The Good Stuff




The living room smells of basil and green things climbing toward the big windows. I work on writing projects and take walks during the day. Jane and I buy fresh flowers on our walks home from school. I make dinner while Jane is chirping and singing with her dolls. Fayez comes home and she runs to give him a hug. He kisses my neck.

This is the good stuff.

Oh, Boogers


Yesterday was less than fun. I went to get blood drawn. I went for a chest x-ray. Then I came back across town on a bus to pick Jane up at her school. My hair was frizzy. My chest was wheezy. My attitude was one of full blown mully-grubs.

And that’s when I noticed the man sitting across from me, in his wheelchair, carefully and slowly wiping boogers all over the bus wall beside him.

At first glance, I shuddered a bit. It’s not like I don’t have boogers. It’s not like I don’t pick them. Actually, I’m good at it. If there had been a booger-picking-go-pro option in college, I would have been a contender.


I couldn’t help but respect the man just a tiny bit. His face said it all. Wrinkled. Lined. Frowning. The top of his head was wet from New York’s latest pop-up shower. The bus driver kept hitting pot holes as if it was his specific effort to throw each and every one of us out of our seats. And the man was just done. He was done with those boogers. He was done with the bus driver. He was done with the rain. He was done with the city. He was done with life.

I’d been sitting there dying to cough, and trying to hold it in so others wouldn’t think I was trying to real-life reenact the movie Outbreak, and here was this guy, so beyond done with his day, not giving one hoot if anyone was watching the evacuation of his nostril residents.

Now, I’m not saying all humanity should adopt that level of public-done-with-life-ness.

But there’s something to be said about having a bad day and just letting it all hang out. No fake smiles. No “just fine how are you’s.” Just a frown, a wrinkled forehead, and some good old soul searching while picking your nose. Or preferably, blowing it.

But you know what I mean.

I watched him for a moment and then coughed long and hard into my sleeve.

It felt so good.

The woman next to me moved out of her seat.

More room for me.


Thank You, Mr. Alexander Fleming.


And in yet another “If I’d Lived In the Pre-Antibiotic-Days I’d Be Dead By Now” chapter, I’ve been seriously grossing and coughing my way through spring.

It started as a cold, then it moved into a tuberculosis sounding cough (I’m not joking, they tested me), then it became hard to breath (they x-rayed me), then they didn’t know what the heck was wrong so they dosed me up with super antibiotics. I’m slowly crawling my way back toward the light, but can I just say thank you, Mr. Alexander Fleming.

The day I was the sickest I walked to the doctor, in the rain, with a cold wind at my back and thought, “This is not how I want to go out.” I know, I know. I get slightly melodramatic when I’m sick, but when you’ve been running a fever for over three weeks it does something to your brain. It vaults you into a state of high drama and Camille-like death-faux-scenes where all you want to do is use all the toilet paper to blow your nose and make a list of which sister gets what jewelry.

Not that I’ve ever done that.

But as I trudged along in my new red raincoat (I’ve never loved good rain gear so much), I walked down a street with beautiful tulips and street art, and in the distance the neighborhood church bells were ringing, and despite being a carrier of The Black Death, it was a really, really lovely morning. I took pictures, coughed, took more pictures, coughed, and then absconded from the pharmacy with a brand new prescription.

And now, I’m crab crawling my way back to health. I’m feeling less Joan-Crawford-angry-no-wire-hangers-death-march and moving more into the zone of Roseanne-in-her-robe-with-giant-cup-of-tea-and-online-celebrity-stalking (did anyone else know that Blake Lively’s sister played Teen Witch?).

Anywho. That’s my news. That’s the street art in my neighborhood. That’s all for now, folks.

Let There Be Bubbles

















I declared last Tuesday “Central Park Day.” I packed a big bag, loaded up my camera, notebook, books, and cash for those little ice cream stands. I smeared myself with sunblock, and even took the long way to the park, walking down Fifth Avenue.

But I forgot that this is the land of tourists. Now, when I first moved here Fayez would bemoan walking through tourist areas. “They’re so slow! Get out of the way!” he would say. I would roll my eyes and think to myself, “I’m from the south. We invented taking leisurely strolls. I’ll never be annoyed at tourists.”


This changes when you’re very nearly trampled beneath a stampede of foreign tourists and you find yourself slung into the side of a building as a woman carrying a telephoto lens body checks you like Dennis Rodman. I find the slow walking folks just fine, I can just go around. But getting my feet stepped on and having to conduct myself elbows out like an angry hockey player doesn’t suit me one iota.

And as I stood there flat against the wall, waiting for the tourists to clatter aggressively by like longhorn stock, I found myself looking at Trump Tower, and the Fox News Truck out front, and I got the angry vapors. I stomped and elbowed my way through the remaining tourists, got to Central Park, bought myself the biggest ice cream I could find, and plopped myself down on a bench.

I sat there indulging the ever-growing wrinkle in the middle of my eyebrows and then I saw something that so totally filled my heart with joy everything else was forgotten. There was a woman sitting by herself on a nearby bench. She had silver white hair, fixed in victory rolls. She was at least 85, wearing her carefully pressed polyester pants and matching pink cotton shirt. And in her carefully manicured hand she clutched a gigantic bottle of bubbles. She smiled to herself, drew a big breath, and blew bubbles out into the sunlight. She did this, over and over. She was completely alone, dressed to the nines, blowing bubbles for her own delight in the middle of Central Park.

That’s the thing about this city. It’s hard. It’s loud. It’s dirty and sometimes doing the simplest of things requires a gigantic amount of effort. But…you can still count on New York to bring a smile to your face if you pay enough attention.

I sat there watching her for a while, just soaking in her joy by proxy. I felt all the tension fall out of my shoulders, and I didn’t care about being body slammed by tourists or Trump Tower. It was the emotional reset that I so desperately needed. It was as if God saw my need for some joy and said, “Let there be bubbles.”

I finished my ice cream and walked on. I paid careful attention to the people around me. The things they wore. Their laughs. I passed by a teenage girl taking a picture of her mother on a bridge. The mother had boosted herself onto the railing, and was laid out like a model. The daughter said, “I am so NOT taking a picture of you like that.” The mother said, “I gave birth to you. NOW TAKE MY PICTURE.” I passed by a girl with turquoise hair. I passed by a nanny and three children picking illegal flowers (Jane would so have been up for that).

I finally found a place on the grass, spread out, and read a book. I could hear wind in the trees. I could hear cars honking. I could hear the couple nearest me doing their best “this is a first date and I super duper really want to impress you” conversating.

It ended up being a truly lovely afternoon. And that’s what living in New York is like. It’s great highs, and low lows, and then happy life in between where you see someone blowing bubbles and suddenly all is right with the world.

The Hipster Epidemic


Today I saw a woman in her early twenties with heavily permed hair and a banana clip. I saw another woman wearing a bright yellow parachute material jacket. Aunt-Jackie-on-Rosanne over sized sweaters with bears on them and mom jeans pulled up under armpits. Ironic tattoos of hot dogs. MAN BUNS on dudes wearing slim cut high water slacks and pointy shoes.

Here’s the deal. I remember what it was like to be in my early twenties. I remember trying so hard to be an individual. I remember wanting to look NOTHING like the mid-thirties to mid-forties parents of the world. I remember slip dresses and choker necklaces and John Lennon sunglasses and dark lipstick and flannel… and… oh wait. All that crap is back again.

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s authentic fashion parade. I really don’t. One of the things I love most about New York is how everyone is just doing their own thing. Neon red hair. Weird baseball hats with rabbit-tail-cotton-things stuck on top. Retro dresses and lipstick that make women look like they stepped off a period movie set. Renaissance fair flowing garbs. People and pets wearing matching tutus. Women with more bling on the seat of their jeans than I have in my entire jewelry box. And I adore it all. I have never felt more relaxed or less pressured about how I look or what I wear because here anything and everything goes. There’s no lock-step. There’s no formula.

But Hipster-dom is beyond me. It’s just trying too hard to be ironic, bless its pointed little head. It can’t make up its mind. It can’t commit. It’s like taking disparate aspects of several different eras and shoving them into one. Like the handle bar mustache of an 1800’s train conductor combined with the slim cut slacks a’la Audrey Hepburn (and her ballet-bun) and putting all those things on a man.

I know. I’ve crossed over. But the thing is, at a certain point you just want jeans that neither chafe your armpits nor show the crack of your butt. You want to not look fat. You do not want your feet to hurt. And you want to not be laughed at.

And at the end of the day, you want a man that doesn’t have to style, tease, and curl his own facial hair.

So I’m going to accept that it is what it is. I don’t understand it. The next big movement will probably be something I don’t understand either (unless it’s fashion from the 1920’s, I do so love women in hats and men in suits).

I’m going to do my best to breath deep and not shake my fist and yell “kids these days” the next time I see a girl with uncombed hair wearing a belly shirt, mom jeans, and massive, gleaming white tennis shoes befitting only people who endure on-the-job standing for ten hours at a time.

But, I suppose giant white tennis shoes fall under the “feet don’t hurt” category.

Maybe there’s a tiny part I can understand after all.

Happiness Is.









Life is good lately. A guy sat next to me on the subway and the butterfly wings he was wearing sprinkled glitter all over the floor and my shoes. That made me smile. I have a little navy plaid cart with wheels that I take to the vegetable market and grocery store. That makes me smile too. The sun stays in the sky later and later, joining us for early dinners. There are grape hyacinths growing wild by our bus stop.  The best moments are the simple ones where Jane crawls into bed with us in the mornings and pats our faces and yells, “GROUP HUG.”

I’m finding more and more that what qualifies as a good life, for me, isn’t something hugely exciting, or fabulous, or expensive, or beautiful.

It’s peace.

Because it’s only when I have peace that I can notice the deep purple hyacinths against the bright green grass. It’s only when I have peace that I take the appropriate time to soak in Jane’s hilarity, and notice how blue her eyes are, or how she says “bamember” instead of “remember.”  It’s only when I have peace that sitting on the sofa watching Fraiser reruns while holding my husband’s hand becomes more lovely than the most extravagant dinner out.

I think when we’re young happiness looks tremendously different than it does as we get older. When you’re young happiness is grand escapes and feeling beautiful and making money and feeling the surge of excitement when things are interesting or going your way.

But as we age, happiness changes.

Happiness is feeling peace and calm joy deep down inside of our hearts. Happiness isn’t excitement, but the absence of fear. Happiness isn’t adventure, it’s belonging.

Happiness is walking home on a chilly spring day and hearing birds for the first time all winter, and knowing deep down in your heart that everything is good, and everything is going to okay.

Happiness is peace.


Word of the Month: Pestilence


Oh sigh. Every one warned me about New England winters. But what they didn’t warn me about was New England springs. News flash: they’re COLD.

Just when I thought we could put away our hats and coats, Mother Nature horse laughed at me, gave me the plague, and sent more winter weather than you can shake a stick at. Three weeks after I raised the white flag above our apartment, I still found myself sick and on the verge of a chest x-ray. I barely crab crawled my way out of the land of pestilence in time for Jane’s birthday.

But in the midst of this frigid weather and chest cold from hell, I’ve found that I like living here. I mean, I was charmed immediately with our apartment view and the romance of living in the childhood city of my dreams.

But after 8 months here I’ve figured out my favorite sections of Macy’s. I can get to Target, and the fresh veggie market, and grocery stores without a map or written instructions. I get hello’s and how-are-you’s from the usual bus drivers. We have all new doctors. I’ve met other mothers at Jane’s school, and know the teachers. I like them so much that sometimes I get there early just to chat. I know the different neighborhoods and sections and how the different subway lines connect with each other.

I was coughing my head off, clad in hat and gloves and a scarf that covered half my face, when I trudged to my pharmacy and picked up some medicine. The pharmacist smiled and said, “How have you been?” I’d only met her once before, but she remembered me.

And suddenly I realized that this is more than just a big exciting new city.

Somehow, in the midst of being sick as a dog, New York became home.

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