Sweet in Times of Sour

I had this speech I’d recite to my clients when they told me, “I worked for my employer for 10 years (or 15 or 20) and I cannot believe that they’re not taking care of me now that I’m injured.” I would say, “Work will not take care of you when you are elderly or sick or hurt. Work will not be there for you when you are hungry or need your rent paid. Only your loved ones will be there.”

I was wrong. Me, who devoured the works of Studs Terkel and opted to work representing injured workers over a more lucrative career in commercial litigation. Me, the cynical ex-wife of a cop. I was wrong. As it turns out, work does take care of you.

As I understand it, the first step to any detox is admitting you are wrong. But perhaps there’s also no right. Especially not now. We are all re-inventing ourselves and the way we do life. One sheltered, solitary day at a time. I do know that without my work, I’d be a little lost. It’s my way back to the world right now. Work is what keeps me sane and focused. As it turns out, work is taking care of me.

I also know that now more than ever is I appreciate my “work” friends, my family, both by blood and by love. I know that now more than ever I appreciate the moments I have with my beautiful mama, who is continuing her fight against Stage 4 Lung Cancer.

Tonight I walked into her bedroom with her dinner in a bowl and displayed it to her and said, in a crappy fake Italian accent, “Tonight we are serving Creamy Lemon Spinach Ricotta Ravioli!” Her face lit up. I hoped that she would eat. She ate a little. I’m working on my recipe and presentation for tomorrow night. It’s so worth it. My mom once promised me she would be here until she was 105 years old. I guess we all thought we would be around to be 100. We should. We really should. And someone should be there to present us meals that we may or may not want to eat. One hundred years buys you the right to be picky as f*ck, I think.

Once, several years ago, Shane told me and Max at dinner, “We are studying the respiratory system in science. Did you know that whatever you breathe into your lungs stays there for the rest of your life?” After my sons went to bed that night, I went into each of their rooms and smelled the tops of their heads like I used to when they were babies. I sucked in that sweet smell hard into my lungs. Just to make sure it stays there forever.

What I have learned from this pandemic and shelter in place orders, as my community did from firestorms in October 2017 and 2019, is that after all, we do need each other. Years ago, my mother’s family recovered after Pearl Harbor was bombed. They walked through poverty and racism and they are still here. I’m so damn proud to have that legacy.

As we move forward into this particular unknown, I’ll follow my mom’s lead. Remember what is important. Enjoy your food. Hug your pets. Grab your kids and suck in that sweet smell from the tops of their heads. You know that smell.

It smells like love. It smells like hope.


We are in the third month of 2020. Coronavirus has us in its grip. Every other moment is an “oh shit” moment because I touched a doorknob or my face or didn’t wipe down a hard surface. Lordy, there are so many hard surfaces in my life. Over the last three years I’ve considered hard surfaces and where I breathe and what I touch because too many people in my life have endured cancer and cancer treatment.

Fuck you, hard surfaces. This is for my mama who is going through another round of radiation. She is samurai-ing back the new cancer spots on her spine. She loves to sit in the back yard and look at the birds. She told me she wanted a pair of binoculars so she could see them more closely. Tonight I found her a pair of binoculars. Tomorrow she can sit in the backyard and see her birds. She thanked me for the find of the binoculars, she hugged them to her chest and she carried them into her room. Earlier, before she went to radiation treatment, she sent me photos of the blooming trees in my backyard. She reminded me of how beautiful they are. Yeah, my mom and I have met the hard surfaces before. But hard surfaces pale in comparison to the beauty around us.

And maybe, just maybe if we let go of fear, we won’t have to wait until cancer or coronavirus to appreciate the beauty of life around us. I’m sure going to try.

At 9:00 p.m. on July 1, 2019. Max texted me: “Are you home. Mom. Mom. Are you home. Are you home right now.” I responded: “Yes honey. “I’m in my room. Where are you?” He responded: “In my room.” I texted back: “Okay lol. I love you.” He texted back: “I love you too.” Max’s room is 10 feet away from mine. Love doesn’t know distances. I’m so grateful for that. We are all closer than we think to love and beauty.

I used to say I didn’t want to be a mom. But now, I can’t imagine my life otherwise. My sons have made me a better human being. They have given me the capacity to be a better daughter, friend, partner, lawyer, and whatever else I am meant to be in this life. It isn’t easy. But nothing worth having ever is.

Last week, Max headed off to New York to audition for the jazz studies program at New School. We’d had a challenging week beforehand so we didn’t have a chance to shop for cold weather east coast clothes ahead of time. We were packing the night before. I gave him my wool socks and we were putting multiple sweatshirts into his carry on. He didn’t have longjohns, so I said, “I’ll give you a pair of my yoga pants.”

Early the next morning he texted me, “Mom, should I wear the yoga pants under my jeans on the airplane?” After I thought about it for a while, I texted him back, “Yes. You should.” And my son wore my mermaid yoga pants to New York. In this family, we don’t do hard surfaces. We do mermaid yoga pants and samurai fights. We do love and we kick cancer’s ass. Wash your hands. Be who you are. Unabashedly. That is how we win the fight against coronavirus and cancer and fear and hate. Be a mermaid, you badass, beautiful warrior. I love you.