Saturday, October 19, 2019

Pictures, You Need Pictures: Part One, London and Just Outside of London



First of all, when I was planning this trip, my friend Sarah who hosted me asked me what I wanted to see. I told her that I wasn't interested in the royals or jewels, but I wanted to see Blake's drawings and watercolors at the Tate. THERE WAS A BLAKE RETROSPECTIVE AT THE TATE MODERN.

What are the chances?






 I might have geeked out seeing so much Blake in one place.


And the people in London were exceptionally London-like.




The show was so overwhelming that we went out into the country the next day. The country estate we visited was EXACTLY what I imagined the country to be like.  The house itself was old and shabby inside, and to be honest, I don't care much for fancy houses except the downstairs. I'm a downstairs kind of person, I declared. Sarah said that she would feel quite at home in charge. I imagined myself as Jane Eyre. Truly.


Did anyone else pretend that you were Jane Eyre, a poor orphan put upon by wicked relatives?













When we went to the "walled garden," I was Mary in "The Secret Garden." I realized how much these places lived in my imagination, put there by books and poems in a lifetime of reading. The apple orchard smelled like apples, something I bet you haven't really smelled in America unless you've been to one.





 Friends for more than 35 years, Sarah took complete and total care of me. Honestly, I was in a bit of a jet-lagged daze, and I vaguely remember having a bit of a mini, silent tantrum walking in the rain (Sarah agreed that I was quite a weather wimp), but she and her beautiful family.restored me. I am so very grateful for these dear and beautiful women friends I made so long ago.



Those are apples on the ground, and they smelled like apples.















Have you had enough?

Because there were sheep, too.




To top it all off, we went to a pub afterward and had beer with STEVE REED, my blogger friend that I've "known" for nearly ten years.




Honestly, it felt like Steve was someone I'd known for real for many years. We talked about books and Brexit (I still don't what the hell Brexit is and why it even happened in the first place, but then again, who the hell knows why we have Trump, either, and how the hell that happened) and movies and laughed and had such a good time.

Stay tuned for Part 2: London and then Part 3: Rome


Monday, October 14, 2019

Neglect



I've neglected what few readers I have left on the old blog and haven't visited my beloved blog friends, either. I don't know what's happening to me -- I just feel a bit dried up and depressed, I guess. Right now, though, I'm typing these words from my friend Sarah's apartment in...

LONDON!

I'm here visiting her family for a few days before traveling to ITALY to spend a few more with Henry. I haven't been to Europe in many, many years and just couldn't pass up a free airline ticket (based on about five million years of using a charge card), plus the chance to see a bit of England (I've never been!) and join my son in Rome and Florence, two of my favorite cities in the world. Speaking of sons, I just got back from visiting Oliver in Tucson, where he is thriving in his first year at the university. I was so happy to see him.




Sunday, September 29, 2019

What's Elusive

"The Unicorn"
Los Angeles Metro Bus


Here's the good thing. My old friend Bill Martin has this new show out -- a comedy on Thursday nights called "The Unicorn." I went to UNC with Bill, and he is still the sweet, incredibly funny man I knew more than thirty years ago. Ya'll should watch his show because it's also sweet and very, very funny and we all need funny, right?

Here's the bad thing. I need a lot of funny these days. I am not going to mince words. There's a lot of shit going down in these parts -- most of it unbloggable. I guess I am going to mince words. There's a tremendous amount of hate and rage roiling around me personally. I need all your positive juju and miracle-making, please. The other night I got into my car at 10:30 at night and drove all the way to Venice Beach in my robe and nightgown. I screamed in the car and then listened to Van Morrison sing "And It Stoned Me." I listened to Bob Marley sing "No Woman No Cry." Sophie's fine. The Brothers are good. I am not fine or good. I am digging deep to find my way back to the calm and peace that I know is somewhere within, still.

I love this poem:

Before Winter by Kwame Davis

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Things We Do



I'm sitting in my dining room, eating an apple from my backyard tree, some salami and provolone and crackers. I just taught the short story "The Things They Carried" to a tenth grade boy at a small, specialized private school and am getting ready to read and grade a slew of essays on the "American Dream." These were written by my eleventh grade girls who are all part of a very conservative Jewish community. The apple is from the first crop of this little tree. It is green and blushed, tart yet sweet when it counts. The salami and cheese tastes a bit like packaging, and the crackers are banana-flavored, something I didn't notice when I bought them, but all together it hits the spot. As they say. It's all connected, in the end, maybe even by me. An apple tree in southern California, packaged salami and cheese, banana nut-flavored crackers, the Vietnam War and a boy who hasn't heard of it, the American Dream and a bunch of sheltered girls dreaming. That man sleeping on the sidewalk around the corner from my house with the apple tree in the backyard, his dirty feet and that woman walking, the crease where her ass hits her leg, a cup of bright red juice, the photo itself, me in my dining room, eating and reading, looking up at a small orchid, its magenta petals tipped by sun and the sound of leaves outside rustling a bit in a new fall wind.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Weird Empty Nestish Stuff (plus a poem)

The night before the Empty Nest, as photographed by Leonardo da Vinci 



It's official. Sophie and I have an empty nest. I drove Henry to the airport last Thursday, and he took a flight to Italy where he'll be spending the fall semester. Poor boy. Afterward I kept my shit together and taught my classes for the second day, but when I got home I had what I am now thinking, in retrospect, was a collapse. Honestly, I know I am dramatic at times and prone to hyperbole, but I tell you this, Reader. Having both boys gone flown the coop off to college off to Italy beginning new lives as young men you know the rest was obliterating. It's honestly felt, at times, like something ripped from me and that something is the whole of it. I feel slightly embarrassed writing this out because Henry and Oliver are strappingly healthy and alive and happy and hell, they profess their love for me so I have nothing absolutely to complain about but let's go back to the ripping sensation. Yeah. I imploded on Thursday night, I think, and if it weren't for the Bird Photographer (interesting and ironic and synchronous, no?) -- well -- thank you, Carl. I'll add that Sophie is with me, that we both have an empty nest. The atmosphere around these parts is mighty different, and we'll get used to it. Until the getting used to it, though, it's plain weird and takes my breath away. I ate a tomato sandwich tonight with spinach and mayo on some whole grain bread. I put on a pair of compression socks (my GOD!) and organized all the paperwork for my four classes of high school girls. I opened the dishwasher and it was EMPTY. There's toilet paper in the holder in the bathroom, and the towels are folded on the rack and dry. It's very, very quiet.


Here's a poem my friend Andrea sent me:


The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

Wallace Stevens

Monday, September 2, 2019

Mushroom Spaceship




I don't even know how to write in this space anymore. I don't know how to write in any space anymore. I don't know what space I'm actually occupying anymore. I don't know if I'm even a writer at all anymore. My best writer friends are always so very busy writing.  I am busy not writing or should I say (write) not busy writing. It's only words. I might be beginning my life as not a writer.  I didn't write for ten years when baby Sophie was diagnosed and maybe I'm on another ten-year bender that I'm hard put to blame on anyone but possibly it's the pospotus and possibly it's because there are members of my family who are still devoted to him and the republican party and possibly it's just because I turned 56 the other day and my hips started hurting in the middle of the night to mark the occasion and make a mockery of my otherwise robust physical health that I've taken for granted by never exercising and eating cake without regrets. I went for a vigorous walk today, though, on the second of September in the two thousand twentieth year of our lord jesus and came upon a mushroom spaceship  (speaking of space) that had just landed, and a tiny door opened on the underside and I saw a tiny little creature inside and a vast world beyond, beckoning, and I almost did it, almost left.

Maybe it's because I miss Oliver and will soon miss Henry as he's off to a semester in Italy later this week.

I don't want to lose touch here, though, lose the community of beloveds. So, I'm here doing what's not really writing but was it ever really writing anyway?

See, I've nothing to write that isn't a whine. Or is it whinge? Does anyone use the word whinge? Reader, look it up and just listen to how it's pronounced! God, I do love words even though I'm not writing them.

As per the history of my fifty-six years on the planet, I'm still reading words. Right now it's Valeria Luiselli's Lost Children Archive (it's a slow read but good and has a rad structure that would be inspiring if I were a writer) and Darcy Steinke's Flash Count Diary (menopause and orcas) and an amazing graphic memoir called Good Talk by Mira Jacob.

Reading, she said, is my only constant.

In other news, my job as Teacher of English Literature begins this week, and I am so excited. I've missed the girls over the summer and am not even whinging about the hosiery I'll have to put on despite the dog days heat.

I should have always been a teacher instead of writer.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Birds and Bees




 Yesterday I went to a seminar titled "Empty Nest Syndrome" and learned approximately nothing, but it felt good to sit in a big room with a bunch of goofy parents steeling ourselves for the big good-bye. I don't need anyone telling me that it's all good and right and the way things are supposed to go. I know all that. I haven't fully processed or articulated what it's like to really never have an "empty nest" in the narrowest definition of the term, given my life as a primary caregiver to my beloved Sophie. Life goes on in a sort of eternal present for me and Sophie, even as my sons move forward, and I don't mean this in a bad or heavy kind of way. I will try at some point to write about it, to parse out the peculiarity of maintaining a nest even as my own impulse is to fly away to a new part of life. As they say. I texted a fellow caregiver during the seminar that I was going to drop a bomb on the person leading it by asking whether taking up a new hobby or planning a trip would help the "Never an Empty Nest Syndrome," and my friend texted back, Do it, and I smiled and looked up and let my mind drift to all the years, all the years. I am so damn proud of Oliver, of all he's accomplished and the young man he's become. I'm sad in an existential way that my job raising him is largely over even as I know in my bones that mothering is so deeply embedded, I might as well be one of those orca matriarchs whose sons never leave her. I'm going to tell you a story about something he said the other day in response to us witnessing a terrible motorcycle accident on our drive from Los Angeles to Tucson. Oliver was driving, and I was reading when he yelled out and grabbed me and I looked up to see a guy flipping over and over and a bike in the air and the guy rolling on the road and then we were past and pulled over and I was calling 911 and then Oliver pulled back out on the highway and we were on our way our hearts pumping and both of us exclaiming and repeating over and over what we'd seen and that terrible rush in the body for many minutes before we quieted. You know what's really weird, Mom? Oliver asked, and I said, What? and Oliver said, I noticed that guy a while back on his bike and he had a flag or something on his jacket and I thought he was probably a stupid Trump supporter or gun guy or just an asshole on a bike, but when he went flying through the air,  I saw his shirt go up his back and it was ripped up, his back was all red and I felt bad for him and then I thought that everything in the world is going to be okay because of that, that we feel bad for and care about people, about life. It's about love and that kind of thing.




















P.S. Lest you believe my son to have reached some lofty place of magnanimity and compassion, led there by a mother more bodhisattva than human, I'll confess that we decided we wouldn't feel the same way if it'd been Dear Leader who'd been on that motorcycle.

The view from Oliver's penthouse dorm room.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

#Imnotcrying



I'm up too late, but I've been playing around with this post in my head all day, wondering whether and if I'd write it and how. Tomorrow is the big day -- I'm driving with Oliver to Tucson and dropping him off at the University of Arizona. I'm not exactly dropping him off but will, of course, be helping him to move into his dorm and get settled and then perhaps I'll leave his dorm and give him a casual hug and a kiss and go straight to a realtor's office and rent myself an apartment nearby and WAIT! I don't want to live in Arizona because it's too far from the ocean, but I don't want my baby to leave home and yes, I'm excited for him, and he's ready for all of it and it's the way of the world and you have to let them fly and yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever.

I am sad.





 I made the three of them pose together today for pictures. How did the entire summer go by without me taking a single picture of them all together?


WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THE TIME?



It's all good, right?

It's all good.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Have You Listened to Clio Yet?



Just in case you haven't, here's the link to our latest podcast. For new readers, my friend and co-host Jason Lehmbeck and I have a podcast for caregivers. Actually, it's a podcast for caregivers and the rest of humanity. We interview siblings, too, and the one with Clio Chazan-Gabbard, the daughter of author Chris Gabbard, will, I think, enlighten you no matter what you're doing in your life.

She's a very special young woman with profound insight and heart-piercing honesty.

Listen here.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Help



The title is not a cry for it.

Help!

On help

I learned recently that Sophie was eligible to receive a home health aide, but I felt dubious about the whole thing for reasons I won't spell out since you've heard them ad nauseum for as long as I've been tapping away here. When she received a very generous number of hours, thanks to the great State of California and the Regional Center, I told my father and he said, I find that hard to believe, and I said, I know. I told my therapist about it, and she said, Wonderful! and I said, What will I do with myself in the mornings? and she said, Rest! and I said, What do you mean? and she said, Lie on your bed and read or go into your room and write and I mused on that for a while, lying there on the couch in her office where I've spilled the darkest of my guts and wept and been guided and helped for years. Asking and receiving help is acknowledged by most caregivers I know as two of the most difficult things to do, and while a lot of that has to do with the actual busy brain and body work it takes in terms of time and arrangement (CEO of Sophie, Inc. reports), a lot, I think, has to do with this deep, psychic attachment we have to our unique children and young adults.  It's less about burden, more about acceptance  and everything about love. Throw in guilt and responsibility and the ridiculous and very much American ideals of individualism and pull yourself up by your bootstraps culture, coupled by an ableist society that looks on disability as something so hideous and burdensome that we hear things like would you have had an abortion if you knew? or I'd rather be dead than dependent on someone or I could never do what you do -- well, it's damn hard to ask for help and even harder to receive it.

I am receiving it, Reader.

Sophie's morning aide is a delightful young woman who comes to the house weekday mornings and gets Sophie up and dressed and groomed (see above). She makes her breakfast and feeds her, brushes her teeth, packs up her stuff that she needs for her adult day program and then drives her there in our accessible vehicle. She talks to Sophie and is incredibly gentle and meticulous about her hygiene, the style of clothes she will wear that day and can fix Sophie's outrageous hair into all manner of amazing styles. She gives her choices and treats her with dignity and respect and humor. It's unbelievable, actually. The only thing that she's not allowed to do is administer medication, so I do that. It took me some time to train her and even more time to will myself into letting go, but guess what?

Reader, I am resting.
























The universe is abundant.








Here's that Extreme Parent Video Project that I made years and years ago with the help of other caregivers, many of whom I had only met online. You'll see that asking for and receiving help was a common theme. Enjoy, share, ask for and receive with gratitude and grace.


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Beloved



The world is in this room. This here's all there is and all there needs to be.
Sethe, from Beloved 

It seems like everyone is mourning the death of Toni Morrison, and I've been tearing up off and on all day thinking of her, of her spirit, her words, her regal presence, her books, what she meant to me my entire adult life, as a reader and a writer and a human being, and then I was thinking of all the people slaughtered over the weekend, of the piles of dead children, of the human stain of racism in our country, of all that we have to do, to fix and how to be. I first saw Toni Morrison at Spelman College in the late 1980s, shortly after Beloved was published, and I sat in a huge auditorium with hundreds of people, mostly African American young women, and before She walked out onto the stage, a group of women played drums, the beat so steady and rhythmical they presaged her voice, her voice with the words, always, that she put on the page. She walked out, probably at the age I am now, and I was struck then by her presence and by the impact she had had on the women in the room. She was their voice. I read nearly every single thing she wrote. The second time I saw her was not too long ago in Los Angeles, in a theater downtown filled with the mix that is Los Angeles, yet when she walked into the room, she was so grand, so regal, her voice so rich and deep with humor and wisdom, all of us so rapt and smiling and nodding our heads that I thought then: she is all of our voices.

Rest in peace and power, Toni Morrison. Thank you.


This is the time for every artist in every genre to do what he or she does loudly and consistently. It doesn't matter to me what your position is. You've got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you've got.

Toni Morrison, in an interview with writer Pam Houston, Oprah Magazine,  2003





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