RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: May 2014

Dear Writers,

I’m in deep.

Can’t sleep, can’t eat… as much, can’t focus on anything else. I’m going to bed well after midnight and waking up by 4:30am raring to go, excited to get back to my hard uncomfortable computer seat and write and edit, hone and cut and fix.

My butt is numb half the time but I barely notice. I’m writing and I’m in love… with my characters, with the process, with creating something outside of myself.

I’m so tired, but like my character who has started a passionate affair that is as good for her as it is bad, neither of us can stop. We are addicted.

It has always been this way for me; whether writing bad teenage poetry, heartfelt essays, journals on my children’s journey to life or longer works of fiction, when I’m in, I’m in. I love that moment when you realize something great is happening, your story is evolving and you’re into the action. You may be writing it, but you can’t wait to find out what happens next.

It’s a genuine gift to enjoy the process of writing; the agony, the thrill, the total obsessive consumption that has you by the balls and keeps squeezing no matter how many gives you say.

Yet it’s totally reclusive and really the height of narcissism. Apparently, I prefer to just hang out with the thoughts in my head, the stories and people of my own creation than do anything else. What is more alienating and totally self-absorbed than that?

But there’s always a rub. You’d like to hope that if you spend so much time writing, you would actually do it well. But there’s no guarantee of that at all. To enjoy the process is gift enough but to actually expect to be talented? To have enough writing chops to rise above? Well, that’s just arrogance, stupidity, and a necessary aspiration.

Because tangled in all the insecurity and dedication, the loving and the hating is the hope that one day you just might hit on something good enough to rate. Something that will give others a moment of enjoyment or a secret thrill; will keep them on their toes, at the edge of their seats, reaching for tissues or whatever emotion you’re trying to convey.

Because a writer wants readers, needs them, and we also want our work to be recognized. You can’t sit for that many hours, days, weeks, months by yourself and then not crave worldwide domination, I mean some peer recognition. Not just your mother or your friends nodding and clapping – although where would we be without those claps and nods? – but the writing community; which if you’re relatively unpublished translates to an editor or an agent, and of course worldwide domination.

But no matter about that. It’s the carrot on the stick before us, a hope, a pipe dream, but onward we charge because we need to write. There is no other choice.

We are in deep.













The good old days

When my grandmother used to call and ask “What’s douching?” Her quirky way of asking what’s doing, I’d generally answer, “Nothing really, same old nonsense.” To which she’d reply, “Good. That’s how you want it.”

Often I argued. “Well, sure, if you enjoy changing poop diapers or chasing down a maniacal two year-old with a blue marker and the glint of crazy in his eye.”

“Best years of your life.” She’d scoff, “Goes by like a dream.”

“Or a nightmare.” I’d quip, to be funny and also because some days it was true.

“You’ll see.” She’d counsel knowingly, “You’re gonna miss it when it’s gone.”

Not that I’d admit it at the time, but in my heart I knew grandma was right. Each night looking down at my sweet sleeping babes, I mourned the loss of each passing day; each precious giggle and milestone now stored away in the picture and video folders on my computer.

But, of course, those wistful, reflective moments always seemed to happen when my beautiful little rats were sleeping.  Before that I was counting the minutes till bedtime; puffing out deep breaths while cleaning up a bowl of cheerios my toddler had flipped to the floor, or realizing the reason why my baby had just peed through his romper and all over me was because I had put the diaper on backwards.

I couldn’t help day dreaming at times about doing my private business in private without some small creature pushing the door open, crawling in and yelling, “Mama, I sit on your lap!”  Or simply about being back with adult people and feeling smart. And not mom smart like convincing my kid that he was safe by spraying a water bottle of “monster remover’ all over his room, or sensing before seeing that my child was about to fall off a chair he somehow climbed in the 3 seconds I turned away.

Not that I’d ever knock mom smarts. Where would we be without the forethought to pack an extra diaper or stash a lollypop in the bag for just the right moment? Up shits creek, that’s where, but still, I longed for a little adult appreciation.

Although I occasionally fantasized as I sleepwalked through my days after walking from bedroom to bedroom each night; from nursing a baby, straight to comforting a child with a scary dream back to the woken baby; in so far over my head that I couldn’t even see the surface, I knew I was living my dream. That this was it. These were the times of my life, working and playing up through the ranks of ‘mommy hood’; where the work could be grueling but the gifts were overflowing.

When else would I be needed so? When else would babies nuzzle in my neck? When else would I rock in the blissful solitude of 3am with my child sleep-nursing at my breast? When else could I skip out of the house with spit-up on my shirt, dried sweet potato in my hair singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”, and happily enjoy an ice cream cone with my kids without dwelling on my non-existent exercise routine.

Those were the times to remember just as much as they were the times to survive. Where the most exciting thing in my day was staying awake to fall asleep watching a movie with my husband; a long hot uninterrupted show was the epitome of pleasure, and a night out with the girls left us all flush with wine and laughter and still home by ten.

Grandma knew those days would be the good old days. But honestly, these days are pretty good as well. There’s holding my breath as my boy strikes that last guy out; proudly signing a 100 on a test after torturous studying, negotiating whether to play Payday or Monopoly.  There’s catches on the lawn, water balloon fights and a growing communication and understanding between us. We’re a little older, a little wiser but we’re still living the crazy. It’s just different.

And sometimes when I see a sweet little one giggling and smeared in chocolate, or a baby making out with his mother’s cheek, I feel my heart squeeze and just for that moment I long for the good old days when my boys were little, nothing was ever new and grandma was still around to see it.

grandma & jack

She made the good old days better.

Once upon a time

My home was broken.

But I was used to it. For years, my parents clumsily taped up the holes with transparent truces, sucked in offenses and alcoholic avoidance. Still, the anger and disappointment always leaked through, pumping like contaminated air through the vents, infiltrating every aspect of our house.

Their fights played like music in the background of my life. When the end officially came no one was surprised or sad, certainly not me.

My father moved out, but still hung around, taking me and my brother out for a movie or to his racquet club. It was only when I passed my parents’ room and took notice that there was no lump in the center of the bed; no giant bowl of salad with smelly dressing on the night side table that I realized he was gone.

I was 10 when they divorced, by the time I was 12 my mother had remarried.

It was December and the wedding was a small affair at my new step-father’s house. It came up quick, somewhat of a surprise, although my mother will jokingly remind me how if anything the whole thing was my fault, she asked me if she should marry him.

He lived in a big house and had a pool.  I was 11.

I was given the option to finish out my 6th grade year and live with my grandparents in Brooklyn or move mid-year to Long Island. My science mid-term was coming up, and it terrified me. I was averaging a 75 in the class when all my other grades were up where they should be in the 90’s. I couldn’t handle the thought of flunking a test.  In a half a second I jumped on the move, deserting my friends, my grandparents, my life, all in the name of science.

We moved into our new home unceremoniously and awkwardly. None of us knew what we were doing; certainly not my mother or new step father; certainly not my younger brother or my two new younger step-brothers. The only person who rallied with contrived enthusiasm was the live-in housekeeper who showed off the house like it was hers.

I was shuffled off to my room and left with another young girl whose name was Gia. She was the housekeeper’s daughter who had apparently come to visit months back and never left.  She was a year younger and I was a year shyer, but we still didn’t even out.

“This is my room.” She said. “You can sleep there.” She pointed to the second bed. “Don’t touch my stuff,” She commanded and huffed out.

My brother and new step brothers were also trying to find their way in this new dynamic, while my mother and step father circled each other uncertainly, and the housekeeper kept us all in a tight divided line of us against them.

I looked out the window into the backyard. The pool was covered for the winter. It looked dark and dangerous.

My home was broken.

The other chicken dance

Even though I’m busy dropping sweet corn in the boiling water, from the eyes in the back of my head I see what’s going on, or more accurately, what’s not going on.

“Why are you standing on your chair instead of doing your homework?” I turn and calmly ask my 6 year-old who smiles mischievously, bounces a bit up and down, then with contrived indignity produces a sweaty looking blue crayon he’s clutching in his hand. “I am.”

Uh huh. I roll my eyes and go back to pressing my chicken cutlets into the egg, into the breadcrumbs, then into the pan.

“He’s not doing his homework.” My middle guy accuses. “Mommy, he’s not.” His affront is never mild. It’s always palpable.

“You just concentrate on doing yours.” I say. Dip. Press. Flip.

My oldest wanders in to take his place at the table but before he does, drifts over to me for a hug. He wraps his arms around my waist and I immediately respond to his warmth. He really is the sweetest boy. There aren’t that many almost 12 year-olds who love to linger in a hug with their mom.

We start to sway a bit and all of a sudden it feels like a dance. I have a flash of my husband and his mother at our wedding; his dark head bowed to her blonde one, just a mommy and her baby slowly moving together to Through the Years; a public hug before 200 guests for a private moment where a son leaves his mother and takes a wife.

So now I’m silently crying.

And of course, my middle son who notices everything from the non-existent speck of green in his pasta to the exact amount of minutes more of computer time his brother got than he did, wants to know why. “Mommy, you’re crying.”

“No I’m not.” I laugh. “I drank too much water, so now I’m leaking.”

My little guy giggles, “Mommy’s leaking!” and my oldest smiles sheepishly then pulls away. The dance is over, there’s homework to do and dinner to finish, but irrationally I don’t want it to end. Our time together seems suddenly shorter.

“You’re not leaking,” Accuses my middle son who is also the defender of truth and justice, “You’re crying. It’s true Mommy, say it. Say it!” How did a prosecutor get in my little boy’s body?

“Okay, okay. Fine. I was a little emotional.” Then I made the mistake of continuing. “You see, I was thinking about you guys and how fast you’re growing and when we were swaying it reminded me of…”

I looked at my boys. Not one of them was listening. They all amazingly had their heads down and were deep into their homework.

Huh. Note to self. You don’t matter.

“I’m hungry.” My oldest announced and my other boys piped in the backup chorus.

Okay, so I do matter. For now. For the next few years, they need me and love me, but before I know it, they will be grown starting lives and families of their own and I will be wondering where the years went; where my babies went.

“Dinner will be ready in ten minutes boys.” I assure them and pick up the pace.

Dip. Press. Flip.

I don’t ever want this dance to end.


dancing with jack