Monthly Archives: February 2016

New York, NY

Maybe it’s the rain.  Winter’s end.  Full moon.  Maybe it’s the fact that, without knowing it, I watched the abrupt, final episode of Medium on Netflix (what the hell, Kelsey Grammar, give us a little warning!) thinking I was settling in for some brain-draining TV.  Yes, I know the show ended five years ago, but for me it ended last night.  Feeling a bit emotional and shaky today.

 
Each February for the past seven years, my husband and I go through the stressful financial aid process for the school our boys attend.  An excellent bilingual, private school where my boys are thriving and happy.  If they weren’t at this French school, they would definitely be in public school.  For certain.  Putting my children through private school was never high on my list of life’s essentials.  However, being married to a Frenchman, living in a bilingual household, the option of sending our boys to this exceptional school was too tantalizing to ignore.  So, each year, we white-knuckle-it until we receive the verdict in late spring confirming how much aid we will or won’t receive.  The amount fluctuates from year to year, but we live a very simple, frill-free life-style and we make it work.

 

Why am I writing about something so personal?  Firstly, both my husband and I are artists and educators.  Not a socio-economic stratum known for reeling in the big bucks.  There is no shame in that.  Money doesn’t make you a better person and not having a fat bank account doesn’t make us lesser humans.  As you have read this far, I will hope you agree.

 

One extraordinarily wealthy, French, SAHP (stay-at-home-parent) mother at the the French school volleyed the following question to me, “Why should you receive financial assistance to send your children to the school when I have to pay full-price?”  Obnoxious, oui!  However, it raises a good point.  Forget about the notion of diversity (racial, social, economic, professional) for a moment and acknowledge that a private school education is a privilege, not a right.  Roger that. My children are so incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to attend this French school (I’m not naming it, but you know which school I’m referencing, n’est ce pas?). Seeing how my boys, now fully bi-lingual, are flourishing and loving school makes it tolerable to endure the scrutiny of the aforementioned parent.

 

Needless to say, I howled internally when I received an email that went school-wide regarding Career Day.  The French school is desperately seeking the following for representation:

We are looking for parents to represent the following professions:  Architecture, Movies & Broadcasting, Design, Entrepreneurship, Publishing, Environmental Sustainability, Technology, Advertising and Social Services.

 

What? Not seeking Hedge Fund Managers and Corporate Attorneys?  Nope.  I’m betting they have plenty of those, in spades.  Thank goodness!  Someone needs to pay full-price (not to diss the uber-wealthy “creative” types out there, I know you exist!) and fund those outstanding programs and staff.  I’m really not dissing peeps in finance.  I do have a lot of beloved friends who have traveled that road.  It just so happens that the SAHP’s husband is a big financial advisor at a big French Bank and I guess I am still miffed by her rude comment.  Nevertheless, that outreach implies that there is some value in those, typically, less financially lucrative careers.  By the way, I noticed they didn’t put Musician on the list.  I wonder if Madonna will be turning up for this event.

 

But this isn’t just an issue at my kids’ school.  Not long ago, I was at a birthday party for a very close friend at a local, Harlem Mexican Restaurant.   After ordering some margaritas, a kind acquaintance grabbed the check. I offered cash, which he declined, flatly announcing, “If you have to worry about $100, you shouldn’t be living in New York City.”  Hmmmm.  Well, $100 is an important sum of money to me (how much were those 3 margaritas???) and New York City is my home!  What does that mean?  Why is it OK to say something like that?  Perhaps what he meant to say was, “Gee, New York City must be a difficult place to live for folks who don’t have oodles of disposable income.”  Oh, yes.  I agree with that.

 

Cut to my husband who was grocery shopping at Whole Foods and popped into the wine store where he noticed, for several weeks straight, that prices still weren’t listed on a majority of the wines.  The staff mumbled about some technical issue, preventing them from printing labels with prices.  What seemed clear, however, was that most customers didn’t mind the lack of visible prices.  Nobody else was complaining. Apparently, most New Yorkers who shop at Whole Foods Wine Store aren’t really looking at the price when considering which wine to purchase.

 

Last night the wind lashed the rain against the north-facing windows of our cozy, one-bedroom apartment. Our boys were tucked-in, snug and sleeping in their bunk beds. I sat beside my husband feeling sad that we couldn’t click on an episode of “Medium,” my go-to, crappy day, TV show for the past few years.  As we listened to the rain, my husband said, “This is the kind of night that makes you feel fortunate to have a roof over your head.”

 

Well, said, Frenchman.  I am grateful for my full life. My family and friends.  For the sturdy, rent-stabilized roof over my head.  That reminds me of a pleasant conversation I had with my landlord a few years ago when he lovingly suggested that I “Give up the #!$@! dream and move out of the city or get a real job.”  But I digress…

 

I have so much.  Everything I need and more.  Starting with the roof over my head. My roof happens to be in New York City where I was born and raised.  Where I plan to remain for the foreseeable future.  One rent-stabilized year at a time.

Complicated Hearts

Click here to read on Huffington Post50: Love. Real love. Grown-up love, is complicated. Humbling. Transformative. Hard work.

“Complicated Hearts” is a song on my new EP. When I sat down to write, I was thinking about being in a long-term, grown-up relationship. Messing around with chords on my 11-year-old son’s handy, mini-Yamaha guitar, he asked me what I was playing. “What do you think of when you think of people falling in love,” I asked him. He answered, “I think of two people falling down in a field of flowers.” In that instant I had the opening lyric for the chorus, “Our love, was never fields of flowers.” Grown-up love sure isn’t what you think it will be when you are 11.

My husband and I met in Paris during my junior year abroad nearly 30 years ago. Seated, side by side, at a dinner party in a cramped, Parisian studio apartment, we connected instantly. I spoke shaky “je m’appelle Jeneefere” français as this strapping young art student didn’t speak a word of English. I was smitten. Unwilling to leave Paris and/or my beautiful French boy, for the next four years I took an extended break from Barnard College. To afford baguettes, I sang in the Paris Metro, and thankfully moved up to working as a singing waitress at the upscale “Hollywood Savoy” restaurant. There is a common expression in French about young love; “Vivre d’amour et d’eau fraiche.” It translates loosely as “Living on love and fresh water alone.” That pretty much sums up how we lived as we could hardly afford groceries.

While my relationship with my husband had quite the romantic start, over time we’ve skidded into our share of rocky patches. We love each other deeply and are devoted to our two sons. As artists prone to hair-trigger mood-swings, we fight furiously. In a city increasingly reserved for the super-wealthy, we live a bohemian existence in our rent-stabilized, one-bedroom apartment. We get the Murphy bed while our sons have commandeered the bedroom. Tight quarters, low income, flaring tempers and two rambunctious boys. Not dull. How have we made it this long? Is there a secret? A trick? Yep.

Don’t leave.

That’s right. I love my husband and, no matter how angry I get, I don’t leave. I remind myself that I made a commitment and that, at the very least, until cooler heads prevail, while I might leave the room, I don’t leave the apartment. The bathroom definitely counts as a room, by the way!

“Don’t leave,” may seem like disappointing advice. I cling to the notion that I fell in love with my husband for good reasons and that love needs to be nurtured, not abandoned. Sometimes, I fear, we walk away from struggle too quickly, fantasizing about the proverbial greener grass.

What about those who attribute their successful marriage to “dumb luck” or finding the perfect match. The ones who never fight. Good for them! I imagine those to be the unicorns of marriages.

Right time and place, meeting someone with whom you connect, is a kind of magic. However, sustaining that magical je ne sais quoi over time is challenging. Especially facing parenting, work, loss, aging family members, health issues, money troubles… That’s where marriage demands some stubborn stick-to-it-ness. If it were easy, approximately 50 percent of marriages wouldn’t end in divorce. It takes effort and sometimes, hardy compromise to sustain a loving, lasting, monogamous relationship.

Here is what one of my dearest friend’s grandmothers said to her on the eve of my friend’s wedding. “Expect to hate your husband at some point. To wake up next to him and think, ‘what have I done?’ You may even despise him. Know that it will pass.”

One night my husband and I had such a nasty argument that I sent him to sleep in his office — something I had never done. I was hatefully angry. So was he. At 4:30 a.m., however, I woke up. I checked on him. Why? Because, as fuming mad as I was, I love him. Thinking of him sleeping on that lumpy futon made me sad. I peeked into his office and found him awake. I told him to come back to our bed. He did. Doesn’t sound like much, but in my book, that is an act of love, both my asking him to return and him accepting. Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel wrote that “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Where there is hate, there may still be love.

I am not claiming to be a relationship guru. Far from it! It’s just that, with Valentine’s Day coming up, I know that expectations often run high. No offense to those who subscribe, but I feel it’s a silly holiday. My heart goes out to all those not in a relationship, subject to the onslaught of saccharin, Hallmark pink and red. Buy yourself some delicious chocolate and flowers whenever you feel like it!

Some things my husband has done to make me feel truly loved that didn’t involve flowers or candy:

— Serving up delicious, one-of-a-kind cocktails at the end of an awful day
— Pulling me close when I’m falling apart
— Schlepping to hundreds (yes, hundreds) of gigs, packing up cables, selling my CDs
— Listening to me ramble on about work stuff that must be beyond boring
— Brushing my teeth when both of my arms were in casts and performing other duties I will omit for modesty’s sake
— Letting me watch my TV shows that always feature psychics and ghosts — he’s asleep before the opening titles are over

It’s not the flowers, gifts or candle-lit dinners. While those are lovely, it’s the everyday, little things that stack up. I know I’m a serious piece of work. Complicated. So is my husband. “Our love, beats the stops and starts, of complicated hearts.”

“The course of true love never did run smooth.” Maybe that’s ok. Shakespeare said so.

Happy Valentine’s Day. If all else fails, go for red roses and a lot of chocolate. Can’t hurt.

Listen to the latest single, “Complicated Hearts,” by Jenny Bruce HERE.