Stop and Weep

Every time the end of summer rolls around and I see a bright blue sky and feel the crisp air I can’t help but remember another perfect September day. I remember looking up at the sky as my father drove me to work–my car was being worked on and thinking the day could not be anymore gorgeous and how sad I was to be heading into an office for the next several hours.

We heard about the first plane while listening to the radio to determine why traffic was snarling on Queens Boulevard. We heard the second attack through the reactions of the people on the radio who were still trying to understand what happened with the first plane. The office where I worked was a sea of tears, confusion, and fear and after a while most people just stopped attempting to work and watched the news or looked out the window which gave us an unobstructed view of the Twin Towers. We saw the first one fall and were told to go home. So we did, many of us to go be with our families and to sit and weep.

In the days and weeks and even months later, after all the candlelight vigils, there was still the pull and need to sit and reflect and weep.

Courtesy Stephen Train via Flickr

Courtesy Stephen Train via Flickr

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Dinner in Paris

I have dinner to make, and I’m not thrilled about it.

Courtesy Jean Jullien

Courtesy Jean Jullien

TGIF, of course, but it’s been a long day: two therapy appointments for our older son, a visit to Santa for him and the baby (and all the bribery and maneuverings required to make that annual picture happen), a trip to the playground (and all the bribery and maneuverings required to get them home). My husband takes the kids downstairs to play so I can throw dinner together, my back aching over the kitchen counter and my inner monologue verging on martyrdom. You know–the usual.

I waver between turning on Christmas music and the news, then settle on the news.

I hear a familiar voice in an unfamiliar time slot. I glance at the clock. I turn back to the TV. That’s when this one begins.

Like the voice, it’s familiar and unfamiliar, recognizable yet disorienting: more death, more destruction, more violence. Not again and I can’t believe it being the simultaneous mismatched refrains. I pause in my dinner prep, take in the information, realize it’s still happening. Horror unfolding in real time, the world watching. Hostages. Fates unknown. How can this be? paired with Hasn’t this happened before?

I call downstairs to my husband, give him a brief version, cleaned up for the kids’ ears. Are you serious? paired with Oh God, not again. Shock and knowing together.

There are stages to grief, aren’t there? For me, anger shows up before its entrance is scheduled, usurping the others with its demands, such a diva: “move out of the way, I’ll take it from here.” A litany of emotional unresearched solutions pours into my brain: Bomb them all. NOW. Declare war. End them, this. Close the borders, the doors, my heart. Make it stop, for God’s sake. For my children’s sake.

That part is different. Continue reading

Observations on Transformations, Part 1

Young LIfe CapernaumIn January 2011, I traveled with Ken Prussner, President of the NGO STARS Children Africa (, to a remote corner in Kenya to chronicle the experiences of orphans that had graduated from high school.  STARS– Students Transforming and Renewing its Society– provides orphans in Africa with access to a secondary school education and seeks to break the cycle of poverty and despair and replace it with a reinforcing cycle of hope, renewal and growth.

STARS partners with St. Luke’s Ministries, nestled among rice paddies and potholed dirt roads near Kenya’s far western city of Kisumu. Led by Pastor Joshua and his wife Abigael, St. Luke’s runs a girls’ school and serves orphans and widows in the surrounding communities. The ministry provides young people with encouragement and a nurturing environment to develop confidence, self-respect and responsibility. Above all, STARS seeks to inspire these students to become compassionate leaders in their society.

The following series charts my impressions of the STARS students from 2011 when I first met them, when they set their sights on college, to the present day, where many have graduated and are stepping into the working world, their characters shaped by the experiences they have chosen and those they have endured. Continue reading

Blogging Through The Leftovers: Season Two, Episodes Five and Six

Last week’s episode, “No Room at the Inn” was hard to watch. Matt and Mary Jamison’s story has been one of the most tragic of all the plotlines in The Leftovers. Mary is an unsung victim of the Sudden Departure–present in body but absent in mind and spirit–she effectively was taken away on October 14, 2011 when she went into a vegetative state after being hit by a driverless car. Matt’s reaction to Mary’s coma and the Sudden Departure was to rail against those who disappeared, proving that they were not more holy or righteous than those “left over.” In this season he has allegedly experienced one of the rare miracles in Miracle–Mary woke up their first night back.

The fifth episode of the season opens with a repeated montage of Matt waking up and reliving the events of the day of Mary’s supposed awakening, in an effort to bring about the same result. Except one day they do something different–they leave Jarden for a regular brain scan to see if there has been any improvement in Mary’s condition. There’s been a change all right–she is pregnant from the night she supposedly woke up. The episode follows Matt’s tortuous attempt to get Mary back into Miracle as they face thieves and con artists and all kinds of disturbing people outside the town gates. It is an episode marked by more mysticism and mystery than the show otherwise portrays.

The episode ends with Mary being returned to Miracle and put in Nora and Kevin’s care while Matt, the pastor, goes out beyond the gate and takes the place of a man who has been held in stocks, naked for months. Continue reading

The Growing Season: New Friends in Unexpected Places

This is the latest installment of The Growing Season. For the other installments please click here.

Both the freeing of my schedule due to job loss and the change from my former fast-paced New York existence are reflected in the fact that my weekly trip to Target has become a highlight of my week. In a genius marketing strategy, Starbucks has located an outpost within the huge store, and I stop there to pick up my seasonal hot beverage so that it can accompany me through the aisles. I remember what grocery shopping was like in New York: the weeks when I was too tired to go anywhere but the nasty Gristede’s on the corner, with its flickering lighting and low ceilings and vague smell of mold; and in comparison, the bold outings to Trader Joe’s and its line extending onto Fourteenth Street; the newer digs and higher ceilings but clogged aisles and rushed atmosphere. Since I refused to push one of those little buggies around the city that were favored by the elderly as both a convenience and a walking support, I had to grab only what I could carry, whether it was for a journey one block long or twenty. I would place the bags on my tiny kitchen counter and rub my arms, which bore red indentations from the weight of that week’s groceries. I’d flop down on the couch to regroup before unloading my new stash, then I’d consult my checkbook to see how much cash was left over for the week’s entertainment.

Now things are different.

I struggle against driving around to look for the closest parking space—something I promised myself I’d never do when we left New York and each exit from my apartment was a form of working out. I walk the few feet from my lovely heated car, complete with iPod-provided tunes, and into the warmth of commercial America: flavored coffee, voluminous aisles, Mt. Everest-high ceilings. I breathe in the newness as I push a cart undecorated by scum. There’s no sense of battles won or lands conquered when I get home from these trips, but they sure are easier.

After my shopping is complete—a process becoming shorter each week as I memorize where all the items are located—I wheel my cart behind a woman and her little girl. The mom is probably mid-thirties, the girl around six. As Mom retrieves items from her cart and places them on the conveyor, Girl picks them up and throws them back into the cart.

“Honey, let’s not do that,” Mom chides Girl, replacing the food back on the conveyor.

Girl laughs maniacally and repeats the process.

“Sweetheart. Make good choices,” Mom tries, replacing the items. Continue reading