Monday, September 30, 2013


Today we began the process of making room for baby. We try to live a small life. But things accumulate and grow and spill and clutter. And we live in a tiny apartment with just two small closets that are already filled to capacity. The human we bring into this world in January might be little but, already, he takes up space. In my swelling tummy. In our hearts. And let's face it, he will need a certain amount of square footage in a home in which every available inch is already taken.

So, it's not enough to rearrange what we have. We have to shift and sort and assess what is truly necessary.

And we have to remove what isn't.

As it turns out, we have more books than are necessary. I know. I gasped a little at the thought too.

But sorting through shelves and shelves of books, I found some beautiful things. A book my beloved piano teacher had loaned me that I never returned, labelled with her name, in the same beautiful script she used to date the pages of my sheet music. A little red bookmark my grandmother, a voracious reader, gave to me. Books signed by two of the first authors I ever met, writers who changed my life in different but incredible ways (Beth Kephart, Ann M. Martin.) And dozens of bookmarks, left behind, tucked in all the many pages I had read over the years (one 'bookmark' was actually a photograph of me as a little girl, a small sample in the photo above.)

I admit, I still kept a lot of books but I, begrudgingly, parted with a great deal too.

These days, it has been difficult for me to grasp the passage of time. How fast life grows inside me, how quickly it can be ripped away. I have questioned how to spend these moments. I have wondered why the words of stories will not come and write themselves, when I so desperately need them, now that I have the hours.

As each day edges towards the one in which this child is born, for the first time, I can not see beyond that sunrise. Years of an overactive imagination, all the desire to be given the gift of a child, have not provided even the smallest possible picture of what that time, after, will look like. I know it will fall into place and race forward as this life does. And yet, right now, it's like staring into still waters, seeing only a murky version of who I am, knowing it will be disturbed, dreaming of the interruption, yet, not having the smallest idea of what it will look like or feel like when the moment comes.

So, we make room. And, yes, I mourned a little bit over the removal of bound pages, the permanence of words. But I did not, could not, part with a stack of old bookmarks, holding my place all these years.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. -- Omar Khayyam

This morning I woke up and, in my delirious state, I read this quote, posted by a friend on Facebook. It is just what I needed to read, it is just what I wanted to say, after a restless night of sleep, after learning, last night, that a family member had died very tragically and suddenly.

I heard the news, on the phone, from my mother while standing in the middle of Times Square, in front of "I Love New York" sweatshirts, digital images flashing from screens, the trail of yellow taxis skidding past, and then, what? what?, not because I couldn't hear amidst all the noise but because I could not process what was being said.

And then, it seemed strange, to walk heavy with this terrible news, to sit with it on the subway, to get home, to cook salmon, to check my email, to wonder about these small, methodical, almost melodic, moments in a world that should stop turning in the instant that a life is lost so quickly and unexpectedly.

I could not know, some time ago, when I ran into Steven on the Long Island Railroad that it would be the last time I would see my cousin. I don't even remember what we talked about on that 45 minute ride. But he always had crazy stories. A wild, brash laugh.  He was straightforward, funny, candy-coated nothing. He tried to get me, who listened to dreamy singer-songwriters and old standards, and big puffy musical showtunes, to listen to Judas Priest and other metal bands. He worked harder than anyone I knew, at multiple jobs, early in the morning at one, maybe a nap, then a night shift. He was always the first person there to help or to ask what he could do if someone landed in the hospital or needed to move or needed a ride.  He loved fiercely. His family and his three girls. And all the members of our extended family and his friends.

I always remember that, when I'd visit him as a little girl and he was a teenager, I was obsessed with being allowed to go in Steven's room because that's where all the fun was happening. While I sat listening to the adults talk, legs skirting my Aunt's plastic table-cloth, his friends were in and out, loud music playing, and the door, with its keep-out sign, slamming shut and opening again.

I later learned I wasn't allowed in Steven's room because he kept pictures of naked women on the walls. Which I now find very funny. If he knew I was writing this, there would certainly be some, loud, sarcastic crack, that this, this, is the memory I choose to share? 

But there is a larger legacy, the memory of his loyalty to all his family and friends. The tremendous pride in his young daughters. And the crazy, bushy-bearded, tattooed, huge, bear-hugged love he leaves behind.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A library, a ladybug, a life of trying to express love

Last month, I wrote about Roseanna and her library at PS 11 in the Bronx. Today I took the car ride up the Hudson once again, this time to celebrate the library's grand opening.  My office had partnered with the school through The Fund For Public Schools and I was one of a handful of employees who had the privilege of re-designing the space. Of course, talented others had the blueprints and plans. I just had a paintbrush and no painting skills and did what I was told.

Today's little ceremony, complete with giant scissors, a sparkling ribbon, and a sheet cake, was nothing short of brilliant. There were speeches from the principal and The Fund For Public Schools and a group of student presentations. They spoke of what the library meant to them, to their school, their community, their families.

One little girl, who couldn't have been more than eight years old, who barely came up to my waist, stood with wire-framed glasses and neatly-combed hair, and told us that, in the library, she feels like a little ladybug. Beneath a blue sky (the walls are blue) and above the green grass (the rug is green) she is curled up small as she reads, surrounded by all these huge books, and I saw the space through her eyes, remembered what it meant to sit with giant, looming, possibilities.

I recalled how I had returned to my own elementary school as an adult, how disoriented I had felt, because everything, then, felt small when I had remembered it as being so huge. And it did seem, in those years, that, perhaps, I had been shrunk to the size of a spotted ladybug.

Everyone's gratitude today touched me. One of our designers spoke of what the experience meant to him and choked back tears. Roseanna thanked us every step of the way, exclaiming when a rug was placed on the floor, gasping in awe when a table leg was painted bright green. The students erupted into giant, wild, hollering applause as we left the building.

I knew what it meant to the school to have this space, to have a grant for laptops and cameras and more books. But I couldn't believe how fully and passionately everyone expressed that gratitude. I knew that Roseanna's passion and energy earlier in the summer had inspired me even if I didn't quite know how to say it to her. But everyone around me seemed to have no trouble standing up, putting into words what it all meant.  They were crying and squealing and jumping up and down.  They had no trouble embracing someone in a hug, taking someone's hand in their own to say thank you.

It is often hard for me to express love and thanks in person. The thought of being overcome with emotion, to a point of tears, in public, embarrasses me. I am awkward in physical embraces and kisses on the cheek. I stumble over sentences. I stand outside of circles and wonder how to insert myself inside. I never say the right thing out loud. I don't know how.

I know how books can change your world, your life. I know how a gift, not a financial one, but one of support and faith and love can inspire you to do things you never thought you could do. I have been lucky in this life, to receive that gift from a special few. But I don't know that I have expressed my gratitude for those gifts.

Today, I thought, I should be less fearful of overt displays of expression. I should feel less disoriented and unsure about my place in the world, my place beside others. I have felt giant in the presence of love and support. And I have felt equally humbled and small in its embrace. But I have not always stood up and told you or him or her how it feels, what it means.

I want to. I will.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reading A-Z

I found this on My Friend Amy's book blog and decided, before I dive into a 25 page logic script, now on its fifteenth revision, it's best I complete this bookish survey in an effort to procrastinate as much as possible.

Author You've Read the Most Books From:

I've read all but two of Haruki Murakami's books, one because it's too heavy to carry on the subway and I haven't yet had the hours to sit at home with it and the other because it has not yet been translated to English.

Best Sequel Ever:

Well, I can probably count the number of series I've read on one hand (actually...maybe two fingers.) I suppose I will have to go with Catching Fire in the Hunger Games series by default.

Currently Reading:

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Drink of Choice While Reading:

Water? I don't really drink anything while reading.

E-reader or Physical Book

Physical book, I hope, forever and always.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated in High School:

I pined in high school. I didn't date. I don't think fictional characters would have dated me either. I'll leave this alone since it's clear I'm heading to a dark place.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:

A recent read. Starglass by Phoebe North. It's rare for me to read science fiction and this book surprised me in beautiful ways.

Hidden Gem Book:

Another recent read (the library card catalog in my brain does not extend far.) Once the Shore by Paul Yoon.

Important Moment In My Reading Life:

Such a difficult question. I'd love to look back and know the moment I became a reader or a writer. The sentence or page that may have sent me towards this strange, long, love affair with books. But I can not.

Just Finished:

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.  I finished it last night. This book was haunting, beautiful, magical, dizzying, uncomfortable.

Kind of Books You Won't Read:

I can't think of a particular group or set of books I'd refuse to read. But I don't like books that are arrogant, offensive, or poorly written.

Longest Book You've Read:

Anna Karenina, Gone With the Wind, and The Fountainhead must be up there.

Major Book Hangover Because Of:

I'm unsure of the definition of a book hangover. A book I had a little too much fun with? That left me groaning from all the excess the next day? I'll be playful with this answer. My Life In France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme.

Number of Bookcases You Own:

Just three and now that I have to turn my office into a nursery, I really don't know what's going to happen to the shelves or the books. I'm losing sleep over this.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:

I am not a re-reader which is why I have little to no comprehension of most of the books I've read in my life. There is just one book I have read twice. The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank.

Preferred Place To Read:

My bed.

Quote that Inspires You / Gives You All the Feels From A Book You've Read:

I'm not a quote person. I've fallen in love with many sentences through the years and I can recall none of them at this time.

Reading Regret:

I think this refers to a book you regret reading. But I have far too many reading regrets beyond that and I feel like talking about them (remember the procrastination situation.) I feel like I read a lot and, yet, there are huge, humongous, puddle-jump gaps in my reading life. There are entire countries and cultures with precious literature I have never touched. I have missed more classics than you can list and there are authors you'd be appalled I've never read.

To give you an idea of how bad it is, in the By The Book feature of The New York Times, one of my favorite features, they ask famous authors about the books they've read. This feature has run for a while and, in that time, they've listed hundreds or thousands of books. I can probably count on one hand the number of books I have even heard of, never mind read.  I feel equally inadequate when I talk to people who read only commercial, best-seller books as I do with those who read major literary forces. I feel like I read and read and read and, yet, feel as if I've read nothing in almost any conversation I ever have about books.

I just wondered if anyone else feels the same?

Series You've Started and Need To Finish:

See letter B.

Three of Your All-Time Favorite Books:

For some reason, I can only think of two right now.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Unapologetic Fangirl for:

Obviously Murakami.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Worst Bookish Habit

Buying more books and taking books from the street when I haven't finished so many I own and I have to get rid of my bookshelves.

X Marks the Spot: Start At the Top And Pick the 27th Book:

This is such a weirdly awesome X and I'm so glad I get to talk about it!  It's Hear The Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami. It's Murakami's first book and it was never released in English, except for a little pocket-like booklet for Japanese readers to learn English. I paid some ridiculous sum for it on e-bay (Maybe $30?)

Your Latest Book Purchase:

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late)

Since I've been pregnant, it's hard for me to read for more than twenty minutes without falling asleep. So, this is a testament to how absorbed I was in this read: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Quiet Sunday

Quiet Sunday today. A bit of reading in the community garden across the street (Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, a book that has sat far too long on my shelf.) A walk to the Red Hook Lobster Pound to share a lobster roll and potato chips. Some time listening to the radio and watching Orange Is the New Black. Tyler roasted a large chicken, then we listened to Bing Crosby croon for a while. I meant to write and didn't. I dreamed instead.

I found these dahlias at the market and they made me really happy.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Memory of a checkered dress and a brief capture of the heart

Sleep eluded me last night. I tried the left side, the right, a propped up pillow, then I emptied the bladder, yet again, and gave up, turned the light on, finished one book, started another. I took solace in pages and words beneath the dim glow. I thought about tomorrow, now today. The first day of school for a neighborhood swelling with children. A morning ultrasound.

And then it was daybreak before I had even allowed the night in. The crossing guards were back. The yellow buses lined up at the Quaker school.  From stairs, to sidewalks, to subways, to elevators, to fluorescent lights and tiled hospital floors. I lay flat against the starchy paper and the technician listed the organs of our little boy. Left kidney. Right kidney. Cerebellum. Diaphragm. Nose. Feet. Fingers. Toes. 

Already, it is clear, we have a child who is restless, who will not stay still, who will not show us his face or the chambers of his beating heart. Again. I had to turn. Left side. Right side. Pillows propped further down. Try emptying the bladder. We tried again. The technicians hands, all the while, moved swiftly, until finally she fingered the keyboard with a quick snap and slap. A brief screen capture of the heart before all those listed parts curled up and squirmed and flipped away again. 

In my own restlessness last night, I could not have imagined all we saw in black and white film, the complete anatomy of a child not yet born but already hiding playfully. What it did yield, in the lamp light, were memories of a first day of school.  A black and white checkered dress, with yellow and red patches, that I had picked to wear to start seventh grade, to start middle school. 

I remember pulling it from the closet to show a girl, who I don't recall being a friend, just a girl who sometimes came to our street to play with her best friend, another girl who I once thought was my best friend but wasn't anymore. A girl who I choreographed a dance with at a backyard talent show. We shook our shoulders in the basement, where it was cooler that summer. Do you love me? We crossed our hearts, mouthed the words. Do you love me? Now that I can dance. 

Then I showed her the dress, my first day of school outfit, painstakingly chosen at Sterns department store. She was a year older than me, had already walked the halls I had not yet stepped foot in, had all the teachers I had not yet met, had seen Dirty Dancing while my parents had emphatically stated I was not allowed.  

She laughed as I held it up. A dress? Dresses are for little girls.

I wore it, despite her disapproval. The only seventh grade girl to step on the bus not wearing flare jeans, to walk the halls with a dress you could twirl in. I remember the anticipation of the night before, not knowing what the morning would bring or the complete but fleeting joy I'd only momentarily capture in my new shoes and tights, in my black and white checkered dress with the red and yellow patches. Not knowing it would be the last year I'd wear a little girl's dress on the first day of school. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Thoughts on Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

I read this book in one sitting last Sunday and turned the last page in awe at this powerful narrative.

At the core of this story two young boys stand kissing to beat a world record for the longest kiss (32 hours, 12 minutes, and 9 seconds.) Circling around them in this patchworked, yet seamless, structure are two boys falling in love, and another boy searching and yearning for it, perhaps, misunderstanding its roots or its potential as he explores his sexuality. The narrators?  A greek chorus of gay men lost to the AIDS epidemic. (Genius much?)

I loved it.

Levithan writes about relationships as few can. The heart-pounding newness of meeting someone for the first time and, both, the familiarity and strangeness of being with someone you knew and loved once. The way two people discover one another, what is revealed when we give ourselves to someone else and the surprise, the pain, the beauty of the many ways a gift like that can be received. As well as the fumbling, desperate, complicated, beautiful, terrible ways we struggle to love ourselves, our children, the people who brought us into this world, or the people who threaten to take us out.

While everything points towards this book being about two boys kissing, at its 'heart', this is a book about love. About what it was and could have been for a generation of men lost, what it can be, and, most importantly, what it is, right now, today, for two boys, for two people, for all of us.  Said best here by Levithan:

Love is so painful, how could you wish it on anybody? And love is so essential, how could you ever stand in its way?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

300 Words

Thinking Things.


how I want to blog

don't blog

come here


wonder if I have something in me, not to say, but, worth listening to.

...whether the 300 words in the novel are 300 more words than I had before, or merely 300 words that live and breathe and exist now, on their own, not as a part of anything, but as tumbleweed. Driftwood.

...time and how it's spent. So many hours at a desk, waiting for something real to happen.

...and all that is real, those so many hours at a desk are. real. A baby's heartbeat inside me, inside him, or 'it' because how could it really be, ya know, this way, as in true?

And should I have left this here, when it's how things really read, like the journal of a teenager's heart that should have already blossomed by now, and didn't, because that's not what anyone wants to hear -- that my nails are blue and green and chipped and I still walk around like the 300 words of a sad poet wondering why everyone else is a part of something but me.