Destiny

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.” Gandhi

The Thrill Of Victory

I read a lot about writing.  Authors like Anne Lamott and Brenda Ueland write brilliantly and honestly about what it’s like to be a writer.

I don’t know that I will ever be a famous writer.  For one thing, I have never actually written nor attempted to write a book.

Along these same lines, I am coming to terms with the likelihood that neither a Grammy nor an Olympic medal are in my future.  Specifically with regard to the Olympics, I have no sport.

I take that back – that’s not entirely true – I do run a mean eleven minute mile and have been known to attempt the occasional back-bend.  It’s not for lack of physical exertion that I will not be an Olympian.  Trust that for me, running 5 miles at eleven minutes each is a feat of epic effort and exhaustion.

But the question really is, might I experience a moment of greatness at some point in my remaining years?  Yes – there are times when I wonder if my best days are behind me.

I will never forget a moment of personal artistic brilliance that actually WAS recognized by someone other than my mother.  It was in fifth grade.  There was a contest for who could most creatively design a sign encouraging fellow students to read.  The moment I heard this, I knew this was my challenge to lose.  The crayons fell to the page with ease and grace and before I knew it there were trees, apples and eyeglass-wearing worms happily reading books.  It was titled “Be a Book Worm. Read Books.”

I won First Prize.  The Gold Star.  A $5.00 bill.

You may be wondering where this is all going so let me bring it home.  Facebook is one thing, life is another.  A friend of mine wrote me the other day as she struggled through a child rearing, guilty mom moment and she said “can’t wait to see you to pick your brain on how you manage to have a successful career AND be a good mom and wife!!”

And I realized while this may be a picture the honest answer is don’t we all work on these things every day?  The best, most helpful conversations, and relationships, I have are those where the Brain Picking results in trials, tribulations, fear, successes and brutal honesty.

Now back to sports, the glory is not just the thrill of victory – it’s that RIGHT alongside the agony of defeat.  I learn every day to take the good with the bad, the ups with the downs, the failures with the successes.

And some days all you can do is reach deep into your closet, pull out the dusty box of memorabilia and remember how you felt as a 10 year old accepting a $5.00 bill for what was indeed a brilliant piece of work.

Notable Items Of The Week

This is my 427th post. What a great number…427.

Entertainment: I never tire of holiday music. But I always cry no matter who sings “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”  This makes for some awkward moments at work.  “No no – don’t mind me – I’m ok – just a little teary over here again…”

Kids Are Awesome: Avery told me the other day that she didn’t want to meet “some fake Santa in a costume” that she wanted to meet the real guy.  She didn’t buy my story about the fake Santas being Authorized Reps for the real guy.

Same night, Aiden told us he wanted to put on a show. He directed us to sit on the floor.  He got the ukulele and stood in front of us. Then he said he needed a stool.  So he went and got a stool, sat in front of us, lightly strummed the guitar and watched all of us watch him.  I just wish I’d taken a picture.  Watch for this kid to hit the stage in 20 years.

Men (and women): http://www.salon.com/2013/02/17/why_are_men_so_foolish/.  I learned that science shows that men take more risks then women generally because they are less apt to consider the downside, whereas women are far more calculating about risk.

 “When the odds are actually good, women will compete (by entering the race) more than men. They just refuse to waste time with losing.”

 “Men tend to focus on the reward. The larger the reward, the more they ignore the odds. Women are the opposite: they tend to focus on the risk, and larger rewards are less relevant.”

 “The bottom line is, if you have a girl, I would put her in the best school as possible and have her around the smartest peers possible,” Jackson summarized. “If you have a son, you should put them in the school with the brightest teachers, but you should be wary of putting him in a hypercompetitive environment. Being a small fish in a big pond is particularly bad for boys,” Jackson added.

Goodness is contagious: The other day a woman walked onto the subway train I was on.  She asked for food. This is a pretty common sight.  She wasn’t having a lot of success.  I had a box of raisins so I gave it to her. And then another woman gave her money, and another, and another.  It was like a yawn that everyone caught.  That was all it took – a first step.

Hope Springs Eternal:  This almost needs no explanation.  As a dedicated Knicks fan, all it seems we have at times is hope.

But then something good actually happens (not to the Knicks).  Something good like a dear friend calls and says “please come to dinner…I’ve met someone.” And you learn that she had maybe not totally given up hope but was literally on the verge of checking out of the dating scene and there was a moment – a brief fated moment that stopped her. And that was the turning point…several weeks later it seems she has met someone wonderful and I don’t know when I’ve seen her so happy.

Grief and Joy – which is which:  I cannot recall what prompted this thought but at some point in the last few days I felt the need to list the most wonderful days of my life.  And the usual suspects were there – the day I got a fat envelope from a grad school (good day), our wedding day, my sister’s wedding day, the weekend I spent with my mom cleaning the loft at her house (long story), the days our kids were born, and at last…the day of my father’s wake.  Yes there it was.  Right up there with all the others.  In our house, friends arrived from years past.  People came to sit in his chair.  To look at his books and CDs.  To open his desk drawers and see his handwritten notes.  I surprised myself thinking about this and realizing “Wow, that was a wonderful day.”  There is no other way to describe it.

And Finally a Poem to Sum it up:

To live in this world

you must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.

~ Mary Oliver

NYC Nostalgia

I am not that into jazz.  I don’t like opera either.  I hate musicals.  Musicals are BY FAR the worst.  Give me a Jazz Opera any day over a musical.  Jazz is good for dinner parties.  Opera is good for snoozing. Musicals should be banned. Thank god they are relegated to Times Square.

We went to hear some jazz the other night.  It was a rare night out in Manhattan and we felt too old for dancing (nevermind that it was 8PM) and a movie felt like a cop out so we went and pretended to like jazz (I think my husband likes it – or he’s better at pretending to like it).  There were Memphis-style ribs there so I was alright.

But here is what  I found.  While other people were toe tapping and head bobbing, I was transported back to nostalgic NYC moments.  It was MAGICAL!  It was so Woody Allen!  The memories came flooding back – old days living in Manhattan and what that was like. Here are a few examples:

  • I will never forget my first Fancy Pants dinner.  It was a work dinner in 1995 at Lespinasse at the St. Regis hotel.  I was raised well but honestly, I had never seen so many forks.  There were utensils everywhere.  I don’t remember what I ate but I do remember the wine.  It was from Château Latour and everyone oo’d and aaa’d when it arrived tableside. Nancy, we’re not drinking Boons anymore.
  • Starting the 1996 NYC Marathon was a great moment.  Good chance that will never be repeated so it’s worth noting and it was so New York. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was playing.  It was cold.  And it was the first time I’d set foot in boroughs other than Manhattan.  I was so provincial.
  • In 1994 I had this amazing new group of friends (not surprisingly, our favorite show was Friends).  We were all new to NYC and working 80 hours a week.  What joy that was.  On a rare night off we treated ourselves to a grown up dinner.  We went to Gotham Bar and Grill.  It cost each of us $80 a head when all was said and done.  Forget the 5,000 calories I ate that night – the bill almost killed me.  It was about 10% of my rent at the time. The standouts – everything we ate was presented vertically (honestly, so precious) and it was the first time I had Frangelico.  Silly me, I thought that meant I had Arrived.
  • I took myself alone to a trapeze class once.  Why that memory came back while listening to jazz is beyond me.
  • My husband and I snuck out onto the roof of The Metropolitan Club one night (we were at a wedding) and shared champagne while overlooking my favorite view of the City – the Plaza, the Park…it was all magnificent.
  • At this point in the jazz all sorts of snippets appeared fast and furious – rooftop parties, awful blind dates that ended with fake calls from rescuing girlfriends, dinner gatherings where a slew of Brazilian dancers showed up shaking their THANGS, concerts at the Garden, a million mani/pedi mornings with friends, waiting for Brunch Eggs, frantic apartment shopping writing deposit checks against a too low bank account, riding home on the subway with my fishbowl on my lap after getting laid off in 2001, getting engaged and eating Crif Dogs to celebrate…where has the time gone!
  • And then probably the most serene memory showed up…one time when it snowed after my then boyfriend now husband and I were coming back from a dinner at Luger’s (overrated but fun). I am not sure why we were up by Central Park but we were and it was 1AM and snowing so we went walking in the Park.  Do this if you ever have the opportunity – forget danger.  Nobody is mugging anyone in a beautiful snowstorm.  Never before have I been in the Park when – far as the eye could see – we were the only ones there in complete, snowbound peace.

New York City is different for me now.  It’s expanded to Brooklyn but also contracted – kids have a way of making that happen.  But turn on some jazz and there she is.  Larger than life, yet right here and as only New York can be, in your face.

Observations

Nobody laughs on the subway.  It’s not that it’s not allowed it’s just not done.  You can read, listen to music, drink coffee, or if you got on early, applying a full face of makeup is permitted.  If you can hang from the ceiling by your feet and catch a baseball hat on your shoe, you are allowed to breakdance (b-boy) in the subway car but that is only after you tell everyone “Showtime! Showtime Everyone!”  Personally, I like to rest my coffee in my bag so I can hold the rail with one hand and my iPhone with another to get in some reading time. This is not exactly “allowed” and some have pointed out this is a “high risk coffee move” but so far no spills, so I get a pass.  I saw a woman reading a book on the subway the other day and this struck me as very odd (hard cover, no less – no library markings).  Who reads books anymore? Since the iPhone and Kindle arrived nobody knows that every man woman and child is reading Fifty Shades of Grey while sitting right next to you (and thank G-d for that).  It’s a little sad really, since the Sunday Book Review and the Subway were how all of us used to knows which books were worth reading.  Now we’re stuck with www.goodreads.com.

Speaking of funny things (that was how this started), I always chuckle when someone orders a Tall Jamaican at Starbucks.  I happen to love Jamaica but even more so I love Eddie Murphy Raw and this otherwise innocent order immediately reminds me of a raunchy line (really, it’s all raunchy) from Raw about a guy named Dexter.  Please rent it immediately. Also worth renting, for all you parents out there, is Bill Cosby Himself.  As my husband likes to say, all of the trials and tribulations we face as parents are “universal” and Bill reminds us of that.  Alex and I talked for twenty minutes the other night about how we should have handled Aiden who refused to chew the prune he was sucking on before bed and what parenting tactics would have been most appropriate.  We could use a little more Bill Cosby humor in our lives.

Raise your hand if you remember automated Directory Assistance!  Wasn’t that cool – call 411 and then press 1 to be put through.  My dad was never a first adopter of technology but he was an expert at lazy efficiency.  Press 1 used to drive my mother crazy since it cost, what, $0.25 a call? He was good.  He really knew how to get her goat.  He was hyper-diligent so after going great lengths to write down the number on an index card, rather than hanging up and dialing again, he would Press 1.

I am not sold on the “tights under shorts” trend by the way.  Unless you are 25 or French it’s an all too often ill-fated wardrobe choice.  Of course there is a woman in my neighborhood who wears tights under shorts (not black for the record – so SUPER risky) and since she is both 25 and French it really works on her. To make matters worse, she has two kids and is nice.  It’s not easy to get husbands to take on the task of arranging play dates but for some reason her family is in high demand with the daddy crowd. Go figure.

And lastly, since we are talking about wardrobes, I was walking down the street the other day with Avery when we were passed by a transvestite (6’3” with heels).  Avery stopped to watch and observe and after taking it all in she declared “Mommy, I LOVE his dress!”

So many reasons to laugh and be proud.

Parenting, part 1 (optimistic title)

WHERE to begin…now with the older child in Kindergarten, I thought it a good time to start noting what we’ve learned about parenting in the 8 years of childrearing (2.5+5.5) we have under our belts.  Not that any of you need to learn from us – rather, to create a Told You So document for the kids when they have kids (karma’s a bitch by the way).  See the thing is, I am in awe of people who have more than two.  If we had more than two we’d need a lot of land, a permanent baby nurse and an electric fence, for starters.  So we stick with what we’ve got.  As the daycare teachers say, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset!”

First, get a crew of babysitters.  You need a team.  Someone who can cover various workdays.  One or two who are willing to stay late on weekend nights.  Someone mercenary who is basically willing to answer the call at all hours.  And make sure the kids like them.  If the kid really doesn’t like them, you won’t either.

Next, find parenting books/resources that work for you.  This works for me.  It’s a little awkward in the middle of a heated interchange to tell your kid “Hold on!  I have to look that up” but I’ve done it.  Scoff if you will, but this parenting thing doesn’t come as naturally to me as others.  I need professional help and I have a library of that.  I’ve also developed the habit of reading a few pages on my way from work to pick up the kids – it helps me get into the right frame of mind.

Speaking of frame of mind, have you noticed that so much of parenting is really less about the child and more about you?  Oh yeah dude, trust that if you have ANY issues (anxiety, fear of flying, Oreo’s addiction) that you were able to manage easily pre-kids, a 3 foot child is uniquely qualified to shine a bright light on that junk.  Figure yourself out. Little cracks in your ability to be calm and mature become chasms and there you are, yelling at a being no larger than a smurf.

My husband accuses me of Projecting, a term I have come to hate but probably because he’s right (I call it Planning and Forecasting…whatever). But when it comes to kids this can be dangerous.  See our daughter tussle with another child about a toy and in my mind, fast forward ten years and there she is in a stolen car doing donuts on our front lawn (another reason we are not likely to move to the suburbs – no front lawn).  And then we get back to The Reasonable Place.  See, the thing about parenting I’ve found is you feel the stakes are so high.  It all matters so much and we (I) can put so much weight on the small things.  What do we learn?  Chill out and try try again.

Just know that once you have more than one almost everything in the house is about “Justice and Property Rights”.  No words of learning or wisdom here, just calling it out because when we defined it this way rather than “Having two kids is about a lot of yelling and grabbing between them all the time” world got a little better.

Lastly, it’s all about you.  The more you take care of yourself as a parent the better parent you will be (BTW, I am not talking about the parents who define this as “hey kids we’re taking off on a three month trip because we need ME time”).  No, I mean the basics (find time to exercise, read, play a game, talk to a friend, have a sit down dinner without your kids).

Actually this is last, we’re learning to ask for help.  Send the kids to a playdate.  Do some tag team parenting – not everything needs to be done as a whole family.  Find a friend who you can talk to about this stuff with no judgment.  As my friend Suna poetically says “it takes a village, yo!”  I could not agree more.

This is a big learning process for me and a lot of times it’s not easy – so it’s with optimism that I write Part 1 – as they get older it is bound to get way more complicated – and I am hopeful that as time marches on there will be more Aha! moments…because it is so wonderful and it goes so very fast.

Time Capsule

I love the idea of time capsules. If I could, I would pay a lot of money to be a fly on the wall in 1977 in our house just to peek into the cupboard, fridge and closets and listen in on what happened in our house. Since that’s not possible, I often scratch around for seemingly mundane details about our family history. Ask your parents what they used to like for lunch and you’re likely to get a cornucopia of interesting details. When I asked my mom about lunch I didn’t get “tuna on rye” I got something more like this “well there was a time when all I ate were avocados with dressing. it used to drive mother crazy. this was perhaps the result of spending summers in Honolulu with Mammy…”

As you can see, she was off and running.

So I thought I would note a few mundane details of our lives today (and yesterday) as clues for our kids and grandkids to scratch around with later. Here goes:

Most mornings I read The New York Times on the subway on my iphone. 25 minute ride. On my way home I read a book – also iphone. Or The New Yorker. I very rarely “catch up on email” on my way to and from the office. I love the commute. If I am feeling the need for a little peace, I listen to a Tara Brach podcast. Crunchy Zen Wonderfulness.

Your dad and I often ride in on the subway together and we both read the paper. So we don’t talk much but it’s nice to be together.

There is a lot of iced coffee in our lives. And Simply Grapefruit juice. We let you kids drink juice and might be in the minority among folks we know.

Life is filled with Spotify playlists. Some new, lots of old, some dad, some bold (ha!).

We do a lot of online shopping. Diapers, groceries, clothes. Offline shopping has fallen by the wayside with kids. There is no time and I don’t miss it. There is one notable offline exception – Fairway. You kids think going to Fairway for food shopping is akin to a trip to the aquarium with a little sightseeing thrown in (meaning, a lobster tank practically with a view of the Statue of Liberty).

I keep my book lists on Goodreads. I used to keep a journal of books read, and then I posted a list on this blog, and then a good system came around (goodreads). I have started an account for Avery.

I am amazed at the amount of milk we go through in our house. About a half gallon every day and a half.

We almost always have ice cream sandwiches and Kozy Shack pudding in the house.

I like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. I wonder if any of these will be relevant when you kids are reading this.

Email fills much of our days. I try hard to control and manage this mostly through a series of ignoring tactics. This is effective if you can deal with the anxiety of the unknown. I also wonder how you kids will communicate at work since when I started work there was no email. There was no file server. There was definitely no Wifi.

Thanks to your dad we have a lot of wine and beer in the house. Really, thanks to ClubW and Bierkraft (and Lagunitas) that is.

We read a lot of Goodnight Moon and make up the story around Goodnight Gorilla. There are card games that Avery is learning (as frustrating as that is) but Uno really can be fun. We’re halfway through Charlotte’s Web and I’m excited to learn how she saves Wilbur – though Avery informed me she knows since she saw the movie and that was just as fun. Harumph.

You two share a room and I wonder how long we can make that last. It seems pretty nice so far. Avery’s side is painted a special color and the room is small but bright and cheerful and filled with books…and shoes. You two seem to have a lot of shoes always.

Avery always loves an office visit SO…in my office I have a phone, a bowl of mini candy bars, sanitizer, a small buddha statue, a lamp, speakers, too many files, a jelly belly machine, a voodoo Goddess Of The Office doll, family pictures, very dated deal tombstones, two windows that open, Avery’s art on the walls, business books I have never and will never read, really beautiful shoes that would probably kill me if I wore them now, a bottle of wine with a yellow taxi on the label, and a box of twelve Tiffany crystal champagne flutes that were a wedding gift which I know we will get home someday.

We have a garden that your father tends. There are flowers and herbs. There are tomatoes but they keep getting eaten.

And for the truly mundane but interesting to me – there are always Nutri-Grain Bars, Ritz Crackers, cranraisin something or others, Annie’s Mac & Cheese and pasta dishes, you both seem to love liverwurst yet avoid sandwiches. Fried eggs over pasta with parmesan is a house quick favorite dish. Greek yogurt. Tide. Johnson’s Baby Wash Original for every day and California Baby for when we are feeling extravagant.

I like Red Flower, myself. And even now if I smell 4711 or VitaBath I am right back in Sodus or Hyattsville. Not exactly time travel but pretty darn close.