potluck

Just an assortment of things, almost all beautiful:

  • Since I won’t be here on Oliver’s third birthday because I’ll be in Bali that day, I spent a few hours with him yesterday. I had some kind of seriously awful gut thing going on so it wasn’t as long as I’d have liked, but it was so wonderful being with him. He and I went to one of the neighborhood parks, the one on the elementary school grounds where he will be going in just a couple of weeks. He played on the equipment, we blew bubbles even though it was too breezy to make chasing them much fun, he ate lunch, and he ran around. I watched him wandering around, running, talking to himself the way he does, and my heart ached so hard. Oliver has something going on — the current educational diagnosis is in the autism neighborhood — but most difficult is his pretty profound speech delay. So I watched that beautiful, darling boy running around, in his own world, and I cried pretty hard because I so want to know him. I so want to share things with him, know what he thinks without guessing, hear his wonderings and his wants and his needs and his funny. At the moment that’s not how it is to be with Oliver, but I know it will be one of these days. I don’t think he feels lonely; he seems keenly aware of how much he is loved. One fun thing to do with Oliver is to look at the phone together. We had the camera on and turned to selfie mode, and he was grinning as he held down the button for dozens of long bursts. He caught the really beautiful shot I included here. See the delight on his face?
  • My dear, dear friend Becci (hi darling Becci!) sent me a Crazy Zauberball. I have always wanted one, and somehow she chose a colorway that I always wanted, too. The other day I opened my mailbox, expecting the usual day’s allotment of junk mail, and instead there was a nicely wrapped box, fit snugly into the mailbox with my name facing outward. I had no idea what it might be, even when I saw Becci’s name and address in the top right corner. I literally ran into the house and unwrapped it (even more nicely presented inside the outer brown wrapper, with a “just because” note) and when I pulled out the ball I jumped up as if I’d been electrocuted. It was the last thing I expected, and I instantly started crying with all the joy — the joy of having a friend who would do such a thing (and just because), the joy of her thoughtfulness and knowing, the pleasure of the long-wanted yarn, and the delight of finding just the right project for it. I decided on a project that others have made with the yarn, a scarf called Baktus, because it looks amazing and it’s a simple knit—I want to make it on my upcoming trip. In the way these things work, forever more I’ll feel all the love and joy when I wear it, remembering Becci, remembering making it in Indonesia. That’s one thing I love about knitting, it holds the space for all of that.
  • I can’t properly talk about how humiliated I feel over having that hangover on Tuesday. I feel such shame about it. I’m 58, I have so many ways to manage upset, and I drank enough to have a hangover? It’s hard to talk about it but I feel like I must — maybe this is some kind of self-flagellation, maybe I shouldn’t, but shame and humiliation is exactly what I feel. I mentioned that feeling to Nancy, and she looked puzzled, which puzzled me. Shouldn’t I feel shame? I talk relatively often about AA, which I only know about because of my husband; I know that they believe self-loathing doesn’t get you anywhere, and certainly not to the same place that self-compassion will take you. I’m trying that, trying to have compassion for myself that evening, acceptance of myself and what I did. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again; I sure learned a lot, including the fact that a hangover can be a really terrible mood, which I didn’t know. I’m sorry I did that — I say that out loud, and to myself. It’s funny; I even find this beautiful, even though it’s such a dreadful feeling. But it’s beautiful to stumble along, fall down and get up, bruise yourself, heal yourself, and be helped along by others. I think that’s really beautiful.
  • We just lost Derek Walcott, a poet whose words have meant a lot to me over the years. I first encountered him in 2001, when I knew a poet who loved him. I’m sorry this is in a jpg instead of text, but I can’t find it copy-able and I don’t want to type it all out. This poem relates so beautifully to the end of my last bullet point:

  • Tonight I will sit with the women in my book club to talk about this month’s book, which I didn’t like at all I’m sad to say (The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood, review here). But I will love being with the women, who share my political world view and who are SMART, screamingly smart, and compassionate. We meet at Joyce’s house tonight — she picked the book — and she’s making us a vegetable pie and salad, and I’m bringing Topo Chico and dark chocolate, and I look forward to the communion with all my heart. For now, though, I pack for Indonesia. Happy Sunday, everyone.

two things: 1/9/17

1)  Well it’s been cold and gross here in New York, with just enough snow to make a mess but not enough to be pretty and fun. So we spent all day yesterday finishing up the plans and the blog for our trip to Indonesia at the end of March. Indonesia comprises 17,508-18,306 islands (8,844 have been named, and 922 of those are permanently inhabited). The largest cluster is on Java, with ~130 million inhabitants (60% of the country’s population) on an island the size of New York State. The last time we went to Indonesia in May, 2013, we went to Java — Jakarta briefly, Yogyakarta, and Solo — and Bali. We were so-so about Java but absolutely adored Bali. With so very many islands, like Greece they’re organized in groupings. We’re focusing on the Lesser Sunda islands of Bali, Lombok, Timor (overnight), and Rote. Lombok has an active volcano, Mount Rinjani, which last erupted three times in May, 2010.

the blog head — click the image to go to the blog

Unlike our last trip to Laos and Thailand, we’re going almost entirely to places that are new to us, with one exception. In Bali, we’re returning to Ubud to stay again at Alam Jiwa (the name means ‘soul of nature’), largely, I think, because I want to return there. You can see pictures of the place in the post from that blog if you are curious; there’s something about Bali that is extraordinary and lush and creatively gorgeous. Everything they make is an offering of some kind, everything created is made with a specific kind of beauty. Unlike the rest of Indonesia Bali is Hindu, not Muslim, and you can feel that difference, and see it. I can’t wait to get back to Alam Jiwa, just can’t wait.

And the place we’re staying on Lombok that’s near the volcano, I can’t wait for that, either. Just look at this gorgeous view from the hotel:

Rinjani Lodge

It helps a lot having this to look forward to, with the political stuff that’s coming right up. And I hasten to remind myself that other things are coming right up, too, beyond all the marches and protests I’ll participate in: friends’ birthdays, poetry group and book club meetings (to talk about books!), Marnie’s and Ilan’s visit to Austin, a return to NYC, a visit to Chicago to celebrate Marnie’s and Ilan’s birthday (his first, wow), and then we’re off to Indonesia. The only bad thing about the trip is that I’ll miss celebrating Oliver’s third birthday with his family, and I hate that because I’ve been part of the others. But I’ll celebrate him wherever I am, for sure.

2) If you’re a big reader you probably already know about this, but in case you don’t: Netgalley! Create an account (free) as a reader, choose the publishers you’re most interested in (I chose the ones that tend to publish my favorite books, obviously), and then get free copies of forthcoming books, delivered right to your e-reader. You are asked to write a review of the books you read, wherever you might do that — GoodReads, Amazon, your own blog — but there is no obligation to write a positive review. You may see this mentioned if you read others’ reviews on GoodReads; a reviewer will mention that s/he got an ARC (advance reading copy), so that’s what this means. The book may not be in its final, fully copy edited form, so there may be typos, but (a) free books, (b) before anyone else gets to read them! I already write reviews of everything I read so of course I signed up.

Right now I’m reading Someone Always Robs the Poor, by Carl MacDougall (a new collection of brilliant stories from the multi-award winning elder statesman of Scottish literature, exploring themes of poverty, migration, alienation, accountability and alcoholism, with an impressive depth and emotional range) and Land of Hidden Fires, by Kirk Kjeldsen, set in Occupied Norway in 1943. They always ask for feedback about the cover, too. It’s a win-win situation if you’re broke, like me, and you love to read. There isn’t the same time constraint as with a library book, either.

A bonus:

Ilan is TEN months old now, how shocking is that?! He’s so beautiful I can barely drag my eyes away, and he’s really getting into mischief now, and is cruising around.
Oliver is getting so big! He’s super tall and very thin, and he wakes up SO HAPPY
Aww….Lucy is four months old, and just the sweetest little baby. She can never take her eyes off her mama, and she has this little honking laugh, like a goose. Apple of Pete’s eye, she is.

loving the newbie

That is her very precious grandfather, Kiki, when he first met her. He too was smitten.
That is her very precious grandfather, Kiki, when he first met her. He too was smitten.

The split second I saw Katie in the process of being born, I was so hard in love I could hardly bear it. Of course I loved her before she was born; I loved her while I was carrying her, giggling at her little hiccups, rubbing my tummy in my effort to be closer to her. But man, it was like a ton of bricks fell on me when she was born.

And then it happened again when Marnie swam out of me on that sunny Sunday, and when Will was born that spring in south Texas. Gosh, it was so physical, so huge and overwhelming, and I’ll never forget it. Of course I’d known them for months at that point and had imagined them incessantly, so meeting them, seeing their little faces, that wasn’t my first introduction.

There’s something to that biological umbilical cord, perhaps. I’ve never been a big fan of babies at all, at all, but my babies, wowie. I wondered what my experience would be when our little Oliver was born.

The moment I saw him I loved him and would do anything in the world for him — and what’s also true is that it was in my head, mostly, and a large part of my love for Oliver had to do with my love for Katie. I was so filled with joy and happiness that he was here, that Katie had her baby, that she and Trey would be taking home this little baby, that was my overwhelming feeling. I loved Oliver through my love for Katie.

But I felt a little bit worried — why didn’t I feel the same huge physical love for this sweet baby? Friends told me not to worry, that it would come, that it’s different with the first grandchild. The love is there, but it’s just different at the beginning.

They were right about the fact that it comes, that the hugeness and physical part of it does come. Over the last few months I’ve felt it inside me when I see him, when I spend time with him. Over the last few months, I’ve missed that person when I don’t see him. I miss Oliver. I don’t miss ‘seeing my grandson,’ I don’t miss getting to be with Katie’s baby. I miss Oliver. He is such a person, so specific, and of course he’s the happiest, most easygoing kid I have ever seen so he makes it easy, but even if he weren’t, it has happened: I am in love with that kid. It’s physical.

So if you are expecting your first grandchild, or you’ve just become a grandma, and you feel like your love is in your head, don’t worry. It’ll hit you one day like a ton of bricks.

I’m going to be away from him a lot for the next month and I may just have to arrange some Skype sessions with Oliver’s mama. How can I be away so long?

Happy Friday, everyone! xo

sleep….zzzzzz………..

sleepFor some very strange reason, I’ve been exhausted since we got home from Colombia. Why? It’s in the same time zone as Texas, and the flights were easy. The trip wasn’t any more exhausting than I expected, and the last three days of it were spent lounging and soaking in beauty. The weekend before I left, the clocks moved forward. Two days later I went to NYC where the clocked moved forward again. Three days later to Colombia, back an hour. Ten days later NYC, ahead an hour. Three days later Austin, back an hour. I seriously doubt all the hour-moving had an effect, though it was kind of funny.

But I’ve been dingy, out of it. Just kind of a step behind. And then we had Oliver’s first birthday party, such a glorious celebration. For so many reasons, this celebration was freighted with more joy than usual, more pleasure, more relief. Katie had spent a lot of hours planning and getting ready, and I started helping on Friday. I got to her place mid-morning and we worked all day; I left around dinner, stopped at the store, headed home and started cooking. Got to sleep around 2am. Up on Saturday at 6:30, and we worked intensely right up to the moment of the party at 2pm.

The party was a huge celebration and there were ways it was difficult for me — mainly involving a couple of people I had to spend those two days with. Both are extraordinarily difficult and yet I needed to be as friendly as I could manage. I don’t think I realized the strain it was putting on me until I got home, at 5:40pm.

I walked in the door, put my things down, and headed to my bed. I wasn’t entirely sure I could get all the way there. I needed to use the bathroom but knew I couldn’t do that and get to bed. I was so exhausted, I felt like every molecule of energy was just gone from my body. I sent Marc a quick text because he’d been asking me questions, and fell asleep. 5:40pm. Woke up at 9, scrambled an egg and ate it, then went back to sleep. And I slept until 8am. Around 14.5 hours. Of sleep. When I woke up this morning I felt like a brand new person, completely. I guess I needed to sleep. 🙂

Here are some pictures I love from the last couple of days:

Gosh we adore each other
Gosh we adore each other
Katie made this for his party
Katie made this for his party
I love the way he loves his mama.
I love the way he loves his mama.
the little family, one year together
the little family, one year together. he just learned about his nose. 🙂
Oliver playing at his little water table in the backyard; a reflective moment in the sunshine
Oliver playing at his little water table in the backyard; a reflective moment in the sunshine

And now, it’s a gorgeous, sunny Sunday in Austin. I think 80 degrees today, and full-on sunshine. I’ll talk to Marnie, spend some time in the sun, buy some good food, make myself a good dinner, enjoy my day. Fully rested. Enjoy yours! xo

O-knitting

For a few years, I was a frequent knitter. When I lived in New York City I nearly became “addicted;” it’s all I wanted to do. I knit sweaters, hats, scarves, mittens, socks, shawls, blankets, Christmas gifts, all kinds of things. I’d knit socks standing in a subway car, oblivious to the crowds around me and to the swaying car.

ball of yarn under my arm, four needles in my fingers, sock underway!
ball of yarn under my arm, four needles in my fingers, sock underway!

Here’s a little sample of some of my projects; you can click one and then scroll through them if you want to see them (then just hit the escape key to come back).

The last thing I was actively working on was Grace’s Christmas stocking, on the way to and from Myanmar in October 2012. Oh, I had other projects on the needles — they are still there, as if under bell jars — but Gracie’s stocking had all my knitting focus. It was October, and she needed it for Christmas. When she died I put down the needles and haven’t really had it in me to pick up my knitting again. Oh, I made a big leaf-shaped blanket for Oliver, a quick project, but I was distracted and worried and made it without a whole lot of focus.

wrap it around, button it side-to-side (that's a button on the left) and tuck the stem up underneath
wrap it around, button it side-to-side (that’s a button on the left) and tuck the stem up underneath. the color is more vivid in real life; I couldn’t capture the green in any light.

Now that he is there, though, I find myself with itchy fingers. Hey, I have this little guy to knit for, to make things for. Little kid projects are fun because they’re fast. There’s a great site called Ravelry, a kind of social networking site for knitters/crocheters, and you can ‘favorite’ patterns you like. Katie had made a little wish list of projects for Oliver, and I picked this adorable little cardigan to make:

I'll make this in charcoal gray
I’ll make this in charcoal gray

The name of the pattern is “Oscar,” which delights me because their dogs’ names are Oscar and Penny, so making a sweater called Oscar feels like a nice little bit of synchronicity. Since Oliver’s just born and weighs 8.5 pounds, it’s hard to estimate how big he’ll be when the weather turns cold enough to wear a little cardigan. But I so look forward to the pleasure of making something for someone I love. Of course I also have to knit his stocking (and Tom’s, too — Marnie’s husband — eek!), so there is plenty to do. It’s nice to feel like making things again.

So much to do, so much to work on, and as always, not nearly enough time. What a LUXURY problem. A very lucky luxury problem. xo

being in this world

Trey and Oliver (aka mini-Trey) getting some one-on-one time. Lots of love there.
Trey and Oliver (aka mini-Trey) getting some one-on-one time. Lots of love there.

We’ll all be catching up on sleep and back-to-the-real-worldness for the next few days; for Katie and Trey, the catching-up will take a whole lot longer. I think a person could get more rest on the median strip of a busy highway than in a hospital. I know that nurses are doing their jobs and I’m glad for it, but every little bit throughout the night they burst in and turn on lights and just start talking as if it’s the middle of the day — and when there is a new mom and a new baby, twice as many reasons to check in. My sweet Katie and Trey are so exhausted, when they get home and get to sleep more than 20 minutes without interruption it will be a tremendous help. If ever there was a floor where the patients ought to be interrupted as little as possible, it would be the maternity floor for heaven’s sake. Poor exhausted kids. I want to go to their house the day after they get home and just be there to tend to Oliver while they sleep sleep sleep, and I can hand Oliver in for a feeding and bring him quickly out and let them sleep sleep sleep some more. That would do more for them than anything else.

I’ve gotten a couple nights of sleep and finally, yesterday mid-morning, I started feeling like a regular human being hallelujah. You walk around in the world not even noticing that it’s a thing to be grateful for, feeling like a regular human being, until you hit the wall and would give anything to feel like that. So yay, getting enough rest to feel baseline!

Over the last couple of days I’ve had reason to think about one of my favorite subjects. There are different ways of seeing the world, of being in the world, on any topic. Unless it makes you utterly miserable or hurts others, it doesn’t matter one bit which way you go — you do what makes sense to you, what works for you. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just a different way of looking at or understanding the exact same thing. Different ways of being.

katie and oliver
sweet Katie and sweet Oliver (how could he be anything but sweet with those parents?)

The first thing that made me think about this came about — as it often does — when I watched my daughter Katie. This has been true for an incredibly long time with her. I remember thinking about this throughout our (her) year-long period of grief, through both her pregnancies, through both deliveries, and now through her post-partum period with Oliver. It didn’t just start then, but all these experiences left me in a kind of awe of her strength and solid power. Katie just does not complain. Through her pregnancies she had the normal troubles, sometimes to a great degree. Extraordinarily long morning sickness with Gracie (all 9 months, more or less); excruciating pelvic pain for months with Oliver. But you know, she just manages it and doesn’t complain. During her long labor and her recovery, no complaining. Not once. There’s something about Katie that blows me away, she endures what she needs to endure because she does, and she may mention it briefly in passing, or if asked, but that’s it. It’s just what she needs to do. I said this to her in the hospital and she kind of laughed and said Trey would disagree, but I’m right. Maybe she complains about little this or that, inconsequential things, but when it gets hard she goes quiet and does what she needs to do. She is deeply emotional, and in a complex way; it’s just that when the going gets tough, she pulls in, hunkers down, and does what she needs to do without any fanfare.

OR there’s my way, which is to pull the curtain aside and show the machinery. I talk about it, write about it, explore it and share it, and I have well thought-out reasons for that stance but I think it’s also just more my way, who I am. Still, I admire Katie’s way a lot, and find myself wanting to be more like her. Her way feels like strength and courage and solidity, to me. It isn’t that I think I whine, I don’t think I’m a whiny complainer, but it’s a different way of being, a different way of thinking about suffering and how to respond, and I admire her. Of course there are good and bad aspects to both — if you just suffer in silence and keep it all in, you might suffer more than you need to, you might get into a kind of trouble that would be avoided if others knew more about how you were feeling during difficult times. On the other side, if you talk or write a lot about the hard stuff, it might make it larger and more real in your mind and heart and become a greater concern than it would be if you just quietly let it ride. I share my troubles because they are true and real and I think we all have troubles and sometimes feel all alone with them, so perhaps my experience can help someone feel less alone. But gee, I admire Katie so much.

The second experience that made me think about it came on Saturday night when I had dinner with a friend and we were talking about the general subject of generosity of spirit. She is extraordinarily generous in spirit, and I believe I am, too. We both know people who keep mental balance sheets, people who [for whatever reason] are small in that way, as we see it. She and I give of ourselves because we just want to, it flowers out of who we are, and then we move on. You’ll never get a listing of What All I Have Done For You from either one of us. It’s no big deal, it is just who we are, like she has blond hair and I have brown hair, she is tiny and I am tall. Just who we are. We’ve both been in relationships with friends and family and lovers who were not like that at all. When a relationship is ending, that way of being in the world can really show itself. So we were talking about that contrast, and how hard it can eventually become to remain generous of spirit when the other person is clinging and taking taking taking. She and I might respond in kind, but not for long because it just feels so bad, it makes us feel worse. We’re human (boy are we) so we will lash out or whatever, but ick. Being that way feels awful to us.

Our conversation turned to how to interact with people who have that other kind of response. To keep being generous of spirit and letting go can make you feel like a chump, taken advantage of, even perhaps stupid. But what do you do? Do you behave for the world you want to live in, or the actual world? Her ongoing generosity is not at all going to modify (even a bit) the behavior of the one she’s dealing with. Nor would it for people who were in my life. It’s easy enough — and maybe a valid response — to withhold when dealing with tight-hearted people, and be generous otherwise. Maybe that’s smart. That’s living in the actual world. Or do you blossom yourself into the world in the belief that it does change things, it’s the only way things can change, even if you don’t see it in each and every person? This is a big question, applicable to all kinds of behaviors and ethics beyond generosity, though all kinds of things fall under the umbrella of ‘generosity’ if you think about it. Of course I fail much more often than I succeed, but I think I throw my chit in the “behave for the world I want to live in” bowl. I may get punked/chumped/lose on occasion and that will feel pretty crappy, but whatever, right? Those things happen anyway.

A sweet little family of three is supposed to go home today, and I’d give anything to watch from afar as they put their little boy in the car seat and drive him — carefully, so carefully — home. As they walk through their front door with their long-awaited child, as they greet their dogs who will surely be bewildered by the new member of the house. As they relax and feel so glad to be home, as they walk into their bedroom and place their little boy gently, so gently, into his bed. As they look at each other and feel the way their home has just changed. I’d love to see that, and I can easily remember every single one of those feelings (except the dogs, we had a sweet stray cat that Katie soon named “The Old Bad Kitty”), and the memory is the sweetest sweetest thing. Happy Monday, everyone, the last day of March. The first quarter of this year is ending, how fast it’s going. xo

Introducing Oliver (and Pete!)

We were both a long time coming, I’ll say that. Katie, Trey and I arrived at the hospital at 6:30am on Thursday; they didn’t sleep a lot the night before and I didn’t sleep at all. We all had our own set of things that kept us awake, and most were probably overlapping. A unique one I had was that my sweet little first baby was about to undergo a whole lot of stuff. I had worries, anxieties, fears, excitement, anticipation, wishing-I-could-suffer-instead-of-her. The general mama stuff, you know. I’m waiting to hear from them how they want me to handle showing images of him, but these have been shared on Facebook so I’ll go ahead and share them here. I am not meaning this to be a ME! ME! ME!-heavy post, I’m just protecting their privacy and showing the path through my own tired face. Here’s the story in pictures:

"My sweet boy: You're off to Great Places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting...so get on your way!" -- Katie's caption
“My sweet boy: You’re off to Great Places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting…so get on your way!” — Katie’s caption
around 4 in the afternoon. Waiting, still kinda fresh about it. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon.
around 4 in the afternoon. Waiting, still kinda fresh about it. C’mon, c’mon, c’mon.
a little less fresh by now. Around 9:30pm I think. C'mon, Oliver. Come on down, we're all waiting. What's up with you, stubborn boy!
a little less fresh by now. Around 9:30pm I think. C’mon, Oliver. Come on down, we’re all waiting. What’s up with you, stubborn boy!
almost midnight, we're all trying to catching sips of rest when we can. COME ON OLIVER. Seriously, now. Come on.
almost midnight, we’re all trying to catching sips of rest when we can. COME ON OLIVER. Seriously, now. Come on.
Just before 3, a quick dash to the OR and he's here, at 3:41am. Face up at a funny angle, had to make his own kind of arrival. Look at those little froggie legs! Oliver Hudson Lowery, born on March 28th at 3:41am. 8lbs 6oz and 20 inches long. He has a full head of hair and already has mom and dad wrapped around his finger with his pouty bottom lip.
Just before 3, a quick dash to the OR and he’s here, at 3:41am. Face up at a funny angle, had to make his own kind of arrival. Look at those little froggie legs! Oliver Hudson Lowery, born on March 28th at 3:41am. 8lbs 6oz and 20 inches long. He has a full head of hair and already has mom and dad wrapped around his finger with his pouty bottom lip.
I am thoroughly exhausted, but finally: Introducing Pete! Oliver's grandmama.
I am thoroughly exhausted, but finally: Introducing Pete! Oliver’s grandmama.
The dynamic duo of Oliver and Pete -- watch out everyone. For real.
The dynamic duo of Oliver and Pete — watch out everyone. For real.
The mini-me version of his dad. Like, EXACTLY.
The mini-me version of his dad. Like, EXACTLY.

And so there we are. When they have a photo they like and want to share of the three of them, I’ll post it. They are both over the moon with joy. He’s a champion nurser and he’s great at peeing on kind nurses. Katie has taken to the whole thing with ease and grace, but that doesn’t surprise me. She and Trey continue to show me again and again and again why they are so perfect with and for each other. And now their little family has three beating hearts if you don’t count all the dozens of other beating hearts all around them.

Welcome to this world, little Oliver. My name is Pete, I will be one of your trusted guides.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxo