Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What I'm Thankful For

Today I'm getting ready to host my first Thanksgiving, in my very own little 750-square-foot Manhattan apartment. Manhattan is home, of course, to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which we'll attend. My neighborhood is home to the Bowery Mission, which will feed an untold number, and I'd love to drop in and lend a hand for a bit so Jamie can see where his donated mashed potatoes really went. Thankfully, my mom is bringing the turkey and dressing for our own table, along with her homemade cranberry sauce and a pecan pie. I have a 28-inch stove, and while it's an industrial-style Blue Star gas range that we bought and installed ourselves, it's still on the cramped side for cooking up, well, an entire Thanksgiving dinner. Plus, I fall into more of the baker category when it comes to things I'm naturally drawn to cooking (hello, carbs), and so am making homemade yeast rolls with a pumpkin pie, the homemade dough for the crust of which is chilling in the refrigerator now. My pie filling, made last night with my own freshly ground pumpkin pie spice, is hanging around my packed fridge in a mason jar (tip: this takes up about 4 inches of space rather than a huge tupperwares' worth!), and waits to be poured into the pastry shell, once that's underway.

Oh, Thanksgiving. Sometimes anxiety gets the better grip of me, and I'm dealing with that in my life; who isn't? Show me one person. I don't write about it normally, but it's ever present, particularly around the holidays, and my triggers are numerous. I'm thankful that I know I'm not a SuperWoman, even if I want to be, and know when to ask for help when I need it. When I'm feeling strong, I can see my triggers as sculpture, and walk around them with aplomb. When I'm tired and vulnerable, nothing much seems to do the trick, and I walk around with a lump in my chest. This, for now, given that I'm falling into the Vulnerable camp these days, is best treated with a positive attitude and some old-fashioned therapy. And so I've been thinking about what I'm grateful for this year.

I'm deeply thankful for my family.

I'm thankful for Jamie's progress. He's just gotten his first official report card, and his overall average was an 88 with a huge smattering of As for general excellence. His teacher, Sister Rita Maria, who I'm growing to love, wrote one sentence in the comments section: "It has been a joy to have Jamie in my class this year, and I'm thankful for the opportunity." Wow. We've come a long way, baby. So much of this success can be attributed to his own strength, hard work, and determination, but without the fleet of experts who've helped him along the way, and who continue to do so, we would not have been able to navigate his special needs with the same patience and understanding. I keep thinking of the director of the Child Development Center, Margo Bayroff, who took Jamie into her therapeutic nursery with open arms, and who loved him for who he was, seeing his full potential at 3 after he was thrown out of nursery school. I also keep thinking of Billy English, the director of Admissions at the Cooke Center, who took him in when he was turning 5. I'll never forget Billy looking at me at a meeting and asking me, "What can Jamie bring to us?" What followed was the to-be-expected-from-any-mother litany about his compassion, his sensitivity, and his empathy, and the knowledge that he just needed a chance-- some extra helpers to help him navigate his social challenges. So in 2 1/2 years, after being given that chance, Jamie comes home with a B+ report card from his mainstream classroom. My sweet kid has a heart that opens up and gives and gives unconditionally, and I want to continue to learn from him, as I do every day.

I'm thankful thankful thankful for this life, with all of its bumps and turns.

I'm thankful for, and missing dearly, those lives which have ended, but which have left a lasting impact on mine. The recently lost to cancer, my dear sister in law, Patty, and father in law, Jim, continue to live on inside of me, in Jim, and in Jamie. I'll raise a toast to them and call on their loving, calm spirits. To the further departed, I raise a toast in my heart to my Granddad, who I miss every holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers~how thankful I am that you let me bend your ears from time to time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Missing the Marquees

Today, one of my favorite blogs, Jeremiah's Vanishing New York , joins a discussion originating from a New York Times slideshow about how franchises are taking over old theaters in the city. One woman summarized the shift in venues very succinctly: she's scared she'll get bedbugs in a moviehouse, and plus, "I like pumpkin lattes."

Two years ago, we took Jamie to see his first Bollywood movie at the old Eagle Theater in Jackson Heights. I'd checked to make sure it wasn't a violent choice (I can't remember the exact title, but I believe it was a remake of Babu), and it wasn't. However, it sure was sexy, and at one point my then-five-year-old leaned over to me and said "If I had to dance with all of those ladies, I'd be embarrassed." That said, he couldn't peel his eyes off of the swirling saris and ensemble numbers, and I wonder if that seeded his love of music in a far more powerful way than the "Singing Songs With Susie" class he took when he was three or so. The peeling Art Deco theater was freezing in the winter months and I remember that we had to wear our heavy coats throughout the whole feature. It's my understanding that it's been shut tight since May 2009, but I hope I'm wrong about that.

Sometimes I can't take how quickly my own neighborhood is changing, and I'm grateful to another great blog, EV Grieve, that chronicles the changes of the East Village in a thorough, well-researched, and poignant way. These bloggers are the town criers, the seers, and the historians, and I hope you'll drop in on their pages from time to time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Novel Thing

This is my first time attempting to write a novel, what with the NaNoWriMo and all. I've been having delusions about how days off can be made up, and the more you take, the further of course you are from what you've created. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing for me: I was able to take early morning clarity and sort of many, many untold problems with a fresh eye, and that's recharged my word count mojo.

For example, my story is set around three different families, but I haven't anchored down when exactly it takes place. I'm thinking sort of now, but closer to the late 1990s. Big difference when it comes to cultural references. I'm trying to just avoid those altogether, or mentions of changing technological variables like cell phones, computers and the like. Nope, just skip it for now. My families seem to have a lot of kids (they're all loosely varying shades of Catholic) and I've had a hard time keeping track of whose child is which age, and are they the losers or over-achievers of the family dynamic?

This morning I created a separate document to keep track of the new people who fill my brainspace these days. Their ages, likes, dislikes, and past experiences are knitting themselves together in a sloppy way. I have no idea what's going to happen to them; I'm taking the more automatic writing approach, and just hoping for the best. To the NaNoNaysayers out there, I say Mind Your Own Business and get busy with your own lives. To the compadres, I raise a virtual drink. To my fingers, I promise to crack you and stretch you and to my eyes, I promise to look out the window in the distance, de-blurring you in the high hopes of the next stretch. Moving into 8,000 territory, can I do it?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How Authors and Booksellers Find Funding Online

The lead feature on Publishing Perspectives today was a piece I wrote about independent booksellers and authors trying to raise money online to fund their projects...

Kickstarter: “A New Way to Fund & Follow Creativity”, which was founded in April of 2009, is an online fundraising tool that has raised over $15,000,000 for various creative projects. The numbers continue to impress: 200,000 self-anointed patrons have donated seed money for everything ranging from independent films to decorating a front yard as the “Journey to the Center of the Earth” for Halloween, to launching a LGBT-friendly independent book store. More than 3,000 projects have met their goals and raised enough capital to get going. The founders of Kickstarter are Brooklyn-based Yancey Strickler and Perry Chen. “It’s amazing when you give creative people a space what can happen,” said Strickler.... finish reading the rest of the story here.