Friday, July 31, 2015

Our visit is coming to an end.
FlapJilly and her parents will have to get by without live-in sitters and errand runners.
The grandparental units will have to survive without this:
It's not going to be easy on any of us.

We went to the park this morning, for swinging
and greeting our public with a queenly wave.
The sandbox came home with us in her diaper, but she wasn't worried at the moment.

Once we got home, crawling between Mommy and Grandpa 
left me with plenty of time to admire her curls.
There will be many milestones before we see her again.
She'll be walking and sleeping through the night and cutting her molars.

One thing will never change, though.
Grandma will always love her.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

And Even More Baby Pictures

I'm not going to make any excuses.
It's FlapJilly's birthday and we've been celebrating all day.
Grandpa helped her downstairs 
and then we went out to breakfast.
She was the belle of the ball, amusing the owner, the waitress, and the grumpy old man who entered with a frown and ate with a grin, waving and playing peek-a-boo with our little darling.

She brings joy wherever she goes.
We're the passive participants, reveling in the reflected glory.
It's among the most fulfilling roles either of us has ever held.

After a nice, long nap, Little Cuter set up the water park in her backyard.
She didn't want to break out the air pump, so the palm tree and the slide were left uninflated.
Grandma's lungs filled the orange ring,  
but the water was much more interesting.
She brought her mouth closer and closer, 
tried to grab the droplets, 
and then
 There was a gentle breeze, a sunny sky, and a happy baby.
Life was good.

The afternoon nap was a fantasy.
Between the afternoon's excitement and Thomas the Wonder Dog's barking, sleep was elusive.
So, down she came to the living room, where much fun ensued.
Dinner was eaten, a bath was given, and down she came for more fun.

and sitting 
this sturdy birthday present with the twirling, colorful animals 
held her attention  
until Daddy needed just one more hug.

She went to bed, the kids went to the movies, and Grandpa and I are babysitting.

Life is good.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

And More Baby Pictures

I tried, denizens, I really did.  
I was four paragraphs into a more serious post, and then FlapJilly woke up from her nap.  
That was it for thinking.  It was time for loving. 
There was a lot of that going on. 
When that tush started toddling away, 
my heart followed right behind.
The pink kitchen was a birthday gift.
It's a perfect foil for the toss everything onto the floor stage she's inhabiting right now.
We can discuss the politics of pink kitchens in another post.
For now, I can only discuss the adorableness of playing Where's the Baby? with the living room drapes.
The balls are on loan from FlapJilly's own Mary Poppins. 
She brought them with the mesh bag, but FlapJilly prefers them on the floor.
(cf. pink kitchen comment above) 
The baby tosses and the grandparents clean up.
The baby is not amused. 
and takes action on her own.
Grandma doesn't seem to mind at all.
Look at that face.
Would you argue with anything she did?

One year ago today, she came into the world.
It's time to start on the second million kisses.
Excuse me while I begin.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

More Baby PIctures

Because I am having so much fun, because I am overwhelmed with the wonderfulness that is my littlest relative, I am incapable of typing anything resembling profundity.

I could write about the books I've read lately, but Goodnight Moon  and Sandra Boynton's Pajama Time don't lend themselves to in depth analysis.  They do, however, lead to snuggles and that is, at this point, much more important to me.

Yes, it's true, I have baby brain.

We took her out to lunch yesterday. SIR carried her on his shoulders because the stroller lost its space in the trunk to our suitcases and never made the return trip.
She grabs on with a serious grip; TBG's senior citizen follicles are no match for the tugging. SIR has no such problem; he enjoys the trip as much as his daughter does.

The front of her shirt has pictures of The Avengers - Captain America, The Hulk, and two others whose names escape me at the moment.

The back of the shirt has ruffles. 
That encapsulates my little one - tough and delicate in one delectable package.

I'll try to be more thoughtful tomorrow, but I'm making no promises.
This grandparenting thing is just too delicious for words.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Where Has The Time Gone?

One year ago today, I was here in Illinois.  Little Cuter, pregnant and nesting, took me to the garden center where her neighbor's child gave us a great deal on a pink and white hyacinth.  We planted it in a pot destined for her deck, and decided it was a lovely present with which to greet her baby.

That baby arrived on July 29th, but parties in the middle of the week aren't the most convenient for working parents.  So, family
 and friends
  gathered on Saturday at FlapJilly's house to celebrate 52 weeks of babyhood.  

It was perfect, just like the birthday girl herself.
Little Cuter painted the antique high chair to match the decor.  

The local grocery made wraps and croissant sandwiches and there were salads and sangria but mostly there was this
 and this
 and this
The personal smash cake was much too hard for her to penetrate.
 Grandma had no problem using fingers as cutlery and moving the process along.
 FlapJilly would like to thank all of you for the birthday wishes.
As is our family tradition, she'll be celebrating all week.
More pictures will follow.
I'm having too much fun to think about writing.

Friday, July 24, 2015

On The Road Again

Off to see the grandbaby, because she's turning one and she'd notice that we weren't there... right?

No, TBG, it's not a surprise party.... although we did have fun with that thought after you verbalized it.  According to our daughter, "it can't be a surprise party because FlapJilly doesn't know what a party is."  

I disagree with that - the party is wherever SHE is!

And that, dear readers, is in Illinois.  I am still creating birthday gifts and doing laundry and haven't even begun to think about packing, but that all paled when Little Cuter called this morning, with a mommy question.

"Talk me down off a ledge, please," came right after her subdued "Hi" ... the Hi with the tremor right behind it.  That tone clutches at my heart and sends my stomach into my throat, but I calmly tell her that I have nothing else to do but listen, and help.

That's the same kind of story Michelle Obama told me in my hospital room when I couldn't stop crying.  As she held me in her arms, tubes snaking everywhere, my face leaking on her from every available orifice, she patted my back and cooed in my ear.  "That's okay.  Just cry it out.  We've got nothing but time."

The leader of the free world and his spouse had nothing else to do right then but listen to me weep.  I believed it then and I believe it now, just as my child believes me when I say that I will listen until she is no longer in need.  That kind of belief keeps us going in the most difficult of times; we're lucky to have it.

And so I listened and she talked and she wondered and we planned and she listened and we shared memories and agreed that trust your gut is the most important rule of parenting, and she went off to do just that.

She called back fifteen minutes later.  With her questions answered and her anxiety relieved, she could worry about ruining a birthday party for a human who doesn't know what a party is. 

We laughed.  She went on to work and I had my nails done and I worked out and I shopped for last minute essentials and came home to finish the laundry and pack.

There may be a lot of picture posts next week.... I'm warning you in advance.  An adoring set of grandparents will be fawning over the most perfect little human on the planet, and we might just have to share.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How I Appear to My Daughter

In yesterday's post, I described myself as a person who is often more tentative than I'd like to be.

That surprised Little Cuter, who took ten minutes out of her busy work day to put her feet up on her computer tower and call me to wonder.  

"Really, Mom?  I never think of you as tentative.  You are a hard charger."

It's nice to know that the illusion I strive to create has been accepted. 

I'm always anxious inside.  I carry with me a sense of unworthiness.  I can trace it back to my first day of 1st grade.  I spent the first 8 days of the school year in kindergarten, then skipped up to the big kids' realm.  The playground was different.  The rules were different.  There were so many more children running around, all of whom seemed to know exactly where to go, and with whom.

My neighbor, a "real" first grader, all of 2 months older than I, escorted me to the #4 painted on the playground's asphalt, and instructed me to wait there.  Obediently, I stood still, watching the world revolve around me and feeling alone.  It was obvious to me that I was deficient in some unknown trait which would have allowed me to join her and her friends.  

I was uncertain, uncomfortable, and frightened.  I had assumed that my friends from my street at home would be my friends on the playground at school.  But the boys were on the other side of the school, playing ball games and tag and climbing on the jungle gym.  The girls were segregated under the trees, playing house and running up the steps of the slide.

That slide.... oh, that slide.  It was taller than any I'd ever encountered.  The line moved quickly, not pausing passively for a tentative newbie who was terrified of heights. When the playground monitor took pity on my lonely self and walked me over to join the line, I was living a nightmare.  Nearly 60 years later I can, without much effort, conjure up the fear I felt as I stood at the top, too scared to bend my knees and sit down.

That feeling of social isolation and physical terror was with me all through elementary school.  I didn't like the school bus; I was afraid that I would be stuck in the back and never make it off at my stop.  I was afraid of the bus stop, and the giant dog running loose on the same corner.  

I didn't watch the same television shows the other kids saw; years later I realized that they all had older siblings who were driving the viewing decisions in their homes.  My little brother and sister and I were happy to watch Mickey Mouse and Mighty Mouse and Crusader Rabbit.  I didn't know that would be ground for derision, and I was blindsided when the teasing started.

As an adult, my verbal skills and general resiliency have helped me to overcome my childhood angst. I try to project a positive, confident persona, and, given my daughter's response, I must have been successful.  Still, hiding inside that outgoing exterior is the little girl who's worried that people won't like her, who doesn't understand what's going on, who is petrified and flummoxed and stuck.

I'm glad I didn't show that to Little Cuter; I wouldn't want that to be her expectation for how a grown woman should act.  I wish I could banish her entirely from my psyche, though.  She reappears more often than I'd like, sending me into a tailspin of anxiety... less often as the years pass, but there nonetheless.

Don't tell anybody, though.  I like the notion that my kid thinks I'm tough.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Feeling Inspired

A fellow BlogHer '15 attendee called it falling into Wonderland. 

Sharing my Kathleen-provided bottle of Prosecco with total strangers seemed an absolutely natural thing to do.

I began to use hashtags in my texts and emails; Little Cuter was quite impressed with me.

Anyone was welcome to sit anywhere.  If only Junior High School had been like that.  Imagine the Grand Ballroom of the Midtown Hilton filled with women who wanted you to be their friend. Everyone had something to offer; the only problem was finding the time to learn it all.

I took notes on the recto. I wrote the phrases which touched me on the verso. SheKnows Media was thoughtful enough to include a bound journal in our welcome bags.  That right there encapsulates the entire experience - a social media mavens gathering whose organizers gave us paper notebooks to record our thoughts.

Soledad O'Brien made a return appearance,this time with three of the scholars her Starfish Foundation is sending to college.... colleges like Smith and Princeton...."not inexpensive universities!" as she pointed out with a laugh.  Her pride in the young women sharing the stage was contagious; several thousand of us in the audience were beaming.  My takeaway?
Philanthropy doesn't have to be with a Capital P.  You do what you can.  Small is good.
Majora Carter, who is working to revitalize the South Bronx through one amazing project after another, spoke to us about her newest venture: urban on-shoring of tech jobs. This links to a video - with sound.  Tech companies were having trouble finding reliable, off-shore beta testers.  She offers training and then job placement right there in the South Bronx, creating jobs for those who thought there would never be one for them, and providing a solution for which companies were willing to pay.  My takeaway?
See the problem for what it is and know that there are many solutions. 
Teneshia Jackson Warner had us guffawing as she described her months long, ultimately successful campaign to get Russell Simmons to hire her at no fee.  He blew her off time and time and time and time again, yet she kept faxing and calling and showing up.  She flew across the country, west to east, north to south, which was, she admitted, somewhere on the other side of normal. 

But that was just where she encouraged us to be. On the journey required to become who you are meant to be, you have to examine the distance between your comfort zone and your dream. As a person who is often more tentative than I'd like to be, my takeaway was simple:
Be willing to stretch when the moment is before you.
I'm going to work on that.

Patrice Cullors and Opel Tometi, the creators of #BlackLivesMatter, set my head spinning.  Gwyneth Paltrow did not.  There were blog advisors and Girl Scouts and SEO's, and I'll get to them over the next few posts.  For now, though, I'm going to work on stretching.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Mother's Best Friend

There are some stories only a best friend can share.  There are some stories a mother might not share with her daughter... or might no longer be able to share with her daughter.  Those stories were front and center last Tuesday, and I'm still basking in the glow.

G'ma grew up next to Gladys; G'ma on the right, with the porch.

There were no metal gates or awnings then, nor when I visited in the 1950's and '60's.  We played stoop ball, out in the street, tossing the Pensy Pinkie against (obviously) the stoop.  We played handball in the narrow alley on the right.

I never thought about what it was like for my mother to be a little girl on that stoop, in that alley.  I knew about some of the neighbors, but the stories were just that - stories.  I didn't see the relevance to the woman who was my parent.  I couldn't and didn't imagine her as a child.

But I knew about Gladys.  I knew that she and G'ma had some grand adventures - taking the train to the West Coast, skiing in Vermont, camping, going to college, teaching.  I knew that Gladys and her husband introduced my parents.

I always wondered why.

The girls' friendship became less important as their married lives began.  We moved to the suburbs, they kept an apartment in Queens.  As an adult, G'ma wasn't one for friendships; I never saw her sitting around the kitchen table with a girlfriend, or going shopping with a girlfriend, or having lunch with a girlfriend.

I always wondered what happened to Gladys, but I never asked.

Somehow, it felt intrusive.  I had to wait until I was ready to see my mother as something other than my own appendage before I felt comfortable asking. That didn't happen until my twenties, when I was busy creating my own space in the world.  By the time I turned around and took a breath, dementia was stealing her memories. I gnashed my teeth; I'd waited too long.

After I was shot, Gladys' daughter searched the interwebs and found me.  We connected our mothers via snail mail; both of them preferring it to typing pixels on a screen.  Gladys understood G'ma's fading brain; her letters were full of memories and love.  They always made G'ma smile.

Last week, I went to New York a day early, just to see Gladys.  She's an artist, a sculptor, a poet, a widow, a rabble-rouser, a mother of two girls, a grandmother.... but when I walked through her door she was a teenager seeing her best friend for the first time in too long a time.

"Oh, it's my little Esther!"

There were tears. There were hugs.  There were more tears. More than once, we found ourselves holding hands.

We talked about my grandparents. "Radicals, for sure.  I remember going to rallies with Sam.  Ida was maybe less outgoing but believed very strongly.  After all, the Rosenbergs happened right around the corner from us."

Daddooooo teased G'ma about her Commie Parents; apparently, he wasn't that far from the truth.

G'ma was the better skier, the first to drive a car, the one who encouraged Gladys to join her at Brooklyn College.  Yes, they were old when they married; 26 and 27.... practically old maids.  G'ma's oft repeated lament that she "went to college when all the good men were at war" felt right to Gladys, too.

Daddoooo was incorrigible when he met G'ma; she was known for sighing "Oh, Herbie...." on a regular basis.  She didn't seem to mind his outrageous behavior, she seemed to find it somewhat amusing.  I was there to testify that it got real old real fast and stayed that way until he died; we took a moment to ponder their life together.

At that moment, I was watching my mother and father as young adults. I was glad Gladys was there, on the couch, holding my hand.

Gladys's wedding movie was on the DVR; my mother was ravishing, happy, smiling, full of joy and enthusiasm.  She seemed happier there, in the big room in the basement on Gladys' side of their shared 6-flat, than she does in the movie shot eighteen months later, at her lavish wedding at the Waldorf-Astoria.

"Maybe she saw him as her way out?  He was a very successful businessman, remember."

No, I don't remember.  I remember having enough-but-never-more, I remember the bankruptcy, I remember the arguments.  Was he not worth the effort if the money wasn't there?

I don't like to think of my mother in that light, and I don't think I need to do so, either.  That was part of her marriage; I was part of the family.  Sure, their divisiveness made for some miserable moments, but I was always able to recognize that it was all about them, and not about me.

I wished they were happier.  I knew I couldn't make it so.  I always felt loved.

We agreed that that would have to be enough.

Over lunch, I ready her poetry and looked at the pictures she'd found.  I took only one.

As Gladys said,  "She was a real bathing beauty!"

Monday, July 20, 2015

Donald Trump, John McCain, and What I Learned This Weekend

There will be much to say about BlogHer '15 and New York City and seeing old friends and friends of friends, but I can't get past what I saw and what I felt in the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport this morning.

The seats at Gate 12 were grouped comfortably around a big screen tv. It wasn't dangling from the ceiling, it was on a bench at eye level. It was very hard to ignore.

CNN's talking heads were taking on Donald Trump. The New York Times reporter and the Republican advisor (What does that mean? Who is taking his advice?) were bemoaning the fact that the media had been sucked up into the Trump universe without investigating his positions.

The Huffington Post's announcement that their coverage of Trump's campaign would now be found where it belongs – on their entertainment pages – was grist for their mill. The moderator made reference to those of us in New York who know about his scandals more intimately than other Americans but he never went on to elaborate.

Having spent the past few weeks watching steam come out of TBG's ears every time that bankrupt, narcissistic, gives-business-a-bad-name ass shows his face on tv, I am well acquainted with his business failings. When I learned of this latest kerfuffle, I saw why it made a difference. The lack of respect he demonstrates towards everyone except himself may have come back to bite him after all.

What in the world made Trump think that John McCain's imprisonment in the Hanoi Hilton was his to assault? He was captured.... y'know what.... I like people who weren't captured is the flip side of his oft repeated I like winners.

What happened to acknowledging the years my Senator refused early release because it was not his turn? He still bears the scars and other physical reminders of living in a cage, a cage he could have left but for the fact that he honored those imprisoned before him. I don't agree with him all the time (cf Sarah Palin) but I've never dismissed his Vietnam experiences as unworthy of a hero.

So, the talk shows are filled with Is this the end of his campaign?

I'm not sure that's the question I'd be asking. I'd be wondering why he got as much coverage as he did up until this point. 

All I can imagine is that it is summertime and people are looking for fluff. That's where I'd been languishing until this morning, when a brief mention of a post on Twitter put it all into a different and more disturbing perspective.

Trump has been calling Mexicans rapists for weeks, and only now are people saying he's through.

BlogHer '15 was filled with eye opening experiences, many centering on the marginalization of people of color. This tweet brought it all to a head for me.

I listened to the founders of #BlackLivesMatter. I listened to AvaDuVernay. And I heard an exquisite post, After Eric Garner, What Do I Tell My Son? Click through, read it for yourselves, and pause, as the author did, half way through, to sob.

I can't imagine what it's like to be frightened for your children every time they leave the house. Not only the universal my-heart-is-living-within-my-child-and-I-can't-be-around-him-and-keep-him-safe worry that all parents share, but that worry with an extra layer on top.

Will the police stop him? Will he behave in a way that keeps him out of trouble? Will it matter how he behaves? How do I explain respect for authority when young black women are dying in jail cells

Sure, Donald Trump is the story here... on the surface. I'm thinking that tweet is alerting us to something more … something more important …. something I spent a lot of time thinking about this weekend.


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