22 September 2017

And Cancer Sucks

I confess that I wrote yesterday's post a week ago, scheduling it to run yesterday because yesterday would have been my mother's birthday.

But on Tuesday - two days before Moky's birthday - I learned that an old friend had died. She had had lung cancer for years - almost a chronic condition. She was in good shape, making plans to travel to Europe, volunteering as an archivist, doing what she did. And Monday morning, she woke up and had trouble breathing and called 911 and died.

She's the one that told me about Lungevity when my sister was diagnosed and was looking for support. She contributed to my Lungevity walk-a-thon with a donation a couple of weeks ago. She'd never smoked.

I am just shattered.

Lung cancer sucks.


Arlene, I miss you.

21 September 2017

Birthdays Are Hard

A couple of weeks ago, my sister gave me a bag of ephemera: my baby book, a box of our grandfather's letters & schoolwork in German, a folder of congratulations on the 1925 birth of a baby girl whose mother once upon a time lived across the street from my mother, and an envelope of photos. This here picture is my mother, in about 1995, with my cat Yoyo. I think it was taken in the crazy days leading up to my wedding, because it was in with some outtakes from that event.

Today would have been my mother's 82nd birthday, but that she hadn't died 8+ years ago, of lung cancer.

In her memory, and because cancer sucks, and because my sister has lung cancer, I'm doing something I have never ever ever done before: I'm participating in a walk-a-thon, raising money for Lungevity.


If you know someone who has had, or who has, or who has died from lung cancer - and you surely do - please help. Lungevity funds scientific research, educates on early detection, provides patient support - helping "people live better with lung cancer and dramatically improve on the current 18% five-year survival rate", and they have a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.



Click the Donate button above, or use this link: https://lungevity.donordrive.com/participant/36990

When you've done that, treat yourself to a popsicle. Red. In memory of Moky.

And thank you.

01 September 2017

The Stories I See

My commute to NYC is not short, but it affords me the luxury of time to read. I read the inky, unwieldy Times, I read books from the library. I read long form articles that I print on the backs of discarded spreadsheets and copy drafts, because I digest paper words better than digital. I do the crossword, easily on Monday and sometimes with glee on Friday (though I occasionally cheat and check cranky Rex, justifying it as a learning tool - cheating today will mean more chance of success tomorrow.)

Today, I pulled a paperback out of my bag - not a library book, but something I'd bought at a warm and funky independent bookstore in Saugerties. Because it's mine, I felt no compunction about marking a phrase that jumped off the page at me:


"It was interesting to consider ... that a story might merely be a series of events we believe ourselves to be involved in, but on which we have absolutely no influence at all."


The subway pulled into 14th street. On the platform, I could see a 20-something couple, lips locked in a theatrical embrace, one of her feet in the air. They stood rock still, like they were posing, and as I exited the train, I looked for their photographer. But there was only me to record the scene.

Later, as I walked up Broadway, I mentally dress-coded a young woman 10 feet ahead of me. Tight black knee-high boots, black t-shirt, and tailored plaid short-shorts, her butt cheeks were visible at every step. Between us, an older woman in jeans delicately reached back and traced the arced outline of her own butt cheek. I wondered - was her action a subconscious reaction to Plaid Shorts? Or merely an itch?

The passage above, from Outline, came from a bit where the novelist/narrator is teaching a class in creative writing, and has asked her students to "tell me something they had noticed on their way here".

Reading begets noticing; noticing begets writing. I stand outside myself, etching stories into my head, speaking them softly into my phone, involved yet not at all.

When Plaid Shorts turned into my office building and got on the elevator with me, I refrained from commenting on her attire. Because her story is hers to tell and my place was not to interfere.

And yet I am involved.

14 August 2017

Today, I'm Robin

Since yesterday, I've been mulling the pledge I made to donate $24 to a good cause. At first I thought about funding a bit of a classroom project, given that the whole thing came up because of back-to-school shopping.

But Charlottesville has been on my mind. And so, with the help of a Medium post by Sara Benincasa, titled "What to Do About Charlottesville", I sent my little donation to Great Expectations, a project where foster kids in Virginia get help navigating out of the foster system into adulthood, through programs at Virginia community colleges.

The current overt burbling up of the alt-right, of racists, fascists, Nazis, Klansmen, is deeply disturbing. And yet, as a middle-aged white woman in a liberal NYC suburb, what do I do? Benincasa makes an apposite point:

I believe in the Superhero Sidekick theory of helping, which is to say that if you’re trying to ally yourself with the interests of an oppressed group of which you are not a part, you pull a Robin, not a Batman. You’re not the star of the show, so you don’t direct the mission. You listen, you learn, you assist. You definitely don’t lounge around and wait for the superhero to do all the work and then take all the credit. You also don’t throw up your hands and wail, “WHAT WILL WE EVER DOOOOOOO? THIS IS HOPELESS!” when Batman is right there going, “Um, Robin? There’s like ten things you could do today that would help everybody out. You listening?”

So, here's how I did my Robin part today:

  1. Little gift to Great Expectations
  2. Repost/amplification of Benincasa's "What To Do" piece
How did you do your Robin part?

13 August 2017

Back to school shopping, and how I regained my will to live

The child has been begging to go shopping. Yes, she needed new sneakers. Yes, she needed new bras. Yes, she needed new jeans. Yes, she starts high school and wanted a “first day of school outfit” and I caved in because sometimes I am nice (although I did think about invoking Thoreau's beware of all enterprises that require new clothes except that I thought she might take that to mean that high school was optional or something).

So, it was time to go to the mall. There are several malls not too far from us, but to hit all the stores one wants to hit, one needs to go to two different malls, and pay for parking at each, and paying for parking GALLS ME.

I elected to go to a farther away mall because 1) free parking and 2) everything under one roof and 3) a less crowded Trader Joe’s on the way home.

She got sneakers. We went into both Sephora and Ulta and walked out with only one hair clip, for me. We were sweet-talked by a cute young not-our-camp Spanish guy with terrific glasses, who was shilling expensive beauty products out of a kiosk; we bought nothing (hello $99 jar of goop), but he was amusing. We both got bra-fitted, at Soma, where they have wireless bras. She got an overall dress, and a sweater, and two pairs of jeans, and a tiny backpack.

And in Aeropostale, we were on line to pay for two cheap t-shirts, when the customer ahead of us at the register called to us: “I’ll pay for those shirts. I have $24 of credit that is just going away unless I spend it right now.” She had a pile of merchandise and some complicated return deal and was DONE WITH shopping. So my girl’s two shirts went into mall lady's pile, but she needed another few dollars worth of merchandise so another t-shirt and then a $4 tank top went in, and the whole total came to 63¢ due. I paid it, meaning that for 63¢, the girl got four new shirts. I told the other woman that I’d been on the verge of losing my will to live because 3 hours in the mall and that she had restored my gumption.


Today, in honor of mall lady, I’m going to donate $24 to a good cause.

But I'm not setting foot in another mall for at least a year, and the girl knows that.

11 August 2017

Do cats eat bats?

​At 12:15, I drifted from sleep into consciousness and noticed that a light was on - the girl was in the bathroom. I sleepily muttered "go back to bed" and with that, she let out a blood-curdling scream. "BAT, BAT, there's a bat!"

There is a little closet off the bathroom - a closet that's really a part of the crawl space that runs under the dormers on the front of the house. And while she was sitting on the toilet, a bat had slipped out from under the closet door.


And here Alice began to get rather sleepy, and went on saying to herself, in a dreamy sort of way, 'Do cats eat bats? Do cats eat bats?' and sometimes, 'Do bats eat cats?' for, you see, as she couldn't answer either question, it didn't much matter which way she put it.


My husband scrambled out of bed in a haze, I grabbed the hysterical child, the cats fled, and we pondered what to do about the bat careening around the upstairs of our little house. The girl offered to find her tennis racket, except that she would have had to cross the dangerous hallway with the frantic bat. I thought about calling the police, and eventually my husband towel-snapped it to stun it. He gathered it up loosely in the towel, and took it downstairs and outside; it flew away, apparently unharmed.

Far too much drama for the middle of the night, but no one got carted off in an ambulance.

01 August 2017

Take The Girl To Work Day


Once upon a time, the girl child went to work with me every day.


Nowadays, she only comes on special occasions; later we are going to see a show together, and she opted to spend the day with me (instead of hanging out at home and taking the train in). (Really, she was hoping I would cave and take her to , which um, no, it's a workday, and besides, I can make cookie dough perfectly well at home and there's no standing on line there.)

One thing led to another, and BOOM. Causing a traffic jam yet again.