Monday, August 13, 2018

Today I am 49

On my birthday, I like to document myself with a photo. India just took this for me.

Last night I stayed up way too late drinking wine with my dear friend Sarah, and today I see it in my tired face and bleary eyes. But she lives far away, and our families are close, and if I have learned anything, ever, it is that the people you love are the most important parts of life, and you need to take the time when it is right in front of you.

So we carped the diem but really the evening which is a word I do not know in Latin, although I think the phrase is really about the moment or the opportunity. While I am tired today, I will tell you I don't regret it one bit.

I look at birthdays as my own personal New Year's, as a time to reflect and an opportunity to reset.

I've had a big year of returning to work, and a summer of work and fun travels in which I've barely been home. At this point my list of cities includes Cartagena, Bogota, Long Beach, Duluth, Minneapolis...I need to write about so many of these adventures in particular posts.

But on my birthday, I want to talk about roots.

A couple days ago I got an email from my cousin Patti Jo. She'd been out running errands with her son Dave, who I got to meet earlier this month. They'd run into a friend of his who had a large tree tattooed on his arm, starting with the base of the trunk at his elbow and going up to his shoulder.

And Patti Jo said, "Where are the roots?"

Later that day the friend messaged her son, showing him new ink with roots going down his forearm. I said, "You gave him roots!"

And as I said that, it struck me: in our time together, she gave me roots.

The first of this month, I took my mom and India to Duluth, Minnesota.

Duluth, if you're not familiar with it, is about 150 miles north of Minneapolis. It's on the shore of Lake Superior. You may know the Gordon Lightfoot song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, about the sinking of a ship that carried iron ore from Duluth and Superior, twin ports a bridge apart in western Lake Superior.

My Aunt Jo documented it with a painting, included here. You can also see the painting of me, and on the far right, one of my brother. He was standing next to me looking down, as I sat on the beach letting rocks trickle through my fingers, looking across Lake Superior at Aunt Jo's island.
Though growing up we went every summer, we hadn't been 1984, when my paternal grandmother died.

My cousins were older than me and we always lived far apart, and so for decades we weren't in contact.

This summer, it was time.

I texted when we arrived, and Patti Jo asked what we wanted to do. My list included: visit Grandma and Grandpa's house; eat Bridgeman's ice cream; search for agates on the shore; see Aunt Jo's marina. We wanted her to come with us for any and all activities she was up for.

So we went on a nostalgia tour. We looked through photo albums and scrapbooks. And we talked. And talked.

For a long time I relied mainly on my friend family. Growing up overseas, we had all our holiday traditions with friends. And we were distant not just in miles from my dad's family.

As someone who didn't grow up with much family, it's struck me how powerful shared memory is. There's something about the way my cousin talks, her voice and her cadence, that are so much like her mom, my Aunt Jo.

In the summers, we'd stay with Aunt Jo and Uncle Howard, who lived on a big piece of beautiful land. We'd stay on Aunt Jo's houseboat. We'd cook out on the beach, and we spent hours and hours looking for agates.

We'd find rocks we thought were agates, and we'd ask, and Jo would say, "Oh, yah, that's a snot agate!"

"What's a snot agate?"

"Snot an agate."

I don't know if humor is genetic, but I feel it is, because the Jordans are all tickled by the same kinds of things.

Patti Jo has been going through photos, compiling albums and scrapooks. This is our great grandmother Olga. I see my face in hers. If she had a sense of humor, I'm going to be I'd have liked it. It's unclear from this photo, however.
All this to say, I've spent the last years in DC creating a home for my kids, and a "from" place for them to be from. And a "from" place for me to be from as well.

I left Duluth with a greater feeling of belonging, of understanding our generations of family, of being  connected.

I felt, after so many years, rooted. And that was a gift I didn't even know I was hoping for.

Much love to all of you. Thanks for joining me as I start this big year ahead.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Priorities and such

Let me start by saying that we are in Cartagena, and it is spectacular and we have been speaking Spanish and eating delicious food and delighting in the culture and all around reveling in the Caribbean.

So you don't think I'm an utter Philistine.

Because what I really want to show you is this fabulous outfit I bought.
My super fashionable friend Leigh once told me, "I always feel that if I don’t have a touch of cartoon character in my daily wardrobe, I’m doing it wrong." She said this and I was all, yes, yes, and more yes.

I saw this outfit, and I had to try it on, because look at the tigers loitering in the jungle! It's by a Colombian designer called tr3s. I'd link to their site but all that comes up is it's under construction.

Now, I don't know if the top is a little too much for me, but I adore the stitching and the details. I also don't know quite where I can wear a dressy shorts outfit. You know?

But I would very much like to wear this with platform heels.

I love everything about it. Everything.

As Colombians say, "Divino!"

Also, this the only place in our Airbnb to take a photo into a mirror that doesn't involve standing on a toilet. So, here I am, chair standing. And please ignore the terrible humidity hair because it is possibly twice as humid as DC here which I think means approximately 7 million percent.

India saw this top in a children's boutique on our walk home from camp.

She peered in the window and asked if we could go in. And then she spotted this top, and she wanted it.

It was expensive for a kid's top, and I said we had to think about it.

She talked about it the next day, and the next. Could we go back? Could we buy it? Finally I said she could buy it if she were willing to spend her own money, saved from allowance, birthdays, etc.

The third day she said she was willing to spend her own money, and we bought it.

She couldn't be more delighted.

Nick likes to say she's her mother's daughter. I love her fashion sense, and I love that she gets in my closet and tries on boots she loves and cannot wait to fit them.

One day she's going to wear all my favorite things better than I do.

We arrived and Jordan immediately became obsessed with World Cup stickers.He has a pretty amazing backdrop for hanging out with his sticker book.

(Also, we rooted for Colombia on Tuesday, and we were crushed, crushed at the very last minute.)

Anyway, if you've not done this, you buy a book that has pages for all the teams, with spaces for each player. And then you buy packets of stickers with the players in them.

When Jordan is feeling generous, or wants to engage his sister, he offers for India to open packets for him. They can and do spend a good deal of time doing this.

These stickers are expensive, and he was willing to spend his own money on a box of stickers.

One morning last week he woke me up sobbing at 6:20 am. "Mama! Nigeria isn't stapled!"

I understand there are people in this world who are their best selves at 6:20 am. I am not among them.

I walked him out of the room and said, "Tt's OK to cry about this, but you need to cry somewhere else so you don't wake up India. Also, in the future, do not wake me up before 7:00 in the morning unless you're bleeding or the house is on fire."

The next morning he woke me up at 6:40 and said, "I know I'm not supposed to wake you up, but..."

We've been rising early is what I'm saying.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Kind of an incredibly big huge deal to me

My dear friends,

I started this year with a personal goal of getting an essay published in a publication that pays.

I've gotten rejections, which don't feel good but are to be expected.

Sometimes I wonder if I should keep blogging, because I have so many friends who used to blog, but haven't for years. I wonder if I should be making myself write and submit more essays for publication, rather than spending the time on the blog. But I like LG and it keeps me writing, and there are so many stories I tell here that nobody would be interested in publishing.


One night after work a couple months ago, I was waiting for the light to change at the corner of Connecticut and Q. I checked my email  and almost stepped out into traffic.

There was a message from an editor at the On Parenting blog of the Washington Post. She liked my blog. Would I be interested in writing a piece for them?

Would I?!?

It is up today, and you can find it here.

My essay is about talking to my kids about the fact that my dad died by suicide. It is, as you might expect, deeply personal, and I'm so proud to have this piece up at the Washington Post.

Truly incredible people were willing to talk to me. They so generously shared their time and their expertise. I learned a lot that I will use with my kids, and I hope I conveyed my story and the advice  in a manner that's accessible and helpful.

If it resonates, I'd love it if you'd share.



Thursday, June 28, 2018

In case you've ever wondered, this is what my brain looks like

Around midnight last Friday, the night before the kids and I left for three weeks in Colombia, this was the state that I was in.

I kept having one more hurdle to get past before I could organize and pack. First, work travel. Then, I was writing an article (which, when published, I will tell you and everyone I've ever met about). Next, the Overnight walk.

And finally it was the weekend and we were leaving on Saturday afternoon and ohmygod it was becoming increasingly clear that I was not going to fit all of our everything into Nick's designed for manly suits work suitcase.

And we had so many shoes. Did we need so many shoes? Yes, and I wasn't even taking all the shoes I wanted to take...

I rolled garments into tight little rolls, and filled as many of those efficient packing cubes as we had. And still, no fit.

So then I realized that at this point my children are old enough to be helpful when they're willing, and I could enlist them to roll one bag.

So I added a rollaboard, (rollerboard?) and off we went with what I thought was a rather reasonable amount of luggage.
The kids were semi-cooperative in the airport, except when they weren't, at which point they were fighting and sliding on the ground in the middle of the terminal. I decided to pretend I didn't know them.
And then they decided to see if they could fit into the overhead compartment. My first inclination was to snap at them and tell them to get out of there right now! But desire to take pictures won out, so I did that first.
We flew Copa, which sadly had no back-of-seat movie screens, but did have lovely staff. My children ate all of their airplane dinners, with no complaints.

We had a stressfully brief layover in Panama City, and arrived in Cartagena around 10:30 Colombia time, which, when the US springs forward, is one hour back. Jordan immediately lay on the floor next to the conveyor belt, thus causing my head to melt.

I'm no germaphobe, but two airport floors in one day is at least one too many.
And now here we are, and we've already been to my kids' favorite restaurant (pizza! mural!) and gotten Jordan a soccer shirt because tomorrow Colombia plays Senegal. Vamos, Colombia!

I'm not gonna lie, I'm beyond delighted to be here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Sometimes I think that I know what love's all about. And when I see the light I know I'll be all right...

Philly SOLO!
Dear friends,

Saturday night we walked 16.7 miles through Philadelphia in the Out of the Darkness Overnight walk, raising funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

This year I had so many names on my shirt. Each name was a loved one lost, or a loved one who struggles. I have people I worry about who I put on there.

So many generous people--so many of you--contributed to my walk without hesitation. In fact, gladly, with kind words, words of gratitude, when really, I'm the one who is grateful.
So many loved ones
I offered to carry names on my shirt and in my heart, and people gave them. People thanked me, but in truth, it was my privilege. It's no small thing to carry someone so dearly loved. I do not take it lightly.

My new and lovely friend Melissa lost her dad, Miguel, when she was young. She couldn't do the Philly walk, and gave me his name. Our two dads, with the same name.

I thought about people's brothers, boyfriends, parents, children, friends and relatives. The ache of the loss makes me cry, even now, as I type.

I would never compare my loss to someone else's, because all our losses are the worst. Losing loved ones is brutal.

But with suicide there is an extra layer of why. Of whether or not you could have done something. And, even now, of stigma.

I talked to people who kept quiet for decades. Who lied about what happened, because that was more acceptable than the truth. Who are asked why they're not yet over it. Who get chastised by family for being open about a decades-ago suicide loss, because there are adult children who still don't know, and family members want to perpetuate a fiction.

You might not think that a suicide event would be fun, but my teammates are high energy, passionate, hilarious. Cari, who I'd met along with her amazing mom Connie, organized everything for the Philly team. I'm so grateful to her for adding that to her super busy schedule.
Starting out strong
Jen carried the Philly SOLO sign most of the miles, until it got left next to a porta-potty.

I wove in and out as we walked, talking to new people, hearing new stories, or picking up on old tales. You know I'm not one for small talk, and I find the emotional intensity satisfying.

We share our stories, our burdens, our snacks.One even offered to split her Xanax with another.

This year the Philly team was called Philly SOLO, but it was the same incredible team I walked with last year. This year, though, I got to walk with lovely Tiffany, who contacted me before the NYC walk because she was an LG reader, and she's the reason I joined SOLOS. There were members I hadn't met on the DC walk last year, and new members.

Laurie was unable to make this year's walk, and I carried her son Nathaniel with me, and she was with me in spirit.

Nick had been planning on driving Jordan's camp trunk up to NJ, so I asked if he could do so last weekend, and drop Betty and me in Philly on the way. In theory, this was perfect. It didn't take them out of their way, and we'd leave in the morning and I'd be there in good time for the team lunch.

In actual fact, I-95 is Gehenna on wheels.I don't know why they don't have on-ramp signs that say, "Abandon all hope..."

Then we stopped at a rest stop, where India cheerfully announced, "This is where I puked on Jordan's foot!" In fact it wasn't, because the rest stop where she puked on Jordan's foot is much bigger, and has a poorly staffed Dunkin Donuts, whereas this one has a delightful Peet's Coffee.

In any case. We then had to eat. Jordan's bagel was too hot. He was thirsty. Why did it take so long to get water?


I was growing increasingly agitated as the hours wore on and it was looking like I was barely going to arrive in time to drop bags at the hotel before the team lunch.

At some point Nick pointed out that I was overly anxious.

And in my head I was all, "Don't stab the driver, Lisa. Breathe. The number one rule of being a passenger is don't stab the driver."

Out loud I'm certain I was shrill and bitchy, as happens when I am anxious and someone suggests I need to calm down or dial it back, which just makes me DIAL IT UP TO A MILLION.

In any case, Nick and the kids very kindly deposited us at the hotel and Betty and I got to the lunch not terribly late, and I relayed my anxiety and everyone said, in different words, that it's such a high anxiety weekend and they get super stressed out beforehand as well.

One of my teammates also said she's not a lawyer, but the advice she'd like to give me is never to stab anyone. "Just think it quietly really hard," she said.

Not a single person thought I was making too big a deal of it. It is hard for all of us.

I am so open about mental illness, about losing family members to suicide, and about my own struggles with depression. And I'm comfortable talking about all those things.

But I'm usually the one leading the conversation.

Being in a big group of others who talk about the same things, who live and breathe these issues, who casually mention that running daily decreases their ainxiety, who have been told to "get over it" or made to feel aberrant by STILL being upset about the suicide of a loved one...being surrounded by these people feels like exhaling after holding your breath for a long time.

It feels like a strong hug. Like sliding into clean sheets after a hot shower. It's a relief. It's a pleasure to all be together.
Hard to get all our feet in!
And! I got to see my delightful friend Joy, who I met the night before my first walk in 2013, and walked with in DC and then four years ago in Philly.
Joy's friends come out and cheer, and bring a dog to pet. They drive to different spots on the route. I think because of my neon pink tights, they always spotted me and encouraged me. This encouragement feels amazing.

We started walking at sundown. The first 10.5 miles were fine. And then around 1:00 am, we all sat down in a field and had midnight snack. We took off our shoes and changed our socks.

After that, the city was dark and quiet. Walkers spread out. The energy and excitement of starting out had dissipated.

I saw walkers I'd noticed earlier and wondered if they would make it, who were still walking when we approached the finish line. Honestly, at a certain point, I wondered if I would make it. Like me, they put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward.

The team stayed together well into the walk, way past the halfway point.
Almost halfway!
I can't think of another event like this. There's something particular about walking through the night, pushing through the dark and the quiet, keeping going even when you're tired, and your feet hurt, and you'd rather lie down and sleep. I keep going because I committed, because it is important to me. And because I know that if I just continue to move forward, eventually, I'll get there.

The last several miles, I lost my team and walked alone, though I was never alone. And I don't mean that in a Jesus carried me kind of way. I mean, there were other walkers.

We walked into Sunday, Father's Day.

I crossed the finish line alone, and hobbled up the steps to find my luminaria. This year I found all three. I was so tired I was off balance, and nearly fell off the steps several times.
Walking toward hope
But I found them. They were glowing, surrounded by others, dearly loved and dearly missed.
I saw old friends, made new ones, and had a beautiful time. Next year I'm heading to wherever it is on Friday, so I can have a good sleep and eliminate the stress of rushing on a Saturday. Plus I want to spend more time with my people.

This is a club I never want you to join. But being a member, walking is helpful; it is healing. As my friend Joy said, "Walking doesn't fix grief. Nothing fixes grief. Walking together on the journey of life is all we can do."

I'm grateful to walk together, and to feel that we are never alone.

I'm thankful you're on this journey with me, and that you've so kindly and lovingly supported me in so many ways.

Including donations that have not yet been credited to me, I raised over $4,500. My team raised over $31,000. I feel proud of raising this for such a great organization, one whose mission resonates so strongly with me.

Thank you for all your support, in so many ways.

Big hugs and much love,


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Morning smiles like the face of a newborn child

"Mama," my son said, as we lay side by side in his bed before sleep, "are you afraid of anything?"

The room was dark and quiet, and as I thought about my response, I said, "Am I afraid of anything? Hmm."

I'm terrified of somehow losing my kids, like in a car or plane crash, and having to face life without them. I'm scared something will happen to Nick. I know one day my mom will die and I worry about it. I'll be so devastated, I'll fall apart completely.

I'm scared to look in the mirror in the dark. I have been since second grade, when we played Bloody Mary at my house in Bangladesh. If I have to use the bathroom at night, I hurry in and out, looking straight ahead, making sure I don't glance in the mirror.

The other night it occurred to me vampires don't have a reflection. So looking in the mirror, you wouldn't even if know one were behind you.

Clowns, clowns frighten me, ever since Poltergeist. I read Steven King's It years and years ago, and that added to my clown terror. I couldn't watch the movie trailers.

I'm afraid of turbulence, I'm afraid my plane will crash. I worry about not having enough time with connections, and missing my next flight.

The idea of sink holes makes me anxious, although Nick has assured me that DC is built on rock.

I'm scared of accidentally backing into a geyser, although I've never yet been to Yellowstone. I'm scared of tsunamis and super volcanoes and being in the Pacific Northwest when that one giant tsunami earthquake liquefies the entire area.

At night, in the living room, when I'm the last one to bed, I fear a hand will reach out from under the couch as I walk by.

Also, rabies. Good lord, the rabies.

I'm afraid I'm not special. That actually, I'm just plain ordinary.

"Sharks," I said. I'm pretty scared of sharks. What about you?"

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Saab story

I can see paradise by the...
Several years ago, I inherited my father-in-law's Saab.

It's a terrific car. It has way more power than my Honda Civic, plus the windows are automatic. It has a lot of buttons for things I still have no idea about. It's a fancier car than I'd ever had.

However. It now also gets all quitty when it's hot out and it has to sit in traffic.

Maybe some of you remember how last year my car and I both broke down in hysteria on Rock Creek Parkway at rush hour?

One of the things that I managed to tell Nick, through my sobs and inability to breathe or articulate, was that there was an icon on the dashboard that looked like a yellow submarine. It is number five on this chart, which I got from a UK site called The Auto Agency.

I'm pretty sure my friend Steve referred to number three the "butt crack" light. This makes me feel better.

I mean, do you know what all those symbols mean?

In any case, my car stopped, and we had it towed to the Saab place in Virginia.

They fixed what they thought it was, and then I drove it to the Outer Banks to hang out with Wendy and her family, and lo, on 95 in Friday rush hour, my car started doing that thing where I press on the pedal and it does...nothing. I knew this was the precursor to it flashing the yellow submarine light and then just plain stopping.

So I pulled off into a small town that coincidentally had a garage that was about to close. There was nothing they could do for me. So I bought the kids ice cream, which they proceeded to drip on the floor because the temperature was approximately one million degrees.

Nick suggested we let the car cool down, and then get ourselves to Potomac Mills, which was about five miles away. We could have dinner while a storm was due to roll in and drop the temperature significantly, after which point we could drive home.

We did all these things, as well as buying Jordan a pair of maroon Chuck Taylor shoes at Off 5th, which he then referred to as his "designer fashion sneakers".

Once the car cooled down, I drove it home without issue. Nick took it to the Saab place, and they replaced something, or two somethings, plus the part that keeps the gears from suddenly snapping, because that was about to go, which sounded rather alarming.

It's an old car.

So we did all these things and all was fine all winter. Longer than all winter, because it stayed cold cold cold forever.

And then in April I drove India and some friends to a birthday party in Leesburg. It was a hot, sunny day. And on the way back, on 66, my car started doing that nothing thing that it does when I press the pedal.

I knew it was about to get quitty. I was trying not to freak out.

But traffic was moving. I got our friends home just as my car flashed a bunch of lights and then stopped.

I turned it off and got it started again, drove the mile home, and left it for three days. I didn't even want to look at it. I was pissed.

We dropped it off about three weeks ago. Nick asked them to keep it until they figured out what was wrong with it.

Yesterday they said they've run through two tanks of gas trying to get it to quit. They left it running for eight hours, and then drove it home.

No stalling. They can't make it fail.

They said they're stumped. One idea they proffered was that maybe, just maybe, Nick's wife, which would be ME, had perhaps filled it up with regular gas, rather than premium. The engine is old, and at this point, kind of picky.

Now. I may not know what the yellow submarine light's real name is. I may thing that one of those lights looks like loops of spaghetti. And I may have Nick talk to the garage because I genuinely don't know what I'm talking about with cars.

All these things are true.

But. What's also true is that I am a first-born rule follower. And. I happen to know that the octane rating has to do with the temperature at which your car burns gas. I learned this on NPR. You have to use the right number for your car's engine.

(Even if you think it's annoying, because your Honda used cheaper gas and also never quit on you. But you had to work up to that crazy left-side merge into the GW Parkway to Alexandria, because your Honda didn't actually have the power to merge in with anything approaching alacrity.)

The fact is that we have two cars, when one of us rarely drives. We have no car payment, because both our cars are old as god, and mine was free. There would be no reason to buy a new car if we got rid of this one.

And I actually love this car. Except for the quittiness, which makes me very resentful.


This afternoon I'm picking up my car, crossing my fingers, and driving it back into the city. And then I'm basically never driving it to Virginia again.

What I really, really need is Car Talk. The Tappet Brothers would figure this business out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


This morning I woke up to my annual text from my dear friend.


It's so simple, and so powerful it its simplicity.


Today marks nine years since I picked up the phone in my office knowing from the number that my dad was gone.

Now I can't remember the last time I spoke with him.


Birthdays and death days are the hardest.

Holidays are hard, too.

I don't know why I used to think it was just me.


This particular grief is so familiar, no longer frightening.

Even so, grief can catch you unawares, like your reflection in a store window, when you were really trying to get a glimpse of the cute shoes inside.

Grief can be tedious for those who aren't living through it.

Grief can be bewildering for those on the outside.

Grief can be bewildering on the inside.

Grief can settle in and open another bottle of wine just at the point in the evening where you think everyone is leaving and you're ready to go to bed. .


On Saturday I was walking with my kids and India said, "I wish your dad were still alive."

I said, "Me, too."

She said, "It's very sad, and we don't have to talk about it."

I said, "It's OK to talk about things that make us sad. My dad would've loved you so much."

And she replied, "Grandma Lillian and your dad are watching out for us."

I said, "I believe that. I like this idea."


On Sunday, I took my mom to the house of a trasured family friend from our Delhi days.

Bibi and I saw each other and started to cry.

She said she missed my dad. She misses his sense of humor. They would push each other to wicked funniness and scandalize others.

In her memories of me as a teenager, I would come in and graciously say hello and then leave. I always had places to be.


I can remember my dad's laugh, but not his voice.

Why didn't I save any voice mails? Now I always save voice mails.

It's not a safeguard, but it makes me feel better.


India asked when my dad died, and I said a few months before Jordan was born.

She said, "I wish he was alive longer so he got to meet us."

Me, too, baby. Me, too.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Try to remember when life was so tender that no one wept except the willow

This year, I'm trying to be more mindful. To notice but not judge. To sit with feelings rather than trying to change them.

I do this with varying degrees of success. But I am trying.

In May, everything makes me cry. Everything. I know this.

Yesterday I clicked on a story in the Post about an adopted son reuniting with his birth mother in Japan, and sobbed even before they reconnected. I mean, the guy was sitting at his desk at the Pentagon and got a phone call about his mom and I was just a wreck.

The fact is I cry at my desk no fewer than three times a day. I also have allergies, so I can always blame them if anyone notices my red eyes.

It's inconvenient, but I'm not dysfunctional. Just teary.

Now, I am trying to recognize and embrace these feelings rather than push them aside to get on with things. It is not my natural inclination.

Last year right around now, I went to see Deb, my acupuncturist (who I am linking because I love her, and am so happy to recommend). My allergies were walloping me, and I was afraid they were going to turn into a sinus infection.

I couldn't breathe through my nose, and I couldn't get a break from the congestion, no matter what I did. I used the Neti pot. I took hot showers. I steamed my head. I took Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin, Xyzal.

I doubled them up and used them in combination, which Nick found rather alarming and asked me to stop.

But it didn't matter. Nothing helped.

When I saw Deb, she told me that grief resides in the lungs and this affects your sinuses. It was May. Pat's health was rapidly declining. We had recently lost our dear friend John. I was gearing up for my annual Overnight walk.

And it was May.

The period leading up to the Overnight--which I am walking again in June in Philadelphia, if you would like and are able to contribute--takes a toll. Because I am fundraising and telling my story, I think about suicide and loss every single day.

People send me their own stories. People give me names. Every one of these feels personal. Every one of these makes me cry.

And in fact, if you have names of loved ones you have lost or who struggle, please, feel free to send them to me. I do not connect my willingness to walk for people to donations.

But in this period, I have a hard time. It's not depression. It's just sadness. Lots and lots of sadness.

Now, going back to Deb, I cried to her for a while, and then she said, "People like you operate in high energy mode, and you like to stay up." At this she reached her hands in the air. She grief brings us low, and people like me, we are afraid to be pulled down, because we're scared we won't get up again.

Really, the exact opposite of that Chumbawamba song.

This made sense. It makes sense. I fear the devastation of grief, because what if I get stuck?

I don't think of myself as a high energy person, but according to my husband (who I asked because sometimes things I think about myself are not what other people see, like how I think I'm crunchy and every time I say this, my friend Sophie laughs really hard) I radiate energy and intensity.

Honestly, I am often tired. We know how tired I am and my hell it is so boring. But I think it's true that I am high intensity. (I mean, if you know me, what do you think?)

Anyway, Deb said I needed to recognize this about myself. Grief will pull me down, but I will not stay down. I could let it pass, knowing I'd recover.

She also said I needed to figure out why I walk the Overnight walk. I needed to dig down into the real reasons for me, and address this need.

And so I have given it a lot of thought. This year I delayed fundraising until about six weeks out, because it costs me too much personally to be that sad for months.

Now I'm trying to just let myself feel the sadness and sit with the grief. Not avoid or fight them, but see them for what they are and honor them in a way that recognizes that loss hurts, and the spaces left behind by the most important people in your life are huge.

You know I recently reconnected with my cousin Patti Jo. She's an artist, like her mom. I sent her the photo of my daughter wading in a tide pool last weekend, and she juxtaposed it with Aunt Jo's painting of me at about that age, and added the text of my thank you message to her.

We've been sharing family memories, and they feel good.

She and her brothers were born years before my brother and me, so when we were kids, we knew them as glamorous teens. My dad, to my cousins, was Uncle Mickey. He was hilarious, he was fun. He and my mom would come back from overseas with great stories.

They were right there in Duluth, so saw our grandparents regularly, and knew them when they were younger, before my grandmother was in chronic pain.

I don't know why it's so powerful, but I find it healing to connect with and to hear about our family. We have different memories and vantage points of the same people across time and place. We share genes. We all share a particular sense of humor. This might strike me the most.

The emotional space loved ones occupy is theirs, and theirs alone. It's not like wet sand on the beach, where when you scoop out a bucket full, more immediately slides in.

Some spaces never fill in. Your time might get filled, but the space doesn't. Weeks and months and years pass, and it hurts less. Or, maybe more accurately, hurts differently.

People leave us, but energy doesn't go away. I find that idea comforting.

I wonder, what you do to live with grief and feelings of loss?

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

One ring to find them

A week ago Saturday, while I was reveling in my reunion, Nick was out in the wilds of Maryland, camping with my children and the Cub Scouts.

It wasn't really the wilds. It was a state park with camp sites.

(Also, as an aside, let me say that there are a number of younger sisters who attend the Scout meetings with their brothers. India, for one, is very interested in joining.)

So anyway, they went camping. They had a cookout, and ate s'mores, and sat around the fire and then they crawled into their sleeping bags in their respective tents and went to sleep.

My husband took off his watch and wedding ring and put them and his phone and various and sundry other items in an inside pocket of the tent.

He put this collection in the pocket on Jordan's side of the tent. And apparently Jordan saw Nick's stuff in there and lost his mind and so Nick wound up moving it. All but the ring.

You see where this is going.

In the morning, he took out all his items from the pocket, and started packing up.

It had rained a great deal in the night (which sounds very terrible to me), and he shook the tent out throughly before folding it.

They packed everything up then went on a hike.

Nick and the kids were at lunch before he realized he wasn't wearing his ring.

When  they got home he looked through everything--the tent, the sleeping bags, everything. But it was missing.

He was trying not to be annoyed at Jordan for having the fit that prompted him to move his stuff. He was trying not to be angry at himself for forgetting.

I, for my part, was trying not to be mad at him for wearing his ring camping. Who effing wears their ring camping?

But I am a person who will leave my rings off for weeks at a time, though I love them. I'll take them off for the pool and forget to put them back on.

Being a wife and a mom are now overwhelmingly my identity, but whether or not I have my rings on doesn't matter to me.

I love my engagement ring. And my wedding ring was my grandmother's. It's a simple white gold band. She wore it for over 60 years, and in that time, the notches on the sides smoothed themselves. You can barely see where they were now.

I do not wear the band alone, for fear it will slip off. The engagement ring is tighter, and holds it. But sometimes this all just feels like too much.

I don't wear them when I travel, because I don't want to take them off at night in strange places. And I have lost the ability so sleep in jewelry. It's party of my whole Princess and the Pea sleep business.

I didn't wear them to Family Camp, and I would most certainly not wear them to actual camping, if I ever did that.

So as I said, I was trying not to be mad. But why, why why wear them camping?

To this Nick said he wears it all the time. It's important to him. He just feels better with his ring on than off.

I could not fault him for that.

Now, I also feel strongly that things are just things. People are what's important. And yet, this band was made by my mom's jeweler, who escaped Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. It has our initials and wedding date, which Nick used as proof to buy discounted caulk.

(Yes. It always comes back to caulk.)

It's the ring I gave him when we exchanged vows in front of all these people who matter so much to us, and who, like my dad and other dearly loved ones, are no longer with us.

It's a thing, but it's not just a thing.

I was upset. Not mad at Nick. Just upset.

Last week I was in the office talking about the lost ring, and my friend Tadu said we should get a metal detector. She said she had a friend who had lost her ring twice on the beach. And twice she'd found it.

So I asked on Facebook if anyone had one to lend us. Nobody had a metal detector. But I learned that lots of people have lost wedding rings.

I was glad I asked, because I got some great stories.

So Nick bought a metal detector on Amazon. And early Saturday morning, we headed up to Calvert Cliffs.

We were walking around the camp site, and as Nick had mentioned, it was on the edge of a big hill. There were rivulets down the sides.

The kids and I started skibbling and sliding down the hill. I was thinking there was just no way we were going to find the ring.

Look at all the nature. There is so much nature, and it's such a small object. And round and rolly, as rings tend to be.

Then suddenly Nick said, "I FOUND IT!"

And lo, he had.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Mind your messages

A couple days ago, I posted something about wanting to put the Eagles on a continuous loop in the waiting room of my shrink's office.

In response, my friend Matt, who I've not seen in decades, sent me this clip above. I responded that it was funny, and that Nick hates the Eagles as well.

(Inconceivable, but true. I'm all, Nick, why don't you come to your senses? You been out ridin' fences for so long now...)


Matt and I had that brief exchange. Then that same evening another friend and I were messaging. She's in a leadership position, and she has some constituents who behave very badly. We were going back and forth about their behavior, and how she has to be diplomatic in her position.

We wrote lots and lots of messages back and forth. She described and I expressed sympathy and outrage.

At some point I said I would tell them to fuck off.

And in the middle of this volley of messages, Matt messaged me saying he doesn't actually hate them, and he mainly thinks about them in the context of their era.

It fit so well with the other conversation. I thought she was being exceedingly kind and generous to a group of rude, obnoxious people.

So I basically responded that I would not be that diplomatic, and I'd probably tell them to their faces that they're assholes.

Yesterday morning out of the blue I got a message from Matt with a random, "LOL".

LOL what? Ohhhhhh.

Which was a totally innocuous response to a crazy lady who feels the actual need to tell a band how much she hates them like right to their faces?

I was immediately all, OH NOT THE EAGLES! I like the Eagles! That was about these other people you don't know who behave terribly.

Fortunately, this was easily explained and not terrible like the time I messaged one coworker with the phrase "sucks big fat moose weenies" thinking he was the other coworker who actually used that expression.

It was also not as bad as when, last month, I confirmed with my trainer that I'd see him at noon, and then added I was a little nervous about the ass licking.

Happy Friday! 

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Let the music play on (play on, play on, play on)

Dear AESers,

I love you. I love all of you.

I miss every one of you I didn't get to see.

I started missing each of you who was there as we hugged goodbye.

We all hugged so much. It wasn't enough time. It's never enough time.
I tell people I have spectacular taste in friends, which is true.

But the fact is I lucked into you.

I lucked into moving back to Delhi and walking down Chandragupta Marg, past the big tree with the vultures outside the front gate, and into AES.

I lucked out by walking into 9th and staying through 12th.

Leaving for college broke my heart. I longed every day to be back in Delhi with all of you, back where I felt safe and loved.

I lucked into you at play practice with Mr. Pepperling, on the field with Coach Connor, passing notes in geometry class with Mr. Gupta, and in typing with Mr. Mitroo. I lucked into drinking fresh lime sodas at ACSA and listening to Purple Rain on the boom box.

And 80s dance music, which is my favorite, is irrevocably linked with dancing every single weekend with you. I will always associate Quiet Riot with Matt's house on the compound and Dire Straits with Jason and Lodi Gardens, and how beautiful is that?

I lucked into walking out of science class with Mr. Robbins and diving with you into huge monsoon puddles that had filled up the soccer field in the torrential downpour in between classes. I lucked into spending every weekend with you, often at the Gunghroo or the #1 at the Taj.

I lucked into Jason kindly being willing to drop me home from parties, because my dad deliberately set my curfew half an hour earlier than everyone else's, and I wasn't allowed to take taxis alone.

I lucked into sleeping at your houses and going dancing anyway, whether or not we had to sneak out past sleeping parents, which I still cannot believe we were so bold as to do.

I lucked into the fact that the smells of India are embedded forever in my heart. When I smell specific blends of spices, it is Delhi. When I smell a particular wood fire smell, it is Kashmir.

When I smell jet fuel, it is every runway I ever walked down getting on or off a plan onto the tarmac. The smell makes me ache for a childhood spent on Pan Am, with plates and glasses and real silverware and space to sleep in front of my parents' feet.

There are scents I cannot identify. But when I smell them, in that olfactory Proustian way, I am home in my heart, though Delhi hasn't been my physical home in over 30 years.

Some of you I only overlapped with my first year, or my last. Some of you I didn't even know in Delhi, because you were there before or after me. But we come to reunions, and we meet, and the spark is there.

And this is my good fortune, my privilege.

We were firmly Breakfast Club era, and I remember watching it in the Embassy theater. (They had such good popcorn.)

It was our era, but not our school. At AES, smart was cool. I can't think of a single person we didn't think was cool, because we didn't specifically think in those terms. Everyone could do anything and everything they wanted to.

We were so tight and supportive that we all did sports and theater and went out dancing together and worked hard to get good grades. Some of us were utter basket cases at the same time others may have thought we were princesses.

I learned recently that my astigmatism is the reason I have poor depth perception. Though I made the volleyball team one year, I sucked at softball, basketball, field hockey, and really any sport where you needed to understand where the ball was in relation to yourself.

I could never figure out where the damn ball was.

Cheerleading, it turned out, was for me. In my dreams, I still own those pom poms.

However. When, during the dancing part of the reunion, three of my fellow cheerleaders and I tried to pose for a cheer shot, we discovered we are not the cheerleaders we used to be.
Get up, Kerry. You're the team captain!
We settled for a pyramid. Of sorts.
And let me tell you, I did not know until last Friday night that field hockey and softball are not typical boy sports in the U.S. Who knew? Carter and Boo, they knew. Or anyway, they learned it upon return to the States.

This weekend someone--was it Andy?--said they thought our personalities are pretty well fixed by high school, and I agreed. We are all the same at core. Just older, wiser, kinder, better versions of ourselves.

Yes, we're older. We have conversations on topics unimaginable in high school: caring for our kids, wrinkle cream, and the possibility of freezing that annoying post-baby low belly fat. The sadness of seeing parents decline. The unkindness of perimenopause.

Some of us have kids out of college, while some of us have kids in pre-K. We've married and divorced and changed names. We've moved and switched jobs multiple times. By now, most of us have lived through the trauma of losing a loved one.

We walk around with splinters and shards, invisible to many who haven't known us so long. These only make us shine brighter in our reflected light.
When we gather, we tell and retell stories from high school. It doesn't matter if I've heard them 50 times; I will always long to hear them once more.

Remind me, Greg, that we have known each other since we were four years old. That we have Halloween pictures of each other as adorable children. That you got to be Santa Claus in the preschool pageant where I was the bitterest Mary in existence, because I had to wear my pajamas and a crocheted afghan.

Tell me, tell me not-specifically-named friends, about that time you stole a Russian diplomatic license plate and almost got caught by the police. Tell me again about the time you did get caught.

Tell me, Jason, tell me your memories of us heading over to Claridge's for cocktails after school. Yes, OK, we headed to Claridge's for cocktails. After school. Not often. Because we had play practice, sports practice, both play and sports practices...

Tell me, Russ. Tell me about that plane trip to Pakistan I don't remember, the one where the plane got hit by lightening and you looked over and Paul A. was crossing himself frantically.

Remind me, Chris, about that time you used a magnifying glass and burned tiny holes in my adorable pink terry cloth romper while I was at the pool. I'd give up a million beloved outfits to the fire gods to be back in 9th grade at the pool at ACSA.

Talk to me about the Maurya Sheraton, Palika Bazaar, the Marine House, the compound, the commissary. Talk about sports conventions, about Limca and Campa Cola. Walk with me down Malcha Marg, or Janpath, or over to Julie's house to watch MTV videotapes.

Those are glory days, just like the Springsteen song.

We're not stuck in them; we've lived beyond, found love, had families, accomplished big things,  created satisfying lives.

But there is nothing that feels so good to me as being in a room filled with you. You're so dear to me, a part of my heart. I never, outside my family, feel so safe and loved as when I'm with you.

I never laugh so hard. I never dance so much. And I never otherwise laugh and dance at the same time.

I never wish so fervently that time would cease to function.

When we are together, we are all 16 or 17, and the most amazing teenagers in existence. We are kind, hilarious, luminous--and all the more so because we've shed insecurities, lived big lives, nurtured others. We've had to say goodbye to people we love dearly.

You're the most generous, loving group of friends I could imagine.

I started this, but so many people put it together. Thank you, Justin, for getting the Friday venue, and thank you Jason for taking charge of the donation. Thank you, Nicole and Paul, and Jason E for supporting me through freakouts about the restaurant flood.

Thank you Wendy's parents, for a lovely afternoon event. Thank you Wendy, Paul, and Jason for amazing playlists. Thank you Jason for DJing, and for organizing my present. I can't thank you all enough.
I didn't need a spa present, and I cannot wait to use it. I hope you know I would organize a gathering every year, because spending the time together is a gift to me.

You knew me when I was young and fragile and living with crazy, but not understanding how much crazy, or how deeply it affected me. I am so grateful that you remember the funny, the clever, the best, most endearing pieces of me.

These are the parts that radiate when I'm with you, because I am so incredibly happy. Who wouldn't want to spend as much time as possible with those who bring out your best, most joyful self?
We ended the night as we ended dance parties back then, in a big circle with All Night Long.

Life is good, wild and sweet. Let the music play on (play on, play on, play on).

I love you and I miss you. And I always will.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Turn around, bright eyes...

I have a mini high school reunion this weekend. This weekend!!!

If you know me then you know this means I'm going to spend the weekend laughing uproariously, chatting, dancing, laughing some more, and not sleeping. Next week I will have a tremendous emotional hangover.

And every minute will have been worth it.

So now let's talk about outfits. Because you know I love few things as much as I love to talk about clothing and footwear.

We know it truly doesn't matter what I wear, because these are people who love me. Who knew me when I was an angsty, insecure teenager with a Cyndi Lauper crisscross shaved into the side of my head sporting the best Mary Quant blue mascara and a neon green RELAX T-shirt that I wish I still had.

OK. So. There are two nights: a bar night and a dinner night. I could wear jeans or a dress to either. Mostly I need to be able to dance. It might be warm and it might be cold because Ned Stark is long dead and winter is here.

Here are options I pulled together over the weekend:

1. Embroidered mirrored jumpsuit 

This is, I think, the most fabulous. My mom made it in the 1960s for a friend. This friend kept it in storage for decades after she stopped wearing it, and then gave it to me.

The main downside for a party is that it is hard to get into and out of and I can't zip up the back by myself.

2. Jeans and a black top and platform boots. 

Maybe for Friday? I don't know how flattering this top is, though it is floaty and comfy. I could pair it with the jean jacket in the last option.

3. Black dress and booties

What about the booties, though? Too solid black with the screamily white legs above?

3. Black dress and superhero boots. Seriously--look at the backs.

4. Blue dress and boots (or booties? Or sandals?).

SAME DRESS just turned inside out! So tricky! And it has a secret pocket whether it's on the black or blue side! Could be with booties or boots.

5. Black sundress and sandals (in case it is warm) with chunky jewelry and jean jacket.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Blame it on the train but the boss is already there...

Every morning, Nick calls me to tell me how school drop-off went.

Sometimes the kids leave the house belligerent and they get in the car and sing songs or spell words, which is their newest form of entertainment. Jordan loves the hard words with sneaky letters. I can't even tell you how much "psychology" delighted him. So tricksy!

Jordan learned to read and spell with the same approach that's being used with India, so he will prompt her with sounds. It's lovely.

They're both in great moods when they're dropped off.

And sometimes we're all fine, and we had the right flavor of bagel and we didn't accidentally put jam when we know that India only likes butter on the odd days of the month except in months that start with A when the moon is full and Mercury isn't in retrograde.

Which is to say sometimes we have a harmonious morning and teeth get brushed and my daughter even brushes her hair and then all hell breaks loose on the way to school.

This is the rarer scenario. Typically some calamity befalls us at breakfast (see jam above) or during the shoe-putting-on portion of the morning. But then Nick manages to get them giggling on the way over.

He always calls to report and chat.

For the past couple months these calls have come as I'm either doing my veryveryfast walk to work, or jogging because I'm late or want to make a light.

I've come to realize that because I'm such a fast walker and such a slow runner, at this point I do both at about the same speed, and I look ridiculous either way.

In any case, Nick calls to check in and we talk about the kids and then at some point I say, "I've got nothin'" because the fact is that we saw each other right before we went to sleep and upon awaking, and really zero has happened that he doesn't already know.


This morning he didn't call me.

I was settled into work when I realized that he hadn't called.

He didn't call me. Why didn't he call me?

We hadn't fought, or even disagreed. Had I done something to annoy him?

It's true that I struggle in the mornings. And he got up and went to rowing practice and emptied the dishwasher and made breakfast and took the kids to school.

What did I even do? Got myself dressed and gave them vitamins.

I had to leave. I mean, not to be all Bangles about it, but I can't be late 'cause then I guess I just won't get paid.

I should've done more, though. Maybe he thinks I'm inadequate. Maybe I am inadequate.

It's true that I'm tired and crabby quite a lot, and it's likely that I think I'm more creative and funnier than I actually am.

Maybe it's all of these things and so much more and he just doesn't want to talk to me.

I could wait. I'll wait. I have lots of work do to. I'll wait and see if he calls and then I'll know if he's mad.

Except that I can't focus.

And actually, we're married. He's not some Match guy who suddenly went from emailing every day to silence. He's my husband. He might just be angry about...I don't know. Something.

He gets mad too easily. Why's he mad at me again? Yeah, well, I've got plenty of stuff I could be enraged about as well.

Or maybe he's not mad. No. They got in a terrible accident on the way to school. They're on the way to the hospital, and nobody has contacted me yet.

Oh my god, and here I've been all indignant about Nick being angry with me, when he might be on life support. I have to call right now.

I'll call Nick and then the school and then hospitals if I have to.

Nick answers immediately. "Hi love!"

 He sounds happyThey're clearly still alive.

"Hi! How was drop-off?"

"Great! We got out late and had to hustle. I called around nine but you didn't answer."


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Today you are six

My dear India,

Today you are six. Last night was your last night of five. I got a little nostalgic.

Today, six years ago, my life changed forever in the best possible way.

Because Jordan was late, and because I'd had a Cesarean, the midwife had told me to expect you'd be two weeks late. She'd told me they wouldn't induce, and I would just have to wait.

In all honesty, she made me feel bad for my choices, and she scared me, and made me cry. I almost didn't go back. But I really, really didn't want another C-section if I could avoid it.

Your due date was April 29. So really, they said, I was looking at mid-May.

There are people who like being pregnant, and I am not one of them. So I didn't embrace the idea of two extra weeks of pregnancy. But I'd waited so long for you; I was prepared for two extra weeks.

I was completely unprepared for you to be 10 days early.

Six years ago last night I went to bed exhausted, uncomfortable, and ooh, so crabby. I woke up at 2:00 am when my water broke. This hadn't happened to me with Jordan, and I thought I was peeing. For a really long time, like way longer than made sense. I woke up your daddy to verify.

Kim had just finished making your room, because the room you have now was part of a larger space with no door. He was all stressed out, racing to get done with that construction before you arrived.

Incidentally, Kim lobbied hard for us to name you after him. Kim is, as he pointed out, also a girl's name.

But I knew in my heart that your first name would either be Lillian or India, and I needed to spend a little time with you before I named you.

So six years ago, earlier than expected, you came into this world on your own time, and full of life. And you continue to embrace the world on your own terms.

You have strong opinions, and you are stubborn. While sometimes I'm so frustrated with you I want to pull my hair out, I respect your strength and determination.

You're emotionally and physically strong. You can go back and forth on the monkey bars, turning around at one end and then the next without stopping.

When we talk about what to do if a grown up tries to grab you, you say, "If someone does that, I'm going to bite him and kick him in the penis SO HARD."

And I hope this is never tested, but I believe you would.

We read together at night, snuggled in your bed, and those quiet moments are the best part of my day.

You have recently taken an interest in Judy Blume's Fudge books. I never read those as a kid, but your dad did, and he was delighted to introduce you guys to them.

Jordan feels he's too old for them, but he listens. Sometimes when your dad is reading to you and I'm hanging out in Jordan's room while he's working on his comic book, I hear him giggle when Daddy gets to a funny part.

You're surrounded by avid readers and you can't wait to be able to read as well.

We had a truly brutal stretch at the beginning of this year. Every single day you were an utter demon. You screamed, refused to brush teeth, refused to get dressed, and fought about everything.

At first I thought the transition back to school was hard. But then this went on. And on.

You told me you hated me, every single day. This hurt my heart, every single day. You bounced off the walls--literally--every night at bedtime.

You were relentlessly mean. It was like someone had taken our girl and replaced her with Asmodeus.

I complained yet again about the brutality of bedtime, and my friend Wendy asked what had precipitated this period of terribleness. What had happened right before I started?

And you know what? The end of December, the allergist put you on a steroid inhaler for asthma. Those inhalers are supposed to be localized. I take one, and it doesn't make me crazy. But it made you craaaaaaaazy.

The five weeks you were on it were five weeks of hell. I took you off, and within 24 hours you were kind again. We haven't seen that level of Asmodeusness since.

This is not to say that life with you is an endless dream. When you're annoyed, you have a scream that I feel in the base of my skull. It makes me want to beat things with a hammer.

But that is life, with all its ups and downs. People are hard to live with, but what would this life be without the people we love?

And you are one of the people I love most in the entire universe. You light my world every single day. When I don't see you, I miss you, and when I pick you up from school you beam and charge into my arms.

I can still pick you up, and you still wrap your arms and legs around me, and mash your face against mine. One day you'll be too big, and I will miss this terribly.

You and your brother mostly get along so well. And of course, you have your Nana right here with us. Today after school she's taking you to Target to pick your present, which is what you specifically requested and locked her into weeks ago.

I have to imagine it will be Shopkins or Hatchimals. Both of which are small and adorable and really, really hurt when you step on them barefoot.

Right now you call me Biba, That's just your name for me. People sometimes hear it and ask why, I and I say you like it. I like that I have my own special name.

For a while, and for no reason, it was Mumpika. You play with these the way I call you Indi, Indi Bindi, Belinda, Bunny (short for Hunny Bunny), and so on.

At night before you sleep, we snuggle into each other and talk about how much we love each other. And then, on the rare nights you're really tired and embracing sleep, you'll say, "It's not time for talking; it's time for sleeping."

This is what I am always saying to you.

I'm so lucky I'm your mama and you're my girl.

You're a delight and a treasure and I love you love you love you.

Happy birthday.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Let me hear your body talk, your body talk

In February, I returned to work full time, albeit temporarily. This job will last until my kids are out of school mid-June.

I’m back in my old office, which has been terrific in myriad ways.

I could write a whole post about returning to the juggle of work and motherhood, and my current perspective. But really, I want to talk about returning to the gym and to my beloved trainer, Vic.

The building has a free gym. The one where all those years ago I pushed the red button and minced out the door.

Since I left my job four and a half years ago, I’d been working out at home or running, so this has really been my return to a gym and to a trainer.

I'd forgotten about gym interactions.

This gym is rather warm. So one of my colleagues, who works out regularly, bought two large, very blowy floor fans.

As it turns out, men were taking them into the locker room to dry themselves.

Yes. It’s quite a visual.

On Monday Vic was having me do a variety of exercises, one of which necessitated a bench. We typically do three sets of different exercises, so we weren’t using the bench the whole time. So we’d moved on to squats when a guy came over and took the bench away without saying anything.

He pulled it into the center of the room and sat down and did a set of grunty biceps curls. And then hung out flipping through Tinder. I know because I walked by.

I considered pointedly asking if we could take it for one set, but I settled for glaring in his direction. And in fact there was another bench (which he could have used), and we just moved over there.

So I was thinking I would sometime try to fart right next to him, but then after I left the gym I realized I couldn’t really tell him apart from the other 20-something guys. This means I may have to fart near all of them, one at a time.

Although since I can’t distinguish them, I might accidentally persecute a nice guy. And get a bad reputation.

So maybe not.

In any case, at the end of each workout, Vic has you lie face down a mat, and he presses on your back to align your spine.

And on a side bar, does anyone besides me have trouble with “lie” and “lay”? Lie for people, except “Now I lay me down to sleep,” which incidentally scared the crap out of me as a child because what little kid wants to die before they wake?

But grammatically speaking, that’s because you’re laying yourself down. Morally, I don’t think you should teach kids a prayer that makes them think they’re going to perish before dawn.

So I lay flat on the mat, face down. And Vic said, “Please put your left cheek on the mat.”

I just figured this was some new stretch, so I twisted my body, trying to get the left side of my butt flat against the mat. This, while trying to keep my face against the mat, was no small effort.

He was all, “What are you doing?”

And I was all, “It’s not that easy getting just my left butt cheek on the mat.”

And then he died laughing and I sure hope that the young guys were focusing on Tinder because I’m an idiot.

Monday, April 09, 2018

I recall the yellow cotton dress foaming like a wave on the ground around your knees

Nine years ago, spring was exactly like this.

And by exactly like this, I mean, it wasn't. Month after month, it was cold and grey. It was supposed to be spring. It was officially spring. And yet it was relentlessly cold and grey.

We kept waiting for spring, and it kept not arriving.

I remember this specifically because nine years ago I was pregnant, and didn't have enough clothing for the endless cold.

I remember this specifically because nine years ago in April, my dad attempted suicide. And nine years ago in May, he took his life.

By May, the weather was gorgeous. Azalea and rhododendron bushes were in full bloom, drenching us with color. The day my dad disappeared was warm, sunny, lush.

My mom called to say he'd disappeared and I remember thinking, "But it's too beautiful a day to die."

But the too beautiful so long to get here. My parents went to Hawaii that year, to visit a dear friend. It was a bad year in Hawaii--unseasonably cold, no sun.

I wonder if if Dad just couldn't hold on any longer. Sunshine, and with it hope, arrived too late.

I'm not suicidal, but I'm extremely affected by quantity and quality of light. I hate the cold, but it's the light I can't manage without.

We've had so many Dementor breeding days, where the sun refuses to shine. The time change helped, because now it's light later. But so many days, we have no sun, just a pale, too-bright glare.

When the sun comes out, everything changes.

Last Friday it was both warm and sunny. Every parent I'd ever met, it seemed, was at the park with their kids. It was glorious. I felt alive, I felt hopeful.

Then Saturday it was grim and cold again. There were snowflakes.

Our school had their annual fundraiser, for which I was volunteering, and I couldn't get dressed. The dress I'd planned to wear would now have to be worn with tights. My tights only came up so far, and then there was this little strip of my middle that pooched above, and you could see it with my fitted dress and it was all lowering my self esteem and anyway it just physically felt terrible.

After many rejected outfits and significant decline in enthusiasm on my part, India pulled out one of my favorite dresses, which my friend Leigh purchased for me at an estate sale last summer. Perfect.

Seriously. One day Leigh called and said she only had 15 minutes to stop in and she wanted to drop off three pieces of clothing she'd bought for me. And they were all this amazing.

Yes my picture is a little blurry but you get the general idea. People asked if I wore it because it looks like cherry blossoms and I was all, "I wore it because it was too cold to be naked and I literally couldn't bear any other item in my closet."

OK, I said a toned-down version and didn't bring up nudity with fellow parents I don't even know.

But my lord, the drama trauma of getting dressed anymore. This is too cold. This is too shiny. This is too tight that is too short this is too this and that is too that and REALLY THE PROBLEM IS THAT WINTER WILL NOT END.

On Sunday I managed to force one kid out the door to the park, where she ran and played and I planted myself in the sun, standing shoulders up around my ears and arms pressed to my sides in my wool sweater and hood and down coat, face turned skyward like a desperate sunflower.

I understand that it's not particularly sophisticated to be unable to remember a different state. When it rains, it feels to me like it's been raining my entire life. When I'm sick, I'm so immersed in it I cannot remember how it feels to be well.

And when I'm cold, I can't recall how it feels to be warmed by the sun. When I think of last summer, I can visualize what I was wearing; I just can't remember how it felt.

I used to think my problem was the cold. It's not. I's the light.

I mean, I resent the hell out of the cold. But it's the sun I'm desperate for. I just want some sunshine.

And also if I could put my coat in the closet and then not take it out again for many many many months that would be kind of perfect as well.