinner and I set the table.

I was on an island, and the kids came on a boat to rescue me.

And we laughed. And we bickered more. And cleaned up together. Mostly.

This is not Gilligan’s Island. Or a sequestered monastery in Switzerland.

But life is richer and more full of gems.

Gems of compassion and heartbreak.

The world is both simpler and more complicated than we ever knew.

I needed the homemade soup, the pizza, the rescue from my neighbors, children, friends.

I needed the “Welcome home.”

I took Charlie for a nature walk this morning. Travels with Charlie.

A Crowded Elevator at the Hillary Fundraiser

When my husband I attended the Hillary Clinton Victory Fund Party after Secretary Clinton won the Democratic nomination this spring, we got the cheapest seats at Radio City Music Hall. Still. We were psyched to be there and were, of course, blown away by the performances of Elton John and Katy Perry and the words of Jamie Foxx and Chelsea Clinton.

at-radio-cityAnd after the concert, my husband Chris who has started using a cane/walking stick to get around, saw the open elevator and tried to moved towards it quickly, although due to his Parkinson’s Disease, he moves slowly. The doors began to close.

A girl, about ten years old, who held the hand of a woman who appeared to be her grandmother, put her other hand in front of the closing elevator door.

“We’re waiting for you,” the girl said to Chris. She looked around the crowded elevator and said confidently to the strangers near her, “We can wait for him. We can make room.” Her grandmother smiled patiently at us, then proudly at her girl. We made it.

These are Hillary supporters — a confident girl who holds the elevator for a disabled man, a grandmother who takes her granddaughter to a Hillary event, a semi-retired man with Parkinson’s Disease, a middle-aged woman — me.

I do not see the likes of us represented in the mainstream media. It used to be that popular media cared what soccer moms thought. And truly, in the past two presidential elections, I have literally been a soccer mom so I appreciated the attention. But this year, none of my darlings are playing soccer. So I’m moving up the demographics ladder — apparently to a spot where I’m not really noticed anymore.

In a way, it doesn’t matter. Because, although the media may be more concerned with the views of Trump’s deplorable white supremacists, I know — and that little girl knows, and that grandmother knows, and my husband knows — that Hillary and her team will wait for us. They will hold the elevator for us, even those of us with the cheap seats, and especially those of us who move differently or slowly. And they will make room for us when we get there. And our leader will not be an older white male who spouts hate.

No, our leader will be a good and kind, hopefully confident, girl who includes everyone. We may not be represented in the evening news, but we are looking out for each other. We will look out for you too. Take your time. We’re holding the door open for you.

4th of July Picnics

 

 

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What ever happened to our picnic table in Riverside Park?

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A while back, with my sister in law Nicole

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Last year with my nephew G, H, JCJ

There is nothing like a picnic in Riverside Park. The green on an early July evening. Central Park is for tourists, but Riverside is for New Yorkers.

For 20 years, my backyard has been the grassy slope in Riverside Park. We used to spend endless hours in the Elephant Playground. Then, the path between 79th and 96th, riding our bikes around that loop and taking in the garden near the Hippo Playground.

Although our recreation spots have changed, our picnicking spot has not. This field.

The girls are at camp. I miss them, but I console myself with friends and family. And picnics in the park.

For picnic recipes and to meet my Nicole, check out My Delicious Blog.

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A Piece of Me

I love to run to the Britney Spears song “Piece of Me.” But I haven’t been running lately.

Like Britney, everyone wants a piece of me — a piece of ass or a pound of flesh. No one seems to add to me. No one but chocolate and wine and cappuccino. They give without asking and I love them for it.

My kids want the $20s in my wallet. I’m the bank. My husband wants me to replace the ink cartridge in his printer — because now that H. has gone to college, I’m Tech Support. Yes and when H. comes home, he wants clean laundry; I’m the laundress. He also wants a dinner bigger than Trump’s ego. As for work — my writing job wants my stories written last week and at my teaching job, my students want to be entertained and given straight As.

Don’t they all know I could be fricken’ Hemingway if only I had the time?

Well, let them extract their pound of flesh, I could use to lose a few pounds. But take from my hips, not my brains or heart. Not my wallet. Go ahead, take. I still have a lot to give. I am not a placemat. Do I mean doormat? In any case, I am not a mat that you put dirty dishes or dirty boots on.

I am a doily — a small, pretty, lace thing. Delicate and grandmotherly. I survive this period of my life because someday, I’ll be a grandmother. By then, maybe my kids will no longer pick my wallet or expect a meal or clean laundry. They will see in me the things I am really good for. And do really well. Play. Tell stories. Make jokes. Sing silly songs. Write poetry. Walk (not run) in the park. Sit on a park bench.

I do look forward to growing old and returning to my childhood. A second childhood when no one extracts a pound of flesh.

The Hole in Your Soul

I sat on a bench today and tried another 10 minutes of nothingness.

Again the crunching of footsteps, I flipped my eyes open. Tourists stopping to snap pictures of Morning Glories along the fence.

Closed my eyes. Thought about this documentary, Griefwalker, I saw last night. (I couldn’t get the cable box to work — without Chris and the kids to show me. At least, Netflix worked.)

In the film, Stephen Jenkinson sits by people who are dying. One older woman didn’t really want to face it. Sure, we’re all going to die. But we want to like to live like we’re not going to. Our culture is death-phobic. We must embrace death as part of our journey. It is a part of our humanity. There was a metaphor in the film about setting off the canoe, a metaphor for the body. When useful, the canoe springs leaks, and we patch it. But eventually it sets off from this shore.

There was another metaphor for how we talk to and prepare our families for our certain deaths. We set the table for them. We must acknowledge the journey, like indigenous people; we must bring our family home. Not let them die in hospitals. But so many of us are cut off from our homes. It is a hole.

We may refuse to acknowledge this hole in our soul. We fill it with narcissism or eating or drinking.

I am pathologically happy-go-lucky. Is that my denial?

Living with someone who is chronically ill, how do I talk about the inevitable, the illness, the feelings? I don’t really know anyone who is going through what I’m going through. Am I handling Chris’s Parkinson’s Disease well? Especially for my children? Is my optimism a bit of a veneer? The film reminded me to let people have their space. Don’t rush in and fill the void. Let there be sadness and joy; life and death are both a part of the journey. Let me have space too. It is all part of the loop.

I was alone last night, beached out on the couch in front of the TV last night. One of my daughters is at a service project in Alabama; another goes away tonite for weekend-long party. Chris is directing a play in Florida. And, of course, H. is in college. I was tired — have not had a day off from writing and teaching in more than 11 days. (Workaholism is, at times, how I fill the void in my life.)
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For my mindfulness project, I was going to walk the labyrinth in Battery Park today, but the gate was locked. So I sat on a bench, folded my hands in my lap, tried to clear my mind. Slowed down.
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The Statue of Liberty was nearby, and so was the big sculpture that used to be in the center of the World Trade Center. I used to sit by that sculpture when I worked at the front desk of the Vista Hotel in the World Trade Center before work or during my lunch hour.

The sculpture now rests in the park. Some people rush by. The sculpture is a metaphor for the hole in my soul, the sadness. It is okay to be sad. It is okay that the sculpture is there. Grief is not bad. It is part of our humanity. And so is this — a woman sat on the bench beside me, nursing her baby.

Rewards of Sharing and Organizing

Some people are splitters and some, lumpers. Some cut wood and some gather wood.

Learning is more fun when it’s experiential and relevant.

School rewards people who can compartmentalize. If you have a diversification of or a variety of interests, it’s harder.

Organizations must become small pieces, loosely joined, as opposed to big entities. Organizations grow (learn) best when agile.

Evolution teaches that a system can heals itself. (So if your organization is not agile, it can learn to be.)

Now that there is a lower cost to content, we’re abundant in resources, content, abilities to share.

Institutions no longer manage scarcity through central control. They manage abundance. We live in a world of abundance.

The cost of collaboration and the cost of communication has gone way down. The entrepreneurs who focus on sharing and agility succeed.

The key to success is on process and empowerment (in organizations) and less on control.

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knowledge is power.

I am getting organized. Order is a thing of beauty. These notes are pieces of flotsam that drifted onto my evernote app. I am cleaning out the digital notes on my phone. 

I like to say, “Organization is the key to success.” But I am also empowering others and sharing what I know. I have to redefine success. 

Why Be Mindful?

This October I’m going to blog every single fricken’ day.

I tried this last year and missed a few days. Because my darling Charlotte was in excrutiating pain and we landed in the emergency room with her fibroid cysts for a day. And well, you know, a trip to the ER can ruin a few days.

This year I’m back in the blog game. And my theme is mindfulness. Sure, it’s trendy. What’s wrong with that? I’m trendy. What are you saying? I’m fat? (That’s an inside joke — apropos of nothing, my sister and I like to say that. It’s funny. Trust me. The way we say it. It’s funny, okay?)

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In the West Village. Balloons over the steps of Alma Mathews House, a short-term residence for faith-based professionals. The house is being sold. Change is inevitable. Mindfulness reminds us of impermanence. 

Be mindful. Breathe. Notice. Be present. Not so funny? Maybe. But fun, and as previously mentioned, trendy.

Seriously. I came up with this theme when I realized I was just madly cycling through life. Ever feel like you’re just riding your bike in place? Not going anywhere? That’s called spin class. Also, trendy. I like to ride a bike, sure, but I like to go places. I realized at the end of September that I was restless. And I thought I would pursue a month of mindfulness to center myself. Figure out where I am and who I am. And what’s important.

And remind myself to be. here. now.

That’s it. Join me.

Stop a minute to breathe. That’s all.

Communicate Happiness

I was off and running and wanted everyone to do exactly what I said. Wait. Pause. I downshifted. I sat in my favorite chair and read the New York Times.

I have tried this gear shifting, simply letting others be, this whole week. With my son Hayden around the house only for another couple of days before college, I have thought, Screw it! Don’t pester him to load or unload the dishwasher. Let him “beach out,” as he calls it.

Beach out.

Let go.

Quit trying so hard, I tell myself. Life is not a contest. It doesn’t matter who works the hardest or struggles the most.

Make yourself a simple life.

Although.

My three children had been planted in front of televisions, laptops, iphones, screens for HOURS! I finally said, That’s it! Outside! I threw a big bouncey ball at them. They took the frisbee.

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We never had so much fun as we did on the nearby field of Riverside Park. We played Monkey in the Middle and the Witch in the Well and yes, Tag.

I hope that when they look back at their childhoods they remember playing in the field of grass. I hope I too remember laying in the grass and staring at the blue blue sky.

A few days ago, when I met my bf Jolain in Central Park, I could not get two words out of my head – Ample. Sunshine.

Last month when I was in Dublin for ten days, I had a beautiful time, but I never had days upon days of ample sunshine. Many days we had a bright blue sky with white-grey clouds. And a sprinkling of rain.

Now I have days and days of sunshine. That’s New York for you.

Growing up in Chicago, it was more like Dublin. I remember the winters — if it was grey, it was grey the whole day. When I was Hayden’s age, I moved to New York for college. I could not believe the light. Growing up in the suburbs I needed more light.

In the Presbyterian faith, churches that support the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, trans, bi families and partnerships are called more light churches. I like that.

Yesterday I was looking through my TimeHop app which captures my tweets, posts, updates from my past. I read something I had written a year ago.

Praise more. Complain less.

I think I had been inspired by skimming a book called A Complaint-Free World. I vowed to live complaint-free for one day.

Today, too, I vow to beach out, let go, have fun, find the places of ample sunshine, more light.

So far, so good.

Incidentally, a wave of joy and pride has come over me about my son heading off to college on Tuesday this week. I do not feel sad, I feel happy for him and for us as a family.

We have had a good week, shopping for his dorm room, going to Coney Island, being extras in a Greg Kinnear film. We are making memories. And we are beaching out.

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This post was written at the Ecumenical Library Writing Group. We were asked by Regina to meditate on two words, Communicate and Happiness. Then we sat silently for one minute silently as if we were in the midst of Lectio Divina, a spiritual practice of deep connection with the word. Our writing group meets next on September 14th at the Interchurch Center for 45 minutes at lunch time.  

The Spiritual Path

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I walked at the Stormont Estate in Belfast. Very pretty.

At the airport  gate, I chatted with an older woman who had just walked the Camino in Spain. I’m not really sure where the Camino is. I’m too jetlagged from my Ireland trip to google it. But I think it’s a pilgrimage following in the footsteps of some beloved saint.

The 70ish woman carried only a small backpack. Her feet were tired she said but her boots were sturdy. She lifted a boot to show me.

“Nice,” I said although they were just plain old hiking shoes, not attractive at all. I guess hiking boots are not supposed to be attractive. “They look functional.”

“Some people do hike the Camino in sneakers, but I think you need these.”

“I am going to do that – a spiritual journey,” I nodded.

“Any walk can be a spiritual walk,” she said. “Like you told me you’re from New York. You could walk the Hudson River?”

“Really?” I said. “What’s spiritual about the Hudson?”

“I don’t know. Maybe do Vermont then,” she said.

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This is a path Dan Wakefield and I walked at the Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat in Pennsylvania.

I am attracted to the idea of long walks like the Camino, wherever that is, or the Appalachian Trail. Yes, the AT’s cool. You start in the spring in the south and end in the fall in New England. But do you sleep in a cozy bed? I don’t think so. I love a bed and breakfast where someone – not me – makes me coffee.

Maybe I should consider the wise woman’s advice and see the Hudson as a spiritual path. I could blog about it. I might call the new blog, Hiking the Hudson, A Spiritual Journey. Oh, I like the sound of that. The Hudson is beautiful in the fall. Maybe I’ll do the hike this fall when my darlings go back to school.

Wait. The Hudson is too ordinary. I want to do an extraordinary hike — Mount Kilimanjaro or K2 — a climb that will make me famous. Or at least make me feel alive. I might encounter rattlesnakes, freeze to death, stare down a wild boar. But will I sleep in a soft place? I don’t think so. Maybe I should stick with the Hudson and then I can head home every night to my cozy bed on the Upper West Side.

Maybe every walk can be a spiritual walk, just like the elder pilgrim said. Every journey can spark lofty thoughts, philosophical ponderings and celebrations of God.

I believe God is found in nature and in chance encounters on the daily  journey. Maybe God even resides in the ordinary river that I pass every day.

Maybe I don’t have to make a pilgrimage to some distant land and blog about it to find my spiritual path.

I wrote this post at the Ecumenical Library lunchtime writing group at the Interchurch Center led by Tracey Del Duca. The next God Box writing group meets on Aug. 10 and 24. 

5th of July

 

 

Give yourself away. I’ve been thinking about the freedom of having less and doing more. When Cate came back from kayaking in Alaska, she said she had very little — like two changes of lightweight clothes, but that she was given so much — whales breaching, bears lumbering, sea otters playing. If you have a lot, give it away, and you will have more. But it will be given to you in experiences, not things.

Any way, this is my hope for my summer decluttering journey. I want to give it all away. You can’t take  your stuff and your bank account to the grave. You can’t take anything. So make memories.

Yesterday, I intentionally dialed down my social media use. And I’ve planned a few days in the next month when I can be off the grid.

New York City is a perfect place to immerse yourself in experiences. My nephew’s visiting from Chicago-land. We started at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and ended up across the Brooklyn Bridge. We passed through Chelsea, the Village, SoHo, Chinatown, the Courts.

We hopped on bikes and rode. We used Citibikes. I have a yearly pass, but I purchased a daily pass for the boys. You get the bikes for increments of 30 minutes in the one-day pass (45 minutes in the yearly pass.) When you stop, you can slam them into the stand and walk away.

Citibike is coming north to the Upper West Side, I hope, this summer.

We ended our 4th of July on the West side, too wiped out to head East and South for the fireworks. But we saw fireworks at the end of the path and across the Hudson in New Jersey. It was quiet.

And getting quiet, turning off the chatter, was pretty nice.

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Fireworks south of us, as we took a walk along the Hudson River.

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I love this store, Muji, and the boys loved their bean bag chairs after all of our bike riding and shopping.

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We biked across the Brooklyn Bridge.

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We shopped at uniqlo.

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We got caught in the rain, in the Village, during a small street fair.

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St. Patrick’s Church is going through some repairs. The boys imagined climbing on the scaffolding.

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Rockefeller Center

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral

This is what we did yesterday.