My son doesn’t believe in free will. He’s a philosophy buff with strong analytical skills that serve him well most of the time, but he may be overthinking things on this one. By contrast, my daughter acts as if she thinks free will is the end all and be all, and there should be nothing but personal choice.
Sitting in front of the flower stand in Philadelphia’s South Street today, scarfing down a snack before an author interview, I was feeling pretty philosophical. That’s what got me thinking about my children and choices. I wondered if the very campus I was headed to for a work assignment would be Aaron’s home by this time next year. He would then spend a fair amount of time in the very station I was sitting in, catching trains home for… kung fu.
Will he be chosen by the school(s) of his choice? What will he choose to do if not? I wondered.
What if my own first and second choices for colleges had been reversed and I’d gone to Boston instead of D.C.? I wouldn’t have been in D.C. to choose to help a co-worker drive from Washington to Austin for graduate school. Aaron and Ava wouldn’t be here, then. I wouldn’t have met the Texan ex-husband without those choices.
Choices and the consequences thereof can be wild and crazy things. Even the ones that seem like minutia can be game changers. I thought as I sipped from a soda.
As I gathered my equipment to head to the taxi stand, I could feel a headache coming on. It was time to give philosophical musings a rest. So I chose to do just that.
Twice a month I drive to work. That’s about an hour and fifteen minutes of one-way driving in rush hour traffic. Unlike driving to and from the grocery store or kung fu or college visits, that bi-monthly drive has become the time that I listen to music that’s special to me without the interruption of family conversation.
Driving up the highway last night, on my way to kung fu training at the gym, I just had to hear a song from a CD my son gave me for my birthday. It’s a great collection of tunes I loved back in my twenties and songs he loves today that are similar to the old Nineties “alternative music” hits. My need to hear the song was a direct result of a cool photo of the extended family that he sent me from his grandparents house, where he’s the photographer for a change.
Courtesy of YouTube, of course, here’s the song the picture put in my head. The studio version is one of my new favorites of 2014, thanks to a kid who knows me pretty well, but the live version is pretty good, too!
The last couple of days have been filled with little things that make me happy. Just going home to Connecticut means visiting with aunts, cousins and a cantankerous 95-year-old grandmother that would stop speaking to me if I photographed her at this stage in her life.
It also includes a mandatory visit to the grocery store of my childhood, which happens to be the coolest place on the planet to buy food. I get a kick out of watching my kids make a beeline for their favorite items in a store that’s enthralled me from the first time I watched the milk go into the half gallon carton we’d later bring home.
We later enjoyed the comfortable hospitality of the aunt-in-law’s beautiful Brooklyn brownstone. That was actually not a little thing. Having a relative with the space to put us all up saved the expense of hotel for four people. Yay!
Come Thursday morning, we were back evaluating colleges in weather that teased us with threats of rain that thankfully never came. Cloudy-turned-to-sunny is another little thing that makes me happy.
I had the presence of mind to save my arthritic knees for pounding the pavement farther down the highway in Philadelphia and simply watched my boy wander around the Redmen’s Queens campus from the top of a very large stairway.
After fighting the insanity of New Jersey Turnpike traffic, we arrived fifteen minutes late for the last tour of our trip. But we managed to catch up with the groups just as they were leaving the auditorium and beginning the walk around the campus. Perfect timing – a little thing that often feels huge.
Another traffic battle through Philly’s rush hour brought us home to a water heater hose repair and more than an hour of separating preservable photos from the ones that had to be discarded. The upside, of course, was a visit with old pictures and warm memories.
Bottom line at the end of a whirlwind trip: it’s the little things that make for life’s big days!
The day started with the hot water heater literally showering boxes of photos in the basement, with a profoundly poor-timed leak. The four of us were on our way out the door for Aaron’s college visits but delayed the departure to spread dozens of pre-digital memories out on the family room floor. Here’s hoping the pictures dry well enough to be worth keeping.
Rather than be bogged down with depression over drenched photographs, I spent the day taking dozens more of a child who grew much too fast and is a measly year away from moving on. He’s still looking for where he’s going next, and we were along for the ride. Actually, we were the ride.
Monday was one of those adrenaline-draining workdays that almost left me too worn out for evening kung fu. Almost.
My commuter train was forty-five minutes late on a jam-packed taping day; so I was tense before I could even make it to my desk. Within five minutes of being in the building, I was informed that the car sent to pick up my first guest of the day was stuck behind an accident, 20 miles from the author’s house. And his house was 80 miles from the studio.
There are no Uber cars in Maryland farm country! And driving himself was problematic because he was heading to the airport after taping the show. In other words, I had a royal mess on my hands before 10 a.m., and I could feel the gray hairs multiplying.
While I was trying to get my guest in and around two metropolitan beltways, my crew was trying to reconnect the power supply to lights and cameras in the studio. Somehow the weekend cleaning crew left studios A and B completely unplugged – and no one had a reason to notice until it was time to set up for my shows. Thank God they had the presence of mind not to tell me about reconnection problems until after they were solved – and my guest was flying down Interstate 95 in his own car, with a passenger willing to drive it back to his house.
For the second show both guests were inconveniently early, arriving as we tried to inhale lunch in between the two tapings. But after the morning’s insanity, I was just glad they arrived without incident. That show’s controversy was entirely on set, as two Washington legends debated the facts and fiction behind a forty-year-old presidential resignation.
In short, I earned my check today… and was more than ready to lace up the gloves and hit the bags from the moment I heard, “That’s a wrap.”
Not much to say tonight. Just feeling happy, joyous, free… and exhausted.
Kung fu this week has been high-flying, painful, satisfying and fun. Keeping up with Siheng Brandon is an exercise in futility for my old bones, but it’s awfully fun to watch.
Equally sweat producing was the beginning of the tours of college campuses that being the mother of an incoming senior brings. As luck would have it, it was 100 in the shade as we pounded the pavement of Terp territory. Here’s hoping next week in my beloved New England and New York will be cooler!
My heart is happy when I’m in New York. Neither I nor my employer can afford a decent hotel room in the city that’s big enough to accommodate kung fu practice – and I don’t care. This is notable because I care very much about space to train with any other place I visit for work or pleasure. That should say it all when it comes to my feelings about NYC, but I’m going to go on.
Manhattan has been special to me since the first time I stepped off the commuter train from Connecticut, holding my mother’s hand, to go visit Santa at Macy’s, then go slip on the ice at Rockefeller Center. Later, I loved it because I was a middle school glee club member and stage rat who fell head over heels for Broadway and everything about the theater district. Then came the crazy teen years and jumping on the train to hang out in Greenwich Village with my best friend and my fake ID. That was followed by a first salaried job as a wardrobe supervisor for a suburban theater, where I was invited out on the island with the ladies and gents of the ensemble and introduced to several of the city’s great restaurants.
Winter traditions, Broadway, Bohemia, food – they all just scratch the surface of what makes me nuts about New York. As I write, I realize that I’ve had goosebump-great moments there with each parent, both spouses, both children and three of the four people who were my closest friends before the age of twenty-five (and are still friends to this day). That’s not true of any other place on the planet, including my hometown.
Anyway, here’s some of what I saw, did and enjoyed in this working, reunion weekend in Gotham.
I finally got a meal at a seafood joint I’ve been wanting to get to since I first heard of it a year ago – and the food was as good as it looked.
Work was crazy-making and exhausting, but there’s no denying it offered a rollicking good time to those around me, both outside the Schomburg Center…
A brush with Mr. Mosley’s literary greatness didn’t hurt either.
All in all, it was exactly what the doctor ordered at the end of a sad anniversary. Funny how the universe provides what we need… though often in unexpected wrappers.
A Tuesday off from work to break up what would otherwise have been a seven-day work week. More than eight hours of sleep for the first time in months; more work done with gym personnel for the upcoming kung fu class I’m teaching; more training on White Eyebrow with new moves added (finally!); more research on farmers’ markets and festivals where I can test the market for my baked goods. A completely packed so-called day off!
…Taping a show tomorrow with the host flying in same day. Worried about the weather interfering in her arrival and having to reschedule a show that was hard to book in the first place.
…Have to find hosts by Thursday for the double taping day at the end of the month with former and current politicos. Another item that needs to be put to bed before work this weekend, or I’ll run out of time for the hosts to read the books.
…Looking forward to getting back to New York but not sure if I’m looking forward to the work. Spending Friday and Saturday in Harlem producing the live coverage of a book fair that’s rumored to be a chaotic gig is sure to add a few grey hairs. To top it off, neither I nor my director has worked this one before. Right now it’s a touch of angst but it has the potential to become full-blown anxiety. Gotta keep that under control and focus on organization.
…Have to get an answer before Harlem on whether I need to fly to Texas to do an interview with the August guest. Just my luck he’ll say yes but only leave me two days to choose from. A whirlwind trip will end up getting squeezed in around the time I get my son home from Vermont and start teaching the kung fu class – just because Murphy has that irritating little law.
Just one foot in front of the other, just one day at a time – the only way to live a life much fuller than I ever thought it could be. 🙂
Home sweet home – and just now enjoying a moment to breathe… and write. Those thunderstorms that last day in Florida did indeed delay our return. But Ava and I enjoyed a parting meal at a popular Daytona barbeque joint, before spending an extra two extra hours in an airport that can only belong to the city where Disney lives.
The airport itself is like an amusement park wrapped into a city unto itself. I know it’s convenient, but how can it possibly be peaceful to have a hotel room inside of an airport?
Anyway, we made it back to Baltimore somewhere around 1 a.m., and the wait for both luggage and staff was thankfully only minutes long. Though neither of us crawled into our beds until about 2:30, we successfully rolled back out of them for kung fu, and were stretching with Merle and Aaron on the floor of the school by 10:15. It wasn’t until then that I remembered the email I received while sitting in the Orlando airport in an anxious but sleepy haze, looking for something to stream on my laptop to pass the time.
The email came from the gym, and the subject line read: “Offer Letter and New Hire Information.” There’s a drug test and a training session to submit to, and then, all’s that’s left for the teaching to begin is the program director to tell me my start date! It felt almost triumphant to whisper that news to the family while stretching in the guan during a class I used to help teach.
Just minutes after our smiles waned, I caught a green sash daydreaming while a Siheng was instructing her group. I pointed her eyes back in his direction and said with a smile, “Wake up, lady.”
“I’m trying,” she answered, with shoulders sagging. “Where have you been?” she whispered, walking to her place in the rotation line. “I miss you teaching. You keep my attention. You get in my head and make me want to work.”
I wanted to answer her question. I wanted to cry. I managed to simply thank her and tell her that I miss teaching her, too. Then, I took a moment to marvel at how the universe works sometimes. Her words were a fantastic affirmation, perfectly timed, that the offer letter isn’t a waste of paper, that I belong at the head of a class.
I began this writing from a rental car in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel. I was waiting for a morning thunderstorm to lighten up enough for me not to be completely drenched just by opening the door. It was the tenth or eleventh thunderstorm of the week, including the one we landed in. I have to drive an hour down the highway to Orlando in a few hours and board a plane a couple of hours after that. I really need for my departure from Florida to be smoother than my arrival. That requires an extended window between thunderstorms that have seriously cramped the off hours of our week.
All’s been well for morning drop off, but there’s been loud and heavy rain both before and after pick up, daily. Mother Nature gave Ava and me a short opportunity to stick our feet in wet sand and stroll along the pier yesterday before sending in another beastly wave of clouds.
My girl and I are returning home without having shared a swim, but we did share a healthy dose of quality conversation. That was most certainly worth a bad week of weather!
After spending five days rising for camp just thirty minutes later than we would for work and school, we’re both more than ready to sleep late and sleep in our own beds (unfortunately, I only have Sunday to do the former). Creatures of habit that we are, we’re also anxious to get back to our routines. For Ava, that’s looking ahead to Sunday with her dad; for me, that’s looking ahead to Sunday at the gym. With a little luck, I’ll have something new to practice after Saturday’s class…assuming that what I tried to beat (rhythmically, that is) into my muscle memory this week doesn’t go on hiatus in front of Sifu.
One of these days I’ll take a break from work that’s actually restful. That would require leaving the staff at home, of course. It would likely require restraints of some kind, too. 🙂
This was my mother’s house. I was there today for the first time in almost seven years, visiting a stepfather to whom I was never close.
To my surprise, almost nothing has changed. The furniture is the same and in the same place. The pictures, both on the walls and side tables, are unchanged as well. None of the rooms have been painted a different color. None of the drapes have been replaced for more stylish patterns. The only thing that’s different is the woman walking through the front door, using her own key.
It was a beautiful morning in the temporary neighborhood, briefly captured as best as possible from stop lights, stop signs and a parking space the aviators and techies were rushing me out of, once my daughter was safely in their care.
Watching teensy little Cesnas (or whatever make they may be) take off over my car in one-minute intervals, into a sky that just doesn’t seem as rich in blue in my actual neighborhood as it is in the Sunshine State, planted Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” in my head at a high imaginary decibel. It played on a loop right up until I started fidgeting with the air conditioning in the banquet room turned guan. And it returned when, on the day’s twenty-third repetition of what I know of White Eyebrow, I obtained the proper pace and rhythm for “The Walk.” At least it looks that way to me. If I’m wrong, someone will most definitely tell me. Many someones, actually.
I had to slow it down to even approach getting it right. I apparently also had to step out of the shot (oops). I’ll worry about the up-tempo version, well… tomorrow. But just for today, it felt pretty good.