Free Write and Gratitude

I don’t want to grow old but, you know, like they say, consider the options. One upside to aging? Higher cheekbones. One downside? Lower boobs.

One upside? I tan easily. One downside? Skin cancer — but mine’s basal cell, the least problematic type, so I’m cool with that. I really shouldn’t complain.

The thing I’m really not loving about growing old is the way that you gain one pound a year for 10 years and then suddenly you’re like 10 pounds more than your ideal weight.

But wait, let me remind myself. I have had friends and colleagues, younger than me, who have been diagnosed with cancer. And many survived and a few are no longer around. And they’d all probably remind me to not worry about weight. So seize the day.

I am reminding myself to take nothing for granted. I’m happy today’s problems include:
1. I don’t feel like writing right now.
2. I don’t feel like emptying the dishwasher.

Sure, I sometimes feel sorry for myself. Chris is really having more troubles with his Parkinson’s and the tasks of daily living. This worries me. A lot.

Let me grind my gears back to a place gratitude.

Here’s today’s gratitude list:

  • Citibike – commuted home today although it was cold. It feels so good to sail through the beautiful streets of the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
  • My two good legs — to power the Citibike and take me up and down so many flights of stairs at work.
  • My fitbit — although my battery does not stay charged for as long as it should. (Don’t we all wind down as we age?) I may not have achieved my 10,000 steps for today, but I have been active nine out of nine hours.
  • My beautiful big apartment. It is always a work in progress. But it’s been the perfect place for raising my beautiful family and occasionally hosting the fabulous dinner party.
  • My washer/dryer and dishwasher — true, I don’t feel like unloading the dishes, but, wow, I have clean dishes. Such a gift.
  • Big one here — my kids. Love love love these nerds. As my neighbor upstairs used to say, “Not one is a shrinking violet.” Nope. That’s the way I like them.
  • Chris. Yes, he’s a handful, but we do connect on a deep level.
  • My excellent job — sure, it’s not perfect — I’m far too nomadic, moving from one class to another, but I have wonderful colleagues and generally look forward to going to work every day (and coming home at the end of the day). Several days a week I have to take the little guys to the bus and guess what? On those days, I hold hands with kindergartners and cross them safely. How lucky am I? Kids are hilarious.
  • My writing — whether it’s my journaling or my humorous essays or these half-baked blog posts.
  • My attitude. New York City is known as a FuggetAboutIt kinda place. But actually, most people are cool. They’re just in a hurry. Me? I’m naturally happy-go-lucky.

So, I’m grateful that I’m growing older, that I have my health, that I am loved and that I love well. What else is there? Unloading the dishwasher? Ah, FuggetAboutIt. I’m going to watch TV. Yes, grateful for my TV too.

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So many bridges in Central Park. The chipping paint looked like lace on this one.
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Have a reservoir 

I took this picture at noon today near the reservoir in Central Park. I love working in a place where I can step outside and be surrounded by beauty in an instant.

I sat on a bench for 15 minutes. I set aside my smartphone and looked around.

Beside me, there was a young woman, an older woman in a wheelchair, and a middle aged woman. The middle aged woman had a Caribbean accent and she kept telling the woman in the wheelchair, “Your granddaughter is here. She came to see you.”

And the two, the caregiver and the granddaughter, both stroked the older woman’s hair. The woman in the wheelchair was unresponsive. But the two were undaunted. They were loving. They kept talking to the grandmother, caressing her.

Noticing their affection feeds my soul, makes me realize that people are basically good. And ultimately, love wins.

The reservoir in Central Park is a popular tourist spot. It is so vast. And seems, almost an anomaly. Maybe even obsolete. But the reservoir in the middle of a city park is necessary — a place to rest or glance across.

A place for ordinary kindness. So needed. So natural. So true.

 

Have a Hobby

Happiness is doing something for which there is really no good reason.

I took a photography class today with Charles Chessler. We are friends from drama school way back when. I love his enthusiasm for life.

We met at the High Line to learn what makes a good portrait shot. We tried out various ways of lighting our model, the wonderful A.B. Lugo.

Here are a few unedited shots I took on my phone. The workshop inspired me to play around with my good camera. I want to capture some nice profile pics for people. I’m a good photographer, always getting better.

It was a beautiful day — a perfect antidote to the disquieting political revelations this week. It’s good to know there are good men, fun things to learn, and a beautiful city to explore.

 

Kindness Counts

One special night Chris and I took the kids to see the Big Apple Circus. The show was spectacular and Grandma, our favorite clown, was so funny. It was warm although it was Thanksgiving weekend. A golden moon hung over Manhattan.

“Look at the moon,” I told my son, who was eight or nine years old at the time.

“No, c’mon. Hurry up, Mom. I have to get home to see Drake and Josh.” That was his favorite TV show.

Duhrr! What did I do wrong? I had given my kids EVERYTHING — including the moon and what did I get? No ‘Thank you.’ ‘Gee, I’m so lucky.’ ‘You’re the best.’

I just read this Karen Weese article in the Washington Post about raising kinder kids. I love it. I relate. I know, too, that kids at certain ages are simply caught up in the here and now. And they cannot fathom that something wonderful is not right in front of them at any given moment. They deserve it. We all do. Even though something wonderful might just have happened for us. Are we all so entitled?

We have to learn to SAVOR. This is a stage I learned about at Global Ministries on the Marketing Team. Working for the United Methodist Church, I had worked on lots and lots of marketing campaigns. On the team, we needed to remind each other to stop and pause and savor how well we had done before we started some new project. It was hard to do.

Probably in all jobs and in all families, there’s this feeling — I’m on a treadmill. I just hopped off this one treadmill. And now I must jump on another. That’s life. No time.

Let’s remember to pause every day. Pause between our runs on the treadmill. We must savor. And in that savoring moment, have gratitude for the circus, for the moon, for our favorite TV shows, but mostly for each other — and for Grandma too!

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This was one cold Chicago 5K Turkey Trot. 

Thanks to WordPress – My 2014 in Review

I love WordPress.com. It’s a free blogging platform. The creators of WordPress let people work in their own ways. It’s not like apple or microsoft, because it’s open source software. Which means, I think, that people can tinker with the software. (Not that I know how to tinker!). The WordPress peeps whom I’ve met, (or Automattic peeps) at the WordPress WordCamp this summer, are all very committed to sharing resources and knowledge. They’re not like, “Pay me $39 for my advice.” No, they’re like, “Here’s something cool you can try on your blog.”

When I started blogging, Beth Buchanan told me WordPress is where all the cool kids hang out. So, I thought, ya, that’s me. I’m cool. And I’ve been blogging since July 2009. What!

I thought when I started, I’d blog about writing, but it seems I blog mostly about family life. My most popular blog posts seem to be about non-traditional families, like when I wrote about Bridget and Amanda’s wedding this summer. Also, when I write about how annoying my husband’s Parkinson’s Disease is — that’s popular. Or how annoying my kids are. Also, popular. People like honesty in their blog posts. Not perfection. Readers like love. They also like failure.

WordPress prepared an annual report for my blog. I posted 71 times in 2013 and 68 in 2014. I wonder how many times I’ll post in 2015. In any case, thanks for reading about my loves and my failures. Happy New Year! Here’s to more blogging joy!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Bloomsday

Celebrate fiction. We all know that fiction is truer than real life.

This summer every person in my family is taking a big trip. My oldest goes to Botswana tomorrow; the girls to camp in Vermont next week; and then, my husband fishing to the Canadian wilderness. I am going nowhere.

Wait. I am going to be in Dublin — just for a day. Just in my mind. On Bloomsday.

I’m going with the Irish American Bar Association. You don’t have to be a lawyer to attend. I’m not. Join me. Buy tickets for Bloomsday with the Irish American Bar. The event is so inspiring. I have attended several years now. It is always hilarious and moving. And reminds me of the reasons I love the First Amendment and this novel that opened up the possibilities for our literary creativity.

“Copyright, Creativity and the First Amendment,” will be delivered by the Hon. Gerard Lynch, United States Court of Appeals Judge for the Second Circuit, and will be followed by readings from Ulysses.

I like to introduce my tutoring students to James Joyce’s Ulysses by asking them to read and riff on Molly Bloom’s soliloquy. Lay out your own stream of consciousness. Yes. And yes.

I like to show them that this, some say the greatest work in the English language, breaks all kinds of rules.

Joyce said of his work, “I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book. – said in 1918, from the book James Joyce and the Making of “Ulysses” (1934).

The pity is the public will demand and find a moral in my book — or worse they may take it in some more serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one single serious line in it. – from an interview published in Vanity Fair (March 1922).

And some people had their shoes off and were w...
This is not Ireland. This the Riverdale section of the Bronx. And yes, some people walked barefoot in the grass #wavehill #bronx via mbcoudal

 

heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit. – James Joyce. Ulysses.

It soared, a bird, it held its flight, a swift pure cry, soar silver orb it leaped serene, speeding, sustained, to come, don’t spin it out too long long breath he breath long life, soaring high, high resplendent, aflame, crowned, high in the effulgence symbolistic, high, of the ethereal bosom, high, of the high vast irradiation everywhere all soaring all around about the all, the endlessnessnessness… – James Joyce, Ulysses.

 Amazing, right?

Yesterday’s WordPress prompt verbal ticks. And yes, Molly Bloom had a verbal tick. And yes, I will hear it on Monday. Can you come too?

Is there a word or a phrase you use (or overuse) all the time, and are seemingly unable to get rid of? If not, what’s the one that drives you crazy when others use it? – Ben Huberman

Repurposing

I began blogging on WordPress about four and a half years ago. My first post was on my first rule. See, during a champagne dinner with my friend Lindsay, we had come up with seven guidelines to help us cope with work and family.

In fact, just this summer, Lindsay and I toiled again over a champagne dinner and many-coffee brunch the next day, to update our seven rules and come up with seven BRAND SPANKING NEW rules. And I will share them, in time, my friends.

But among our old rules, the first was Pile on the People.

# 1 Pile on People (P.O.P.)

There is no problem that can’t be bettered by adding a lot more people to it.

If two parents are good, then three are even better still. Four or five? Excellent! After all, it does take a village to raise a child. Or fight a war. Even George Bush employed this concept — he called it a surge.

In my life, I have employed a surge. Especially in the last few years I have piled on the people by employing housekeepers and babysitters. And it’s really worked well. (Heck, half of my facebook friends are the kids’ babysitters.)

One note: it does cost you. So, be prepared to DTE (damn the expense!) and pile the money on as you pile the people on! Or barter! Or get family members on board.

I was just chatting with Josie, former babysitter, the other night. I was dissing marriage to her. Saying Let’s face it, married couple love is way overrated. That relationship is so fetishized by, oh, I don’t know, diamond companies, candymakers, Valentine’s revelers, Catholic priests. If we are going to celebrate love, let’s expand our concept of love a wee bit.

Let’s celebrate a love of a single mother for her kids, a sister for her brother, two dear old friends, a son for his dad, an aunt for her nephew, a student for his teacher, a pastor for her flock, a babysitter for her kids. I dunno. I’m just sick of all the brouhaha over marriage.

My point is — it’s wrong to send love like a garden hose in just one direction. That won’t water the garden. Hook it up to a sprinkler and let love be more like a fountain — spraying in many directions and watering a wider land.

I’m digressing.

I want to tweak my P.O.P. concept. Make it P.O.U.P. — Pile on Useful People. Because just a pile of people gets unwieldy. And given that I’m a real people pleaser, when you have to please unwieldy people, it’s a real drag. So try to see that the people in your life add, not take away.

A Garden hose.
A Garden hose. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I started on WordPress in July 2009, I had four blogs. This blog appeared on the first.

  • To offer advice on staying happy – My 7 Rules
  • To document my beautiful NYC – My Beautiful New York
  • To run a 5k – Running Aground
  • To get my kids off technology – The Connected Life

***

Looking this first post over, I realized that the topic is still relevant as last night at book club, while discussing Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women, we got into this same conversation about marriage again.

I contend that it is not right or fair or realistic to expect one person to be everything to you. Shouldn’t we pile on the the people? The more, the merrier.