Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Jazzman

A young man whom Paul roomed with on Suffolk Street in downtown Manhattan contacted me today. And though his email is most welcome, it made me think of My Jazzman even more.

My jazzman                                                                       
beat it out
on the mighty eighty-eights,
played those riffs,
tapped his feet
bent his head
down to the keys,
felt those sounds
on his fingertips.
Yeah, he was a hot man
on those eighty-eights.

But all too soon
his bag grew dark.
He went down,
deep down.
My jazzman
played the blues,
lost that spark,
closed the lid.
And, yeah, you got it right,
quit the scene.
laid himself down
in that bone yard
for the big sleep.
Yeah, for the really big sleep.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The final, final, final review

Great cover photo by Madison Poulter

I’ve been procrastinating about getting down to my writing all morning. And I didn’t write a word yesterday. Am I feeling the need to relax a bit about my writing schedule – after all I’ve sent off the final, final, final corrections for the book prior the launch just about six weeks away.

Dealing with the final corrections is a whole other story. I received my review copy early this month – in a paperback edition although the book will come out next month in hardback. I really hadn’t intended to read it. I just wanted to have a copy for my records. So my husband Bob decided to read it front to back. He had read little bits of the book when I had the drafts posted on the storyboard wall, but I had never asked him to read or review it before. (I was told some years ago not to let a significant other read your drafts – the risks of hurt and hard feelings are too high.)

So needless to say, his reading the book at this point was a huge confront. Although I didn’t worry that there would be any hard feelings, because he's an excellent editor, I did worry that he’d find things that were too late to fix.

Luckily he was kind and he only made a few suggestions. In fact, at first he didn’t even know if I wanted him to mark any typos. So by the time I asked him to, he had already found a couple in the first half of the book and didn’t note where they were. That was my undoing. I felt adamant against coming out with a book with known typos. I looked through the first half of the review copy and couldn’t find them. I looked through my last word version online and couldn’t find them, and Bob didn’t have the time or patience to go through the book again to see if he could find them.

I finally asked my eagle-eye friend to take a look, and although she found only one of the places Bob mentioned (he said he saw two places where two words were run together) she found a couple of other typos as well. And then we had to be done. My publisher gave me a deadline of March 28 and we were down to the wire.

So what I know is no matter how many times I read the book and no matter how many times I say it is final, final, final, I know it could be looked at one more time. And there is always the need for another pair of fresh eyes to take a look. Of course I also know if we had unlimited time to keep reading and reviewing, nothing would ever get published.

My only hope now is: if it was so hard for my eagle-eyed friend and me to find the other pair of run-together words, none of my readers will find them either. Even though you know it’s there?

Monday, March 28, 2011

What a difference a week makes

Actually since my husband Bob started walking just less than a week ago our lives have changed considerably for the better. The scooter has been picked up (its real name is RollerAid by Footsteps), the crutches that were always at the ready on the bottom and top floor landings and the walker that he used for help in hopping in and out of the shower are now in the garage. The only implement still in use is the boot – though at his physical therapist's advice he's even wearing that less and less at home. Walking with the boot causes another malady – an aching back, so the sooner he can walk with a regular pair of shoes the better.  

He’s also been staying at work longer, he’s not reluctant to go out to dinner, and we even went to the movies and opera this past weekend. So, all in all things are definitely looking up – especially since I don't have to bring him his orange juice and paper in the morning. He actually went out the last two mornings and brought the paper in to me. (My only continuing job is being the family driver – and that chore couldn't stop soon enough for me)

Who would have thought a little spill down the stairs would have caused so many weeks of pain and immobility and the need for so many helper implements? My big question now is: should I take the crutches and walker to Good Will now or wait awhile? Really, what would I be waiting for?

In case you've forgotten  this is the best mobility
device ever  the RollerAid (AKA scooter)

Friday, March 25, 2011

More kudos for Leaving the Hall Light On

My friend and advisor on all things related to getting a book published, Mark Shelmerdine, CEO of Jeffers Press, sent me this note yesterday after he finished reading a review copy of my book. I thank him immensely for his kind words.

I finished Leaving the Hall Light On last night.  It is a very moving, very intimate and very inspiring memoir.  It must have taken great courage to reveal your story to yourself and your family let alone to the world at large.  I have huge respect for the way you have exposed your feelings for Paul, Bob and Ben with such candor; it is something that it would be impossible for me to do probably because I am a reticent Brit.  The poetry and photographs add an extra dimension that is missing from most memoirs like this since as a reader you get much closer to the reality of what is being described on the page.  For 321 pages I was completely caught up in your life and the heart-wrenching drama that you were experiencing.

What came across for me so eloquently was how hard you tried to make it right for Paul despite all the obstacles he put in your way.  And, then at times you realized you had to back off and take care of yourself and your marriage.  This I believe will be most helpful to readers who are in a similar situation – that as a parent you can’t continue to be a victim to the behavior of your child and that at some point you have to let go and take back your life.  It is a great credit to both of you that you were able to hold your marriage together since I know that even the best marriages fall apart in these circumstances....

The world is a better place for your having written and published this book.  I hope and pray it finds a huge audience.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mark!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I know Spring is here when the clivia is in bloom

My favorite time of the year is when the clivia is blooming. The blooms are in full force right now especially after yesterday's downpour.

We don't have much of a front yard - in fact we hardly have any yard at all - and most of it is in the shade, so clivia is the perfect plant for us. I just wish the colorful blossoms lasted longer than a few weeks in early Spring.

Check out the succulents too

Clivia at full bloom

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Foot injury update

Well the "step down" day arrived and it went as we had hoped. Though Bob felt a lot of apprehension last night that he still wouldn’t be allowed to walk on his foot, today's x-ray showed healing has progressed as expected six weeks post surgery. And, the redness and swelling have subsided considerably.

So as of noon today, Bob took his first steps. And though he must still walk with his boot, he can take it off at night. He can also go back to taking showers rather than tub baths that have been easier for him during this recovery time. 

The next thing he wants to do is start weaning himself off the scooter. He’s asked me to bring him one crutch for getting around at the gym with his personal trainer this afternoon. And, I must say I won't miss lugging that thing in and out of the trunk of the car and up and down our stairs. He can't be weaned off of it fast enough for me.

I know he is anxious to be walking again, and I'm anxious to have him walking, but I hope he doesn’t go too fast and furiously. If he listens to the doctor who says he should walk with an awareness of pain and only walk if his foot is pain-free, all should be well.

The next hurdle is getting him back to driving. However, he cannot drive with the boot, so his going back to driving is about three weeks down the line. Guess what that means? I’m still the chauffeur. Well, at least it's not as bad as yesterday, and I expect tomorrow to be even better. 

One more thing. He needs to go to physical therapy twice a week for the next six weeks. Bob tried out the idea of having his personal trainer work with him, but that got nixed. The doctor feels that trainers can get a little too aggressive. Well, duh?

He's made such good progress up until today, what's another few weeks to ensuring a completely healed foot.?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another survivor

What's been going on in my life all came into perspective when I opened the mail yesterday and found in the Cancer Support Community (formerly The Wellness Community) newsletter a survivor profile on the front page. I looked at the photo of this survivor and immediately recognized a man I’ve known at the gym for years. We’ve only exchanged Hi’s and smiles and once in a while a local restaurant recommendation – I don’t even remember how we got into that – and that’s the extent of what I knew about him. I noticed he always wore a cap, and lately he was looking thinner, but I had no idea that he has been battling cancer since 1997 – first for a melanoma that started on his skull and metastasized to his neck, spleen, liver, and colon and a later diagnosis of prostate cancer. After years of radiation and surgical treatments, as of Thanksgiving 2010 he was pronounced cancer free. And through it all I've seen this man at the gym always with a smile on his face – a guy who looks like he has the perfect attitude needed to survive cancer or any other of life’s challenges.

In his survivor story he told how reluctant he was at first to attend the program offered by the Cancer Support Community. But I am so glad he relented and finally experienced its benefits – especially the care and concern offered by its facilitators and other participants.

I worked at The Wellness Community in Redondo Beach, CA as its first Development Director in the late 1980s and served on its Board of Directors for a couple of years. It is truly a loving and caring place. I know many people who derived a huge value from attending its programs. For more information and a location near you, please go to:

I looked for this courageous survivor at the gym today, but he wasn’t there. I hope he’s still doing well. He now has a new special place in my heart.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The big "step down" is almost here - I hope!

Next week, we hope my husband's doctor will say it's okay for him to put weight on his healed broken foot. That doesn't mean he's home free. He'll still have to wear the boot, he still won't be able to drive, and he'll have to spend an unknown amount of time in physical therapy. But it's all a step in the right direction (no pun intended), coming not soon enough.

We have both gotten impatient and a little snippy with each other. Seven weeks of his being dependent on me and seven weeks of my serving him have taken a toll. I'm sleeping poorly. I have black and blue arms from all they hits they've taken by my husband's little scooter, and I'm feeling like my creative life has taken a step backward (no pun intended here either).

And I know he'll be glad when he won't have to be a passenger in his own car. Just this morning he was so frustrated when I was being particularly careful about backing the car out of our driveway into oncoming traffic. He wants me to be more agressive. Well, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

So there's your update on our foot adventure. It still goes on. But instead of another photo of Bob on his scooter or my black and blue marks, here's another beautiful beach scene. Just looking at that beach makes everything all right again.

Tsunami Day

Monday, March 14, 2011

First booksigning - May 12, 2011

I have scheduled my first booksigning at a wonderful one-year-old independent bookstore in my hometown, Pages! 

I hope you'll attend. The venue is great and the refreshments hosted by Dinah Alcon will be delish!

To RSVP please call Pages at 310-318-0900 or go to my event page on Facebook at and click away.

Thursday, May 12 · 7:00pm - 10:00pm

Pages Bookstore

904 Manhattan Ave.


More Info
310-318-0900 (email) (website) (book information)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pre-release jitters

As the days get closer to the release of my memoir, I seem to be getting more and more anxious. Though I got my first endorsement yesterday from one of the reviewers and it was absolutely terrific, I keep thinking what facts did I get wrong, what people did I offend by writing too much or too little about them, and how will I be able to handle the books signings and interviews that will surely be on my calendar in the weeks after its release.

I wonder if these are common thoughts for authors – especially of memoir. I took a class a while back from Maureen Murdock who calls memoir “unreliable truth” – that it, it is my truth versus anyone elses. For instance my husband has been reading a review copy and he is sure that the snowstorm that I write about didn’t happen in New York City when I say it happened. Well, I definitely stand by my memory, but it makes me wonder how many other things will he think I’m just flat-out wrong about. Besides having these about-to-be-released jitters I have a lot of things left to do on my plate before publication date. Here’s my list so far – though I’m sure this list won’t mean much to you, it’s very important to me and my marketing effort.

  • Develop list of celebrities, authors, educators who might offer an endorsement and find out how to contact them (my cousin is helping me with this)
  • Arrange book signing at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services
  • Get friends and family to arrange book signings (my sister is working on Powell’s)
  • Develop list of blogs where I could post about the book as a guest (WOW is in the works, though not certain yet)
  • Follow through with Martha re blurb on her blog Out on a Limb
  • Contact UCLA Writer’s Program about getting publicized through them 
  • Give blurb about book to Shalom for Ellen Bass’ monthly newsletter
  • Ditto for Winning Writers
  • Follow up about Easy Reader Interview
  • Arrange for Beach Reporter interview
  • Send out Evites re book signings at Pages, our local independent bookstore
  • Keep posting about book signing at Pages on Facebook
  • Keep on urging people to Like my author page and read my blogs

Writing this all down here helps. I’m sure I’ll think of more to do, but for the time being it is quite enough.

And of course the most important thing I need to do is Keep Calm. I really need to keep pinching myself as a reminder that this is all happening to me.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stanley revisited

We are still thinking about Stanley, the Ford Focus that saved our son's life. I've written this ode in Stanley's honor:

Ode to Stanley

I really didn’t know you very well.
Once in a while you stayed out
on the curbside of my home
or you picked me up
so Ben and I could go to lunch.
I never thought much about you.
You were small and gray –
a rather drab gray at that.
But you served Ben well.
Got him where he wanted to go.
Lately he was thinking of giving you to Marissa
and getting another car for himself –
maybe his dad’s Camry – also gray.
What is it with these dull gray cars?

Then one night you showed your true stuff,
that you were not that drab after all.
Even when you were hit
three times on the freeway
pushed from one lane to the next
like in a bumper car derby
until you finally stopped in the fast lane,
facing the oncoming traffic,
with your front end falling off
and dents all over your body,
you proved your worth. You sacrificed
your life for your driver’s.
That’s what I call
valor, living up
to your safety first reputation.
And for that I’m so thankful – you
saved my son’s life – you
saved all our lives.

And after all that
they’ll just smash you into a little cube.
Well, perhaps you’ll get recycled
into an even better
Ford Focus.
Yes, definitely you should be reincarnated.
And if you are,
maybe I’ll be lucky to have you
as my own.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A gray morning

Just as "Morning Has Broken" began to play on my iPod, the sun started to show through from behind the clouds. 

 The end of the Manhattan Beach Pier

Looking east up Manhattan Beach Boulevard from the end of the pier

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Miracles do happen - I'm sure of it

I’m struck once again how life and death events put everything into perspective. The petty things I was worrying over – what Pilates class should I take, when should I go to Portland to visit my sister, or even what should I cook for dinner – at the beginning of this week fell by the wayside when I heard the news that Ben had been in a horrific automobile accident on the freeway on Wednesday night while he was on his way home from acting class.

He called me the day after about noon to tell me about it. He was fine he said, he didn’t have a scratch on him, but his car was totaled. While I was hearing him tell me this news I began to cry – not about the good news that he was well and all that was lost was his car – but for what could have been. And then I quickly realized I needed to rejoice, not cry. My handsome wonderful son is still here with us whole and well – and we began to joke that his car, lovingly called Stanley, a Ford Focus, saved him.

I was even more elated when I saw him in person last night – two nights post accident – and he still says he does not have one ache or pain any where as a result of all the punishment he and his car took from being hit three times. Needless to say I couldn't hug him enough. 

My Ben has always seemed to find folks to care for him, and this time was no exception. A woman stopped her vehicle so no one would pass until Ben was safely at the side of the road; a military man in full dress uniform stopped his car, came over to Ben to ask if he was all right, and then walked the width of the freeway to direct traffic, and others got out of their cars and began to help anyway they could. Even once he was at the gas station where the car was towed, he ran into a neighbor – someone who lives in the same apartment building – just at the right time to get a ride home.  

Stanley, the Ford Focus, that sacrificed its life 
so Ben could walk away unscathed 
will be forever in our hearts

This accident couldn’t help but remind me that Ben was in another very serious accident in Morocco soon after he graduated from Berkeley in 1996. He was on a tour of the Sahara Desert and the driver, who was speeding, lost control of his vehicle. The car rolled over five times and Ben ended up with head lacerations that needed ten stitches, and a broken shoulder, ring finger, and thumb – another miracle that he didn’t suffer any more damage. The driver left the scene of the accident (as did the driver who caused Ben’s accident this week), but stoppers by cared for him on the side of the road until medical help arrived.

We had to arrange for his transport home when he was well enough to travel through Casablanca and New York. His traveling companion accompanied him as far as Casablanca, and we asked Paul to meet him in New York and help him to his flight to Los Angeles. Paul was relatively well at that time – in between manic episodes – but seeing Ben in such a debilitated state, unshaven and dirty, barely able to move, and with bandages on his head, his arm in a sling and his fingers taped up took its toll on Paul. Ben had always been the strong, athletic brother. Paul was shocked when he saw him. Very shortly afterward, Paul had another manic episode, and we had to bring him back to Manhattan Beach – for the last time.           

So, I rejoice again for the miracles that took care of Ben through both events and for those who cared for him. What Marissa, his bride beautifully said, is so meaningful, “Your son is divinely protected and he has lots of incredible things to do on this planet. I love him so much and I wanted to thank you both for putting him here.”

I wrote a poem for Ben on his twenty-fifth birthday that celebrates his specialness. It rings even more true today.

For Ben on Your 25th Birthday

Only suckling or
holding you against
my belly and breasts would quiet you.
Not even your thumbs
(you did not care which) 
eased your cries
in those first few months.
When finally the crying stopped you emerged
determined to take on the world.
That Benjamin, we called you.

“Look, I can ride a 2-wheeler
and I’m only 3,” you shouted
with pale hair like fine corn silk
flying and huge hazel eyes
seeing nothing but the road.

You lived your young life in competition
reading the most books,
writing the most journal pages,
earning the most As,
running the fastest 10K,
collecting the most Garbage Pail Kids
and hitting the best
backhand down the line.

You loved the pressure
It made you nervous
(I said excited)
It was your fuel
You had to be the best.

Your tennis consumed you and me
We drove miles and miles
You in your trademark baseball cap
battled your opponents while
I battled freeway phobia.
Not quite 8, you overcame 1 to 6
in a 2nd set tie break
to win your first championship trophy.
They called you “Iceman” as
you cooly walked off the court.

It was not all serious.
You wrote the scripts and then filmed
Andy, Dan, Cam, Josh or Brad
walking down the long hall,
gun in hand,
ready to pounce on the next victim
or pretend to throw him over the deck
In every film someone went
over the deck.
For such a gentle, sweet boy,
you sure loved violence.

You also loved to mimic
McEnroe’s serve
Kline’s “k-k-k-ken”
Hoffman’s “I’m an excellent driver”
and the Three Amigos.
You made us snicker
when you called someone
an emma, a foof, a donkey, a nick
or cute and funny and silly and nice.
But I was most charmed when you
touched my face and said,
“your cheeks are nice and soft, are mine?”
or “come sleep with me for a minute”
when I would wake you
to get ready for school.

Little did I know that
that early play acting
was practice for your passion.

Arms uplifted, legs spread wide
Speaking in a loud, deep voice that comes
from the bottom of your belly
your presence fills the stage.
Lean, firm body
enclosed in a skin-tight suit
the color of a ripe peach
Finger and toe nails painted wine red
like the deep stain on your lips
Hair sticking up like the spokes of a bike
you cartwheel across the floor
You are now where you most want to be.

As your high school teacher said
you have the world on a string.
Keep a tight hold
It’s all yours for the taking
Just like you willed yourself to be
taller than your dad
You will be a success someday
in whatever you choose to do.
Happy 25th birthday, Ben.
Love, Mommy

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Remembering March 1993

Sometime during the first week of March 1993, my son Paul had his first manic (bipolar) break. He was a student in his senior year at the New School in New York City and was successfully playing jazz piano at several gigs in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. All seemed to be going as planned as he worked toward graduating the following June.

Two weeks before he came home to Manhattan Beach for his grandmother's (my mother's) February 12, eighty-fifth birthday party. He was perfectly fine throughout the weekend.

Yet two weeks later his life and ours changed forever. 

Paul playing Happy Birthday to his grandmother, February 1993

 I'm on the left with my brother, mother, and sister at the birthday party

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

NaSmaStoMo - Small stone month update

During the month of January 2011, I took the small stone challenge -  noticing one thing properly every day and writing it down.

And I'm pleased to say that one of my thirty-one small stones appears in the book: 

pay attention: a river of stones, edited by Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita.

I have always thought I paid attention to the details around me, but with this challenge I looked particularly at what was going on in nature. I take regular walks to the beach and that was a perfect opportunity to pay attention. My small stone in the book is something a saw about the ocean one day.

I've posted three links for you to buy either a paperback, hardback, or download edition of the book. I hope you will and that you like it. I can't wait to get mine and read the other 349 small stones in the book.

The book also contains short prose pieces written by the editors, longer quotes by several small-stoners, and an appendix with lots of information about how to write small stones.

You can buy the paperback
, the  hardback
 and the download
 from Lulu right now.