Friday, July 25, 2008

For Grandma Florence

Today I was looking out the kitchen window at the big oak tree shifting and swaying in the breeze. The view is marred by thick black telephone wires cutting through some of the farther reaching branches, but they don''t get in the way of the tree much, even though they're ugly. Suddenly I found myself thinking of my Grandma Florence. Grandma has been gone since I was in my early twenties, so it's been twenty-odd years. I still miss her. I often feel like she's watching me, rooting for me in everything I do, enjoying watching me live my life from some other place. Today, I felt her strongly, like she was almost really here, and that was comforting. Nice company. I felt like I should ask for a sign or something to see if it was really "true." The branches swayed again, but they were already doing that. I imagined her face appearing in the branches, but that would have been a little creepy. I know Grandma Florence would never want to scare me, so a "sign" was unlikely to come. And what would I have done with it? Told my family I had a message?

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

Good Girl Gone Bad

I've done something terrible. I can't believe I have succumbed to this, but my kids leave the healthy stuff sitting in their lunch boxes all day until the carefully, lovingly chosen and prepared items are dumped out after camp. I, previously known as the organic girl, the healthy mom, who lived in a house where juice boxes and Doritos were not permitted, have just purchased at the local grocery store: White Castle hamburgers, Banquet chicken nuggets, a Ritz snack assortment pack of things like cheese nips and "snack mix," and also a six-pack of those little fruit in jello servings. I also bought fresh fruit and good wheat bread, and our Planet Organics produce box arrives tomorrow, but still, I am ashamed of myself.

But maybe my lean and mean kids will eat something?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Main Conflict Is...

I have just completed a brand-new version of a letter to send to prospective agents, and it is kick-ass! It totally clarifies my vision of the novel and the internal conflict, twists and turns. Finally I have distilled a complex and dreamy narrative to something I can actually describe to someone! That is major for me. Because, after all, I had to write the whole book to say everything I needed to say.

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

Back From Family Camp

Oakland Feather River Family Camp. We all went. And then we returned.

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

Off to Family Camp

We're heading out for "Family Camp" this morning. Jon's running around trying to find a roof rack because we don't know if we can fit everything in the car. Kids are still sleeping. It's 9 am. Packing seems to always be such an ordeal. I need to learn to do it more effortlessly so that vacations can be more relaxing faster. More when we get back.