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reflections on reading

15_PMy kids are avid readers. It is cool to behold. They read far more than I ever did, and I was no schlub in that department. Having tablets helps – when they finish a book, they immediately start on new ones. They share books and talk about books with each other, which further reinforces the literate environment in our home.

To my surprise and delight, H, my 10-year old, has also taken to discussing books with me. Often times after she finishes her homework and does a chunk of reading she emails me her thoughts while I am still at work. Her emails light me up as I ride the NJ Transit home … It’s a privilege witnessing her beautiful, expanding mind. How she approaches stories, problems and life in general with heart and intellect.

She recently read and was deeply moved by The Diary of Anne Frank, which prompted me to re-read it for the first time since high school. I was reminded of what a bright and spirited girl Anne was. Somehow in my memory she had shrunk into a little girl hiding in an attic. How wrong that impression was. Reading her diary I am reminded of my teenage journals. The highs, the lows…the kvetching about everyone.

H was so very upset and bewildered to learn what happened to Anne and millions of Jews during the Holocaust. We explained that yes, that all really happened and it wasn’t that long ago in the scheme of history. Had Anne lived, she’d be 87 today, which is just a few years older than H’s grandparents – a fact that really hits home. While H could not understand how the world  could be so cruel, how people could be so inhumane, she did come to admire Anne and her Dad for bravely sharing her voice and making her story known to the world.

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everyone keeps dying

Memento_Mori_by_Godfridi am not one to jump on the RIP bandwagon with social media posts and tributes to dead artists and celebs. actually, i take that back. when adam yauch died i did change my cover photo.

regardless, it does get one thinking when a seemingly immortal voice like david bowie expires. one can’t help but face facts that some time in the not too distant future we too shall go.

and in all likelihood the entire world won’t mourn. (not that it would matter if they did). very very few will notice. and over time the record of our existence will drift into oblivion. the rich and poor, famous and obscure alike – we’re all headed to the same place. it reminds me of a poem by Spanish poet Jorge Manrique: “Coplas por la muerte de su padre.” I had to memorize and recite it for one of my Spanish classes in college. This stanza has always stayed with me:

  Nuestras vidas son los ríos        
que van a dar en la mar,
que es el morir;
allí van los señoríos
derechos a se acabar
y consumir;                          
allí los ríos caudales,
allí los otros medianos
y más chicos,
y llegados, son iguales
los que viven por sus manos          
y los ricos.

in other words, death is the great equalizer. it’s helpful to think of when you get overwhelmed with life’s injustices. or just to give you a kick in the pants to do whatever it is that deep down you want to do. because time is short and in the words of ram dass,

“we’re all just walking each other home.” 

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Namaste, bitches

meditationI have a racing mind. Always have. At different times of my life I have it more under control. I have learned to harness and channel it temporarily, and then eventually the tamed creature breaks out of the cage and runs amok. And I find myself up at 1:31 am, typing. I’ve read the science. And I’ve experienced the feeling, the knowing that all this mental effluvia is fleeting and we ought not let it direct us in undue ways.

Tomorrow is my initiation into a new meditation technique. I dare not identify it by name … don’t want to sic their Google alerts on me. It’s the one that Howard and the Twin Peaks guy espouse, and Stevie Wonder sang about. Have I been sucked in by its marketing hype? Perhaps. But I remain ever the skeptic and shall not be a fawning follower of anything that doesn’t serve me.

I’ve tried other forms of meditation, but have not been able to practice consistently over time. The appeal for me is the clinical, practical. The absence of religion. And the fact that it can empower you to use it anywhere at any time. You don’t need fancy pillows, malas or anything material.

Meditation is not about trappings or style or any of the myriad ways the world has commercialized it. It’s ancient wisdom designed to reveal the best of humanity. It does the kind of good for the mind that Yoga does for the body. Or so it claims to. We’ll see!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQbnjo3vxrw

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The Year of Yes

yesI didn’t know much about Shonda before reading her book. Besides that she is a total Hollywood badass. Creator, Writer, Owner, Producer of highly successful television franchises.

…  And of course that she’s a woman and black which makes people do a double take simply because you don’t see too many non-white males occupying positions of power in showbusiness (or let’s face it in any business).

I am not a big fan of her shows. Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder. Not that I dislike them … For one reason or another, I just never watched any of them beyond a few episodes.

But by the time a smart friend told me to check out her book, Shonda had already won me over with two of the elements that help make TV shows hits: 1) positive Word of mouth and 2) a good title: The Year of Yes.

The book chronicles Ms. Rhimes’s efforts to spend an entire year outside of her comfort zone, creating positive changes in areas of her life that she had previously ignored or repressed. Her relationships, her body, her self-confidence and personal presentation. In situations where she’d reflexively have said “NO,” she challenged herself to instead say yes, potential humiliation be damned.

Wouldn’t you know it, turned out her biggest fears were never realized and she ended up pleasantly surprised by how much more fun and rich life could be. You can tell that’s where the book’s headed, but knowing it doesn’t make the reading process any less enjoyable. Ms. Rhimes brings us all along for the ride through the good, the bad and the horribly embarrassing in a way that’s familiar, soul-bearing and fun.

Beyond the basic self-help theme — which I loved and was ever receptive to having started the book during the first week of January — I identify with Shonda Rhimes on a personal level

1) she is a working woman in the TV biz who’s a mom to three

2) one moment she’s aware of her own narcissism, the next she’s insecure as a mofo

3) she gave her 3 daughters literary names. I especially love Emerson (my American lit hero and a name I always wanted for one of my children)

4) “veal practice” … this is how she describes periods of extreme inactivity in her past. My college bestie and I have discussed our own veal periods in the very same terms.

5) what a feminist she is, how she doesn’t force herself to conform to dominant social norms like marriage. How she honors and creates her own kind of life and own kind of happiness.

In short, the Year of Yes is now on my list of ride or die books, and Shonda Rhimes is a legit shero to me. Brava to speaking your truth for the benefit of others! yesyesyes!shonda

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i am not a mommy blogger

eyesi repeat:

I AM NOT A MOMMY BLOGGER.

the very moniker sends shivers up my spine. i don’t like labels, and i especially don’t like labels that reduce me to only one of the many roles i play.

plus, i have been blogging for over a decade. i was blogging well before it became a cultural trend … and way way before i became a mother.

now, in the age of facebook & twitter, seems like everyone is expressing themselves digitally. posting pictures of pets, food, children. opining about the most mundane, ephemeral effluvia.

and despite knowing better, we keep logging in to read/hear/see all of this unremarkable crap. why? to make ourselves feel superior? to be a little less lonely?

regardless, today, blogging has taken on a more personal, retro feel. it somehow seems more dignified than posting on social media. it allows me to keep my personal musings contained in one designated area, controlled by me.

plus those who read this have sought it out. unlike on facebook where you can thrust your banalities into everyone’s consciousness with one casual undiscriminating click.

so here i am, again, blogging. same as it ever was. but don’t call me a mommyblogger … or i will beat you.

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2016: the year ahead

fireworks-animation-19-2MORE

yoga
writing
reading things that make my brain work
dates with my hubbs
deep breaths
gratitude
home improvement
time with friends

LESS

obsessive fixation on phone and social media
crappy eating
worrying about things i cannot control
guilt
holding back (thoughts, ideas, words)
kvetching about how exhausted i am

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2015

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It was a transitional year. Back to work after having the babe. Learning to multitask work and new motherhood. Attempting to retain my sanity whilst juggling marriage, three children, a dog and two cats, a demanding career, 3 hours worth of daily commuting. Daycare, play dates, sports, travel, constant schlepping. Buying a home and all the paperwork and maneuvering that entails. Struggling (and ultimately failing)  to keep up my exercise routines, personal relationships and creative endeavors. But never losing the desire or intention. Knowing I’ll get back to those things eventually. Turning 40 and being so excited for what’s ahead. Loving being a Mommy and adoring my ragtag crew. Recognizing and cherishing what I have while I have it.

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Thanksgiving

I am so grateful for my husband and my children and my family. For everyone’s health and happiness. That we all get to be together and laugh and enjoy our days. For the privilege of being a Mom, a guide and a coach to life for three precious souls. For the purpose they give me, for the humility they’ve engendered in me. For the kisses and hugs and laughs and surprises. For my husband, the most selfless and giving, fun and supportive man I could ever have hoped to meet. For the warmth and comfort of our home. It’s small.  It leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s ours and we all know we are safe and warm and loved there. For my Mom. So happy to have her and to finally really understand, at age 40, all the sacrifices she and my Dad (RIP) made over the years to give me and my brothers a good life. For my brothers and their families, whom I cherish to my core. With whom I love to be, and just hang. I know how lucky I am. When I was younger I may not have understood or appreciated all I had, but that’s the beauty of getting a little bit older. You don’t take anything for granted.

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Disney

Disney is an amazing example of American capitalism and its extremes…. Incredible imagination, innovation and the merchandising of both. The best story telling on every level, and a consumer focus and service mentality that pervades all. The Magic Bands, Fast Pass system … How they manage data and move people around both physically (crowd control) and through their Sales funnel (share of wallet). How they celebrate the old (It’s a Small World) while kicking ass with the new (Frozen). From a business perspective, I was in awe.

But on a human and cultural level, it was disturbing. The incredible excesses to which people take things: eating junk, drinking soda. As portrayed in the subversive Disney flick Wall-E, many rely on scooters to avoid the simple act of walking. Going from one glazed over state of non-presence (staring at phones and tablets) to another (passively consuming manufactured entertainment experiences). Is this really the stuff our collective dreams are made of?

Alas, we went for the Littles… To give them “a magical experience” and in that regard, mission accomplished.

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Book review: We Are Not Ourselves

I just finished reading it. Thoughts:
1. I’m glad I read it. Wow.
2. I didn’t read any reviews of it or anything like that but there were many parts when I was thinking, “A man wrote this. This is not how a woman would think or describe things. Even an emotionally repressed woman like Eileen Leary.” I don’t mean it was insensitive, just that it wasn’t 100% credible to me. But it’s fiction so that’s fine. Besides …
3. The world and the ethos were eerily credible. Blunt force credible. My God, it was like the story of my family and those of my fellow second and third generation Irish Catholic American immigrants in NYC brethren, all wrapped into one familiar tragicomic tale. The feelings of love, dread and poetry.
4. And then you get to this point where you’re like …. SHIT! Is this it? Is it all misery? A tale told by an idiot signifying nothing? Like reading the obits as a twisted form of entertainment (Irish sports pages)?
5. But then you read the letter from Ed to Colin … and all is understood.
6. And you feel for Eileen and the fact that she could never fully love or appreciate what she had while she had it. That was her hamartia.
7. And you are reminded to hug your loved ones and treasure the moments… And read more.

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