Thursday, May 31, 2012

More trip photos and poems

Inside a covered bridge in Stowe, VT

 Silverware sculpture in Kennebunkport ME

 Alex Katz at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts

Alex Katz painted huge portraits
of his wife and daughter and son
in black and white
and bold colors
that show no evidence
of brush strokes.
His facial expressions emerge
with minimum shading.
He carries out his effects
with large staring eyes,
couture fashions,
those black-rimmed Jackie O sunglasses,
and flowing hair and limbs.
His work makes me
want to paint again.

 Dale Chihuly glass sculpture at the MFA

 We saw the Red Sox win in the rain
5-0 against the Seattle Mariners

The High Line

An old railroad track high
above the city along Tenth Avenue
has become a park land.
The tracks are still there for effect,
And so are models of the coal
that was hauled along them
way back in the 1930s.
High above the city
birds have found an oasis
amongst the plush plants and trees
while hordes of people walk
along a cement path
all the way from 12th street to 32nd.

The best part,
this narrow piece of real estate through
NYC’s downtown westside
has inspired an outburst of renovation
and new city pride.

 Asian art at the Smithsonian Freer Museum

 At the National Gallery's sculpture garden

I always stop to see the Vermeers

I felt rejected when
the guards at the
National Gallery said
the Vermeers were not
available for viewing yesterday.
How could they treat me this way
I wanted to know.
But they were back up on display
this morning
when we went back,
more brilliant, more detailed
more masterful
than ever before.

 What a powerful piece - the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Call to action

Now that I’m back from vacation it’s time to get back to work. And the work I have in front of me is to make a decision about my book. Should I continue on the road to finding a new publisher or should I self publish?

My tendency is to look for a new publisher (in case you didn’t know, my publisher Lucky Press went out of business at the end of April) and to that end I’ve already sent out seven queries to the publishers suggested by my social network contacts. As has been my experience queries don’t get answered very quickly. And the two answers that I have received already are big NO’s. They were nicely put, though. One doesn’t take any unsolicited manuscripts, and one doesn’t publish memoirs.

I’ve also gotten advice about where to get a self-published book produced and distributed. It boggles my mind: Bookbaby, Lulu, Createspace, Lightingsource. I guess I just need to bite the bullet and look at the fine print for each and figure out if what I need is what they have to offer.

So, where do you my readers come in? I’d like your advice. I’d like to know what publishers you’d suggest for my book, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar and Surviving His Suicide (please click on the link to find out more about the book and read some fabulous reviews). Some of you must know of one or two publishers? Some of you may even be publisher yourself.

I’d also like your advice about self publishing. If you’ve self-published your own book, who did you go with and why?

I hope you don’t mind that I decided to ask you to get involved. I figured if I don’t ask my readers these questions, who am I going to ask? 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Vacation poems and photos

When we travel I challenge myself to write a poem a day. And this past vacation to New England, Boston, NYC, and Washington DC was no different. Here's a small sampling with photos.

Still leafless in Vermont

In New Hampshire

The sparsely leafed birches scintillate
amidst the spring trees
along the road
Their barks, like diamonds,
bring sparkle
to the forest floor.
Even with full foliage
in limes, reds,
and emerald greens
their fellow trees
cannot compete.




Three Domes
We traveled around the states
of Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire
knowing there was
no way we’d see everything.
Those states are much too large
and overwhelmingly rural.
But we made up our minds
to see each state capital
and take photos of the domes.
In Montpelier and Augusta 
there was no missing them
they were gold and shining.
The Concord capital dome
is a dull green.

With George and Barbara Bush

This morning I joked
about seeing Barbara Bush
at the local grocery store.
I wanted to say hi
to Babs and the woman
I only knew from press interviews.
What more could I expect
as a first-time visitor to her
Kennebunkport Maine hometown?
Never giving it another thought
we sat down at dinner tonight
at Grissini’s, the recommended Italian spot
and there just in front of me
sat Barbara with one
unidentified man at her side
and another whose back faced us,
so we had no idea who he was.
Only after they paid their bill
and the man across the table from Barbara
was helped to his wheelchair
did we realize he was the
former president George H. W. Bush.
Surrounded by brawny secret service detail
they stopped at our table,
shook hands, and graciously
posed for photos with us.
Politics has nothing to do with it
He was our president from 1988 to 1992
and I respect that.
And I have a photo to prove it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My darling great niece and nephew

While we were traveling the past three weeks we visited our darling great niece and nephew in Virginia. I cannot help myself from bragging.

 Anna with her new book

 Ian listening to his bedtime story

 Clowning around

 With their mom

And with great Uncle Bob

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Aging Goddesses

I think it makes sense to post a poem about age, having just celebrated a birthday. This is one of a series I wrote for The Emerging Goddess, to accompany Paul Blieden's beautiful photography.

Aging Goddesses

The crones – our mothers, grandmothers,
aunts, old friends, and teachers –
walk arm in arm in pairs
each one supporting the other  
on the old cobble-stoned streets.
They are squat, stout
with veiny legs and thick ankles,
their bare feet in flat sandals
showing jagged toenails
or clothed in thick hose
and wide oxfords.
Some move slowly
barely able to walk,
clutching each other for support.
They are perfectly coifed.
Their hair short and bleached
hides their age
but not too much.
They wear suits
with skirts always below their knees.
Jeans just don’t do.
They talk as they walk
closely together.
Almost in a whisper
they solve the world’s problems,
impart their age-old wisdom
or decide what they’ll cook for dinner.
They wear their age
as an example.
Softly, simply, elegantly
they are our muse.
They don’t hide
but rejoice in their age
They thrive in their togetherness.
That’s what counts.
They aren’t alone as they walk
They walk together
as we follow behind.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Birthday post mortem or how I'm moving forward

Just about a year ago – on Mother’s Day and near my last birthday  – I achieved a huge goal. My memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, A Mother’s Memoir of Living with her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, was published. In it I tell the steps I took in living with the loss of my son. First and foremost I chose to live and take care of myself as a woman, wife, mother, writer.

In hopes that my story will inspire others to find ways to survive their own tragic experiences, I’ve devoted most of this last year marketing my book. I have become increasingly more engaged in social networking, through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, I had a blog tour through Women on Writing (WOW), radio interviews, and many speaking and book signing engagements.
I’ve also embarked on a whole new writing career – writing for the Huffington Post That’s Fit and Healthy Living columns, the Naturally Savvy website as its over sixty expert, PsychAlive, a website that focuses on suicide prevention, and just recently contributing to Open to Hope, a wonderful site near and dear to me that looks to finding hope after loss.  
Since my publisher, Lucky Press, decided to cease doing business this past April 30, marketing my book has become more of a priority for me. But, what has been so encouraging is all the help and suggestions I’ve received from the relations I’ve made through my social networks. I never would have believed how close some of us have become.
Though I suspect that I’ll be involved in making next-step decisions for another couple of months at least – about going the self publishing route or continuing to try to find a traditional publisher to reissue my book – I know I will continue with the mission that has slowing and surely evolved through the years since my son died: erasing the stigma of mental illness and suicide in the hopes of saving lives.
I’ve also had a huge surprise this year. Little did I know that I’d become a published author, poet, and web journalist at this stage in my life. I’ve found that I’m definite proof at age 72 that it is never too late for opportunities to reinvent our lives.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's my birthday and I'm having a party

Today is my birthday and I love celebrating with you. Here are some of the beautiful gifts I've received.

Even the pups are throwing me a party

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Magical Thinking – Does It Make Sense?

On May 10 the Journeys Through Grief newsletters published my article about magical thinking in the bereaved parent issue. I thought I'd reprint it here for those of you who might have missed it. Peggy Sweeney does a fantastic job of reaching out to those who grieve, and I'd like to get the word out any way I can. Here's the link to my article on the site and the Journeys Through Grief home page.

Here is my article:

Magical thinking is an ancient idea that if a person hopes for something enough or performs the right actions, an event can be averted or turned around. Though this kind of thinking made no sense to me, I couldn’t stop doing it in the first months and years after my son’s suicide death. I didn’t want to believe that my son was really gone – I didn’t want to believe that it was true, that I would never see him, talk to him, or hold him again. Magical thinking was my way of hiding that reality from myself.

My healing friend

Joan Didion in her book The Year of Magical Thinking described her own magical thinking, particularly how she wouldn’t give away her husband John Gregory Dunne's shoes after his sudden death of a heart attack because he would need them when he returned. And ever since Etan Patz went missing thirty-three years ago in the Soho district of New York City, his parents have never moved nor changed their phone number in hopes he might return or call. Perhaps this is because there has never been closure – Etan’s body has not been found and no one has been convicted of his killing. However it seems more like magical thinking to me.

I wrote about my magical thinking in my memoir. Even the title, Leaving the Hall Light On, refers to it. Our story was different for the Patz story because our son was declared dead by a coroner who examined his body, and we buried his ashes. But even though many of our friends and family encouraged us to move because his suicide took place in our home, I didn’t want to move or change our phone number for fear Paul wouldn’t know how to make his way back. I wanted him to know we were still here waiting for him.

For a long time I waited for that familiar sound of his Volvo coming into the garage, the sound of the door from the garage slamming as he entered the house and went down the hall to his room, the sound of him walking around the house at night, the sound of the door opening and closing as he went in and out of the house. In fact, for a while I thought I heard those sounds. And for a long time I left most of the things in his room and closet alone for fear of removing his presence there, refusing to give away his things like Didion, in case he would need them.

Leaving the hall light on became another one of the things that helped me get through it. We left the hall light on for him when he was home, so I just couldn’t break that routine. However, my husband Bob and I had a push-me, pull-you interaction about it. Bob always had a habit of turning off all the lights before he went to bed. Since he usually went to bed after me, I would wait until he got into bed. Then I’d get up and turn on the hall light again. Sometimes we’d go back and forth on this several times in one night. If he forgot his glass of water he’d get up and turn the light off again. If he needed a certain vitamin from the kitchen cabinet, he’d get up, go into the kitchen to get what he needed, and then go down and turn the light off again on his way back to bed. And, if I fell asleep before him, I’d wake in the middle of the night and go back down to turn the light on once more.

Once in a while I’d ask him to leave it on. If he asked why, I’d give him the lame excuse that I needed a light on to guide me through the house when I left to go to the gym in the early morning dark. Sometimes he’d buy that. Most of the time he’d forget and turn off the light.

However only in the last two or three years, leaving the hall light on has become less and less important. That meant I was healing. It also meant that I had faced the reality that magical thinking and leaving the hall light on would not bring him back, so my magical thinking phase of my grieving process was over. We have also given away most of his things. However, we still haven’t moved and changed our telephone number in the twelve years since our son’s death – and we don’t intend to.

Monday, May 14, 2012

One more Mother's Day poem - a day late

A Perfect Mother's Day

This Mother’s Day
I don’t have to give my mother
the perfect not too flowery or gushy card.
No matter what it would say
she doubted my love
unless I wrote, “Dearest Mom”
across the top.
This Mother’s Day
I don’t have to comb the stores for
the perfect gift – hand lotion,
a gold charm, a silk scarf, a sweater.
Whatever I bought,
she always said she didn’t need it
and could I change it for something else.
When she died so many of those gifts
came back to me.
And I cherish them
because they were hers.

And a wonderful card 
from my daughter-in-law,