Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Chasing Butterflies

Disclaimer: My love for my family is something fierce. That is not in question as I write this. My skills to make it through the many months facing us all together at home, is. We have done pretty well so far. We have had a few tricky times, completing second grade was no small feat for my son and me. As a team, we did it, but it took a strain on our relationship and we didn't like each other as much during that time. That was heartbreaking. I am trying to take one day at a time, but learning that school in the fall will be virtual once again, makes me start thinking about the coming year. It is the right thing to do now and I wouldn't feel comfortable sending them if it did open, but it is hard for me to imagine the daily battles we had at home without getting nauseous. There is circle spinning I am doing at home that is starting to drive me bonkers. I can't seem to be very productive without getting distracted by everything around me. My kids, my husband, the dishes, the dust, the clutter, the stuff. I just keep trying to stay on top of it and as soon as I finish, more appears. It is an old story, but I am finding it impossible to stop myself. I recently sat down with the kids for a minute while they were watching "The Simpsons" movie. The family was fleeing their home when it was under attack. With seconds to get out, Marge runs back in to get the video of their wedding-- she grabs the video and starts to run out, but notices a dirty dish in the sink. She has to stop to wash it before running out. Never before have I been so validated by The Simpsons.

There is so much time now. I have nowhere I have to be and yet tasks seem to take me so much longer now.  I have way more distractions now. Case in point, as I try to write this, both kids have sealed their mouth with packing tape, decorated the tape, and then blew out to make their faces look like big bubbles. This is not a bad thing I suppose, they are quiet because their mouths are sealed and this tape has kept them busy for quite some time now. The only issue is they are coming up to me, making me laugh, or making me take pictures of them every few minutes. I am also constantly making them food, and then cleaning up again. They say they are "so hungry" but I really don't know how they survive on how little they both eat. I have filled more days than I would have liked just being distracted alone. I am missing focus, clarity, and inner peace a bit. I am taking care of myself as best as I can physically and mentally, but man oh man, we are living in such strange times these days. I am a pretty positive person, and I have been able to keep my spirits up through ~ mostly. At around five or six p.m. I get a bit blue. Another day is ending, and I am bone tired from not doing much, and I still have to make dinner. I am constantly checking in to see that my household is ok. When the kids disappear upstairs for a while, it isn't always a great sign. They have been arguing more than usual lately, and there has been a lot more mood around here.

Yesterday, we hadn't really gotten out of the house much. The day before was glorious and we spent the whole day out. We took our dog to the beach, we surfed, we boogie boarded, we relaxed and we were refreshed. The next day we stayed inside until we all got too much cabin fever and piled in the car to nowhere in particular. Transitioning from one activity to another hasn't been easy lately and when we parked downtown to walk around, the kids said they didn't want to get out of the car. At first, it was funny and cute. Their solidarity was admirable, but then it got annoying and then my husband and I got mad. Finally, after what seemed like an explosion of anger from all four of us, we started to walk around together. I don't think, I am so good at transitioning either, and couldn't shake my anger. My husband said something at the wrong time, in the wrong way when I was so sensitive and I couldn't keep it together anymore. Never in our relationship have we argued in the middle of the street and certainly not in front of our kids out in public. We weren't screaming, but to us, we may as well have been naked. We then got even more upset with ourselves and each other for even arguing, but we didn't quite know how to let up either. I had that heavy, ugly kind of anger and I realize now that there are so many things to be angry about, but your loved ones take the brunt of your seething sometimes. I don't have the ability to handle the feelings I didn't even know existed in me. All around the world people are dealing with the same issues of navigating a more limited lifestyle, feeling the responsibility of keeping themselves and loved ones safe from illness. For the first time in history, everyone is having to deal with the same concerns. While we are all navigating this at the same time, we are all having to do it so separately. So alone.

When our dog, Hazel needs a walk, I jump at the chance to take her. Getting outside for a bit breaks up the monotony and gives me a bit of quiet that I so badly crave. She is still a puppy and will run with me as fast as I want to go. I don't know why I pick up my pace so often when I finally have time to myself but it helps that she loves to run. No matter how fast we are going through, she always stops near an area that has milkweed growing. She sits and waits for the shadows of butterflies and whips me around chasing after them on the ground. I am not sure if she knows they are just shadows, but it doesn't deter her from trying to jump on top of each shadow she chases. I let her do this for a long time, it doesn't get old, and time seems to stand still, which seems to be just what I need. I miss being productive, my identity has definitely been morphed into more of a stay at home mom these days. I was just branching out of that a bit when this all went down. It is not a huge sacrifice in the grand scheme of things. I may not get to do that social justice project I was working on if I can't be social, but I will keep trying. Just like Hazel, she may never get one of those shadows, but she won't give up trying. Neither will I.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Stop Imagining

 

 A favorite riddle for my daughter to share is "imagine you are locked in a room, there are no windows, no doors and it begins to fill with water. How do you get out?" Anyone she shared this riddle would rack their brains trying to figure out ways to find a hose, or a crack to let the water out. She would explain there were no cracks and no special tools to get the water out. She would ask them if they gave up, and when they wanted more time, she would patiently wait while they gave more magical creative possibilities for getting out of an ominous room filling up with water.

I don't give drowning in a sealed room much thought. I don't think it is very likely to happen. I did get caught off guard yesterday at the beach when I felt and heard a boom. Coincidently we were spending the day with the same friends we were with when last July there was an earthquake that shook our house. I looked up at them yesterday, with terror in my eyes, and asked them if they heard what I heard. Only one of them heard it with me and she thought it was a really big wave. The image of the worst possible scenario filled my mind. The four of us were playing Bananagrams while their two kids played in the sand and my two children were in the ocean. My body stood still while I contemplated how fast I could head away from the ocean. If a tsunami were about to strike our whole set of game tiles would lift up into the water. All of us would follow and I imagine it would be like getting under the wave-like surfing or boogie boarding, except we might not be able to come up for air after three short seconds. These terrifying thoughts are brought to me by my wild imagination. Anxiety is said to affect intelligent people because of their ability to think of so many different scenarios. Even the worst case. I'll take the intelligent compliment but would like to lose the anxiety element.

In my wildest dreams or my intense imagination, I never thought a virus would come across could impact our lives as much as it has. If a year ago someone suggested the possibility that our schools would close, that we would be wearing masks in public and we would not be able to get physically close to anyone other than those in our immediate family, I would have thought this person should write a sci-fi novel. I would not have ever believed this was possible. Yet here we are and after almost six months and this is very much our reality. There are days that I still have such a hard time accepting life this way. I miss hugging my friends. I miss holding my dad's hand when we would walk together. I miss letting my children play with their friends with the carefree spirit children should have. I miss being able to tell myself that crazy things like your world turning upside down are highly unlikely but here we are. 

There is nothing I can do within my power to change our current situation except to do my part to keep people safe. We wear our masks, keep our distance, and do our school/work dutifully in front of a computer. I try not to think of how long this will go on because it doesn't help. I am doing my best to take it one day at a time. That is all I can do. The only way to get out of the room filling up with water in the riddle is to stop imagining. That is all I can do now too. This will get better. I can't imagine when, but it will.



Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Sheppard



 Today I am not going to sugar coat what I am feeling. I won't put a positive spin on my mood. I won't look for the silver lining or the light at the end of the tunnel. I know it is there is always a bright side but I am not in the mood to find it right now. I feel sad at the way this school year is starting. I don't feel hopeful that it will change anytime soon. I am tired of seeing people mostly through a screen and I miss my old life. I am okay when I can take one day at a time but today feels bigger than just one day. Its the first Monday of a new school year and I am disheartened that this is the world my children live in right now.

As someone who manages life with an anxiety disorder, when I feel anxiety, I worry about worrying. I have to talk to myself like I am a child and remind myself that it is okay to be scared. It is in fact pretty reasonable in times like right now to be walking around all day with a low-grade worry. When I let myself feel afraid, I can identify exactly which feeling is overwhelming me and then unpack them one by one. What I am finding right now to be the cause is a bigger than usual sense of FOMO for life, for me, for all of us, but especially for children.

Today was my Aunt's funeral. She turned 102 last week and had been starting to fade in the last few months. She had a great long life with family members who absolutely loved and adored her. When someone dies at that age, people say "wow" and I get it because 102 is an accomplishment, but it doesn't make losing someone any easier. I have been to a handful of funerals in the last two years and it doesn't get easier to watch someone physically leave you forever. I listened as speeches are recited in her honor, to say goodbye, to sum up, a life lived in a few short minutes. When asked if anyone else wanted to say a few words, I thought about how hard it would be to bring my slobbering, sobbing self up to speak. I thought about the two times, too recently my husband had to pull together his composure and find the right words for each of his parents. I can only imagine how hard it will be when I say goodbye to my parents. 

My father was so close to my Aunt. He would call her several times a week and when my parents were out here visiting the two of them would sit together for hours. They had a history so far back that only the two of them shared. The pandemic has made it too risky for my dad to come to California from New York to be at the funeral. I always imagined I would be standing next to him on this day holding his hand, holding him up, the way he has done for me so many times. The funeral was only for seven family members and the three nurses who cared for my Aunt. As I drove there I spoke to my father on the phone and he asked me to cry a few tears for him. I sure did daddy, more than a few.

Attending a funeral in masks without being able to hug family was trying. I stood there listening with tears streaming down my cheeks into my mask. Not knowing what to do with myself I opened up the prayer book and followed along with the Rabbi. I read these words “O Shepherd of Israel, Who dost neither slumber nor sleep, we are the people of Thy pasture and the sheep of Thy hand. Enfold us safely in Thy love. And if in our grief and loneliness and moments of desolation, we should stray from following Thee, O leave us not, faithful Shepherd, but draw us near unto Thee.” I am not a religious person and I like the freedom to pick, choose, and question religion. I am also not a follower who easily seeks a leader to guide me but I feel comforted by this passage. Today I kept rereading the word "shepherd" it came up in the prayer book over and over today. I am not a follower who trails behind a leader guiding me where to go, and I am no sheep. I could use some direction and support these days and I miss my pack around me. I think we all could use a shepherd from time to time and if ever there was a time, now is that time. 

When we talk of people who have died we refer to them in the past tense, yet we keep them alive inside us. I wish there was another way in the English language to speak of the dead. No one likes to say they had a brother or had a mother. I still have my Aunt even though I can't hold her hand anymore. I'm grateful for all the time she had with my family, that she got to know my children, and for the special bond she and my dad had. When I first moved here at 23 my Aunt and her daughter welcomed me, were a support to me and was a Sheppard to me. 

Sylvia Sheppard 1918-2020 




Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Small

We were outside during the magic hour. As the sun went down my son looked up at the big sky. He looked around and asked if we ever wonder why we are here. He explained that he is just one small thing in the world and wondered why we are all here. It was a very existential moment for this little boy. Having similar spiraling thoughts, I understood exactly the way he was wondering. Recently, I had been wondering about the impact of all the isolation we are in. As I looked at my son's questioning thoughts, I hoped that all our children will come out healthy, physically, and emotionally from all of this.

Back in March, when schools shut down one week before Spring break, parents, teachers, and staff, truly believed we would come back a few weeks later. When the weeks went by and the lockdown rules became more and more strict, a friend mentioned that she thought we would be ending the school year at home. I could not process her words and couldn't seem to think past one day at a time. Now here we are in the middle of summer, facing the reality that school will not be reopening in the fall. My son, who had overheard rumblings about going back to school a few days a week, or part-time, was looking forward to seeing some of his friends again. When we told him school would start at home again, my heart broke when he began to cry. He asked why we weren't going back for just a few days, and when I explained that the virus is still a risk, he said, "Stupid COVID!" He continued crying and explaining that he really doesn't like home school. I nodded in agreement. I don't like it either. I thought I would, but it didn't take long for the shine to wear off, and the struggles each day to take its place.

We completed a weird school year, are in the middle of a bizarre summer, and will soon start another strange school year. Our feelings are all over the place, shuffling between wanting what is best to keep us safe through all of this, but also missing human interaction. I am to the best of my ability, trying to making sure my children are "fine." Making sure my children are okay is generally not enough for me. I strive for a bit better than that for them, but given the circumstances, well enough is as good as it's going to get these days. We have moments of pure joy, but we also have deep sadness about our reality right now. It will take some time for life to resemble how we knew it just a few short months ago.

We are all impatiently waiting for good news to present itself. For the first time that I can think of, the world is truly going through something together. The irony though is that as much as we are together in this, we have never been so separated. This is a broken time in history and like my son, I feel like just one of the many pieces trying to figure out how to connect together. When my children get upset lately, the issue rarely reveals itself as a result of this pandemic, but it almost always is the reason. I have to remind them -- and myself -- that this is hard for all of us. It won't be like this forever, but it feels like forever right now. Each day blends into the next and sometimes I feel that I choose activities for us each day just to distract ourselves. I give my permission to look for whatever way works right now. This is all so much bigger than us. I didn't answer my son's question as to why we were all here. I am not sure he was even expecting us to, but even if he was, I wouldn't know where to begin. When I start thinking about career, income, creativity, I get sad that they are taking a back seat right now, yet when I see my youngest look up at the sky and wonder, I am glad I have all this time with him to ponder it all, too.


Thursday, August 20, 2020

No Good Choices

There is a time in the last few months when at least once we have all forgotten to put on our mask to go outside. I am sure it didn't take long to remember to turn around and go get it. For my kids, especially my younger one, forgetting happens a bit more often. We have had our whole life to walk freely around others without a mask, so it makes sense that suddenly since March wearing one daily is hard to get used to. It feels strange seeing friends or family that you haven't seen in awhile, and not hug them. It is hard to stand close to a friend you have had forever and have to back up because they are too close, even with a mask. These everyday reminders of the pandemic are hard enough for me, but for children, it's that much harder. That is why, as much as I would like to have them in school, it just isn't safe.

I hear my kid's phrase questions like this a lot, "When the virus is over, can we _____ (have a sleepover, go bowling, get conveyer belt sushi, go on an airplane, and on and on. The reality is I don't have an answer for any of those. I am not sure how long it will take for the virus to be over, or what day-to-day life will be like by then. I know certainly my kids need to keep social lives, they need to get outside and that homeschool will include those two things in a way that it didn't in the past. I can only handle my own kid's safety the best I can by making sure I communicate with the parents of friends to make sure we are all on the same page. If I see on social media kids hanging out with other kids next to them and mask free, I will take pause before letting my kids hang out with them. This isn't because I am judgemental, this is because I want us to stay healthy, and science proves that distance and masks help to that end. 

If and when our children return to school they will be wearing masks all day, they will be in smaller groups, and they will be spread out from each other. Some of them might let their masks fall down over their nose though. Likely some will get excited to share something with a friend and come in too close. Chances are good that my kids will have a challenging time correcting others as I do. I have stood at the door of a friend's house who has said "I am not masking up for you" and then smiled. I have been told by a few friends, "Oh, come on in, I have been really careful, don't worry about it." Since my twenties, I have not felt this kind of peer pressure. It reminds me of guys pushing for unprotected sex because they are "fine." Or being at a party and being told it would be a lot more fun if I did a bump. There is a very specific feeling of losing your footing a little when being told, so to speak,  you won't have as much fun if you keep masking up.  

I am all in favor of my children independently navigating themselves, but not with this virus. They can decide if they feel like having a sandwich for lunch or not, but they can't choose to wear a mask because it doesn't feel great. I believe my kids understand that, but I am not willing to risk their safety around others who might not. For that reason, the idea of sending them back to school sucks. For all the fun, social, real live in-person interaction they will be missing, having them at home sucks. Collectively, we are all going to play the "let's make the best of it game" for the next few (fill in the blank). I think that the only people saying 2020 was a good year are people who have recently become parents, survived illness, or are named Biden and Harris. Fingers and toes crossed for that last one. 



Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Going Home

Every August -- the last few weeks before school would start -- my parents would take my siblings and me on a road trip. They were teachers and in the summer they would work at summer camps. Between camp ending and school beginning, we would go on an adventure. For a few years in a row, we went to Kennebunkport, Maine. Other summers we would go tour around New England. Every town we stopped in was a new adventure, a new town and a new motel awaited. I loved being with my family without distractions of work or school, and I loved that we were all in it with the same goal: having fun together. 

Now, my own family, we are taking our own road trip. We are in the middle of our two-week trek. Last week we rented a minivan and took the highway for a tour of the Western States. Two kids, one dog, one husband, and me all together on this adventure. We started in Nevada, stopping in Vegas, watched the water show at the Bellagio, decided it. was a bit too crowded (Covid-wise). Then we drove to Freemont Street but watched the lights from the car to avoid crowds. The next day we headed to Linden, Utah to visit friends. We had a great time seeing their farm, playing with goats, jumping on the trampoline, and catching up. The next stop was Park City to see more friends -- we spent time at the lake, ate take out in their yard, and got to celebrate our friend's birthday together. From there we went to Idaho Falls with a fun stop at some natural hot springs. We spent time in Yellowstone and saw geysers, springs, and mud pots. Everywhere we looked we saw sights we never saw before, sights we didn't know would be so beautiful.

We drove from there to Whitefish Montana with a night or two in between to break up the drive. As we drove we saw signs for Huckleberries everywhere. They grow all over the northwest and they are used to make everything from jam to smoothies, to ice cream and cotton candy. When we got to Whitefish they were having their annual Huckleberry Days festival, so of course, we went. We went to Whitefish because a close friend moved there a year ago and has been singing its praises since. After seeing the mountains and lakes we understand why. We had so much fun with friends riding down alpine slides, doing an adventure park ropes course, swimming at the lake, paddle boarding, swinging on a rope swing, and of course going out for ice cream. My kids and their friends would walk around the block and pick raspberries and see deer before coming back. 

Today we are driving to Washington and have Oregon and the California coast still ahead of us. We stopped today in Coeur d'Alene walked through town and then jumped off of cliffs into the lake. I typically am a daredevil, but I have met my match. My daughter seems to be the bravest of the bunch. By the end of the day we all jumped, but there was one cliff in particular that I stood looking out on for quite a while. I ultimately was too scared for that one, but I braved the others. I was the first to jump off today so that I could help my kids out of the water when they jumped. I needed to go first for their safety, or so I told myself that, but I needed to brave the unknown first. I didn't want to have them go first, tell me it was fine, while I froze contemplating. It was indeed a bit terrifying, shockingly cold, and then fantastic. I loved watching my kids jump while I waited for them in the water. I am so proud of their bravery. Right before we left my daughter begged me to go with her again. After three times, I was done so she had asked my husband who had been watching us the whole time. He politely declined and then changed his mind at the last moment. He took off his shirt and hat and jumped off the highest cliff with our girl. It was such an exciting afternoon.

As we head into the second half of our road trip, I suddenly remember what we came on the road to forget: school begins next week. When my parents would take us traveling as kids they would stretch out the summer as long as possible. Often we would come home the day before school started and driving into NYC from the country would be a shock to my system. I always had jitters before the first day of school and would cry when the summer ended. This year as we drive home from this epic trip, I suspect I will be pretty sad. Yes, the end of summer will be upon us, as well as the start of a new school year, but this will be a year like no other. We will be starting school virtually and anyway you slice it, it just doesn't look appealing. There is so much ahead that is uncertain. Living in the time of a global pandemic is challenging to say the least. We have loved having a respite from being home. This trip has allowed us time and space outdoors without thinking about wearing our masks or standing far enough away from people. Looking forward to the year ahead is like standing on the edge of that cliff today. I don't really want to do it and I am contemplating if it will be okay or not. I am going to commit at some point and set an example to my two kiddos, that sometimes you have to jump in, even when you don't know what it will be like. For now, more of the open road awaits, and I am loving every second.


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Back To The Beach

There is something equalizing about the beach. No matter what state of mind I am in, it has a calming element to it. I lasted all of two days when we first quarantined before I needed to drive to the beach. I didn't go to the sand or walk around, I didn't even get out of my car. I just needed to see the ocean. I needed to see the vastness of the horizon. I needed something that felt the same, smelled the same and looked the same as it always did. I don't think I have been to the beach as frequently as I have this summer. I am so grateful my husband and children love it as much as I do.

With the beach being one of the safest places we can take advantage of now, we are doing just that. This year we bought wet suits and after our first full day of boogie boarding, we decided we wanted to surf. My husband surfed growing up and he hoped one day to teach the kids but it just hadn't worked out yet. We recently bought a new board and since the kids both skateboard, they took to the waves really well. I wanted to try but was terrified at first. I had only tried it once before years ago, and between the freezing water and the size of the board, I wasn't very successful. This time we got a soft top and with the help of my husband, I got up that first day quite a few times. I have a lot to learn and don't have a real sense of what to look for in a wave, but I am hooked. I have gone out five or six times so far and the last few times, I haven't had much luck. I am so determined though. My daughter who loves it just as much tried to coach me last time. I kept getting pummeled by waves and falling. She got tired of waiting for the board and I kept saying, "one more time, one more time."

We have close friends who we see regularly. Their kids are the same age as ours and it works out well that they all happen to be very close. They are really the only family we spend a lot of time with these days and together we have planned a lot of fun activities for the four kids. We "traveled" to different countries, by reading books together, we have done art projects, cooked meals, and taken bike rides to get treats from international shops. None of our kids went to camp this summer, or got to make new friends, but we had pretty enriching quality time nonetheless. We went to a Japanese garden, picnicked with Italian sandwiches, even and did a tour de Culver City where we biked through town looking for certain monuments. We did all of these activities with masks and with distance. We had a great time, but each week we cut out time for a beach day. I couldn't believe how much joy would radiate from the four kids on these days. They just all seemed so happy at the beach together. They boogie boarded, swam, played in the sand and couldn't get enough of it. Even after a long day of way too much sun, they don't want to leave when we say it's time to go home.

This past week we took probably one of our last outings to the beach before school starts. The kids all wanted to know if once school starts if we could still go to the beach. The answer is yes. My friend said her daughter told her that when we all go to the beach, things feel normal. I couldn't agree more.



Tuesday, July 28, 2020

How To Say Goodbye

There isn't much about mask-wearing, religious hand sanitizing, and staying home that I am getting used to. I do love the slower pace and I am so grateful that for the moment, I am not homeschooling my kids. I was only a bit antsy through the last few months, but now that there is another surge of COVID-19 spiking California's numbers, I am feeling some major cabin fever. When I get out on occasion to meet friends outside, I feel better -- almost a sense of normalcy -- but I get home and the feeling fades. When I need to get out of the house, I get excited to gear up to go to Target or Whole Foods, but waiting in line making sure people stay far enough away from me is stressful. Once I get in I have more personal space, but no matter what I do, there is always a moment inside where my mask makes me feel panicky. I can talk myself out of freaking out, but this errand which was, in reality, taken as an escape from being home, suddenly causes me to want to rush right back to what I was escaping. The real world is really tough to navigate right now.

There hasn't been a summer in my life that I can remember that I didn't spend back East. I keep trying different scenarios of how we could get back there for a getaway. I have seen friend's photos with them covered in protection that looks just shy of hazmat suits as they board planes to visit family. I have seen friends renting campers and traveling across the country. That requires a level of knowledge, planning, and money that I am not sure I have. I just can't find a way to travel that I feel comfortable with right now, so I feel stuck.

We have a house in Palm Springs that we rent out for short term rentals. We have had it for almost four years and when we don't have it rented, we use it as our vacation home. We love it there and have created wonderful memories over the years. When the virus first struck, the City of Palm Springs shut down all short-term rentals. All of our income from the house came to a screeching halt. We began bleeding money from both houses since we had to keep them both afloat while our incomes also stopped. We had to put our beloved little desert house on the market.

We didn't get many offers at first and then the City lifted their rental ban. We still had many restrictions on how much we could rent it, but I was hoping we could start building the rentals back up. We gave it a few more weeks to see if it would sell, all while secretly I was hoping any bids that came in would be too low to consider and we could keep the house for ourselves. Then after no offers at all, yesterday a few came in all at once. There was one that came in over asking, and we just can't turn it away. We bought this property as an investment and I went ahead and got emotional about it. I have a hard time saying goodbye to people, places, and things. I am clearly too sentimental about nouns and need to let go a bit more. I am attached and beyond sad to sell this house. I wasn't expecting this to happen and I am processing it pretty slowly. We are heading out today to say goodbye and gather our things. A few months ago saying goodbye to this house in of itself would have been sentimental for me, but losing the one escape from home that I feel safe enough to run to is making the goodbye that much harder. I suddenly feel more locked down than I did before. I realize as we make our way there how much my disappointment is trite in comparison to the losses that others have had as a result of this virus. With that perspective, I am going to enjoy this house a few more days and do my best to focus on how well it has served us.


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Pivot

One of the hardest lessons that my husband and I keep trying to teach our children is learning to roll with it. Dealing with disappointment. Changing expectations and learning to pivot. It's not an easy lesson to learn and not one I have mastered yet myself. It is an important life skill and one that I need to get better at modeling for them. Both my kids have a ways to go in this department. There are sometimes hours lost in a day to sulking, but I am not giving up hope. When I think about how far I myself have come, I'm optimistic.

In New York, at least in my family, every time someone loses keys, or can't find an item at the store that was just there last week, or misses an important phone call, the reaction is far from zen. Let's just say, the reactions are loud, irritated and often decorated with profanities. When my husband and I started dating, I witnessed quickly how opposite his reactions to mine were. We had concert tickets to see one of his favorite bands and the tickets were meant to be delivered to my apartment. I wasn't home when the delivery was made so the tickets were left with my neigbor. It took a series of phone calls to track down where the were left and by the time we found them, we only had a half an hour before the concert started. I called my neighbor asking if I could pick them up, but the problem was he was out for the night. I was so annoyed and disappointed about missing the concert. My husband however, just suggested we go out to dinner instead. I was upset for him. I didn't even know the band, but he loved them and was looking forward to going. How could he just move on to dinner? He should have been upset, and since he wasn't I took it all on.

I realize we all react to disappointment differently, partly because of what we were taught, but also partly because of hard wiring. I have, over time, relaxed in my reactions to having to go with the flow. I don't kick and scream, but I do often feel a wave of anger and sadness lift momentarily before having to take a deep breath, to tame the beast. In the last few days, I have seen my daughter walk out of the room annoyed that I said no to some sort of dessert, or I have seen my son cross his arms and shut down to having been denied my attention at the exact moment he demanded it. Both of their feelings are valid, but how long they are willing to stay upset is what we are working on now.

Never has there been a greater lesson in learning to pivot then dealing with a pandemic. Every aspect of our lives changed practically over night. Every single one of us has had to deal with a sense of mourning of life as we knew it. Birthdays, weddings, schools, camps, performances, projects and presentations all had to be rescheduled or changed to fit a computer screen. It is yet to be seen what the long term effects of being socially distanced this long will have. We have all had to be creative to keep our connections to people. There is a time for crying about this all, and I know I have shed a few tears myself, but rolling with it, is accepting it, and I have, at least for now. Hopefully, within a year or two, a vaccine will prove to diminish the risks of this virus. In the meantime, we have a lot of time to hone our pivoting skills.



Thursday, July 16, 2020

Glimmers Of Hope

We are in it! Not a single person will forget what happened in the year 2020. At what seemed like lightning speed, we were all living with the threat of a deadly virus and with a mandatory lockdown. Schools, parks, businesses, beaches and pretty much every place but the grocery store were shut down in that jarring week back in mid May. What first seemed like a temporary situation, one that we could ride out with some down time, crafts and baking, turned into weeks, then months. As we all tried to adjust to our mood changes in this current situation, we watched as over and over again, the racism in this country rears its ugly head. This time, at least the world was paying attention.

In a time when all our emotions were already on edge, many of us collectively cried out at the injustices facing black lives daily in America. The murder of George Floyd pushed the world over the edge, but he is one of way too many black lives killed at the hands of ignorant whites. Many of us took to the streets in protest, which needed to happen and still needs to happen, in order for people to remember that we cannot let racism slip by like any other trending news story. The reality and gravity of the desperate need for change in this country has kicked up some dirt on some long buried nightmares. Young black people whose names and stories we never heard of are finally rising to the surface. Cases against criminals who walked free for murdering black lives are getting seen now for the first time ever. Families, who quietly buried sons, daughters, fathers, and brothers are getting to mourn for the first time with some hope for justice. The road is so long and there are so many years lost for blacks lives being pushed down that it feels impossible for them to catch up. In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, some people respond by saying "All lives matter." No one is saying they don't but if there is one person in a crowd bleeding and I give everyone bandages, those bandages are unused to the person who is bleeding. Black lives are bleeding. Literally. Thankfully, some of us are trying to stop the wounds. It is way overdue, but I am just a bit more hopeful now that people seem to be paying attention. We cannot let our eyes close to this anymore.

Covid 19 is still very much a real issue. Numbers are soaring, especially here in California. So much of the country opened up prematurely and it is showing in the rise in rates of people infected. The numbers are high, but there is some good news in the declining numbers of deaths. The death rate was predicted to be worse than it is right now. Evidence is showing that many people that are getting the virus are getting mild to no symptoms. Some people are testing positive for antibodies without even knowing they had the virus. That means that we are growing some version of herd immunity. There are of course risks and dangers to the unknown turns this tricky virus is taking. For example, blood clots, and side effects caused by an overtaxed immune system. We know that for anyone immune compromised, or elderly, this is a life or death situation, but there is hope for many that it is not as terrifying as we once thought.

On a personal level, I see such a change in the energy in my home since school is out.  For the time being I see a glimmer of hope when we get out of the house. I feel it when I exercise, when I eat a great meal, when my family finds creative ways to see people I haven't seen since the lockdown began. I feel hopeful when I read a great book, when I watch a great show, when I learn something new. I feel hopeful when I hug my husband and my children. I feel hopeful when I am having a hard time with all of this and I realize I am not alone. There is a lot of hope out there. It might take longer to get through this than we originally thought, but we will, and when I don't feel as hopeful -- and there are plenty of times I don't -- I will take those family hugs and hold on a bit longer.





Monday, July 6, 2020

12!

So many changes this year, between entering middle school, navigating new teachers, making new friends, losing some old ones and then having to adjust to lockdown living during a global pandemic. My girl, is not quite little anymore and not quite a teen yet, but walking a tightrope between both those worlds. It is a challenge managing the feelings that come with being still a kid, but also getting more mature. It is hard for her to navigate the pull between wanting to be carefree and silly, or caring about how she is perceived by others. We just recently went through her clothes to make room for some new ones and the growth spurt she had this year seems to be more drastic than any other time in her life. All her pants are too short, her torso seems to have stretched, none of her shoes fit and she is rapidly catching up to me in height.  We went out the other day and I noticed she was wearing my shirt. This was a first and as hard it as it was to see my baby fitting into some of my clothes, I was also flattered that she likes my style enough to wear them.

She has always been expressive and outspoken, but this year she has honed those skills even more. She can be pretty convincing when she wants something. She does her research, states her claims and maps out why we should consider her argument. She already talks about when she can be on the debate team one day, when she goes to high school. She learned how to write a persuasive essay in second or third grade and never looked back. Today for her birthday we made our third trip to a barn to gather information before we brought home two baby chicks. Pip and Poppy have now evicted us out of our downstairs bathroom and have made themselves at home under the new heating lamp set-up just for them. Before we agreed to any of this, she had to find a place for them to go once they got bigger. She thoroughly studied all possible issues and answered any questions we had with a reasonable solution.

I am truly in awe of my daughter. She is bright, talented, sweet and kind. This time in her life is filled with the challenge of balancing getting older, being more independent while also being young enough to play with her brother, giggle like crazy, and still whine sometimes. Every single one of us is navigating this new, weird normal we are in. It is impossible not to feel overwhelmed or upset by it from time to time. I'm sorry any of us have to experience living through this, but I am especially sad for all of our children who need other children. I see a light turned on in my two when we do something social with their friends. We are doing everything we can to keep them healthy and safe right now, but we can't neglect how healthy it is to have them social as well. In the last few weeks, Covid and all, we have been giving our daughter a bit more independence with one of her friends. They ride their bikes to go have lunch in the park together, or even buy a snack on their own. They take small backpacks, with some money and hand sanitizer with them. As cautious as I was the first time I let her go, I knew she was also ready. Showing her that we trust her and allowing her to have an outing like this, has been really great for her and for us. She knows the rules about bike safety and she is with her friend so they both feel safer together.

When I used to think about having a daughter one day, I promised myself that I would make sure to build up her confidence when she became a teenager. The one thing about my own coming of age period is that I came out of it shakier than how I went it to it. I seemed to have lost a lot of self esteem by the time I got to my twenties. I didn't speak up to men when I should have and as a result I ended up feeling less of myself. I committed to this daughter that I hoped to have one day, that I would remind her often of her self worth. I would teach her to respect herself, and shout, scream and cry from the top of a building when anyone mistreats her. So here we are now, on the cusp of the teenage years and I am paying attention. This week as if right on cue, she came to me upset after comparing herself to the size of her friends. She is not a tall girl, she can thank me for that, and she is smaller than most of her friends. She is beginning to go through some changes physically, but not at the same speed of her friends and she is aware of that. She looks younger than she is, so she is often mistaken for being in fourth or fifth grade, which can hurt when trying to be perceived as more mature these days.

As I think about how her identity is changing now, I can't help but to reflect on how she has changed mine. Twelve years ago, my husband drove me down to the hospital through the streets of LA, it felt like the longest, most uncomfortable car ride I ever took. I knew we were heading for something scary, monumental and wonderful that Sunday afternoon, but I didn't realize that the next time I would enter the world again, I would be an entirely different person.

From the moment I held you, I loved you in a way I hadn't felt love before. I became a mother that day and when I laid eyes on you the first time, I didn't know your gender, or your name, but I marveled at this tiny human that I grew. I am so grateful that baby turned into the wonder that you are. You continue to change and grow in the most beautiful ways and I promise to let you know how wonderful you are, even if it might embarrass you now and again. Happy twelfth birthday!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Keep Calm

As a person with anxiety, times when fear is on the rise, can be challenging. I suffer from anxiety and it doesn't come into play that often, but when it does, it feels awful. Earlier in the school year, I had an episode of anxiety, that felt unbearable. My family was going through a lot of loss and a lot of changes. It all just overwhelmed me and I wasn't prepared for how intense it all became. I got help as soon as I knew what was happening. Thankfully, within a few weeks I felt myself again. I realized that I may suffer from anxious episodes but day to day I don't live my life as an anxious person. Quite the opposite actually. I am not afraid of a lot, just afraid of intense anxiety when it creeps back in.

Today's news has anxious and non-anxious people panicking. The stores have empty shelves and the price of toilet paper has gone up because the demand is so great. Friends are stocking up for the apocalypse and preparing for the worst. There is a pandemic upon us, and I was pretty chill until today. I started feeling disconnected and distracted. Then I felt it, anxiety. The realization that I felt it at all caused me to snowball for a minute. The hardest part about living with an anxiety disorder is deciphering when it is normal to be feeling anxious, and when it is just a chemical imbalance. Additionally, overthinking about anxiety just leads to more anxiety -- so good luck to me when that happens. I checked in with my husband, who reminded me that he would be concerned about anyone who wasn't at least a little anxious during this time. With that, I was able to see, that this was a rational reaction to a very bizarre time that we are all experiencing together.

Today, we are collectively somewhat paralyzed by the news. None of us know what lies ahead for us with this pandemic. We are all capable of imagining what a quarantine could look like and we are terrified. My parents are visiting and they can't go home. They are in the unsafe age bracket to be flying right now. I am constantly trying to simultaneously tune in to the news and tune out. It is challenging to know how much is real and how much is hysteria. I could find evidence that seems to prove both sides. I want us to go about our day to day and live our lives, but while being cautious as well. I asked friends how many people are still planning to go on their spring break vacations and how many people are canceling and the response what split down the middle.

It is day-to-day here and I am taking deep breaths (not close to others of course) and hoping that the worst case scenarios do not come to pass. There is no rest for the weary and we all need our sleep right now. I will keep washing my hands, keep my kiddos from picking their noses and hope we still like being around each other when this is all over. Carry On!


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Mixed Messages

It feels to me that half of the people in this country have forgotten that we are living with a global pandemic. The messaging about schools, camps and businesses reopening has given some people the idea that we are going back to the way things used to be. Suddenly I see people have stopped wearing masks around each other, and they are not social distancing as much. I see people are having summer get togethers at people's homes. When I look at social media, I feel like a cliche, because it is actually making me feel left out when I see some people are hanging out together. I know that we were supposed to flatten the curve, and we did, but that doesn't mean the virus is gone now. In fact, the minute we started opening up again, the number of people affected by it went right up.

I am no expert on the virus and there is so much I don't understand. I do know that I am seeing this virus taking all sorts of turns that no doctors expected. We thought kids were not at risk and then children started showing up with serious complications due to overworked immune systems while trying to fight Covid19. We thought most adults without pre existing conditions would get the virus, be a sick a while and probably recover, but then people started getting blood clots and losing limbs from Covid19.  So many of us were under the impression, myself included, that mostly it's the elderly with coronavirus that end up in the hospital, when in reality 25% of the hospitalizations are under 50.  I know we all have to do what is right for ourselves and our families, but knowing what feels right right now is extremely challenging. There is so much we don't know.

The varying degrees of seriousness that people seem to be taking being quarantined, or staying six feet apart, seem to cover a huge range. It makes sense that at this point our children, and us for that matter, are starved for social interaction, but it seems that some have put that hunger before their health. Even though some camps are allowed to open up again doesn't mean the CDC has said it is safe to send your kids. I understand there are precautions in place but I can't get comfortable with the idea of sending my kid into a group of 5, 7 or 10 other kids and hope that all those kids families are being careful too. It's kind of like what they teach you in high school health class that when you sleep with someone, you are sleeping with everyone they've slept with before. I have friends who I love and respect that are sending their kids to camp this summer, it just isn't for my family yet. Not to mention I don't want my kid to have to wear a mask all day in summer heat, and yet I really don't want them not wearing a mask either.

Lot's of people are also comfortable being a betting man. I know the virus has less of a chance of living outside so they seem to throw caution to the wind outdoors. I am also not willing to sit inside my own house all summer without seeing friendly faces. I am going to the beach, I am going to ride bikes, I am even swimming in the pool that I share with my neighbors (4 at a time) but I am not ready to do much without a mask. I am also not ready to stand close to anyone. My parents were here in February when the news started to come out about the virus. They weren't supposed to go home until mid-March but by then the world had stopped in it's tracks and there was no way I was going to let them fly home. They ended up staying until last week, a total of four months. I am so grateful to have had the time with them, but due to their ages, and their risk factor, I never once got to hug them the whole time. It sucked, but it was a small price to pay for having them healthy. They desperatley wanted to get home so right before things opened up too much, they flew home. I suited them up in everything short of a hazmat suit. They had N95 masks, face shields over the masks and each carried little bottles of anti bacterial gel. It was no small decision to make for them or for us about going or staying, but in the end they needed to get home.

When I hear about needing to get to a herd immunity, I lose my ability to follow. We are at 5% now and need 40% of people to become immune in order for her immunity to go into effect, but in most cases it is really over 85% of the population needs to have immunity before herd immunity to go into effect. The only other way herd immunity can go into effect is with a vaccine, so either way we are looking at a lot of time and a lot of sickness before this is a valid option to bank on. I get the need to open up our economy again, but I don't get it at the cost of many, many lives and I feel like in some ways that is the messaging we are getting right now. I don't intent to preach here at all but rather thought I might be preaching to the choir, but the choir is singing several different songs at the moment.

So while I might see some friends "opening up their bubbles", "quaranteaming" or just letting their guard down entirely, I don't judge you, but I won't be joining you. This past weekend my daughter came off of a zoom birthday party with tears streaming down her face. She said two of her friends on the zoom were sitting right next to each other on the same bed having a sleepover. She had so many different feelings, the first being, how are they together when we aren't supposed to be? Then she said it was awful to be alone at home like the rest of the group on the Zoom, while two girls laughed at inside jokes and muted themselves to talk. Lastly, she cried because she misses being able to be with friends the way she used to, but understands why she can't. I couldn't have put my thoughts together any better than she could, nor could I disagree. There are a lot of mixed messages out there, and not a lot of answers.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

With A Little Help

It's interesting that as social as I am, I am not interested in Zooming, or FaceTime'ing, or sometimes even talking to my friends on the phone. All of these are such poor substitutes for the real thing. There are days where I think I am doing okay. Well, "quarantine ok" -- and then there are days where my mood is all over the place. This week there was news about schools unlikely opening in the fall, and I could not process that well. I have been really good at taking this whole thing day by day, but I felt suffocated by the idea that months from now we would still be in this situation. This news comes at the same time that some locations are opening up again, so I feel pulled between all of these new versions of reality. For the first time since this all began, my friends and I did a distanced birthday celebration on a grassy field. Despite the face masks and the distance, it was glorious.

We need people. We need our friends. Children need other children. I feel lucky that I have three other people living with me, but my heart hurts for people who live alone right now. My aunt in Manhattan has lived alone her whole adult life. She didn't mind it, but her daily interactions with people she worked with or met for meals sustained her. Now she is so lonely it hurts. My student Betty is 85 and lives alone too. She has children and grandkids, but only one of her sons comes to visit her from her porch. I have asked her if I could pick up her groceries but she insists on doing it herself because she says it is her only adventure out of her house. My kids and I decided we would bake for Betty and go over and drop it off. We made her muffins and jam and told her we were going to drop it off and wave from the sidewalk. We made signs to say hello and when I saw her eyes from over the top of her mask, they looked happy and sad at the same time. I felt exactly the same way. She yelled out to us that it was so good to see us and then added, it was so good to see any people. On the phone with me, she said she doesn't know if the world will ever be the same again. I wished that I could reassure her that she would see the world in a way that was familiar to her, but I can't say with any certainty in her lifetime that she will.

The afternoon after I had seen my friends, I went from feeling alive, hopeful and refreshed to feeling really blue. It was a let down to realize that the outing took so much energy out of me and that as great as it was, it will be few and far between before I spend time with people again. I love my family, having time with them, being creative and staying busy with projects at home but I am really uncomfortable sitting in this unknown for so long. I was doing pretty well, taking it all day by day, but the last few have had me jumping ahead to what our summer will look like, or what the fall will hold. None of us know, and since the Subaru commercial says we're in this together, I need to heed their words (not the ones where they tell me to buy a new car when no one is going anywhere, but the supportive ones). A few years ago when our water filter needed a replacement cartridge, I wanted to try and do it myself instead of asking my husband for help. He was at work and I was home with my then 4 year old. I managed to wiggle under the sink and remove the old cartridge but in trying to insert the new one I hit something and water spewed everywhere. In what felt like five minutes our entire kitchen floor was flooded with water up to our ankles. My son asked if we should call the police. I didn't do that, but I asked for help and was able to drain it out and save our floors. All this could have been prevented if I asked for help in the first place.

I am using that story as a reminder, that sometimes I try to prove to myself that I can do things independent of others. There has been a lot I have gained from this attitude in the past, for example I backpacked nine countries on my own after breaking up with my then boyfriend. I moved all the way to LA from NY in a 1976 VW van, and started with a new beginning with $1500 to my name. I studied and took the GMAT then applied to graduate school at Harvard without telling a soul. That last one really proved that asking for help is something we need to be able to do sometimes. Suffice to say, I did not get in. At this time in our history, we are living through a huge challenge and Subaru is right. I am not in this alone. I need to remember to pick up the phone and call (not text) a friend and ask for help when I am scared, sad, mad or alone. Chances are good that whoever I am speaking with will also have experienced some if not all of those feelings, maybe even in the last hour. So in a time when we are already disconnected because we have to be, I want to reach out just a bit more. Even if it is hard, I know all of us humans might get by with a little help from our friends.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

We Can Do Better

The last two weeks have been intense. It is challenging to feel hopeful about equality in this country after seeing what has happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery -- and those are just the names we know of. My friend's cousin was shot eighteen times by NYPD last week, and no one is talking about him in the news. He was already on the ground with two others when all three were struck with bullets. They survived, but he didn't. No one is hearing his name or his story anywhere. His mother said, "It would have taken one bullet to kill him but they had to shoot him eighteen times." If it isn't caught on video and we don't know it is happening, it doesn't mean it isn't happening. Too many black lives are violently stolen and we can do better. As a country, as citizens and as human beings: we can do better.

I've read so many articles recently about how to talk to your white children about race. I've read about making sure you tell your children about what is going on in the news recently. I've read that our children will pick up on our reactions, so be aware of what our response is to what is happening. While I agree with all of these articles, I am more shocked that speaking to children about racism is not something everyone has been doing since they had a child. I was surprised to learn that a mom of one of my daughter's friends never had conversations like this before. She believed that if you let your children interact with everyone in a diverse setting then children will make friends with everyone and live happily ever after. Quite the opposite is true. I do in fact live in a very diverse school district and think that the district does a good job of teaching about inclusion and equality. It is clear though that diversity doesn't equal equity. It seems that within the five elementary schools here, the ones that serve poorer families are the same schools where the test scores are lower. That could be less parent involvement, English as a second language for some children make it harder to learn in English, less school fund raising, but it also could be that their voices aren't being heard loud enough. We can do better. For such a diverse little pocket of LA  our police officers have been known to pull over people that are black and brown. At one of our local protests this past week, they said they will "do better".

Please don't assume that children are resilient and that all of this news will not have lasting impact on them. It does and it should, but it is my job as a parent to model behavior for them. My children are watching me and taking my cue. How many friends of color do I have? How many friends of color do they have? How often so we see these friends and have them over to our house or go to theirs? How I view the police in this country is how they will view the police. I have had to explain that the very people in uniforms that are meant to serve and protect us are also the same people causing so much harm. I have had to explain that people are innocent before proven guilty in America, but that the police don't seem to remember that when they hurt people. I have explained that there are racist people in this country, and that some of the famous people in American history that they learned about were straight-up racist too. We have made signs and marched in protests, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, because this can't wait. We can do better, we will do better and now is the time to show our children tha
t we can see the system is broken. It was built broken and together we can do better to make it work fairly.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Hating Pot

As a teenager, a letter was sent around to the NYC schools announcing an audition for a project about racism and anti-semitism. I went to the audition and found myself so invested in the exercises. The people running the audition were giving us different historic examples of hate and asking us to reenact the scenarios. Sometimes we were the perpetrators, and sometimes we were the victims. Until that day, I had never known about art or theatre for social change, but I was so moved during the audition.  I didn't even know what type of project this was going to be, but it felt important and  I knew I wanted to be part of it. I didn't get my hopes up that I would get in, but I remember being excited to get a callback.  When I got the call inviting me to participate, I was asked to commit the summer to workshopping and rehearsals. I was nervous but excited since I had no idea what to expect. Little did I know that when I stepped into that room, I would be embarking on one of the most important experiences in my life. One that would go on for over four years and stay with me my whole life.

Liz Swados was the the director and visionary of the project. She had worked with kids before when she wrote "Runaways" some years before. She swore off working with kids again, but since this was a project dealing with stereotypes, she decided to challenge herself to be open to trying again. On that first day when I met her, I was both fascinated and terrified by her. I knew right away that there were a million creative thoughts running through her mind. She had a small frame with a head of big red hair. She was intense, focused and clearly brilliant. There were over twenty of us in the group, mostly teenagers, with about seven or eight adults. With Liz guiding us like a mother, a teacher and a force, she dove us into a world of relationships. We learned about relationships, racism, bigotry, between races. With a lot of hesitation and a whole lot more trust, we bravely spoke of our own stereotypes. We were all so vulnerable and raw when we opened up with sometimes hurtful words and ignorant beliefs. Together we would break down where racism and anti-semitism started. We would act out horrific times in our history, get angry together, cry together, and then come together again.

We all went on quite a journey with what became a pretty powerful musical production. Starting with that first summer when we improvised our way through hard, hateful, hurtful skits to connecting to one another on the many traits we had in common. We parted ways for a month or so while Liz took all the work we had done and pieced it together into one seamless creation. We rehearsed our words mixed with her fine tuning and then took our production to schools around the city and then around the country. We went to all black schools, all latino schools, all Jewish schools and public schools. We felt the audience as their eyes opened wide. Sometimes our message was received with open arms and sometimes it wasn't. We were a cast of all races and ethnicities. Our message was a real one about hatred, one that hurt to hear, but was honest none the less. We ultimately sang, "We are all the same, in blood and in bone, on the street or alone." Some took that message the wrong way and after the show would speak out that we weren't all the same. We were trying to show that despite the way people have been treating one another, we are all human. Our intentions were to share that for far too long people have their vision blurred by hate, history and rumors. When the ignorance of bigotry is put to the side, it is a bit clearer to see that we are all equal in what we are made of: skin, tissue, and a heart.

My own eyes were opened to the world in a way I hadn't seen it before participating in this project. I grew up in New York City, going to public schools with diverse students and diverse teachers. The people of color in my life were my peers and I didn't quite realize how uncommon that was until I joined the play. I am Jewish though, and I had experienced anti-semitism, and after being hurt by it, I am ashamed to say I tried to hide my Judaism for quite a few years. It was more comfortable for me to blend in with a diverse group than to be segregated, but I learned that even in the city of New York, very few neighborhoods were as diverse as Flushing, Queens. There were two other Jewish girls in the play with me, one went to private prep school and was very focused on college, and the other was very religious and had never touched  a black person prior to meeting one of our cast mates. My experience was very different from theirs. I started to see that I was more in the minority and that the city that I thought was so diverse, only looks that way when you walk down the street, ride the subway or take the bus. People would branch off to neighborhoods that were mostly one race or religion.

Everyone in the cast became close. No matter what area of the city you lived in, a version of home grew in this group. We trusted each other and we were a team. We went through some trying challenges building the production and we were all invested. My friend Kizzy's family was from the West Indies and she lived in Brooklyn. I hung out with her often and her family was always so loving towards me. Once at a party at her house, the music was playing, the apartment filled with celebrating friends and family, I looked up to realize I was the only white person. It was the first time for me and in that moment it hit me how many countless times Kizzy was the only black person in a room. My identity, my awareness of the need for human rights, civil rights and equality have mostly been shaped by being part of this group. The name of the play was called "The Hating Pot," because despite the Melting Pot we thought our city was, we were mistaken.

Many years passed, and many of the cast mates lost touch. Some remain in New York but many have scattered around the country. I am connected through Facebook with a handful of them, but over twenty years have passed since we have all been together. In 2016 we were all heartbroken to learn that Liz had passed away from cancer. It all happened so quickly that very few cast mates were able to make her memorial. I don't think I have processed that I will never get to say goodbye. Recently, many of us were tagged in a video we made for her wife's birthday back then. It started a thread of dialogue between us and a Zoom call. Since that time, our country has been screaming from the injustice and loss of George Floyd. His death was one of many racist acts of violence that has made it all too apparent how much work our country needs to do. I honestly thought we had made so much change with "The Hating Pot" years ago, but our work is far from over. The first calls we had were amazing reunion calls, but since then it is clear that we are together again for a reason. The message of "The Hating Pot" clearly needs to be heard.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

People I Love

During these crazy times, we are spending an intense amount of time with our family members. My children can go from absolute best friends to furious enemies in shocking speed. We are all experiencing rapid mood changes, but we are learning how to navigate it one day at a time. After the initial shock of how our lives would be limited, we settled into somewhat of a new routine. We got used to spending all this time together and knowing when to give each other space, even in the confines of our home. Before this, I don't think I spent this much time with my husband on a day to day basis. I was worried that we would get on each other's nerves and that we would get in each other's way. It is true that we sometimes race to be the one to take the dog out for a walk. We occasionally bicker about little things or disagree on how late the kids should stay up, but overall I am so happy that he is the person I get to spend this time with. My husband is my best friend. We have seen each other through some pretty dark and crazy times since we have been together. He is accepting, understanding, patient and loving. This whole situation has brought me even closer to him. He makes me laugh, and he holds me when I cry. Before the pandemic, we had many conversations, but they have been rushed, or interrupted. With all this time together, we have more opportunity to grow closer. He is encouraging, inspiring and supportive. The two of us have never been homebodies, so this initially was quite challenging not getting to go anywhere, but that doesn't stop his enthusiasm. He keeps going and comes up with new ways to create projects and work that inspires him. When we met, he worked in A&R for Columbia Records. He went to music shows most nights of the week. He loved his job and would always share music he enjoyed with me.. The music industry collapsed and he had to reinvent himself a few times over. I have never met another soul so resilient and industrious. He choses new paths to try often and never gets intimidated. It is a testament to his parents, who believed in their children and didn't just tell them they could do anything, but showed them how. My husband has always invested in real estate, been involved with music in some way, and has even dipped his foot into the restaurant world. A few years ago, he approached a friend of his to host a live show at a nightclub. After a successful run, he turned it into a radio show and then wanted to make it into a TV show. He had never produced television in his life, but he didn't let that stop him. Before too long, he was pitching his concept to HBO and Amazon, just to name a few. He and his friend ended up getting two seasons of the show picked up and aired. The night the first episode was shot, I walked on to this huge set filled with audience members, a crew, and Norman Lear as a guest being interviewed. My husband looked so swanky and handsome in his jacket. He was nervous and sweating, but didn't show it. I walked up to him, looked around and then took his hand and said, “You did this.” I was so excited for him. I am beyond grateful that he is my husband, and that my children get to have a father like him. He values family, connecting with his children, and being available to them. Before my eyes, he is passing on his parents message to our children. He helps them to believe in themselves confidently. Above all, he loves them and loves me, and he shows it. This is the life I dreamt of. Even during this time, as gushy as it sounds, he brings the life back into quarantine life. I never tire of taking in our children and admiring them with him. I often make him look at them with me and say, "Look what we did!" Together, we are a good team. This strange new life that we have will continue to challenge us and our children, but I picked the best teammate for the ride.









Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Doers Do

Everyone I know is dealing with their own version of cabin fever right now. If you are stuck inside with loved ones, there is bound to be a time where you get annoyed with them. As humans, I don't think we were meant to spend this much time in our homes with other people. Considering all that is going on in the world, and here at home, we are doing well. It brings out some interesting elements of our personalities, and my own inability to relax is not helpful right now.

I have never been called lazy, I have been called "the energizer bunny" more than a few times though. Getting things done makes me feel accomplished. I like checking things off a list, stacking them up and knocking them down. Despite the quotes that say "life's most important things aren't on a to do list" or, "to do: live in the moment," I feel I am living my best life presently when going down my to do list. I am not excited by laundry or running errands, but I am thrilled when I get them done. My lists also consist of fun projects, and in the face of this global pandemic, I planned on adding activities to my list such as baking, bread making, brushing up on my Italian, learning to knit or crochet, making scavenger hunts for my kids, listening to new music, reading more, doing yoga, meditation, taking a lot of walks, playing tennis, sewing, art, cooking, and watching movies. We are in week three  hundred now, and I have done all of those things on my list. We have way too many baked goods here, we demolished all of the sourdough bread, and I have a bunch of new homemade wares in my home. We are eating well, sleeping well, scavenger hunting, and spending quality time together. The only thing on my list I am struggling with is chilling out.

In the spirit of all things happening for a reason, I heard on the radio that people need to stop putting pressure on themselves to be productive during this time. As Americans we have this idea that we are not enough if we are not successful. That idea is definitely stuck in my head and I keep thinking about ways to slow down in a very slow time. When I stopped being the PTA president at my children's school, I wasn't sure how I would fill up that time. It took a week or two to adjust, but then I suddenly felt busy again. The woman who took over for me wasn't surprised -- she said, "you are a doer, and doers do." It is challenging for me to be at home and not see more things I need to do. I keep cleaning, de-cluttering, and organizing. I am not great at any of those things so I now have plenty of time to practice.

So in my attempt to do just a little less, I will only bake one thing today. I will watch more TV. I will cuddle my kiddos without having to let go. I will flip pages in my magazine and not read every single article. I will play whatever games, however many times my kids want to play them. I will wander when I walk, stop and chat (from a safe distance) when I see people. I will give myself a break if I don't do something important everyday. If I have learned anything so far from this time together, it is that we all needed to take a beat. I am so grateful for my family, even if we are getting on each other's nerves now and again. This will all blow over in a few months (or years)and there will be things about this concentrated period that we might just miss. I am going to take my time, and try to slow down and enjoy it, since we all know, we have it right now.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

8!

This birthday will not be how my boy hoped it would be back when he started planning his eighth party shortly after his seventh birthday. He wanted a birthday party with a few friends and hoped to have his first slumber party. He has been dealing with each Corona-related piece of news fairly well. He hasn't shown a huge range of emotion when talking about his feelings directly related to the loss of his social life, but it comes out in other ways. This time has required us to ask a lot of our children. It is hard for us, and they look to us to be the strong ones. Just a glimpse of me unraveling in front of my kids and their eyes look like they might pop out of their heads. We are all human though, and I am not one to keep my feelings to myself. I am all over the map these days, so some days we cruise  that map together, other times we hit our own destinations.

My daughter is pretty independent with her schooling now. She knows what is expected of her assignments and keeps her own Zoom schedule. My husband is working from home and I am a newly appointed second grade teacher. My son is not at an age where he can independently go through his daily assignments. He has gotten better at keeping an eye on what his next activity is on his schedule but he needs quite a bit of hand holding. This has been extremely trying for both of us, but has also bonded the two of us tighter, even if on some days we could both use some space. My little (not for long) boy drove me to tears of frustration in a way I have never experienced before. He has also filled my heart in a way I didn't know was possible. There are some nights I just can't get enough hugs and kisses in. He likes to snuggle before bed and some nights I snuggle him tightly to the point of him asking me to please go. I will never cease to let him know how much I love him.

Here we are at eight years old already and I am so proud! I am not sure how these years are flying by so quickly but they are. I don't have any babies left so please pardon me, If I baby my last one for a long time to come. I told him he could have any food he wanted so we could make his birthday special, given the circumstances and he chose pizza for breakfast, In-And-Out for lunch, and sushi for dinner. He knows he will get to unwrap some presents and have dessert after dinner, but he doesn't know that we have the car decorated and ready to drive him to his friends to see them wish him a "happy birthday." Even if it is from a distance, I think it will be just what he needs right now.

When I think about him turning eight, there is so much unknown for what this year ahead holds for him, and for all of us. I know that between his sister, his father and myself he has the love department covered. He has a bunch of close friends, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents ready and waiting to high five and hug him when the time is right. Hopefully, sooner than later, and with any luck by the time you turn nine buddy, I will make good on that sleepover party.

Eight is great, and so are you sweet boy!


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Please Wait While We Put You On A Brief Hold

The last few Sunday nights, I get this pang when I remember that I am a teacher again come Monday morning. I have my degree in education, I love teaching children new things, but I was never going to be a classroom teacher, and certainly didn't plan on teaching my own children in a classroom of one. I have thought about homeschooling my children, but the thought was rather fleeting. My core belief is that the social interaction and life skills that comes from being with other people are such an important part of a child's education. I also feel that the space and time that my children and I spent away from each other during the school day are also an important part of my sanity.

I have embraced this time though and have even come to love a lot of it. To say that it is easy breezy and effortless would be a big fat lie. The emotions are big and colorful these days and there is a full rainbow of flavors hour to hour. My children are arguing, angry and annoyed with each other some of the time, and all of that is okay. I am trying to teach them the difference between being upset and being mean. One is okay and the other is unacceptable. I am also seeing growth and communication like never before. My daughter has been able to get upset, and then come around to say she overreacted. My son has learned to describe why he gets frustrated and that when his sister (who is always one step ahead of him) get's bossy, he doesn't like it. So much of the time I listen to both of them and end up saying, "I know, I agree with you, this is so hard."

There is so much we are getting out of all this time we have. My kids are being so much more creative with how they play. They are learning more life skills each day. I introduced my daughter to the vacuum and washing machine. My son learned how to clean baseboards and wipe the table down each night. They also learned, probably faster than I am learning, that so much in life is out of our control. We all got the news back in March that our lives were about to change, and each day it seemed the measures we had to stay healthy and protected were more drastic than the ones that came the day before. I know I got a crazy set of extreme emotions as a result of the news. I was scared, sad, disappointed, frustrated, resentful and on and on and on. On the days that it got hot, I walked by the recently closed pool in our neighborhood, and felt like it was teasing me from behind the locked gate. I got panicky behind my face mask when I felt too hot and wondered when and if things will ever be normal again.

I heard the news about school being closed for the rest of the school year and I couldn't process it. It seemed too hard to wrap my ahead around, and too far ahead in the future. This situation has forced me to stay in this moment, right here, right now. None of us know the answers. We could have never guessed how catastrophic a turn this virus would spin us in. I feel strange just even expressing all these feelings while some people are trying to adjust to losing someone they love to COVID-19. It's a pretty sucky time in the world and in some ways, I think being home on lockdown is the easy part. When the world slowly opens up again, I think it will be harder. Some people will have so much fear about being vulnerable to getting sick, while others will try to go back too quickly. It is taking us a while to adjust to all this change we are living with now, I wonder undoing the restrictions will cause even more shock to our systems.

I don't know much for certain these days, except that my kids have learned to deal with this change better than I have. This has resulted in them being so resilient and resourceful. While we wait, I am going to take some time learning from them. After all, I am getting a bit tired of being the teacher all the time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Where There Is a Kim There Is a Way

Although we are not able to socialize with our friends in person these days, I feel lucky to live right near a few good friends that I see from a distance when we are out walking the dog each day. One of which, is actually making this whole quarantine thing fun each day. For those of you who have never met Kim Wilson, I feel a bit sad for you. This human brings joy to everyone she meets, just with her bubbly energy alone. To add to that, she is always up for something fun. She is positive, enthusiastic, creative and driven. I met her at our children's elementary school when "we" first started there. She is one of those moms who is always involved, but it never looks trying to her.

Over the last few years, Kim and I have collaborated on countless events, projects and fundraisers. She is one of my favorite people to team up with because no matter how concerned or overwhelmed I get with it all coming together, she is always confident and calm that it will be fine. So far she has never been wrong on this. Even if we run into bumps in the road, Kim is resourceful enough to get any train back on the track. She is one of the only people I know that is clearly an adult, but has this wonderful ability to be youthful and silly. I love the ideas she has and I love joining her in making those ideas happen.

Over the first few weeks when we were stuck at home I made a scavenger hunt for my kids and once they found everything, they left it all in place for Kim's kids to find too. The next day, she and her kids painted rocks for my kids to find. Not long after, more and more neighbors from the complex joined in to leave painted rocks for people to admire. Each day, when I am out walking, if I see Kim's patio door is open, I call up and say "Hello Kim" and if she can hear me she comes out to say hello. From a story above me, she has become my Juliet, saving me from these strange times. We talk about gardening projects, sourdough bread, sewing masks for neighbors who need them, obstacle courses to draw the kids, homeschooling, and what we are making for dinner.

There is a lot we have in common. In normal times we would go for walks together, spend summer days hanging out by our pool. We shared a passion for plant-based recipes, health and wellness. We helped our daughters create their popsicle business "Popcycle" by making homemade popsicles with them so they could sell them from their bicycles the last two summers. Our daughters both grew their hair long so they could cut and donate their hair at the same time.

To say we come from different backgrounds is an understatement. Kim is a practicing Mormon, who grew up on a farm in Utah. I am a not-so-religious Jewish girl from Flushing, Queens. She once realized that by the time she turns 45 she will be an empty nester, and I responded that at 45, I would be standing right here talking to her. Despite these differences, we are very close. I enjoy our friendship daily and I am so grateful for her. Just when I get down about being stuck at home, Kim is there on her terrace reminding me that we can do this.