Come Back....

Download-3My dreams are populated with my Dad, my beloved friend Missy, and my little brother, all of whom died in the last two years. 

Dad comes and checks on me as I lay in my childhood bed. He kisses my forehead and listens to my childhood evening prayer: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep..."

Billy, my brother, is often morphed with my son Paul in my dreams.  He is always young - maybe six - and he's in trouble. I'm trying to help him but I can't.

Missy has been alive all along, her death a prank. I am torn between fury and relief.

In my waking life, I'm reading "The Unwinding of the Miracle" by Julie Yip-Williams, a cancer memoir. The author is dead now, but I just listened to a podcast featuring her husband, sister and best friend. They all believe she has sent them signs from the other world. 

But I don't see any signs. I just long for them.


Language Abuse!


Download-4Last night, my new supervisor came to observe the writing class I co-teach at The-Place-That-Can't-Be-Named. We discussed putting together a chapbook (kind of an enhanced pamphlet) of the men's work. 

"Of course you two will curate the collection," he told us.

NO! NO! NO! We will EDIT this collection. Please can we retire the word "curate" or at least keep it for those who arrange art shows at the Met?  The photo illustrating this piece is labeled as a "curated salad." As you can see, you can curate your closet. Honest to God, I went grocery shopping at Shoprite today, and the sign over the deli department read "Curated Sandwiches."  Pah-leez. Download-5

And don't get me going on "artisanal." Artisanal cheese, artisanal coffee, artisanal beer, artisanal perfume. I guess my tooth implant is "artisanal" because it was specially crafted for my mouth. UGH.

Meanwhile, the men in class wrote some particularly heartbreaking and beautiful memoir. On the way home from teaching, a news alert popped up on my phone: Paul Manafort's less than 4-year-prison sentence. The racial injustice in this country is sickening.


Meditation on Meditation

Download-2Generally, I'm about 20 years behind trends, so I only just started a meditation practice this winter. Much of my adult life, I've been told by well-meaning people - or passive aggressive people, or both - that I needed to meditate. This Anxiety Girl is high strung, of course, and it shows.

In my book, telling an anxious person to relax is akin to telling a depressed person to cheer up. Do they think I enjoy anxiety? Do they believe I don't aspire to a less frightened, worrisome, thoughts racing, disaster-imagining mind? See? I'm getting worked up again.

Anyway, what finally inspired me to meditate was my doctor. I was worried about becoming forgetful, (okay, Anxiety Girl thought she was losing her mind) and the doc had two main suggestions. One - stop taking Tylenol PM to sleep. The "PM" is basically antihistamine, and can screw up your memory over time. Two - try meditation. Because she is a physician I respect, I did not roll my eyes in front of her.

I tend to be a compliant little thing, so I dutifully downloaded a meditation app. (I also weaned myself Download-3off the Tylenol PM but that's another story.) Much to my shock, I am really, really enjoying the practice. I've done some basic series, a series on balance, a series on anxiety and just finished a series on appreciation. It really does calm me and make me feel better and more clear-headed.

Of course, I'm the opposite of a natural. There's a point during each session when the kind voice on the app says to let your mind just do what it wants for a minute - don't worry about focusing on the breath or the subject. By that point, chances are that my mind was no longer focused on the breath anyway. But each time, I get this image of my brain neurons suddenly getting permission to  party and race around, squealing and jumping up and down. Then the mellow voice tells me to gently bring my attention back to the breath.

In out. In out. In out. 

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

 

 


I Can't Write This Post

Download...Because I'm not supposed to post anything on social media about the memoir class I co-teach. I'm not naming names. But I do believe I've previously posted that to get to our classroom, we need multiple security clearances, and the men that we are teaching are not going anywhere for a very long time.

The men's writing continues to amaze me. There are two worlds 45 minutes from where I live, about which I've been completely ignorant. About 40 minutes - okay may an hour - south, and I'm in the neighborhood where  many of these guys grew up. About 45 minutes to the north west, and I'm at the place they currently reside. Both places are rich with despair. 

Painstakingly and with courage, every week these men chronicle their lives, digging deep into their experiences. I don't romanticize what they've done. But I'm so grateful to be able to help them  get their fear, anger, regret, shame, hope, longing and love from out of their heads and on to paper.

 


Culture Clash

Download-3Media job postings arrive in my mailbox with some regularity. These two came back to back:

Email Marketing Assistant for Get The Guy - a website for women Images-1written by a man on...well, how to get the guy. You know - "Secrets to Meeting, Attracting and Keeping Your Mister Right" and how to "Attract Any Man."

This was listed just above (yes above) the listing for Executive Editor of Bitch Media, whose mission is "to provide and encourage an engaged feminist response to media and popular culture." Articles included "Why is Hollywood Still Shortchanging Women Directors? and "Feminista Jones Wants Black Women to Reclaim their space."

Ah, America. Where even job postings are polarized.


Always Professional...


AmbulanceToday I went on a "ride-along" with a paramedic as part of the story I'm writing on opioids. I can't say I was looking forward to it - I'm anxious in cars, faint in the face of blood and guts and on top of that, am nursing a bad head cold.

Well, we didn't get any overdoses, though I did observe the aftermath of a nasty car accident (two victims, both lucid, put in neck braces, strapped onto gurneys and taken to the hospital), one fainting woman (reported that she had headache, smoked marijuana in the morning and promplty began puking in the ambulance) and a case of respiratory distress at a shopping center. Gettyimages-860180296-612x612

Mostly, the paramedic and I just hung out -monitoring what was coming over the radio and talking about life. But I must say these were not my fineness few hours of reporting.

I think I was suffering from a NyQuil hangover from the night before. (And I took 1/4th of the suggested dose!)  How appropriate for a story on drug abuse. I dropped my gloves about four times, left my digital recorder at the headquarters, misplaced my phone once, and littered the front of the "bus" (as they call the EMS vehicles) with damp little crumpled up tissues. 

I apologized to the paramedic, who replied, "Are you kidding? Do you know what I see every day?"

Then she offered to show me the photo of a guy she rescued who had been hit by a train. I declined.


Then and Now

K and Sal weddingI'm writing this from my bestie's house, where I've been visiting for the week. And what have we done? Nothing. And everything. Cooked together, taken walks, worked on our respective computers, drank copious amounts of wine, danced, and talked, talked, talked and laughed until the tears came.

I know it's a thing now on Facebook to post your first profile photo and your current one. (Those in the know say it's just Facebook's way of improving  facial recognition techniques, but whatever.) I'm not interested in showing how my face has aged in the last 12 years.

But I am interested in how long this treasured friendship has lasted. Sally and I have been friends for almost 45 years. Kate and Sal now

Here's my then and now - first one, obviously, taken at my wedding (when we had already been friends for years) and second, taken yesterday. I would like to get props for posting a photo of myself with out a speck of makeup.

 

 


Say what?!

ImagesI use a digital tape recorder when I'm doing interviews. Then, I send the mp3 recording to an online service which transcribes it. In minutes.

This, in my opinion, is up there with the discovery of penicillin and the first moon landing. For most of my career, I spent countless hours transcribing tapes, hitting stop and rewind and stop and rewind as I tried to capture the exact quotes. (Yes, I take notes, but not shorthand, and you need to get it exactly right.)

That said, voice recognition is not yet a perfect science. Earlier this week, I had a long interview with several members of the Yonkers police force. I'm working on an article on opioid addiction. Now I am reviewing the transcript. For your amusement (Lord knows it cracked me up) here are a few of the boo-boos: 

"Some narcotics..."  = "Summer cottage"

"A paramedic..."   = "Apparent nada" 

"Narcan" = "Archive"

"They need to get their fix somewhere" = "they need to get that fixed summer"

"Cartel" ="car town."

"Westchester" = "what chefs are"

And MY FAVORITE:

"I could attest to that, having run Narcotics" [dept.] = I could test that bed and bring narcotics."

 


Reorganizing Under The Influence

Images-1A good chunk of my publishing career, God help me, was pre-Internet. Yes, the New York Times has digital archives of the hundreds of articles I've written for the paper, dating back to the 1980s, but if you looked at my home office, you'd never know it. 

Back in the olden days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, when I published an article in the NYT, my husband would painstakingly cut and paste the paper on to one or two sheets and then make two dozen copies. I sent some to out-of-town family and friends (I'm talking envelopes and stamps -no email back then) and then saved the other copies in a file cabinet. 

Okay, I just checked and I published 443 articles in the paper before 2003. A search for articles after 2002 comes up with 844 results. Now picture all those articles, multiply by 20 copies or so, and picture the state of my office. Download-1

Slowly, I've been sorting through them - keeping one original and recycling the rest. I'm struck by a couple of things:

  1. My God, I was prolific! Some days I had two and even three articles in a Sunday section. I wrote much more for Metro than I remembered. I really worked hard and rarely took a week off.
  2. I don't remember writing most of these articles.
  3. Many of them are painfully dated, particularly the health stories (the new concept of managed care!) and the many pieces about the development of the Internet - how it was influencing medical care, college searches, etc.                

As to filing under the influence, I have had some sort of flu this week (yes, I had the flu shot) and  keeping things in chronological order between sneezing, coughing and low-grade fever is a challenge. Yes, 1994 came before 1995. I'm almost sure of it.

Anyway, time marches on, and I'm doing all this cleaning and sorting to make room for my office to double as an extra guest room. I expect grown children and their loved ones - those very kids who I used to bark at with, "Don't bother me now! I'm on a deadline."  I need to be done by Christmas. Onward.

 


Love and Hate

DownloadStill struggling with integrating disparate worlds. The Pittsburgh synagogue murders break my heart. I cry whenever I read about it. I hadn't even finished reading about the bombs sent to 14 people before this slaughter happened.

Our country is in deep trouble. Every day it gets worse. 

And then there's my family. Last weekend we spent my son's 30th birthday in upstate New York. My husband and me, our daughter, our son and his wife. I wanted to freeze frame just about every minute - the hikes (all of us in ridiculous matching bright orange wool caps, which I insisted we wear because it's deer hunting season), the laughter, the games, the meals, listening to my daughter and my daughter-in-law compare notes on political canvassing, watching the tender relationship between my son and his wife, watching my husband quietly take care of stoking the fire to keep us warm....

Sheesh - I'm teaching tonight at the place-that-shall-not-be-named, and I was going to focus on run-on sentences. Doctor, heal thyself.

Anyway, I know I am privileged to be able to put some distance between my family and the political nightmare that is our country. Many people, especially those living in war ravaged countries, cannot. And yes, most of us are doing what we can to repair this broken, broken world.

But I'm scared. And you can only hide out in the mountains for so long.

 

 


Our Separate Selves

ImagesMost of us wear many hats, seamlessly transitioning from professional to mother to volunteer to cook to spouse to that woman at the gym that used to be in much better shape. (That's was me this morning.)

But there are days when these worlds seems to collide instead of blend. 

I cannot be specific on social media, but here's a major hint about my new gig: the image above is one of many things I pass by on my way into teaching my memoir class. The classroom is a world unto itself. For me, it's been like discovering an entirely new universe. Not just the millions of Americans who are locked up at any given day. I had a vague sense of that. But the humanity inside those walls has been a revelation. It shouldn't have been. But it was. 

I don't romanticize this population. Most have done horrible things. And I received a lot of training about boundaries, which I scrupulously respect. But once you've spent time there, you feel differently about your own life. The food on your table. Your movement. Your home. Download

I was just texting with my daughter, who this year will be preparing her first Thanksgiving dinner.  I'm sad she won't be home, but also excited to be walking her through the process. What a gift this is. What a gift our freedom is. 

I'm struggling to shake off the hours I spend inside those walls each week. But maybe I shouldn't try. Maybe they can help put my life into sharper focus.