Sharing a Landmark Day

Landmark days—often these are what we mothers remember and hold onto: the first birthday, first steps, starting kindergarten or high school, moving your child into their first dorm room….moments frozen in our minds.

At the beginning, these memories are shared memories: their firsts are our firsts. As they get older—high school, college, and beyond—we mothers become someone to share good news with, sometimes a sounding board, maybe a shoulder to cry on. Then finally, our children’s landmarks become their own.

They find their way, they make their lives—in short they grow up. As mothers, if we’re so lucky, we may still have a glimpse, hear the exciting news, share in the moments and the landmarks.

Last weekend was such a landmark day in our son’s life, his journey. We were invited to attend his “White Coat Ceremony,”the symbolic occasion in the early days of medical school when students receive their first white coat. We traveled out of state and met up with our son, his girlfriend, and our daughter—all of us living in different states. We did what families often do the night before an event: we gathered at a restaurant. We congratulated and toasted, reminisced and talked, with much of the conversation centering on science and medicine—passions close to both my children’s hearts.

My son—a talented writer, who wrote a novel for his college senior thesis and was urged by mentors to seek an MFA—has known since a “job shadow” at 16 that he wanted to be a doctor. This is not an easy road, and he has worked tirelessly to make his dream a reality.

Last month, as he left our home to head out of state for his first day of medical school, he came over and gave me a hug—I’m happy to say he’s a big hugger, my son—and said: “I’ll make you proud, Mom.” He knew my reply before I gave it: “You already have.”

Sunday morning we went together to the beautiful theater where the ceremony took place. My son joined his class of medical students, and we joined the proud families in the audience. We sat and watched as our son along with all the other sons and daughters received their white coats and took the Hippocratic Oath.

Watching my son, now a man, pursue his life goal and passion makes saying goodbye to my daily job of motherhood a lot easier. To attend this ceremony, be a tiny part, is icing on the cake.

My time, my memories, of every step and every landmark as a mother are just that: mine. His time, his memories, as he takes this momentous step, are a continuation of hislife journey. Sitting in that lovely place, watching my son be “cloaked” with his first white coat made me happy beyond words to be a part of my son’s, this wonderful man’s, life and landmark day. 

When Do You Write?

Sunrise on the dog walk
I wake up early, early enough to see the sunrise every morning—some days too early. If I had my way, that’s when I’d be writing—first thing in the morning, a cup of coffee nearby.
When our children were young, MEH (My Engineer Husband) was chief dog walker: he’d head out every morning to take Sadie then Bo then Abby to run free in a nearby open space. And me? That was my writing time. Before our two kids woke up, all was silent and still, and I wrote.

These days, when I’ve “gone writin’,” I still wake up thinking about my work, my writing: my first thought of the day. But nowadays I’m by MEH’s side, taking Abby to Dog Woods Park. When I come home, a little after sunrise, I write.

When is your preferred writing time?


Waiting for Irene: Coastal Video of Maine

Sunday, August 28, 2011, 7:01 a.m. EST, 68 degrees F, average windspeed 14 mph

We headed to the bridge overlook early this morning. The National Weather Service just issued a hurricane warning for Maine, and we knew we wouldn’t want to take a video when the wind got any stronger. At the 14 mph wind speed, with a light but steady rain, we could feel change in the air.
One of the worst things about being in Maine right now is that we are at the northern edge of this huge hurricane as it works its way north. The anticipation is terrible, especially because our nearest and dearest, our two children, are in Boston and Philadelphia—two places that are also on Irene’s massive track. We have other relatives all along Irene’s path—in Maryland, New York City, southern coastal Connecticut, and coastal Massachusetts—so we certainly have our eyes on the weather. Hearing the news of devastation and damage and power outages to our south portends things to come but also raises our worries for our dear ones.

Hurricane harvest… it hasn’t been the best of gardening years
as I talked about in last week’s post, here
In Maine, it’s unclear if we’ll get a hurricane or “just” a tropical storm out of Irene. Regardless of its label, no doubt we’ll get high winds and lots of rain. We’re hoping for the best but prepared for the worst: radio, nonperishable food, propane for our camp stove, put away all outside furniture and anything else that could become airborne. Lots of people we know who have boats pulled them out of the water, but there were still many boats left in the harbor that we saw when we went to shoot the video this morning.

We talked about evacuating, even tried to check out evacuation routes (although a call to the town hall resulted in the suggestion: “drive to higher ground.”) Most of the Mainers I’ve talked to don’t seem too concerned, shrugging it off: “A big storm” and “We’ll probably lose power.” Our 90-year-old neighbor is staying put, saying: “I won’t leave my house.” 

Of course if we’re told to leave, we’ll leave.

It seems like I’m the only one who admits I’m afraid. (Thank goodness we no longer have cable TV or I’d probably be a basket case.) And yet the grocery store is packed with people, and all bulk water is gone from the shelves. Not a radio can be found at nearby L.L. Bean.
These pepper plants are the best we’ve ever grown,
and we weren’t about to lose them in this storm!
Meanwhile in the garden… yesterday was hurricane harvest day. We picked all the ripe and almost-ripe tomatoes and as many pole beans as we could easily find. Most everything else—kale, cabbage, root crops, herbs, eggplant—is low to the ground and will fend for itself. MEH (My Engineer Husband) tethered the pole beans so they wouldn’t fall over in the storm, and we brought our huge pepper pot—holding two heavily laden-with-peppers-plants into the house.

How has Hurricane Irene affected you? I hope you and your loved ones are safe and sound.


Foggy Morning Birdlife on the Coast of Maine

Sunday, August 21, 2011, 8:40 a.m. EST, 68 degrees F

The day started out with pea-soup fog. I wanted to capture a sunrise in the video because they’ve been so beautiful lately, but at 5:30 on the foggy dog walk this morning I realized there was no hope. Instead, we waited until later this morning, mid-tide, and went to the bridge overlook as the fog began to burn off. And what a reward for our waiting: just as we arrived we saw an osprey diving toward the water.

Minutes later, as we began the video a large bird, I assume a gull, lands at the very end of the point. Then about 30 seconds into the video, a Great Blue Heron flies into view and lands right next to the large bird. What an amazing, beautiful, and peaceful morning video punctuated only by the sound of a solo runner, one car, and me snapping photos in the background. This is one of my favorite videos we’ve shot because it really captures the feeling, sights, and sounds of the place: its stillness yet life.

And meanwhile in the garden…. it’s looking like late summer. Unfortunately many of the plants (black-eyed Susans, squash, pumpkin, beans, and even the tomatoes) have developed some “late blight” and other mildews—which generally means the plant will die. Harvests have been way down this year as compared to last. Still, we ate our first eggplant this week, and we are harvesting lots of tomatoes, spring onions, a few pole beans, kale, the last of the zucchini, and a few small turnips.

In the photo of the garden this week, the morning glories—volunteers from last year—have made it to the top of the basketball hoop. I love this photo because it represents the perfect garden to me, a mixture of flowers and vegetables, natural yet slightly structured. I also love having the basketball hoop as a garden framework because of the memories it invokes of happy family games.


Borders: It’s Personal

From Wikimedia Commons

Last week just before she left to go back to college for her junior year, MOD (My Outstanding Daughter) and I made a last, sentimental trip to Borders, her childhood bookstore.

As we entered, I walked toward the back of the store—toward the children’s books.

“Mom? Why are you going to the kids’ section?” MOD sounded worried that I might force her into a walk down memory lane.

But that’s not what I was thinking…

“To see H, of course!”

H is the mother of one of MOD’s classmates from high school. Every time we go to Borders, H helps us when we can’t find something—whether it’s in the children’s section or not—but more importantly H knows books and has given me great reading advice over the years. I hadn’t talked to H since I found out Borders was closing, and I wanted to see how she’s doing, and (I admit) I also wanted her take on the closing.

We found H right away, standing by a shelf busy as always. H is one of those archetype bookstore “bookies” who is always talking to a customer, putting away books, tidying up, or getting familiar with the merchandise. She loves books and it shows; she’s the kind of person everyone wants to work in their neighborhood bookstore.

H was happy to see us, and the first thing she did was ask my daughter all about college and how her summer had been. Then we visited for a while longer, catching up on her kids, my kids.

Before that day, I’d never seen H anything but happy at work, but of course those days are gone. That day, H was somber because, in addition to losing her job, H is losing something else: her local bookstore. And she’s really sad about it. We shared her sadness and we told her this was our last trip to Borders together, MOD and me.

I asked H how the closing is going and how much longer they’d be open. She wasn’t sure how much longer, but she said even though they are still open, the store is much different.

“The liquidators have started shipping us all kinds of weird things for the shelves—things we’ve never carried before,” H said. “Like knock-off men’s cologne and baby towels!” H laughed and shook her head. “Cologne!”

Then I showed H the photo I took the day before at Target—a mother reading to her two young daughters, sitting in an aisle on the cold linoleum floor.

“It’s the new bookstore!” I lamented. “This is all they’ll ever know as a bookstore: Target!”

She shook her head. “Someone will have to fill the gap here in Portland (Maine)…there’s nothing!”

The new bookstore? Mom reads to
two daughters in a Target aisle
(note the rubber balls they borrowed
from the toy section to use as chairs)
I wondered. Maybe nothing willfill the gap and Target, or places like it, will be the new bookstore—or worse…. I asked H if she thought it was the beginning of the end for all bookstores.

H said customers would often come into Borders for a book, and when they couldn’t get it right away or saw the price, they would say: “Oh I’ll just get it on amazon.” She wonders if that’s part of the reason Borders failed.

“It makes me so sad.” H paused, she looked like she might cry. “My husband and I met in New York City, and for our dates we went to bookstores. All the books, lying out on round tables, where you could see them and touch them. It’s sad to think that soon you won’t be able to do that anymore here or anywhere maybe.”

And what about ebooks? I asked H, and I learned something about her I never knew before. She’s not so sure whether all the technology is moving in the right direction. H handwrites all her letters to her two kids who are in college out of state. She certainly knows how to use the technology; she just chooses not to.

In the end, we got some great bargains: two calendars, four postcards, and five books for $79. But despite the bargains, we lost something too. We said goodbye to our friend H and our neighborhood bookstore. And we couldn’t help but wonder if it might be the last time we would ever be at a bookstore together anywhere. 

What’s your favorite memory of your local Borders? Do you have friends who work there? Do you think this is the death of all bookstores? Does it matter as long as we have Or ebooks?


Two Weeks with my Grandmother

Black-eyed Susan

As a child I moved frequently. My parents busily pursuing their careers as college professors—including year-long trips to Kenya and Belize where they conducted research—we moved from place-to-place. It may sound glamorous—but to a child? This child? I had no place to call home.

The closest I ever felt to home was with my grandmother at her house in Poland, Ohio, on the banks of the Yellow Creek. A quick walk across the bridge to every small-town amenity you would ever need—thank goodness, because Grandma (“Ohio Grandma” as we called her) didn’t drive. We walked all over town together: Isley’s Ice Cream, the post office, the small grocery, the library across the creek, her neighbor Mr. Steinfield’s house with all its clocks. She was from a different age and time, and when I was with her, I wished and hoped with all my might that her life would be mine.

Her house on the banks of the Yellow Creek was surrounded by gardens: vegetable, flowers, fruit, lush vegetation. Everywhere some small plant was tucked, a lovely flower or delicious berry treat. And it was here, in her beautiful world, I learned gardening basics: what plants grew where and how to care for them. To this day I cannot see some of her favorites—Black-eyed Susan, Lunaria (money plant), Swiss Chard, or Queen Anne’s Lace—without thinking of her.

Queen Anne’s Lace
But more, my grandmother taught me about what growing things need: vegetables and flowers, small woodland animals, and people too.

Every night I would lie, safely tucked into the small Jenny Lind bed in the tiny bedroom under the eaves—and I felt like one of her little plants: safe and secure. My bedroom window looked out over Main Street as well as the bridge over the creek. As I lay in bed, I could hear cars rattle over the bridge and trace their headlights across the flowered wallpaper, the same wallpaper my mother grew up with. With each set of headlights, I’d wish with all my might that it really truly was my home.

In the morning, we’d sit and eat our toast at her kitchen table. Together we’d watch the birds on the birdfeeder outside the window. She loved all the birds that came to the feeder (and even the squirrels that raided it, too!) and so began my lifelong interest in birds. Chickadees, Jays, and Cardinals—these favorites remind me of her.

Later, after a day of gardening and building dams in the small creek, we walked into the small village of Poland.  Hand-in-hand, down Main Street toward the center of town, my grandmother would stop to greet each person by name and introduce them to her granddaughter. As we walked she told me stories about my mother when she was my age, about her friends and all their adventures.

For two glorious weeks each summer I was lucky enough to be a part of my grandmother’s life. And during those two weeks she taught me about gardening, bird watching, cooking, and a little bit about life, too. 

But mostly? She taught me about home. 

Do you have special memories of your grandparents? Of things they taught you? Are there places or things you associate with home? How do these feelings or memories affect your writing?



2 Bridges of my Heart

George Washington Bridge
(from Wikimedia Commons)

When you have kids in college (like I do), one thing you become accustomed to is the coming and going of your children—teens, young adults. And you may become accustomed (like we have) to the “Dad run” or “Mom run”—the trip to drop off or pick up a kid from college.

It is a trip that, for us, involves lengthy out of state car travel, all over the eastern seaboard: Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania. I kid you not, between college tours, dropping off/picking up, and internships, these are places I am an accidental, pass through tourist on a semi-regular basis. And these trips, although sometimes fun, are mostly very business-oriented: pack up and drop off or pick up and pack up. Or very emotional: big goodbye hug followed by lots of tears (mine) then a long solo drive home. Or the best: a long-awaited hug followed by a long drive home full of happy conversation and news.

Sometimes these trips involve exciting sightseeing: new cities, horse farms, beaches, zoos, tours of ice cream factories, museums, hiking and walking trails; but often fairly mundane: Target, grocery stores, hardware stores. Many times it’s also a great excuse to try a new restaurant or visit a college bookstore—we always do that!

I think you might guess where this is leading. Yes, I just returned home from a Mom run. My daughter—home for the first part of the summer—is now off to another state to do an internship. I drove her and a huge carload of stuff 8 hours in a GINORMOUS rented SUV. I wasn’t really familiar with most of its features and it was about twice as big as the car I usually drive.

The way there was great fun! I love traveling with my daughter—we talked and laughed and listened to music and had a wonderful time. She: anticipating the fun of the internship and life on her own; me: just basking in the joy of being with my wonderful daughter. The problems with the rented car muted by the good times.

Me, almost smushed, on the GW Bridge
(I hope my kids never take a pic while they’re driving)

But then I dropped her off, unloaded the car, and we said goodbye. One more hug to last a month. Then, a fitful night’s sleep before hitting the road again for home, alone, via New York City, or at least across the George Washington Bridge. (All of you in New York and New Jersey can stop laughing at me for being stressed out about this. It’s stressful to go from a state of 1.4 million people and a town of 8,500 to a bridge that in any given day carries 300,000 cars.)

There I was in an unfamiliar huge car (that felt even bigger with just me in it) on that huge bridge with about 12,500 other people (rough calculation, give or take). But not one of those 12,500 people would give me an inch, and I was sure I would run into someone with the ginormous car, and I was terrified—at points near tears.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the bridge. It’s beautiful, and I love the view. But I do not like the prospect of being smushed into smush by four zillion semi-trucks surrounding me at any given moment. And the George Washington Bridge has also come to represent goodbye and hello. Hence, I always look forward to seeing the bridge when I’m heading southward, but dread it when heading north.

About five or so hours after crossing the George Washington Bridge, I cross the Piscataqua River Bridge—going from New Hampshire to Maine. This bridge has come to represent coming home (or to my kids, saying goodbye to home). Again: goodbye and hello. Wild, sparsely populated Maine welcomes me home to the place I feel most comfortable living, but also much too far away from the part of my heart I left on the other side of that other bridge.

Piscataqua River Bridge (from Wikimedia Commons)
These two bridges have become an integral part of my life with my children—linking me to them both physically and emotionally. Where once we were all under the same roof in a small town sharing our daily lives, I now traverse those bridges to see them: representing their transition from our nuclear and protected family, childhood to adulthood, as they enter the world that beckons them to explore.

And so it is that next month will find me, crossing both bridges again, full of anticipation without dread—once again braving the prospect of being smushed—heading back for that long-awaited hug.


A Season of Loss

It’s been a rough month, a long season. Winter is winding down, and I’m ready for spring.

I’ve said a lot of goodbyes this month. I’ve suffered losses before, but not at such a fast tempo. First two neighbors died, one we’ve known for a long time—a wonderful, good man and a great neighbor and friend; then a newer neighbor, the father of a young son, a man that should have had so much life ahead of him.

Then a much-admired father of one of my husband’s oldest childhood friends. Then my father’s best friend, also married to my mother’s best friend. We spent a lot of time with that couple and their family during my childhood years.

But the hardest loss, was just this last week: my younger brother. He died very quickly, within days of a diagnosis of an aggressive cancer. Tony was a lot younger than I, and we went down much different paths that carried us far away from one another. My best memories of Tony, the ones I’ll carry with me, were from our childhood: the smart and creative, mischievous little guy. The one I rescued from a burning bed in Kenya, the one who deliberately turned over his bowl of soup in a fancy restaurant in Amsterdam, the one who liked to build legos and pretend he ran a post office. The one who was a gifted writer, an English major in college, with a bright future ahead.

Why did he become addicted to alcohol and drugs? Why did he wait so long to seek help? Why did he rebuff my (perhaps too small?) attempts at re-connection? In the end, Tony’s death provided me more questions than answers. A lifetime of questions to kindle my grief.

Ultimately the sorrow and grief I’m feeling is not for what was but for what might have been. And I’m afraid that may be this season’s greatest possible loss.

Harnessing the Demon

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

– Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Chapter 1, first line

I didn’t have the unhappiest childhood imaginable. But it certainly had its moments.

Like when I was two and my father dropped off my brother and me at a neighbor’s and never came back. After that I only saw my bio dad three more times: once in court when he terminated his parental rights, once when I was fourteen and he brought my half-brother to meet me, and once when I was sixteen and we both happened to be at my grandparent’s lake house at the same time.

Never again. Once, when I was twenty-one, I called his office and after a long time on hold, his secretary came back on the phone and said: “Mr. C. doesn’t have a daughter.”

Stunning. And crushing. But, I got over it.

“You’re better off,” everyone said, even his family. But I wonder.

Because I never got over the inner demon that haunts me. The hole in my heart and my gut that never fill up. In my life, in my particular “own way” of unhappiness, only two things fill that hole. One is the love of a good man and our beloved children.

The other is writing.

No question that it’s one of the reasons a lot of my writing centers on feelings of loss, the longing for home and a place to fit in.

But more, over time something startling happened. An enormous creative energy and drive grew from that place of overwhelming sadness and anger. So, as haunted as I sometimes feel by my demon, it will stay—harnessed but untamed, as a positive force in my creative life.

What demons drive your writing? Are you—like me—able to harness them as a strong creative energy?



For the Love of Cooking

I love to cook. I suppose it’s one of the best things I got from my mother: the knack for cooking good food and the right food at the right time.

When I was a child, I helped my mother with the cooking. Okay, the truth is that my mother worked, and from the time I was about 10 years old, I cooked dinner for the whole family three times a week. By myself. And at holidays? I was practically an indentured servant for the two huge holiday parties my mother always put on.

At the time, I was not a fan. I mean, what 10-year-old girl in her right mind would rather be cooking dinner than playing with her friends? And my mother was exacting; it had to be a complete meal: meat/fish/protein, grain, green vegetable, yellow or orange fruit or vegetable, and salad. Every night.

But, boy did I learn to cook a meal and cook it well:

  • The rabbit, that I didn’t want to cook, but it was there for me to prepare for dinner. (Julia Child led me through her recipe, and she’s been my friend ever since.) When I tried to refuse to eat it at the meal, my mother replied: “The French eat it, you were born in France, you can eat it, pretend it’s chicken if you have to.”
  • The family recipe for creamed spinach and bacon casserole that broke the blender every Christmas Eve (not to be confused with the Cranberry Ice family recipe that we made every Christmas Day with the new blender we bought late on Christmas Eve). Some of my best memories of my mother are when we laughed as conspirators in the kitchen every year.
  • The best (and simplest to make) baked macaroni and cheese you’ll ever taste, that my own kids adore.
  • The one-pot-meals we made on camp stoves in rustic kitchens in Kenya (yes, they still met all the food group specifications).
  • The knowledge that I can make a nutritious, complete, and delicious meal out of a crazy empty refrigerator.

I also collect recipes, especially recipes that remind me of people. When I make the recipes of my mother’s, I sense her in the kitchen, stirring whatever’s in the pot with the tip of her paring knife (her famous cooking technique).

But in addition to my mother, I think of others whose recipes I’ve collected:

  • Carolyn’s Krautburgers—that always remind me of sitting on her deck in Colorado, watching her dogs romp through the fields and laughing for hours with a wonderful friend!
  • Tatjana’s delicious pumpkin swirl cake and muffins. Lunch of bagels with melted cheese and tossed salad with garlic vinaigrette, followed by Cassis liqueur and conversation that goes on until dusk (and truth be told, you never want to end).
  • Aunt Marsha’s matzo ball soup and potato latkes—both melt in your mouth—served with generous portions of love, affection, and dancing at holidays.
  • Ramon’s beans and rice—simple to make, delicious, and utterly nutritious—from a high school friend’s friend from Mexico. Now a family favorite.
  • My Russian grandmother’s stuffed cabbage; my Ohio grandmother’s black walnut cookies, made from nuts from the tree in her garden.

Each dish has a story, shared with deep love and affection. As I prepare them, I remember the cook who first made them for me. And I don’t know which is better, the taste or the memory. Both are equally delicious and nourishing.



p.s. What are the foods that bring back memories for you? Are there recipes or foods that remind you of people or places?

"Dear Betsy, Your thoughtfulness meant so much…"

“Does anyone write hand-written notes anymore?”

This was the lament I heard from a friend over lunch the other day. She is almost a generation older than I am, and we had been talking about blogging and tweeting and email and such. We agreed that things have really changed—certainly in her lifetime and even in mine.

Before my mother died prematurely almost-fifteen years ago, she had just gotten her first laptop, at the advent of email. Before her illness, she was an outgoing college professor and research social scientist, virtually bedridden by emphysema for her last year of life, cut off from many of her colleagues and students. I can’t help but wonder how the last year of her life might have been different if she had been connected via social networking.

In those days, lo those only-fifteen-years-ago, snail mail letters were still king. And my mother could really write a letter—with the cleanest, crispest handwriting you would ever want to see—that could bring you to tears, out of fear or laughter. And although these days I think she would be a blogger, I have no doubt she would also miss the feel of a pen and crisp linen paper in her hands and the finality of licking and sealing an envelope and dropping it in the box.

The fact is that some schools don’t even teach cursive handwriting anymore; one in Colorado now has a Cursive Writing Club assumedly to keep up a dying art. The US Postal Service is in debt to the tune of $12 billion, and it’s shutting down 2000 branches. The way we communicate is definitely changing.

For Christmas, one of my best friends, sent me some cute ornaments for my tree. Tucked into her handwritten card was a photo of her kids, and I kept putting off emailing her, knowing that she would prefer a handwritten note of thanks. Her card and photo sat on my desk for almost six weeks, until finally I logged onto, found a cute electronic thank you card, and I sent it to her. Then I sent her an email apologizing for the electronic card.

I wasn’t about to do the same thing with Betsy’s. So, this morning, I rifled through my envelope and card drawer for something to use; I found a thank you card and way-too-large envelope (I couldn’t even find a match!). I picked up a pen and started to write: “Dear Betsy, Your thoughtfulness meant so much…” I know Betsy will be happy to get the card, but I was doing it as much for myself. Suddenly all the old familiar feelings of brain connecting with pen connecting with paper reminded me of why I miss the old ways a whole lot more than I realized.

I remembered the journals of my teenage and college years when the feel of a fountain pen on the paper was almost as important as the words I wrote. I thought about all the handwritten love letters my husband and I have exchanged over the years—that my children may send instead through email, SMS, or Facebook. And I thought about the handwritten letters I got from my mother when I was in college, letters that my children may only get from me in a care package of cookies.

I thought about everything I do online: check accounts and pay bills, keep up on the news and weather, look for employment, find information about…everything, keep up with old and make new friends, write, and now blog. And while it’s true that my note to Betsy probably won’t be the last snail mail letter I ever write, the way we communicate is definitely changing.

What do you think? Have you changed the way you communicate or write? Do you miss writing with pen and paper or welcome the electronics way?

Interesting postscript….while researching this blog, I searched on google for “is mail dying” and the entire first page of results were hits about email dying! Anyone ready to take the challenge to write a book on SMS (already a growing phenomenon in Japan) or Twitter (it’s been done)? Get ready for more changes ahead!


It’s quiet this week, too quiet.

Yesterday, after 95 days of unemployment, My Engineer Husband (MEH) started a new job. No question, a writer’s life can be pretty solitary, and I miss the companionship and conversation. As I sit and write, an empty chair by my side, my only distraction is the new hangman game on fReado.

It might sound strange, but one of the things I miss most about having MEH around is his animated enthusiasm for new technology and the random science facts he reads about on the Internet….things like:

  • His obsession with gmail and google calendar and apparently all things google—how you can “slice and dice” items in your inbox, the danger yet advantage of cloud storage, and how cool it would be to write an app for google.
  • The funny story about the tree octopus. A literacy researcher at the University of Connecticut conducted an experiment to see if students would believe in the tree octopus, created for a hoax science website, just because it was on the Internet. Apparently they did, leading to the conclusion that students doing research on the Internet have difficulty discerning fact from fiction.
  • The “Mastering Workflow|Processing & Organizing Flowchart” from the David Allen Company, that we now have framed and sitting on the desk. This diagram, using software symbols, is the path to help you get things done or at least slice and dice your way through your gmail inbox.
  • A Madagascar spider—“caught on film, how cool is that???!!”—that lives in abandoned snail shells suspended from bushes. I refused to watch the movie because, even though I started out as a zoology major before switching to journalism, spiders scare me.

All this to say that writing ideas and inspiration come from places you might least expect, like engineering flowcharts and spiders hanging from bushes in shells—and even from the solitude that is the most basic fact of life we writers face.

Postscript: I don’t want to leave this day’s blog without adding that (probably needless to say) we met the end of unemployment with great joy and relief. As with many other individuals and families who are still dealing with unemployment, we faced serious, potentially devastating consequences when we lost MEH’s salary. My heart and thoughts go out to all of you who are coping as we are with this overwhelming, life-changing struggle.