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Years ago I wrote a piece about Advent, about the notion of waiting. At the time I was waiting for several things: the cold and the snow, Christmas, for people to come around and, when they didn’t, waiting for the moment I would understand why.
I used to believe that Advent ended when Christmas began.  All of the waiting I was doing, and all of the associated possibilities — expectations I placed on those close to me, time spent standing in lines at Macy’s and Port Authority, those cold mornings sitting on Brooklyn park benches wondering when something would happen — none of it mattered because it would all fall into place come Christmas morning. 
Now, years later, it’s Christmas night and I’m sitting on the couch gazing at our tree. Maybe it’s the glow of the lights, or the fullness of today, but I’ve come to believe something else — that Christmas begins when Advent ends. I know that the moment I stop waiting, stop expecting, I will learn to soak up all of the beginnings, all of the signs that everything I wish for continues to happen again and again, just in ways that I might not be able to see as clearly.
Today, it was the time I spent styling my Mom’s hair, which fell in soft curls above her small shoulders. It was watching my Grandma smile and lick her spoon after eating a Jell-o parfait. It was the tiniest bit of snow melting on the evergreen trees, the softness of the piano keys under my fingers. I don’t remember many songs, but I’ll never forget how that feels. I know I can begin to learn again.
Merry Christmas, all. Be of good heart.

Years ago I wrote a piece about Advent, about the notion of waiting. At the time I was waiting for several things: the cold and the snow, Christmas, for people to come around and, when they didn’t, waiting for the moment I would understand why.

I used to believe that Advent ended when Christmas began.  All of the waiting I was doing, and all of the associated possibilities — expectations I placed on those close to me, time spent standing in lines at Macy’s and Port Authority, those cold mornings sitting on Brooklyn park benches wondering when something would happen — none of it mattered because it would all fall into place come Christmas morning.

Now, years later, it’s Christmas night and I’m sitting on the couch gazing at our tree. Maybe it’s the glow of the lights, or the fullness of today, but I’ve come to believe something else — that Christmas begins when Advent ends. I know that the moment I stop waiting, stop expecting, I will learn to soak up all of the beginnings, all of the signs that everything I wish for continues to happen again and again, just in ways that I might not be able to see as clearly.

Today, it was the time I spent styling my Mom’s hair, which fell in soft curls above her small shoulders. It was watching my Grandma smile and lick her spoon after eating a Jell-o parfait. It was the tiniest bit of snow melting on the evergreen trees, the softness of the piano keys under my fingers. I don’t remember many songs, but I’ll never forget how that feels. I know I can begin to learn again.

Merry Christmas, all. Be of good heart.

Some Poems

***

Talk of bombs
the General
rubs his wedding band

***

In the lightning flash
my phone on the desk
no missed calls

***

Morning dew
baby girl
discovers her hands

***

In a shoebox
Under a sweater pile
my adoption papers

***

Near Dad’s garage sale
I idle
at a stop sign

***

More Fragile Together

This isn’t just a story about gun control. This isn’t just a story about security at elementary schools, violent video games, or access to mental health facilities. 

This is a story about hearts. Our hearts. Our big, red, forever-beating hearts.

Upon hearing the news of the elementary school shootings in Newtown, a lot of people felt heartsick. They longed to hold their own children — run their fingers through their daughter’s hair, rub their son’s back. We all cast prayers and sincere messages of sympathy out to the victims and their families. To friends, to strangers. Anyone could feel this; everyone could feel this.

In many ways, this tragic event called us to check in with ourselves and what’s around us. Based on our reactions to Friday’s events, it is clear that we’re very much in touch with our heads, with our capability to create logical, reason-based ideas for how we can affect change and possibly prevent these types of tragedies in the future. Fewer guns. More laws. Less violence in the media. Tighter security. New leaders in office. We should ask for these things. We should stand up for our beliefs, lobby for them. I will gladly sign a petition, light a candle, and cast a ballot for those qualified enough to reform policies that are outdated, irrelevant or just not good enough. I am with you.

While we work to make these changes, though, I fully believe that we also need to make regular and genuine efforts to check in with our hearts. This is where we need the most help as people, as a culture, and this is the best example we can set for kids. By pausing to check in, to be constantly curious about how we’re feeling – to really burrow deep into our hearts, into those tiny crevices where anger and pain dwell – we show others that they can too, that it’s not that scary. Maybe if we do this, we’ll feel okay with it all and know when to reach out to ask for help. What we may then find is that by being in touch with our anger or pain or sadness or discomfort, our kids will learn how to as well. They can then grow up knowing how to search for, feel, and deal with these emotions in ways that don’t put others lives at risk.

We’re all very practiced at using our heads to solve problems. As humans, though, our hearts make up a lot of who we are. We can’t neglect them. By checking in and learning what upsets us, saddens us, and makes us angry, we become more whole, more accepting, and more compassionate. This is my wish for all of us: reach in, then reach out. Yearn to understand how you’re feeling so that others can learn how they’re feeling. After all, we’re all fragile. Let’s come to accept that and start working on how we can be more fragile together.

I arrived back home yesterday, the first time since the hurricane. I knew the trees had come down, but this was the first time I could see them — or, rather, not see them. I walked alongside the stumps this morning, touched their bare roots. I could still smell the pine, even from several steps away. The last bits of sap pooled together and glistened over the rings of each chopped trunk.
I miss them dearly.
Today, though, I’m more grateful than ever that when they came down, they landed softly, on the grass, instead of violently, on my sleeping parents or our neighbor’s house.
This morning, in the absence of the trees, the blue sky over my head was bigger than ever. The grass was fuller, taller, shiny with dew. Our longtime neighbor, whose deck had been blocked from view by the trees, waved to us for the first time in 30 years. “Turkey’s already in!” she shouted. We smiled, waved back, chatted briefly about ham glaze and corned beef.
Tonight, wild, faraway stars and blinking airplanes carrying people home will dot this wider sky. 
Maybe when things fall down, or go away, it lets us see more of something else. Smell more. Turn our face to the sun, open up to longtime friends.
And then maybe after some time, all of this can afford us just little bit of peace.
Happy Thanksgiving.

I arrived back home yesterday, the first time since the hurricane. I knew the trees had come down, but this was the first time I could see them — or, rather, not see them. I walked alongside the stumps this morning, touched their bare roots. I could still smell the pine, even from several steps away. The last bits of sap pooled together and glistened over the rings of each chopped trunk.

I miss them dearly.

Today, though, I’m more grateful than ever that when they came down, they landed softly, on the grass, instead of violently, on my sleeping parents or our neighbor’s house.

This morning, in the absence of the trees, the blue sky over my head was bigger than ever. The grass was fuller, taller, shiny with dew. Our longtime neighbor, whose deck had been blocked from view by the trees, waved to us for the first time in 30 years. “Turkey’s already in!” she shouted. We smiled, waved back, chatted briefly about ham glaze and corned beef.

Tonight, wild, faraway stars and blinking airplanes carrying people home will dot this wider sky. 

Maybe when things fall down, or go away, it lets us see more of something else. Smell more. Turn our face to the sun, open up to longtime friends.

And then maybe after some time, all of this can afford us just little bit of peace.

Happy Thanksgiving.

…quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean ‘love’ in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later — because I did not belong there, did not come from there.
Joan Didion, Goodbye to All That, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
I.
It was morning on the beach, bright and windy. We had just eaten lots of dry toast and eggs and drank an extra cup of coffee each, so we found ourselves dancing and doing handstands on the wet sand. Two seagulls sat on a piece of nearby driftwood, nodding and waiting to dodge our wild, flailing legs.
II.
The plane landed early, at 10:03am. As we pulled into the gate, I watched a brown bird land on the wing of the plane, shuffle its feathers, and rest. Sometimes you just need that extra wing.
III.
Last night, I lay in bed wide awake, staring out the window at the Christmas lights dangling from a balcony across the street. A plane flew overhead. Then another. Then another. There were five planes in total. Electric, blinking birds. Were they chasing each other?

I.

It was morning on the beach, bright and windy. We had just eaten lots of dry toast and eggs and drank an extra cup of coffee each, so we found ourselves dancing and doing handstands on the wet sand. Two seagulls sat on a piece of nearby driftwood, nodding and waiting to dodge our wild, flailing legs.

II.

The plane landed early, at 10:03am. As we pulled into the gate, I watched a brown bird land on the wing of the plane, shuffle its feathers, and rest. Sometimes you just need that extra wing.

III.

Last night, I lay in bed wide awake, staring out the window at the Christmas lights dangling from a balcony across the street. A plane flew overhead. Then another. Then another. There were five planes in total. Electric, blinking birds. Were they chasing each other?