Sunday, June 28, 2009

Welcome babies!

Welcome to the world baby Maddie and baby Laney! My friend Jess just gave birth to these beautiful baby girls and despite the fact that they were born into a pretty tough situation, mommy and girls are doing well. I got to visit them in the hospital while home on vacation.

Tiny, beautiful girls. I am so glad to meet you!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

a few days on the farm

I love vacation. Spending time with the fam can be stressful for some people, but I love it. When I stay with my sister I sleep with the windows open and you can hear the cows in the pasture out back and the rooster crow at dawn. I unabashedly listen to country music and wear overalls and boots to work out in the garden.

I have bruises all over my legs from my nephews who love to climb Aunt Carmen and nap in my bed and ram their bicycles into my shins. We have been to the library, swim lessons, to the park, to the batting cages, and I have read endless books on Thomas the Tank Engine. This morning I helped round up chickens to clip their wings (this doesn't hurt, all you city folk).

Life is good in Canby, Oregon.

We are going camping this weekend and I am crossing my fingers that the weather will be lovely so I can try out my new frog-green bathing suit. I'm dying for some sun. My sis and I will probably lounge around with novels because she is PREGNANT and the wee girl growing inside her is demanding more and more of her energy.

I'll keep you posted on the adventures...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cheer from the New York Times

I love this picture. I was reading an article in the Times over the weekend and was charmed by the hand-scrawled bike and sunshine.

The world can be such a messy place. Just reading about Iran and North Korea and Zimbabwe and spending some time with clashes here at home can make one feel awfully small and awfully dreary.

But then there are pictures like this that remind us that the world is full of sweetness. A sunrise and a bicycle made for two. May the coming week be full of bright days, blue skies, and deep delight-- ice cream, a hand to hold, and belly-aching laughter.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ode to stupid things

In the last week I have made a number of profound mistakes. Predominately around communication. I have misread some communication that proved earth-shatteringly embarrassing. I have said a litany of ridiculous things and worse, I have done a few ridiculous things that have made me pause and say, "Really? You did that?" And to top it off, I have offended a few people.

Almost all of this has been done completely by accident.

Some days are like that. Some weeks are like that.

Then I remember a little thing called grace. Something that I am not all that great at giving or receiving. I hold grudges. I endlessly critique myself and others. I can just hear my mother saying, "Be kinder, Carmen. Be kinder to yourself and be kinder to others." My mom has been gone more than 9 years now. I have nearly forgotten what it is like to have a mother who calls and writes and sends packages and cares about all the things that no one else cares about. But hopefully her words have taken root even more deeply than her DNA and one of these days I will grow a little more wise and a little more gracious.

And so I say goodnight with words my mother always used to say, "Don't worry, dear. Things always look brighter in the morning."

Friday, June 12, 2009

No sacrifice at all

It is 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I have been awake for almost 2 hours. This is a rare phenomenon. Even more rare is the fact that I really don't want to go back to sleep.

Last night I was having dinner with a friend, not so unusual on a Friday night, when I got a phone call from the church receptionist asking if I might step in at the shelter that evening because the volunteer for the night had failed to show. I felt inconvenienced, but as a martyr, accepted to invitation and gathered a few things before meeting the group of guys outside the church. As soon as I saw them any smug self-congratulation was squelched and replaced with the more accurate realization that this really was no sacrifice at all, but instead, a much needed reality check. The men were laden with "things" for when you are homeless, you carry all you own on your back or in roller suitcases.

As some of us went to the shelter kitchen to make sandwiches for dinner, one man carefully laid out his regiment of pills treating his diabetes and heart condition. Another man put in the latest Van Damme movie while another opened up his bed, pulled a sheet over his head and went to sleep.

"Lights out at 10 p.m." and our short evening together came to a close. I set out coffee and cereal and muffins in the morning and I received warm and insistent thanks as they ate and gathered their things for the day. Thank you nice, rich lady for sacrificing a whole evening of your time to make sure we didn't have to find a place on the street last night.

Not much of a sacrifice at all.

One gentlemen, let's call him 'R," was telling me about what life was like in Alabama where he was raised. His mama used to make him grits and eggs and cold cereal has been ruined for him forever. He said he was catching a bus later that day to go to Rockaway to fish for the weekend and I wished him well. I cannot help but wonder what it would take for R to obtain the dignity of a safe place to keep his clothes, his diabetes medication, a fishing rod, and a collection of goods for cooking grits. Wouldn't that be nice.

Here I sit, fingertips on a laptop, reading facebook posts from my lovely 16 year olds who are preoccupied with their clothes and shoes and parties and exams completely oblivious to R and others like him. I don't suppose I am all that different. But I should be.

Photo courtesy of a friend (Udo Wiegartner)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

a walk in the park

The light was unimaginably perfect tonight. Wish I had brought my camera. The park was bathed in gold.

A man played his guitar for some children who draped themselves over concrete benches while nearby girls preened long tendrils of hair and smoked cigarettes on the lawn. Sandals and dresses and ice cream cones and dogs on leashes and a pace that reminds me it is June.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

emaciation vs. indulgence

There are a lot of skinny people in New York City, which as most readers will concur, is not a common phenomenon in the United States of America. Yesterday was the annual commencement for the wee people at the church "Day School." Proud parents watched their children parade around the neighborhood, sing songs, and receive some kind of accomplishment certificate (the director tried to explain why it was not a graduation certificate, but this went over my head). All the moms and dads looked great. Right out of a magazine, great. Fab shoes and suits and dresses and diamonds. One perk to my neighborhood: despite the fact that I live along designer ally, I never feel judged for wearing mismatched athletic gear and a baseball cap. But I digress from my observations... skinny New Yorkers...

My friend Mary got married a few years ago and told me she decided to to a Weight Watchers support group as she tried to thin down for a slim wedding gown. This was somewhere in the Carolinas and she recalls walking in and saying to herself, "Wow! These women are FAT!" She has lived in my neighborhood here in New York for awhile now and recently decided to return to Weight Watchers to lose some post-baby fat. When she walked into the support group this time, she silently exclaimed, "Wow! These women are skinny!" In a place like Miami, Florida, you go into Weight Watchers to save yourself from a heart attack. In New York City, you try to get your hip bones and collar bones to protrude more dramatically.

This city is full of indulgence (believe me, I will be lucky if I get out of here without a double chin!), and yet, many women still manage to look emaciated. This lonely endeavor must be torture. After living in Zambia, both extremes, overindulgence and intentional starvation, seems especially strange. You cannot get two more radically divergent worlds than New York City and rural Zambia.

You know what I miss? Today I miss waking up in the morning and pulling on the same skirt I wore most days, putting my hair in a pony tail and going out the door without much of a glance in the mirror. In the last 6 months I cannot tell you how often I have said to myself, "I really need to get a full length mirror." And for what? To make sure my outfit creates an illusion of slenderness or to make sure this pair of shoes or that pair of shoes looks nice with the cuff of my trousers. Blah.

I included a picture of me cooking in Zambia to remind us all of what life used to be like... when the power goes out and the neighbor boys set fire to the leaves at the base of your tree, you take advantage of the heat. Cooking over the open flame.... ahhh, those were the days.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I heart NYC

The pic says it all. Winter was awful this year, but I have concluded that winter is just awful in general: darkness by 4 o'clock in the afternoon, frigid weather that numbs your guts, and a sour malaise that descends over all of us that would rather be hibernating.

But something happens in spring. Restaurants drag their tables and chairs out onto the sidewalk, refreshing beverages appear on menus, and sun dresses come out of the closet. Today I met a friend for lunch in the Village and we both faltered when Victor Garber walked by. Silly, starstruck fools.

Sometimes I think life sucks. Even for us spoiled, privileged folks. But a blue sky and sunshine is for free. And worthy of devoting just a smidgeon of my heart toward gratitude. Selfish little heart that I have. Today I said goodbye to an old job, hello to a new job, and continued to mash around options for my next job (I wonder if I will ever cease to be a brooder?). And now I am off to meet some friends for dinner. This is a great city. An outstanding city, actually. So, I toast thee, NYC on this late spring evening!