Upcoming Goals

Earlier in the season, before the storm, the days were brighter and warmer, and the girls played soccer in Central Park. Look how much fun these soccer moms are having!

Just back from my girls’ freezing soccer game. Thank God basketball season is upon us because soccer season is tough on the spectators. I posted on Facebook, ‘this soccer mom needs a hot toddy.’

The term, ‘soccer mom,’ is used disparagingly, but I appreciate the soccer moms and dads who coach teams and bring snacks and stand there in the cold, cheering and chatting, without warm beverages.

I appreciate myself. I put air in the girls’ tires so we could ride bikes to the game. But I was overambitious. It was too cold. We were miserable, riding into the cold wind off of the Hudson River.

The girls would’ve rather taken a bus, a subway, a taxi, anything. Getting places in New York can be cushy or tough. Sometimes I make us tough it out. Perhaps needlessly. Sometimes I feel like I am an Outward Bound leader rather than a parent.

I want to be grateful that my kids are so athletic and like playing team sports.

I have so many good things on my horizon. I want to focus on positive things and my upcoming goals. I do not want to dwell on the argument the girls and I had when it was time to ride home from the game and the girls wanted to switch bikes.

Here’s are some good things ahead:

  • My trip to Chicago for Thanksgiving
  • Upcoming writing workshops
  • Christmas in the Adirondacks
  • Basketball season
  • Ice skating in Central Park
  • Wonderful things I can’t even imagine right now.

I believe in pronoia, which is the sneaking suspicion that the universe is conspiring to help you. (Unlike paranoia, where the world is conspiring to get you.)

That’s my upcoming goal until New Year’s — to have faith in the power of pronoia.

2 Great New Movies about Alcoholics

Just in time for the holidays, there are two awesome new films about addiction and alcoholism. I just saw Smashed and Flight. Both of these films plot the journey from stupor to sober. They show how fun it is to drink and how crazy the consequences of that night of fun can be.

The acting in both of these films is awesome. Denzel Washington is a genius. I never tire of watching him. The man is unafraid to take his emotions to the edge. (Love that in a man!)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Smashed is playful, lovable, out of control and fricken’ scary. And you feel scared for her. You feel like one her kindergarten students, asking yourself, “Is she okay?” And then you think, “Oh, whatever. She’s funny!”

I love a subgenre of movies — movies, I dub, learning how to love again. As someone who’s loved my share of alcoholics, I can attest to the wild ride of fun and despair in loving an alcoholic (or, I imagine, in being one).

Overcoming the disease of alcoholism is a compelling story line — after the slide into despair comes the crawl into a state of grace.

Of course there are other great movies about alcoholism, like Leaving Las Vegas or Clean and Sober. I loved Clean and Sober because the whole second part of the plot revolved around the Michael Keaton character’s obsession as he substituted his addiction to cocaine to his attachment to his girlfriend.

If, like me, you can identify with the life of a codependent, attached to another person’s dysfunction, these are good holiday movies for you. Both films left me shaken and stirred, just in time for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, when I can toast these two new movies. I recommend that you do too. Make yours a double (feature) and take it neat with a twist.

Writing Prompt

At our lunchtime Wednesday Writers group, Rashida Craddock led us on a hilarious exercise. She passed out a list of 26 strange words like cabotage, quire, tittynope, and xertz. And she told us to write a story of one person explaining how to use the word correctly to a child. Even though we didn’t know what the words meant, we were to write as if we did. She gave us 10 minutes.

Here’s a little story I wrote with my word, winklepicker.

“Oh, little one, a winklepicker is not for you. That’s a grown-up word for what grown-ups eat when they’re having their cocktails on the terrace. They have pickles, cheese, crackers, stuffed mushrooms, winklepickers!”

“But Grammy! I saw a mermaid on the terrace when you were having cocktails.”

“Oh, little one, cocktail time is magical. I have seen my share of mermaids during cocktail time too.”

Yes, little one, also known as Juliet, had seen the mermaid. And Brownie, the mermaid, had seen Juliet many times. She’d seen her on the rope swinging in the Elm tree, kicking her legs and climbing high.

Brownie was lost and had to get back to her school. And she believed that the girl could help her return to her school of fish.

I’ve been telling these girls bedtime stories about Juliet and Brownie their whole lives. Made up bedtime stories are the best.

“Now, you run along. Go find your mermaids, your leprechauns, your fairies,” said Granny. “I’m in need of a sleep fairy myself. I’ve been so busy writing invitations to our next cocktail party. And by sleep fairy, I mean a frighteningly delicious mix of champagne, cranberry, and a splash of Kir.”

Juliet slunk away while Grammy tinkled with the ice. Juliet sat on the window seat in the library and looked out the window…. (there’s more but I’ll stop there with my bedtime story.)

I was so happy to be with my lunchtime writing community. I hadn’t been there in two months, since I left the day job. We are such an amazing group of creative women. Don’t believe me? Check out Rashida’s art blog.

How to Start a Biz

When I was little, I wanted to be an actress and a writer. But I always knew I would be a teacher. I had a hobby of making worksheets for my little sister and trying to teach her French. I was like that. I saw learning for the sake of learning as a life-long hobby.

Since I left my day job two months ago, I have learned a lot. Here are some of my take-aways:

  • Pursue your passion. If you like doing your biz, then people will like being around you when you’re doing it. Happiness is contagious. People in your sphere feel permission to pursue their passion when you pursue yours. That’s part of life’s purpose: to provide a space for people to be authentic.
  • Have accountability buddies. My buddies are my brother Brendan, my coach Mandy, my biz partner Kelly, my ex-colleague Hal, and my web developer Felicity. My experience hosting the writing weekend in the Adirondacks showed me how awesome and important it was to have empathetic and smart people in my orbit. I could lean on them, admit my doubts, and be encouraged to persevere.
  • Stay social. I need to spend solitary time to blog and to prep for teaching. I imagine every start up can be lonely. So, I am joining some MeetUps, going out to lunch with friends, staying social.
  • Wear jeans. For ten years, I dressed in business clothing almost every single working day. Enough already! I still put on a nice outfit when I teach or go out to lunch, but I am happy that every day is casual Friday.
  • my city block in the morning

    Get up and out. I have to get up and out by 8 am every day. If all I do is walk the kids to the bus stop two blocks away at 7:40 am and come right back home, that’s fine. My other favorite destination is a nearby 7:30 am meditation class. And, of course, I love the little French bistro, Margot Patisserie, for coffee and a croissant. The downside to my early mornings, I wake by 6:20, is that by 10 pm, I am wiped out and crabby and yelling at the kids, “Get to bed!”

I wrote this blog post, inspired by Don Miller’s Storyline. I especially like Miller’s advice to Be Patient. That’s not always easy, but I think it’s always worth it.

It reminds me of Rilke’s advice to:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

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A Long Winter’s Nap

Tabata, my sister's cat. She doesn't care much...
I get sick of cat photos but this one’s cute. (Photo credit: creative commons, Wikipedia)

Yesterday the weirdest thing happened. I had a lot to do, so I napped. I never nap. I only napped when I was pregnant.

I felt guilty for napping. Guilt is my fall-back feeling for doing anything that does not improve the house, help my husband or my kids, earn money.

After all, I had to:

  • Clean the house. (The cleaning lady couldn’t come due to the impending storm.)
  • Write a proposal for the Players Club about a January blogging event.
  • Say yes! to a request to lead a social media workshop in April 2013 at Religion Communicators Council gathering in Indianapolis.
  • Begin a magazine writing assignment.
  • Watch the president’s acceptance speech. (Couldn’t stay up on election night to wait for Romney’s concession!)
  • Help my husband with bill-paying.

So I napped. I slept for two and a half hours. I woke up groggy, confused. I had dreamt I was at a racetrack with my son and I was drinking champagne. It was a warm afternoon and I was enjoying our shady spot. I wanted to stay asleep.

My kids chased each other with snowballs into the apartment building.

The kids come home from school, dropping their backpacks by the front door, noisy and hungry for a snack or attention.

But I couldn’t help them. I couldn’t remember who they were, who I was, or where I was. It took me half an hour to feel right. That’s why I never nap. It’s discombobulating.

I know I’m tired because I’ve been waking early to get the kids up to their bus and get to my 7:30 am guided meditation class.

In meditation yesterday morning, a long-haired dude sitting next to me was falling on my shoulder, snoring away. It threw me off my meditation game.

My nap threw me off too. Since it snowed last night, I’m wondering if maybe I was just getting ready for a long winter’s nap.

Voting in New York City

by the people, for the people

Anti-government people, you must remember that government is by the people and for the people. So if you’re anti-government, you’re anti-people.

Democracy is a beautiful and messy thing. But it is our best mess, way better than a crappy monarchy. (I really can’t stand how infatuated the world is with the spoiled and inbred English monarchy. People, that’s why we revolted! In the U.S., no one is born superior or more royal. We are a country of equals.)

Waiting in line to vote.

Yesterday I stood in line for two hours and fifteen minutes to vote in a part of the country that pundits and politicians are quick to write off. I wasn’t alone. Millions voted. It was our right. And we made a difference.

What talking heads say on the perpetual news channels matters not one iota, compared to how simply and elegantly my single vote matters. Your vote matters. Every vote matters.

Tight quarters as we waited to vote in NYC, but the people in line with me were even-tempered.

Many voters in line with me were old and in wheelchairs. Many carried books. Some carried dogs or babies. One guy talked to another about Bikram yoga. I talked to the science teacher ahead of me about teaching middle school kids.

Another voter complimented our over-worked poll worker’s equanimity. Yes, there were some crabby people too, but they were a minority. And negative people, overall, lost to optimistic people last night.

In an age of increasing distrust and cynicism over big and traditional institutions, like banks, universities, political parties, religions, we have to return to trust and optimism in the value and ideals upon which this country is based, our simple, elegant, democratic truth: that all are created equal.

And as we treat one another equally and make a positive difference close to home, our small actions ripple to impact this vast country.

This election reminded me to love my neighbors, even the crabby ones, and to love my community and my country (and your country) − this messy and beautiful democracy.

the shining city upon a hill.

Remember Abraham Lincoln’s conclusion to the Gettysburg Address:

…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

 

On the Local News

I found out I was on the evening news because a couple of people emailed me and a couple more Facebook messaged me.

On Tuesday morning, the reporter called me over by tapping on her microphone and pointing to the CBS logo. I am not that impressed by daytime network news. (I don’t watch daytime TV so maybe I shouldn’t judge).

Like most New Yorkers, I am usually in a hurry. And on that morning, most people were hustling to work. But I don’t have a 9 to 5 job. Being a journalist myself, I felt a little sorry for any reporter who has to snag interviews at 9 am in the 72nd Street subway.

So that’s why I stopped to talk. The segment was about a legal case I knew nothing about (though the reporter briefed me on the case and told me where to find the legal papers to learn more.) While I did not know about the ruling, that did not prevent me from having an opinion or an experience with the issues of the case. Here’s the link: CBS news story on subway grinder and video segment.

I showed the kids the interview. “How can you even ride the subway again?” C. asked.  The experience is really not something I dwell on or can’t get over. It was a long time ago. I get more jumpy when squirrels get too near me at a picnic in Riverside Park. Yes, wildlife scares me, not people on the subway.

I also hesitate to share anything negative about my experiences in New York City, because I do not want people to dislike or dis or be afraid of my beautiful city. Maybe I am being grandiose, thinking that I am responsible for people’s impressions of the city. (But I do like to think I am a one-woman tourist industry. Why else have a blog called My Beautiful New York?)

What’s tough for me  is actually not that one random experience on the subway, but the way people have commented on the news story. I glanced through a couple of comments on the web and then stopped reading. I have a policy not to read or respond to comments about me or my issues on unmoderated websites. I do not handle criticism well. I would rather be proactive than reactive. I do not ever want to engage in an online argument. I feel I would lose and waste my time and grow increasingly bitter. Why bother. I’m in a hurry.

New Yorkers are a big dysfunctional family. And every family has its heartbreaks, and hurdles. And the crowded subways, the occasionally abusive people, the rabid Riverside Park squirrels, and even the crazy commenters are just a few of New York City’s challenges. And the assets of living here far outweigh the city’s deficits.