23 April 2014


Because school break and my vacation don't always coincide, I took my 10yo to work one day last week. It was a lovely day, until someone stepped between us as we were getting off a crowded subway, and she got separated from me for an instant. She looked unsettled, and I asked her what was wrong. "Someone blew on my neck. That was creepy." And indeed it was - truly creepy. In that moment, it hit me hard that I won't always be able to protect her, and that my job as her mother is to help her learn to be as resilient as possible.

21 April 2014

In Which I Start In One Place, And End In Another

You know how you meet people from time to time who are like siblings? I used to work with someone who could have been my brother. He and I got on famously, bickering all the time. I invited him to a party at my apartment, which both of my real siblings attended. They were both smitten; they too saw that he was clearly our brother-from-another-mother. He came for Christmas every year and he performed the ceremony at my sister's mock wedding (she'd eloped and this was the party for the masses, it needed a theatrical gesture).

More recently, not long after I started this blog, I found a sister-from-another-mother - Sarah, from Splitting Infinitives (though you might remember her as Slouching Mom). There are eerie coincidences in our lives, and we had similar mothers, and, it's hard to explain but we just share an odd cosmic bond. Last week, Sarah flattered me enormously and asked if I wanted to be next in line in a writing meme, #mywritingprocess, writing about how and why and what I write.

red pencil

Here's the thing. I'm not a writer. Oh, I write. And I know that I'm a better writer now than when I started blogging. Even my husband says so. But I'm not a writer. I'm a woman. I'm a gardener and an occasional sewist, I'm a cook and a daily commuter. I'm a mother, I'm a wife. I'm a Horrible Mensa Bitch and the Director of Everything Else - those are my favorite alternative titles that I threaten to put on my next business cards, because my actual title is sort of dull and doesn't convey all of the things I do at work. But I do write. I write letters to the editor, and I write employee handbooks, and I write advertising copy, and I write recipes. And I write about the things my child does, and I write about my mother, and I write about words that annoy me, and I write about the delight one can find while merely walking down the streets of New York City. And I write tiny little book reviews, and I write emails to the PTA, and I write so many paragraphs and sentences and novels in my head that never even get anywhere near a piece of paper.

It's exhausting just thinking about it.

But I'm not a writer. I'll prove it to you: I am constitutionally incapable of answering the following assigned questions.

1) What are you working on?

2) How does your work differ from others' work in the same genre?
It's mine.

3) Why do you write what you do?
Because it's what occurs to me.

4) How does your writing process work?
It just comes. Like the gravy.

But what I do know is this: the more you write, the better it gets.

red mechanical

Two of my favorite writers - writerly writers - are next up.

The first is one of my oldest dearest friends, someone who writes and edits all day long, and blogs in her spare time: Julia of Lotsa Laundry. The other is an American in Paris Barcelona: Maggie of Maternal Dementia.

Let's put it this way. If I'm zooming through Feedly reading posts, I never ever hit "mark all read" on their posts. In fact, I usually "save for later" so that I can savor and ponder their words. You will too.

18 April 2014

Words to Live By

The reason that you go to the Bronx Zoo is so that you can see tigers.

But the bug carousel might be the most whimsical thing ever.

Especially because it has signs that tell you only one rider per bug.

Because honestly? Two people cannot one bug ride.

15 April 2014

Black Dirt All Around

It was a long horrible winter, but finally, FINALLY, it seems like spring. Sunday, one of the daffodils bloomed.

And yesterday, when I got home from work, there were enough open that I cut a handful for the dinner table.

I am very thrilled to be getting my gardening on FINALLY. We had to sit out all of last year, due to the construction project on our house. Not only could I not do anything, there were beds near the house that just got trashed, and there's a whole area where we took down some gigantic threatening trees - all of this needs work. Let me tell you, there is nothing as much fun as opening up cardboard boxes and unpacking all manner of little mail order plants.

Except maybe going to the wholesale nursery with a "connection" and heaving pots of this and that onto a flatbed tractor. Yeah, that was pretty fun.

* * * * * * * *

About a month ago, I was walking through the Greenmarket, on my way into the office, and I happened upon a vending machine. In the market, parked right there between a table of will-winter-never-end turnips and a booth selling Hot Bread. This vending machine was just visiting though - it's not a permanent installation, though wouldn't there be something cunning about dropping a quarter in and getting out a beet or an apple? I digress. This particular vending machine was sponsored by Seeds of Change, and it had a twist that I've not seen before: it was twitter-enabled, so if you tweeted a particular code, it made the vending machine whirl and spit out a brown paper bag of seeds.

I was thrilled to walk off with three packs of seeds: lettuce, broccoli, and peppers. I promptly planted them, inside in little improvised greenhouses, and they sprouted! Yeah! Green thumb! Alas, the stinking rotten cats have nibbled most of the leaves off of the broccoli seedlings, sparing the lettuce. Feh.

* * * * * * * *

In addition to my ambitious and possibly overactive seed starting, the girl's been doing an after-school gardening program. She brought home a clever little homemade self watering pot, upcycled from a small plastic water bottle. The top was cut off and flipped over and into the bottom, and a chunk of sponge descends from the neck down into the water, wicking the water up into the dirt that some lettuce is planted in.

We are rich in dirt these days, rich indeed.

14 April 2014


Things get stuck in my craw sometimes. Like this sentence:

One of the strange, wonderful facts about many atheists is their eccentricity and intellectual omnivorousness.

It was in a basically interesting column in the New York Times, called "Spreading the Word on the Power of Atheism", about an atheist writer named S.T. Joshi.

But let's unpack that sentence. Is it strange to be intellectually omnivorous? Are atheists alone in being eccentric and/or intellectually omnivorous? Are atheists so peculiar, so unusual that they get to be pigeonholed, damning with faint praise? Oh, an atheist, how eccentric. Replace "atheist" in that sentence with Jew, or Mormon, or Unitarian Universalist. Or, let's get away from religion. Replace "atheist" with Angolan or Bulgarian or Canadian or Dominican. Oh how cute, another eccentric Bulgarian.

I know. The offending sentence is tempered by that pesky "one of the" and the punch-pulling "many". But still. Let's not tar all of the atheists with the same strange and wonderful brush.

Some of us are not eccentric.

07 April 2014

Double Farce, or Hyperbole

It so happens that I don't spend a lot of time in the car. I take the train to the city every day, but I'm walking distance from the train station, so even if I do get a ride, it's not long enough to even bother turning on the radio. And because I'd rather read on the train, I don't listen to podcasts - it's not possible to read one text and listen to another. I kind of like the idea of podcasts, but they just don't fit into my life.

Not so long ago, I went away for the weekend, alone. Alone in the car for two hours there and two hours back! And so, I loaded up the iPod with "my" music, along with a podcast of sorts, actually, an NPR broadcast of Selected Shorts, specifically a short story called Country Cooking from Central France: Roast Boned Rolled Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb (Farce Double) by one Harry Mathews.

Certainly, one can read this short story, read it to oneself while sitting in an overstuffed yet shabby but comfortable chair, parked in the sunshine with a cup of hand-harvested Darjeeling tea, from the highly regarded Sungma estate, to hand. In fact, I found the whole text on the internet; whether it belongs there is anyone's guess. You might visit Texas State University if you are entranced; you'll find the Farce Double nested deeply in postmodern literature:

But for a better experience of the Farce Double, I would urge you to go the extra step, for if the original roasting conditions will surely exceed your grasp, a description of them may clarify your goals.

Do not pass go. Do not wait to find out who does for him what mother never did for her son. The only possible way to experience the Farce Double is to listen to the late lamented Isaiah Sheffer read it, with aplomb and perfect timing. It is a joy.

Be careful whilst you drive, lest you run off the road when the tears come streaming down your cheeks from the laughing.

03 April 2014

Subway. Value added.

Sometimes there are musicians on the train. Not on the platform, but actually in the subway car. The usual suspects include a mariachi band, a blind accordion player, and the a capella doo-wop guys who only know Under the Boardwalk.

Not so long ago, two drummers showed up on the uptown #6, complete with folding stools: they meant business. The drums were djembes, I think – black, thigh high. They unfurled their stools and settled into the wide spot by the doors. Somehow, their beat beat, da dum dum entwined itself in and with the clackity clack of the wheels on the tracks. Together, it was glorious.