Monday, September 2, 2019

The Joys of 65

This Wednesday I turn 65. It would be absurd to say this is all thrills and chills; it is not. I have your typical post 60 aches and pains. I was never a good sleeper, and my sleep is worse. Whatever I feel now, I fell more deeply; hence, in many ways I am sadder, since I look at the grief of people I love, and I, too feel their pain. The flip side of feeling this pain is also feeling enormous joy and gratitude-not just for my Medicare, part A and my discounted Metrocard, but for what I have.

Let's begin with  confidence. I now understand what really matters. When my children were growing up, I felt it was WRONG to have them booked up the wazoo with a million classes because I knew-deep in my heart of hearts-a creative child is never born   out of an overly-busy schedule. How did I know this? Since I had so many hours growing up with just my imagination, and this enabled me to become a writer, an inventor of stories. People I know in the arts all share the same trajectory-no way would they ever have started drawing and painting it they were overly-booked. NOW there are countless articles with what is wrong with contemporary parenting; these children will never have the opportunity to discover themselves because their parents make them TOO BUSY.  Why did I feel insecure about my own thoughts instead of trusting myself? I gave my children countless do nothing hours, but did not trust it was the right thing (though instinct told me it was).

I was right. And now I am confident in what matters.  I consistently trust my instincts and have confidence in myself. It matters to have freedom to become, to have lots of leisure, to do important work in the world, to give and give generously. My job grants me the pleasure of giving in the world, and my writing ventures now consist of good deed projects, whether they be writing about children devastated my Hurricane Maria or children at the border.

I know who my friends are, I have good ones, and-if not-I am able to discard. I like people who are real, honest authentic-not fluffy, superficial friends. The same goes for my family; I value them deeply, and am not afraid to tell them how I feel. What use is pretense?

I deplore pretense, the superficial, the meaningless.. Because of this, if a friend or family member is struggling, I feel this sorrow, so sometimes I am weighted down, but this is a good thing because it allows me to empathize, and be grounded in the REAL; life is not always frivolous. Sometimes the sorrow has no legitimate outlet, but I am always hopeful things will get better. And if I am down, I allow myself to feel this.

Yes, I am still idealistic and hopeful-the thing about me that has not changed. And toward this end, I feel to mine own self I am always true. I am appreciative that I can say, "Too old for this shit."

This is the truth of 65. And so-let the good times roll and I will follow them on whatever journey they take me on.

Happy birthday, Pam

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Being Humane

We all think we are. We love our families. We would all like to think of ourselves as good people. We would never hurt anyone intentionally. We try to do good deeds in the world.

But how many people really do good deeds in the world? Today my colleague told me she is taking in a family from the borders-a Mom and two children-for the year. She is affluent, and lives in a  four bedroom apartment on the Eastside. Since her children are grown, she lives alone-in real comfort. These two young boys only speak Spanish, and will be enrolled in a NYC public school on the Eastside-a very fine one. My colleague's life will no longer have the comfort she has grown accustomed to, since she now has to worry about her new "extended family."

I am bowled-over. Yes, I write my checks in the name of humanity. And-as a writer-I write books about social and politically significant issues. I even-as in the case of my latest novel WHY NO BHINE-give the money to on organization that supports immigrant rights.

But would I ever take that next leap? I am not so sure. It means such sacrifice, one I am not certain I am ready to make not now, not ever.

At the end of the day, though, we will all be remembered for the decent things we have done in the world, for our principles, for the way we have helped others. I always tell my children your best legacy is the goodness you have spread in the world.

Think about it. What have you done? What have your children done??? More importantly, what can you do???

Sunday, July 8, 2018


What does it mean to have character? It means you have a depth that is extraordinarily multi-layered, that you can empathize deeply and profoundly. Today I told Ira most people can not.

This is not to say there are not good people in the world who aren't deep-there are. They are superficial-your classic "good-guys" and "good gals" who have a knee-jerk reaction to adversity. They mostly do the right thing, but in a very superficial way.

I grew up with extraordinary adversity; there was challenge every step of the way. I understood loss deeply and profoundly-loss of a family member; loss of a job; mental illness; illness; grief. I would not wish this on anyone.

But what it DID give me  is character-a deep and abiding sense of what it means to endure and how to nurture and care for people when the going gets tough. It is easy to comfort on a superficial level. But what does it mean to nurture someone who has faced incomprehensible challenges? And what if those challenges are not limited to one or two instances, but an endless barrage of grief and loss? Do you call? Are you there for them? Or do you just skip along on your merry way. A lot of people skip. It is easier.

If you are a person who does not flinch at this (I do not) and is not just good time Joe and Josephine, but has the back and front of someone whose life has been filled with hardship, but you are still there-every step of the way-then you have character in the deepest sense of the word.

When my Dad died, my friend Janet was there for me 24/7-not for the laughter, but for the tears. She understood implicitly that life is a roller-coaster, and sometimes you have to take a ride all the way DOWN with a  friend or a family member who is down, not for a day or a week, but perhaps for months.

There are not many people who want to get their hands dirty in such a hard way. But if you are that person, rest assured, you are admired, you are respected and your goodness is authentic. And it is the authenticity of character which travels with your throughout life, not standing with someone when things are easy, but holding up the back of someone who is struggling, and knowing you will keep on doing this, until that person can rise up again. Character.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

I selected this book simply because I took over a course from another teacher. It arrived yesterday and I read it today-with tears in my eyes. It is particularly poignant in light of the  horrors taking place at the borders where families are being separated. Children are tearfully sobbing for their parents, sleeping on the floors, It is sickening. I would like to remind Donald Trump that his mother and his wife did not come here legally. His wife was on the genius visa. I do not profess to know Melania very well, but she is no genius.

THE ARRIVAL is a reminder that we were all immigrants; we all came from somewhere. else. And the truth is, some of us had not choice. World War 11, for example, brought many people to America, and some of them  (many) came with forged papers. NO ONE makes this journey, filled with so many dangers, unless they feel it is too dangerous for their families where they are-political persecution, gun violence, drugs. There is a desperation so many parents have had to get their children onto safe soils, and a place where there are opportunities.

THE ARRIVAL had me in tears and also had me wondering; how can you be a parent, have children; have parents who also-once upon a time-had to escape, and continue to support this administration. It is an abomination.

We are all immigrants. This is America-a nation of immigrants.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Happy Father's Day

From the NYT and my Dad's day wish to all dads, including those dads crying for their children, trapped in detention centers:

Stand up for the safety of schoolchildren instead of bowing to the NRA
Ensure the right to clean air and water for all and protect open spaces
Refuse to be beholden to coal, oil and gas industries
Show kindness and compassion to those less fortunate, especially victims of tragedy
Speak out against obvious lies and distortions of scientific facts
Denounce bullies and public figures who preach hatred, racism and misogyny
Model integrity, morality, honesty and decency.

Thank you for the admirable legacy you leave for all children.

Happy Father's Day.Thank you for being a good man.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Happy Anniversary, Ira: Four Decades and Going Strong!

How does a marriage survive four decades? Certainly, it is no easy task but-if like myself you are fortunate enough to have accomplished this and are still fulfilled, respect, appreciate, have fun with and sometimes squabble with the other person, consider yourself blessed. During this time, I find myself reflecting how I have come to be a member of this club, and I realize two things.

1. It is hard work. A marriage is like a roller-coaster; there are highs, but also lows, and what one must do is work through those lows, discuss them, argue about them and come out as each other's strongest advocate at the end-or walk away, and

2. It is important always respect the other person and his opinion. You may not agree, but still-you can not put down the other person for a difference in opinion. You must LISTEN and NOT PUT DOWN, and this is something I have had to learn to do.

Making a marriage work means being thoughtful and sensitive to another voice, another style, another way of doing things-and also appreciating that. Over the years, I have learned to appreciate or-at the very least-accept what I can not change, and I am always aware how important it is to COMPLIMENT, to SURPRISE, to NURTURE the person who is your mate.

I am blessed that Ira has made that task, in most recent times, so easy, because he respects me, values me, has fun with me, nurtures me and always makes me laugh. We make each other laugh. We enjoy doing thing together-traveling, walking, biking, but we also enjoy and appreciate our alone time, which makes the marriage even better-finding a space with the person you love, and finding your own space and world, too.

Our worlds are surely different, though given those differences we have managed to NURTURE and RESPECT each each other, laugh a lot, poke fun in a loving and never mean-spirited way. What is the good of being nasty and caustic when you can be good?

Our politics have brought us together. We were always on the same political page, but this new decade of moral decadence has brought out the fighting spirit in him. Ira is a moralist and a humanist. Who wouldn't admire this?

We have also raised two wonderful children, and our family now includes two terrific grandchildren. We have good friends, separately and together. And we are friends to each other.

Ira is my great friend who I admire, respect and want to be with. I hope to write this same piece forty years from now. We may not be traveling the larger world at that age, but our smaller world, when we are together, will be one which will bring be great joy, deep-seated fulfillment. And for this, I consider myself lucky!

Happy anniversary, Ira. Thank you for being you!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Going to College: A Message to Lilli

My cousin's daughter just got into college. She actually got into many colleges, but is happily going to the University of Florida in Gainesville, the top state university. I am so happy for her, and so happy for her family, too. She is bright and now she is being launched. That is what is what is most exciting about going away to school. You go in one way, and sometimes you emerge quite another way, since that is the ideal of a university education: to awaken you to who you are. I am quite certain Lilli will graduate the same happy and sweet young woman she is, but other things may change. A university is a place where you discover yourself, and who that self is depends a lot on how open you are to transformation. By that I mean it is a breeding ground for ideas. You are educated not just in your course major, but with an open attitude you are exposed to many ideas, many ways of life, many theories, numerous types of people, and this can challenge our deep-seated impressions of ourselves. It can also shape who we want to become-distinct and separate from our parents-and that is a GOOD thing. Take my daughter Samantha, for example. She went to college prepared to be a doctor. She was always invested in good causes, but this was among one of many things that she was interested in. She came out of college no longer interested in being a doctor, but deeply committed to good causes, to changing the world, with a focus no on what she could acquire for herself, but in how she could help others. She quickly left corporate law, took a job at Human Rights Watch and is now in law school, with a focus on social action and change. She is engaged and passionate in a way that I am still, but much more deeply, and with very specific causes.

In other words, she is now an adult, a person who has found herself-and her journey is over. That is the dream of college-to discover a path which gives your life meaning and purpose and joy. It is becoming an adult in the best possible way, since it is yours-not your friends, not your parents, not anyone else in your family, but yours-and you have the privilege of having learned what it is that makes  you tick. My hope for Lilli is she fines that tick and that tock and that passion, since that is what will take her through the rest of her life.

Good luck, Lilli. So many people are proud of you as this great journey begins.