When I saw that the NYC doctor with Ebola had worked at Columbia Presbyterian ER, I did feel a little a butterfly flutter in my stomach. That’s where Coco and I spent the night on Friday. (And I had told her, at the time, “Let’s get out of here as fast as we can. You can get infections in the hospital.”)
But I’m not scared. I’m proud that our favorite hospital’s doctors work with Doctors Without Borders.
Borders are made up. Borders are moving. We are all brothers and sisters in this world. Trace us back, and we all descended from some fireside circle. We come from hunters and gatherers — women and children gathering berries in handwoven baskets. We are all eking out our survival. Even now.
I got so lucky in my adult life when I worked for so long (too long?) for the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. I met so many brilliant people — people very similar to Dr. Craig Spencer. They are trying to lift the whole world out of particular miseries — illness, poverty, loneliness, oppression. Through their efforts, for example, and in a joint effort with lots of other do-gooders, malaria is practically history.
I’m also not worried about Ebola because I know that the things that will get you in this life are not the flashy front page diseases or airline crashes. But the less sexy — heart disease, cancer. And it’s better to take care of your daily health — floss, eat right, exercise — than stew about infectious diseases.
That’s why today I’m going for my annual physical and my twice-a-year dermatology exam; on Monday, I’m going for my annual gynecological exam.
I remind myself in this media swirl: It’s the little things that will kill you, not the big things. And I’m trying to take care of all the little things today.
The ER at Columbia Presbyterian – great people doing great work:
Joined hundreds of thousands on Sunday after church to march.
These ladies from Code Pink were there — looking awesome and fiesty femininsty gorgeous. Their message? War is not green. Yes. And tons of kids. And patient parents. We had to wait on 72nd Street for about an hour before we could feed in to the march. Here we are passing by Columbus Circle. It felt like the march opened up here and we could look around. All the humanity. I like their sign that said, “We have solutions.” It wasn’t just a march where people pointed out the problems. Although there was some of that. Vegans educated us on the reality that cows are a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. There was a lot of music. But, as in any march, my favorite is “We shall overcome!” I melt when I hear that at a march.
There were a lot of young people. We all walked for hours. So fun.
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.
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.
I have had this uncanny sense that I’m about to experience some miracle.
Is it the onset of summer? A time of less work? I have been freelancing, leading workshops, substitute teaching, tutoring and working my ass off. Okay, I wish I worked my ass off, just a little — not that my ass is too big — but well, you know, metaphorically.
And then, there’s the work of family life — the endless meals and maintenance that my three teenagers and disabled spouse require.
But two of my darlings will be in summer camp and one will be on a school trip to Botswana soon. And my husband will be on a fishing trip in Canada. So, maybe it’s just that — soon, for a couple of weeks, I will have less responsibility. I will be free. I can watch what I want on TV. I won’t have to work so hard.
Maybe, it’s the longer days and the light. The birds are definitely chirping when I wake in the morning.
I can ride my bike everywhere and I am always happy on my bike.
I can’t quite put my finger on why I feel lighter in spirit. I just know that something good is about to happen. And I wonder what it is.
I was in Central Park on a snowy Saturday morning with my friend Charles Chessler. He had rallied several of his friends to go birding and photographing birds through a Facebook invitation.
I love walking or riding my bike in Central Park.
Charlie has great charisma. People and birds just love to stop, chat, and pose for him.
I’d gone out birding with Charles a few times before. On this trip we were searching for some rare long-eared owl in the pine trees near the Angel of the Waters. But instead, on that branch, we spotted a fat and still-hungry hawk. We spotted a lot more than that too.
Here’s what we saw:
Baltimore Oriole (male and female)
Dark eyed junco
Downy woodpecker (male and female)
Yellow bellied sap sucker
Northern cardinal (male and female)
Maybe yellow warbler
Yellow rump warbler
Louisiana water thrush
Black and white warbler
Red wing blackbird
Black birded green
We go birding in Central Park behind the cafe, across the Bow Bridge, by the Ramble.
For the record, I could not identify any of these birds (except maybe the cardinals and blue jays) without help from Charlie and fellow birders and photographers Dan Lane Williams and Amanda Bielskas. On previous birding jaunts, we met Birding Bob and friend Andy Gershon.
Although I don’t really know about birds, I know about the beauty of birds. As Emily Dickinson wrote:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
Going out for a walk with birders reminds me to slow down, take in the beauty, stop time with a photo, even if it’s cold and snowy — especially then! There’s beauty and hope all around. You just have to look for it.
If you like the beautiful photography of Charles Chessler, (and who doesn’t?) I have a request. Chessler is entered in a photo contest. If he wins, he gets a trip to a safari in Namibia. He is less than one thousand votes away. He needs 212 Votes to pop into 4th place!
Charlie and I are friends from the NYU Stella Adler acting school in the ’80s. He’s a fitness trainer with a specialty for keeping senior citizens active.
If Charlie won the trip, think about the great pics he’d share with us! Vote at BandH Photo Contest. He might even just even invite all of us along — at least on his Facebook stream! 😉
“The framers of the constitution meant for it to be continuously updated,” my 11th grade son said at last night’s late-night dinner. “Jefferson and them would’ve thought it was a joke that we still have the right to bear arms and all that.”
This shocked me. Is not the constitution like the bible — holy, sacred, untouchable? Maybe when we lock up our books instead of live them, we lose our self determination. We entrust our happiness to people who wrote documents hundreds of years ago. And not realize we have powers ourselves.
“Other countries amend their constitutions all the time,” my son told me.
I thought of South Africa – in my lifetime – my adulthood, no less – it has revised its constitution to make it more inclusive, more just. The South African constitution has allowed gay marriage, abolished the death penalty, and guaranteed the participation of women and immigrants.
Thank you, South Africa and Nelson Mandela!
I was thinking about all this while I was stuck on a subway bound for New Work City Chinatown. On my iPhone I read the St. Paul and St. Andrew Advent email message from my friend Peggy. She advocated for the United Methodist Church to continue to grow and find new ways to love one another. Like new life on a tree, religions could include and love everyone, regardless of how or who they love.
Beautiful, living, and valuable books and sacred institutions, like religions and marriages, must grow too. Or whither and die.
Today’s daily prompt is about learning. I am lover of learning. I am especially curious on how framers and faith leaders write sacred books and readers read them.
I love learning about happiness and rewiring myself to have a happy life, or at least a meaningful life, given challenges which include patience around my husband’s chronic illness.
Let’s seize our right to grow, even in our constitutions. Let’s seize the day.
But if I had to live on an deserted island, I know I’d have to take one more thing — sunscreen. Because my dermatologist would yell at me more than she already does if I showed up at my twice-yearly appointment with even more sunspots.
In terms of non-things on my island, (in addition to my immediate family, of course), I’d also want to take my book club and my writing class because we never seem to run out of things to say about what we write or read.
I’d also like to take Manhattan to my desert island because it is a treasure trove of beauty, especially on a foggy day like today.
Man, today was bea-ut-i-ful — so perfect for a bike ride through Central Park. Scroll down for a few more pics.
On a writerly note, I was going to post a memoir piece about my Norwegian grandmother that I wrote in the my Monday night writing group, but suddenly it felt too personal. Any way, come to a writing workshop if you want more personal writing. Check out the workshops at: http://www.bootcamp4writers.com/
yes, first off, my awesome kids, especially as they were good traveling companions over Thanksgiving
my family whom we visited in Chicago — all 5 of us Coudal kids were together with our families — so many fun memories!
my blog, my facebook, my instagram, my twitter — and even my foray into pinterest
my new bathroom lights (this may seem small, but as we live in a rent stabilized apartment, we get very few home improvements. The super was in our apartment when we left for Chicago and when we came back, voila! fixtures were installed!)
my quirky freelance gigs and steady income
all of my writing students — even my bratty middle school kids
my old friends, like from college and high school, who’ve been my friends for DECADES!
my new friends, like from new work city
my writing class
my love of travel
the NYC theater scene
my finishing a 5K on turkey day
my Upper West Side
the NYC citbike program
my secret garden
my health — because, it’s true, health is wealth
When I am grateful, something in me opens up and I make room for more acceptance.
Gratitude is a practice.
I am not perfect. At times, I see too quickly what I am missing. Because of Chris’s Parkinson’s Disease, I am, at times, sorry for him, sorry for my kids, sorry for myself. Just sorry. And mad.
I have wished I was married to someone who did not have chronic health problems. But I want to remember to appreciate and celebrate what I have. I have a lot.
I want to be like Dr. Ruth — positive, energetic, honest.
Sometimes I worry about my kids — with a father with Parkinson’s Disease, maybe their lives are too hard. Maybe they miss out on too much.
But then I remember there are other great people who’ve managed to survive much worse childhoods and go on to help others and retain a positive attitude. One such American is Dr. Ruth who was born Karola “Ruth” Siegel in Germany, whom I learned a lot about and grew to love as her life story unfolded at Becoming Dr. Ruth, a new Off-Broadway show.
She was a holocaust orphan sent by kindertransport to basically indentured servitude in Switzerland at age 10. Her grandmother’s last words to little Karola — “Stay cheerful!”
I listened to Dr. Ruth on the radio in the ’80s and occasionally caught her Lifetime TV show. She was a charismatic sex therapist. And looking back, I see how important — even life saving — her message of safe sex was. Especially at a time when people did not talk about sex.
When I met Dr. Ruth, I wanted to give her a hug — she seems like a hugger, but she said she has a bad shoulder so we just smiled at each other and chatted.
Before the show at this fantastic new bar, BEA, Dr. Ruth asked the dozen or so bloggers if we had any questions. One guy asked, “How do you have great sex even when you wear a condom?” She said, “First off, good for you, wearing a condom. Too many young people forget that we need to do this.” Go! Dr. Ruth, keep on reminding us about safe sex.
At the talk back, Dr. Ruth was asked how she felt seeing herself on stage, she retorted, “Don’t analyze me!” (She apparently does not let her emotional guard down even though she is encouraging and comfortable when others talk freely of their feelings and sexuality. Ironic.)
When asked her motivation for doing the play, Dr. Ruth said she wanted to do this show to let people know, “How important is the early socialization of the child. How important is the love I had for my first 10 years,” from parents and grandmother whom she never saw again. The play chronicles her childhood to her possible move out of a Washington Heights apartment in 1997, a few months after her husband Freddy’s death. In the talk back, Dr. Ruth said that she wanted to create this show as a tribute to her (third) husband Freddy Westheimer.
Dr. Ruth said she was, “happy to participate with non-Jews. To be a witness to — that it (the Holocaust) did happen.” The writer (and apparently, a non-Jew) Mark St. Germain also wrote the charming play, Camping with Henry and Tom. There are heavy and surprising moments in the play but the character of Dr. Ruth is so disarming and funny, the show never sinks you. Rather, it uplifts you.
It’s a one-woman show. The actor, Debra Jo Rupp, the mother from ‘That ’70s show, really carries it — she’s efficient, decisive, loving, and smart.
When pictures of her grandchildren are shown in the play, Dr. Ruth says, “Hitler lost and I won.” And implicit is the message, never forget.
I loved this play and highly recommend it.
I walked out of the theater, inspired to be more cheerful and compassionate. The play also reminded me that, even as we age — Ruth’s 85! — we still have so much to give and we must continue to make the world a more loving place.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Becoming Dr. Ruth and Serino/Coyne for the tickets to the Westside Theatre and the mixology at BEA. The opinions on this blog are always my own.