Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Full of Grace

  • Being able to eat all my meals outside. I love breakfast with the early birds. And we bought this gazebo thing for the lake so now, even if it's raining, I can still eat outside.  Glorious.

  • The traditional ‘first day of summer’ sweet, totally refreshing, root beer float.  Yum.

  • The sound of thunder echoing around a mountain lake.   Humbling.

  • Juicy summer fruit dripping down my chin.  Heavenly.

  • And extremely grateful for the hard work of local law enforcement who successfully dealt with the escaped prison convicts (and without anyone else getting hurt) so that I and others can once again return to, and enjoy our beloved Adirondack mountains.    Brava!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

One Wing

The last few weeks have been very hard, both for me and my extended family and I have not been around computers much. I do hope to catch up on all your blogs and emails very soon, but I did want to share this - especially in light of recent events.

A few weeks ago I attended a funeral.  I had only met the man a couple of months ago when he asked to meet with me, interested in obtaining affordable housing for people he was bringing here from Ethiopia.  He was a very kind man with a thick accent and a gentle rhythm about him.   Although he was a recent immigrant himself, he was already working to help others.  I liked him instantly.  And then he died suddenly after returning from a trip to Africa.   

Although I don’t like funerals,  I thought I would attend his, thinking that since he was a new resident there may not be many people there and it would be nice for his family to have some people in attendance.  

Arrogant, I know.  Of course the church was filled to bursting.  A man who spent his life helping others is bound to be surrounded by loving and grateful people..  

I entered, quietly took a seat in the back, and instantly knew that I was the only white person in the church.  It was a mildly weird feeling but also happily reminiscent of when Daphne used to take me to churches in Harlem where I stood out like a beacon in all my blond hair, blue eyed, whiteness.   

There was much weeping and wailing at the funeral.  And when I say weeping and wailing, I mean WEEPING AND WAILING.  Loud, doubled over, heart wrenching wailing.  I was crying and cringing just witnessing the outpouring of so much pain.  And again I remembered my former Harlem church days.   In those lovely gospel churches people would yell out whatever moved them in the middle of a service.  “Amen to that brother!”  “Lord hear our prayer!”   I was always a little jealous of people who seemed to literally be moved by the spirit.  Yeah, that would never have happened in the upright, uptight, almost all white churches of my youth.  

Besides being a racial minority of one, I didn’t understand a word of the service which was done entirely in an Ethiopian dialect.   I had no clue as to what was happening, I just sat and listened to the weeping.  Sorrow has no language barrier. I felt totally lost and yet very much included all at the same time and came home emotionally exhausted yet exhilarated to have been witness to such a loving culture, even if only for a couple of hours.

This was still fresh in my mind when I heard the news coming out of Charleston last week.   How many times have I been welcomed into black churches?   Wonderfully welcomed.  Warmly and sincerely welcomed.  Every single time.  

Hearing that the shooter hesitated because all those people had been so nice to him just broke my heart in pieces.  Why is it that the nicest people always seem to get the worst of it?  I am really struggling with this so I can’t even imagine what black folks are feeling.   I would think anger.  Lots and lots of anger. But then you turn on the news and they are all talking about forgiveness.  

I once experienced extreme violence because I was different.   Daphne experienced the homophobic violence but also the racial.   All those hate filled words, all those hate filled actions.  It all still rings in my head like it was yesterday.

Have I forgiven our attackers?  Yes I have.  Have I forgotten?  Never.  And somehow, today, I feel compelled to apology for my fellow race as I always felt compelled to apology to Daphne, though I never got the chance.  No, not everyone is a racist.  But if you are white and you are not doing something, anything, to help end this madness, you are not doing enough.  Please do something.

"We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another." - Luciano De Crescenzo

Friday, June 12, 2015

New York State of Mind

As tensions mount in our household, still adjusting to Peachie living at home again, and her not supported idea of moving to Boston with her boyfriend instead of pursuing her career path, a much needed family trip to New York City was planned.  No boyfriends, no heavy life discussions - just a girls day out in the city.  

We started with a train ride to the city.  I sat with Peachie who basically ignored me and texted with her boyfriend the whole way.  

First item on the agenda was to walk the High Line down to the West Village.  Although Peachie was obviously still mad at us and walked ten feet ahead, the rest of us enjoyed this unique urban linear park constructed on an old elevated rail line.

Legos had a cool installation where people were constantly creating new buildings and skylines.

Then a quick stop at the Christian Louboutin boutique for Peachie who is a shoe fanatic.

We had brunch at a French/Moroccan restaurant that looked like we had walked into the set of Casablanca.  Great atmosphere.  Great food.  Peachie still trying ignoring us, but softening.

We then read that the hotel where the restaurant was located was where the Titanic survivors stayed while the official inquiry took place.   We went into the lobby where a bellhop, looking like he just walked out of a 1940s movie, gave us a brief tour.

We walked off our brunch along the west side park where Martha was awed by the Freedom Tower. She had wanted to do the 911 museum but I just can’t do it.  Too personal.  Too tragic.  Too everything.

A short stop at the Aids memorial.  The inscription reads “I can sail without wind, I can row without oars, but I cannot part from my friend without tears."

That reduced us all to tears.  

Cupcakes and some time to shop the boutiques on Bleeker Streeet which seemed to lighten Peachie’s mood.  Oh, she does love to shop.  She even started asking her sister for opinions and things were definitely getting better.

And a small detour to explain the history of this place.

Then back uptown for an off-Broadway show.  

This was hysterical and had us laughing until we cried.  It was quite the raunchy send up of Disney princesses and  “The Princess Syndrome”  Yep, this is what my family needed - a fun, rollicking laugh. By the time we ducked into a quaint little restaurant for dinner, everyone was talking and laughing and sharing food and back to where we used to be as a family.

Pretty tuckered out after almost 14 miles of walking and shopping and eating and laughing, we boarded the train home, dozing and smiling about our shared experience.

Soon we will take a week long family beach vacation.   It is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Full of Grace - Firsts

- First salad straight from the garden.  I always forget just how sweet and satisfying fresh from the garden is.

- First weekend at the lake. All the basic camp opening is done and it is ready for heavy duty relaxing.

- First tour of the lake in my kayak. Not too bad - a little shoulder pain, but otherwise feeling stronger than I have in a long time.

- First lily pads starting to bloom.  As beautiful as they are when they are fully open in lotus, I do love how they first look like lollipops all over the lake.

- First of many, many naps in the hammock looking at this.  

After such a long, cold winter, recuperating from medical weirdness, this all feels so, so good.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Madison Holleran, a 19-year-old varsity athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, jumped to her death in Philadelphia last January in an act that shocked her family and community.  I might not known about this except for Kate Fagan, who wrote the article about it for ESPN has a younger sister who played basketball with my daughter.  

Fagan wrote about the very filtered life Madison led on Instagram, then launched a social campaign under the hashtag #LifeUnfiltered to start a conversation around mental illness and the ways people filter their experiences -  both online and off.  

Fagan writes:   “Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self.  Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others' filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered.”

On Tuesdays I usually post my “Full of Grace” list of things I am particularly grateful for. This exercise has been very useful to me in my PTSD recovery, and I'm truly grateful for the abundance in my life.   However, I am also aware that these posts might present a much rosier life than what my day to day existence actually is.  As Madison once posted "Even people you think are perfect are going through something difficult."

And so today I will highlight some of the more difficult things currently happening in my life:

My current Town Supervisor will not be running for re-election this year which means, no matter what, there will be a change in administration.  If the Democrats win, they have already told me they want to restructure the department and if I wanted to go back to working full-time the job would be mine.  But I really don’t want to go back to full-time.  If the Republicans win I am most certainly out of a job as I am too aligned with the Democrats.  This is not as financially devastating as it could be as I am already collecting my pension and have paid health insurance for life.   However, it is still a big financial hit I was not yet prepared to take.  Mostly though it is the fear of closing a door that I am not ready to close just yet.  And leaving a work family to whom I have become very attached.   This job has kept me centered and balanced.  I’m not sure what will happen if/when it ends.

My sister fears she is losing her mind.  At first I thought it was just mindlessness because she is so busy.  It seemed natural that some things would start to fall through the cracks.  But it has grown into something much more frightening.   She now often calls me crying because she is forgetting very important things and she knows that something is happening that she cannot control.  Often she calls and forgets why she called.  And then she starts to cry because of that.  I have no idea what to do.

Our youngest daughter seems on the verge of screwing up a well laid out plan for her career to go and live with her boyfriend who is moving out of  state.  Martha and I have lost many nights sleep about this and wind up arguing with each other when really we are just angry at Peachie who is so defensive about the whole thing she is almost impossible to live with.  And every time that tension bubbles up, her response is “this is why I don’t want to live here anymore!”  At this point I wish I could go live with someone else out of state.  My once very happy home is filled with stress and everyone walking on eggshells.

PTSD - I have come a long, long way is healing from trauma and PTSD.  But I am finding that all this tension and change and the unknown is making me very shaky.  Which makes me wonder how much I have really healed as much as I think I have.  It is a endless circle of anxiety which feeds more anxiety which feeds more anxiety . . . .  I am sometimes very scared.


I knew a woman who created quite a social media image of herself.  She tried to project a woman of strength and morality and compassion.  She called herself “a socialist for Jesus.”  But the more I got to know her, the more I realized that it was all smoke and mirrors.  Basically she was a bully who demanded people treat her one way while she treated others with contempt and ridicule.  It was a hard but important lesson for me in just how false on-line salesmanship and image making can be.

I do not want to present a false image of my life here.

Focusing on gratitude helps me avoid falling into the rabbit holes I used to live in.  My former experiences of poverty and trauma and cancer has made me acutely aware of how precious life is and just how much I have to appreciate.   I have written extensively in the past about my battle with PTSD and trauma and cancer.  It has not all been rosy and some of it has been like crawling through glass.   But lately it seems that I only write about the good things.

And so I just wanted to open the other side for a bit.  Am I extraordinarily grateful for the abundance and love in my life?   Yes I am.  And I practice mindful gratitude every day.  But is that my whole life? Not by a long shot.   I don’t want to present a fantasy image of my life, nor do I want to wallow in the hardships and failures.  It is a difficult balance to achieve in the internet world, I think.