Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trying To Make Sense of What Makes No Sense

All day I have been trying, trying, trying to absorb the outcome of the election.  I feel utterly dumbfounded. Despondent.  Disturbed.  And I'm not the only one.
True, I wasn't a huge fan of Hillary's; never have been.  But I totally believed she was the most experienced, competent person to do the job.  I was certainly voting for her because the other choice was no choice.  And while I didn't give her any money (I have an abhorrence of the amount of money spent on political campaigning and refuse to contribute to it), I did register voters twice, and spent multiple, multiple hours phone banking for the full Democratic ticket and more volunteers.

I wasn't sure my state would go for Hillary but I hoped.  I knew it would be a race, and maybe even a very close one, but I never, NEVER imagined that she would lose.

Hillary Rodham Clinton who had been in public life for thirty years; who had fought for the rights of children and women; who had been First Lady of Arkansas, then First Lady of the United States; a New York Senator, a Presidential candidate, and the Secretary of State during the Obama Administration. Some resume...and yet. 

And yet, in her second bid for the Presidency, surprisingly, she was in a serious battle with a New York businessman who had a mercurial, successful, wealthy, flamboyant, headline subject, reality-TV personality, global brand resume.  A man who was never a public servant, never an employee of the people, never governed anything, never had to by adhere to a stringent set of laws and rules,let alone and manage warring factions who all were constituencies and audiences to be pleased, not walked out on or fired. 

I didn't take Donald Trump's candidacy seriously at first.  I thought he was in it for the hype and the circus.  That any publicity was good publicity and it would certainly energize  his perhaps fading celebrity-brand after fifteen seasons on the air.  I thought he would get wiped out by someone and if not someone, well then, Jeb Bush would certainly swipe him off the face of the ticket.  But it didn't happen.

No matter how outlandish, how outrageous, how offensive, how untruthful, Mr. Trump just kept gaining in popularity.  This told us something.  It told us that people were really looking for someone truly different and they cared more about different than the social norms of present-day politics.  Yes, it was true that Hillary came with baggage, lots of it  between her style which many interpreted as aloof and secretive and domineering; her husband (a full set of luggage on his own); her past with Whitewater, and her present  complete with personal server and emails.  

But what about Trump?  What about his issues with supposed-billions and bankruptcies and no tax returns and being smart about paying no federal taxes and stories of womanizing, and his derogatory statements about women and people of color and people of other countries and people with challenges?    No matter his lack of substance when it came to coherent policy or lack of experience with governing or international diplomacy, or his war-mongering,  often times mocking stance, on this country.   Lets overlook his frequent lack of appropriate language (in open and closed settings) or his repetitive triumvirate of meaningless words: "disaster  rigged  HUGE."  

I really never understood how he managed to continue being the face of the Republican Party's nominee for the highest office in the land.  Here is my first mistake.  That should have told us something big.  He just kept knocking out or pushing past some fairly substantial figures in the after another the promising newcomers and the seasoned legacies of the Party's representatives fell by the wayside and Donald Trump endured.

Still, I did not think that he could beat out Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

Another mistake.

Next there's the issue of how many people really dislike her.  I really did not feel great about the way she seemed in public.  Yes she had the facts, she had the right arguments, she had the views I believed in, but I often thought she seemed smug or condescending.  I knew that wasn't what those close to her felt but it was what I received almost every time I saw her speak.  

Not her concession speech.  In fact that speech was the most authentic I'd ever seen her.  She was composed and caring and conciliatory in a warm, honest way but she also held firm to what she had lost, what she felt and why it was critically important to not see her defeat as DEFEAT.  Even if she wasn't to be at the helm (horribly disappointingly to many millions of voters and to her family, her staff and her SELF) still we were obliged to carry the mantle, continue to be the voice and the presence and the power of the values we shared despite this stunning setback.

I think underneath all the stuff: the Comey "indictment" of a batch of emails on someone else's laptop (and what a someone), the fact that she's an insider-insider; I still believe that it definitely hurt that she's female.  Now I'm not saying she lost because of sexism, but in part  I think she did.  I saw a statistic that said 67% of white, male, non-college educated males voted for Trump and I thought, "Well there's a group that sure wants to support women being equal..."

After turning off the TV at 1:37am (because I couldn't stand watching the inevitable at that point), I fell asleep hoping that it would all look different in the morning. 

It didn't and I was astonished by the depth of my physical reaction (my ulcer which had been dormant for decades decided to make itself known), the depression I felt and my complete inability to comprehend this new reality.   As Hillary said, 

"Donald Trump is going to be our President."

I'm going to try to wrap my head around that one.  To face the fact that after another 80 days or so, after Barack Obama, despite my disbelief, President-Elect Donald Trump will be the Commander-in-Chief.  Could anyone have beat him?  Not Bernie Sanders.  My friend says perhaps Joe Biden who himself is a bit of a loose cannon, but a reasonable, measured one.  I don't think so because he too is a career politician.
Donald Trump is going to be our President.  I can only hope that the sheer magnitude of the job awes Trump in a way that tones his everything down, humbles him into realizing that some responsibilities deserve thoughtful, civil, collaborative consideration.  Of course he'll always be who he is  brash and a maverick  but perhaps he can focus and do what he does best, build things.

Infrastructure is a great place to start.  The nation needs it, the parties agree on it, it will put people to work, it will boost the economy, and make monies flow while making everyone safer.  Let that be the legacy of the Trump Presidency  that he orchestrated a second WPA that stabilized the financial situation of a working public and produced a more secure set of roads, bridges, and tunnels.  Let them build these structures and build our economy.  

Just as long as they're not building a wall.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Moving On

It's been six months to the day since I last wrote.  Six straight months of sorting, reliving, moving, discarding, earmarking, revisiting, and preparing for the sale of the stuff and for the sale of the house we've had as our home for the past 23 years.

Physically, it's been daunting.  The amount of things that have gone from house to basement or attic or separate rentals or storage units has been exhausting.  At my age my knees are hurting, my feet are too, and at night, my hip bones ache.  It has all been done in the sweltering heat of an unusually hot southern summer.

Logistically, it has been the challenge of shifting things from here to there, truckloads, carloads, and still  there is always more.  I call it the fishes and the loaves.  You think you're done but you open another door, another closet, another hidden recess, and find there are still items to deal with, to decide, to divest.

Emotionally, it is what you might imagine. An endless confrontation of the memories of every moment you have lived.  I found an album where I had placed every engagement and wedding card we received.  There was a box with each and every gift card and greeting card from the time I was pregnant through their second birthday.  I had no idea that there were specific cards made that said   "Congratulations!  You're Expecting Twins!"  I had about twelve each of the three designs that were made.  I had no memory of such cards.  

The cards represented all the well wishes, all the outpouring of love  from those we knew and those we didn't.  Gifts from people's mothers I'd never met.  Hand-knit teeny-tiny white baby booties from Jean-Louis' mom in Paris.  Matching hooded sweaters trimmed in blue and pink with pom-pom ties from Susan's co-worker's mom in Nebraska or North Dakota.  Ceramic plates with cherubic babies hand-painted by Aunt Doris on my father's side, with their names and weights and birthdates.  Loving expressions of joy at our great gift of healthy boy-girl twins.

Box after box after bin after bag of photos capturing the moments of our 36 years together  the vacations, the birthdays, the holidays, the milestones  all smiling and hugging and picturing happiness.  

What do you do with the thousands of images that you've stockpiled before things were digital?  The wedding photos, the engagement, bridal and baby showers?  What do you keep?  I, who always had walls and stairwells hung with framed photographs of family.  I don't want them staring me in the face.  Looking at me with eyes that question the close of that life lived.

Others are selling off the art, pottery, jewelry, household goods and knickknacks of my past.  I've kept quite a bit but moving into a house that's one-third the space forces you to be selective and I have been.  Let us hope that my former treasures find places in someone else's home and that they will bring pleasure to others as they once did to me.

I feel relief that it's almost at the end of a long passage.  The six-month road of dismantling what once was.  I feel a sense of lightness and ease at no longer being weighed down by so much.  And even better, I love my new home.

It is a tremendous gift to love where one lives   to feel a sense of comfort and real happiness  to walk in the door and smile at the things you see.  I feel that here.  I settled in very quickly, probably because I've felt "homeless" for the past twenty months.  My nest is made and I am cocooning at the moment.  When I open my eyes in the morning I see a half wall filled floor-to-ceiling with sixteen pieces of art that I adore.  Lauren's framed wedding invitation with its silvery tree.  The blue castle from college-friend Peggy.  The framed Folon poster all signed on the back from my Random House buddies celebrating my first real apartment in Manhattan. The lovers kissing "In a Sentimental Mood" by Havlicek from Shirley Sender. The tiny painted grove of trees by Norman Kaplanoff bought in the basement of a Ukrainian church on the lower East side for 50¢ (unframed). 

Two more tree etchings, one from my daughter, bought in Florence (bottom) and one from my son that we picked out together one Christmas.  

Various representation of and from New York: the Flatiron Building, the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge... 


and the lovely print of swimming goldfish that I bought on the street outside the Museum of Modern Art from a Chinese artist named Zhyoo (and I have never been able to track down).

The gorgeous watercolor of the Colorado mountains painted by Lynnie's sister Joannie Shapiro and...

"Shadow of the child I used to be" by m. ensign johnson.

I am a shadow of the person I used to be. Empty of virtually all my former longer a daughter, sister, not a wife, not a couple, not a co-worker, not a teacher, and not a mother in the way I was for 20+ years. Emptying me of the marriage, the house, the possessions and feeling hollow is hard but I'm beginning to feel the openness — in being able to start again and figure out just want I want to fill inside. What I want. 

What I want. Not what is expected. Not what I think I should be, need to be, have to be. Just what I want. 

I don't know what I want, but it's nice to begin imagining.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Doodling for Direction

For a long, long time, all my doodles were arrows coming and going, up and down, sideways, never getting anywhere.  Pointing, reaching, looking for direction.  I often felt boxed in by those arrows.  Trapped in no direction.  In elementary school, in high school, in college, in every job I've ever had  I was always worried about where I would end up.

Now I'm sixty-three and where have I ended up?

Back at the beginning.

After a working career of 40-plus years (I'm not including working at the dry cleaners from ages 8-15,  or pricing at the pet-supply warehouse, not counting serving in the cafeteria at Northeastern or working in the Registrar's Office at Finch); after a number of apartments, single and shared, a six-year relationship, a 29-year marriage, a townhouse that almost foreclosed, a big house, two lovely children boy-girl twins; now after all that I'm again seeking direction.

Direction is a funny thing because there's no one "right" direction in life.  For any place you want to go, there are oh-so-many ways of getting there.  Will you walk? bike? or drive? Do you go the fastest way or take the most scenic route like my friend Nancy who bobs and weaves this way and that, avoiding the main roads, even highways if she can.  Unlike me, she goes the "back roads" while I  well I just want to get there quick as I can.

Part of the difficulty now is just deciding direction.  My first choice of direction was to leave our town and live in New York  return to the hustle and bustle of of city streets teeming with people, alive with music and plays and magnificent art and always, always, always, the possibility of human connection.  I have had great moments of "positivity resonance" with men, women, and children here in the Big Apple.  People like me/unlike me, close in age/decades away, of similar persuasions/of radically different views.  These connections rarely seemed to happen in the town where we raised our family because we lived in cars to and from the same places.  And we didn't have many couple friends.

Most couples attach to other couples and do things together.  They go to concerts or movies, camp, play cards, take vacations together. I think these couples usually meet through their young children  but that didn't happen for us.  We moved to teach in a small school where most of our colleagues were far younger and single and transitory  each around for a few years and then on to the next career phase in another part of the country or the world.  Our friends are in Iowa and Santiago, Chile or elsewhere but not so many here.

Now it seems that the dream of New York may be a dead end and my direction points me back to North Carolina where I've spent the past 24 years. In a way, and surprisingly, that's beginning to excite me.  There are new things for me to focus on.  We're selling the house and emptying out 35 years of objects and memories.  Every Monday night I'm free-form dancing with about 25 other people for 90 minutes and NO talking!  I'm back to volunteering for the two non-profits  that I support.

Maybe the time has come to procrastinate  to start doodling and see where those arrows take me.


For the past few months, I've been in a women's writing group that meets weekly at a neighborhood senior center.  I am by far the youngest of the seniors but they're a real bunch of characters, all with interesting thoughts to write.  We spend about 20-30 minutes writing and then we each read aloud and share our piece, followed by comments.  Before we begin, the table is strewn with pages of images torn from magazines (brought  by our writer-facilitator Rosalie) to help prompt one to write if needed.  

This is the image I saw that prompted me to write this post. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

I Remember Me

In my writing group sometimes the prompt is an image.  I choose a black-and-white photo taken with an iPhone 6s of a very sweet freckle-faced young girl. This is what I wrote...

I remember pastel-pretty smocked dresses of lavender and blue 

        and black patent leather Mary Janes, sitting at a child-sized table 
with a dainty tea party, set with delicate white china 

decorated with pink flowers and green stems and 

lovely, lovely, triangle-shaped crustless cucumber sandwiches with their cool crunch and tiny luscious chocolate petis fours and ornate silver spoons and large folded cloth napkins gracing our laps...

I wish, wish, wish that little girl at that table 
                at that tea party 
                                         with all those beautiful things 
                                                                               had been me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Year of the Monkey

I don't know what the monkey signifies in Chinese astrology.  In my family, the three of them are snakes and I'm a dragon.  I don't know anything about snakes and what I knew about dragons I'd forgotten, except that I wrote about being a dragon in a post,  The Newest Baby Dragon.  

This is not the original image but its spirit is similar to that of my tin.
For me the monkey conjures up an image of impishness and always has.  My first year in college I went to Harvard Square and shopped in a very fanciful 70s store called Truc (was it underground?) and somewhat uncharacteristically but actually characteristic of my urge to buy things for my "someday-children," I purchased a colorful metal tin similar in size to a cigar box except square.  The circus image on its cover starred a smiling monkey on a unicycle center-ring.  This monkey made me smile and being a student of Sociology 101, I decided to flash that tin at the unsuspecting riders on the T (Boston's transit system) to see how they wold react.  Nine times out of ten that monkey would elicit a simple smile or a big grin.  Only occasionally would the person frown or look away in annoyance.

Another impish monkey I think of is the one in Heidi the organ grinder's monkey who delights Shirley Temple by leaping in through the open window, swinging from the chandelier, and wreaking havoc on Frau Rottenmeyer. That monkey made me laugh with his mischievous ways. 

This bag is from Bloomingdale's in New York... 

I fear that somehow Bernie Sanders is a monkey in the minds of the electorate.  He appears impish enough with his straight-talking, spit-in-your-eye Bernie-truths about the ways things need to change. (Single-payer healthcare! Free college!)  And just like that organ grinder's monkey running amok, Sanders keeps upsetting those proverbial apple carts.

Then we've got Trump posturing, postulating, pontificating and preening  the epitome of monkey business.

And there's Ted Cruz  monkeying around with his position on immigration and even Donald Trump.

I guess no matter which side of the fence you're on, seems as if this truly is the Year of the Monkey...

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A River of Words

When I'm writing
It feels like a stream. 
A stream of words
pouring out of me
that create a river that
flows and surges
and carries my thoughts
of times past,
regrets not addressed,
and sorrows lost.

Sometimes it feels good
washing me clean
and other times
the muddy rush of debris
and mistakes
and missteps
drowns me.

february 5, 2016

This is a special-to-me thrift-store watercolor I bought signed Ellie Reiner, 1952.  It certainly seems to be Central Park in New York.  For a time I thought it might be done by Rob Reiner's mom, but I checked it out (via email) with Rob's son and it seems not.  
You're not seeing its simple, rounded, thick but elegant, gold wood frame because I needed to crop the image.

Friday, February 5, 2016


For the purposes of this post, all names have been altered to spare anyone embarrassment...except for ME.

Thinking it was finally time to start seeking male companionship I thought, "Why not try"

I already knew three people  all slightly older than I am and all people I liked  who found five, yes FIVE, successful, happy marriages between them.

Clearly this was an indication that through it was possible to find true love.

And  this is important  there was a free 7-day trial.  What was there to lose?

My sanity for one.

Not to mention time.

First, you answer a series of questions that categorize you and the person you're looking for  in the broadest of terms: physical characteristics, age range, hobbies, likes, religious and social habits.  Fair enough.

Next, you write a much or how little is up to you.  I simply said I was looking for someone to share a meal, movie or museum visit with  I wrote next to nothing because I just didn't know what I wanted to say. And yet soon my inbox was filling with all sorts of unknown and difficult-to decipher communications.  


a "wink
                 a "like
                                a "chat
                                                 possibly leading to ... an email.

At first, it seemed novel and fascinating...guys were reaching out to me, wanting to contact me, liked me!  Each communication I opened was a new possibility, an opening in the closed universe I'd been living in this past year.  I clicked on the link to view their profile, looked at their photo (if there was one), and then read how they described themselves and what they said they were looking for in a woman.

Some wrote gushingly; others forthrightly, some with humor.  Some put next to no effort; everyone was looking for the love of their life.  

Often when I'd click on someone who really looked promising, I'd get:

The profile you're looking for is not available at this time.

Instead take a look at these.
It made no sense. Where were they? Why weren't they available to see? 

And then there were the ones I was able to see.  Well, they were time-consuming.

I'd read through and be interested but then
  then I'd see that the guy was in his 30s or 40s or be living in Miami, Baylor, Texas, San Diego, even Nashua, New Hampshire or Butte, Montana! What the F**K? Why would anyone be trying to date someone that lived states away?  MY profile I said I was looking for someone within 20 miles of New York was this filter not working?

It took me three days to figure out that I wasn't actually seeing my "mutual matches." To see the guys who fit what I was looking for, I had to go to Search Mutual Matches...and then a whole crop of pics and profiles popped up.  And it took me that long to figure out that there were people who were just looking for an electronic pen pal. Someone to add a little vicarious excitement to one's life and "chatting" through match was a way to do this. 

Love2loveU thought I wrote "a lovely profile that makes me want to get to know you" and worldtraveller "enjoyed my profile and thinks "we could meet for coffee and start a conversation ..I'm looking for a serious relationship, but leave me a text and I will send you one." Or TruthfulOne who emailed "I wanted so much to meet you from your profile and pic. You have this intriguing and intense look about you that I love it. I would enjoy talking with you... " and more and more and more. But their emails often seemed as intense as a therapy session.  Way too much information for an opening salvo and far too revealing for my sensibilities.  It just seemed insincere and uncomfortable.

I went through those mutual matches but anyone who said they played basketball five times a week, or put camping and hiking first on their list of interests or said they were "God-fearing" or "NEVER" drank, well these were clearly not the best matches for me.

If they were looking for "athletic and toned," not me.

If they were looking for someone who wanted to settle down for prolonged kisses and a life together, well, that just wasn't me at this moment.

Eventually, after days and hours of sorting, reading, deleting, replying, "You look nice but you're too far away...good luck in the search!", I got down to three men that looked good to me, sounded nice, had similar interests and were in New York City. [Or so I thought.]

I decided to email a message expressing interest.  And they each replied.

All looking for true love, a "one-man woman," someone who wouldn't break their hearts.

One was in Shanghai on extended business.

The next was in Brazil.

The last was deployed in Iraq handling bombs and ammunition, not due back until end of March. (Or was he? Turns out there's a huge scam of men claiming to be in the military but simply wanting some electronic entertainment from the wife, and saying you're in the military gets you a free pass from any one-on-one involvement.)

It left me totally, totally, TOTALLY confused and disappointed.  I just want to sit across from another human being at a Starbucks and talk.  Is that so impossible?

How are people successful at this?  

What am I NOT getting?

On day seven, I was relieved to quit the whole thing and give up on the online version of the dating game.  The thought of trying eHarmony or OurTime made me squirm.

Time to go back to the old-fashioned way.

Tried going in to a neighborhood bar by myself for a glass of wine, just hoping to meet some other singles to talk to but couldn't do it.  I just stood outside the door looking in or walked back and forth thinking I'd propel myself inside, but didn't have the nerve to go in...

Know someone you want to introduce me to??