Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Present


 “I don’t think I’ll be celebrating Christmas this year,” I told my daughter early last week. “I just don’t feel up to it,” I added, thinking of the loss I experienced earlier this year.

“Oh, Mom,” she responded, “you say that every year and then you rush out at the last minute to do your shopping all at once.”

Do I? I wondered, and if I do, will I do it again this year? Maybe she’s right, I thought after I had a few moments to think about it. Then I heard a report on the radio that said White Christmas is the best selling single of all time. Really? I thought. Then why do I find it so depressing? And why doesn’t Christmas feel the way it used to feel?

And how did it used to feel?

When I was a child, Christmas was full of wonder.

But why. What made it so wonderful?

I didn’t say wonderful. I said it was filled with wonder.

Oh, really? Christmas was filled with wonder?

Okay, no. It wasn’t. I was.

Now that’s different. So where did it go? That feeling of wonder.

I grew up and started worrying about everything the way grown-ups do.

And children don’t?

No. They live in the present.

So that’s your answer. Find a way to live in the present.

But how?

Let me ask you this. If you don’t like White Christmas what song do you like?

Silent Night.

Silent Night. Well you can have that again. Right now. This very moment. If only you could put your worries aside.

But how do I do that?

Sit down. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and listen to the silence because all is calm and all is bright and every moment is sacred.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It Only Takes a Moment


With Thanksgiving only two days away, my week has gotten easier. One school is closed and the other is dismissing early every day. So I was much more relaxed as I sat behind the wheel of my school bus this morning where, at a red light I watched a young woman cross the street and head for the train station on the corner.

She was dressed beautifully in dark gray slacks and a matching long woolen jacket with a light gray sweater beneath it. On her lips she wore bright red lipstick and her dark brown, almost black, hair looked purposefully and artistically disheveled.

As she walked I wondered who she was and what she was like. I was willing to bet she was kind and caring. And what was she thinking? I wondered. Were her thoughts on a sick child or, perhaps, an aging parent? Was she looking forward to a promotion or dreading the results of a medical test she had taken? Whatever her circumstances, as the light turned green and she made it safely across the street, she made me wonder about the thread we all have in common and about the invisible force that keeps us all separate.


And what about me? A moment ago I was wondering only if I would make it to my first stop on time while underneath I was thinking about the love I’ve lost, the book I'd written and the one I was writing. But what if I had never known that love? Or what if the sales on my book suddenly plummeted or, better yet, sky rocketed? What if I make it to my first stop a minute too late or a minute too soon? Will I remember to take a moment to be grateful that I had gotten there at all?


Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Good Luck of Last Night

Normally, I don't go out at night after work. Too dark. Too late. Too old. But I made an exception and I am so glad I did. Last night was a special night and I had such a great time at the Ambler Theater watching A Night with Matthew Quick. Matthew Quick is the author of Silver Linings Playbook and he was there in person to talk about his latest book The Good Luck of Right Now, a novel about synchronicity, road trips, a girlbrarian ( love that word!) and a young man searching for answers.

Of course, I brought my daughters and two of my granddaughters - and of course Jessi (my youngest daughter)  made sure we got good seats. Looking up at Matthew from the front row was like looking up at a god, except that Matthew was oh, so human - and genuine. On stage he tells stories that are as engaging and entertaining as the ones he puts in print.

During the talk, he explained something I'd always wondered about -  why in the movie Silver Linings Playbook, the character of the father was completely transformed. Matthew said it was because "that's the way Robert wanted it!" (I can't believe I met somebody who calls The Master - DeNiro - by his first name. He also talked about how vulnerable a writer feels when he puts his work out there. Boy can I relate to that!

After I read The Good Luck of Right Now, I began writing my second book which I am so excited about and hope to have finished by this time next year. Matthew said he writes one novel a year  - while it takes me a lot longer. Give me a break. He's forty, I'm seventy-three but, as I discovered today, I do some of my best writing just after napping.

Matthew Quick's next novel, Love May Fail, will be released in 2015.



Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Hallow's Eve

Halloween is sweet and not just because of the candy.

For Halloween this year I went out as a grandmother trailing behind six year old Chloe, who was dressed as a cheerleader. Chloe was excited as she ran slightly ahead of us, amazed and delighted that her knock opened doors and brought her treats. 

Chloe, her mother and I were walking right in the middle of the street toward the next brightly lit house when Chloe turned and said, “People are so gen-er-ous.” I was amazed. A six year old and a three syllable word. (Just the other day during my first TV interview, I had stumbled over a three syllable word I should have omitted!)  I smiled and looked at my daughter who said, “She just learned that word. She asked me the other day what it means.” 

As we traveled through the early evening darkness, Chloe continued to run ahead, stopping only when a porch or a landscape was particularly ghostly or ghoulish. Chloe’s knock was always answered by smiling people, men and women, young and old – people we almost never see except when they run from their front doors to their cars standing in their driveways.  One elderly man we had never seen before, stopped us dead in our tracks as he asked - in a kindly way - if my daughter’s older daughter had graduated from high school earlier this year. “I see she’s got herself a jazzy new car,” he added.

As we progressed through the neighborhood we saw ghosts and goblins, witches and frankensteins, superheroes and sluggish cats.  At one house where no one was home, a light on their front porch lit up a bowlful of candy from which when you reached in, a hand popped up and grabbed your own. “Did you see Jesus?” one neighbor asked. “No, really,” she said. “A boy dressed as Jesus was just here.” (We caught up with him later.)

But mostly what we saw were people opening up their doors and their hearts to delight the children – something none of them had to do. Yes, Chloe, people are indeed generous, even the ones who do it ghoulishly. 



Monday, August 25, 2014

Listening

Last night it felt so good to get into bed, close my eyes and listen to nothing but the silence of the night. I can remember a time when after getting into bed and closing my eyes, I felt as though they were still open. I felt as though I had spent the whole day trying to look through walls – walls, which even with my eyes closed, were still right there in front of me.

I’m not sure what was different about last night. Maybe for a moment I understood that the answers I’m looking for are not on the other side of those walls. Or on this side either. Maybe for a moment,  I realized that the answers I was looking for were deep down inside myself and all I needed to do to find them was to close my eyes and listen to the silence of the night.



Walk a Mile In My Shoes

I was forty the first time I tried to walk a mile.  As a child, I was hospitalized with rheumatic fever (an event covered in my memoir Rude Awakening). When I left the hospital a year later, the doctors told me I would never be able to participate in sports. But when I was forty-something and fiercely out of shape, my youngest daughter challenged and goaded me until I agreed to walk a mile with her.  I wasn’t too sure what I was in for, but as we drove to a nearby park with a mile long track, I reasoned that it couldn’t be all that bad.
 
We were two or three minutes into it when I started complaining. My daughter tried to distract me, but I wasn’t falling for it. “Are you sure this is only a mile?” I asked after the first two minutes. She assured me it was just one mile around the track. But I didn’t believe her. “This can’t be just one mile,” I said a minute later. “No, Mom it is.” she told me again. Five minutes into it, I felt as though I’d been walking an hour.

“I don’t think I’m going to make it,” I told her two minutes later while searching for the end of the track.  “Really I can’t make it.  I can’t go one step further.” “That’s okay,” she said cheerfully, “we’ll just turn around and go back.”

I turned around then and happily, if unwittingly, walked the other half mile back to where we started.

Twenty years later, for some reason I can’t quite remember - oh wait, I remember now – I fell in love (which is another event covered in my memoir) - I started walking again. Slowly at first. A mile here and a mile there.  And then more consistently. A mile a day and then two miles. Before I knew it, I was walking two, three or four miles a day. Then it was five, six or seven. One day I decided to try for ten. And I made it. Ten miles around the same track I had hated twenty years earlier. I was amazed. Ten miles took me three hours and twenty minutes. But I loved it, every step of it. It felt so good being athletic

Sometimes I’d break it up into two five-mile walks, one in the morning and another in the evening.  I fell in love with the weather and taught myself to tune in to the nuances of the day, those subtle but inevitable changes that came with each hour.  When it rained, I had the park all to myself, alone with my umbrella. 

In the months before Christmas, I lost twenty pounds. Sometimes on weekends, I would walk as many as twenty miles.  I loved the way it made me feel - about my own abilities and about everything around me. I loved the way long walks cleared my head and made me feel relaxed.

Those miles did more for my self-esteem and me than anything else did, before or since. And now at seventy-one I’m ready to start doing it again! Good God, if only I could fall in love all over again!


Flip-flops

   
     Flip-flops!    The name says it all.

     Did you know that flip-flops have been around since 4000 BC?  (Weren’t they the footwear of choice those decadent Romans wore with their togas?) Did you know that soldiers returning from Japan brought modern flip-flops to this country? That was in the 1940’s, but flip-flops didn’t become popular here until the 1960’s. (That’s because nobody in their right mind would have worn them in the Forties and Fifties. Flip-flops are casual wear and nobody understood casual before 1964 when the Beatles grew their hair long just for the hell of it.) 

     Did you know any of this?  Of course you didn’t and neither did I. In addition, I just didn’t give a damn. Until recently, I was too blissfully content in my ignorance. Having grown up in the Fifties, I had never even worn a pair of flip-flops. 

     Then along came that June day when both my daughter and I finished working at our respective school districts. It was a beautiful summer day - one of those glorious days when it was hot, but not humid. There we were with our first full day of freedom. 

Naturally, we decided to spend the day doing absolutely nothing - with a little bit of shopping thrown in for fun. We had just left one store in the mall when my daughter, upon seeing a pair of flip-flops in another store window, exclaimed, “Let’s get pedicures!”

     “Why?’ I asked. 

     “Because it’s summer and you need a pedicure to go with you flip-flops.”

      “I don’t wear flip-flops.”

      “But you need them to wear while you get your pedicure?”
     “What?” but she was already sailing through the front door of the shoe store, expecting me to follow. 
     “Mom, look at these she said pointing to a pair of hot pink flip-flops with soles thicker than the ones on my sneakers.  “Try these on.”
      “I can’t.” I said.  “I only wore flip-flops once and that little do-dad thing in the middle drove me nuts.”
     

     “But you need them,” she insisted.  “Besides this pair won’t hurt.  They’re good ones.”
    
      “How much are these?” I asked a salesman thinking maybe I could squeeze out a ten dollar bill for them. 
    
        “Sixty,” he said blithely. 

     “Dollars?” I shouted wondering how something that almost did not even exist could cost so much.  Everyone in the store had turned to look at me as half a dozen emotions including shock, incredulity and amazement appeared on my face.  Embarrassed, I turned to join my daughter who had already broken into gales of uncontrollable laughter that propelled both of us out of the store, into our car and up the highway to a discount department store. 

     But after purchasing an inexpensive and bland pair of flip-flops and getting a pedicure, my mind kept returning to the sixty dollar pair that would have looked perfect with my hot pink, perfectly painted toenails.
    
     “Hmmm….” I said looking down and wiggling my toes, “maybe those Romans weren’t so decadent after all!”

      
                                       


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Art in the Park

Last Saturday was a perfect day, a beautiful day for a book signing in the park. When I mentioned the signing to a friend of mine she gasped and asked, “Were you all alone in the park?” I laughed. “No, it was an art in the park event,” I told her, “and I was surrounded by people displaying their homemade and ingenious crafts.”

“My craft is writing,” I called out to anyone walking by my table where my book and a couple of toys from my childhood – like jacks and a kaleidoscope - were displayed.

I marveled at the number of people who showed up that day in Mondauk Park Commons, where parts of my book had been written.  And I marveled at the number who stopped and listened as I told them about Rude Awakening.

As I sat talking to one elderly man, who was about my age, he suddenly told me his wife had passed away in April and, remembering my own loss, I felt my heart move toward him, although I had to laugh when he told me he was a mathematician and “not at all a reader.”   

As the hours passed I marveled again and again at the things people freely shared with me about themselves until midway through the day when I realized that just like me, everyone is looking, not for a new art or craft, but for someone to see them, someone to hear them because where one connection is broken, another must be forged.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Rude Awakening Defined



Hi. My name is Toni McCloe and I am.

Wait! What?

There seems to be something missing here. Did I not complete that sentence? Let me try this again:

Hi. My name is Toni McCloe and I am a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother, an author, a democrat (who sometimes votes republican).... It seems there is an array of endless possibilities, an infinite way to end that sentence. And yet...

If there is one thing I have learned in my not quite seventy-three years on this earth, it is not to complete that sentence, not to define myself in terms of externals because externals can be ripped away in an instant. Can be blown away with a word, a wind or a whatever.

And even when I first learned to define myself as, I am, my mind still wanted to fill in the blank and what I came up with is: I am alive. And then one day not so long ago I learned that even that can be stripped away in an instant.

So now I am back to I am because when who we thought we were is no longer relevant, when who we thought we were no longer exists, what we are left with is a rude awakening.





Saturday, August 9, 2014

Time Out

A little while ago, I was feeling down and decided to take a walk in the park. Halfway through I sat on a bench, closed my eyes and listened as two birds, one on either side of me, took turns calling out to one another. I heard too, the roar of a plane in the distance, the whoosh of traffic moving through an intersection, and the footfall of other walkers as they moved along the trail behind me. I kept my eyes shut and listened to the sound of my own breathing as it quietly, steadily moved in and out of my body.

I opened my eyes, put on my headphones, and went back to my walk, watching as a father pushed an infant in a stroller and a mother jogged behind a child, little more than a toddler, riding the tiniest two-wheeler I had ever seen. Then I took a deep breath and listened to Phillip Phillips telling me I am not alone and I remembered that life is good.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Living the Dream


Last Tuesday was one of those absolutely gorgeous summer days with plenty of sun, temperatures in the low 80’s, low humidity and a gentle breeze that was making the wind chimes in the corner of the back porch sing intermittently. So content was I that I totally ignored the ringing of my cell phone as well as the tiny ping that tells me I have voice mail. It was not until half an hour later that I took myself out of my weather-induced coma and looked at the phone. 

“Toni,” the voice inside said, “this is Jack Firneno, editor of the Bucks County Midweek Wire and I am calling because I would like to know if you will be available for a phone interview…” What? And then, my head went to brain freeze, An interview? Why? What have I done? Am I in trouble? 

And finally, Wait! The book! He wants to interview me about the book. Oh my God! What should I do?What should I say? What should I wear?

I almost dropped the phone, then steadied myself long enough to send texts out to several people including my daughter Cindi, who responded: Stop. Breathe. You’ll do fine. You’ll be great, Mom. Just relax. Remember that you can ask questions too, if there’s something you don’t understand. But above all Mom, don’t’ babble! I read her message over and over and even wrote it out in long hand, trying to memorize it so I would remember it during the interview. 

Ten minutes before the appointed time, I was again sitting on the back porch, as ready as I'd ever be, waiting for the phone to ring again. 

When it did, Jack’s questions were deep and thoughtful and the interview went well.. I relaxed.I listened. I asked questions when necessary and most of all, I did not babble. 

But it wasn't until the next day, while checking one of the the facts I had given Jack, that the  full import of what was happening hit home. Suddenly I realized I was sitting in a coffee shop (okay it was a McDonald's) reading my own book! I allowed that sensation to sink in for a few more minutes until finally I got up. Then with my hand on the ladies room door, I was struck again. Oh my God, oh my God,  I'm living the dream - and as the door swung open - I am living the dream! 


http://midweekwire.com/2014/07/23/putting-the-past-on-paper/





Friday, July 18, 2014

At the Beach

It's summertime and the living is easy. Or, at least, it is as long as you are inside with air conditioning or at the shore. Which is where I spent two days last week (and took this pic).

On the beach, I looked down at see the sand between my toes and up to see a perfectly blue cloudless sky. It was easy to fall into a light sleep there, listening to the crescendo of waves until the sound of a child’s voice calling “Mommy, mommy,” woke me. Later I slept again, then awoke to find that I had been resting somewhere between contentment and bliss. 


When I opened my eyes, I saw a woman on crutches standing at the water’s edge.  How did she get there? I wondered. A toddler went running away from his mother as another, slightly older child, in a neon pink bathing suit ran in the opposite direction, away from the same mother. 

Later, in the evening, I dined on seafood and walked the boards, eating fried oreos and watching the tide come in. Back at the hotel, fattened and content, I laid my head on a pillow and dreamt of another tomorrow.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I Wanted You to Stay

I miss my buddy. I miss my friend. I miss the man who once called me the love of his life and who was the love of mine. Sometimes when it rains, I feel as though I am looking for him between the raindrops and sometimes when it’s bright outside, I look for him in sunlight.

I miss him and because I miss him, I am reading a book called Answers About the Afterlife by Bob Olson, although God knows, I am not looking for answers, but for him.  The book is reassuring, saying he is not dead, saying he is alive but in a form different from ours – yours and mine. It says his spirit vibrates at a level higher than ours.

It says that he is nearby, that he is close to me, that he can read my mind - read my thoughts – and that if I want, I can speak to him out loud, as though he is in the room because, after all, he is. I read that one night and fell asleep feeling safe, feeling close to him. 

In the morning when I awoke, my eyes fell first on the space beside my bed, then on a white wicker chair at the foot of my bed. And then, looking at each, I asked out loud: Are you here? Are you there? And, feeling like someone from Dr. Seuss, Are you anywhere?

I miss my friend. I miss my lover. I will miss the love of my life for the rest of my life. For him I wrote a poem. For him I would write an epic.


I Wanted You to Stay

Where have you gone?
I never wanted you to go.
I wanted you to stay.

Lost is your smile,
The arms that held me strong,
The heart that beat with mine.

Where have you gone?
Are you lost forever?
Lost from my eyes

Forever?
No. No. You cannot be lost. 
You cannot be gone.

Not for as long as
I hold you
Inside my heart…

Hold you 
Inside my heart 
Forever.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

My First Book Signing – for Real This Time

I did my first book signing yesterday. It was kind of impromptu and was mentioned only on Twitter at practically the very last minute. This signing occurred at my son-in-law’s shop, Kurt’s Magic World, in Lansdale, Pennsylvania and because it was a holiday, I didn't know what to expect. The only way people who are not on Twitter knew I was there, was from a small sign posted in the shop’s front window. 

My first sale was to Kurt’s friend Marlon, who from my daughter, knew the book was about my Italian upbringing.  He said he was buying it for his mother who was also Italian and could probably relate to it. I thought that was sweet, but it was only the beginning.

About an hour later, a young man rushed into the shop and up to the table where the book, Rude Awakening, were displayed.  “Oh, is this the book?” he asked, touching it as though he thought it was the Holy Grail.  Of course, I loved it. 

“I don’t have any money,” he said.  “I just wanted to see it.”  I smiled and asked his name.  He told me and said he was a student.  After we spoke for a moment, he smiled and left and I found myself wondering if he felt as good after this brief encounter as I did.

Later, a woman and her daughter came in looking exultant after finding me sitting behind the table.  “Wow, we just love the title and had to come in,” one of them said while the other said, “We love the picture on the cover, too.  After buying the book, the woman said her name was Anita and that she lived in Harleysville.  She also said it was her birthday – she was born on the Fourth of July. 

All in all it was a delightful night for me and a sweet, sweet start to my book signing career.  And to celebrate, I would like to give away a copy of the book to the first person to comment below. 



Sunday, June 22, 2014

In the Aftermath of Parties - and of Wars

My daughter, Jessi, and I were sitting in opposite seats in her living room yesterday, reminiscing about  the book launch party for Rude Awakening, which had occurred the night before. The party had been a huge success – not because of the seemingly endless planning that had gone into it, but because of all the friends and family members who attended. 
  From the sofa, I looked at Jessi and could read her mind, especially because my thoughts were running in the same direction. Now what do we do for excitement?

“Do you want to go to a movie?” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered, suddenly excited again.  “See what’s playing at the Ambler.”  
We sat together on the sofa for a moment watching the trailer for Words and Pictures. “That looks good,” I said, “but see what else is playing.  “Here,” I said pointing to The Railway Man.
We watched the movie trailer for as long as it took (no more than a few seconds) for Colin Firth’s face to come onto the screen. “That’s it,” I said, as I ran upstairs to get my shoes. (The spell I had fallen under while watching Firth in Bridget Jones’s Diary, had taken me head over heels after seeing The King’s Speech.)

At the theater, which often brings back old movies as special programs, we watched a clip of Casablanca – Ingrid Bergman saying, “Sing it, Sam” and the camera moving in for a close up of her face, which glowed in a scene that has always left me, and millions of others, breathless.  “She’s beautiful,” my daughter whispered.

Finally, the main attraction began. “Wherever man has been,” Firth says early in the film, “there has been a war.” And then he shows us how war can ravage a country - and a mind. But The Railway Man is more than a war story, it is also a story about - . Well, go watch it for yourself.  If you are looking for excitement, then Colin Firth as The Railway Man is just the ticket.
                                         

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Her True Colors

After owning the movie Frozen for only a week, Chloe, the youngest of my ten grandchildren, had watched it so often, she could quote lines from the movie verbatim. For weeks before that, (even before I knew there was a movie called Frozen), she was running through the house singing “Let it Go” at the top of her lungs. What does a five-year-old know about letting go? I wondered as she breezed past me one day on her way from the kitchen to the living room.  

Which reminds me. When Chloe returned from her first day of preschool two years ago - and while we were coloring adjacent pages in her coloring book -  I decided to ask her how her day was. (Is there some kind of secret oath that students take that makes them all say "good" whenever they are asked that question by their elders, and despite the crayons, I am her elder)? 

Chloe didn't disappoint.  "Good," she said. I decided to try harder. "But what did you learn?" After holding her breath for a moment, she looked up. "I love Antarctica," she said in a way I could tell came straight from her heart. 

"You do?" I said, so surprised my voice rose an octave or two. "Why?"
"Because it has penguins - and Eskimos and lots of snow." she answered. (That, of course, was before last winter.) I marveled at her innocence.


Now, as the school year is about to end and Chloe is about to graduate from pre-school, she still loves singing "Let it Go" at the top of her lungs and I am still wondering what she could possibly know about letting go. At least I felt that way until a few moments ago when, after sitting in my room alone - giving a clown purple hair, Chloe rushed in, gave me a hug, and told me she loved me. It was then that I turned to my computer and found these words posted on my Facebook page: "Innocence is the ability to give and receive love without holding on."   


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Are You Ready for a Rude Awakening?





Okay everybody, pull up a chair and let me sit down. I am that excited!  
   My book, Rude Awakening, is finally available for purchase on the publisher's website. For those of you in the area, I will be doing several book signings this summer where you can get an
 autographed  copy.  More details about my appearances will be posted on this blog in the near future. 

For those of you not in the area, or for those of you who simply can't wait, you can go to the website,  www.tatepublishing.com -.  If you wish, you can bring a copy purchased on the website to a signing and I will autograph it for you.   

Thanks so much to everyone for all the interest and support for this project.  I hope you enjoy the book.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pardon the Interruption

Hush!  Be quiet. Don't bother me while I'm reading. All right. All right. Just let me finish this paragraph. Now. You have my full attention. But wait. Before you start, let me tell you about the book I'm reading.  

It's called Still Life with Bread Crumbs and I love it. I love the sheer act of reading it. It delights me so.

I haven't gotten very far into it. Only about twenty percent according to my Kindle. My Kindle was a present from the love of my life who died recently and it was just about the best present I ever received.

This book was written by Anna Quinlan. Do you know that years ago, while reading another book by Anna, I became convinced she was a childhood friend of mine? Mostly, I suppose, because she was writing about a situation I knew my friend would have had to endure, even though I hadn't even seen my friend in years. In my memoir, Rude Awakening, I call her Jane but in real life her name was similar to Anna's.  It wasn't until I found a picture of Anna on the internet that I realized she wasn't my friend, although psychically they could have been twins.

This book, Still Life with Bread Crumbs, is about a woman (I love books by women about women), who is lonely, I think. She's famous, or at least she was once, but now she's strapped for cash. (Now she's sounding more like me.) Anyway, she rents a cottage - well,  it was more like a cabin - a run down cabin in the woods somewhere and meets a man and falls in love. I think she falls in love. I'm not far enough into the book yet to know - but I love it.

In one scene she sees him with a gun, getting ready to shoot a bald eagle and she makes a lot of noise to scare the eagle away. Only it 's not a gun and he's not a hunter. He explains that it's a tracking device and that he works on weekends keeping track of the eagle's habits for the scientists he works for. She gets embarrassed and he tells her not to worry. The eagle, he says, will come back soon because it has a mate in a nest nearby. "He'll be back. He always is," he says. "The same bird in the same location?" she asks.

And then he answers with a line I love, "They mate for life... Unlike people."

All right now. What was it you wanted? Oh, right. Now it's my turn to be embarrassed, I think as I glance at the clock on my dashboard.  It's time for me to put this school bus into gear and start my morning run. All right. Thanks, Nick. I'm off.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My First Book Signing - or Not

First let me set the scene.  It is 1960.  Dwight Eisenhower is the president. Arlen Specter is still a democrat and an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia. John F. Kennedy is the Democratic party’s nominee and he is about to appear at the Cheltenham shopping center, just outside of Philadelphia and two blocks from my home. 
 
I grab my youngest sister’s hand and drag her with me to see the next President. I am nineteen. My little sister is seven. We arrive at the back of the mall behind the Gimbel’s store as a helicopter flies overhead. Moments later we watch as Kennedy climbs the steps to the podium and begins his speech. Among the remarks he makes are these words: “I believe the Sixties will be difficult for the United States.” (How did he know?) 
    
Kennedy completes his remarks and the crowd disperses. My sister and I walk back home from an event neither of us will ever forget.  Coincidentally, it will be Arlen Specter who, years later, originates the “single bullet theory.” 

Now, flash forward with me to last week. Because I will have to promote my book, Rude Awakening, in the near future, I went to a local Barnes and Noble to watch another author, Lisa Scottoline, do a presentation for her latest book, Keep Quiet. Lisa is a pro! From the moment she walked out to introduce herself, she commanded the stage and never lost her audience’s attention. 

At one point, while talking about people in the crowd – and there was a crowd – she said she saw some new people she had never seen before at one of her readings?  Actually she asked how many people here were virgins and then laughed when at least a half dozen people, including me, raised their hands.  But it was my first signing and I was thoroughly entertained, enthralled and intimidated.  Later, as she signed my copy of Keep Quiet, I mentioned my upcoming book and beamed when she said, “Great title.” 
  
It wasn’t until I was leaving the store that I remembered I wasn’t a virgin after all. Suddenly I was back in 1960.   When I heard that the author of Steps in Time would be appearing at Wanamaker’s in  center city Philadelphia, I made a beeline for the store to see the man I had had a crush on since I was a pre-teen. Now, it isn’t every girl who can say she lost her virginity to Fred Astaire. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Songs On the Radio

You must forgive me for not writing more, but I have been mourning the loss of someone very dear to me.  So close were we that once, when asked about the relationship between us, I flippantly said we were Siamese twins, separated at birth.  Never once did I consider what it would mean to be separated by death. 

At first I felt so deeply and intensely lost that for days no other thoughts entered my mind.  Two days after his death, I dreamt I was standing inside his house and even though I was aware that he was gone, I felt great peace even in the moments just after awakening.  Then once again I found myself struggling with his death as though it were some kind of ancient dragon I had to fight and defeat before I could begin to feel better again and, even as I struggled with his death, I tried to deny it, unable to form a simple sentence that would contain both his name and the word 'died' in it.

Then, when the memories started coming back I thought of all of the places we had been to together.  For weeks I began to visit those places, driving around compulsively until I realized I was looking, not for more memories, but for him. 
   
Finally one day I heard a song on the radio about a guy who wanted to be taken to a place where it's “Sunny and 75” and I remembered all the hours I had spent with this man in a room where the blinds were always halfway up and how, whenever I was with him, it was always sunny and seventy-five for me.  On another day while listening to the song “I’m Already There,” I felt his presence beside me. But oh, how I longed to return to normal even as I forgot what normal was. 

Then came the day when I misplaced my wallet and locked myself outside my car and, as funny as it sounds, I knew that normal was returning.  And now when I long to return to the place that was always sunny and seventy-five, I remember that he is already here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Quick Decision


Now that my manuscript, Rude Awakening, has gone from editing to cover design, I am getting excited about seeing the final product.  Of course, I knew this day would arrive and wondered how I was going to feel - I feel as though I can breathe again.  “Are you going to write another book?” someone asked me after the book made its way to production.  “No,” I replied. Then thought about it. “Hell no,” I said with emphasis.

Once the book left my hands I was able to do what I have been dreaming of doing for years – sit quietly in a corner reading someone else’s work. So that’s what I did until I realized I was in a rut. Or that’s what my best friend from childhood would say if she knew I had just read three books in a row by the same author.  But I can’t help it.  I’m addicted and oh, what a delightful addiction it has been.  I don’t doubt you would feel exactly the same way if you too, were reading the books of Matthew Quick.

First I watched the movie, Silver Linings Playbook, then I read the book.  I loved it so much I went looking for more.  What I found was Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock and even though it was listed as a book for teens, it turned out to be a delightful read. As soon as I finished, I went out to buy the ingredients for banana chocolate chip pancakes.  (If you read the book, you understand and if you haven’t read it, you have a treat or two waiting for you.)

Finally I sat down to read his latest book, The Good Luck of Right Now. When I finished that book with its delightful references to Richard Gere and the Dalai Lama, I felt an overwhelming urge to hug the next person I saw, even if that person turned out to be a stranger – especially if that person turned out to be a stranger.  And now that I’ve read three of Quick’s books, I am looking for one more.  But since the Good Luck book came out only a few weeks ago, I doubt that he has had time to write another.  So that settles it.   If I want to read another book as delightful and full of life as Quick’s books are, I’ll just have to start writing one myself. If I begin right now, I should be done in about three years!!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Those Lazy, Crazy Days of Winter


Today is one of those lazy, crazy days in the Philadelphia area when having more than a foot of snow lying on the ground outside managed to zap away any trace of motivation I may otherwise have had.  Here it is Wednesday already and thanks to the snow and to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr, I have worked only four hours so far this week.   But the hours I did work were spent on the roads driving a school bus and, for the first time in my life, they made me feel like a super hero. 

It’s funny how beautiful the snow looked as I watched it late yesterday afternoon through the big picture window in my daughter’s living room.  Not so lovely watching it from behind the windshield of a school bus.  By the time I picked up my students for their 11:00 a.m. early dismissal, there were several inches of snow on the ground - and several more fell during the two hours it took to get them to their homes in Cheltenham, a neighborhood just outside of Philadelphia, a drive that normally takes only twenty minutes.

But last night after dinner, I got into bed to watch a movie – Silver Linings Playbook – more scenes from Philadelphia's streets - Philly is the city I grew up in.   The movie was so light and sweet that by the time I fell asleep all the weight (not to mention the awesome responsibility) of driving children through snow,  lifted and I felt as free as a single snowflake drifting through the sky, and as graceful and relaxed as Bradley and Jennifer looked floating across the dance floor.  

But tomorrow is another day and tomorrow it's back to driving over icy roads and snow covered side streets.  But  then, maybe even nimbostratus have silver linings. I'll just have to wait and see.



Friday, January 3, 2014

The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of

Yesterday, when my alarm clock went off just before 5:00 a.m., I found myself wanting just a few more minutes of sleep before I got out of bed.  Okay, I said to myself, you can have two more minutes.  Any longer and I knew I’d fall back to sleep and wind up being late for work.  
In what seemed like just moments, I was at the bottom of the driveway that leads to the garage where I work.  For those of you who don’t already know, I drive a school bus and the driveway I’m talking about is so narrow that only one bus can enter or exit at a time.
 
When I started working there back in September, I was told the driveway was going to be widened, but not until next year.  So when I arrived yesterday, I was surprised to see that the driveway was blocked and that two crews were already removing the trees that lined it.

Surprised or not, I parked my car in the lot that had not been there before the holidays and started walking up the hill. I waved to the first crew, who waved back and kept walking. I waved to the second crew, but they didn't see me. I kept walking until I suddenly realized all of the dirt the second crew had removed from the earth was headed in my direction.  I screamed and tried to outrun it, but instead, I tripped and fell to my knees. The dirt continued to descend, coming over my head like a tidal wave. I knew I was about to be buried alive when I woke up.

Awake, I got out of bed, but I was shaking from head to toe. The dream had been so vivid, so real that I felt I was about to suffocate.  Out of bed now, I turned on the television to distract myself and started getting ready for work until I stopped suddenly in my tracks, realizing what the dream meant. I had not, as I thought, been falling under the dirt, but had been falling back to sleep. I had been so afraid of being late for work that my subconscious mind had concocted that entire dream sequence in order to frighten me into wakefulness.

Wow, I thought, what an amazing mechanism the mind is. And then my next though was: How come my mind is not that amazing and creative when I'm awake?  How come when I'm awake it just travels around in circles like a broken record, playing the same old thoughts again and again inside my head?

But wait.  Maybe knowing what the dream meant is, if not creative, at least insightful.  Except that right now I don’t know if knowing what the dream meant means anything at all.  Opps!  There goes that monkey mind of mine again going around in circles like a broken record, record, record.