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.

Snapseed (6)
So many bridges in Central Park. The chipping paint looked like lace on this one.

Light

We had an assignment to write about light. 

speed of light.
an owl lit out from the barnyard squawking.
a mouse flitted from the pasture to the tall green stalks of corn.
Did not know her days were numbered.
the bitty mouse.
She will be bit as mice will bite.
and no one

This dream.  Poetry is a dream. why do we dream?
why do i dream? Anxiety dreams?

that i am late for school/work.

that i will forget my lines.

i cannot stop dreaming
i must let go of my anxiety dreams. Before I fall asleep, I tell myself, have a happy sleep, no more worries…

I started this blog post on the Mariandale Retreat in Westchester – a break from my mad dash
cycling, cycling to get to my next big thing,
to my next place

How can I have ease? i would like to know
i know i am only responsible for myself. i know this intellectually, but i also feel i am responsible for all of you. that your happiness depends on me.
who is this YOU? any passerbys, i offer a smile. any family member, i will rent a car and drive you. any friend, i will make a date and meet you. any bank clerk, i will greet you with kindness.

and i feel a tension in my shoulders. i retreated because i needed to remember this:
’tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free.
and this:

every single person needs to keep beauty on their map
because there is more to this life than bread and water
we need to play, to immerse ourselves in nature, to have strength
we need to dive in to beauty as if into a pool.

lose ourselves. To find ourselves.

every single day, at the retreat and now at home, i set out to walk for an hour. I heard a neurologist at the Rockefeller University say we need this. this is the secret to happiness – walk an hour a day. but i usually walk for 40 minutes.

And i try to make art every day.

i wanted to light out like the owl from the barn.
i wanted to take flight and swoop down to carry the mouse back to the nest. the hungry tots. but there is also the owl that loves to fly farther and farther
and swoop into the currents of the air stream
the stream in the air
diving and dipping
when the lights dwindle and the stars poke through like mice. a little twinkle, a little glimmer, a little field of effervescence. And there it is:
the ineffableness of you
the secret of you
the only you
the way to find the most of you.

you
i was tired and lay down
and i lay by the river and i drifted to a deeper sleep and no one ever came to wake me.
and some day i will sleep, but until then I will fly.

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.

Find Meaning Through Writing

I write every day. I write in my journal. Facebook posts and tweets. Blog posts for SPSARV and my own blog and website. I write emails and texts. I write lesson plans and press releases. Magazine articles.

I write very fast. I try to write faster than my inner censor. In NYU grad school, my writing teacher Philip Schultz called the inner editor the “shitbird,” who sits on your shoulder and tells you it’s shit. I’ve heard her chirp. She wants me to give up, stop writing. Watch TV or scan social media. Say nothing. Good girls remain mute.

And the “shitbird” is a term from a friend of mine who killed himself. He was the most talented poet. …And he wrote me a letter saying that he could hear my encouragement, but that there was also a shitbird on his shoulder, whispering that he couldn’t write. Maybe that shitbird is the Superego. Overly cautious. – From an interview with Philip Schultz.

But the bird flew away when I blogged 31 Days of October with a community of writers. Something shifted in me. The daily sharing of my interior life made me stop and notice my world. Maybe a little of my writing was shit. But mostly, the writing was deep and brief and full of wonder and gratitude. I have a tough time with my husband’s Parkinson’s and my three teenagers and wanting everyone to be happy all the time. I want to give these kids an awesome childhood. Still, I want to remain true to myself as an artist and a lover of learning. And always, I am looking for joy. When I write about these conflicts, I find meaning.

daisies mediumMy commitment to writing in October made me a better, more effortless writer. I realized I didn’t have to write one grand oeuvre. I could write a bunch of short meaningful pieces. I don’t know what my writing life will hold in 2015. Especially as I am teaching full time for several months. But I know that my life is deepened because I am a writer. I know that my writing helps me find my purpose and cope with  challenges and joys.

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.

Reinventing Myself

So a few weeks ago, when I saw the play Tamburlaine, I reconnected with my fellow audience member and friend Amy. She’s been my friend for almost 20 years. We hung out many an afternoon at the Jones Beach on Lake Champlain.

Anyway, at the Brooklyn play, Amy was big and pregnant and beautiful. And I said, “Oh, I’d heard you were working at my kids’ school.” (But teaches on a different campus.)

“Yes, but I’m going on maternity leave and they can’t find anyone to replace me.”

“I can replace you,” I said, chirpily. See, I’ve been substitute teaching at some Upper West Side private schools for the last year or so. Mostly I’ve taught Middle School English. (But I also love teaching History. And I discovered the beauty of teaching Science too. In the lab setting, kids can wander around, talk amongst themselves as they conduct their lab experiments. Yes, I’ve led experiments. (Mostly about chlorophyll)).

“You can,” she agreed.

I found out whom to contact. And then, I emailed and waited. Then I emailed a reminder. Thanksgiving came and went. Then the phone rang and I had a couple of phone interviews. And then I was invited in to see the school and be interviewed by some leaders of the schools. And teach a class. Which felt like a lot of pressure. How can I teach with so many people watching me? There were seven adults in the room. But I did a pretty good job. I played improv games with the kids and we had some laughs.

Of course, while this whole process was going on, I had several other pots I was stirring – teaching an afterschool class for first graders, editing a wonderful book, writing for Interpreter magazine and, my favorite job, blogging for SPSARV.

My friend Alicia said I reminded her of this skit from In Living Color where every member of the West Indian family works eight jobs. While asleep, they stir the pot. That’s my style. I stir the pot.

In any case, I was offered the job pending the approval of my background check. Which — even though I’ve done nothing (seriously) wrong — still rattled me. I hoped to pass. They checked my education, work and several of my references. And, surprise! Surprise! I passed. Then, I had to wait for the pay offer. Which I hoped would be as good as my last full time job, but it wasn’t.

It was better. Why did no one tell me that teaching paid better than corporate writing? And you don’t have to sit in a cubicle all day. You get to hang out at recess with kids. Outdoors!

So I temporarily took over Amy’s position teaching drama for first through fifth graders last week. And I love it. I’m so glad that I saw that bloody play Tamburlaine. Not because of the play. Because I saw Amy there.

Incidentally, when I first got my job as a consultant at the Women’s Division, maybe 25 years ago, it was because I bumped into a friend at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a special exhibit on the art of Mexico. So it pays to be cultural!

I love the school – the kids, the teachers, the staff. I even love the school bus. That’s right. I get back and forth to the campus on the yellow school bus. Like all of the other children on the bus, I just tuck my head into my technology and play on my device for the 20 minutes of travel time.

And that’s how I’m reinventing myself from communicator to teacher. (Thanks, Amy!)

Happy Everything!

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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.