Archive for September, 2014

That open letter to the ex wife

Monday, September 29th, 2014

So I read that open letter to the ex wife and I have to say it sounds smug to me. He’s all hearts and flowers as he does his sit ups to meet someone new on Grindr and he’s very apologetic that he was such a free spirit. Puhlease. As someone else responded, “I’d like to see the open letter to the ex-kids.”

The truth is that other people will come into each of their lives and make that close, familial loving connection difficult to sustain because it strains the new relationship. It is what it is.

Meanwhile, the love does not go away, it is encapsulated in a “past love” bubble lodged deep in Planet Heart.

Where do you start?
How do you separate the present from the past?
How do you deal with all the things
you thought would last that didn’t last;
with bits of memories scattered here and there?
I look around and don’t know where to start.

Which books are yours?
Which tapes and dreams belong to you
and which are mine?
Our lives are tangled like the branches of a vine that intertwine.
So many habits that we’ll have to break
and yesterdays we’ll have to take apart.

One day there will be a song
or something in the air again,
to catch me by surprise
and you’ll be there again:
a moment in what might have been…

Where do you start?
Do you allow yourself a little time to cry?
Or do you close your eyes and kiss it all goodbye?
I guess you try.

And though I don’t know where
and don’t know when,
I’ll find myself in love again.
I promise there will always be
a little place, no one will see,
a tiny part, deep in my heart,
that stays in love with you.

Neighborly advice

Monday, September 29th, 2014

So my neighbor sees me hobbling around the corner walking Stella and says, “What happened?” I said I went to yoga and sprained my muscle. He said, “Sometimes it is good to hurt like that, because the next time it won’t hurt as much.”


Does Not Suffer Idleness Well

Monday, September 29th, 2014

I’m growing dark – this is day 11 of my injury. Everything was full steam ahead – I had gone to have the massage that got my piriformis muscle back in alignment and had been walking Stella daily for 45 minutes to an hour and so I was so gunho I joined Swan River Yoga Studio and took my first yoga class in a while (maybe a year). I was back on track to health and fitness. Yay! It was all good.

And then …

I went to my second yoga class, which again was a hip opener class, and I didn’t feel it then, but the next morning couldn’t get out of bed without incredible pain. I felt like someone had put a vice grip on my right hip and that night I was scheduled to go dancing. I took some advil and decided to go dancing as it might help me overcome this muscle lock. And sure enough, it did not, I woke the following day almost paralyzed.

So now I had a dog who was used to walks who is idle, and me idle, and my hip in an uber vice and now what?

Just when you think it is safe to make plans and pat yourself on the back for how well things are lining up – you get sideswiped. Why am I sitting here paralyzed on the sofa with an ice pack when I should be walking to the park? What is the growth on my thyroid – should I worry, should I not? Why is it that I just got some extra money and suddenly everything needs fixing including the dog?


How to stay on point?

I do not suffer idleness well at all. This might be why I’m supposed to lay down and I can’t? I’m not even sure if you are supposed to rest, move or scream. I’m reaching for zen direction and all I can foster is this – every day you have to reinvent yourself – I’m a woman who gets up and walks and trains her dog for an hour to I’m a woman trying to figure out how to deal with an injury. These things happen lickety split with no warning. And my job is to remain scrappy and not be pulled down under life’s seemingly endless tsunamis.

Keep on walking, there is nothing to learn here:


The winning ticket

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

I stopped playing the lottery because I would get so disappointed when I didn’t win. And I’m not willing to live in a world of diminishing expectations in order to survive. Now though I’m beginning to think that in striking out for the sublime in order to get further away from the banal, I’ve missed an entire universe of interest.

Take for example, today. I was driving Tin to Hebrew school and listening to gospel on WWOZ and as we were entering – Tin dancing some crazy dance – a gentleman opened the door for us and Tin shouted, Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! And I just smiled at the man. We had just been listening to a woman singing, “Jesus, I’m not asking you to move the mountain, but give me the strength to get over it” and her words were seared in my mind.

I remembered that I had not eaten breakfast and so after he was in class, I ran over to Whole Foods with “Eye on the Sparrow” playing and got a decaf coffee with almond milk and a spelt flour chocolate chip cookie – and damn if it was not the best breakfast I’ve had in ages. Who knew that sugar and caffeine could come together in that glorious way?!?

Last night, I had gone to a fundraiser for Project Lazarus, a transitional home for homeless people with HIV/AIDS. We went first to friends’ house for gumbo and appetizers and then over to Project Lazarus for champagne and dessert. It was a lovely evening and made more so by seeing all these people come together to support others less fortunate than themselves. Sometimes it seems as if the world is spinning round and round, with money fueling the engine, but the truth is that there are a lot of people doing a lot of good for those less fortunate and I don’t want to lose sight of this fact.

Today, as Tin watched the Wild Kratts, two brothers who go on discovery into the wild and become animated to penetrate these worlds, I read the New York Times and realized that sometimes the newspaper is isolating, and its information most often has no place in my life. The words sometimes add no meaning, the news offers no solace, and even the stories offer me no good catharthis. So I put down that paper and Tin and I went into his room and drew on his chalkboard. Mostly letters. He is learning to spell his big name, which is BIG.

I won the winning ticket and I forget that sometimes. And sometimes all it takes is some serious downtime to remember it.


These Days of Awe

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

My days of late have been less than days of awe, but here we are in two of the highest holy days of people of Jewish faith – Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and I had to take inventory. Of everything.

I woke to my limp, after seriously messing up my piriformis muscle in a hip opener class after returning to yoga for the first time in a year. I went last Thursday and on Friday was aching and so I went dancing Friday night thinking I could hip shake my way out of this problem, only to wake on Saturday partially paralyzed. And so I have been laying low – trying to ice and rest and get this body back to ground zero. I’m not there yet.

My first thought when I woke was of the dream I was having where the love of my life was in a canoe paddling away with a current lover. I watched them from my apartment window and then suddenly the apartment began filling with water and it was rising. The bags of goods I had just put on the sofa were now under water. And all I could say was “dang” even though I was filled with immense sadness at my ex rowing away and indifference about the bags that were now sinking in the muddy water.

But the night before, filled with hope for the new year, Tin and I had baked 36 gluten and dairy free honey cakes to take to his classroom for the New Year – L’shana tova umetuka – may your new year be happy and sweet.


When Tin got up, I served him apples and honey and dipped a few slices myself in the sweet nectar. It’s a brand new year – 5775 – and a new chance to get it right or so the rabbi said.


After some work interviews, I showered, dressed and went to pick up my friend to do a radio interview for the gala that SISTAWorks is having in November. I’m on the board and also the media maven for the organization so we were happy to get a spot on All Things New Orleans on the PBS station. From there, I was pulled to go to my new synagogue. I’m under a new direction which is follow your spirit not your plans and so off I drove to Metairie, to Shir Chadash, where I arrived minutes before they blew the shofar, and I stayed till after the rabbi spoke. He talked about uncertainty and how in biblical times religion was supposed to offer a package of certainty and how in modern times we don’t have that wrapper – we have to learn to live more with humility and quit searching for the certain. As a devotee of seeking the certain, and a student of chaos, I listened intently.

In the prayer book was a quote by Elie Wiesel that said, “In the garden, God told Adam a secret. It was not how to begin, but rather how to begin again.” And that my dear is the reason for the season. These days of awe are intended for us to stop what we are doing and take stock of our core – to peel back all the delusions of certainty – to accept the chaos and to call on what is our God given secret – resilience.

I left the synagogue after having been invited so generously to lunches and came home to do more work, and then to bring the 30 honey cakes (six went to us and friends) to Tin’s class with a little talk on what this day is all about. I brought my shofar – to give the kids a few blasts so they would hear what I hear – the noise blasts that help us stop what we are doing. It sounds different from other things we do and sounds like a wake up call.

When I left the classroom Tin gave me a thumbs up as he scarfed down his honey cake. We eat this honey – in our cake, on our apples – all to be mindful of sweetness and encouraging it in our lives.

The rest of the afternoon was not without effort – do homework, make a chicken in peanut sauce over rice noodles dinner – a dish I intended to make a few days ago, and then wait for the mobile vet to come because Stella has another UTI – the vet said to me that this is unusual – the rate of medical emergencies this dog has had – from the noncontagious mange to the alternate treatment she had to have for it to the first UTI treated for two weeks and now the second one month later, $191 plus $100 plus $191 later, we are looking at the next $100 worth of pills to buy tomorrow. This was the extra money that was paying for the mirror that got slammed off my truck the other day. There is no extra money – forget what you were thinking – it just simply does not exist.

I’m awestruck by the fact that I keep having to learn some of the same lessons I’ve already mastered – it’s as if I am beginning again over and over with no end in sight. I drag the same lovers through the night, I wake to the same dashed hopes, I have the same irritations, and even my injuries are recurring – I keep having to remind myself why I do it.

I reckon I do it because I’ve accepted that “life ain’t no crystal stair” to quote Langston Hughes and yet “still I rise” to quote Maya Angelou. And everything in between. And also because of what Wiesel said – that we were given this incredible secret – resilience – and it would be a shame to squander it.

How To Like It

Friday, September 19th, 2014

How To Like It

These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and a dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let’s go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let’s tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.
The dog says, Let’s pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let’s dig holes everywhere.
Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn’t been used since last winter.
The dog says, Let’s go down to the diner and sniff
people’s legs. Let’s stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man’s mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
The dog says, Let’s go to sleep. Let’s lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he’ll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he’ll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.
But the dog says, Let’s just go back inside.
Let’s not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing. The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
But the dog says, Let’s go make a sandwich.
Let’s make the tallest sandwich anyone’s ever seen.
And that’s what they do and that’s where the man’s
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept-
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.

Stephen Dobbins

And this time …

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

I woke screaming in the middle of the night because the man I loved was with a statuesque blonde named Wayfair. Since Wayfair is one of the spam emails I get daily, I had to chuckle despite being a little disconcerted about the dream. Rodger Kamenetz says you have to look for other touch points in the dream, how was I feeling, behaving, who else was there? It’s not so much that things represent other things as in death represents birth, but more how are you responding and behaving? My sister was there who had betrayed me, my friend’s stepfather who told me the LaLa was cursed and who wouldn’t return to work there was lurking in the hallway, Wayfair – was there all iconic U.S. beauty blonde hair and blue eyes, and my ex was there who had cheated me out of so many dreams; I became apoplectic, hysterical, and distraught.

The odd thing was that yesterday I was talking a friend off the ledge and saying what works for me is to remember that there is a negative tape playing in my head that says you can’t, this will go wrong, there is no such thing as love, and who succeeds? And at what price? I told her we have to have a tool, behavioral modification to work against this endless loop of hopelessness.

I was speaking to another mother as Tin was having his music lesson and she said that we are told to be in a box and that we accept the terms of that imprisonment. There is no box – it’s all a lie – a story they tell you to control you and keep you down. But how do you break out of it – how do you travel light when you want art on your walls, mementos from trips, books to read and comfortable furniture? She said you don’t form attachments. You have them, but you don’t grip them – you give them away freely and accept them freely. Don’t grip. Don’t become emotionally involved with inanimate objects.

Be prepared to let it all go and obviously that means past slights, past loves, and past heartaches. The nightmare was about holding onto disappointment, about railing at being wronged, about having no control. That dream was a direct result of seeing friends who have newly fallen in love and having no faith in their dream because of my own script. That dream was about the conversation I had with my friend on the ledge and not believing my words myself. That dream was about standing there speaking to the mother who said to get out of the box, and as we were speaking another mother walked up with an elephant wrap skirt on and I said, “Oh I love that skirt.” And she said, “I’m going to give it to you.” The first mother said, “See, she is prepared to let it go if it makes you happy.”

When I went to walk Stella I started to play the usual script, the one that says, today I have to walk Stella and it’s dark outside, and I’m not losing weight despite all my efforts, and I have a lot of work to do but have this debt I need to address, and my house isn’t clean, and when will I exercise, and how come I didn’t hear back from … . I took a deep breath, and I stretched my mind out of its usual configuration and said today will be different. This time it will work. This time I will lose weight through my efforts. This time my dreams will come true. This time love will not betray me or I betray love. This time it will be different.


The Risk of Being Lost at Sea

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

The days have become weeks and the weeks almost months since I returned from Spain and that never never land feeling of long days and idle nights. Gone are the books consumed for breakfast and the glasses of wine for lunch. Certainly, the wasteland of summer vacation cannot be replicated day in and day out or surely that would grow old as well.

Tin has started his new school where they are told to be explorers, inquisitors and risk takers. He has three purple marks leading to his orange. He needs two more. Today, he woke on the wrong side of the bed and I told him if he didn’t listen to me, he would be late, and then he would not get his purple and he would also lose his privileges at home. He stopped, almost on the point of tears, and cried out, “But I’ve worked so hard to get to orange!”

And so it is, that we all work so hard to get our lives in the order we think they need. We make our plans. We put our trust in external validation of how we execute them. We live and learn. But sometimes and all times, plans have a way of imploding and life has a way of unfolding the way it was going to whether you showed up or not. It’s these times that I go back to the thoughts, words, and habits that have sustained me – prayer, meditation, faith, and a good long walk.

I read this article yesterday and it was one of those aha writings – where a columnist explains to an atheist what prayer is – I wish I had written it myself.

I highly recommend it.

How Weird Can It Get?

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

I went to the endocrinologist this morning and everything was great until my physical exam where he felt a lump on my thyroid. “I’m not going to say it’s cancer, but we should have it checked.” Suddenly that lump felt bigger.

Before I was called into his office, I was sitting in the waiting room and a woman across from me leaned in and said, “You look really great like that.” She thought I had cancer. I said, “Good to know because it’s permanent.” She had had a liver transfer from a 30 year old guy in California who was killed in a traffic accident. She said that testosterone is coursing through her and making hair grow everywhere. She wonders if he was an athlete, but although she thanked his family, she declined to go meet with them.

Yesterday, I went for my mammogram and the technician asked me where I am in the chemo process. I said I have alopecia, Hashimoto’s, not cancer. She said, “Wow. You look really great like that.”

I went into get my vitals before seeing my doctor this morning and the nurse began telling me that her mother had breast cancer and she looked really great bald too. I told her I don’t have cancer. She apologized and said that she thought “I look really beautiful bald.”

Then my doctor came in, he is a friend as well, he said I look terrific and that I really wear it well. I said its a good thing, considering the lack of choice I have in this matter.

I decided to hold the lump in abeyance until I have my ultrasound in a few weeks. I’m not going to sit on top of a worry cloud at this point, but I did wonder if already being bald might not alleviate at least some of the fears people have about having chemo.

When I went to pick up Tin from school, we were walking out to the car and a little boy came up to me on the playground and said to me, “Everyone thinks you’re weird.” I said, “Why’s that?” He said, “I dunno.” Then a friend’s daughter hugged me for no reason.

There is a harvest moon outside all the while a great mystery is inside, all ready to be decoded, revealed, unlocked.

The Remains of the Day

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

I had a moment of panic last night that I haven’t experienced in a long time.

But let me back up. Every day I have been walking Stella around the bayou and to City Park and it’s all been very well and good, and I’m super grateful for Stella and for having a dog get me back to my morning walks. Yet, every morning I am greeted by my past – both the view of the bayou, the view of the LaLa, and sometimes old friends and neighbors I see along my path. I feel as if I had traveled the world over and have come back as the prodigal child.

Only my past and my present don’t line up in such a neat parable or even a great cautionary tale.

I was having lunch with a friend who has all of the wealth in the world and yet does not have a relationship and we were speaking about this lack of and I was telling him that I had met someone who at first sight it was like zing sang and yet then that had cooled. He spoke of someone he had met, whose company he enjoyed, and how it had cooled. And we both just shook our heads and changed the subject.

During the day, I began to feel weird, itchy nose, scratchy throat, and a little peaked. Then I read an article about how all these people in the Hamptons are up in arms about the helicopter traffic – it seems a lot of people have private helicopters. And it’s a problem. I read this with interest because it reminded me of something Confucious said, “Poor man better off than rich man, because poor man believes money will make him happy.”

In the evening, I went to meet a friend for a drink to catch up after a few months of not seeing each other. She had asked me to come to her house but I was feeling claustrophobic, so we decided to meet at an old haunt. I arrived and my friend wasn’t there yet, and while waiting for her in that place that also contains my history, a history that no longer informs my present, I started feeling like I was going to have an anxiety attack and by the time my friend was almost to the door, I walked out and was near tears.

However, since I hadn’t seen her in a while, I didn’t want to greet her with some passing cloud that had suddenly appeared so I switched gears. Only after one cocktail, we both digressed into aging and ill gotten relationships and the ideal “date weight” that neither of us felt like we are in – her too thin, me too not.

Later, in bed, at 2:30 in the morning, I woke hacking and sniffling and realized that I was coming down with an awful cold, which more than likely compromised my immune system and sent me down a path of dark and lonely. Sometimes a dream is a dream. Sometimes a feeling is a feeling. Sometimes chemistry is chemistry. And these feelings pass, morph, roll off, roll away, and as a friend just wrote to me in an email remind me once again to let go of the tug of history:

I’m thinking we should embrace when our spirits make us uncomfortable traversing old places/people/patterns that no longer represent our path ahead… I can definitely say I’ve felt “alone” in spaces and with people I don’t fit with anymore… and I guess we’re supposed to, since we are not and can no longer be “with them” in the same way anymore because we have changed. Doesn’t mean bad….just finished… and can’t go back.

moving forward…. we would never do it if we were still comfortable in the past….
never meet a new love if we were still with the old one.

But there is also a what if, that brings on a deluge of nostalgia and causes a little rain to come into all of our hearts. In one of the most heartbreaking moments in James Ivory’s film, The Remains of the Day, the characters played by Antony Hopkins and Emma Thompson meet at the end, and she says to him:

“But that doesn’t mean to say, of course, there aren’t occasions now and then – extremely desolate occasions — when you think to yourself: ‘What a terrible mistake I’ve made with my life.’ And you get to thinking about a different life, a better life you might have had. For instance, I get to thinking about a life I may have had with you, Mr. Stevens. And I suppose that’s when I get angry about some trivial little thing and leave. But each time I do, I realize before long — my rightful place is with my husband. After all, there’s no turning back the clock now. One can’t be forever dwelling on what might have been.”

And yet one more time, Hopkins’ character does not seize the moment to tell this woman that he had and has continued to have profound deep feelings for her.

How do we let go of our past? We just do it because otherwise it wears us down. It is not my past that occasionally darkens my days, it is the burden of unspoken words and feelings in moments that go by too quickly. And yet on some dark days, there are double rainbows like the one that appeared this past Monday as my dear friend and I were driving along the bayou.