When I enter a house, I have a habit of finding the spot where my dad would sit if he were still alive. He always went for a chair’s position rather than a chair’s comfort. He was all about the view, be it over a room where he could see everything going on or near a window to take in the trees or the ocean. On this Thanksgiving I was reminded of his habit as I took in the ocean view I’m so lucky to have today. Focus more on enjoying your surroundings than sinking into a seat. Enjoy looking outward while being anchored on firm ground. Take a moment or several to just notice and breath in your surroundings. Presence in the moment matters. Thanks for all of that, Dad.
And what a summer it was! In a nutshell:
Sister Philly trip and a 12 course dinner! A blue chicken? Lots of BBQ. Art playing in Brooklyn Bridge Park. A Foo Fighters concert! The Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees. COTTON CANDY. Avery mastering stilts. Family kayaking on the East River. Pink lemonade on hand at all times. Fish tacos and a day at an awesome NYC beach. Rollerskating. Crab picking in Red Hook!
A trip to Mom’s where we bought my nephew a fish named Charlie. Aiden rode a bike without trainers and we birthday’d Farm Style. Popeye’s Chicken. Lamas. The perfect peach pie. Last minute pizza party for 23 Brooklynites to say “see you next year!” to friends moving to Spain. A week in Cape May! Aiden actually swimming and Avery riding the waves. Arcade games. Beach hole-digging. A pig roast with our feet in the sand and a clambake with our toes in the grass. A new blog about MENUS. Garden kale and fridge white wine. And now, enjoying September and pumpkin anticipation…
I am not normally one to obsess. I don’t hoard things. I am generally able to move on. But then there are little things that get me. Chocolate pudding. Racerback shirts. That pair of jeans. The opening music of Friday Night Lights (not to mention that entire series – best show EVER). And this song, I Remember by Deadmau5. Listening to that song takes me so many places – it came out in 2008 but because it’s all clubby it takes me right back to London in 1993, some NYC club in 1996 the name of which escapes me, Greece in 1998, Boston in 1999 (I know that last one doesn’t exactly scream “cool hot trendsetting venue” but trust me – Boston had a club scene). You can drive to it. Run to it. Make dinner for your kids while listening to it “Mommy…are you dancing?” My 3am clubbing days might be gone (until the kids go to college) but the dancing days will live on FOREVER.
It’s August. It’s hot. It’s time for a batch of unrelated updates. This weekend I took the kids to see my mom, sister and her family. While at home I spent some time with my dad’s old stuff. I do this every time I go home and every time it’s worth it. I ran across an OpEd he wrote in 1964 for the local White Plains paper. That was before I was born, but while growing up we spent a lot of time in Westchester which got me thinking about childhood memories…things like riding in the front seat of a car next to dad while we ate chocolate ice cream cones. For some reason that kid thing reminded me of when I used to climb the tree out in front of our house, feeling triumphant up to the top. Feeling triumphant made me think about the other end of the spectrum – Failure. Recently in my personal workout journey I missed a deadlift that I had made before. From that came a little rage (if that’s possible…only a LITTLE rage) and feelings of doubt (crap what happened?). But then I thought about how life isn’t a straight line and some days you win and others you don’t. The key is getting back on the horse and to keep working. Which made me remember that work matters more than talent and if you’re following any of Carol Dweck’s great work, you will know what I mean (I encourage you to read the whole article – it matters for adults, kids, relationships…). Speaking of relationships, that got me thinking about how much I value mine. My spouse in particular. We know a number of people going through very tough marriage times – some lasting, some not – and I am reminded that marriage is not a solution for a relationship, it’s a choice. A choice we make every day. I am feeling now for the people we know struggling with this choice. That got me thinking about how that choice manifests itself and for us, we are not alone here, it’s in the little things like moving the laundry to the dryer, picking up socks, listening when your partner speaks. This weekend when I got home it was about how my amazing husband thought to do the grocery shopping and in the course of that made us a pie. It was a fabulous peach pie (all gone now). Thinking about that prompted a thought about creating and making things. I have a new little project I’m working on related to Menus. I love making up menus. So I am posting a menu a week on the site. They aren’t fancy – but they are fun. And making them gives me a chance to think about what we would like to cook in different situations. I am also a person who wishes I had been born with artistic talent but rather than wallowing in my lack of talent I am jumping in head first and putting a little image alongside each menu. When is the last time you used markers, or crayons? I HIGHLY encourage this childish behavior. Who says kids are the only scribblers? Please check it out HERE.
In our backyard. Came out back to look at the stars. I think my neighbor is screening a movie. If I had to guess I’d say Mad Max. Alex gardened today so it smells like mulch. Neighbors have been grilling. Air conditioners. There’s a nice breeze. City trees are rustling. I hear people yelling from the street. And then they go away. The kids are sound asleep. I think I’ll set the coffee maker and start tomorrow out here.
I worked for a guy once – very successful – very busy – who told me “make sure you waste time productively.”
I’m not one of those people who ever says “I just can’t relax!” (place hand on forehead, dramatic sigh). Well too bad, that must suck for you – I’m great at relaxing! And of late, I’ve taken my former boss’s advice to heart. I’ve always been pretty good about not getting caught in some mind-numbing TV vortex, but lately I’ve taken this all to the next level. Here are a few ways I’ve been spending time…
- I’ve always loved music…but haven’t listened to a lot of the greats. I’m now making my way through Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. This is a big project so I am starting with the first 100 and reading a little Wikipedia entry on most the albums as I go to get the history. I still don’t like John Lennon but Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On the whole album is great! I chose albums instead of songs since…I know this is old school…but albums are complete works of art. (when does this happen? at my desk at work)
- Doesn’t everyone read? I read a lot of books but have also been reading a lot of articles lately. (when does this happen? subway to and from work; in front of the kids on weekends “Look at mommy read a magazine!”, right before bed). Here are a few recent interesting articles:
- History. Oh, for my lack of history knowledge. But with Khan Academy I’ve been watching quick little videos to fill in some (embarrassing) gaps. Starting with early 20th Century Empire Building and events leading up to WWI. (when does this happen? usually after the kids get to bed…takes ten minutes)
- I would just like to note for my husband and others close to me that I have yet to mention Crossfit. Which I find an incredible use of time, thank you very much. But I won’t talk about it despite its awesome impact on mobility, strength, cardio and overall well-being. Moving on…
- Podcasts. I’m realizing my subway rides are really pretty awesome – well spent time. In the past few months I’ve meditated (Tara Brach), heard an amazing murder trial reopened (Serial), and listened to incredible interviews of Arnold Schwarzenegger (don’t judge – he was hilarious), Rick Rubin, Elon Musk, Maria Popova and others thanks to podcasts. I learn something new every time.
- And of course TV. Game of Thrones, A Chef’s Table, Parts Unknown with Anthony Bordain, Bloodline, Homeland…so much good content! In addition to being a person who knows how to relax, I am a person who is not afraid to admit I like television. Some of it is just great! (when does this happen? at night after the kids are in bed, lunches are made, laundry is folded, emails been checked again…)
So that’s that. I hope you can find your own downtime and ways to “waste time productively.” If you need a jump start, read THIS, The Busy Trap (great article. Just great.)
43 so far…
I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been working and making lunches. And watching an astonishing amount of television. But the time to record a memory has come. Let’s talk about cussing.
See, a work friend told me recently that I can be tougher than one would think, and perhaps a little course. He said this with the best of intentions – it was all friendly. One of the drivers of his opinion is that I swear (more than I should, or more than one would expect).
Hear this now – I swear because my father was a priest. Full Fucking Stop.
I remember when I first learned about swearing. I was about 6 and behind our house was a parking lot…the CHURCH parking lot. It had a basketball court. The neighborhood kids would regularly come and play. They were all older. And they said “shit” every other word.
Doesn’t every kid do what I did: “Mommy, what does shit mean?”
A week later, no more basketball hoop. My mother was swift with her actions and was not about to have her daughter learning teenager vocabulary.
With the basketball court out, the swearing was left up to my dad. As a priest he reserved special right to use all parts of the English language and he was awfully colorful. “Crap” was just the beginning (not really a curse word). “Fuck” and “shit”, and their variations, were frequently invoked descriptors for music, kid behavior, NYTimes OPED pieces or parishioners.
“God damn it” however, was forbidden. He had his limits, and we did not take the Lord’s name in vain. “Damn it” was fine.
My kids like to swear. Whenever they get the chance, they like to review the list of the words they are not allowed to say, just to make sure they have it right. “Mommy, we never say God Damn It, Shit, or the big one…you know…starts with effffff and then…”
Being a parent can be hard. Watching what you say all the time, eating properly in front of your kids, being patient while reading Goodnight Moon for the 758th time, being kind even when some asshole runs a light. But we try. We try not to swear. I definitely try not to swear around the kids.
But swearing is like potato chips – hard to open the bag and eat just one – hard to compartmentalize swearing. I might try harder not to swear. Seems like the right thing to do (on a VERY long list of other right things to do).
Six years ago today, on this date and on this day, was the last day my father walked this earth. He would have liked the weather today – brisk and gray. It goes without saying that I think of him often. I wish he were alive.
But I am not sad. He lived a big, long, full life. We anticipated his death – there was nothing sudden about it and for that I feel very blessed. Though six years is starting to seem a little distant, it is not hard – not one bit – for me to sense him whenever I want. I can hear his voice, I can see his smile, I can listen to his laugh. I know what he smelled like (an odd mix of Listerine and 4711…I don’t suggest anyone try it but it worked for him). I can hear him say my mother’s name “Loring!” with love and exasperation. I can recall how it felt to hug him at different stages of his life – when he was overweight and full, when he was post cancer treatment and without hair, when his body was starting to give out and his shoulder bones became more apparent but still so warm, so loving, never letting a hug go first. I can dial up music that he loved and go straight back to 6PM any given weeknight in the ’80s and imagine him downstairs in his chair post work, waiting for dinner. I know what it felt like when he touched a cheek or laid his hands on my head, as he did so many times, to give a blessing. I can see his stance in the pulpit delivering a sermon. On that front, he was more Bill Clinton than Typical Preacher…I could have listened to him for hours. I can see him swirl his pen before signing his name. He drank black coffee.
So he is never far. But there are times when even I am amazed by the closeness. See he was a crafty guy – especially for a priest. He loved a good joke and one of his biggest life lessons to me was “You might get what you want but it probably won’t come in the package you expect.” At the risk of sounding supernatural, I am pretty sure he continues to reveal himself to me often…
- A few months ago I was standing in Times Square with a million other people and a man walked up to me. Before he spoke he struck me as peaceful. He approached me from pretty far away and said “Excuse me, can you tell me how I might get to The General Theological Seminary?” Not Rock Center, or the Empire State Building but GTS. Since my dad happened to have gone there indeed, yes I could. In that crowd of thousands I was the perfect person to ask. What do you know.
- I look like him more and more as I get older. I never saw it until a couple of years ago. And now in pictures and the mirror I see it everyday.
- Standing in a deli recently, buying my coffee, I noticed a chocolate bar on the counter. Not just any chocolate bar. This was a Tabasco Spicy Chocolate Bar (dark…not milk…an important distinction as he never would have approved of milk). For those that knew him, you may agree the combination of those two things in a bar is nothing short of a direct gesture from the heavens. Had he been alive he would have bought as many as they had.
- And then last weekend, the same night six years ago when we last had a family dinner with him, he showed up again. See last Saturday at that very same time, my husband and I called a restaurant to see how long the wait was. The hold music struck me – I couldn’t place it but knew it. It was a hymn. I recorded it and texted it to my sister who in an instant identified it as the hymn “I Bind Unto Myself Today” which was HIS hymn. That was the one. He had it played at his ordination and then at his funeral. What are the chances that a Thai restaurant chose that as their hold music and we happened to hear it at the very moment when six years prior we were all together.
This is how I felt six years ago: http://wp.me/pvg99-1y. At the time I was worried I would lose the sense of him. But now with time passing it seems he’s still as close as ever. I have no doubt.
There are certain moments you don’t want to forget.
A few minutes ago our son woke up crying. I brought him out of his room so he wouldn’t wake our daughter. Carrying him, I turned off all the lights in the kitchen and living room. I’m sitting with him on the couch. I’m in our living room and it’s quite dark. The only light comes from our two windows up front. I love those windows. We have tall ceilings and these are tall windows. There’s a tree outside filled with leaves. It looks like we have a breeze now. The light is dim coming from our street but enough to outline the flowers on our dining room table. I bought them two days ago. There’s a small shadow of a lamp on a side table. Our daughter used that lamp this morning as she colored a picture. The outline of the dining room chairs where we all ate dinner tonight is clear. The fan spins silently but powerfully on our ceiling. There’s a small piece of stained glass artwork hanging on a window. Our daughter made that months ago.
There’s a little street noise. I hear the air conditioner turn on. But mostly there’s breathing. That deep rhythmic breathing you hear when you know someone’s asleep. He’s asleep now on my lap.
I think I’ll stay here a little bit longer before quietly placing him back in his bed.