Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday, Monday

It's a wonderful blustery Monday, and there is some blue sky peeking through the clouds, and I think the winter weather might finally be ending. Please God. Frankly, I'd like to drive a stake through the heart of this past winter. It was ferocious and lasted forever. For this entire past month, my two sons and I have had some form of cold or virus or cough, and it was hard not to feel that it was the winter's way of saying, "I may have to end, but I won't let you forget who's boss." Okay, Uncle! You win. Now, please go away!! Sorry for the rant. You can tell that I am out of denial about my feelings about the cold. Anyway. I did have another Spoken Interludes last Thursday night - didn't take pictures :( - and I loved every writer who was there. So many people said to me, as they were leaving, that it was the best show they'd been to. The shows are like my children, I don't have a favorite, but I can say that it was like one of those glorious afternoons when the boys and I are having a great time playing, and everything is perfect and pure fun. That's how the evening was. Marek Fuchs, Joshua Henkin, David Ebershoff, and John Burnham Schwartz all read. And can we just take a moment to acknowledge that group?? We all could have listened to each of them the entire evening. It was an embarrassment of riches in terms of their talent, and generosity of spirit, and showmanship. I feel so blessed that I get to show up and be with the audience members that I adore, and either meet, or see again, writers that I love and respect, and hear their work and their thoughts on their work. When I was doing the shows in LA every month, one thing that made me really happy was that it was one of the few places in that town that when someone was introduced to someone there, they didn't ask what they did for a living, they asked how they found out about Spoken Interludes. It was a like an underground literary club, and I loved that, everyone coming together on the basis of loving the written word and the desire to hear stories. I felt that so strongly the other night. If you haven't read the newest books by Marek, Joshua, David, or John, run don't walk to your nearest bookstore. They are all divine. And at the show, a very interesting theme emerged from the readings, as one always seems to, of people being trapped or encapsulated in a community or institution, and it was great getting to hear the different ways that was developed.
I did a panel at the Irvington Library yesterday for the Rivertowns Arts Council. It was on Creativity and Motherhood led by Carrie Barron, and it was wonderful to hear the other artist talk about juggling these things, and connect with the audience on it. My sister-in-law, Judy Siegel, came which meant so much to me. Her husband, Jon, just became mayor of Irvington, a more fair man I have never met, so we will all be in very capable hands once he gets sworn in next week. And speaking of creativity, off to work on my novel. Happy Monday!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New York State of Mind

So, I'm in Utica to speak at Utica College tomorrow as part of their visiting writers series, and figured I'd write before I fall asleep. I'm away from the boys again, though just for the night, and only a 3 and a half hour drive away, but still. Some very fun people from the college - pictures will be up when I get home and have my camera cable to download - took me out to a very yummy dinner, and when I got back to the hotel, I called to say goodnight, and I told my oldest son that I missed him. He said, I don't miss you. I said, that's okay. Then he said, I just want to hug you. I told him that I always want to hug him. The two year old got on the phone, and told me of a big accomplishment he had, then put down the phone to dance in celebration of it. Very sweet. I miss them. And want to hug them
This past Friday night, I drove to Central Valley, NY, about 40 minutes away from me, not too far over the Tappan Zee bridge, to have dinner with The BookWalkers, a book club that had read both of my books. I loved these women.
They were so warm and open and fun. I felt like I had known them forever. We all talked nonstop. A bunch of them even live on the same street, and I could feel how connected they are to each other. They have created an amazing community for themselves with this group, and they also raise money for charities and do walks and runs. They all brought books to donate to the Pediatrics Clinic in Yonkers that I am doing the bookdrive for - they are goddesses. I got there about 7:30 and didn't leave until after 11 and couldn't believe it was that late. It was one of those great evenings where I felt so lucky and happy to be a woman who gets to be able to walk into a room of women that I don't know, but within the space of half an hour, am able to share and connect and get so much from them. They gave me the best gift. They let me be part of their magic circle. I drove home feeling so bouyed up by it. And now I'm up here inUtica - two hours north on the 87 to Albany, then west on the 90 for an hour and half. It is such a beautiful drive; it is all farms, and Victorian houses, and light straight out of an Edward Hopper - getting to be with people here, and hear their stories, and be part of this. And I got to have all that wonderful driving/writing time. Virginia Woolf used to walk her novels; I love to drive them. So it was great having 3 plus hours of silent, novel-thinking/processing/flow time. And I get more tomorrow on the drive home. Heaven!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My sister Elizabeth showed me how to use my camera!!!

So, my wonderful sister, Elizabeth, showed me how to download the pictures off my new camera, and find them on my computer, so I can put them up here. Hooray!! Here are a few that I've wanted to put up:

This was at BookMania in Stuart, Florida before our panel. From Left to right is: Lily Koppel, Diane McKinney-Whetstone, me, Garth Stein and Diane Hammond. They were great fun.

If you have a layover in the Atlanta airport - eat here!! I love Paschal's. They have amazing grits and biscuits, and my flight got me there just in time to have some before they stopped serving them at 11. Yum!

Here's the building at SUNY Albany where I spoke in February as part of the Sexuality Week on Campus. Afterwards, I had dinner with Dan's first cousin, and that was nice having a chance to have a real visit that wasn't in the midst of a large family gathering.

This is the King's Cake that the boys and I made a couple of Saturday's ago on that beautiful, spring-like day we had when it was in the 60's. We were playing in the sandbox, and went in for lunch, and somehow the idea of making a cake came up, and even though King's day and Mardi Gras were past, King's cake is always yummy, and it was great fun making our own. The boys especially loved watching it rise twice, and then painting it with the colored sugar once it was baked. My 5 year old took that picture.

I ran into Michael Gates Gill at the Tucson Festival of Books last Sunday. Mike read at Spoken Interludes last fall, and I really adore him. It was great getting to see him again. And here I am with Bonnie Marson, my fellow panelist. She was good fun.
And last, but definitely not least, here with my sister Pamela, in front of the cacti. She was such a dear to fly in from Albuquerque to meet me there. Made all the difference in the world to me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

An Airport Kind of Day

I'm in the Tucson airport waiting for a plane. I got here at 6 am, hoping to fly stand-by. Rather, fulling believing that I would fly stand-by because when I spoke to my travel agent on Friday, she said there were six seats left on the plane, so surely (don't call me Shirley - sorry!) I'd be fine. I wasn't fine. It's spring break, so the 7:10 am plane was over sold. As was the 8:20, and the 9:30, and the 10:40, and that leaves me going out on the flight that was originally booked, 11 something, I'll check my boarding pass, God knows, I have time. I won't get back to NY until 8:30 tonight which is the unpleasant part because I was really hoping/wanting/needing to get back to my sons this afternoon. They have done fine. They held up well. Dan said they fell asleep in the van on the way home from the zoo (they went out to breakfast and then to the zoo to see the camels and sea lions and zebras - their faves!), and when they woke up, they were both crying and wanting me. :( Okay, so I'm a lightweight. 3 days and 2 nights is too long for me without my sons, and my husband, but mostly my sons. We talked on the phone and Dan emailed me pictures of them. If I could have figured out where the damn pictures were on my computer that I downloaded from the new camera that Dan got me when my Linkold camera (that I was able to work) broke, then I would have been able to email pictures to them, and even post some here, but I will figure it out, though it's been tres annoying. Almost as annoying as people throwing in a lame French word in a thoroughly lame way. Anyway, I miss my sons. I am keeping my older son home from preschool tomorrow, and we will go to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk to see the penguins that they just got there, so that will be great fun. My older son called me on my cell phone this morning when I was in the cab on the way to the airport. It was 5:30 am Tucson time, so 8:30 Irvington time. He told me that his father was telling him what to do too much. I asked him if that had anything to do with going to school. He said it did. I told him that I understood not wanting to go, but it would make the time go faster until I got home. He said maybe for you, but not for me. I reminded him that he didn't go to school on Friday. He said that was then, this is today. Can we just apply to law school now??? I told him that Momma and Daddy's job is to work and his job is to go to school, then quickly changed the subject and asked what he had for breakfast, knowing full well that he hadn't eaten yet. I could hear the low-blood sugar in his voice. He said that Dan had made oatmeal. Okay, is he a hero or what?? Cooking, for God's sake. Though Dan could have made ice cream floats (remember Coke Floats when you were a kid?? My sisters and I LOVED those), and my son wouldn't have been happy. I suggested he ask Daddy to make him a waffle (a frozen one from Whole Foods that my older sister, Elizabeth saved the day by picking up for us when she went there last week), and that did the trick. Hooray! But I wish I were already home. Though I did have a great weekend. The festival was wonderful. It was the first one they ever had, but you wouldn't have known it. Every detail was thought out and perfect; the crowds were huge; the weather stunning. It was a glorious weekend. Not least of which was seeing Garth Stein again. We did a panel together at a festival in Florida in January, so it was great fun to see him again yesterday. He came to my panel and I went to his. If he is in your area, don't miss him!!! I assume you've already read his The Art of Racing in the Rain, which is incredible; be prepared to laugh and cry. I also ran into Michael Gates Gill in the author's lounge at the festival. Mike is amazing. Get his book, How Starbucks Saved My Life. It is a beautiful story of transformation and redemption, two subjects close to my heart. And Mike is a joy, so it was a treat to see him again. My panel was with Bonnie Marson whose book, Sleeping with Shubert is a wonderful read. I really enjoyed doing the panel with her. Our topic was writing without fear or an MFA, and the audience had so many questions that the moderator, Laura Fitzgerald, barely had to speak, but she was lovely. It was interesting to hear Bonnie's process. We had some interesting overlap, but a lot of differences in how we work that I think it gave a nice full view. But the nicest part of the weekend was that my sister Pamela who lives in Albuquerque flew in and was with me from Saturday afternoon until Sunday afternoon. I don't think we've had alone time together since I visited her in Albuquerque ages and ages ago. It was really heavenly. I felt like we were able to reconnect in our relationship from who we are now. There was finally the time and space to do that. I feel so blessed to have her, and my other sisters. All that shared history and shorthands. We had so many laughs - Pam is hysterical - and got to realize some similarities in our lives that we hadn't before, and isn't that a gift? So, other than missing the boys so much that it made me ache, it was a glorious, heavenly weekend - and with sun!! I feel very fortunate to have been able to go. Thank you, wonderful, supportive husband!! Earlier this morning, I was at a kiosk getting a cup of coffee, and telling Dan on my cell phone that it didn't look like I'd get back earlier, and he was so relaxed about it, and so happy that I had come here, and I said to him, "I have the best husband." And the woman next to me said, "No, I do." Love her!!!

Friday, March 13, 2009


I am flying to Tucson tomorrow to be part of the first annual Tucson Festival of Books. I am thrilled to be going, not least because the weather is going to be 77 there on Sunday. 77! Spring is definitely trying to start arrive here, but it's not 77. Though last weekend, it was wonderfully warm here, and the boys and I were able to be home all day. That is my favorite day in the world: all of home with no place we have to be at a certain time, and just able to play and eat and laugh and hang out and be home. So, the 2 year old and I were in the kitchen getting water, and my 5 year old was digging in the dirt at his construction site next to the driveway, when he came running in and said, "Momma, some thing's happened; come see." I figured a truck had broken from the ice, or some mishap, but then he said, "Come, some thing wonderful happened." And he led us outside, and there in the bed under the front window was the first flower of spring. That made my heart sing. To see it, and that he had found it, and showed it to me in that way. So, this long, cold winter is of the past, but it is still trying to hang on. I, for one, will not be sad to see it go. I kept my 5 year old home from pre-school this morning, since I'll be gone this weekend, so we played Tigers and Zoo keeper this morning, always a favorite.
My sister who lives in Albuquerque is going to meet me in Tucson and spend Saturday night with me. I'm looking forward to a sisters weekend. I told her that I feel like such a grown-up getting to have a girls' weekend, and she said that she feels like a kid going to a slumber party, so there's perspective for you! I'm going to miss the boys, especially, and I know this sounds crazy, at the airports - I'm changing planes in Dallas - because, one) airports are my sons favorite places in the world, and two) flying brings up terrible existential angst for me. I don't have a fear of dying on a plane, rather it is that going to an airport makes me think of what it must be life to leave this life and be in that transition before the next thing, and being a (trying, at least) practicing Buddhist, I think it is another life. I probably never should have watched that Albert Brooks movie, "Defending Your Life" since it is all about that in-between time and its setting looks suspiciously like an airport. But anyway. I have no doubt the festival will be great fun, and my sons and husband won't eat any of the food I am making and leaving for them, and will subsist on pizza and I'll be thrilled to see them upon arriving home. I'm feeling nervous/sad about being gone from them. At dinner tonight, my two year old said, “Momma bye bye tomorrow plane." Then he crawled into my lap. "Me hum. (for 'me come') Me hum.” Totally broke my heart. :(

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Sky is Crying

Tuesday night. We just came home from paying a Shiva call to our Rabbi whose 19 year old son died in a tragic accident this past Friday night. We went to the funeral yesterday morning. It rained during the funeral, and it is raining now. The sanctuary was filled when we arrived, so we sat in the huge, crowded tent they had erected outside and watch the tv monitors of the funeral. The eulogy was the most beautiful and eloquent I've ever heard. I don't know how Rabbi Billy and his wife and two children were able to sit there and not just break down wailing on the floor. God bless them. It is horrendously, unbearably sad. When the service was over, and they got up to leave with the coffin, I remembered burying my father, and how I felt that I was trapped inside a machine that was made up of the most benevolent and loving people, but people who were setting into motion the burying of my father, and how I wanted to stand up and yell and stop it somehow, and how I couldn't, and how I was forced to do the absolutely completely very last thing on earth I had ever wanted to do. And yesterday, I saw Rabbi Billy get up from his chair at the end of the service, and I knew he was at that point where the rituals are moving forward, and you have no choice but to move forward with them, but all you want to do is yell and scream that this can't be happening, this can't be happening. And mine was my father, a death I had assumed would happen before my own. Not my son. Not a child. No one should have to walk through this. He was so kind to us when we got married. We had a hard time finding a Rabbi to perform the ceremony since I haven't converted to Judaism, but Rabbi Dreskin was so loving and embracing, and has made Dan and I and our children feel so welcome and part of the community. For him, it is all about the spirit, and I love that. I am so deeply despondent about what has happened to his son. If you have any extra prayers, please use them for Rabbi Dreskin and his family.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday night. Dan and I just finished the crossword puzzle. Monday's always goes fast; a nice consolation for the hell of Friday and Sunday. My youngest called me in twice for more milk after I put him to bed. As I was carrying him to the kitchen to get it, his wispy hair was kind of being blown back off his forehead, and he was looking ahead with a smile on his face, and it was as if he were on the brow of a ship, he looked so happily expectant of his near future. We went into the kitchen where Dan was reading the paper, and my son said, "Last time," and grinned, because he knows that's what I say when he has these little requests. We have school tomorrow, he and I do a Mommy and Me class at the preschool that my 5 year goes to, and my youngest is very excited about that. "Scool?" he kept saying, when I told that we have school tomorrow and he needs a good night sleep. We had a snow day today, and that was great fun. We've had a big work site in their bedroom, with all the trucks moving blocks and going through tunnels and car washes and all kinds of things, so that work continued this morning. Then the babysitter came and I got to have some writing time, and then when I finished, we played a spinning game called Nana Blanana, so named because my sons were eating... you guessed it, while they named the game. Lately when my youngest son picks up something to play with, he says, "My favorite" because he has seen the magical powers that phrase concurs on his brother's toys, all sharing rules can possibly cease. This is a totally meandering entry that seems to have no point at all. Sorry!