life lessons

Dear Senator Cruz,

Please sit down. And if you’d be so kind, grab your friends joining you tomorrow at some gun lobby fete and encourage them to do the same. Just.sit.down.

My granddaughters got home from school yesterday. They hugged their parents, perhaps ran outside to play or grabbed a snack or just engaged in 6 and 7 year old silliness that increases exponentially as the end of the school year approaches. They fuel the air I breathe, their day-to-days inform my narrative as their Gigi.

There are families experiencing a pain that is unfathomably deep and permanent. Forever reconfigured, forever defined by one who is missing. And if you haven’t had enough of this horror, this talent that we have in the United States to be the best at killing each other for no damn reason, then perhaps you shouldn’t read this.

I am not against the Second Amendment, but when I heard the Senator start talking about the radical Democrats who want to limit the rights it accords and arguing for more security measures at elementary schools, I bowed my head and sobbed. This is the best you’ve got? How about acknowledging that if you’re the literal constitutionalist that you pride yourself to be, you recall that when written, the Second Amendment was talking about muskets. A minute to load, one shot, reload. No AR-15s, long rifles, armaments designed for war available to anyone.

I don’t want to bow my head in moments of silence, whisper prayers of healing for broken hearts, shake my head in disbelief that we can’t even get a damn reference check bill passed, despite over 80% of the population supporting it. I don’t understand why we feel it is enough to extend sympathies and not do anything past the flippant.

My little girls will burst into their homes this afternoon. They’ll have news and wonder and giggles and fits and hugs and breathlessness. Their parents will hold them and tickle them with kisses and at night, cuddle them and smell that delicious-after-bath-smell that only little ones have. And they’ll whisper ‘I love you’ as they turn out the light.

To thank G-d for allowing your child to arrive safely at home from school each day, is unimaginable to me – and yet, here I am, overwhelmed with sorrow and an almost superstitious need to repeat ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’.

life lessons

My Pop

“It’s not how old you are.  It’s how you are old” – Jules RenardIMG_2954This is a little story about the handsome guy in the middle of the other two handsome guys (one being my husband Andy, and the other my bro-in-law Howard)…My father-in-law is celebrating a birthday tomorrow – his 97th trip around the sun.  Not bad…

My parents left too soon for me to learn some valuable lessons that I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from pop.  Truth be told, he’s on one coast, and I’m on the other – and yet, my thoughts of him travel far more reliably than any airline.  Here are a few…

Pop holds fireside chats that are attended by friends and those who are new to the community where he lives.  The questions he poses are always thoughtful, topical and open-ended.  In keeping wih his motto that ‘you’ve got to reach out, because no one is reaching in’, he extends himself to those around him as a matter of course.  Pop’s aim is to listen, to undertand the opinions and thoughts of others, not to grandstand.  And yet, when he received a standing ovation from his peers a couple of weeks ago, he was humbled and abashed.  ‘I haven’t done anything’, he insisted to me.  Of course he did – he was engaging people in ways that we often forget to do.

His days are fuller than mine, frankly – he golfs, plays bridge and rummikub (sp?), he dates, dances, and honors his faith.  He’s pretty proficient with FaceTime, but for the occasional lapse when I find mysef looking at his shirt.  His children adore him, his grandkids and great grandkids follow in kind.  Pop is the patriarch of this tribe far less because of age and far more because of the quality of his soul.  His enormous capacity to love.  The way he says ‘how are you my dear’ which melts me everytime.  The way he laughs.  The way he keeps teaching by example – rejecting self-absorption as a far more trivial exercise than showing concern for others.  His hugs.  He will always be my favorite father-in-law, as I am his favorite daughter-in-law – even if there were others.  I’m lucky, for I would never be able to handle the competition,

So, pop – this is for you…with all my love.  I’ve been able to enjoy being in your sphere for over thirty years and I’m counting on delighting in your orbit for atleast a hundred more – no pressure.  Happiest of happy birthdays…

life lessons

I Was Here

Hi my friend,

How are you doing? Life reasonably good, in spite of a helluva lot of sorrow and disquiet permeating the air (not to mention pollen and other allergens)…

There’s something that is itching in me and I wish there was an antihistamine I could take. In lieu of better living through pharmacology, I’ll try better living through expression.

When I retired from the firm (a firm I grew to love, with people I still hold close in my heart), I consulted for a while; affiliated with a company that created and presented content for the legal profession. It was an excellent segue and allowed me to learn a new rhythm to my days.

Flash forward to today, when I was asked to remove the consulting experience from my professional history, at the request of the firm. The individual who replaced me, intimated that he wouldn’t do business with this consulting firm if my name was associated with them. So I took that experience off of my LinkedIn profile.

I haven’t consulted for quite a while, and had the request been to change to a retired status, it would have been understandable. So, now that I’ve erased a truth, I feel frustrated and hurt. And angry.

I just wanted you to know that I was here. I can erase every damn piece of professional history from LinkedIn, Who’s Who, Facebook and anywhere else my name is included. I can shrink my footprint into technological non-existence. But I was here. I worked for a firm I loved, I consulted with a group of talented people, I was highly regarded until it became necessary to become a pariah. But I was here, and what I did for 22 years mattered. What I did for a few years after that, mattered. You can erase me, negate me, relegate me to a whisper of a memory – but I was here.

I know this is a huge departure for me. I will return to a post that is far less me-focused. I just had to stand proudly – for me. I was here.

life lessons

No More Than A Musing

Hi again,

I was driving home the other day, anticipating the delight of throwing on my comfort clothes. More than all of the pret-a-porter fashion that I purchased when I was working, my deepest affection and connection is to my flannel pants and a ‘Davidson’ sweatshirt. Large sizes are not necessarily my most flattering, but they are, without a doubt, my most soothing.

When I was in college, my comfort clothes included a torn football jersey that my boyfriend (at the time) wore…in fact that was a big thing for awhile – wearing the shirts and jerseys of guys who were taller, bigger, etc…I lived in that jersey, wearing it and washing it until it was as soft as satin. Yeah, you could say it was a weird badge of some sort; for me it was a hug. Much like my outfit is as I write this at 6:00 in the morning.

I have reached a point in my life where comfort has usurped style in the pecking order of fashion, No more heels (and those of you who knew me back in the day, remember me wearing them at every opportunity – anything to reach 5’2”). No more outfits tailored to perfection. Nope – I look more like one of Oz’s munchkins in Scarecrow-sized clothes. Don’t get me wrong – my retirement style has not devolved to the point of pity. Jeans, leggings, Vans…it works for now.

But what I crave are comfort clothes, much like I crave coffee in the morning. And there’s a reason why, of course. I watch the news and I toggle between fury and fear and heartache – so much heartache. I find myself on a trek in a medical wasteland, where tests require more tests – a medical Matroshka doll, with few doctors that seem to give a damn now that Medicare has kicked in and private insurance has been kicked out (a post for another day perhaps).

And so I stand before you – a little person in overly capacious attire, looking a bit clownish, if not extremely comfortable. I have a feeling that you identify with this need for solace. I want to house every fleeing Ukrainian family, I want to cook for the displaced, I want to heal every person struggling through these times of frailty and horror, I want to propel us to some gentler moment. Big wants, big clothes. And so, I sign off for now – sending you love and hugs. Oh, and if you want some good resources for baggy comfort clothes, let me know.

life lessons

Cue the World

Cue the waking insects stirring in the leaf litter. Cue the flashing bluebirds swooping from the bare maple branches to glean the insects stirring in…

Cue the World

This…now. Against the backdrop of so much devastation and sorrow, these words are full of the naive colors of spring…

anxiety, faith, life lessons, politics, Ukraine,

What’s going on?

Hi my friend,

I hesitate to open this letter with an inquiry as to how you’re doing, for I think I know.  You are struggling to stay away from the news, yet realize the importance of knowing what’s going on, your head aches with the insistent rhythm of a drum (one of the big ones), tears arrive unexpectedly – part sorrow, part fury.  You cling to the faith in your soul, yet worry that faith may not be enough.  You worry, you fret, you feel the breath of your mom on your neck.  No, I’m sorry about that last part – that’s my mom having a PTSD episode in the afterlife, and reminding me to remember too.

We shake our fists at the sky, we donate money to so many causes that it’s possible we will become a cause ourselves, we pray silently and constantly.  Our impotence is matched solely by our desire to make it better.  I wrote yesterday that it’s like yelling into a window fan.  When I was a kid, I used to stand on Roosevelt Avenue underneath the elevated subway and sing a note as loud as I could without opening my mouth too wide just to see how loud I could voice my frustratons without anyone looking at or hearing me (I didn’t want to scare anyone).  There are no elevated subways in North Carolina, so I’ve sort of screwed myself out of an emotional outlet.

So, we commiserate you and I – Putin is wrong, Trump has defrauded the government (and to those who disagree with me – so be it – but it’s been common knowledge for years)…if you’re lucky, your children turn into the kind of adults you always wished them to be, love as a verb is far better than love as a noun or adjective.  I could go on – but it’s probably better if you do this exercise yourself.

It seems like we are all going off half-cocked with our own egocentric responses to the moments before us.  Our need to control a narrative that has gone off the rails.  We grow more prideful, more adamant in our positions because we can’t be wrong.  Criss Janis has a great thought – “Pride is pride not because it hates being wrong, but because it loves being wrong:  To hate being wrong is to change your opinion when you are proven wrong; whereas pride, even when proven wrong, decides to go on being wrong”.

Is this where we are?  We refuse climate change, we deny civil rights to discreet populations because of some narcissistic need that has nothing to do with the people being harmed?  We repeat the atrocities of the past – not because we refuse to learn – but because we can’t be wrong? Seriously?

Ah my dear, I have raged for too long, with little to offer as a prescription – it’s time to bring this to a close.  But you know me – I have to sign off with some attempt at grace.  I stll maintain that we are a glorious species (if misguided and prideful),  with gifts to offer each other that are indescribably beautiful and the brilliance to put the sun to shame.  I am grateful you are here, I am beyond fortunate that we are friends, and today, right at this moment, feels like singing under the elevated.  Sending you much love…

life lessons

Hard Truth

I am not giving intentional voice to the negative, I hope – and yet, this is worthy of a read, with the hope that at the end you’re left with the thought ‘how can I undo this, at least for me’. I for one, am not looking for more explanations as to why my thoughts toggle so quickly that one thought leapfrogs on the next, I am looking for ways to hold one cogent thought until the end…

When Facebook (and all the others) decide what you see in your news feed, there are many thousands of things they could show you. So they have …

Hard Truth
life lessons

Of birds and beauty, sort of

Hi my friend,

You’re well, I trust? Based on the magnificence you are finding in the world – be it the sun teasing the cove (davidkanigan.com) or a turquoise window frame weathered to imperfect perfection (windinmywheels.com) – my sense is that you’re doing very well, which in turn makes me pretty damn happy.

Ah, beauty – it’s ever present, depending in part I think on what you want to see. I see the suggestion of green on exhausted bushes, bent and weary from the crazy winter we’ve had, and I think that little promise is beautiful. The vibrant appearance of a passionately red cardinal on a bare branch – beautiful. Few could argue with natural wonder and the sheer gorgeousness of it all. John O’Donohue wrote that “beauty is the illumination of the soul”. I find that such images brighten my being, enhance my frame of mind, perhaps eclipsed solely by images of my kids and grandkids. (I do know this is not what O’Donohoe meant necessarily)

There’s a ‘but’ coming…

But, I wonder as I look in the mirror, as I commiserate with friends-of-a-certain-age, why it is that we bemoan what we see. I’m still searching for the perfect blush, spend far too much looking for the jeans that will forgive the muffin top, lift the butt and have an inseam for a 4’10” woman. I still fret over hair color and my total absence of style. I hear one of my mom’s mantras “an owl to one, is a nightingale to another”, and am grateful that to my husband I’m more nightingale than avian predator.

And I know that inner beauty is far more than a cliche – it is undeniable. The beauty of a generous heart, a compassionate soul, a belly laugh…the beauty of a soothing voice, a spontaneous bear hug, a sincere word. Without these, there is no depth to the definition of beauty. Yet the doubt persists – and we fake the outside to try and match that inside. I keep telling myself I haven’t peaked yet. Just wait…

Anyway, a musing that really has no place to go, just an observation of what is arguably the driver of a helluva lot of marketing. We’re old enough to know that we want and what we feel we lack, even if it is frivolous and fleeting. When I was wheelchair bound, I just wanted to walk again; when I was up and walking again, I wanted to run (and I was never a runner)…Maslowe had nothing on this pyramid of needs and wants. Which makes me laugh…which throws me off track…which brings me back to the weather turquoise wood and the value of its story…which brings this musing to an end. Be well, hug those you love an awful lot and I’ll see you soon.

life lessons, music

Paying Attention

Hi,

Not sure if you’re still here – if not, I totally get it, and if so – thank you for stopping by even though there is no rhyme or reason to the frequency of these posts.  First and foremost, how the heck are you?  What are you doing with your days that bring you delight without caveats?  Any epiphanies worth sharing with your Jewish pal over here (and yes, I think those in my tribe can have epiphanies too, of a kind)?  Thoughts that keep rolling around that you’d like to share (not mean-spirited stuff though, ok)?

There’s been little going on outside my head, given that I’m one of those immuno-compromised folks who are encouraged to adopt a hermetic existence until further notice.  I do try to follow the instructions – until I don’t want to follow them anymore (like when I stole all the Brownie merit badges out of my 2nd grade teacher’s desk, ’cause I wanted the swag, just not the stuff you had to do to get them).  I guess that makes me pseudo-compliant.

(And clearly a lover of the parenthetical)

So, here I sit with far more activity going on in my head than there was pre-pandemic.  To catch you up – Tom Brady retired and the bigotry in football management ranks is appalling; everything Lin-Manuel Miranda touches is gold – full stop; I despair over the amount of vitriol in the world; it feels like it is fomenting and growing more and more poisonous – a social virus.  Dave says it’s like we’re eating each other, some cannibalistic mindset that is fueled by polarizations and egocentric voices who have little good to say.  I’m trying to temper myself, for inside my temper is off the charts.  

And none of that is what I’m really thinking about right now.  My dad would have been 98 a few days ago.  I whispered happy birthday wishes to him and perhaps he was looking for a bit more.  A ginormous cardinal has been hanging out in our backyard for days; as I write this he is literally sitting on the retaining wall looking at me looking at him.  Dad loved to identify birds, and frankly I think he would wing it (ha! pun intended) and make up some non-existent species because if he said it, we’d buy it.  A message from the universe?  I don’t know – but there’s more…

I grew up singing, as you know.  One of my favorite singers to watch was Peggy Lee (pre-dating Streisand, Minnelli, Midler, etc).  My parents each had their song of choice – dad would sing ‘Fever’; mom would croon soulfully ‘Is That All There Is’  – a certain musical insight about both of them.  I gravitated to ‘Fever’ – even though I had no idea what I was singing about, the lyrics were easy and  I could snap my fingers.  There was something so sad about mom’s choice, even though the song encourages one to ‘break out the booze and have a ball’.  Party first, ponder later.

Why is this pertinent?  There was a segment about Peggy Lee on CBS Sunday Morning, and there she was, frozen in time singing as she did, without moving a muscle, yet emoting so much.  Fever.

And then a friend who seems to know me well without ever having met me, sent me a book recommendation “Lost and Found” by Kathyrn Schulz.  When I asked him why he though of me after reading it, he responded because of “her relationship to her father.  And yours.”.  I am in the middle of reading it, laughing, crying over some really dumb things, and nodding with an awareness of losses that are just rolled up into the very essence of who we become over time.

Now you tell me?  The convergence of all these messages right around his birthday – what is one to think?  Whether or not it’s all coincidence or kismet, star alignments or just the need to wish him a happy birthday, it brought me to this empty space deserving to be filled.  I’m going to try and see if I can offer up anything more – perhaps thoughts of more universal interest – in the days to come.  In the meantime, be well, hug everyone you can.

life lessons

Today

Twenty years ago today, I was in our offices in midtown Manhattan. I hesitate to write about my memories of that day, for my story is unremarkable when compared to those who lived and died, loved and lost. My story is of someone on the periphery – who wandered through the city in a state of horror and disbelief, too stunned to cry.

I remember the smell; this massive cloud of ash and dirt consuming the bluest of skies. People hugging each other as they walked to the bridges that would take them closer to their homes. And those who just wandered, unsure where their feet would take them, each step once so assumed, now tentative and aimless. Sirens and silence, silence and sirens.

A woman’s hysterical efforts to reach her daughter at One World Trade, and the way she collapsed when she finally heard her voice. The plans being put in place for me to travel to each of our offices (each one in a building that was considered high risk for future attacks). Retrospectively it seems bizarre that I flew across the US and Europe – a nod to our need to comfort and console. It was part of our firm’s culture back then. And in each city, the empty streets, the unspoken anxiety, the fear and the personalization of loss too large to really comprehend. My son called me when I was in LA – he enlisted. I stopped breathing until he came home. He came home.

(I remember watching the members of the Senate holding hands and singing on the steps of the Capitol. We are terrific when our foes are outside our borders; we can’t seem to get a collective grip when handling our internal threats. We are so reckless with our hubris – damn).

I didn’t lose anyone I knew on September 11th and all those tragic stories are not mine to tell. So many heroes, so many lives, so many loves – and I still listen with a humble reverence as the bell tolls. And I’m embarrassed that I felt like writing all this down.

Haruki Murakami wrote that “Memories warm you up on the inside. But they also tear you apart.”

life lessons

For You

Hi my friend,

I came across this card the other day and wanted to send it to you…and you…and you..and keep it for myself as well. The inside flap is blank, but on the front of the card, the following is printed without attribution-

“‘Finding yourself’ is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. ‘Finding yourself’ is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.”

Bam.

The thought of emotional excavation seems like a Herculean lift. Perhaps you find it easier to avoid the process – totally understandable, if a little lazy. Perhaps you fear what’s at the real core – although I have a feeling that the core is undoubtedly fantastic. Admittedly, we all dig a bit, we all have a hazy picture of who we are, but when we have to let go of the protections we have built, we stop. Far too much of a risk, maybe.

Here’s what I know – none of us are that good, and all of us are perfectly imperfect. None of us have arrived at adulthood without totally pissing some people off, stepping on our tongues unintentionally (and intentionally I guess), wishing for a few do-overs, and making emotional negotiations that may or may not be healthy. We all rationalize what we shouldn’t and overthink what isn’t in our control anyway.

We marvel at birdsong, look breathlessly at Dave’s photos (davidkanigan.com), weep at the thought of how we have punished the earth, love so hard it can make the heart truly ache and if we’re even slightly self-aware, know that we have been mysteriously blessed with precious people and moments in our lives. We are boastful and insecure; indignant and tentative. And at core, at that hidden core – there’s a lot worthy of a good look and a lot of forgiveness.

Maybe it’s time to unpack a bit, lighten the load and see what’s at the heart of your heart. You will be happily surprised at what you find. Go ahead – you can take the risk. Love, m

https://youtu.be/mSfH2AuhXfw