Friday, December 19, 2008
1) Aaron was sent to the office for pushing a kid down.
2) Sophie forged Jon's name on the bottom of her reading log.
3) We got the the car after leaving Children's Place yesterday, and I realized Aaron was carrying a pair of pajamas we hadn't paid for.
So, am I raising bullies, forgers and thieves?
Nah! I felt good to realize these are all teachable moments -- perfect opportunities for parenting. None of them were done with malice. Aaron was frustrated because the special day class joins their class for activities, and the boy he pushed makes noises instead of talking and Aaron lost patience and wanted his personal space back. After the holiday break, they're all going to get practice in how to work together and respect differences. (Planned before the incident). Great training for life, where someone is always in your face, or facing different challenges, or you are, or anything else.
Sophie wanted to turn her homework in complete. She'd forgotten to have one of us sign. We insisted she write her teacher an apology note and let her know we'd talked about forgery and she wouldn't do it again.
And of course I'll have to trek back to the store with Aaron and pay for those pajamas.
All in all, a great learning week! And once again, I am grateful for the training I received during my preschool co-op years so that I can automatically view these moments as opportunities, not problems or just bad behavior.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
He got a note back, plus payment, then wrote another, again asking about the return of the tooth. At some point he asked me if the tooth fairy was real or if it was me. Do I look like the tooth fairy? I asked.
Aaron then wrote up this note, after Sophie questioned the validity of the tooth fairy (upon which I had to inform her that the tooth fairy does not issue payment to non-believers):
SOPHiE DiSAT BlEY EN YOU BATiDO
(Sophie doesn't believe in you but I do.)
Monday, December 1, 2008
So back to the book shelf. I had a stack of books I intro'd a while ago. To follow up:
1) The DaVinci Code: This was a fast, enjoyable read. I don't really see what all the fuss was about, though.
2) Palace Walk: This one took me 60 pages or so to really sink into, though I liked it from the start. It slowly lowers you into the vat of this conservative Egyptian family 100 years ago. I felt like I lived in that house by the middle of the book. The women were not allowed out. The father was a philandering tyrant beloved by all and feared by his family. It was weird to realize that this is how many people live still. Excellent portrait of a family and a history and an Arab culture.
3) Run: Ann Patchett strikes again. I want to read more and more of her. Again, I was dropped into a close-up view of a family, with lots of juicy secrets. It's a story of family, politics, and a tiny drop of mystery in the form of a family statue passed down through the generations. I heard her non-fiction "Truth and Beauty" is great. And Bel Canto is still my favorite.
4) The Hakawati: I'm still toward the beginning of this one. It's a big book and I saved it for last. Hakawati means storyteller and I'm enjoying the stories weaving through the text.
And now back to work. Happy December!
Friday, October 31, 2008
Why? Why is this THE holiday? In our neighborhood, it's especially big, and kids and parents come from all the neighborhoods around to trick or treat on our flat, sidewalked, decorated streets.
It's not tied to anything religious, at least not in this country. People get to embody whatever character they want -- and often, the darker the better. My kids left as a Dark Skull Warrior and a Vampire. Anything goes. A house on our block is transformed into a haunted house each year, actually too scary for most kids -- those that go in come out crying.
Is it more about candy or roaming the streets in the dark, with access to every house's front door, and the only requirement to say thank you for the candy, at least when prodded with your parent's glow stick?
What IS it? I think that's what great about Halloween -- there's no hidden agenda or message -- it all flows from the subconscious out onto the streets, something out of our deep pagan past, and so satisfying.
Friday, October 17, 2008
God, I was sick of talking about sandwiches! And now I'm in the antithesis -- a "Fall Detox" diet with no bread or sugar, among other missing things. But I do get to keep chocolate -- as long as it's unsweetened. And I'm drinking a lovely coffee substitute called Tee-chino, mixed with hot almond milk. The thing is, I'm not a caffeine addict -- really I just enjoy hot drinks -- so that works for me.
I was LOVING sitting at my desk working every morning for a couple of weeks. Then I went and added exercise back in to the equation, and this is my first time at the desk (except checking email) the whole week! Plus I worked in Aaron's Kindergarten classroom Monday - but that was so fun! And, oh yeah, I had to do online traffic school, too.
Last October we had an almost real fall here on the Peninsula, due to an uncharacteristic California cold snap. I love seeing the leaves changes color. I love the feel of fall. I'd hoped to see some change on the way to Lake Tahoe last weekend, like last year, but there wasn't much of anything to see. It was a great weekend, anyway -- a moms' weekend away to scrapbook with a close-up view of the lake and a nice walk thrown in. I laid down pages in our family album for January through June, 2008, so it was like a slowed-d0wn, sped-up version of the first half of the year -- reorganized and stylized and frozen in time on 22 pages. Scrapbooking is a great way to complete a book! While I work on getting my "real" book out into the world. I am still looking for the right agent for the job.
Monday, October 6, 2008
1st Place goes to Joyce!
For the best and simplest classic sandwich with the best description that made me want to drop everything and make it right away. Also, she said it was "no contest" so I had to give her a prize. And she's my mom, and when I saw the words "no contest" I thought at first I would have to cancel my contest, but luckily that wasn't what she meant. Joyce says:
No contest. The best sandwich is on white bread with a little mayo. Hellmans of course. The sandwich consists of a few slices of fresh tomato(right off the vine) and some lettuce. The secret is the warm tomato right off the vine.
2nd Place goes to Wendy!
Wendy submitted several entries, but the one that caught my eye was this one. Wendy says:
A Hummus-sprout-type-thing with homemade seedy bread that I had in Mexico at a restaurant in the village called S'nice.
Both winners will be receiving a crisp $10 bill in the mail to spend at your favorite sandwich place. Congratulations!
By the way, I had to disqualify Jon (my husband) from entering, as during sandwich week he brought me a sandwich from the local deli - pastrami - which, like Wendy, I haven't had in a long time, but I'd started thinking about. The problem was, Jon had them make it on the usual wheat bread I get sandwiches on, but you must never, never make a pastrami sandwich on anything but rye! Jon made a mistake, and I have forgiven him, but I can't forget how he brought a temporary cloud over sandwich week for that day. But it was nice of him to pick up a sandwich for me. And now, it is time to move onto other things, as this really isn't a recipe blog after all!
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The winner will be determined by quality of sandwich, heartfelt description of sandwich, and any and all other creative elements.
Also, I've been told that, um, I need to offer an actual PRIZE to the winner. That my making and eating a sandwich in my kitchen does not constitute a real incentive....
So, as far as a prize...drumroll please...I will send you a crisp $10 bill for lunch at your favorite sandwich shop. Please sit at the counter if possible. And please eat at Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop if you can! Which by the way, I looked up, and it sounds like it is still alive and well and much-loved by (almost) all. The official address is:
174 5th Ave, New York 10010
Btwn 22nd & 23rd St
Sorry if you have been wandering around Broadway looking for it. I'll check my addresses in advance the next time!
Cheers! And L'Shana Tova to all the Jews today!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
When I was a kid, I did not like peanut butter. I did like peanut butter commercials, though, and even produced one at school which a classmate and I read over the intercom for the whole school. It went something like: "Hi, try Pan Peter Butter Peanut..." I finally convinced myself as a teen (the power of advertising) that I SHOULD like peanut butter, that it was un-American not to. And it worked! I started eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Now my kids have peanut sensitivities and get a rash around their mouths and/or gastrointestinal problems from peanut butter, but they still beg me for it even though I buy them almond butter, which really, is much better (really, it has to be -- it's 4X the price)!
For a while, it was the BLT, because it's so sublime--the opposite of a stuffed-full New York deli sandwich.
In high school I made lunches for myself and my younger brother. I have no idea what I put inside the bag, but I liked to decorate the outside of the brown bag, and Robbie lived in fear of what I would do to his lunch that he had to carry to school where people could see it.
This could go on and on, but just to mix it up:
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE SANDWICH? WHAT SANDWICH TRANSCENDS ALL OTHER SANDWICHES FOR YOU? POST THEM HERE AND I PROMISE TO TRY THEM IN MY TEST KITCHEN, JUST 15 FLOOR TILES AWAY FROM THIS BLOG--AND POST THE RESULTS!
1. Must be a sandwich, not any other favorite food.
2. Entrants must be 5 years of age or older.
3. You may enter as many times as you like.
4. Deadline is October 1, 2008. *DEADLINE EXTENDED TO OCTOBER 3RD!!!
5. Must be a sandwich you've actually eaten. So if it's fried worms on toast that's your favorite, I want evidence!
There, my first blog contest, official rules and all. Come one, come all! Tell your friends. Something to debate about between presidential debates (because they're not likely to cover this topic).
Monday, September 22, 2008
I was talking to my very talented writer and artist friend Wendy Wax today, and she'd read my "sandwich" post and reminded me of my favorite sandwich shop when we used to work as editors at Byron Preiss Visual Publications in
California's great, and there are lots of things I'll never miss about New York City, but that sandwich delivery system was one of the best things ever. If you ordered a tuna on rye bread, the order was shouted out down the line by the old guys who worked there as "tuna on whiskey!" The younger guys behind them assembled the sandwiches and about a minute later there it was in front of me, with a slice of real New York pickle on the side. And by the way, it was REAL rye bread, not a slice of something resembling white or wheat with a couple of caraway seeds pushed half-heartedly into a soft crust and labeled "rye," but the real thing -- a hard crust, soft but substantial middle laced with caraway seeds all the way through. Oh, it makes me want to bite right into it. The loss of good rye bread is one of my few regrets in moving here. New York has better bagels and brick-oven pizza, too, but for me, it's been 13 years in exile from rye bread.
But I digress. The other great thing about Eisenberg's was the really old woman who took orders at the 6 tiny tables shoved against the wall running opposite the counter. A narrow place to walk ran between them, and this ancient woman came to the table and announced the special of the day, which invariably was either meatloaf or pastrami. "The special's meatloaf. You can have it in a sandwich or on a plate. It's very good," she said, order pad in hand. I can still hear the timbre of her voice -- a little shaky but unconcerned, sincere, and on with it. I don't think I ever ate meatloaf any other place. It was banned from my house growing up. My father hated it, and the only time my mother ever served it to him was just after they started dating, the very first time she ever had him over for dinner in college at her parents house. He told her it was "delicious" and hid it in his napkin. From then on, whenever Dad described something as "delicious," we knew it was not so.
But now and then, I did have Eisenberg's meatloaf, in a sandwich, on rye. And it was good.
Meatloaf on "whiskey": this one's for you.
Friday, September 19, 2008
-Two slices whole wheat (I use Beckman's Honey Whole Wheat, also from the Farmers' Market, but at some stores, too), toasted
-Spread one slice of toast with hummus (I used one with capers)
-A couple of thick slices of fresh red tomato (get 'em at your Farmers' Market if you can!)
-And fry up a couple of those fresh eggs, flip them to over medium or over hard. Add to sandwich.
-Add a slice of swiss cheese
-opt: some ripe avocado slices (I didn't have any that day but the guy at the cafe did, but mine was sure good without them.)
-Cut in half and eat
Wa-la. A sandwich to feed a king. Really, it was SO good. I give it 5 stars.
Monday, September 15, 2008
They all started off with a bang, seductively drawing me in like a box of chocolates, which is a delightful thought while lying in bed. Seriously.
Books are in order picked up:
1. THE HAKAWATI (Translates from the Arabic to "The Storyteller") by Rabih Alameddine. I bought this because it had such a BEAUTIFUL cover...pretty sea blue with swirling gold designs and tree roots and birds and hints of red...as well as a great first line: "Listen. Allow me to be your god. let me take you on a journey beyond imagining. Let me tell you a story." Who could resist that invitation? Though so far I keep getting impatient with the "modern" tale that is interspersed with the old tale. I just want the old one, which has a totally fabulous and totally in control slave woman named Fatima running the show.
2. RUN by Ann Patchett. I loved her novel BEL CANTO so much, that this was an easy sell, now in a nice trade paperback, also with lots of pretty blue and hints of trees. Seems to be a tree theme all around for me today. This one begins with a family rivalry for ownership of a small statue handed down through the generations to the person it looks most like. I thought of Cinderella's stepsisters trying to shove their big feet into the glass slipper. But only now, while thinking about it. Last night I just wanted to hear the story of what happened.
3. THE DA VINCI CODE by Dan Brown. Amazingly, I have not yet read this, though it's been on my "list" for years. I finally signed it out of the library. I didn't want to buy it. Begins with a slow, painful death. I left the poor guy bleeding out even longer as I left the pages of that book for...
4. PALACE WALK by Naguib Mahfouz, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. Originally published in Arabic in 1956 and here in 1990 (wow, long wait!), it was loaned to me by my friend Wendy who was wholly absorbed in it on the porch of her little cabin when we met at Oakland's Feather River Family Camp north of Tahoe in July. We finally got together for dinner over the weekend -- we'd all gotten to be good friends but travel and out-of-town company schedules conflicted till now -- and I got to take this book home for a spin. It's a WOW so far. Set in old (but not ancient) Egypt, I think, it begins with a wife who exists solely to serve her husband. I can't wait to see what cracks begin to open up in this existence. It's quiet, and yet pulls me right into the scene and the story. I love that.
Interesting how two of the four are translated from Arabic!
I keep trying to read Salman Rushdie's MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN. I've talked to at least three other people recently who have been trying to read him, and having difficulty getting pulled into the story. I WILL try again, because I love his writing, I just can't seem to stay with it so far, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth it to try to get there.
THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE was also recommended to me by a couple of different people, so I'll see if I can get that one to land on the nighttable soon. All so much better than (most) TV!
I'm a little sad I'm through the WRINKLE IN TIME quartet. I enjoyed it so much. I also figured out why I hadn't read some of them before -- they weren't written until I was in my twenties!
The kids were picked up for school, I had tea (Numi Green Jasmine Organic Monkey King -- Jon likes to call it "Monkey Brains tea"), ate breakfast (Sophie's leftover egg in a cup - she always leaves the white and half the yolk), read part of the newspaper, then went out into the world of the neighborhood and the streets and the fresh air of morning. It really IS a new day every day. Everything I saw and felt, I couldn't have from the car, when we are hurrying by, and the kids are bickering and punching each other in the back seat.
The young girl sticking her blond head out the window and calling back inside "I think it's jeans weather!" The baby crying from inside another house, and the young boy on the porch smiling and saying "Hi" to me as I went past. The way the streets felt to me when they were flat, and when they went uphill, how I had to lean into them and notice them with something besides a gas pedal. The older couple walking by with their little dachsund who kept stopping to sniff everything. The fresh paint on one house - a striking rich blue the color of the sea way out. And always the trees and flowers along the way, the twisting branches, the care people take (or don't take) with their gardens and fountains, the people I said hello to on the way.
A good start to the week.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Except something was different. My face looked different, my skin softer, my hair...blonder! (which is strange, as I have brown hair). Was it time to clean the mirror? No, I was looking at Melissa's 8-year old reflection. She was simultaneously drinking from her water bottle, following the exact same motion.
It's strange and wonderful sometimes to catch yourself unawares. Even when it's not yourself.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Finally I was able to give myself the small but wonderful gift of a walk in the cool morning air after the kids were picked up for school. Beds are made, I have my chai tea, and I'm warmed up for the day!
I miss my walks greatly. My thoughts get moving in a flow and I get to think them instead of feeling at the mercy of them.
So, Madeleine L'Engle's "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" is pretty awesome. And you know what, I don't think I ever did read it when I was a kid. Maybe it wasn't in the library when I was looking for it. I stayed up late reading it, and only have six pages to go, but stopped because Jon finally arrived home a little before 1am and then I realized how much I missed him. Not for the logistical stuff and to get me out of survival mode, but for him. Worth putting a book down for. But I'm finishing it right after this. Another small treat for myself, all before 9am or so.
It's kind of nice to see some clouds again and coolness, it's been so hot.
While I was walking, I got to thinking about how when we got back from Family Camp, where we'd been walking just to get to the bathroom or breakfast, walking seemed much more natural to us. We walked to the farmer's market that weekend instead of driving, and it didn't seem far it all. It isn't. It's less than a mile, but we usually drive. It's all relative, isn't it? Walking should be totally natural to us. Didn't kids used to walk miles to school all the time?
One of my neighbors was talking about a "Walking Schoolbus" to relieve some of the congestion at drop-off and pick-up time. A parent or parents would don an orange vest, routes would be marked, and a line of kids would walk the route to school. It's a little far, and would take some time. Also there's a hill and not many sidewalks till you get up the hill. So some safety concerns. Maybe there could be crossing guards along the way manning their posts, the way it used to be done, I think. Just some thoughts.
Now back to Madeleine L'Engle and work!
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Jon's been out of town for a full week. Sophie was home from school (or I was being called to the school to pick her up) with a bad stomach several days. I feel like the reluctant housewife. I don't want the mess to take over, so I'm trying to deal with it on more of a daily basis. But it's all ME, so it's more time. And with all of that, I had ZERO time to do any of my own projects, in spite of looming deadlines to get stuff out to agents, write some ad copy that was due Friday, and start editing Bruce Coville's Unicorn Chronicles Book #4 for Scholastic.
By 9:45 pm, all I could do was collapse into bed and read Sophie's library books she'd already finished -- this week the Wrinkle in Time quartet -- I'm on A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I haven't read these in years-- plus one night of indulging in TV. I did go out one night also for a WNBA (that's Women's National Book Association, not basketball) mixer in Menlo Park that was a lot of fun at Kepler's Bookstore. All in all, the week went fairly well, considering. I just had to embrace my mom role more than ever.
I mean, yesterday the kids had their first soccer games of the season. The temperatures were in the 90's, so after running back and forth between their games and having some sandwiches in the park, I took them out for ice-cream at Baskin Robbins and then swimming with their friends for the rest of the afternoon. Determined to get the kitchen cleaned up so I wouldn't have to do it after putting the kids to bed -- as it always seems much more daunting then and I tend to move much more s l o w l y -- I cleaned up and didn't get Aaron into the shower until 9pm. He was tired out by then and got cranky quickly, and before they went to sleep, both kids were telling me I was mean. So even ice-cream and swimming doesn't guarantee anything.
BUT MAYBE THIS WEEK I CAN PUT ON A DIFFERENT HAT THAN RELUCTANT HOUSEWIFE OR ONLY-PARENT-IN-TOWN MOM.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Lying down on the grass under the trees, feeling the breeze on my skin, and watching the leaves dance around. It's wonderful. There's nothing, nothing, nothing better than this.
Also the way even a dopey dog can cock its head and look at you and seem momentarily intelligent.
Can you tell I'd rather be in the park?
To link to more wonders of the world, visit my new friend Becky's site
Monday, September 1, 2008
The kids started school last week. I parked and walked them to the playground, where, miraculously, we were so early it wasn't even open yet! But soon it was, and the kids had fun playing before the bell rang. Sophie's 3rd grade class is right next to the playground in a portable classroom. Aaron's Kindergarten is around the building, and I called him over five minutes before the bell so he could walk with his friends to class and be ready to head in. Then I called Sophie's name loudly so I could let her know I was going and to have a good day. She came over, and the other hundred or so kids on the playground structure looked up as well, thinking it was time for school, and all came running over and headed to their class lines where their backpacks were already holding their places.
I was dumbfounded. At home, I might call my child's name ten times and get no response. But one name called on the playground opening day netted a hundred children!
I felt so powerful and capable, that I imagined the whole year would be charmed. Let that thought be released into the universe!
Monday, August 18, 2008
I need to be firm about my schedule and actually know what I'm doing each morning -- all FIVE of them when the kids are at school. I don't want to waste any time. But I usually forget to account for stuff like excercise time, putting away the dishes, phone calls for doctors' appointments, clean-up the desk so I can work, fresh air walks, and the new one: don't give into distractions...time.
And this business of writing time versus handling the business of writing - how to divide that time. Well, I'll have a long stretch of 8 weeks after I send off a batch of query letters.
It's just so hard for me to focus when the kids are here that I haven't sorted any of this out yet. In spite of the fact that they want to just hang out at home all the last week now that camps are done for the summer and I can actually sneak off to my desk when I'm not settling disputes. We are going camping this weekend, and a bunch of visitors are coming, but then, in a couple of weeks, the new schedule will be in place. I really am SO HAPPY about it. I'm just not feeling it as a reality until it's actually here.
Though I avoid making my blog about the "cutest things" my kids say, because, blech! It's not as fun about someone else's kids! I'll throw one from today in for fun, just because it makes me laugh:
Aaron's friend Riley came over and Aaron showed him where he could stash his shoes on Aaron's shelf in the garage (he has fewer pairs of shoes than the rest of us and actually has guest space). He showed Riley his almost in perfect condition dress shoes, and said:
"These are my wedding shoes. I don't marry, but I was a ring bearer for my uncle's wedding."
Well, I'm glad to know he didn't get married without telling me!
Then Riley misunderstood "ring bearer," and said, "You were a reindeer?"
Friday, July 25, 2008
My "sign" is that I feel her presence, and that is a gift in itself, whether it is made up of spirit, memory, or some combination.
Grandma Ann, my father's mother, lived till she was 99. For her 99th birthday, her wish was to not be around any longer. She died just two days before her birthday and got her wish. I miss her just as much, but I know that Grandma Ann is not hanging around watching me, because she really was done. She said so. She'd had enough visits, and grandchildren, and weddings and great grandchildren. We strung her along as long as we could with promises of more milestones. She'd had enough of her walker and her failing vision and dwindling health. It was enough. I don't blame her for not hanging around -- I'll probably make the same choice myself someday.
But I appreciate Grandma Florence being in the trees across the street now and then. Once I was strolling Sophie around the neighborhood when she was a baby and I met an old lady who had gotten disoriented on her way back from church and couldn't find her way back to her son's house. I pointed her in the right direction and then kept walking, and suddenly into my head came Grandma Florence's voice, more stern than I'd ever heard her in life: "You go back and find that lady and walk her to her son's house. Directions aren't good enough -- you should know better." Or something along those lines. She was right. I walked around till I found the lady again, asking people as I went if they'd seen her. Several of them had given her directions as well, and were concerned for her safety. We were all her good friends now. Finally I found her a couple of blocks up, and we walked up the hill till we got to her son's house. Her daughter-in-law greeted me and thanked me for getting her back. The old lady was so nice. She was grateful for the help, but in the most gracious way. She said I was "her angel" and blessed me and pulled out a little packet of wooden rosary beads from her coat pocket (It was a very warm day but she wore her wool coat). I thanked her and I kept those beads. They are still in my jewelry box. I'm Jewish and they're the only rosary beads I've ever been given. My grandmother kept me on the right path that day. I told the old lady before I left that my grandmother had sent me back to help her get home and she blessed her, too.
Gosh, that sounds so schmaltzy, but really, that's how it happened. I'm glad my Grandma Ann got to live so long and get to know my children before she left. And I'm glad my Grandma Florence can still be around even though she never did.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
But maybe my lean and mean kids will eat something?
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Last month I attended the Women's National Book Association's 40th anniversary party for the San Francisco chapter which coincided with the national organization's annual board meeting. I was sitting around a big table with a group of fabulous women from all over the country dedicated to women and books and all aspects of publishing. Someone asked about my book and everyone was interested when I started describing it. However, when I was asked to simply state the main conflict, I couldn't. I almost started to bullshit my way through, but decided against it.
The problem was, there are so many layers of things going on in the novel, I wasn't sure which one to emphasize. I had kind of known this, but was trying not to think about it.
THANK YOU to all the women at my table that night. This was a great opportunity for me to go back and finally resolve this. And now I can use this as a blade to sharpen up the whole book.
To draw it as tight as I can:
"A storyteller grows impatient with her characters and plunges into the world of her own story to take their place."
Monday, July 14, 2008
In-between: The best part was not having to drive anywhere or rush anywhere. Everything was right there, and on a pretty relaxed schedule. We walked a lot. Not all hikes, but just back and forth around camp, so that when we got back, the first day I wanted to walk, instead of drive, to the Farmers' Market, and it felt easy and fresh and good. The kids scootered and didn't complain.
I learned a lot about trees and plants. We made some new friends and ate a lot of food. We all ate ice-cream every day at the camp store. We slept in a rough-hewn cabin in sleeping bags, or on sleeping bags, as most nights were quite hot until the wee hours when the middle of the night trains went by. I was glad to be at camp instead of in my house. I was tired of being inside anywhere, and it reminded me how I want to live more outdoors, and how much more natural that feels. And this IS California. It doesn't get that cold here. When people say they're "freezing," they're not really. It's almost always well above 32 degrees.
There's a lot more to say, but I'll say it on another post, as I'm back to making lunches for camp and waking up the kids and hustling out in the mornings again. And cleaning the kitchen and the laundry. I'm kind of a good tired today. Tomorrow I hope to get back to work. Today was all doctors appointments and kids' stuff and haircuts. Aaron started JCC camp all scruffy-haired today and will return tomorrow with a new crew cut so I wonder if anyone will recognize him.
If anyone from family camp is reading this, hello, greetings from Belmont, and we miss you!!!
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Rather than going out to seek the perfect place to work, my inner voice gave me a little kick and said, "Hey, you've got yourself a great office right here at home -- how about using it?" So I'm listening to that voice. Clearing the desk was the first step. Next is some necessary filing and stuff, but then decorating, getting a plant or tree to bring in some nature, maybe a fountain (not near the papers or computer of course), putting something on the wall over my desk so I'm not looking up at a blank wall between the windows. A different "window" to the world. I can make it anything I want it to be.
It could work. I can put on music, make myself a cup of tea, even close the door and light a candle (with the window open a little of course). I can kick the kids out, too. It is MY office, after all. I set up an art area for them in the other half of the office, as the room is quite long, but I don't need to give them unlimited access. Because it is MY office. Let me say that enough times that I hear it.
Anyway, outlining: I did make an outline. It's for a story with several characters interacting during a high-stakes game of hide-and-seek. I'm trying to open up my stories beyond one-character monologues and musings. I'm writing down story ideas as I think of them. And maybe I don't need to leave all my ideas to "fate." I've left a lot of my life to fate: When Jon and I would get together (he finally gave fate a gentle shove), what direction my stories would take, what decisions would be made about the most minute things about my life because I didn't want to interfere with "fate...."
I am fate. Isn't that obvious by now? Even if that doesn't make total sense, it gives ME something to think about...and report in about at a later date when I melt my pen again.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I needed it. I so needed to feel that.
This week is organization week, preparing and gearing up to actually do something. But it can't go on much longer. It's time to jump in and get to work!
Monday, June 9, 2008
I was exhausted--Jon had been traveling and I'd been single-parenting all week-- but Saturday night found me at the historic Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco sitting around a table with women from all over the country. We were moms, grandmas, writers, agents, publishers, book lovers, and chapter presidents. With, of course, lots of combinations of the above.
This was an historic event. I don't know what it is about 40th's. They somehow seem like a bigger deal than 50th's, more of a magical number. Like 40 years wandering in the desert.
Anyway, we hard a great speaker -- humor writer Beth Lisick. She was very funny and genuine and started off with, "I feel like I'm with my people." There were speeches, food, books. At the end, almost delerious to get to my car and get home and fall into my bed, I got on my jacket to walk the couple of blocks to the parking garage. Effie Lee Morris, our founding member and president of 40 years ago, and Adele Horwitz, a member and former president for about as long, were heading to the garage, too, so we walked together.
Adele walks with a cane now, and both of them are slower than they used to be. I thought of myself as their escort, but they didn't need me, not even to lean on an arm. I refrained from offering my arm, even though I felt like I should. After all, they were old ladies. But some old ladies! Effie Lee still serves on several boards, has a special collection named for her in the San Francisco Public Library as well as an annual children's book there. She held forth on the podium that night on the history of the WNBA SF chapter and its many members and glories. She would have talked all night if we'd asked. Adele was driving an hour home and does it all the time. She has raised her children, her grandchildren, and now in her retirement, her great-grandchildren as well.
These two old ladies ARE supports in their homes and communities, with experience far beyond mine, and I knew I could lean on them if needed and they wouldn't bat an eye.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I remember it when I'm in yoga class now, decades later, and experiencing the same anticipation of soft connection and touch when the teacher comes around and adjusts my posture, laying hands on my back or hips. Is it the anonymity, I wonder? The darkness, the whisper?
Our one mistake: it was kind of cold out that night and we were in the cushy club area with a big buffet. I missed the first race because I was getting dessert. Huge windows looked out onto the track, but it was far away and people watched the little TV screens at the tables, and we couldn't hear the noise of the horses thundering by, or smell any of that sweat. Of course, we were more likely to smell the beer in the cheap seats. The mistake was, we were going to go outside for one race, but then we just decided to stay in where it was warmer. That was plain silly. It's California for God's Sakes, we weren't really going to freeze to death!
So perhaps the races in the summer time some other place some time. Still, I'm glad we went. We were there at the end of an era.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
3rd grade is all about reinforcing and developing reading and writing skills. 3rd grade is the year I distinctly remember waking up to find myself a sentient being, not a little kid any longer. As I became aware, I also became shy, which was an unfortunate side effect. But a whole creative process was unleashed that's been going on ever since.
I wonder what next year will bring for my daughter, who hugs me some days, and other days proclaims she is dedicating her life to evil. She was born on 6-6, so what am I to make of that? She likes the villains of stories. She finds the elixir of life in them.
It does not faze me. I knew what I was getting into with this one. Even though I can't believe I just wrote that. As overwhelmed as I sometimes get with raising kids, apparently some part really did know. This child is my child, whoever she may become.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The other morning I was having breakfast with Aaron, my 5-year old. I'd poured the water into my tall, insulated mug (because if I use a regular mug, I never quite get to drink it while it's hot) and we were admiring the way the steam curled out of the top, curling and twisting into thin air. In a life that consists of driving back and forth a lot between schools and activities with the kids, the steam, the thin air, can be an anchor for me, something more solid than the rest, as an image I can hold onto. The simplest things spark memory. And sparked memory is simply a cracking open of an experience in the moment, like Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, where each day of summer can be bottled and savored another day.
What I love about writing is discovering as I go that "saved" and "savored" sound the same, and in this case, mean the same thing. I love that -- the unbottling of a word.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
It's funny how writing and editing are such different activities, even though they often take place in tandem. I'm a great editor for other people's work. But when I wrote up a wedding newsletter before Jon and I got married, my mother had to inform me that the bio I'd written for myself sounded like an obituary, and my sister rewrote the story of how we got together to avoid highly embarrassing statements like, "When we skied down the mountain, one knee went one way and the other went the other way. And then we fell in love." Really I was trying to convey that I tore my ACL ligament and had to later have knee surgery and Jon took good care of me when I was laid up and our fondness for each other as friends blossomed...." See what I mean? I mean, stop already!
The latest complaint was about my newly minted website. It's been online for a couple of weeks, but has been undergoing design revisions. Now it's undergoing final edits, and, man, did we cut out a lot of junk last night! (Thank you, Webmaster!) So, we're almost there, just a little more to go to a concise and vibrant representation of me as a living, breathing writer.
Please come for a visit and let me know what you think! You can also pick up a free subscription to this blog onsite.
Friday, May 9, 2008
It's been a tough year. Not tough as in too much work, but tough in that I never could get the schedule to work for me. Afternoon Pre-K at a parent co-op and another child in elementary school has meant constant driving back and forth and lots of volunteering. I liked every volunteer activity I did this year. They were all worthwhile and important causes, such as promoting literacy and parent education, running the elementary school Read-A-Thon and helping to keep our libraries open, and being there with my 5-year old son as he develops into a child equipped to handle the challenges of the next 17 years of school -- good groundwork for a lot of years. He has the skills now to work out conflicts and solutions with his friends and "not-friends." He has learned to hold a pencil pretty well and draw and write a little. He's been encouraged to get dirty and muddy and climb trees and learn all about the natural world. He's still a work in progress, of course, and his solutions are not always successful, but he has the skill set and knows how to practice it.
But I keep finding myself with nothing, or close to nothing, left over for me, for my own writing projects, for my own imagination, for friends, for even a walk. I went to the dentist yesterday and after the examination and cleaning, while I blissfully laid back and watched The View on TV (the bi-annual visits to the dentist the only times I ever watch daytime TV) the dentist informed me that my teeth were being ground away in the back and if I didn't stop I'd have to get crowns on all of them. "But I don't think I'm grinding my teeth," I exclaimed. "Just pay attention later," he said, "and you'll notice." I got home, and within the hour I found myself grinding my teeth. And my jaw ached. And I realized I'd been tuning it out because I "didn't have time."
So what the heck does all this have to do with anything? I don't want to grind all my teeth away. Every day for months I've been reciting my mantra, "August 27th, 8:25 a.m." That's when school starts up again (though it's not even out yet for this school year) and my son starts Kindergarten, and I can drop off both kids at the same place and same time, and I have every morning "free." Will I be able to say no to volunteering? It's going to have to be "No" to big events for sure. What about the pile-up of daily requests? I'll have to think about it. For sure I'll want to work in the classroom sometimes. Maybe an hour or so a week will be do-able. Maybe with less driving back and forth I won't be grinding my teeth to stubs. Maybe I can reclaim my life. This IS my life, I know that, and I want it that way -- this family, this life. But I'm desperate to get some balance, to not grind myself to dust.
I wish I could do the poetry walk, too. But I'm going to the darn sweaty racetrack tonight. I've been to bullfights in Spain but never the races here. I've always wanted to. And I'm going to love it.
Friday, May 2, 2008
At the age of 44, I have finally decided to take on what Beverly Cleary's inimitable Ramona Quimby learned at age 6: to stand up to the monsters under my bed. Once again, here is a phrase that can be taken literally. Instead of jumping into my bed before turning the light off, or admonishing Jon for turning off the light before I’m safely under the covers, I recently decided I could stand there, feet planted firmly in the dark, for as many seconds as I wanted. Maybe this sounds silly at my age. It's not that I actively imagine monsters under the bed. It's just that in the moment of sudden darkness, I entertain the possibility that they could be there, ready to grab me by the feet and pull me under.
Because really, how can we know that for sure they're not? I would never tell my kids that. I've never swept for monsters in the closet before bed, or patiently explained that a bad dream "isn't real." In context, monsters are real, dreams are real, fiction is real. And I refuse to take that away. What my epiphany means for me, is that should there be the presence of monsters, I can remember that I am BIG. I am not small. If they are squashed under my bed, how big can they be? If one tries to grab me, I'll kick him! It's my bed and I’m not going anywhere without a fight. They feed on fear, and not one would dare take me on when I am standing there ready.
My kids like scary stuff. If they hear a story or see a movie and there’s nothing scary, they’re asking, “Where’s the scary part?” I look back to Bruce Coville’s introduction to one of his Book of Monsters short story collections for kids which I edited years ago when I worked in New York publishing, and that is good grounding for raising the right kind of kid for me. He talks about the delicious tingle of fear you get from a good scary story. I know plenty of kids who don't feel this way, but it seems to work for mine, and I have to say I’m kind of happy it does. It seems like it’s good preparation for a world that isn’t always nice and kind, and also a world that is full of possibility. Let’s get a little scary. Let’s get some adventure. Scare them, not too much, but not too little either. An ounce of this, a pinch of that, and it will get them through the early years and they’ll be ready to stand up to the monsters under the bed even faster than I was.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Before April comes to an end, it is time for me to own up to something:
I woke up on April 1st and thought, “Who could I play a joke on today?” The answer came just a little bit later, when I began a day of hilarious and outrageous jokes, all played on ME! After dropping the kids at school I discovered an opera CD I’d forgotten in the car at some point, and put it on. The beautiful, sonorous voice of Andrea Boccelli filled the car, and I loved listening to something I had chosen rather than what the kids wanted. I actually smiled on the way to class! What a great way to start the day! Until, uh-oh, I realized I’d been so blissed out with Andrea that I’d missed my exit to the JCC and yoga class. But I couldn’t just turn around because that exit was the last one before heading over the
I got back fifteen minutes into class and it was full, but never mind, I’d do my weights anyway. First I stopped in the locker room to dump off my yoga mat, and proceeded to lock it and THEN set the combination. Oops.
Later my pen ran out of ink and then the toilet paper ran out.
My streak of good-natured fun continued as I raced from elementary school pick-up to preschool pick-up only to realize upon pulling into the parking lot that I’d already arranged a ride for my son. After that, kids recovered, I drove them to their ice-skating lessons, leaving my purse behind.
There was even more. Mostly, I felt a little off-kilter, as if anything could happen. Like backing the car over a nun. Which luckily, did not really happen, as she saw the car and waited, but I didn’t see her until I was most of the way out of the driveway. Granted, she was old and short, and I was very apologetic and she was very nice about it, and did I mention it didn’t really happen, but I’d better get the hedges trimmed lower.
So, with the exception of the Sister, I’m sorry if you were waiting for a joke and I didn’t play one on you. There was no short-sheeting or broccoli in the cereal bowls.
This year all the jokes were reserved for me.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Sleep. I want to talk about sleep because I’m starting to believe in the vague notion that more of it is better. For instance, I did an experiment last week. I went to bed at instead of the usual -12 creeping toward – which usually is for no good reason except I need a certain amount of non-kid time at the end of the day and as daylight savings glows brighter each night, they go to bed later and later, even when I start baths, etc. at .
Anyway, I went to bed at 10:30 and lights off before 11:00 and nothing after that, just blissful dark, and I got my husband to go to bed early, too, because otherwise I can’t sleep, and the next day was, and this might be coincidence, I don’t know, better. It was a good day. I got the kids out the door on time without major fights or yelling. I dropped Aaron at preschool and he extracted a plastic butterfly from his jeans pocket (the jeans were, remarkably, clean enough to wear a second time and it was in the pocket from the day before). Then his face became very sad and he looked at me sadly and held up the butterfly, which was missing an antennae. “Are you sad?” I asked. He nodded. We tried to think up a plan to fix it, though I couldn’t see how to make another antennae that would stick. Maybe trace it and cut out the piece of paper and decorate it? No. I knew I had to leave, but we walked over to his wonderful teacher and I turned him over to her to continue the brainstorming process. Later, she told me they figured out a way to attach a piece of yarn, and happy enough, he left it behind and went off to play something new. It was a good day for him.
I picked up him and Sophie later from school and we hiked around in the local park, climbing up into the scratchy, trail-less woods looking for leprechauns, a year-round activity for my kids. A spinning leaf in a ray of sunlight is always a sign that they are there.
At the end of the day, I felt better than I had in weeks. I was tired, but I hadn’t become a stark-raving lunatic, a desperate, overwhelmed mom too tired to come up with anything to do and bickering with my kids over little things.
It’s little things all the way. I don’t want to be depleted this early in the game. They are only 7 and 5 and we have a long way to go. The only problem was, and I was afraid this was going to happen, as soon as I had one good night’s sleep, I was more tired that night. How much sleep will it take to catch up? When I don’t sleep enough, I’m too tired to notice my tiredness and I don’t know if I want to know. But I want to be a better mom and a better person. So I know I have to give in, and dream.