Thursday, November 28, 2013


I am often wary of putting a name to all I am grateful for. Life is so fleeting, so fragile, to open my hands and heart to share it all with others could feel like letting go, watching it poof, disappear.

I can often fixate on who or what is missing or what hasn't been. I fear what might never be. Many may disagree, particularly on a day like today, but I think it's important to dream, to imagine more for yourself and others. To wish. To want. I think that's okay.

But this year has been rich and full and I am lucky, particularly to have those I love and the love of others, and a little boy growing inside me who I can't wait to meet. To prepare to bring someone into the world knowing this love and kindness surrounds me, the wonder of that, is, honestly, overwhelming.

While I've been feeling steady kicks for quite some time, just this week, I have felt the angle and sculpt of him, pushing more insistently against my flesh. The bend of an elbow. The flex of a tiny foot. Each week, life inside me becomes more apparent, more insistent. It demands recognition.  And I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and much love.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Books, Writing, Life

Oh, that's right, I have a blog. It needs updating.

To say I don't know what this blog was, is, or could be, is an understatement. I've felt extremely lost in this space for months.  So, I look at the header to remember why I come here, why you might come here. And I try.

I love to write about books but, these days, the mere thought of putting words to my feelings about books, which I take so seriously, is exhausting.  I've been keeping a Book Map all year, which outlines what I've been reading by where the book takes place. So this is a geographic representation (details if you click here.)  I apologize to Australia and South America. But hey. I got Antarctica. I sure 'nuf did.

As far as writing goes, I'm getting a few words a day, just to get through the first chapter of a novel whose code I know I'm about to crack. I just know it. (This is code for, I believe too strongly in the possibility of miracles, in gushing geyser-like fountains of ever-flowing words.) I've embraced snail pace. I've got a karate kid inside me crushing my ribs and my brain cells are diminishing by second. This is what I'm able to do.

I'm living it. I could write of stroller research, of nursery painting, of putting together Ikea shelves, of trying to understand breast pumps and flanges, of trying to get people to give up their subway seats for me while I wear a winter jacket that no longer closes shut.

I could write of swimming, the brief twenty minutes a week when I feel weightless, when I feel that who I've been, who I am, and who I might become, is, finally, strangely, wonderfully, all one person, under the haze of chlorine, in between roped lanes, with the lifeguard who calls me sweetie and wouldn't let me bend down to reach a fallen locker key.

She told me her own story and I'd tell it here, if I could make sense of it, a story of missing pieces, of having always wanted a little boy, instead discovering she would have two little girls, to which I exclaimed twins!, and the sad confession that one had passed away, before blowing the whistle and her gaze shifting, her story finished, but unfinished, the way most stories stay.  I think of this lost little girl every time I swim. I think of the life, comma, header, left behind.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tim Gunn, Math, and Mentors

You'll have to forgive this moment of self-indulgence. Last month, I was over-the-moon-excited to meet someone I admire very much: Tim Gunn! I was able to hang out on the set of this video (more on that below) and because I had a fancy camera I still don't quite know how to use slung around my neck, I became unofficial photographer of the shoot. I was able to witness what a true mentor Tim Gunn is to others and get a sense for how kind, humble, and sincere he is in person.

I've been fortunate in this life to have true mentors which, in my opinion, are teachers who are both knowledgeable about their crafts but, also, humble.  People who care about their students success as much as their own. I can tell Tim Gunn is that kind of mentor and I hope to be that kind of person to others as time goes on.

Tyler's team at Scholastic produced this video about Math At Work which, in the end, is more important than my brush with fame. For a long time, I was one of those strange children who thought math was fun and I always did well in my math classes (mainly because, as a classic overachiever, I had no choice but to get the A even if it killed me).

However, when it came to standardized testing, I always had very low math scores and, therefore, I never saw myself as a math person. It never occurred to me to enter fields of math, engineering, or science because of, what I saw as a major shortcoming. It didn't matter that I thought math was interesting because, all through my life, testing told me that I was not good at math.  

As Tyler teaches me, this mindset is something that a lot of people feel and a lot of educators are trying to change. They want to make math accessible and fun, and have students understand that the failure, struggle, and challenge of it are all part of being a math person, rather than not being one.

So, it's worth reminding kids how glamorous math can be...particularly in this video of the fashion world with Tim Gunn and Diane Von Furstenberg.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Find the Language

I snapped this photo quickly while waiting for the F Train. I think of this little girl a lot, how she listened and watched with such intensity.

As I might have mentioned, I have been searching for words, trying to be less fearful about putting down the wrong ones. Part of that search led to the discovery of Write Alm's Prompt-A-Day and, as you can see, it took me eight days this November, to sit down with one of the blogging prompts, one that seems so appropriate, it's almost as if it's laughing at and mocking me.

Find the language.

I wanted to yell at the mere suggestion. I'm trying.

It's music that often gets me there, that helps me fall in love with the way words attach to notes and fall from one to the other.

I turn to Sondheim for his playful skip and staccato stutter. There's always something neurotic and cerebral about his lyrics. A Little Priest, which is a song about what to do with a dead body and turning people into pies (yes, really), is particularly genius. I'll never get over how smart this song is. 

I've talked about Fiona Apple, how corporeal her music is, how it seems to rise up from inside her and manifest itself in a wrenching body. I love this amazing video of Hot Knife, which I know is getting around and exciting a lot of people. (That sounds kind of dirty but I don't know how else to explain it. It's just eliciting a strong reaction to her music.)  

I also like singers that tell stories. Josh Ritter comes to mind. Particularly his Girl In the War

There are also a few songs whose lyrics I just think are beautiful because they express something so deeply felt. Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova and Bob Dylan's I'll Keep It With Mine are two.

I turn to these songs and artists a lot to remind me about language. They remind me what I wish I could say as beautifully, what I might want to say instead, and the rhythm of how to say it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

And Then

Writing has been difficult for me these past few months. Some of the difficulty due to physical exhaustion. Some due to creative fatigue. I write all day at the office (or the toy factory as I like to call it.) Because all the buttons and switches in the bellies of plushes have to make noise and the guitar strummer has to play its wayward strum.

There are songs and rhymes and character phrases that must turn into complicated logic scripts accounting for how a child might play with an electronic toy. It's a strange brain muscle, this way of, first, thinking like a child and, then, translating that to technical language.  It's whimsy that's slammed and pattied and pancaked into a task list of logical thought. First this, then this, and never it's reverse. And this only if that with exception of the other.

Sometimes I return home to an empty page and I don't remember how to arrange language. I don't remember my voice because of all the yammering character voices in my ear that other people have created. I've had to please a chorus of voices to make a chorus of voices. 

And then I have to listen to my own inner chorus. One that is often unkind.

I have goals. An essay. The missing piece of a short story. A great, vast 10,000 word beginning to a novel I've dreamed into an angry ghost. 

The biggest fear, these days, is placing anything in print, however temporary, that is playful or experimental or just plain bad. It's putting down words without wondering who they will please and deciding they will please no one before I whisper them away.  

There's the tiny matter of a room I used to write in. A room that is no longer mine because it belongs to the little one kicking and flipping around inside me. There's a little white, banged up desk that had the scratch and stamp and peel of graduate school papers and film and literature analyses, dozens of short stories, four terrible screenplays, and three novels, that had to be given away, because there is no place for it. A desk that sits in the apartment of the new tenants downstairs as a reminder of what is just slightly, strangely out of reach.

It's the beginning of November and the temperature cools and the leaves finally turn fire against a ice blue sky. So I'm trying to remember where I write, how I write, and who I write for. 

I remember a time when I only wrote for myself and no one else, in my very own bedroom, on the fluff gray rug that lost its slack, inside spiral bound notebooks that bended at the foot of a closed door. 

I remember writing for hours. I remember how the sentences river-flowed from my heart to the page in just one order, the way a breathless child tells a story: and then, and then, and then...

I want to get back there.