Sunday, December 6, 2015

excuses

She loved him.
She knew that it would be work.
So she glorified.

He made comments about her cooking
her eating
her makeup
her clothes
why she didn't have better hair
where that great ass he fell in love with had gone.

She questioned the late nights
the colleagues
the prescription medications
the alcohol
the overnight trips.
She was met with swift resistance
denial
and being told she was ridiculous.

He joked about whom she texted and called
Then he looked through her phone
to read her emails
and her text messages.
And then he forbid communication
with certain people.
And then he checked her phone every night
to ensure compliance.

She stopped seeing her friends.
She stopped sharing stories with
her neighbors
her best friend
her mom.

She told them to call her
at work
only.

He acted like her orgasm wasn't important,
and then he said it wasn't
and then he stopped pretending he needed consent.

She told herself that it wasn't abuse until he hurt her
until he hit her
until he left a mark
until he put her in the hospital
until he put her in a coma
until he put her in a grave.

He apologized the first time
"baby, I'm so sorry"
the second time
"it won't happen again"
the thirteenth time
"I was just so _____"

Her rock bottom was
the morning her makeup couldn't conceal
the day the bank said their account was empty
the afternoon he threatened to kill himself
the night he almost killed her

when she learned she was pregnant
when she missed her sister's wedding
when she had her jaw wired back into place

She got a lawyer
and she got her life back.

Because, yes, love is work
but it shouldn't damage.

nice

In my final semester of college, I took a poetry class with Maya Angelou. She was generous with her time and talent, and she was a joy to be around.

We studied this poem, among many others, and I find myself returning to it these days, nearly 13 years later.

The Friend
Marge Piercy

We sat across the table.
he said, cut off your hands.
they are always poking at things.
they might touch me.
I said yes.

Food grew cold on the table.
he said, burn your body.
it is not clean and smells like sex.
it rubs my mind sore.
I said yes.

I love you, I said.
That’s very nice, he said
I like to be loved,
that makes me happy.
Have you cut off your hands yet?

Friday, November 27, 2015

meme

Due to unforeseen circumstances, my beau was unable to take off any time for Thanksgiving. This means that I got two days with his daughter, since she is out of school and in our care. She calls me "Meme," which is as close to "Emmy" as her toddler mouth could form.

When I was not working in 2013, I would sometimes keep her home from day care to have what we called a "Meme Day." Just me and her, doing errands, everyday tasks, or, sometimes, something special.

Meme Days are my favorite. They are exhausting (I really have no idea how stay-at-home parents do it!), but they are incredibly worthwhile.

On Wednesday, we went to the office in the morning (she is a favorite among the police officers, although she is a favorite among anyone with the ability to see or hear) and then took a child-centric walking tour of the French Quarter that I cannot recommend highly enough. Then we had lunch at Tableau, where she had turtle soup, because soup is her favorite. The other children at our table were vociferously grossed out by her choice. I judged them silently until their parents chastised them appropriately.

She wants to be a chef when she grows up; we cultivate her culinary curiosity and are grateful to not have a picky eater, although I'm prone to believe that young picky eaters are a product of nurture more than nature.

Our Meme Day today started with cleaning from last night's Thanksgiving extravaganza and quickly improved into a holiday tea party at the Windsor Court. It's our third year for holiday tea, and it is always a special way to feel grown up. I asked if she wanted to wear a party dress, and she said she wanted to wear our matching dresses, which always thrills me.

I know my time is limited for her wanting to be like me, although I hope she never stops wanting to look like me.

After tea, we visited her daddy at work, and he took us to the park for lunch. Our Meme Day concluded with a Tinkerbell movie.

I am incredibly grateful for these moments. We only see her for half of her life, so I try to be very cognizant of taking away any of that half from my beau. That's why Meme Days are particularly special.

No little girl dreams of being a stepmom when she grows up, but, this week, potential future stepmotherhood looks promising, full of beauty and love and laughter. Thank you, #heartbreaker, for this reassurance.

Monday, November 23, 2015

thanks

In October of 2013, I wrote about my annual orphan Thanksgiving at the end of this post.

Tis the season. We've got 11 adults and three children signed up for Thursday evening, and I'm excited to throw a party.

Every year, I ask people to bring whatever dish will make it feel like Thanksgiving to them, and I don't care if we end up with three corn casseroles. So far, our potluck sign up includes side dishes (sausage stuffing, asparagus wrapped in bacon, quinoa salad) and dessert (pumpkin pie, whoopie pies, chocolate something).

Also: wine.

Stephanie O'Dea has never misled me, so I'm going to follow her recipe for turkey breast using seasonings from another recipe, because these days I am enamored of herbes de Provence, and my mom always used apple cider in our turkeys growing up.

I'm worried that one turkey breast isn't enough for all of us, so I think I'm also going to roast chicken legs after marinating them in avocado oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, smashed garlic, and herbes, which will render drippings for a complementary gravy.

I'm making mashed potatoes ahead of time, like Real Simple suggests. I'll also make cranberry sauce, subbing shallots for onions and vegetable broth for chicken broth, which I've tripled and made for nine consecutive Thanksgivings.

love this recipe for oyster dressing, but I'm not sure we need two stuffings.

One of my friends/guests is a vegan; I will stir together a wild rice and mushroom pilaf (with parmesan cheese on the side for the rest of us) and will make simple sauteed green beans instead of my usual gourmet green bean casserole.

I may bake apples for dessert in the very simple style I learned on Whole30: slice and core apples, toss with coconut oil and copious garam masala, and roast at 400 until the desired level of brown. I could put those in the oven when we sit down to dinner, when the oven's done being used.

We still need appetizers. Any vegan suggestions? Child friendly bites that won't fill them up? Low labor intensity? No bake?

I hope that your meal is delicious.
I hope you share it with people you love.
I hope you have many things for which to be grateful.
I hope you feel satiated.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

disconsolate

This is one of my favorite poems. I read it every time I worry I've become the volatile couple... Which is pretty easy to do during the holidays, as I balance my desires/needs with his and hers and ours and theirs.

*

When a Woman Loves a Man

David Lehman, 1948

When she says margarita she means daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, "I'll never speak to you again," she means, "Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window."

He's supposed to know that.

When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia
or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,
or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park
and he
is raking leaves in Ithaca
or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing
disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

When a woman loves a man it is one ten in the morning
she is asleep
he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
drinking lemonade
and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed where she remains asleep and very warm.

When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, "We're talking about me now,"
he stops talking. Her best friend comes over and says,
"Did somebody die?"

When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream
on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle
of water rushing over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.

Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?

When he says, "Ours is a transitional era,"
"that's very original of you," she replies,
dry as the martini he is sipping.

They fight all the time
It's fun
What do I owe you?
Let's start with an apology
Ok, I'm sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying "Laughter."
It's a silent picture.
"I've been fucked without a kiss," she says,
"and you can quote me on that,"
which sounds great in an English accent.

One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it another nine times.

When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he's there. He doesn't complain
that
she's two hours late
and there's nothing in the refrigerator.

When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She's like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn't want the day to end.

When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.

Friday, November 20, 2015

hCG

A friend of mine found out that she was pregnant and described that first trimester as carrying around "a life-sized secret."

two pink lines equals
all of the emotions, plus
a life-sized secret.

plated

We have started ordering groceries/meals online from plated. The minimum order is four plates (so, four servings of one meal or two servings of two meals); each plate is $12.

It all started when I complained on facebook about how the worst part of being an adult is having to decide what to feed yourself. I was spending a lot of time menu planning, recipe researching, going to the grocery store, schlepping the groceries to my car, schlepping the groceries from my car... and then prepping everything, only to realize I needed three yellow onions, not two... so back to the store I'd go for the forgotten item(s).

This summer, we completed a Whole30, which meant a lot of time at the grocery store and in the kitchen. I'd keep lists of all of the protein + produce we had in the fridge to help prevent wasted leftovers (and to remind us of all of the good food we had to eat so that we wouldn't go hunting in the pantry for Goldfish!).

This got us into a routine of cooking at home, which saves money and calories. It also gives us some good quality time as partners. My beau's daughter wants to be a chef when she grows up, so whatever we can have a five-year-old help with (just about anything that doesn't involve taking something heavy out of the oven or knives) becomes a family event.

Enter plated. Garlic comes peeled. Spices come in premeasured baggies. Brussels sprouts come already shredded. Condiments come in tiny bottles. Very rarely does anything have to be measured - you just add the whole container of ___ to your pot/pan/mixing bowl.

We also tried blue apron and HelloFresh and found that plated was the best fit for us.

  • We liked the recipes and packaging best. 
  • I liked the optional minimum of four meals. Sometimes all we can commit to is two meals cooked at home in a five-day period.
  • They deliver in New Orleans on Wednesdays, giving us two weeknights and the weekend to prepare food.
  • I like being able to know exactly what ingredients were coming so that I could modify/supplement; for example, if one night we're having a noodle-based dish, I'll make sure we have some frozen broccoli or fresh romaine on hand. 
  • We find the portions to be very generous; we order two plates and always have enough for two adults and one child and then typically have enough leftover for one or two lunches. (We both sit at our desks and eat lunch. A lot. A friend recently described this as eating "al desco," which I find hilarious.)
  • The meals are relatively healthy. You know how many calories are in each serving and can portion accordingly.
  • The animal products are all organic.
  • The recipes are far simpler than the ones I typically make.
I recommend finding a friend who has free boxes to give away (I talk about it so much that I lack invites right now) and trying it, especially as we enter the craziness of the holiday season. Sometimes all you need to feel calmer is to stand around as a family, create something together, and then share it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

blanket bay

On my favorite evenings, my beau's little girl asks me to sing her a lullabye.

It's the one my mother sang to me and my brother when we were little. I've sung it to her enough that she can sing along with me, although lately, she has not joined in as much.

Tonight was just such a special occasion, and I'm glad to share it with you

all aboard
for blanket bay
won't be back til the break of day
cuddle up in your little white sheet
til all you see are your two little feet
and it's ships ahoy, and sail away
sail away little sleepyhead
bless mommy
bless daddy
and sail away
all aboard
for blanket bay.

Monday, November 16, 2015

particular

I've had two phone conversations today with friends who are in the beginning stages of divorce. Even when it's the right decision, it is never an easy one. No many how many times he has (not) hurt you, hit you, cheated on you, been noncommunicative, insulted your family or friends, frozen your funds, gambled your funds... It's not easy.

You want him to improve. You believe he will.

You can't believe you would have chosen someone so (in)capable of wrongdoing.

And yet you still go.
You know that staying with him means deserting you.
You know it's the right decision, even though it hurts your everything.
It breaks promises.
It confuses your child(ren).
It forces you to spend energy on yourself, which you've forgotten how to do.

But you go, despite how "selfish" it is. Because you know if you don't, in another emergency, you won't know to put your oxygen mask on first.

*

that particular time

my foundation was rocked
my tried and true way to deal was to vanish
my departures were old
I stood in the room shaking in my boots

at that particular time love had challenged me to stay
at that particular moment I knew not run away again
that particular month I was ready to investigate with you
at that particular time

we thought a break would be good
for four months we sat and vacillated
we thought a small time apart would clear up the doubts that were abounding

at that particular time love encouraged me to wait
at that particular moment it helped me to be patient
that particular month we needed time to marinate in what "us" meant
at that particular time

I've always wanted for you what you've wanted for yourself
and yet I wanted to save us high water or hell
and I kept on ignoring the ambivalence you felt
and in the meantime I lost myself
in the meantime I lost myself
I'm sorry I lost myself. I am.

you knew you needed more time
time spent alone with no distraction
you felt you needed to fly solo and high to define what you wanted

at that particular time love encouraged me to leave
at that particular moment I knew staying with you meant deserting me
that particular month was harder than you'd believe
but I still left
at that particular time

Sunday, November 15, 2015

fluctuations

the night settles around me
not so much quiet
but stillness

I fight the urge to make lists
to plan
to research
to worry
to fight

I try to find peace
in this moment:
the calm before
the next storm.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

the greatest generation

I am in Bradenton, Florida, where my parents grew up and where my grandparents still live in the home they purchased in 1963. My grandmother turns 91 in December, and my grandfather turns 93 in March. They are still super sharp; the only way you can tell they are as old as they are is because you are hoarse after a conversation with them and because they are not particularly mobile. Not using hearing aids or walkers is a point of pride for them.

My grandmother has never been like other grandmothers. She's more like a Golden Girl. She is the happiest person I know. (This offsets my grandfather's predilection towards pessimism/grumpiness. The two of them together are hilarious.) She's the closest thing I have to a kindred spirit; I am most similar, or hope I am most similar, to her than to any other person in the world. She sees things romantically, with kindness, with hope. Her perspective is a bit more na├»ve than mine, but I do really believe that she has always strived to love her neighbors. She is one of those people who has never met a stranger; I know that I get my willingness/need to talk to people at the grocery store, on airplanes, in restaurants, anywhere from her. I also love that she treats all people, regardless of age or "class" or position (bellhop to billionaire) with the same level of respect. Everyone feels like s/he is the most
loved/important person in the world around my grandmother. It's just who she is.

She took writing classes when I was younger. She wrote stories, none of which I've ever read. She always encouraged my poetry. After I finished college, I perceived that she was incredibly sad that I didn't keep writing; at some point, my poetry would have been more difficult to share with her, because I stopped writing about happy things. It's much easier to write about pain: people will belittle your happiness, think you don't deserve it, begrudge you. Except for my grandmother. She thinks I deserve happiness even on my worst days.

Maybe because, even on her worst days, she finds happiness.

My grandparents are the only people from whom I've experienced unconditional love. They used to go to church every Sunday (mobility limitations), and I think they believe in the same kind of God that I do. One of their favorite sermons was one from a priest long gone onto larger parishes than Bradenton, but it was about how small we think God is. "Your God is too small. God is much bigger than you think."

My God is as big as I feel their love has been. I see love in them.

My grandmother and I spoke most regularly when my parents weren't speaking to me, Round 1. When I had pneumonia in 2009 (Round 2), Grandmother made me call every day with a report. She now tells me when I call, less frequently than I wish I did, that she gets homesick for my voice. I think it's the most bittersweet thing anyone has ever told me.

We finally convinced her to get hearing aids (she owns them, she just doesn’t wear them) when she could no longer hear me say “I love you” on the phone. I was inconsolable the first time it happened.

*

One of my favorite stories about them is from right after they got married. Grandaddy was working at his father's funeral home, and Grandmother was taking the bus to Sarasota (a 30ish minute commute at the time) to a nursing job there. She hated it: the commute, the coworkers, the being away from my grandfather. One night at dinner, she was particularly cranky, and Grandaddy said, "well, Eileen, I'm making $45 a week. Why don't you just quit?" She said, "I'm so glad you think so. I quit today.

They lived above the funeral home until my mother was 8, when they bought the house they live in now: an acre on the Manatee River. They've since had to divide the land, because states that don’t have income taxes tend to have pretty stiff property taxes.

Their yard is amazing: trees to climb, trees to collect fruit from, trees that house birds and squirrels and flowers. They have a patio always set up for entertaining. It is the most lush place, an oasis for anyone's soul.

And it's right on the river, on a pier I have fished off of with my brother and father, watched one of two moonrises in my whole life, shared cuddles on with every extraordinary love I’ve had. That pier is a home/refuge I cannot explain. It’s self soothing to think about how quiet it is out there, watching stars and listening to fish jump and being a part of the earth's breath upon the shore.

I sleep in my mother's childhood room/bed when I'm here. It gives me space to dream; gives my soul space to stretch out; gives my heart room to try to love my mother better, to understand where she came from.

*

After a visit to Bradenton in late 2011, I no longer wished to withhold my poetry from my grandmother, so I started this blog in 2012. I print out posts and mail them to her or bring them with me when I visit, since she never learned to use a computer. Never writing about anything I don’t want my grandmother to read is a fantastic gauge, and I often think about what part of my life I can share with her when I choose topics to write about or which poems to publish, since she won’t wear her damn hearing aids and therefore misses a lot of what I try to tell her on the phone.

I consider karma every time I offer to help an elderly person with bags or as they cross the street. I considered karma when I chose a Junior League assignment in my second year that required me to spend one day a month volunteering in an assisted living facility. I consider karma as I write this, wondering what I can do to be loved as dearly as I love them.


Tonight, I sat at a table I have eaten at with five generations, a table where my parents told my grandparents they were pregnant with me, a table that has hosted hundreds of celebrations… the biggest one of all, of course, being my grandparents’ testament to how to live your life, how to love, and why to laugh.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Paris

Je parle un peu de français.

Ce soir, je suis desoleé.

Je suis une personne qui aime le musique et le football.

Je suis une personne qui dîne aux bistros.

Je suis une personne qui aime les nuits avec amis, avec vin.

C'est le treizième novembre... vendredi. Et c'est la mort, pas la vie.

Je ne sais pas les mots pour... les mots je ne sais pas.

J'espère que le paix, pour l'amour qui triomphe, pour le dieu guérir.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

goodnight

This needlepoint has been in my mother's childhood bedroom (where I will sleep for the next three nights) for as long as I can remember.

I have much to say on these topics, but I am very tired and wish to give them the time, words, truth they deserve.

May your dreams be sweet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

imprint

If I ever get a tattoo, it will be a small fleur de lis on the inside of my wrist. dba marked me as their own one night, and I knew I belonged to New Orleans.

*

  fleur de lis

walked in
last night
for $5
I received
a stamp

she took my wrist
turned my veins toward
the stars
and presented rubber
to my skin
leaving an imprint
of a fleur de lis
along the most visible
and fragile
feature of my
blood supply

later, that wrist would run along your scalp,
grasp onto your neck
and, ultimately,
push you away

today we kissed for the last time
and it was a sad goodbye
because, just as this city has stamped itself onto my skin
so have you

given me reason to believe
in rebirth
possibility
so have you

given me a very vulnerable sense of fragility
like those veins that could be sliced
instead of stamped

I'm scared of either possibility

and I know you'd save me
and don't intend to harm me

but

the most difficult part of any
grieving process
is mourning the loss
of what might have been

Dec 17 2010

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

bossypants

I attended an event today that was cosponsored by Festigals and the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce Women's Business Alliance. A panel discussion was led by a woman with the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, one of my employers' major funders, and registration came with passed hors d'oeurves and two drink tickets at a place I enjoy eating and drinking, so I thought it would be worthwhile.

I'm so glad I went.

I immediately spotted a woman from a women's mentoring group I belong to (that has sadly gone defunct); Facebook informed me this morning that today is her birthday. She was seated beside another woman from our mentoring group, and three other women were there, too (including the Vice President of the Chamber). The panel discussion centered on how women succeed, mentor, lead, balance. (Do they have panel discussions of well-accomplished men on these topics? Does any man ever present on behalf of any Chamber of Commerce on how he finds time for his family?)

I digress.

Working women in the United States need mentors. This is not only for the thousands of reasons that women aren't CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that women in STEM fields are the vast minority, or that women leave the workforce after having had children in GIANT percentages greater than their male counterparts... it's also for the simple fact that women can be flat out mean to other women.

I worked in the nonprofit sector for nearly a decade. I basically only had female coworkers for a decade.

In that time, I ran the gamut of bosses. I will mix up chronology to protect the guilty.

  • I worked for a woman who was given to our division so her boss no longer had to deal with her. She had never managed people or led a team. She knew nothing about our division's subject matter.
  • I worked for one man who, to this day, has no idea what I am (not) capable of. (Line forms to the left.)
  • I worked for one man had to resign due to his incompetence.
  • I learned to be careful of my references: one woman told a potential future employer that I lacked maturity and would need professional and/or personal development.
  • One woman taught me, by example, to give your subordinates great leverage to learn and accomplish a lot. If you trust yourself enough to hire them, then you trust them.
  • One woman told me that however I had measured my past accomplishments, "whether as Homecoming Queen or fraternity little sister," I needed to improve, particularly my writing skills. Apparently, in the universe that had shaped her world vision, pretty girls weren't smart girls. Therefore, because I was pretty, I couldn't be smart, and I couldn't produce decent copy. 
    • She had been on my hiring committee. She had read my writing samples. She had enthusiastically chosen me. 
    • Her boss thought I was amazing and seemed to genuinely hate when they lost the grant that funded my position. (Hey jealousy?)
    • This is a stereotype I continue to fight every day: I am both smart and beautiful, and it's completely possible for women to be both. We can have great ideas and blonde curls. We can write and speak really passionately - enough to raise over $500,000 in a year - while being 69 inches tall. 
    • The last thing any girl needs going for her is ugliness. 

Women don't need just women mentors; we need good managers, of all genders.

I moved to New Orleans to work for a woman who I knew was a good manager. She hired for her weaknesses, which means that she hired people to do their jobs better than she could do it for them. And she expected us to hire people to do their jobs better than we could do it for them.

She knew that she couldn't offer us more money, so she sweetened our compensation packages with more time: greater professional development opportunities; more vacation (we didn't have to report it if it was fewer than two days); more sick time (if we worked any part of any day, it was not considered a sick day, so we worked from our respective couches with fevers because we didn't want to infect our colleagues, but we really liked our jobs); unlimited (within reason) hours to volunteer in our community; and flexible working hours.

We all completed and were trained in an Emergenetics analysis. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

These are all lessons I have carried into my subsequent professional roles and built into my employment manuals. They are the reasons that many people have asked me to serve as a reference for them while they job searched. They are the reasons I transform work environments from something toxic to something beautiful.

I pay it forward because I believe that there are enough mean girls in the world and that there is not enough kindness in the world. I also believe that people genuinely want to be fulfilled by their work and they genuinely want to perform well.

So let's change it. Let's treat each other with generosity. Be a good boss, regardless of gender. Fight to change your company's parental leave policies. Support men and women who take time to be with their families, who attempt to achieve balance, who are paid for every minute of their assigned paid time off, who eat lunch at their desks every day.

Trust the people you hire to do their jobs. And, if you don't trust them, let them go.

Monday, November 9, 2015

top

I really like lists. They give me purpose and meaning when I can only see chaos in the world.

Grocery: eggs, produce, protein, vinegars. (Thank you, Whole30.)

To do: budgets, laundry, mastering homemade bolognese.

Best restaurants in New Orleans: what price point, neighborhood, cuisine? (I keep intending to make this post. It's not so much a list as a spreadsheet.)

Worst lovers.
Favorite television shows.
Best eyeshadow brands for blue eyed blondes.
Best hair products for curls, for little girls, for smoothing curls.
Favorite recipes for feeding a crowd.
Worst bosses. Worst sandwich ideas. Worst outfits.
Favorite Christmas memories, cocktail, George Clooney movie.
Why I applied to the colleges I applied to.
Preferred love language(s).

Things I talk about at work: sex, sex trafficking, and prostitution; how we improve ____; why we should manage tourism; and historic preservation.

Galas I'd like to attend/causes I'd like to support: practically endless.

So much chaos.
So little time to make sense of it all.
So many ways to try to love my neighbor.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

in two

the trees

fade into

the sky

of midnight

Im miles

away from

your bed

but I

drive on

thinking about

your lips

with long

straight roads

your hands

with each

right curve

your soul

with ev'ry

bright headlight

we become

uncoupled with

ev'ry mile

of my

journey home.

 

nov 14, 2002

waldorf

Sunday morning comes:
luxurious hotel room,
art and brunch await.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

apple (big)

The city that never sleeps has kept me awake.

Our day included:
breakfast delivered to our hotel door
the Museum of Modern Art
fuku+ for the second-to-last lunch seating
window shopping at Omega
sitting prayerfully and lighting a candle at St. Patrick's Cathedral
window shopping at Saks
visiting a wine shoppe
watching a football team we like beat a football team we don't
Uber to Harlem
seeing their new apartment
eating at their neighborhood restaurant of cheesy carbs and chianti
drinking at their neighborhood bar of bourbon
jumping in a cab to the hotel

Maybe I won't sleep.
Maybe I shouldn't.

Friday, November 6, 2015

mistaken

Yesterday morning, I worked from a coffee shop in between dropping off my beau's daughter at school and barre3 class. As I was just about to leave, a man walked up to my table.

Man: Are you Emma?
Me: I'm Emmy.
Man: Hey! It's Tom. It's been awhile. How are you?
E (searching all recesses of brain to remember this human): I'm good! [feeling I needed to justify my yoga pants + sports bra at 9:30am] I'm working late tonight, so I've shifted my day to get a workout in this morning.
Tom: Well, um, can I get you a coffee? Oh. I see you have one. Let me just grab some. Do you mind if I join you?
E (seriously confused): No... ?

He had a beard. Could I remember a clean shaven Tom?

He was wearing a tie with regular khaki pants. Was he a teacher or professor I'd worked with at Tulane? No one at CASA had known me as Emmy, so I ruled children's lawyer or case worker out quickly. I also ruled out bartender, anyone I'd accidentally gone on a date with, and family member/friend of anyone I knew.

I was packing up my laptop when he returned, still trying to place him, wondering if I was going to be on time for class.

T: Emma, right?
E: Emmy.
T: Right. So, how long have you been practicing law?
E: Ummmmm... I don't? I work in the Quarter.
T (finally putting it all together): Oh.

Woman at the table behind us, with more than some irritation: *I'm* Emma.

She was curvier than me and a dark brunette of the olivy Italian variety. While I need my roots done, Lord only knows what her profile picture must have looked like for him to mistake us.

We were all really embarrassed, so off I went to class, grateful for the excuse to leave, grateful that unmade up me still had it, hopeful that Emma and Tom are a good fit for each other and will laugh about it to their grandchildren one day.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

vastness

I believe in a really big, loving, forgiving God.

I am one of the volunteers for an organization called World in Prayer. Each week, a member of the international team writes prayers for the whole world, highlighting current events. In my first year, I (randomly and way ahead of time) was assigned the weeks of the Newtown massacre and the Boston Marathon bombing. I worried I was bad luck for the world, but it taught me important lessons in stillness during chaos.

Last week was my turn to write, and below is what was read as the prayers of the people in churches of many denominations across the globe.

*

Gracious and Good God, we come towards All Saints’ Day with darkness in our world and with hope for your light.

We pray for the saints who have entered your kingdom who healed individuals and neighborhoods. We pray for those angels among us: those who feed the hungry, comfort the aggrieved, and love their neighbors. We pray for the dying, the sick, and the hopeless, especially those who are alone in their pain and despair.

We pray for the saints who have entered your kingdom who improved the lives of children and families. We pray for families across the world who mourn the loss of children due to disease, malnutrition, and displacement. We pray for the families in China, where the one-child policy has ended. We pray for foster children and for their families. We pray for those who are unable to conceive.

We pray for the saints who have entered your kingdom who were travelers, who proclaimed your goodness, who founded communities, who were martyrs, and who brought peace into the world. We pray for South Sudan, where new reports of crimes against humanity are emerging. At least seven ceasefires have been agreed to and broken since conflict started in December 2013, and more than two million people have become refugees.

We pray for the saints who have entered your kingdom who were people of the cloth and people for the people. We pray for Nepal, which elected its first female president.

We pray for the saints who have entered your kingdom who were artists: musicians, poets, gardeners, teachers. We pray for the victims of school violence in Aberdeen, Scotland and in Columbia, South Carolina, USA. Help our schools to be safe havens for children, staff, and families. Help our cultures of violence to become cultures of love.

Since last All Saints’ Day, many of us have mourned the loss of someone who was a saint in our lives or in the lives of our loved ones. May we feel their heavenly presence more than their earthly absence. May they be missionaries of your love and protection.

We have darkness in our world and hope for your light. Amen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

caramelized

I jokingly tell people that I am the Mayor of the French Quarter, which is basically what my job is. Being the Mayor comes with some special perks, like parking and hosted meals and special invitations inside homes nearly as old as our country.

Last week, it meant leaving a meeting after dark and getting followed by someone creepy.

I am hyper vigilant about my surroundings, especially when I am alone. I have learned that the best way to politely (and safely) excuse myself from drunks/vagrants/unpleasantness is to duck into the nearest praline shop:

  1. They are well-lit.
  2. They are open late.
  3. They will offer you free samples, and pralines are delicious.
  4. They will deter anyone following you around.

I walked into the Magnolia Praline Shop and was greeted by two very nice male employees who seemed disturbed by my plight. They walked me to the door after a few moments, and they scouted for any potential wrongdoers. They watched me walk to the corner, where I had to turn (on a better lit street) to get to my car.


I stopped by the store today to speak with the manager about this above and beyond service, and now I'm telling you, too. Because I like to put compliments into the universe and to keep my people safe. And well-fed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

academy

I went to the same school from pre-Kindergarten through 11th grade.

It turns out that leaving your high school in your senior year makes you feel like you don't have a high school alma mater. This is particularly important in a city like New Orleans, where "where did you go to school?" always means "which high school did you attend?" It's a question that can answer what color, religion, and gender you are and how wealthy you were as a kid.

Yes, that's right: New Orleans segregates its parochial schools on gender and color.

I can't throw many stones, though; I had never been in a class with a black person until 12th grade.

But I didn't move away from the only school I had known to be in a more diverse setting. I chose to go to an all-girls' boarding school for my senior year because everyone I knew was having sex, drinking, and doing drugs. I was not interested in any of those things, so off my precious academic self went to a school that required I take Latin (!) but did not require me to wear a bra or anything fancier than pajama pants. It was the late 90s: there was lots of flannel and unwashed hair to go around, anyway.

I wanted to go to a high school that would prepare me academically for college, so instead of coasting through what would have probably been an extremely easy senior year, I moved 300 miles away from home. Bless my 17-year-old heart.

I cried every day until Thanksgiving. Every. Day. I was painfully homesick, and my parents wouldn't let me have a car until... I'm not really sure what changed their minds, actually. I think it was needing to get to my SAT or something. (Knowing 17-year-old me, I'm sure it was a very responsible sell.)

And then it was finals right after Thanksgiving and I spent my January term at home, and when I got back for my final semester, I only had four months to survive. My friend Jenny, with whom I have lost touch, said her father always said, "You can do anything for <period of time>. You can stand on your head for <period of time>." Jenny and I counted down the days until we didn't have to stand on our heads any longer.

When I got to college, I'd already gained my freshman 15, mastered homesickness, and shared small spaces (and bathrooms) with strangers. I knew how to study, write, procrastinate, live without a car (it disappeared again until my second semester sophomore year).

When people ask me, "where did you go to school?", I know they don't want to hear Wake Forest or George Washington. They want to know if I'm one of them or if I'm an outsider. They want to know if I can be trusted; what neighborhood I grew up in; and if I have any good stories about learning biology from nuns (I do, but they're my mom's stories).

What I want to tell them is that I don't really have a high school, and it still makes me feel lonely to think about sweet little 17-year-old me, sobbing every day for 3+ months because I missed everything I'd ever known, even though everything I'd ever known didn't feel right, wondering what was wrong with me and when I'd feel right.

My extracurricular activities became limited to the 300-mile drive home almost every weekend. I'd been Female Athlete of the Year in 11th grade; I only played one sport in 12th grade. Sundays became synonymous with leaving a place I was happy to return to a place I wasn't. Jenny and I would resume our counting.

And now I have car payments and student loan payments and no high stakes tests. I visit my parents' house, on average, once per year. I wonder if any of us ever stop questioning whether we're an outsider, if at some point we ever recognize "I have arrived!!!!!!"

Probably not. And, if so, I imagine I'll find a way to move into the unknown, the discomfort, the challenge, the new. It's who I've become and where I thrive.

Thank you, 17-year-old me. I'm sorry it was so hard. I'm sorry it was so lonely. But you're prepared to do great things, love deeply, and never take drugs.

Monday, November 2, 2015

mother's ruin

Day Two of my challenge, and my energy is already flagging.

So let’s talk about happy hour.

I really like gin. I was 32 years old when I recognized that I don’t hate gin; I hate tonic. I blessedly got to stop being the girl who ordered vodka or fretted over whether a champagne or a sipping tequila was high quality enough to prevent a terrible hangover.

I drink gin and soda now. Approximately 1 out of 3 times I order this standard (Bombay and soda), I get Bombay Sapphire and/or tonic.

This is my plea to you tonic fanatics: try gin with soda.

This is my plea to you gin haters: try gin with soda.

And to the rest of you: stop ordering martinis if you’re not going to drink them with gin. Chilled Hendricks with a twist (because olives are the one food I will not eat) is glorious. Also, if you mix Hendricks with anything resembling tonic, they should take away your drinking card.

My favorite gins, in no particular order: Death’s Door, St. George’s, Citadelle, Bulldog. They all pair perfectly with soda.

And invite me to happy hour(s), anytime. I find them to be reinvigorating.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

tinkerbell, a tinker fairy

I completed a Whole30 this summer. It was informative in many ways (yes, it is physically possible to go 30 days without alcohol and still live to tell the New Orleans tale), but my best emotional takeaway was "you can commit to anything for 30 days."

So, for the month of November, I want to write every day... or at least post something on this blog every day.

"30 days of thanks" seems really cliche. "30 days of thirsty"? "30 days of thoughtfulness"?

A month of... ?! 

(Do I need a theme, or is it just my vain attempt at a witty hashtag?)

Yesterday was my sixth annual Halloween party. I live in a neighborhood full of families, and trick or treating is one of my favorite childhood memories. My brother and I would circle the neighborhood with our father, while Mom would stay home and hand out treats. These days, I invite a group over, and those of us with children search out candy while those child-free friends porch sit with a bucket of chocolate and drink.

My mom always made veal stew for Halloween, because it can sit on the stove and just continue to get more delicious, but cooking veal stew for four people is different from cooking for 20. Last night, I made a Crockpot adaption of red beans and my take on Susan Spicer's duck and andouille gumbo. My beau made desserts, we outsourced appetizers/snacks/dips to other attendees, and a couple of families arrived with craft projects for the children (aged 3-5 years). I also made pumpkin martinis. The final guests left close to midnight, with sugar highs.

I've seen so many tricks and treats in the past six years: pregnancy, miscarriage, struggle to get pregnant, the ease of an additional pregnancy. I've traveled to new places and explored a new career. I've built a new family, composed of chosen loved ones. I fell in love with a man who has a child, which comes with lots of other tricks; no little girl dreams of becoming a stepmom when she grows up.

But it's been good. Hard and heartbreaking, but good. 

And I am grateful. 


(Photo credit: Joy Bruce)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

rehearsal

The script (not verbatim) of the toast I gave my brother and his fiancee on the eve of his wedding.

May it not be a rehearsal, lambie.



Andrew is three years younger and six inches taller, so he's no longer my little brother. But now that he has a little salt in the pepper of his hair, people often assume I'm younger. I allow this.

When we were in high school, we went shopping with our mom. My mother overheard a couple of girls talking about how cute Andrew was. One said, "Ugh. And that girl he was with! How did she get a guy like him?"

Now we're all wondering how Andrew got a girl like Sandra.

I'm told that life with a sibling started with much difficulty. I wanted to send him back when he got home. Like a dress, he didn't fit very well, and so we needed to just take him back to the hospital. But as we grew up, I gained a playmate, a partner in crime, a fellow adventurer. Sometimes, the adventures went too far. Once, I was giving him an upside down piggy back ride and dropped him on his head, giving him a rug burn down the side of his face. I pushed him off a pier and into a bed of barnacles, requiring four stitches in his foot. I convinced him that the Gulf of Mexico was safe to swim in, even though we could see a school of sting rays, and of course he got stung.

But through it all,  he never stopped wanting to be my friend. We always got along. He is loyal and forgiving and easygoing. I practiced using a curling iron on him. I practiced cooking on him. I practiced a too-short-lived stint as a Disney princess on him.

But so many things in life are practice. Love. Grief. Forgiveness. These things don't have to be perfect. Close enough counts in a multitude of ways, including hand grenades, which my brother once dug up in the backyard.

Andrew is especially good at rolling with the unexpected. The lessons from our childhood prepared us to be good practitioners of love, of partnerships, and of loyalty. I've practiced all of these things with my brother and learned more from him than any other person.

I am incredibly grateful that he as found such an amazing woman for a lifelong partnership. They are a great fit for each other, and I can't wait to watch all their practice become perfect.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

yours

When I was a little girl, this song came on the radio, and my mother said it was the saddest love song that ever existed.

I mostly agree with her ("both hands" is a pretty damn sad love song), and I also empathize strongly with these lyrics; Elton John was producing music well before blogs or social media. I nearly always ask for permission or forgiveness any time I talk about how wonderful life is, whether with my beau or a friend or a colleague.

*

I hope you don't mind
(I hope you don't mind)
That I put down into words
How wonderful life is
While you're in the world.

cheers

One of my favorite friends from college (who is still one of my favorite friends) is commemorating his tenth anniversary with his husband. They’re celebrating horizontally: room service, white sand, good books, and delicious-looking cocktails.

He posted on Facebook: “Ten. Years. The places we've been, things we've survived, all the beauty and the ache of the last 3,650 days: I'd take nothing in return.”

My baby brother is getting married next weekend. So Nathan’s at 10, and Andrew is about to be at 0… and I have a toast to prepare.

10 years ago, there hadn't been a Katrina yet. We weren't text messaging in the United States. I had only loved one man enough to want to marry him, I had only been a bridesmaid twice, and none of my friends were divorced.

10 years, though. I've watched nearly everyone I know build or unbuild or rebuild families. I've moved to a different time zone, lived with two men I've loved enough to marry, and learned how to say no.

I don't know what I'm going to say in my toast. My rehearsal dinner speeches have always been toasts to “faith, hope, and love,” using clever quips like “hope that one of you learns to cook” and “faith that one day, all of your combined student loans are paid off.”

The amazing woman my brother is marrying is close to what my age was 10 years ago, and I can’t wait to see how their life unfolds. It's going to be full of laughter (her quips are far more clever than mine, probably because she's a redhead) and delicious-looking cocktails. I’m sure there will be grief and struggles: you can’t be happy with yourself 100% of the time, so you can’t expect to be happy with someone else 100% of the time.

I’m sure there will be adventure (and the inevitable woes my brother’s travel luck brings) and disagreements over whose turn it is to take out the yet-unacquired-but-also-inevitable pet dog. I’m sure there will be disappointment and setbacks… the kids call them “opportunities” these days, but that’s a more difficult brand of optimism than you’ll want when you’d rather feel numb. Sometimes, this means having a partner who understands you need quiet, alone, distance; sometimes, it means having a partner who will hold you.

If you chose well, these attributes exist in the same partner.

To faith: may you find it in yourself so that you can have faith in others.
To hope: may it always shine brightly in your heart.
To love: may you always be good at it.

Congratulations to everyone who is on the journey, whether it’s 0 or 10 or 37 (my parents) or 66 (my grandparents) years. May you wish to take nothing in return.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

hypotheticals

It's the end of the Junior League year, which means that many of us are scrambling around to get our obligations completed. Last week, I attended a training in order to get a meeting credit. The training was titled "The Secrets of Getting Organized."

I like secrets. And I really like Real Simple (my favorite magazine, because it offers me hope of becoming an organized person without judgment).

I am a clean person. I have never been a neat person. I find the organized people of the world to be the most smug. Bridget Jones talked about the smug marrieds; I'm here to tell you about the smug organizeds. I'll call them SO.

The SO are nearly always women. They seem to have it all together, or they seem to think they have have it all together, because their home looks straight out of a magazine or a movie set. They use labels and filing systems and hanging shoe racks as pantry organizers. They'd have coupon boxes arranged by expiration dates if that didn't mean paper clutter. They all have linen closets (must be nice), and they don't need giant bleach tablets that last for 1,000 flushes because they clean their toilet each time it is used. I wonder sometimes if SO have pets or children or significant others or if their homes only contain things that can go in lidded boxes.

Mostly, I think that the worst part of SO is that they feel so superior to those of us who hire a housekeeper.

I wonder if I (or my partner) didn't work, or didn't have to find work, if our reality would ever be an empty sink/drying rack/dishwasher, clean laundry that immediately goes from the dryer to drawers or hangers, dirty laundry that only exists in hampers (AGAIN WITH THE LIDS), books only on shelves, shoes only in closets, shiny floors and tubs, made beds, effectively utilized and perfectly organized storage space.

Unlikely. I just don't care enough. The pots drying on the stove aren't going to grow any new ecosystems, nor will the stack(s) of mail. All grains that enter this home spend at least one night in the freezer to kill any moth eggs that may be lurking about, and I still end up with moths and the occasional roach because I live in the tropics.

I'm clean. I'm not neat.

But I needed a meeting credit, and if I could learn any new techniques that Real Simple hadn't already tried to teach me, I figured it was a win. And maybe I'd make a new friend or see an old one (correct). And I was pretty sure there would be refreshments (correct).

The woman giving the talk owns a local business that helps people move, pack, organize, declutter, etc. She said that every morning before she leaves the house, she straightens every room.

Blink. Blink.

Dismissing her as having some kind of mental disorder, I tried to think of something I do every day. Besides basic human functions (sleep, breath, pee), I could not think of a single thing. I can't remember to brush my teeth every day. I don't put on underwear every day. I don't need to shower or shave every day. I try to drink coffee most mornings and to drink four liters of water a day and to not drink alcohol every night. But let's not make a list of the things I try to do.

We took a "quiz" to help us understand how "bad" we all are on the spectrum from SO to hoarder, and all of us fell somewhere in the middle. We were told to ask questions, and everyone who asked a question would receive a gift for being brave. Since speaking and receiving gifts are two of my most favorite things, it wasn't hard for me to jump in.

Me: Hypothetically, this boy I like moved in in January. And, hypothetically, it's April, and we still have stuff everywhere, including furniture that, at this point, just needs to be moved to the attic.
SO: Is there a hypothetical ring involved in this equation?

Thank you, SO. Thank you for your judgment.

And thank you for the gift. I know it will come in handy sometime soon, as I navigate a new job, my beau's daughter's 5th birthday party, my brother's wedding, summer camps.



I'll be hiring some of your moving men soon to get the extraneous stuff into the attic. And then I'll be hiring a housekeeper on a regular schedule.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Whig; Columbia, SC

Of course: the places we went to that weekend in 2002 aren't places anymore.
And I don't miss you,
But I wish I knew those places now.

Friday, January 23, 2015

dove

Let's talk about curly hair.

I had white blonde Shirley Temple ringlets as a child. It was wavy in a terrible way throughout my adolescence (one more thing that hormones changed, one more thing that was terrible about adolescence), but I cut it short in tenth grade and started using mousse to hold curls. Thus began my (and every other curly girl's) struggle to find that delicate line between crunchy hair, well-defined curls, and frizz. My curls were mostly crunchy for the next decade. Or frizzy.

In 2007, I was working at the Texas State Capitol, and one of the lobbyists we worked with closely lent me her copy of Lorraine Massey's book, and I finally started to accept my curls. (Embracing my hair has taken longer, the way women embrace their thighs or their noses or their height.) I stopped believing that I needed to blow out my hair to look professional. I stopped washing my hair every day; in fact, I went four months without using any suds in my hair at all. I stopped using brushes and combs. I started going to hairstylists who accepted my curls. And, slowly, I embraced my endowment.

Now, I've chosen the adjective "curly" for my blog... and my LinkedIn profile picture is a curly one. I feel like my curls reflect the whimsy of my personality, my ability to accept what happens, my intention to live by my own rules.

Yesterday morning, my beau sent me this link to a new Dove Beauty Campaign, where little girls with curly hair are encouraged to stop their self-loathing. "They’re doing what women rarely feel they deserve to do – celebrate what they see in the mirror."

I, like every other person, doubt myself when it comes to parenting. There was a time when I struggled with beau's daughter every time she got dressed, because I vetoed the combinations of colors/fabrics/patterns she chose. And then one of my wisest girlfriends said, "Does she feel pretty?"

And that's when it clicked for me, and I stopped exercising my veto power.

Yes, she feels pretty. She looks *ridiculous* to me, but she felt pretty. And as long as she feels pretty, she will feel loved. And all I want in this world for her is to feel loved and to feel safe.

So try to put aside your own beauty standards when projecting onto others. Care less about the crunchy hair and more about your attitude. Help others to be pretty, to know they are loved, to allow them to shine.

Especially children.