One Candle, My Ferris Wheel, a Potato

Marvelous the way memory works. I think of mine like a Ferris Wheel*. When the music starts, the squeaky wheel spins for a while, slows to a stop, the door on the little cage closest to the ground swings open to let someone--or some memory--out, the door closes, the wheel starts spinning, that cage swings up out of reach, another cage swings to a stop.

I know what's in the cages on either side. I can almost reach them . . . almost

As for those cages way up at the top? If I squint hard, I can see them. But danged if I know what's in them . . . 

A book review of Eve Bunting's One Candle, on Lori Norman's writer blog: StoryQuill conjured a cage that must have been so far up on my Ferris Wheel it was lost in the clouds. It's out of season. Random, totally. But, that's how my wheel rolls: 

The door swung open to a long ago Christmas Eve when in a panic, I pulled off the highway to call Ronnie because I'd forgotten the menorah.

I'd called from a gas station pay phone because we didn't' have cell phone back then. Rosie (as we called Lexi back then) and Max (ever Max) were especially excited because that year Hanukkah and Christmas Eve were on the same day, so we NEEDED a menorah!

With the last name of Goldman, everyone but the few acquainted with the prominent "Catholic Goldmans" of Tulsa, assumed we were Jewish, and I, a non-practicing anything, with two half-Jewish as possible--considering the Jewish half was not their mother's half--children was committed to upholding all traditions. Fortunately, my dear friend and writing partner, Ronnie, a full-blood Jewess and, as it happens the first women in Oklahoma to have a Bat Mitzvah.

 In addition to baking & decorating the best Hanukkah sugar cookies, was educated enough for both of us. 

 In addition to baking & decorating the best Hanukkah sugar cookies, was educated enough for both of us. 

"You can use a potato!" Ronnie told me. She went on to explain how during the Holocaust, because Jews were not allowed to keep traditions, were, in truth, imprisoned or killed if any religious accouterments were discovered in their possession, they improvised: thus the Dreidel game, a secret way to study the Torah; the common potato, a secret menorah.

We stopped at a grocery story before we stopped for the night. And that night and for the following seven nights, light our potato menorah, said prayers, and opened gifts. 

This photo is not mine, but this is including the birthday candles--sans the gold paint--what our menorah looked like.

This photo is not mine, but this is including the birthday candles--sans the gold paint--what our menorah looked like.

In One Candle, Eve Bunting shares another grandmother's potato menorah story. Hers wasn't a Piggly-Wiggly supermarket russet, hers was stolen from a Buchenwald prison kitchen. Here's a snippet of the review:

With a little stolen butter and a thread from Rose’s skirt placed in a hollow she’d carved out of the potato, and with a stolen match, they made a candle in their barracks on the first night of Hanukkah. ‘It lifted us to the stars,’Grandma says.
— http://storyquill.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/one-candle-a-review/

Up up up to the stars . . . And on the way, nudged my Ferris Wheel. The power of words: it takes so few to coax down a distant cage. 

*Wait! Before the music plays and the wheel spins again: Be sure to check out Dani Sneed's book, THE MAN WHO INVENTED THE FERRIS WHEEL. about George Ferris and his World's Fair Wonder! You and every kid you know will be glad you did.

 

 

Thanks for reading!

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LISTEN!

/I’m not at home in my own home/

MY Life Is A Musical! Yes, it's true, Songs play in my head all the time. Almost any phrase suggests a song, or a line from one, sometimes an entire score. 

And it's the title of a new musical comedy. I’m not like Parker, the lead in the show. No one  around me burst into song or busts out dancing. I’d love that! Unfortunately, singers, dancers or otherwise, there is no one near. I am alone. Alone at a crossroad . . .

Cast from the play belting out a song in Parker's personal musical.

Cast from the play belting out a song in Parker's personal musical.

 I saw My Life is A Musical at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. (You can see it too, if you hurry; show runs until Aug. 31.) That title is what drew me to the play--that and because my visitor Dawn suggested it. (That’s the Truth About Visitors…can’t deny them.) Here’s the blurb:

MY LIFE IS A MUSICAL is about Parker, who isn’t like anyone else. When Parker wakes up in the morning and leaves his apartment, he hears people singing, he sees people dancing - and no other person on earth knows this is happening. Because Parker’s life is a musical. And Parker hates musicals.

This morning, my fourth day back in Trinidad after being gone for more than 2 months, that line: I’m not at home in my own home/ from that song Listen sung by Beyonce in the movie version of Dreamgirls, is cycling in my head I’m not at home in my own home/

Have you ever noticed how, as soon as you share a problem with certain someones, they respond with a solution? Usually the perfect fix! Exactly what you need to do! According to them… and without you even-ever-asking for their advice, expert though it may be. (I know--squirm, squirm--I’m guilty of jumping in with the quick fix, too.)

Then why share our problems if we don’t want answers? Why not keep it to ourselves?

The answer is the title of that song; we want you to Listen! 

Maybe more than that, we want to/need to talk it out. We know something wrong. But it’s all tangled up in other stuff. First, we need to figure out exactly what is the problem. And in order to do that, we often have to pull a situation apart, study it, turn it over, dissect it, chew it up and spit it back out in order to break apart to find out what it’s all about, Alfie. . .

Hashing out a problem with someone else is easier, more fun, maybe less painful, definitely more social acceptable than talking to ourselves.

But, but, but, all we want you to do is Listen, not solve.

This crazy life I’m living—bouncing from home to home, Tulsa and Texas, Westhampton Beach and Port of Spain—sounds exciting, but the truth is, it’s strange. I'm not feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys, but I'm close . . . 

Wait! James was helping me pack in Vermont. Did he take it?

Wait! James was helping me pack in Vermont. Did he take it?

Have you ever been on vacation, and woken in the night and not known where you are? Walked the wrong way to the bathroom? (One long ago Christmas, my brother turned left instead of right, opened the door and peed on the furnace.) Looked everywhere for a certain blouse or dress, but couldn’t find it?

With part of my wardrobe there, the other part hanging here, and more still stuffed in my suitcase, that’s every day for me. It's frustrating, but it’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is, it's lonely. Unlike the song, I am alone in my own home/


STOP! – I feel your wheels turning, already thinking up solutions to my aloneness. Thinking how much better off I am that someone else—just, Listen!

I know I’m one of the lucky ones.  I’m not alone, alone. I have somebody, lots of somebodies. . .  Yeah, but. . . . But, I’m alone—now—and it doesn’t feel good, so . . .

See, this is what we do: Writers. This is why we write it: to figure it out. Folks are called CRAZY for talking to themselves. But, when we write to ourselves, it’s called work.

That being said, er, written, on with the song: Now I’ve gotta find my own . . .

Just in case you want to be like Parker, here is today's playlist:

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Play it Again, Pal! or 2:48 Minutes More

Settle your little ones in front of the monitor, click on an Author Read-Aloud video (below), and let them watch and listen while you enjoy some lazy time. Okay, you can view, too--if you promise to act  OUR age!

Twenty-Two and Counting . . .

Today, twenty-two years ago, my first day as Mrs. Bennett, was a scorching hot Tulsa Saturday. One of those hens be warned it's egg-frying HOT! Blistering feet HOT! Saturdays that are best spent waist-deep in a wallow. 

Today, other than being Friday, I'm gardening same as I was then. Knowing it was going to be hot--what July 25th isn't?--in the garden was where I started today. Then, I started at the car wash because I hadn't let Curtis go through the car wash last night. Johnny B had helped the kids "Just Married" up his precious BMW with tin cans tied to the bumper, whipped cream signs and hearts on all the glass. (Traditionally folks use shaving cream, but Johnny is a restaurant dog.)

"It's bad luck to wash it the wedding day,' I told Curtis. 

"it will stink like sour milk tomorrow if we don't," Curtis told me. 

We compromised. 

US back then, on our Honeymoon bike trip in the San Juan Islands

US back then, on our Honeymoon bike trip in the San Juan Islands

The morning after our wedding, I was in the garden digging up plants; this morning after our anniversary, I was in the garden planting plants. That was Tulsa; this is Westhampton Beach; that was then, this is now. Same song's wafting through the windows. 

Chet Baker's "Funny, each time I fall in love/it's always you" is the song. "Let's Get Lost" is coming next. I know because this album (that's what we called them back then) followed by Handel's Water Music is the sound track of our courtship. It's the Cafe Ole' weekend morning music. We didn't meet at Cafe Ole' but that's where we found each other. 

I ask Curtis if he picked that music on purpose, because he was remembering me waiting on him. 

"If someone asked me 10 things that come to mind when I hear this music," he said, "You waiting tables in Cafe Ole' would not be one of them." 

"Does it make you crave Ole' Hash or Huevos Rancheros?" I asked.

He shook his head. "It makes me want to make coffee," he answered. Transference?

Ours was a shotgun wedding of sorts. I'd been evicted from my house. I'd found another house to rent and had planned to move it, but Curtis--ever practical--and maybe, already, thinking marriage, decided why move twice--if I'd say yes."

We got married on a Friday at the Justice of Peace office in downtown Tulsa. "Which ceremony do you want" asked the JOP. We had a choice: The 3 minute quickie or 5 minute long "Ruth's Prayer" ceremony. We're only doing this once, we decided, let's make sure it sticks. So we opted for the long ceremony minus the Promises to "Obey" business. 

Chelsie, several years older than she was back then. But she looks much the same then, back then, now . . . (this is from a dance recital.)

Chelsie, several years older than she was back then. But she looks much the same then, back then, now . . . (this is from a dance recital.)

Lexi and Chelsie were flowers girls (we all had to have Laura Ashley flower girl dresses, of course),

Max was best man;

Barbara and Gene Johnson drove up from Houston to bear witness at our wedding as we had at theirs a few months earlier.

Max & Lexi with Barbara and Gene--back then! IThe photo is clear as a bell, it's our eyesight . . . don't see as well as we did back then. (Maybe it's a good thing?)

Max & Lexi with Barbara and Gene--back then! IThe photo is clear as a bell, it's our eyesight . . . don't see as well as we did back then. (Maybe it's a good thing?)

John, Joanne and Liz Kester were choir singers; Teri Fermo led the sing with "Going to the Chapel . . ." Everybody sang/everybody signed the certificate/everybody cheered. After, everybody feasted at McGill's Steak House--a celebration complete with flowers and cake courtesy of Barb and John. We have pictures--somewhere--Trinidad, Curtis's Mom's, Houston . . . one of those boxes. 

Somewhere inside one of these pods on our driveway maybe. . . 

Somewhere inside one of these pods on our driveway maybe. . . 

That day, after I ccme in from the garden we finished packing up my household and moving it over to blend with Curtis. We found each other after both of us had moved away from Tulsa and returned having decided to stay.

But life doesn't always heed our decisions. After that came Houston, Indonesia, Trinidad to Westhampton Beach. 

George called as I was coming in from the garden. "I'm on my way to your place with 4 guys," he tells me. "We're puling out your frigging big table today."

And so, 22 years later we're moving and unpacking again. Then across town; today across the driveway into our home.

Mixed in with the packing crates were several TV boxes Curtis has been saving. "Why does he have these?" George asked. "He keeps them to to repack the electronics when we move," I explained.

George yelled over to Curtis, "You're not moving again are you?"  

Curtis laughed and said, "Hell, no!"

Twenty-two years, a day at a time, a month at a time, a box at a time, an adventure at a time... And Counting!

Whenever I roam through roses
And lately I often do
Funny, it's not a rose I touch
It's always you 

Thank you Chet!

Why Paper Books?

A paper book aids my concentration by offering to do nothing else but lie open in front of me, mute, until I rest my eyes upon it,
— Verlyn Klinkenborg on "Why he likes 'old fashioned books'"
    I LOVE MY BOOKS!

    I LOVE MY BOOKS!

Even now as I'm packing my bags for yet another trip. Even though I know how bulky and heavy they are, I will pack paper books!  Why?

 

Top 10 Reasons for Paper Books:

1. They don't talk back, move, dim, brighten, flicker or change font size mid-sentence

2. No batteries or charging required

3. Never have to be switched off during take-off or landing

4. Withstand bubble bath dunking

5. Readable in all lighting conditions

6. Ease of flipping back and forth between pages/chapters/passages.

7. Make excellent side tables, decorative touches,  and coasters

8. Shatterproof regardless how many times I drop them

9.  Biodegradable & handy fire starters

10. Excellent toilet tissue alternative (Emergencies Only)

As if these aren't reasons enough, consider this question posed by Klinkenborg in his New York Times essay "Some Thoughts About E-Reading,

The question Isn’t what will books become in the world of electronic reading. The question is what will become of the readers we’ve been—quiet, thoughtful, patient, abstracted—in a world where interactive can be too temping to ignore.



A Pregnant Pause

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the millworkers sing in CarouselJune is bustin’ out all over…”  Flowers are budding, birds are chirping, bees buzzing and as a recent grandmother to Ben,

Bennett experienced the wonders of Indepencence day: Parades, fireworks & watermelon!

Bennett experienced the wonders of Indepencence day: Parades, fireworks & watermelon!

Great aunt for the second time: 

                        Welcome to the World Felicity Allain Smith, born June 9th, 2014.

                        Welcome to the World Felicity Allain Smith, born June 9th, 2014.

And recently revealed gran-to-be:

    Lexi & Ryan are expecting, their baby’s due the end of the year.

    Lexi & Ryan are expecting, their baby’s due the end of the year.

I have babies on the brain, literally and literate-ly.

They—Farmers in the know— say trees always produce best after a “hard” year (“hard” being either an especially cold winter or hot, dry summer). Which might be the reason for the largess . . . although I’m not questioning or complaining. Rather, I’m simply, joyfully, reveling…and pondering gestation:

Elephant gestation takes 547.9 – 669.6730 days (the longest period for mammals).

Salamanders—tiny as they are—about the same. And, considering it, size-for-size, mother discomfort, bulkiness, effort-wise, probably the same elephantian experience too.

Velvet worm—actually NOT a worm and NOT velvet—takes up to 456.553 days,

Velvet worm—actually NOT a worm and NOT velvet—takes up to 456.553 days,

From conception to birth cat's gestation takes 58-65 days. (No wonder they're such hussies!)

 

Manatees 396 days on average.

Manatees 396 days on average.

Donkeys, "Jennys"  330-440 (with lots of variables), camels take 410ish.

Giraffes between 400-460, rhinos about the same, seals and sea lions: 330-350 days.

Giraffes between 400-460, rhinos about the same, seals and sea lions: 330-350 days.

Whales and dolphins: 517.426 (on average with some sperm whales taking 578), humans: 268 days give or take . . . 

Whales and dolphins: 517.426 (on average with some sperm whales taking 578), humans: 268 days give or take . . . 

 As for novels??????

Cause for my literary revelry stems from a cluster of new books by writer friends. With one exception, all by classmates of mine from VCFA. As I have been there through all of these books since inception, in some cases offering a shoulder, always watching admiringly, I’ve declared myself “auntie” to them and as such entitled to muse:

Here are some of the Unreliable Narrators at VCFA last summer.  B.R: Trinity, Cindy, Sarah, Barb, Cynthia; F.R:  Tam, Kelly, Erin.  I fully expect all to be published authors!

Here are some of the Unreliable Narrators at VCFA last summer.  B.R: Trinity, Cindy, Sarah, Barb, Cynthia; F.R:  Tam, Kelly, Erin.  I fully expect all to be published authors!

I’ll begin with the exceptional Russell J. Sanders, who I first met back in/around 2000 when he was a newly retired High School English/Theater teacher and wanna be author at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston. Russell recently celebrated the birth of his second novel, which is garnering excellent reviews, Special Effects (Dreamspinner Press, 2014): More about Russell:

How long did Special Effects take from idea to sale?

About 2191.45 days . . . 

Gestation: about 2191.45 days (with, as Russell noted “ some stops and starts”

Gestation: about 2191.45 days (with, as Russell noted “ some stops and starts”

Erin Moulton’s third novel came out this June. This being her third, one might think the whole “birthing a novel” thing would have lost its novelty for her. Maybe that’s why Erin “made things interesting” this year, but combining the birth of her newest novel, Chasing the Milky Way, with the birth of her first human baby, Tucker! Oh, yeah, and if that wasn’t excitement enough, timing it all to coincide with the date her new manuscript for her work in progress was due. More about Erin: 

Gestation: It's a bit of a blurrrrrr

Gestation: It's a bit of a blurrrrrr

Jennifer Wolf Kam's path has been by award-hopping to publication! A 3-time finalist for the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, Jen first won publication of her ghost story, White House, in Hunger Mountain. Spectacularly, publication of her debut novel came as a result of writing 2 of 5 finalist in the NAESP 2013 Children’s Book ContestMore about Jen! 

Gestation:  5 years: 1826.21 days

Gestation:  5 years: 1826.21 days

Sarah Tomp, author of my often lauded, put-it-back-in-print fav, The Red, White and Blue Goodbye, had a relatively easy time of it with her debut moonshine novel, My Best Everything, which “walks the line between toxic and intoxicating” The gestation time was only 1 1/2 years=547.9632996 days!  More about Sarah:

Gestation: about 1 ½ years:  547.863298611 days

Gestation: about 1 ½ years:  547.863298611 days

Tamera Ellis Smith, who’s writing credits include a first-person essay in  BREAK THESE RULES: 35 YA Writers on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself,  welcomes her debut novel Another Kind of Hurricane, August 2015.  (Publication is scheduled to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.) Here's More about Tam!

So, Tam, how long did it take to write Another Kind of Hurricane?:  Almost 9 years . . . 3287.18 days, with “A lot of starts and stops along the way.  Sometimes big stops.”

Last but not least for this crop: Teresa Harris, author of the spunky picture book, Summer Jackson: Grown-Up,  won two prizes (one for humor) for this novel-in-progress while we were still at VCFA.

Teresa's WIP, acquired by Clarion, is forthcoming (I could not find a pub date on the web.) So by my calculations, gestation time: 5.6 years=2045.36 days. However, if you count post-sale as gestation,* the interview announcing the sale was Feb of 2012 and Teresa’s book hasn’t been published yet, gestation's is ongoing. So make that 2921.94 and counting . . . More about Teresa 

 

Why the disparity?

I like to think of it in shark terms. Sharks are K-selected reproducers, (as are, cats aside, the other animals noted above.) Rather than producing a large number of poorly developed offspring, “they produce a small number of well-developed young.” In this way offering their offspring the best possible chances of surviving. Additionally, in these animals, birth can be delayed depending on a variety of external pressures.

That’s why I’m thinking shark. Maybe it isn’t’ about how badly we want to publish . . . what brilliant writers we are . . . the fantastic story premise we’ve dreamed up . . . Or about everyone, anyone, our expectations. Maybe there are other forces beyond our control determining how long it takes.

“You can feel it in your heart/
You can see it in the ground/
You can see it in the trees/
You can smell it in the breeze/
Look around! Look around! Look around!”
— June's Bustin' Out All Over by Rogers & Hammerstein

* The question of whether a book is “gestating” in that time between being sold and publication is up for debate. Might this time be the equivalent of Novel neo-natal?--It certainly adds to the w-a-i-t-i-n-g t-i-m-e. . . tick-tock

Care to give a little listen?? JUNE IS BUSTIN' OUT ALL OVER on Utube

Turned the Page

We wonder why we try to write, sometimes. Especially when the phrases aren't coming easily, the book contracts aren't forthcoming, or it's just one of those straight uphill days. If we're lucky something happens to make us realize why the struggle is worth it. 

That something, this time, is what's happened to my mother.

My mom's been waiting to die for years. Not only waiting, wanting to die. It's no secret, you can ask anyone who knows her, even her. Why this time last year, with so much most anyone else would consider every reason to live--her grandaughter's upcoming wedding, a new great-grandson, two grandchildren's graduations and money enough to do whatever she wanted, and reasonably good health--mom said exactly that, not once, but several times. "I want to die." "I wish I were dead." She said it loudly and seriously enough that the staff at the assisted living reported it and therapy was ordered. 

Mom doesn't get out much. Not that she can't. Or doesn't have opportunities. But she chooses not to. Days go by and she never leaves her apartment. Not even for meals. (Even though going to the dining room is a requirement in her Independent-Assisted Living facility). Mom's tried some of the activities. She's gone on some field trips, took art classes for a while, even played bingo for a spell (because her then boyfriend "Charlie" liked to play). But then, she started having bladder issues and despite what they say in the Depends commercials, her will to participate flew. And took with it, her will to live. 

Then, someone got the brilliant idea to start a Book Club. The staff coerced--insisted-- mom attend.. Now, this isn't what you'd think of as the usual book club. Usually, book club members read the books on their own and then coming together for discussion. In this book club, members listen to a book. Why?  Because most of the folks in the club can't see to read anymore. So, an hour at a time, once a week, they listen as one person reads a chapter or two, with occasional pauses to discuss parts that aren't clear or might be particularly interesting. They continue on this way until the book is finished. Unless the chapters are super short, at a chapter a week, it takes months to finish a book. 

At first, specifically because working through a book was slow going, Mom wasn't keen on the book club. In fact, if Dana, the director, hadn't told Mom she had to participate in "something" or she would have to move out as this was not a nursing home--and even then, if they hadn't served snacks (cookies, cakes and coffee)--Mom probably would have quit. But then fate intervened by way of a novel entitled A Journal for Jordan.

 Other than that it was an "Oprah Book", I have absolutely no clue idea what A Journal for Jordan is about. Or whether it's particualrly well written, or interesting, or not... All I know is that the young aide, the "designated reader" for the Book Club was having "a difficult time" reading some of the passages. "She kept mispronouncing words," Mom said. 

What you may not know is: my mother is a retired teacher, a reading specialist, and an excellent reader. (Something the aide found out soon enough.) After being corrected a few too many times, the aide--perhaps in a slightly irritated voice--asked Mom,  "Do you want to read the book?"

To her surprise, Mom said, "yes!" 

Ever since, every week, Mom's been the designated "Reader" in the Book Club. Attendance in the Book Club is on the rise. (The other day "a man" join it!) Mom's become something of a celebrity in the Assisted Living, and best, there are plans afoot to increase club meetings to two-a-week.

The satisfaction Mom gets from reading to the other residents who can't read, and the praise they heap on her for her "lovely voice" and "excellent expressiveness" and "cheerful clothing" is what made the difference. It literally changed Mom's life! Not only doesn't Mom want to die anymore, she's got the club booklist . . . and her Book Club wardrobe planned out for quite some time to come.

Books can transform--save lives! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Visitors

Visitors use towels, dirty dishes, take up space, have the nerve to claim the TV clicker . . .basically wreak havoc on routine. And more...

. . . If were lucky that is!

After having a home in New York for more than 3 years, I could name the sights on my way to and from the grocery, post office, hardware store & the airport exits. . .  I was especially familiar with the view from my desk chair. And since we're being truthful, with the view from the fridge to the TV. . .  I had a drawer full of New York/Long Island "Sights to See" Guides but had never cracked the spines. 

Then the visitor came! 

The visitor was framly (friend-so-long-they're-family) John from Tulsa. John and I, almost 30 years ago, worked together. We were both restaurant cooks. Our working relationship spread from kitchen work, to raising kids, gardening, decorating, painting, unpacking, packing. We work well together and have fun while we work. Our motto is: 

Crank up the music and get er done! 

Without apologizing, I'll admit how, in anticipation of John's visit, I looked around at my house, at the columns of boxes needed to be unpacked, at the stacks of pictures waiting to be hung, and the cupboards waiting to be organized, at the wallpaper waiting to be hung, and practically salivating. Imagine what John and I could accomplish this week!

And even though John was using one of his two-only weeks of vacation to come and visit, he wouldn't have minded one bit. In fact, I know he would have loved it! (He's that kind . . . )

Still. . . as enticing as the thought of all we could accomplish was, instead we:

Walked and walked and walked the city, discovering wonders like this Zipper Graffiti

Walked and walked and walked the city, discovering wonders like this Zipper Graffiti

Hunkered under a nut vendor's umbrella during a rain shower, then finally broke down--after we were soaked--and bought umbrellas.  

Hunkered under a nut vendor's umbrella during a rain shower, then finally broke down--after we were soaked--and bought umbrellas.  

Toured Radio City Music Hall--and sneaked snaps of Tony Award rehearsal through the camera room window. Then, come Sunday night, glued ourselves to the TV with take-away dinner to watch the show because "we were there"!

Toured Radio City Music Hall--and sneaked snaps of Tony Award rehearsal through the camera room window. Then, come Sunday night, glued ourselves to the TV with take-away dinner to watch the show because "we were there"!

Braved the long and winding line at The Original Shake Shack. Which shake should we try? 

Braved the long and winding line at The Original Shake Shack. Which shake should we try? 

Took turns playing "photographer" with Russian tourists at Rockefeller Center--while pretending not to speak English

Took turns playing "photographer" with Russian tourists at Rockefeller Center--while pretending not to speak English

Before I knew it, I notices my mind drifting back to my stories. The "What ifs" and "I could trys" were popping, snapping, pinging and zinging in my noggin. At a level I hadn't experienced since first beginning on this writing journey, I found myself wanting to get to work. I even pulled out my cell phone to jot some story notes. 

Sniffed spices and filched samples at Grand Central Station Marketplace

Sniffed spices and filched samples at Grand Central Station Marketplace

And even bought souvenirs  

And even bought souvenirs

 

Played with Dots pillows--even though we knew we'd get in trouble-- in Dylan's Candy Store

Played with Dots pillows--even though we knew we'd get in trouble-- in Dylan's Candy Store

Sat at Meg Ryan's infamous "Sleepless in Seattle" table at Katz's Deli (with the bossiest, grouchiest staff in the world!)

Sat at Meg Ryan's infamous "Sleepless in Seattle" table at Katz's Deli (with the bossiest, grouchiest staff in the world!)

Note one, but two tours of the Tenement Museum, and walked the streets, and explored the gift shop . . . 

Note one, but two tours of the Tenement Museum, and walked the streets, and explored the gift shop . . . 

And finished with a Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3--because of that scene in the movie . . . 

And finished with a Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3--because of that scene in the movie . . . 

Julia Cameron, discusses the importance of taking ones' self on "artist dates" in her 12 Step Guide to Creative Recovery, The Artist's Way. She believes these dates to be so restorative, she prescribes them weekly as a vital component of the recovery process. 

As prescribed, I've taken myself on Artist Dates. However, as with gym time, spa time, dentist visits, and other "good for you" scheduled events, regardless how enjoyable,  I tend to rush through Artist Dates to art stores, playgrounds, museums and the like. After,  I tick them off like just another chore on the list and more on. 

When the Newark Express pulled away last evening, I was sad to see John leaving.

When the Newark Express pulled away last evening, I was sad to see John leaving.

At the same time I was bubbly, energized and excited to get back to writing. Why?

When we were kids and acting fussy. Not naughty, but that sort of irritating, pestery, whiney baby-ish, my folks would send us outside. "Let them play it out," they'd say. As though, by playing hard, we could use up, expel our peevishness. 

Artist Dates can be inspirational, informative, restorative even. But let's face it, they aren't necessarily fun. On the otherhand, Play Dates are fun. What the heck? We are writing for children + We are trying to tap into our inner children + Play Dates are fun = Maybe you do need to stay focused, keep your butt in the chair, approach writing as seriously as every other career. But, but, every now and again, especially when we're feeling peevish, we need to get out there and play! 

The truth about visitors is: Visitors visit to have fun. They want to play. And, unless they visit when we're away, they come looking for a playmate. Sure, we can do our best to stick to "business as usual" when we have visitors. But why?  

Playmate! Come out and play with me/And bring your dollies, three/climb up my apple tree . . .