Susan's Blog

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I’m on NPR this a.m.

I’ll be going to WGBH in Boston in a few minutes, because I’ll be on the Cape and Islands NPR station (Cape Cod, Mass, that is) at 9:30 EST this morning, talking about making peace with autism. It streams on the web, so I thought I’d let y’all know.

Hidden Wonders

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again
I’ll never go any further than my own backyard
Because if it isn’t there
Well, I never really lost it to begin with.
Is that right?”
Dorothy, to Glinda

I have to keep reminding myself of all the good things going on. I have a tendency to focus on the one bad thing in my life (this one or that one who hurt me) even though there are scores of wonders staring me in the face:

Last night Max helped me make a blog for Nat. Even though he (Max) had homework to do. Even though, as he said later, “He got way more comments in his very first blogpost than I ever have!” I can’t believe Max, still, after all these years. How lovely to be with he is. Just being in the same room. He has that same golden gentleness that Ned has. A surrounding warmth and comfort. You feel joy just in his presence. When he was little I worried about people taking advantage of his kindness. I micromanaged all of his friendships; this one was too grabby, that one was too rude. But as Max got bigger (and he got really big!) I noticed more and more how he literally and figuratively rose above it all. He would smile down at me and my worries. He was fine. He is fine. Knock wood.

I gave Max one of Kevin Leitch’s Neurodiverse tee shirts and he was totally delighted. He loved the strange “don’t screw with the evil neurodiverse” saying and he loved even more the huge size it came in (3XL). I knew he’d be psyched to wear this seemingly “random” tee shirt, and he’d enjoy explaining it to his buds. Here is the song I made up for Max years ago, sung to the tune of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Little Lover Boy”

Well you heard about my Maxie
He’s short and sweet
You mess with him
You see his mom get mean

He’s my sweet Little Little
He’s my pride and joy
He’s my sweet Little Little
He’s my little Blankie Boy

Last night Nat got something like 15 comments on his post! And a link. After school today, I am going to try again, getting Nat to blog. I think what will help is to have questions written out for him, that he can read and think about. Also, perhaps lists of words that are important to him, like the games he likes, the parts of his school day, the weather, the lighting. I think the visual reminders will help him structure his thoughts and feelings.

I will wait for Nat to hang up his coat, put away his backpack, take off his shoes. I will then give Nat his chocolate ice cream, and when he walks into the living room, I will ask him to come into the playroom and look at the computer with me again. He will be reluctant. Yesterday, I said, “Please?” and looked at him with sad eyes. I actually used Jewish Mother guilt on him. It works with all three of my boys, but it is my very last resort.

Nat has a Jewish soul, I believe, in the oldest sense. He is the one who I can rely on to say the prayers every night for Chanukah, where I have to needle the other two. Nat seems to have more of an affinity for ritual, but I also wonder if he feels a comfort in speaking the ancient Hebrew, the way I do.

Benj, too has a Jewish soul in the way that his sense of justice is very Old Testament. When he feels you are wrong, he takes no prisoners. He has to stomp you to the ground, kill all your descendents, and sprinkle salt on your earth, and pepper, too. But ole Benj is changing, loosening up. Growing, learning. Last night he asked me how many days are 93 hours. These are the kinds of questions I, of the 520 math SAT (don’t worry, I had a 780 verbal), am asked to answer while chopping onions for dinner. I put down the knife and think. My boys always make me think and stretch my poor head. “Okay,” I said. “You have to see how many times 24 goes into 93. How many sets of 24 make 93. Because there are 24 hours in a day, right?” So I proceeded to ask him 24 + 24. He answered almost immediately, “Two less than 50.” Right!!!
Then I said, “Add 24 to that.” Again, almost immediately, he got the answer. No paper, no pencil, no fingers. He was seeing it all, right in his head. This is a kid they have been sending to math support in his school! I knew he had math down. I just knew it. He just needed to get a handle on his math facts, the boring part. The math concepts he seems to consume like chocolate.

So there you have it. The wonders of my universe. And I didn’t even mention Ned. Oops, just did. Ned let me fall asleep crying onto his shoulder. He told me that the only important stuff was right here. My own backyard, as Dorothy Gale would say.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Nat’s Blog

Announcing Nat’s Blog. Max set him up with an account and together Max and I designed the page. I will try to do this with Nat regularly, when he gets home from school. I ask him questions about his day and his thoughts, and he says a few things, and I ask him some more, and then say, “Okay, type that.” Then he sits and spells it out, and painstakingly finds the letters on his keyboard. So here we go, blog post #1, in Nat’s own words, of Nat’s own hand. Enjoy!

Nat Speaks

I’ve been out all morning, and I came home to this lovely email:

hi mom,
i hope you are having a
good day. i am having fun at school.
love nat

I just about flipped my wig, getting an email from Nat! But I don’t wear a wig, so I just grinned my face off. Nat speaks! Much better than anything I’ve ever heard from Autism Speaks.

This weekend was a good one for Natty Boy. A lot of initiating, a lot of action on his part. Ned and I both took him to his Special Olympics basketball, so that I could see what it was all about. I met Coach Jim, and saw all of Nat’s teammates, a group of DD teenage boys whom we have known forever. One of the kids is Sam, whom I mention in my book. Sam is now 16, and quite the young man. He looks like a more voluptuous Brad Pitt (he’s a little hefty from certain meds, I believe, but totally gorgeous anyway). And there’s Phil, whose mom was in my very first support group. So there I was, with one of my oldest friends (Sam’s mom), and Phil’s mom, and some newer friends. Such a tight community.

It never fails to blow my mind to see all these kids playing hoops together, and the moms just smiling and gabbing, and the dads just yelling, “Get the ball!” We have all come such a long way. Speaking of grinning one’s face off, Nat was smiling ear-to-ear for the entire time, also dribbling the ball and shooting really well, and staying with the team. I kept thinking, “I wish the newspapers would send reporters to these practices. It would go a long way to dispell myths and misconceptions about what disability means. What the heck does it man, anyway? Nothing very dis-abled there. Yeah, obviously they all have their moments, when things get really difficult and scary; adolescence and autism can be a volatile mix. But we are up to the challenge, because for the most part, these boys of ours are a lot of fun and a joy to watch develop. In the end, they are just a bunch of goofy teenage boys having fun. And Nat is already better at basketball than any of the rest of his family! And better at it than he was last year; as always, the initial exposure wasn’t so great, but it laid the foundation to improve at it this year. For Nat, all you need is familiarity, and then once he gets it, he loves it and internalizes it, makes it his own.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


I am just reeling with this (my book rank). I got to #1,500 last night, at 3 a.m., according to one of Ned’s colleagues who is always up. 1,500! That’s practically Today Show numbers! WTF?? It’s just my little old story, about my darlings!

I think Wendy is right. She told me that Amazon is doing some kind of email promotion of certain books, and that she had gotten an email announcing that my paperback was now available. That would explain why the Barnes and Noble sales are lagging. Right now, 11:21 a.m. on Sunday, 12/17, Making Peace with Autism is the number 45 Parenting book on Amazon!!!! Very weird for me, because number 35 currently is The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Caring for Your Child, Birth to Five. That book was the one I used to tell me definitively that Nat was not developing typically. Laura gave it to me when she was a med student, shortly after that very difficult Passover when Nat was 2 and Max was tiny. Oy, vey.

I just wonder what my publisher is going to do about it. I’ve been a little ticked at them, even though they were so good to me with the initial release of the hardcover (they got me a publicist for three months, unheard of for a first-time author, who got me on the Today show for one thing). They told me they would not try to push the paperback before Christmas, because it would be “like shouting into a black hole.” I went and got five producers interested in stories right away, just be emailing them, however; one of the shows will be on this Tuesday morning, WCAI, Cape Cod and Islands NPR. The other producer chose a different family, as I said yesterday; two of the others are considering at the moment; and the fifth producer, from a very big show which I will not mention for fear of jinxing it, is interested in talking to me in January. Some black hole. If that’s a black hole, then what are all those stars and planets so afraid of out there in outer space? Jeez! Just imagine what Shambhala could have gotten if they had tried in the last two weeks!!! I’m sorry; I love them, but it pisses me off. And maybe now I can afford to be a bit of an Author Diva, no?

But I won’t be. I’m too nice, right? Right??? 😉

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Rocket, Man!

The (paperback copy of my) book has shot up the Amazon list tonight! As of now, 8:30 pm., Making Peace With Autism is the #3 autism book on Amazon, and the #10 special needs book!!! I can’t believe it and I don’t really know what happened. I think what it might be is that I was supposed to do a show with NPR’s Weekend America today, but they chose a family with two autistic kids, one who is older than Nat, rather than us. But the producer told me that they would link to me. However, Ned listened to the broadcast and searched their website and found no link! Nor can he find out anything from my blog stats! It is kind of a mystery, but a wonderful one. If anyone reading this knows what happened, drop me a line. And thanks for reading.

Misirlou Loves Company

Now that I have a navy blue velvet costume top and scarf, I am building an entire navy blue velvet ensemble. Look what I found on EBay! At first I was not sure what to think of the navy blue thing; especially because I did not like the yellow gold coins. So I’m exchanging it for navy blue with silver coins, which I think will be perfect for me. Yellow gold is not my favorite. So it will be kind of a whole midnight-sky-with-stars theme. (You will notice I did not make the obvious connection to Midnight at the Oasis, a song that I detest.) I am thinking that this outfit will be the one I wear when I am ready to perform publicly for friends (at my friend B’s house, whom I mentioned in a previous post) because this is the best-fitting costume I’ve had yet, more conservative than the rest, very comfortable because it is velvet. Did I mention the dark blue veil I will have? That alone makes me feel supremely happy! After months of pinks, this is a welcome and refreshing change. Not that I’ll ever be through with pink.

The song I will debut with is the Misirlou (of course). It is hands-down my favorite. I like the version that Flames of Araby has recorded on a CD called Oriental. It has also been recorded by Arabic bands, Greek bands, and Jewish Klezmer bands. It sounds like something out of Arabian Nights, or Aladdin! Here is the way I would break down the dance:

Delilah’s Dance: Misirlou

There is an obvious veil segment at the beginning, the clarinet solo: you should always start wrapped up in your veil, where you go around and greet your guests, slowly removing bits of it, and eventually shedding the whole thing in a swirl on your favorite gentleman.

Then you would use your zills (finger cymbals) when the initial rhythm starts up. Zills, along with some simple traveling steps, like a grapevine.

Then you shed the zills when the first main theme starts up. I’ve been driving around listening to this for days, and the choreography I imagine here would be walking forward doing hip eights, and then reversing backward and doing Mayas.

Next, when the most passionate central theme begins, you would do camels (full body undulations that travel all the way from chest to a stepping forward in the leg, one hand extended upward, moving down the face).

Then when the bells and rhythm parts start up, you would do the “feeding the unicorn a golden apple” dance step, also known as “you want me, you can’t have me,” a kind of stepping in and then stepping out back and forth movement.

Then when the clarinet comes back, you stand still and do some chest slides and genie arms, some shoulder shimmies.

Then, turn with your back to the audience, as the last of the rhythm comes on, and do shimmies in time with the rhythm, moving from one side and then to the other.

Your assignment is to listen to the Misirlou so that you know what I’m talking about. Picture your favorite belly dancer dancing in midnight blue velvet (someone like me, preferably)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Yay! I don’t have strep. The doc did that rapid test and it was negative. So whatever I have, it’s just going to pass soon. I’m drinking a lot (I mean hot stuff, not alcohol!) to soothe my throat but I feel happy, probably knowing I am not streplococcied.

So I spent much of the morning standing on line at various Jewish bakeries and butchers, trying to buy Chanukah stuff. It is a double whammy holiday because it falls on a Friday night, which is also Shabbot (Sabbath). So the more religious Jews were out, too. It was really fun hanging out with all these very different types. Russians, Israelis, old, young, strange (the last type was me!). Some were clothed in the ultra-orthodox wear, like wigs (for the women) and payos, or sidecurls, for the boys. Very friendly to me. I was chatting it up right and left; anything to make the time pass in a long line. Flirted with the Israeli cashier at the butcher shop, very young and cute.

Corned beef came out great, although a bit fatty. Latkes: magnifique! Also, I got a navy blue velvet belly dance costume from my sister! So all in all, a good day. Especially the non-strep part.

Tabblo: Chanukah Treats

Sue Da Maccabee

Lots going on today.
I am a sick puppy.
Well, it’s just my throat. It’s very weird. I feel otherwise okay, because I slept a bunch, but my throat hurts and feels closed up. I’m thinking strep, because I had that so much as a kid that I got my tonsils out and the doc said he’s almost never seen such a huge pair of tonsils. I still got strep once more, but as an adult, a few years ago. My boys tend to get it, too. It seems to run in families; some get it, some don’t. But this feeling in my throat is awfully streppy. The only thing that gives me pause is that — thankfully — I don’t feel any other symptoms. My appetite is good and I do not feel feverish, although I did last night. It’s like when I was a teenager, and I had had a cough for months. My pediatrician finally gave me a blood test and found I had mono! I still ran track and went off to Israel anyway (btw I am really, really pissed at Jimmy Carter with that new anti-Israel/anti-semitic book of his; what the hell has gotten into him? Jimmy Cracked his Corn, you know what I mean? And I do care. What’s next, Jimmy? Revisit the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? God forbid. Maybe he and Mel Gibson will start a club!)

Anyway. Would it be wrong for me to still go to my gym just to sit and soak in that wonderful hot whirlpool? Would I make others ill, possibly? I would hate that. Ned says I shouldn’t but I am dying for a soak in that hot churning water. I’ll also be going to the doctor around lunchtime; hopefully I can pursuade him to give some antibiotics even if he doesn’t believe that I have strep. I love antibiotics; they work so quickly!

Speaking of being a Semite, I am going off to the Jewish part of town (yes, Virginia, there is such a thing in my lovely town of Brookline; I live in the relatively non-Jewish part) by which I mean there are kosher butchers, bagel bakeries, Jewish art and bookstores, lots of people who look like my grandmothers, etc. I plan on buying a corned beef and some Chanukah swag so I can get my house ready for that cute little holiday. Despite my throat feeling all closed up and hurting like a MoFo, I am going to buy some gelt (chocolate coins wrapped in gold paper) for my boys, some non-tacky decorations (good luck finding that!) and the hunk of meat for to boil. My sweet grandfather Paul Adelman, on my mother’s side used to own a delicatessen in Brooklyn, NY, and I have his recipe! It doesn’t get any more authentic that that. Maybe I’ll call it Jimmy Cracked Corn Beef, in the ex-president’s dishonor.

But seriously folks, I am psyched for Chanukah, even without a usable throat. I plan on making potato latkes, which my boys love. So nice to have a meal that they actually love! I make them with a little onion and actually my secret is to put butter in the pan, along with a little oil (you have to use oil as a nod to that famous lamp that stayed lit for eight days after the Maccabees beat the sh** out of the Assyrians, emphasis on ASS). The butter gives them an extra good flavor, trust me. Although technically I guess you are then not supposed to eat them with corned beef, that would be mixing milchig with fleischig and that is strictly verboten. Except I don’t keep Kosher; I just like buying Kosher meat, it’s a reflex, it’s how I was raised. They have to answer to both the FDA and a Higher Authority.

I will close with “Chappy Chanukah” to all of you out there, and remember to stay polite when you’re commenting; I hate nasty anonymous and I will delete you every time. I will emerge victorious against all oppressors. Chanukah is not, after all, the Festival of Slights. Call me Sue Da Maccabee.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lights, Nat, Action!

Turn on your love light
Let it shine on me
–PigPen, GFD

Close up of cheery, twinkling Christmas lights. Camera pans from lights to inside Batchelder/Senator family dining room. Three laptops open, cereal boxes and cereal crumbs strewn across large black dining room table. Empty coffee cups sit, open-mouthed and drying.

Enter Nat, pacing quickly from dining room window in back to row of windows, and back again, like a caged tiger:

“Want the lights to go off!!”
Close up of Ned, sleep-rumpled hair standing up, glasses off, black sweatpants on: “Natty, everyone has lights on. They are Christmas lights. We’re going to put our menorah up today, too!”
Nat: “Nat will turn lights off!”
Ned: “Natty, we can’t. Should we go see the lights?”
Nat: “Daddy will hug me.”
[Hugging, back-thumping, back-scratching]
Ned, to me: “Getting alot of hugs here!” Close up of me, pink striped pajama bottoms, black top, hunched over computer, smiling worriedly.
[Nat scans the dining room window]

Lights go off.

“Natty what happened?”
“Lights are off.”
Exit Nat.
Silly talk resumes. All is well in the state of Denmark and Massachusetts.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Around my body
the veil — warm firelight
soft red fabric, loose and tight
muscle and bone stretch within
The coins of gold
against warm pink skin
tingle cold and softly cling.

The throbbing bass of Misirlou
in whispered strains grows
with rattlesnake bells
a rush in my veins
my skirt flutters outward like a rose.

I shed the veil
discarded flower
I move with force, yet I’m still
one round hip, then the other
An infinite eight
sweet thrill.

the music rises sad and dark
but clings sweetly
like a lover
my arms rise in a perfect arc
inside my eyes dreams hover

And I am in a dessert
bare wintry feet on powdery sand —
Starry sky, foreign land
Though still here
— my joy at hand

Darkness and the Dawn

Beware of darkness
–George Harrison

Are you ready for another ride on the Susan Senator Roller Coaster? Climb aboard! We are going to go places you never dreamed of!

I now have 51 pages of my new book! 51! I mined things from past writings and updated them, shuffling them into the correct chapters, of which there are ten. This is my usual method. I start about ten different books over a period of months/years, I write articles and essays and now blog posts about the ideas, flesh them out, until the thing has baked sufficiently and has acquired its form.

I believe I now have the correct form for this project. It revealed itself to me just a few weeks ago, the day that my buddy over at Special Olympics told me he could not help me right now with my SO book. I always find that this is the way things happen to me: just when it can’t get any darker, there is light. Just when I am about to give up, whether it’s about Nat’s progress, or mastering a belly dance move, or getting just the right book idea, it comes.

There must be some sort of darkness, a void that occurs, that is a kind of letting go out of despair. That is when it happens. I am suddenly filled with renewed energy, purpose, and light. I get an idea. I see where Nat is progressing and where the knot is that needs to be worked at. I let go of something I was grasping onto too tightly. Or I feel within my muscles the way the movement is supposed to be, and then suddenly, it is easier than anything I was trying to do before.

I remember when I was just friends with Ned during our sophomore year of college when this kind of moment happened. I think it was possibly the most miraculous moment of my life, up there with conceiving the boys. I was walking away from my dorm, through Superblock, where all the High Rises are, past Class of 1920 Commons, where we always ate lunch, onto the Locust Walk bridge that leads onto the main campus, and College Green. It was mid spring, late April. I had just been talking to Ned, I forgot about what. But I remember saying to myself, and to God (I talk to myself and to God very informally, in my head): “I love Ned so much, that I am going to just take him as he is. I am going to just be happy being his friend. If we can’t be lovers, that’s okay, as long as I can just be with him.”

Ned had never had a girlfriend. He was a late bloomer. I had asked him out very early that year, while I was trimming his beard in my dorm room, and he had said, “I don’t think I’m ready for that.” His rejection totally mesmerized me. I was not at all used to that kind of response from a guy. So I pursued him relentlessly, hanging out with him all the time, teasing him, flirting with him. I could not imagine that he meant “No.” It seemed so incorrect to me. It went against all the evidence that this was a fantastic relationship. We were each other’s best friend; we loved each other’s company. We shared bowls of Rice Krispies (ah, the carb-eating days of my youth!) at 2 a.m. in his dorm room down the hall. I did not think he was gay; I knew gay. Much of our dorm (called Van Pelt House, I kid you not. Me, Lucy Van Pelt incarnate, had found a real home) was gay. Ned just seemed quiet, but was definitely giving off the straight male vibe I had become so adept at detecting. I wanted him for that whole year, like I’ve never wanted anything before.

But I got to the point where I could not hope for it anymore. I had to let it go. I was empty. I was tired. And so, as I walked towards College Green, I knew deep inside that I was going to be okay with things however they were.

And then it all changed. Ned went away for the weekend right after that, and came back with his hair cut. His long, shoulder-length, gorgeous blond hair was now short (for him). Suddenly everyone was noticing Ned. One woman in my dorm said to me, “Wow, Ned’s haircut has just made him Van Pelt’s most eligible bachelor.”

I wanted to kill her. Ned was mine. I loved him. I had from almost the moment I met him. And he loved me. I just had to wait for him. And I knew it, so I said nothing. But that night, Ned and I were studying together on my bed as always, and one of us — he thinks it was him, I think it was me — kissed the other. April 1982. The rest — which I will keep to myself — is history. And I have a master’s in that, also from Penn!

There is a kind of beauty in letting go, and in acceptance. It can fill you up, especially when love is involved. What a long, strange trip…

My Child, Myself

There’s always tomorrow
For dreams to come true
–Clarice, “Rudolf”

A good night’s sleep helps a lot. Although my throat is strangely tight, and my back is hurting from the new ab crunch I’ve been doing (drat that Middle Age!) my heart is happy and hopeful. I will email Nat’s psychopharm today and get an idea of what I can do about his new anxiety.

Last night I gave a talk and one or two people in the audience wanted to know if I had tried sensory integration for him, or The Diet. The answer is yes, of course I have. When Nat was younger, he had S.I. three times a week, sometimes more. I never saw much change in him. The same with the gluten-free, casein-free diet. Maybe I didn’t do it correctly, but there was not much of a change there, either. I have since come to believe more in getting him to engage in physical activity on a regular basis, rather than something like sensory integration. I think he needs to go running again. Maybe I need to buy a treadmill for the winter months. Will he enjoy that? Treadmill plus iPod, perhaps. Works for his mom and what’s good for the goose is good for the goslings.

I find that talking him through difficult moments is still the best approach for him — and me. I think he starts to feel out of control for whatever reason and my calm and caring voice is a rope that pulls him back to shore. I know that I need that sometimes, too. I sometimes feel like I’m floating around, just orbiting this world, not fitting in too well at times, not wanting to a lot of the time, looking for just the right connection with someone. When that rope is thrown my way, I feel such great happiness and relief. It’s not that I don’t like being alone. It’s just that I don’t like being misunderstood and lonely. I imagine it is the same for Nat, who is closely related to me genetically. He is one of my eggs! It always makes me feel oddly happy to think of my boys as my eggs. I feel supremely maternal, I feel a real ownership of them that is physical, visceral. Sure, sure, there is Ned in there, too, of course (where else do they get their beautiful faces, quick minds, and warm souls?) but I love it when I can see and feel parts of myself in my boys.

In Nat, for instance, I see the same need for consistency that I have, and the same high degree of energy. Also the willingness to try again, whether it’s with a sport, a visit somewhere, something new I’ve cooked, or a new video or a new book. He is extremely flexible and eager to please. He loves music the way I do, and has very strong preferences for types of music (he’s stuck in the 70’s). Nat also likes to be alone often, like I do.

In Max I see the thoughtfulness about issues and the left-leaning politics. I see the joy he takes in being with his friends, which are few but deeply held; this, too, is like me. I feel a nurturing coming from him that may be from me, but is perhaps greater than my ability to nurture. He also has an amazing ability to intuitively understand other languages, and lately we can speak French together (he is taking A.P. French at the high school). Also, Max’s sense of humor is just like mine.

In Benj I see the same passion, perhaps more than me, even. Ben also has the deep and fiery need for justice. He is both judge and enforcement squad. He will take no prisoners when he is right, and he is a bit like me when I am angry. Ben also has the love for word play that I have, and he really grasps spelling. Ben is a lusty little boy, already intrigued by the differences between males and females (very like his mom).

Flesh of my flesh. Chicken and egg. My Three Sons. (Pictured here: my leg, and my eggs)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


You howl
to strains of Beauty and the Beast
sit perched dead
center of the couch
Grabbing the books
Clawing at the pages like it’s their fault
Pretending to read
to get me to leave
You alone
Your arm
newly bruised and torn by
your own teeth
something inside
or something outside
a teenage body
that doesn’t understand
Ben is scared
hiding in the other room
Nothing I say can
ever make it right

Paperback Writer

Dear Sir or Madam
Will you read my book?
It took me years to write
Will you take a look?
— Come on, you know

Today is the official day that my book comes out in paperback. You should be able to see it in a bookstore and buy it. I will certainly be going into bookstores around me and asking for it. Barnes and Noble is pretty good about stocking it and the one in “downtown” Brookline is great about leaving it facing out where I left it last. This picture is my first reading ever, at Brookline Booksmith, my favorite bookstore of all. It’s a real bookstore, with staff who know books, and chairs, a fun kid area, and interesting people browsing the aisles.

Been working on the Next One, squeezing out a couple of pages a day. It is not Writer’s Block, nor is it Writer’s Constipation; it is more Writer’s Irregularity. I wish there were a writing equivalent to Metamucil (or Maltitol candies) that would get things just flowing, but without the cramps, of course. (Too much information, even for me!)

I can’t say what my new book is about until I sell the proposal. My goal is to finish one sample chapter. I need a block of two hours to feel like I can really write. I need it to be uninterrupted when I get going, or else I get really bitchy. When Ned comes over to show me something funny on the Internet or the kids start asking me for stuff when I’m in the middle of a streak — ooh, it’s kind of ugly. Yesterday I tried writing in Peet’s and then Starbuck’s and it was good because I could kind of lose myself in it while sipping sweet hot drinks. And because these were neighborhoods where I don’t know too many people.

Maybe you’re thinking, “What happened to the novel? Or the Special Olympics book?” The novel is complete, but no one is reading it whom I asked to read it. People are too busy, or keep getting stuck somewhere. The heroine sounds too much like me and people get uncomfortable hearing my thoughts. (Imagine that!) The husband seems creepy to some, who are probably expecting it to be Ned, who it is not, even if I insist this is fiction! Only one friend read it and critiqued it a bunch, which was wonderful. A few friends critiqued it here and there, but overall were not wowed. This hurts but it tells me something. The novel needs to stew for a while to become its better self, I think. I want my readers wowed. That makes five novels I’ve written that suck! Ouch.

Special Olympics book, not yet. I am waiting to see what my friend over there at SO does with his own book and neither he nor I have the energy to make it happen together right now. After Thanksgiving he told me he needed to redouble his efforts there and wants to give that a chance. I was down about it for about a day, and then I got this new idea. So it’s okay, because my current project is a good one, even if it is coming out in drips and drabs. MPWA wasn’t built in a day, or even a year. But now, it is also available in paperback! Hooray!

Monday, December 11, 2006

When Good Things Happen To Boring Weekends

Good Things That Happened To Me This Weekend
1) Saw an old friend and her almost 4 year old boy, who is just the cutest thing on two legs (the boy is cute, too! ha ha)
2) Beastie went to a monster-glo-in-the-dark mini golf birthday party and cemented a friendship as a result. He hated the mini golf, however. “It wasn’t glow in the dark because of the stupid disco ball.”
3) Made a new friend who is also in politics in my town.
4) Baked oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies with Nat, who requested that I put the eggs into the dry ingredients so that he could just eat the butter-sugar combo mix without raw eggs! Well, he didn’t say all that, but I was impressed that he instinctively shies away from salmonella-inducing activities.
5) Did not eat above cookies.
6) Swiffered the house. Ok, snore! But I am a (hot) hausfrauer and these things must get done!
7) Made our holiday card. Took around thirty pics of the five of us on the white couch, with nice shirts on. I may have had a little too much makeup on, you decide:
8) Wrote about 4 pages of my sample chapter, (I am now close to ten) so The Proposal is almost ready to go to my agent!
9) Did not work out except to dance Saturday night and my knee hurts anyway! What does that mean? Don’t even think to tell me to stop belly dancing; you might as well tell me to stop smelling Benji’s hair.
10) Got invited to do a keynote in Sioux Falls!!! Real travel! (Not until June).
11) Got very close to finishing the whole holiday shopping thing.
12) Have a great present idea for Ned! A really great SLR camera. He has a new hobby because of his new job, which is — okay, shameless plug, but for those of you who don’t know and have not signed up — a new way to do digital photo sharing and also make actual paper products with your digital photos. So much more elegant than anything else out there (way better than AOL photo album, Flickr, Picasa).
13) Saw a bit of Max because he had no plans for Sunday! He is still a sweetheart, and so funny. He played a great Black Eyed Peas song for me and I downloaded it from iTunes (“Pump It”). He was really pleased that I liked it! (It will be a great workout addition.) I knew that inside that big man somewhere was my darling little Maxie!
14) Went food shopping so I don’t have to do it today! Plus had all the big men in the house carry the crap inside so I didn’t have to! Wonderful living in Land of the Giants. Forgot to buy Ned hard salami, however. (or was that something about “hide the salami?” that he said?)

The real us:

Saturday, December 9, 2006

A Mother’s Grief

A bullet of grief
Burst through my head
Blood and tears
As I lay on my bed.

In my mirror
A picture of you
You look like you’re trying so hard
It’s just what you do

And then I thought
“Do you want to talk?
Is it that you just can’t?”
And my heart stopped
My face in my hands

I could not bear
That you might want to
And all of these years
It’s what you can’t do

Dad had that dream
You were talking to him
He said it was real
But he was crying

Lying here still
My hand on my heart
I want to tell you
It’s okay, be who you are

But if you are not happy
If life is too hard
I want to know that
Though it tears me apart

I will do anything
A piece of my brain?
I don’t need you normal
But just ease your pain.

Tagged for Christmas

NancyBea tagged me with a new one: Write down your top five holiday songs/carols. Explain why, too. Being a Jewish girl, I don’t have that many faves for this time of year that are Jewish. I do like some Christmas songs, and some off beat seasonal songs:

1) Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song (the first one, not the others). “Get out your yarmulke, it’s time for Chanukah.” And then he proceeds to out famous Jews and non-Jews! “OJ Simpson, not a Jew;” “Some people think, Ebeneezer Scrooge is, well he’s not, but guess who is: all Three Stooges!” Excellent to out people, either way.
2) Little Drummer Boy. It gives me chills, I don’t know why. “Then He smiled at me, parumpapumpum…Me and my drum.” Getting chills right now!!! Baby Jesus’ attention! That would totally rock!
3) Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Not a Christmas or Chanukah song, but oh, so sexy!
4) Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town by Bruce Springsteen, the best holiday song ever! He laughs with Clarence Clemens, it is too cool!!!
5) God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, sung by Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLaughlin. It is so hot! Their singing is like caramel.

I tag Pete Lyons, Guy Rude, Kim, MomNOS, and Series of Tubes

Friday, December 8, 2006

Night at Karoun

I can barely settle down to write, I’m so happy, and so worn out! Ned and I went out to Karoun, an Armenian restaurant in nearby Newton (where, coincidentally we lived when we first came to Massachusetts from Philadelphia). My belly dance teacher Melinda dances there on the weekends. I told the owner I was her student and they gave me a great table, right next to the dance floor with a perfect view.

We ordered and ate while we waited. I had (what else?) a Greek salad, and some other dishes with plenty o’ feta; Ned, (of course), had pork kebobs (“pigs taste good”). Good eatin’.

And then she came in, wrapped in a copper and black veil, with a head piece and coins holding it all in place. She balanced a scimitar on her waist, bent over backwards. She did snake arms while doing that. She then balanced the sword on her head, and did amazing eights with her hips, belly rolls and even some camels (belly undulations while walking forward). Finally, she put the handle end of a curvy dagger between her teeth and balanced the sword on its end!!!! Now I understand what she meant when she said in class, “I have a thing about balancing,” as she makes us do these arabesques and balancing moves on one leg with the other leg up in the air behind us!

I could discern the bell-like rhythm of her zills. I was totally thrilled to be watching and understanding her consummate skill.

And then…! She asked three girls to come up and dance with her, who were obviously her students. She then came over to me and asked me to dance with her.

Oh. My. God.

So I did. I did snake arms for a little bit, and watched her, mezmerized. I started to forget what to do. So I thought and thought. Okay! I would try a camel. I did that. She ooohed! Then she said, “Do the turn,” so I did a hip lift and turned all the way around, in a circle, even remembering my hands. YAY!!! When I came back to where I started she was grinning ear to ear and I said, “I’m sitting down now,” and I blew her a kiss.

The audience clapped! Ned took picture after picture of me beaming. He also had taken a bunch of me dancing. “Your debut,” he said. “Hey, I go out with a belly dancer. Cool.”

Tabblo: Night At Karoun

Cold Comfort

Comfort is something I greatly overlook — at least consciously. In the most superficial sense, I am not big on comfort. My shoes are almost never comfortable. I suffer for my fashion with pointy boots and high heels. I wear tight jeans and itchy earrings and makeup that sometimes has the opposite effect and makes my eyes puffy and my nose red. I shun down jackets because they make me look fat, so I bought my shearling last year which is deliciously warm but I can’t get it wet, a la Seinfeld (so I can’t wear it in a snowstorm, d’oh.)

But I read Cinthia’s blog this morning and it really resonated with me. She talks about the perfection found in warmth and in watching white snow cover the shapes outside. Her thinking here might not sound like a big revelation to all of you, but it is quite stark in its very simplicity to me. The elements of winter are truly unlike the other times of year. There is a big movement indoors, and if you consider this metaphorically, it is a move to the within.

Moving to within has become very important to me in the last few months. Sticking close to home is one way of thinking of it, although I do not necessarily mean that in the actual sense, because I travel a lot (for me). I mean staying grounded, staying balanced, and staying centered.

I have two kinds of happiness: one form is a wild, colorful, giddy happiness caused by something external. Another person who has made me laugh; attention from something like benign flirtation; a book contract; an invitation to a fabulous party; having just the right outfit on and looking exactly the way I want to look. It flares up, consumes me, and then dies down, sometimes leaving ashes behind.

The other form is quieter, harder to see, more muted. It is caused by a state of mind, some cue, some reminder about what is good. A living in the moment, being lost in what you’re doing and who you’re with. You are not even aware of it, except maybe later. I think of being at the dinner table and watching Ben relate a story. I am looking at his wildly uneven teeth: one tusk-like front tooth descending while the tiny chips of baby teeth flap outward loosely, ready to leave any minute. Hearing Max tell me that his locker is “right next to the special ed class” and that “it’s cool, because they’re just part of the scenery.” Ned coming home, smelling outdoorsy. Or the feeling of grinding away at a dance move and breaking out in the sweat of frustration, only to feel it dissipate as I hear the others laughing around me because they, too, are struggling. Or coming downstairs and sitting in the best seat in the house with my first coffee, with nothing else I have to do except blog. Still dark out, very cold, but I’m in lumpy sweats and a warm afghan. It’s a more boring form of happiness, more mundane, but if I tune into it, I see that it, too, is beautiful.

Cinthia’s post made me think of winter in a new way, which is really to remind me of something I’ve known all along: there is happiness to be found in sheer comfort and safety.

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