Right here

Yeah, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. Honestly, I’ve mostly been trying to figure out WordPress and get my domaine name figured out. Actually, that was just today, really. No excuse.

But the Orlando murders shocked and horrified me and I guess I’m working through that in this space.

I was at a beautiful wedding this weekend. We heard the news of the shooting on the drive there. We didn’t know many details then- my husband and I wondered what the motivation was, and to our terror, we realized at this point, in this country, it could’ve been anything- a disgruntled employee, a jilted lover, who knows.

As we sat in the ballroom, watching the wedding ceremony unfold, I couldn’t keep out of my mind the thought of what I would do should a gunman suddenly appear. Where would I go? Would I hide? Would I be able to bring people with me? Would I even know what was going on before it was too late? Some of these are not new questions for me. Anyone who has escaped from a fire thinks many of those same things anytime they’re in a new place. We look for alternate exits; we plan our emergency egress. But I caught a few others lookng around the ballroom, with glances falling longer than usual on the doors to the outside, and I realized others were wondering the same things now too.

And as we learned more about the shootings, I thought about what it was like for those family and friends sending frantic texts, calling, their hearts sinking and pulses racing as their messages went unanswered. I thought about such violence and terror taking place in a setting of joy and freedom. And what those places mean to people who have very real fears of being themselves anywhere else. I thought about a dear friend of mine at a New Year’s Eve party several years ago, up in the private room of a bar downtown, a little scared and yet wondrous over the fact that for the first time ever, she was kissing her girlfriend at midnight in public. How happy I felt for her, and how sad it made me that she hadn’t felt safe doing so before. How privileged I’ve been never to feel that fear.

Oh, my LGBTQ friends, I am so sorry. So sorry that again, someone has enacted violence upon you. So sorry that one of your safe spaces has been violated. So sorry that you’ve once again been the target of irrational hatred. So sorry that even your right to grieve how you wish is not being completely respected and your pain being co-opted. But please know this:

You are so, so loved. You are so, so respected. We, your allies, are both so saddened and hurt for you, but also floored with awe. Once again, you’ve been knocked down and fought your way to your feet. Once more, you’ve summoned unimaginable resolve and been determined to not only fight for your rights and against intolerance and injustice, but have also guarded against letting the fight change you. Your calls for love, for softness, in light of these vicious transgressions, bring tears to my eyes and I find my resolve to be a better human motivated by your example.

Know that we’re right here. Over here. Giving you space and time to grieve. Knowing this was your hurt, but hurting for you just the same. And that while it’s your fight, we’re right here with you. We have your back. Tell us what you need. A hug, a cookie, space, our voices raised in union with yours. Our fists, if need be. Tell us what to do. Tell us what you need. Keep teaching us.

 

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I had a dream… but in MY dream…

I’ve been having unusual dreams lately. I don’t know why or what might be causing them- it happens from time to time. They’re rarely nightmares or scary things, thankfully, and usually do not make any kind of sense, so I don’t try to interpret them. I just accept them as my weird little brain finding an outlet while the rest of me is shut down in rest mode.

6a00d83451614969e200e54f5d8a5d8833-350wiMy favorite one recently was the morning I woke up laughing and had to tell Brett that I’d dreamed about something called FASHION LEEK. Fashion Leek is a garden-variety leek who works as a style reporter covering New York Fashion Week. She’d be dressed up in the most ridiculous of the latest trends and run around the city in impractical high heels while trying to get interviews with the fashion cognoscenti, in spite of the fact that she wasn’t invited to a single show. Somehow, through sheer determination and grit (!) she’d manage to snag an interview with Anna Wintour, who would spend the whole time dabbing at her burning, watering eyes with a handkerchief, yet still graciously answering questions, impressed by Leek’s chutzpah.  In spite of Leek’s odor, Anna would still 41F03q-HmDL._SX342_prefer Fashion Leek to Kanye and Kim.

And then this morning, I dreamed I was at work, facing an impossibly long list of tasks and our office manager came to me and said, “Well, it’s finally official so I have permission to finally tell you the big news.” And she drew it out like a cat playing with a dead chipmunk while I’m sitting there fuming about all the stuff I have to get done that I’m not getting done while she teases me with this big news. Before long, other office staff have gathered behind her, all grinning wildly and practically jumping up and down with excitement.

The news? The not-for-profit retirement community where I work was bought by Marriott, who would be adding rooms to include a youth hostel and a kitten shelter, in addition to our senior apartments and assisted living. In the dream, as my coworkers cheered and laughed and hugged each other, I stood there with my jaw dropped, my mind spinning over all the repercussions of going from not-for-profit to excited faces for-profit status and how the hell were we going to accommodate all those kittens? (The kids from the youth hostel apparently did not worry me.)

I finally asked my coworkers, “How on earth can you think this is a good thing?” To which they all replied, “We get cookies now!” holding up wax paper sleeves with the Marriott logo printed on the front, a large chocolate chip cookie peeking out from the folds. As I try to formulate an answer to this, I see a guy just past them at the entrance, ushering kittens out of an eno5dc00b4ffc67ea56d202f2251eaf1e3armous truck in through the front door, where they just take off and scatter wildly throughout the building. Hundreds of kittens, just crawling the halls. And then I woke up.

I’m a little nervous to go back to work Monday.

Women Swimmin’

On Saturday, I woke up at the crack of dawn, joined my teammates, the Misfit Otters, and swam 1.2 miles around Cayuga  Lake to raise money for Hospicare and Palliative Care Services. It’s an event called Women Swimmin’ and this was my third year participating. I’ve posted about it before, including my reasons for doing the swim, so here’s some photos of the day’s events.

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My teammate Liz Hudson & I wonder why the hell we’re awake at this hour

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I’ve just spotted my family- including my cousin Lisa playing her harmonica necklace

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Ivy & Lindsay- sister teammates (Ivy brought the waterproof camera and took our open water photos)

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Misfit Otters! (except I’m sort of blocking Christen)

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On the dock, ready to jump in

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Watch out for the giant dorito!

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Hi.

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With our mascot

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Do you want to see what I’ve been up to?

putabirdonitWell, the title of this post counts for two things.

One, what I’ve been up to, in addition to my swim for Hospicare, is moving my blog to a new site. Blogger was just driving me crazy, putting pictures where I didn’t want them to be and not letting me align stuff the way I wanted. Frustrating. So I finally moved the whole business over to WordPress, where you are now. We’ll see how it goes.

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Not quite like this, but close.

Secondly, “do you want to see what I’ve been up to?” is what I was asked by a strange lady who sat down next to me on the bench where I was waiting for the bus home after yoga this evening. She came over and set down a flat of peaches she was carrying, so I moved over to offer her room. It must get tiring carrying an entire flat of peaches around. But then she sat down and asked me, “Do you want to see what I’ve been up to?”

I had no idea who this woman was, never met her before in my life. And considering that the last time someone asked me something like that downtown, it involved her pulling a live hamster out of her bra, I was a little hesitant. Turns out, I didn’t need to answer. She just pulled a little felted change purse and felted bird ornament out of her tote bag and proceeded to tell me how she had bought the felted bird house originally, but that “didn’t really work out” so she exchanged the felted bird house for a felted bird ornament and a felted change purse. With a bird on it. After a quick check to make sure I was not tumblr_lfskq8PIzg1qe3o6ho1_500inadvertently in a Portlandia sketch, I told her they were very nice and a good purchase. 

Then she sees my yoga mat & asks where I go. I said Mighty Yoga on State Street. She said, “No, that’s not it.”

I said, gently, because she’s toting a box of fruit along with playing show and tell with complete strangers revealing a lack of inhibition that could possibly be concealing a touch of psychosis or at least instability, “Yes, that’s the name of it. It’s above Handwork, across from the State Theatre box office.”

“No, I’m sure that’s not it.”

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Not too much of an exaggeration

Mercifully, the Route 11 pulled up at that very moment. “Oh, look, here’s my bus. Nice talking to you.”   

She was about to query further into my erroneously named yoga studio (“You just sit down and we’ll figure it out, no matter how long it takes,” I imagined her saying) so I did a quick but casual-looking speed walk, practically throwing myself into the sanctity of the bus.

Fortunately, everyone on the bus seemed to be intent on keeping to themselves, which was much appreciated and not often the case.

About a question…



“What? No cabbage? I guess I’ll just suffer.”

I work in a senior community. I love it, I truly do, and the biggest reason is the residents. That’s not to say that it’s always fun. Our community has resident councils that are supposed to serve as a vehicle to give the residents a voice and a way of communicating and working with the staff. Note the term “supposed to.” The monthly meetings often turn into a forum for complaints. Not that all of these are unwarranted, but especially with a certain type of individual who always looks for something to be wrong, these meetings can quickly turn into a laundry list of everything that makes these people unhappy. And unfortunately, with their generation, it’s deemed rude or bad manners to express yourself and do things like send your meal back if it’s unsatisfactory. As much as we encourage people to immediately contact their server and send their meal back for a replacement if their food is cold or the wrong item or not to their liking, few often do.

They prefer, instead, to save up their complaints for the monthly council meetings. Now, part of this is attention-getting tactics, no doubt. Why quietly mention your displeasure to your server when you could get up in front of a crowd and talk about what you don’t like? WITH A MICROPHONE!! We had one woman who actually had a list, written on the back of an envelope, of everything that had displeased her that month, including other residents. She did not bring any of these issues to staff’s attention prior to this, so we weren’t able to address or take action on any of these items until they were already well into the past. Fortunately, after we pointed out to her that the problems could be solved much faster if she’d let us know about them as they happened, she has become much better about not stockpiling her grievances.

“I disapprove of you. In general.”

Now, please don’t think that our dining or food in this community is terrible. It’s very good, actually. It’s just that food is an easy thing to complain about. The vast majority (about 75%) of our population is women, and in between cooking for their families and/or careers in restaurants, they all have some experience with food, as opposed to maintaining fire doors or air conditioning.

Anyway, you can see that these monthly council meetings are a LAFF RIOT and we all look forward to them. Not. Some days, with the hearing difficulties, participants falling asleep, and the slight decline in mental faculties, the meetings can take on an Abbott and Costello-type comedy routine flavor. Take, for example, this exchange from a council meeting a few months ago:

Nurse: So if anyone has any other questions about medication disposal, please let me know. Okay?
sees resident in front row with hand in air
Nurse: Yes, Rose*? You have a question?
Rose: Spanish rice should have green peppers.
Nurse: Okay, Rose, that is a question for dining, and Boris will be taking any food or dining questions next after I’m finished. So, you may also have noticed that we have a new policy regarding visitors signing in. Please make sure anyone who visits you signs in on the guestbook at the table near the RA office. Any questions?
sees resident with her hand in air
Nurse: Yes, Rose?
Rose: Rolls should be soft, not hard.
“Hey, Lou, orange ya glad I didn’t say banana?”
Nurse: Okay, Rose, let’s save our food concerns for dining, okay? Now, one last thing. We’ve been noticing people out for walks without the proper clothing. Even though it’s spring, it’s still chilly, so be sure to wear your jacket if you’re going out for a stroll. Okay, does anyone have anything else for me?
sighs
Nurse: Yes, Rose?
Rose: Potato soup should be creamy, not watery.
Nurse: (in defeat) Boris, why don’t you go now and talk about dining?
Boris gets up and announces the new menus, talks about the issue with the AC in the dining room, asks for any questions. Rose keeps her hand down.

*names have been changed to protect the inattentive

In which I have the bravest aunt in the world

My cousin John passed away a week ago.  It was sudden, expected someday but someday was too soon. He was too young; he’d fought diabetes since he was a small child. The news arrived in the way you always worry about; I woke up on a Sunday morning thinking I’d heard my phone buzz. There was a missed call and voice mail from my dad and a text from my mom that just said, “Call me.”
I was just in shock afterwards. I did what I always do when I’m upset- I cleaned. I dusted the kitchen shelves, I washed windows. I guess that’s why I hate housekeeping; it’s hard to enjoy something that you revert to when you’re feeling bad. I took a bath and cried. Crying comes easier in the tub; I wonder if it’s the presence of other water that makes tears finally come. My sister was out of town but came straight over to my house when she returned. We watched tv to distract ourselves: a Titanic documentary, the movie about the guy who muppets Elmo, Wet Hot American Summer. We tried to drink coffee but it didn’t taste right. We didn’t want a beer. She went back to her apartment and came back with a change of clothes to spend the night. I made salmon and spinach for dinner. We watched more tv. I didn’t know what to think or how I should feel, except that I was sad.
John’s death was the first for me of someone close to my age that I had known my whole life. I’d known other people my age who had passed away, including a former classmate earlier this year, but none of them had been people I’d been close to. I’d known John since I was a baby. All my cousins are unusually close. They were always more like big brothers and sisters to me; granted, brothers and sisters you didn’t see everyday.
John and I were the history buffs in the family. When he lived in Ithaca for a short time, we went out to dinner then back to my apartment for beers. We talked about all the sights he’d seen when he’d been to Ireland back in the 80s and all the things my husband and I had seen when we’d gone just a few years ago. We talked about all the things we’d wanted to see that we didn’t, and how much of the family history we didn’t know and wished we did.
It was hard seeing my cousins at the funeral home Friday night. There was the usual elation we get from seeing each other, tampered by the reason we were gathered together this time. John had a lot of friends; Brett and I drove over after work and by the time we arrived at the funeral home, the line was almost out the door. After being greeted by my cousin Matt’s daughter Kieran (who had touchingly waited by the door to watch for us, because, as she said, “No one should have to walk into a funeral home alone”) we stepped out of the line and went to the main room to say hello to my father, brother and sister and the assorted relatives sitting on chairs in the middle of the room. Then we got back in line. I’m not a fan of open caskets; the body never looks like the person to me, and I’d rather remember them the way I’d seen them in life before, not laid out, dressed up and perfect. They always seem to me like a mannequin made in the image of the deceased whose purpose is to stand in for the person who’s gone. My aunt Mary Margaret, John’s mother, was first in line. I hugged her and told her I had something I’d like to put in the casket with John: a piece of stone I took out of the lake in the Killarney National Forest from our Ireland trip. She nodded, smiled, and said that Andrew, John’s brother, had done the same thing. I held out the piece of stone to her and asked her if there was somewhere that she’d like for it to go. She suggested I put it in myself, and I think she saw something in my eyes that made her walk with me over to the casket, her arm around me while she suggested I tuck the stone in next to his arm.
That moment, with my aunt gently guiding me in making my little tribute to my cousin, reminded me of my aunt’s great strength, and the way that she has always looked out for me. I felt like a little girl at that moment and it took me back to another time when she had taken a bewildered and upset little girl by the hand.
We had a house fire when I was ten, the particulars of which I won’t get into here, but it happened in the middle of the night while my parents were out and we had a babysitter, and involved me having to get past the stultifying fear of fire that I had harbored obsessively for at least a year prior so that I could wrestle my siblings out of their warm beds and outside to safety in the record-cold February weather.
I must confess, what I’m about to describe aren’t first-hand memories. I blocked out everything after we arrived at our babysitter’s house and were reunited with my parents. My aunt Mary Margaret and my grandmother drove hours in the middle of the night to come get my brother and sister and me and bring us to my grandmother’s house. (My mother and father were staying with friends.) Apparently when we arrived at my grandmother’s, as the sun was still rising in the sky, we were helped out of the car and tucked into beds… and all three of us kids began throwing up. Whether it was from smoke inhalation or the cumulative effects of so much trauma, all three of us were vomiting and crying like a bunch of baby chicks with a nasty stomach virus. 

After we were cleaned up, put back to bed, and had slept for awhile, my aunt decided we needed to go to the Laundromat. We had a sad little pile of clothes my mom had managed to snatch from the remains of our house so we’d have something to wear (we left with only the pajamas on our backs, not even slippers on our feet) and they stunk horribly of smoke, filthy with soot. Mary Margaret decided the best shot we had at making these garments wearable was to put them through the industrial-strength machines in the Laundromat the next town over. She wanted me to come with her. I refused.

This wasn’t a petulant, truculent refusal, both she and my grandmother could see that. And I was normally a cooperative kid, especially when I was being asked to help. But I said no. I refused to go. My grandmother exchanged a glance with my aunt, leaned over, looked me in the eye and said, “I’ll watch them for you.” She knew I had, albeit wordlessly, taken upon myself the complete and total responsibility for five year old Katie and eight year old Kevin. I had been the one that night to get them out of their beds and out of the house. I believed that it now fell to me to protect them. They were my obligation. This was my job from now on.
She almost had me, but I still wavered. “And I won’t turn on the stove while you’re gone.” My grandmother knew I had always been wary of her gas stove with that visible blue flame, and that now, I was terrified of anything that had the remotest chance of starting a fire. She was the only one who was not surprised when later I began my habit of creeping around the house after everyone had gone to bed and unplugging everything in sight, as well as touching electrical cords, things near heating ducts, and patting down the walls in general to see if they had grown dangerously warm.
With that reassurance, I left for the Laundromat with Aunt Mary Margaret and our pathetic pile of smoke stained clothes. I don’t remember being there; I don’t remember anything of our conversation. But apparently I told her everything that had happened that night, the all of it, as they say. My anger, my fear, the sadness that I couldn’t yet completely articulate that my childhood was now over. We returned to my grandmother’s house, only mildly successful in our mission to resurrect the clothes. I overheard my aunt on the phone with my mother, telling her, “We talked. She’s going to be fine.”
It was that memory of my aunt shepherding me and shielding me that I was reminded of as she helped me put my piece of stone in the casket with her son, as she jokingly told the funeral director who was standing behind us to look away while we tucked my offering in amongst the silk. She’s one of the strongest people I know, one of the people I’ve always felt safest around, and I wish I could give some of that back to her now. 

Burn this, mofos

Okay, I’ve been sorely lax in blogging lately. I’m trying to be responsible in implementing my New Year’s resolutions and the first has been to write every day. I signed up for a challenge to write 750 words a day in January, and so far I’ve held to my streak. (The site is 750words.com. There are lots of badges you can earn and stats which I love.) It’s mostly drivel I’m doing- just 750 words that come out of my head, sometimes with the help of a writing prompt. But the point is to develop a daily writing habit and bulk up that muscle, so to speak. I have to add working out next week, glorioso mergatroid, it won’t be pretty.

Anyway, in the meantime, I leave you with my new obsession (besides Pinterest): Suri’s Burn Book. It’s a Tumblr someone created with Suri Cruise’s imagined snarky comments about other celebrity children’s fashion. Catty, surprisingly touching, and always sharp. I highly recommend it, if only for Suri’s battle with Harper Beckham and her reserved yet genuine respect and admiration for Louis Bullock.

http://surisburnbook.tumblr.com/

EXAMPLE:

Britney Spears posted this photo of her son on her blog, saying, 
“Jayden is having some hair raising fun on the trampoline!”
Two things I hate: static and redneck backyards.