8 Things To Be Thankful For

1. I’m thankful that I didn’t kill my teeny lemon tree so now it’s a small lemon tree.

And it actually has lemons.

2. I’m thankful for mammogram technicians with warm hands.

img_9900

3. That Christmas is coming and with it the requirement that my sons appear in a photo with me.

4. I am thankful that this snapping turtle didn’t eat my dog.

5. Extraordinarily thankful for Bowl-sized margaritas.

6. That I get to live in a place that looks like this. . .

img_9897

. . .and this.

 

7.  That my dog is an excellent reader with exquisite taste. Also, that she is a feminist.

img_9902

8. Finally, I am thankful that I am married to this man, who helped me raise those three sons, makes a mean margarita, and lets the dog sleep on the bed.

img_9908

Advertisements

Old Hollywood in the Woods

It’s fall. It’s beautiful.

About to fall backward a luxurious Daylight Savings hour into a cloud of leaves, I wake just in time from the summer-haze:

there is a big, time-consuming, messy project I’ve neglected.

As a recovering professional seamstress, I have the problem of sewers everywhere: hoarding fabric. I could have given it all away except I bought this nine-room farmhouse that’s begging for glamour. Soon after moving in I told my hairdresser, “The look I’m going for is old-Hollywood in the woods: Sexy Farmhouse.” She laughed, but in that totally serious way of hairdressers applying highlight foils to your head.

Since then, I’ve been busy. You know, with STUFF.

Three years later, the Sexy Farmhouse living room is painted but 40 yards of decadent  pale green velvet is stacked on the leather sofa in my office, NOT whipped into the opera-pleat panels of my dreams.

NOT hung on Lucite rods like these from one of my favorite drapery commissions:

tn_156_2262

Once upon a drapery-past, I had a spacious studio to do the messy work of sewing. And it IS messy. Drapery interlining fuzz floats around the house, there are glass-headed pins all over the floor, and now that I have to sew at home, the worst: no using the dining room table for weeks.

img_9722

Once I closed the studio I closed my sewing past into a closet of down-filled pillows and drapery lining. It’s finally starting to bug me. I used to run a business and take care of the house while raising three children. Can’t I write, take care of the house, hike with the dog, college-shop with my twins, AND make the living room into the sexy farmhouse of my dreams? I used to do it all-can’t I do it all, again? Can’t we just eat standing up?

tn_Christine-11

once a seamstress, always a seamstress.

STAY TUNED. . .

My Town, My Twins

BLUEPRINT FOR DAYLIGHT, my award-winning memoir of infidelity, cancer, colicky twins, and the flood in my basement

has recently been excerpted. . . twice!

The print publication, Connecticut’s Emerging Writers:  an Anthology is available HERE

LARK BLOOM, a blogsite devoted to essays on disability, creativity, and family, is available HERE

I am extremely grateful to Z Publishing and Lark Bloom.

XO

A Nook of One’s Own

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” So said Virginia Woolf in 1928.

Ninety years later, this quote from A Room of One’s Own, Woolf’s extended essay from which it famously derives, is as relevant as ever-especially to me.

I write non-fiction and poetry. But does that preclude me from having a room of my own to make a writerly mess in?

pomfret master

Woolf is a hero of mine: my English Springer is named after her and I believe The Waves to be one of the greatest accomplishments in novel writing history. My devotion is unmovable. . .unlike my furniture. Which resided in a very messy bedroom writing nook of one’s own.

One being me.

img_7311

One in a house of six, five: one husband, seventeen year-old twins (our older son recently decamped to Rhode Island), and the previously mentioned Woolf namesake. Writing anywhere other than a designated spot was at best inconvenient (the dining room) and at worst impossible (on the living room sofa).

nook

The nook I settled on is at the far end of our bedroom. Yes, it has a staircase to the main entry right behind it, and yes, it’s above the laundry room (ding!) but, the staircase is the fastest way to the tea kettle and the sound of laundry running gives this “one” a sense that all is right with the world.

Here is how my nook looked before:

(see previous post HERE)

img_4933-1

It’s amazing how unaware I was of the space. Given my design background, I should have been mortified. But, the eye sees what the eye wants and I decided to turn a blind eye in favor of being left alone. It was almost too much to ask that my space look nice. I mean, I’ve still got two sons at home, one of whom has yellow flower-patterned wallpaper on his bedroom walls that I PROMISED to remove. Three years ago.

The problem was, once I noticed my nook’s shabbiness, I couldn’t un-notice it. I stopped writing in favor of moving piles of paper and furniture around. I became counter-productive. The tipping point in favor of a nook makeover was that the son with the flowered wallpaper only uses his bedroom to sleep in and with the lights off. Also, my nook remodel expense was minor: we did the whole room for less than $1,000, including the floor. Also, I’m the mother and I’m in charge.

Coinciding with the finishing of the nook of my own,  I’ve had two ideas for novels-and I wrote them down.

Thank you Virginia Woolf. . . I love you.

Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

 

Back in the summer of 1985 I was a ballet-studying, boyfriend-less high school junior living in Virginia. The last thing I wanted was rain. Even in Virginia, where it got so hot people don’t even say the word, it’s like a hex.

At sixteen, I wanted sun, sun, and more sun. I did the sun-dance. All the better to lie beneath while coating my extra-white legs with baby oil for that elusive tan that was never to be mine.

But I had hope.

New Englanders have a saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” Well, I don’t know about the rest of New England, but here in Connecticut it’s been seven days of unrelenting sun. No longer a sixteen-year old after that sweet-spot of the almost-burn: skin that wouldn’t peel and settle into what we all thought of as the Base Tan, I’m older and wiser and discovered bronzer.

And I discovered the beauty of rain.

Finally, after our Connecticut all-sun heat-wave had me taking cold showers a couple times a day followed by drying myself in front of a fan. . . they say that rain is coming. And, oh, how I’ve missed it.

Even if the sweet peas taking over my mailbox don’t seem to miss it.

Or, the grapevines taking over the abandoned ladder don’t seem to miss it.

img_7067

They say rain is coming, but when I look up, all I see is sun.

Dude, You Won’t Want Your Lady to Read This. . .

Unless you want to up your game in the love department. But if you’re looking for some inspiration, by all means, you can both read on. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The romance bar has been raised. By this man:

img_6914

Meet Greg. Greg is my best friend of thirty years, husband of twenty-five years, and father to our three sons. Which is already super-star material. But he’s also the kind of guy who will buy me Tampax and chocolate at the pharmacy and has been by my side through one aggressive disease, four home remodels, three careers, and ten thousand cans of hairspray.

I know. Pretty f$cking amazing. But just wait.

Earlier this month I was headed here:

1_EY-BcI0ua5R9okKBr0liTg.png

I would be attending inspiring, one-of-a-kind Writer’s Hotel workshops, but I was also invited to serve as teaching assistant to the fantastic Marion Winik. I would be doing all sorts of cool and fun things like introduce Dana Isokawa of Poets & Writers Magazine and Carey Salerno of Alice James Books to attending poets on publishing and lead a Humor in Poetry workshop. Besides all that, along with the other 100 or so attendees, I would be reading at a famous NYC literary location.

2018 Red Room

When I found out, a couple weeks ahead of time, that I would be at this NYC landmark, I told Greg, “The Red Room is SO cool, too bad you can’t come.”  Greg was at our kitchen counter, watching me put flowers I’d cut from our farmhouse property in a vase. Greg works in Boston, we live in northeast Connecticut, and Manhattan is out of the way of both. “You’re going to miss me reading and I’m going to miss the peonies blooming.” Spring in the Quiet Corner had been cool- our lilacs peaked two weeks later than usual and the peonies, my favorite flower, would be in full bloom all over the yard while I was in New York.

Greg said nothing. I didn’t even know if he’d heard me.

I arrived in the city on a Wednesday and by Friday, the day of my reading, I’d been so busy with the conference I barely had enough time to run to my hotel room, change, and print out my reading. I threw open my hotel door and saw this:

img_6912

Those are peonies. They look like my peonies. From my yard. No. They couldn’t be. Hey- that’s my vase!

I called out into the tiny hotel room, “Greg? Are you here?!” Then I looked under the bed and in the shower. No one. I shrugged and got changed quick. Just before I headed out the door to catch a taxi, I tucked a blossom behind my ear and took a picture.

img_6917

I texted Greg from the cab, “Are you in NY?”

“No- What are you talking about?”

“Um, there’s a bouquet of peonies in my hotel room and they’re in my vase from home!”

“I’ve got friends in high places. Enjoy your reading tonight, wish I was there!”

I’ll admit, a peony behind my ear provided more than perfume. I felt magical. Everything started to take on a fuchsia cast.

I climbed out of the taxi, walked up the steep (kind of crooked) stairs at KGB Bar and guess who was there? You guessed it.

Greg drove down to my hotel with the peonies strapped in the passenger seat and convinced the clerk to deliver them to my room. Then he hauled down to the Village and waited for me to show up. (Of course I was late.)

What can I say? I’m a slave to fashion.

img_6354

All the ladies loved Greg’s surprise. Scott Wolven, fiction writer, co-organizer of the conference, and newly engaged, said, “Great. That’s a smooth move that’s gonna be hard to beat.”

img_6915-1

The next morning, I was still seeing with peony colored glasses.

From the dogs swimming in Central Park. . .

The rowboats outside the Loeb Boathouse. . .

The promenade. . .

So, get on the stick gentlemen. . .do something nice for your lady.

 

Memory Lane

 

img_6082
Farmington Canal Heading South from Cheshire

I like to think I have a pretty good memory. Beyond the silly pride in remembering which of my several Winnie-the-Pooh shirts I wore the first day of kindergarten or which shade my hair was (out of the many colors it has been), when I first met my husband,  a good memory is a professional requirement if you are a writer of memoir. Which I am.

There are times you might think it would be better not to have such a detail-oriented memory.

Like when bad sh*t goes down and your life falls apart. That would be a good time to suddenly forget.

For example:

In 2001, my husband and I were bringing our marriage back from a precipice when a late-term ultrasound revealed we were having twins. Three months later a needle biopsy revealed I also had an aggressive cancer. Meanwhile, our house, perched on top of a natural spring, kept flooding. On the same day, I delivered two six pound baby boys and a cancerous tumor the size of a golf ball. During treatment of chemo and radiation, my husband and I saved our marriage and the house’s water-logged foundation. We somehow also fed and clothed a pair of infants and a four-year old.

img_6084
The Mount Carmel bike path connector- Sleeping Giant’s head in the distance. 

To cope survive, I wrote about it all. I also rode my bike. Once treatment was over, the twins were walking, and we sold the house- you’d think I’d want to shut the door on the past and never peek in there again. But you’d be wrong.

The past is never dead. It isn’t even past. – William Faulkner

CHRISTINE - Dickernan Street
Our First House

I loved Hamden, the town we lived in. I loved walking the boys in their stroller up and down the hilly, tree-lined streets. I loved the freedom I felt every time I got Big Bertha, my cheap Caldor’s mountain bike, out of the garage, attached a runner’s radio to my upper arm with Velcro, stuck the headband-style headphones in my ears and took off flying.

If I intentionally forgot the time I spent in treatment or the twins’ colicky episodes from hell, I’d also have to forget the lightness that came from riding, one that lifted me out of the hole of recurrence and death, a hole I sometimes lived in. 

And so I made myself remember-all of it. It’s been seventeen years since I was diagnosed. I’m healthy as a horse and I still ride my bike. Eleven years ago we moved an hour and fifteen minutes northeast to Connecticut’s Quiet Corner. The bike riding is phenomenal. I found a posse I hang with and together we pull each other up hills and roll off mile after mile in congenial company. My ride is fancier and a whole hell of a lot lighter since Big Bertha is in the giant recycling pile in the sky. And yet. . . this spring I felt, excuse the pun, a shift.

img_6086

The day before yesterday I was in my old neighborhood visiting my parents who are about to move thirty minutes south. It seemed urgent to ride my old route on the bike path from Mount Carmel to Cheshire, but first climb Dickerman Street, past our old house. I realized, as I huffed and puffed past the adorable house with the steep center gable I’d once called mine, I was ready to say goodbye. I realized with surprise, that while the past, as Faulkner wrote, is not past but still with me, I wanted to put some memories to rest.

For one thing, I no longer live in fear of cancer recurrence or death. I  didn’t realize what I’d done until my ride was over: I’d retraced my cycling steps and said goodbye to the younger me. Because she’s all grown up now, and she’s doing just fine.

img_6081

 

I Blame the Lilacs

It’s not my fault I did no housework this week- it’s the lilacs’.

img_5825-1

Yeah, OK, it’s MY fault I bought the house with the giant lilac bush that smells like heaven and it’s MY fault I placed my desk under the window that looks out over the giant lilac bush and MY fault that I opened the window. But it’s the lilacs’ fault that they magically opened in the warm spring sunshine causing me. . .

img_5824

to forget about writing and doing the laundry and cooking and shopping and instead. . .

img_5823

run outside and smell them.

img_5820

And because I was already outside, I got further distracted and took about fifty pictures of the planet sized flowering quince covered in bumblebees and hummingbirds. This caused me to be late picking up one of my sons from school.

img_5826

Afterwards, I walked around the yard like I’d just had lilac-infused alcohol. I was a lilac zombie with a camera and took this picture. . .

img_5829

and this one.

img_5842

And I went on a bike ride and all I saw was purple

img_5844img_5840

I’ve been outside all week. The wind is blowing the writing off my desk. The laundry is touching the ceiling.

It’s a relief that I have to shut the window. . .the forecast is calling for rain.

 

 

 

 

Pretend Paris

Paris Welcomes You! 

I’ve always wanted to go to Paris and just after we were married I proposed a trip to Europe. Greg proposed that we begin having children. We were twenty-four years old. I was ready for a traveling adventure. Greg was ready for adventure of another kind. “I don’t want to be an old dad.” (Remember, I said we were TWENTY-FOUR.) He also said, “Europe will still be there when the kids are grown.” It was hard to argue.  Today, our three sons are 22, 17, & 17. One has moved out and the other two will graduate high school next year. And lo and behold, Europe is still there. But with an old farmhouse wanting our attention, twins with college plans, and all three needing our resources, Europe will have to wait.

Friday afternoon Greg and I drove across the Connecticut border and the road sign that I pretended said, Paris Welcomes You!  actually read, Massachusetts Welcomes You! 

Greg surprised me for my birthday with an overnight stay in Boston- a city that could never be confused with Paris- or could it?

It rains in Boston, just like I’ve heard it does in Paris.

Boston has shrubbery shaped like gumdrops, just like Paris.

And Boston has bakeries.

You can sit at the window inside Tatte and watch people wrangling umbrellas while you sip a cup of Earl Grey. The owner designed her cafe to make if feel as if you were being hugged. I can think of nothing better than to be hugged by a cinnamon bun.

img_5221

How much for the entire platter, s’il vous plait?

img_5237

So, Paris has Jardin du Luxembourg. Boston has the Common.

img_5260

Does it get foggy in Paris?

img_5222

I know for damn sure that Paris doesn’t have our friend Sean, head chef of the Revere Hotel’s restaurant the Rebel’s Guild, who brought us plate after plate of deliciousness. (My present to you: order the Skillet Cornbread with Maple Butter.) My cocktail was the Midnight Ride. Thank you very much.

img_5276

They had kings in Paris, but we had a king-sized bed in Boston. Also, champagne.

img_5189

French women are skinny, but our Boston hotel had a skinny mirror. I’m really going to miss it.

img_5273

Saturday morning was beautiful, not a raindrop in sight. Perfect for walking. . .and walking. . .and walking. We walked all the way to the MFA.

img_5259

The Louvre doesn’t have Mark Rothko. (Or this dude with his Tatte bag, who kind of looks like he needs a hug.)

img_5272

Before Greg and I left the MFA, I headed to the bookshop and performed one of my new magic rituals. With my manuscript, Blueprint for Daylight, currently being pitched to publishers by my agent, I find the non-fiction section and create a space where it will-one-day-if-I-pray-to-the-publishing-gods be found. Weird? I am certainly weird. But if it works, you saw it here first, all you aspiring writers. Then I take a picture and sit with my phone for way too long drawing a book spine with my finger and typing the title.

img_5271

The only beer I like is a Corona Light on a 100 degree day after working all afternoon in the garden. But after walking seven miles we needed a pick-me up. And Greg says Corona isn’t beer. Whatever, Guinness Man.

This Blood Orange Wheat radler was SO GOOD.

img_5270

Do French women take pictures of their feet when the nail polish on their toes is chipped? Probably not. But after our trip to Boston, where I walked in the rain, drank champagne, enjoyed pastries, art, and came home with books-it felt like the best birthday getaway, no plane ticket necessary.

Europe will still be there after we save enough to finish remodeling our farmhouse and the twins graduate college. . . but until then, I’ve got Boston.