From The Core- One Year Anniversary!

BLOG-ONE YEAR AND COUNTINGIt’s been a year! My first From The Core post appeared July 28, 2014.

I was scared and unsure:

Would people like what I wrote and how I wrote it?

 Was I ready for the world of social media?

 What if I made a grammatical mistake?

Well, I did make errors. Some I was able to fix, others I wasn’t.

And remarkably, I survived.

Reader comments kept me going.

Some of you responded directly on the blog site, some on Facebook, some on Instagram, some by private text message and many in person: at the grocery store, at parties and on the street.

(You’d be surprised how many people are hesitant to comment through social media. I was happy to learn, I wasn’t the only inhibited one.)

Tuesdays became my favorite day of the week as I woke to other bloggers liking my post and tracking how many people had read.

I heard from people I hadn’t talked to in 20 years, from people all over the country and yes, even an old boyfriend.

My work was read in Australia, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Spain, France, Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Israel, Lebanon, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and more.

A special thanks goes to my friends and family who let me write about them, their outrageous stories and vulnerable moments.

All year, friends teased that they had to watch what they said in front of me for fear they’d end up in a post.

I heard everything from, “Shhh, she’s going to write about you” to “It’s good Corie’s not here.” (Yes, people repeat these things to me.)

Looking for material or attempting to drum up good conversation, this blog has been the impetus for many a dinner table debate.

Over the course of this year, I wrote about topics that mattered to me.

Equal rights- Gay Marriage

Empathy- Still Alice

Marriage- Why Are So Many Marriage Essays Going Viral?

Parenting- Parenting Gone Well

Friendship- Friendship Matters

Sex- Masters of Sex

Education- Doodle Power

Addiction- Monkey See, Monkey Do

Writing- Writing: It Could Come Back to Bite You.

The Environment- Earth Day 2015.

I wrote about topics that peturbed me slightly- Pouting Face Emoji

And things that annoyed me greatly- A Tip for My Uber Driver.

I wrote about what I found comical- Braces: The New Chastity Belt and Are You A Control Freak Parent?

And things I feared- Fear: The Good The Bad and The Ugly.

Writing about these topics made me focus on them, and in writing Gone Girl No More, I faced my apprehension, put myself out there, and finally got headshots!

Daring greatly (I'm a Brene Brown lover) I'm posting them here.

Help me choose the new From The Core photograph so I can get rid of the blurry one on my About Page.

HEADSHOT #1

HEADSHOT #1

HEADSHOT #2

HEADSHOT #3

 

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the night my husband asked me to marry him so this is kind of a double anniversary for me.

And it’s appropriate that my blog about relationships and my marriage share an anniversary because as long as I’m married to my husband, I’ll always have plenty to write about!

Wink Emoji

P.S. Thanks for reading!! And don’t forget to pick a headshot favorite!!

Traveling With Friends

BLOG-CAVESWe play the Newlywed Game even though we are the opposite.We are four couples– all married close to three decades.

We travel Italy on a boat. Close quarters.

From the moment we step onboard, until the moment we get off eight days later, we are together—morning, noon and night.

We take turns, three years in a row, getting the Master Bedroom. This year was my turn.

For a week straight, we don’t wear shoes. Boat rules.

We dance on deck to Marvin Gaye. We laugh at shrewd one-liners.

Everything we eat is delicious: arugula, pasta pomodoro, figs. All different than in the United States.

One bright morning, Italian men in row boats paddle us inside the Blue Grotto singing, “Volare oh ohhhh, Cantaree, oh oh ohhh.” The light through the cave, glorious. We swim– the sea electric blue.

We know each other: The Control Freak, The Picky Eater, The Electronic Genius, The Bloody Mary Lover.

We share everything. We negotiate and compromise. For this week, we are married to each other.

Late one night, we journey from Ponza to Sardinia, a 16 hour, overnight, expedition.

We sit at the bow and stare at the stars looking for: Orion’s Belt, The Milky Way, The Big Dipper.

I am uneasy because we are alone in the middle of the sea, no land in sight. I think about Columbus, the bravery. No electricity, no radar, no knowledge of what lay ahead.

The night wind blows, the sea waves break against the boat.

Around us, darkness—the only light from the stars above— and the Shabbat candles, four sets, burning bright in the main cabin.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Mirror, Mirror I was born Celia Corie Sutton.

There are many stories attached to my name; but the one that I recently discovered not to be true is the one in which my not then married father flirted on a beach with an attractive girl and asked for her name. She said, Corie.

In the real version, he was at work, and no flirting was involved.

A true story is that my father’s mother’s name was Celia; and it is Syrian tradition to name a first-born daughter and son after the father’s parents.

My parents broke tradition in naming me Corie. They simply used the “C” from Celia. (It was the 60’s.)

No one ever called me Celia. Not once.

And no one ever spelled my name right. No, I mean, NEVER. Cory, Corey, Cori, Corrie- are just a few among many variations.

This drove my mother crazy. I don’t know why, but I didn’t care.

On top of all the misspellings, Corie is sometimes a boy’s name; and in sixth grade when my hair was cut short, very short, at a Broadway show, while visiting Manhattan, the usher called me Sir.

When I was fifteen, I went for my driver’s license. I presented my birth certificate as identification and so my license was issued, Celia Corie Sutton.

This was an identity crisis in the making. I then had I.D. with a name I’d never used.

A few years later, I got married. My marriage license said, Corie Adjmi. My passport said, Corie Adjmi. My American Express card said, Corie Adjmi. (Actually, it says, Corrie Adjmi.)

And so of course, spelling continued to be an issue. (Go spell ADJMI correctly.)

“There are no vowels,” I heard over and over again in regards to my new last name. And “What an unusual name. Where is that from?”

“Syria,” I’d answer, my identity shaky once again because I didn’t feel connected to my Middle Eastern heritage. No one ever questioned Sutton.

I got into a routine. I simply spelled out my first and last name before giving anyone a chance, or offered to write it myself; and the fact that all my identification didn’t match didn’t matter for the next quarter of a century; but everything changed after 9-11.

Soon after 9-11, at the airport, because my ticket was issued Corie and my license said, Celia, I was frisked as if were a national security risk, violated from head to toe. My carry-on was dusted with white powder and then unpacked on a metal table in front of everyone, bras and all. They detained me for half an hour and I had to beg to be let through. Thankfully, security relented, although I wouldn’t take that chance again today. Now, I issue my tickets accordingly. For domestic travel, I use my license and I am Celia. International, a passport, and I’m Corie.

But my airport problems still linger. My husband and I recently applied for TSA PreCheck.

He was approved. I was rejected.

And the reason given was that the names on my I.D.s didn’t match and apparently that appeared suspicious. While my husband breezes through security, I wait in long lines and get felt up, barefooted. He smirks on the other side, relaxed and drinking coffee, reading the newspaper; or he browses in Hudson News deciding if he should buy raw almonds or cashews.

Fed up, I went to motor vehicles. (And I resist going to motor vehicles as most people resist being brutally beaten and interrogated.) Armed with my social security card, my passport and my marriage license, I thought I could change the name on my driver’s license to Corie. I was informed that unless my birth certificate and passport matched, there was nothing they could do.

I applied for a name change. Even though I didn’t want to change my name, I convinced myself it didn’t really matter if I was Celia Corie or Corie Celia. I guess the heavens (and possibly the spirit of my dead grandmother) disagreed because the paperwork, which I completed, was over an inch thick; and at least four court appearances were required. I gave up thinking I’d rather be strip-searched.

Not too long ago, I submitted a short story, That’s How It Was With Howie. And it was published in Verdad. The story has a male protagonist and, as requested, I submitted my bio in third person. The editors at the magazine assumed I was male, and the bio printed at the end of my story, reflected that assumption. Again, I didn’t care. I took it as a compliment. I’d nailed the voice of the main character. (But that’s me, I guess, whoever that is- always looking on the bright side.)

But this is the craziest part- I did it again. (The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.)

About two years ago, for writing purposes, I started using my maiden name. I went from Corie Adjmi to Corie Sutton Adjmi and in the age of the computer these might as well be two different people.

And so the trouble with my name continues because I’ve tested out different names like I’ve tested out different hairstyles, which is to say, without much forethought. But I’m figuring out, okay slowly and the hard way, things get complicated when you change your name like day of the week panties.

According to tradition, when either one of my married sons has a daughter, her name will be Corie.

One name. One identity.

And for a moment, I am happy for her, thinking this is a good thing.

But really, if I’m honest, I like being more than one person. Or at least, pretending I am. Maybe this is the sign of a personality disorder but I prefer believing it’s because I’m Aquarian.

Like a butterfly, I flit from project to project, always changing jobs.

I moved four times in the last four years, constantly changing my home zip code.

Why not my name?

Memory: A Mind Game

Image Memory Game In order to illustrate just how bad my memory has gotten, I was going to tell you the word I couldn’t retrieve in conversation recently. But honestly, I can’t remember what it was.

So instead, I will tell you what happened the other day.

Lynn, one of my closest childhood friends, a friend I went to Nursery school with, and who was the Maid of Honor at my wedding, drove from New Jersey into Manhattan to meet up at a restaurant with me, and three of our other friends. We don’t get together as often as we should; but Pam had flown in from LA.

All five of us grew up together in New Orleans, and each of us feels a sense of pride in that, our shared childhoods, magical. New Orleans is a place where people dance in the streets to jazz music chugging beer from plastic To-Go cups. (Sometimes, they are topless.) Spanish moss drips from giant Oak trees. Wrought iron balconies and cobblestone streets decorate the French Quarter.

New Orleans has color, history, pizzazz.

My childhood memories are vivid as if they just happened.

I’m not talking about the big things like when I got pulled over by a policeman for the first time, at fifteen, for speeding. I’m talking about the daisy placemats under bowls full of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup in Pam’s kitchen, and spending the night at Lynn’s, and singing along to a Peter Rabbit album; an album that if I heard today, I could still sing every word.

I’m talking about how I could tell you the names of every teacher I’ve ever had since kindergarten and the names of classmates I haven’t seen in over thirty years.

People often tell me it’s incredible how much I remember from my past, my memory flawless.

At least my long-term memory is flawless. My short-term memory is a different story.

This brings me back to the restaurant.

The waiter comes to our table and we order. Pam brings up Mathew McConaughey, whose name I can never remember how to pronounce; but I googled it to confirm spelling for this post, and after seeing it- I think I’ve got it. (Check out Doodle Power.)

Pam says, “You know the movie he was in last year? The one he won an Oscar for? Um,” she hesitates, “what was it called?”

“I’ve got it,” I say. “Give me a minute.” I stop to think and then a few seconds later, as if it were a really big deal, I blurt, “Dallas!”

“Yes, yes,” Pam says. “Buyer’s Club. Dallas Buyer’s Club.”

This strikes me as funny. We’re getting older and the fact that a simple conversation takes our collective memory to complete a sentence feels like some kind of comedy routine.

The five of us discuss how our memory is slipping. We share our strategies, our tricks for remembering; and I find this fascinating.

Freddi says she sees words as shapes.

Kim says she sees words in colors.

Earlier in the day, I couldn’t remember a distant relative’s name and neither could Pam. It took Kim a minute, but then- boom- she knew, “Ruth,” she said with excitement. (When something is retrieved it is thrilling. It’s like you won something big; proof that you’re not as old as you thought you might be, or that you don’t actually have Alzheimer’s.)

“That’s how I remembered Ruth’s name,” Kim explains over lunch. “Ruth is brown.”

I reveal my trick, which is that I go through the alphabet and, somehow, this jogs my memory. When I couldn’t remember the name of the actress in When Harry Met Sally, I recited, in my head, “A,B,C…” And then, miraculously, I got to M and what wasn’t there was. Meg Ryan.

A few nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered I needed some things from the pharmacy. As you might recall from previous posts, if I don’t write things down, I’m bound to forget. I knew remembering everything I needed to buy the next day was unlikely; but it was the middle of the night and I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to turn on the light or get a pen.

So, I constructed the list of things I needed to buy in my head: Toothpaste, Vaseline, Advil. I used a mnemonic devise, which was to take the first letter from each word, scramble the letters and create a new word: VAT.

In the morning, that word helped me to recall the items on my list.

(Read these memory booster suggestions and other articles on memory in Psychology Today.)

Scientists used to believe that the adult brain was a fixed organ. It was thought that past a certain age, your cognitive abilities couldn’t change. New evidence shows this to be false. It shows that the brain is actually malleable and not only can it change it does change with every new experience.

Presently, Pam is learning to play guitar, Kim is studying fiction and over the last few months, I’ve learned a lot about social media.

There have been challenges in these ventures; but if I remember correctly from my childhood, which of course I do, my friends and I are like the Timex ad:

We’ll take a licking but keep on ticking.

It Worked For Bruce Springsteen

Madame Marie Last week, driving in the car with two friends and feeling a bit playful I said, “Let’s go to Madame Marie’s.”

“Who’s Madame Marie?” they asked.

“Are you kidding?”

They weren’t. They didn’t know Madame Marie was a fortuneteller on the Asbury Park boardwalk; or that her clients included Ray Charles, Elton John, Diane Keaton, and The Rolling Stones. Reportedly, Madame Marie told Bruce Springsteen he’d be a huge success; and he wrote about her in his 1973 song, 4th of July, Asbury Park.

“Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do.”

Madame Marie was an icon on the boardwalk for decades and as she aged, she trained her children and grandchildren to read tarot cards and crystal balls. I see her granddaughter, Sabrina, who for $25.00 reads my palm. I should get a kickback because every summer I visit her and bring friends. Relatives. Anyone who’ll come with me.

Two years ago I brought my cousin, Pam. I went first. Sabrina studied my palm and told me I’d live a long life. “You’ll live until you’re ninety-two,” she said.

I was thrilled.

“I’m going to live a long life,” Pam said after her reading. “Eighty-six years old,” she boasted.

“Oh, Pam,” I teased, “I’m going to miss you those last few years.”

While we laughed out loud, inside I panicked picturing myself as a 92 year-old woman; and if that wasn’t bad enough, I tried to envision a world without Pam in it. I brushed away the thought.

Part of me recognizes that Sabrina can’t possibly know this to be fact but she’s been right about so much. Yes, I had a friend who got sick and needed me. Yes, she was on the money about a specific guy a different friend was dating. And yes, there was something about an upcoming medical procedure.

***

My two friends were torn, half excited by the idea of having their fortunes told, and half skeptical.

“Come on,” I said. “You’ll see.”

It was around six pm, a time that for as many years as I can remember was dinnertime, bath time, homework time. It hadn’t been my time since I was twenty and so this felt outlandish and adventurous. It was also a perfect summer evening, the air off the ocean a gentle breeze, the temperature perfect. I took off my shoes and walked barefooted on the boardwalk.

After my reading, I smiled wide. “What did she say?” my friend asked.

Here’s the thing: you’re not supposed to share your reading.

Was that so she could scam us? Tell each of us the same thing? (There was one year she kept asking, is there a Michael in your life?)

Or was it because of the old superstition not to reveal your wish if you want it to come true? (How many times have you wished on a star or a chicken bone and not told fearful your dream wouldn’t come true?)

But there is another belief.

Say your wish out loud. Yell it to the universe and it will come true.

So here it is, the good thing Sabrina told me the other day…

She said that something positive was going to happen with my novel in September. “You hear that! All literary agents- you have until September!”

There it is. I’ve said it. My wish is free in the world. It’s up to the universe to respond. Or not.

Every day since my visit to Madame Marie’s this summer, I think about Sabrina’s words. Every day I get a bit giddy imagining she’s right. For $25.00 a world of hope and possibility opened up for me. There was something special about that evening: the spontaneity, the ocean air, the purple sky. It was girly and fun, like the world was my oyster, and that all the opportunity in the universe rested in the palm of my hand.

Stand Up Comedy at Omega

I stood on a stage in front of a few hundred people at Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, bright lights in my eyes. “I don’t know what I’m doing here,” I said to the audience. “I’m so not funny.”

But I’d signed up for stand up comedy in an effort to change that and performing was our final project.

“I did get my friends and family to laugh,” I told the audience, “when I broke it to them I was doing stand up.”

My husband and children think you have to be mean to do stand up.

At dinner, my daughter said, “Mom, you’re like Tinker Bell, and Tinker Bell is so not funny.”

Our dinner table is like that. A battlefield. My children can be mean. They get that from their father. By comparison, I fall short. Recently I’ve tried to pick up my game, and the other night, I threw a spoon at my husband. I confess we fight a lot. I read in an Astrology book that we’re a perfect match- our verbal sparring foreplay. Personally, I’d rather a back rub.

We are Syrian and my husband has dark skin. So do my kids. My husband thinks they look like him, and says I was just Fed Ex. He admits they have my ears, which isn’t a compliment because before I was Tinker Bell, I was Dumbo.

My family fights about everything. They will debate, with vigor, if potatoes are better mashed or fried, if vegetable soup should be more vegetable or more broth. My kids are so mean they even make fun of vegetables. Imagine needing to be one up from a vegetable. Organic vegetables are the worst. They want meat: thick steaks, hamburgers, BBQ. And the terms hormone-free, farm-fed, and free-range piss them off. My family’s all brawn.

They don’t believe in global warming and littering is just practical because as my youngest son says, “When I don’t litter, my car gets filthy.” When I gasped, he said accusingly, “I know you love water bottles.”

And it’s true. I sneak them into my closet, pretending there is only one, and I admitted that on the stage at Omega which was way more daring and scary than doing the flying trapeze earlier that same day. But I’m changing.

I gave birth naturally 5 times. Nursed them all. I made homemade baby food. I was an elementary school teacher. I had the patience of a Saint.

But no more! Now the music on an ice cream truck makes me cringe -- nails on a chalkboard. Children splashing in a pool, irritating as ants at a picnic.

So you see, I can be mean. As the old Syrian saying goes, if you put a cucumber in a pickle jar, you get a pickle.

And just so you know, the audience at Omega laughed throughout my Stand Up routine. A woman came up to me after the show and said, “That was great. You should start a blog.”

I laughed and said, “Now that’s funny.”