Sunday, December 29, 2013

Turning Lemons Into Lemon Drops

I'm always trying to teach my son to be flexible. This Christmas break, I had my own crash course in going with the flow, and it was harder than I might have expected.

I was all set to take my M to visit family in St. Louis the Thursday after Christmas. But there was a major plot twist the Sunday before, when I turned my ankle and came down hard on it.

I figured it was a sprain. But it was so puffed and painful by Monday, I decided I'd better pay a visit to my friendly podiatrist, Dr. S, who I'd already seen too much in 2013. Of course, I'd hurt my right ankle, so there was no thought of driving. Instead, I had to call a car service.

Several X-rays later and voila!, lucky me, it was broken. Equipped with an air cast, aka Das Boot, I attempted to hail a car service. Dr. S was sending me to an orthopedist in case I needed a partial or full cast.

But in a scene straight out of an old black-and-white melodrama, it was raining and there was no car to be had for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, given the timing--it was the day before Christmas Eve--I had to get to the orthopedist before he took off within the next hour. Despairing that I'd never make it, I began to cry the ugly cry.

Finally, I went back into the office and told them of my plight, pleading with the receptionist, asking if I was close enough to walk to the orthopedist's. The receptionist, noting how distraught I was, asked Dr. S, who upon seeing me told me it was doable.

And so I set out limping and pitiful in Das Boot, tears streaming down my face even as the rain streamed over my uncovered head. Normally, the few blocks' walk through Brooklyn Heights from Remsen to Amity is a picturesque one, thanks to the gracious old New York brownstones and gaslights. But I was oblivious to them that day. I was, to quote my son, a hot mess.

I finally stopped crying when I landed in the orthopedist's office, despite the fact that it was situated in Long Island College Hospital and featured the word "surgery" on the door.

When Dr. C finally saw me after examining my emailed X-ray, I was relieved to hear that I could continue in the walking cast. However, I would have to have X-rays repeated in three weeks, would probably be in Das Boot for six, and would need a cane for the inevitable slippery January days. (When my concerned podiatrist checked in with his broke-down patient later, he was more conservative, urging me to "baby" my ankle with crutches.)

But I had other things to do first. When I wasn't icing my elevated ankle that Tuesday--Christmas Eve--I was soldiering on, planning a new line of attack on the St. Louis front. I called Delta and arranged for bulkhead seats and a wheelchair at the airport.

Then my Uncle J started calling. He and my Aunt F, both well into their 70s, were concerned about me coming with the boy in tow when I was in such a sorry state. I finally relented. I had to admit it: I had a bag full of lemons in my hands. Time for Plan B, aka Operation Lemon Drop.

I had feared how M might take news of the cancellation, but he was quickly appeased by Plan B. Now I just had to make sure it happened.

After postponing the flight without a penalty--the folks at Delta couldn't have been nicer--I recalled that M is still at the stage where a hotel with a free breakfast and pool makes him feel like he's king of the world. (If there's a hot tub, he's even more jazzed.) And so I began my within-cab-fare Brooklyn-Queens hotel search, not an easy endeavor within a two-day window and on a scant budget. (Much of the St. Louis trip had been arranged with frequent flyer miles.)

I scoured the discount sites for hours. Yelp reviews warned of bedbugs in one place, rude staff in another, and most New York hotels under $250 a night lacked pools. Finally, I found something.

Sure, it was near LaGuardia, where I had to brace for noise. But it looked nice enough. And not only was there the holy grail, a pool, there was breakfast (I would later find out it wasn't free but cost $10 per room per day, one of the many add-ons I would run across in a tourist hotel) and that piece de resistance, a hot tub. Also, remember: I was desperate.

With one room in my price range left, I booked a three-night stay.

Good omen No. 1 came when I called the hotel that Friday after Christmas and learned we could check in early. By 2 p.m., the boy was soaking in the hot tub along with three local men over the age of 80 who belonged to the hotel's health club. It looked like something out of Cocoon, save for my energetic 10-year-old. He was soon schmoozing away, beguiling the old-timers.

Before too long, he had ingratiated himself with one man and his caretaker, even helping with the man's walker and calling the caretaker his "babysitter." (Not that far off the mark, I'm afraid.) The caretaker offered M popcorn and then pizza delivered poolside, cementing the newfound friendship. I often worry that M attaches to strangers too hard and fast, but I agree with her--he made her charge's day.

Day 2, my friend S came over with her two kids, making a full day of it at the pool. There were some rough patches when my boy wouldn't stop splashing and jumping in a "no jumping" zone, but by the end he and my friend's little girl were swimming underwater like "dolphins" together.

Still, I needed to remember that lemon drops are sour as well as sweet. If I wanted to pick the hotel apart, I could complain about the scalding shower, the spotty internet connection, the TV charges, even the occasional, if expected, jet plane noise.

But balancing it out were the lovely staff including J, the bartender who brought up our dinner despite the lack of room service; the man running the cereal-and-muffins breakfast buffet, who allowed M to take eggs from the section reserved for the spiffily dressed Korean Air flight crew; and the obliging dad from Albany who tossed my child in the water, making him squeal with delight (after said dad got my OK, of course).

Meanwhile, the sound of the jets took me back to one of the highlights of my childhood in St. Louis, when my mom and dad packed my two older brothers and me into the VW wagon and took off for Lambert Field, now St. Louis International Airport.

This was a era when cars didn't have seat belts and they'd still let you throw a blanket down on the other side of the landing strip fence and watch the planes whoosh right overhead as they took off and landed. I can't say I grew up in a happy family--what was it Tolstoy said? But these are my own lemon-drop memories, and now I was making them for my kid...right near an airport. 

This break, both my son and I had to become as flexible as Olympic gymnasts. To my mind, we each scored a perfect 10.

To celebrate, I think I'll order up a Lemon Drop tonight, our last at the hotel--the kind with the vodka mixed in.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My Body, Myself, Part 2

First, the good news: I don't have a double chin.

Now, the not-so-great news: I have an enlarged thyroid gland, aka a goiter. A goiter! Isn't that something people had in the Middle Ages? No, wait. That's gout. I don't have gout. Whew.

But a goiter? That still sounds so...ancient. I know, I know, I'm 53, in the midst of my own middle ages. Maybe I'm in denial; I don't feel that old, certainly not as old as my mom and her friends seemed to me when they were 53.

How did this happen? Who's responsible? I want names.

Anyway, I digress. As some of you may know, in my last installment, I wrote that a blood test had shown no markers for BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations linked to breast cancer. I was shocked; given that I was diagnosed at 39 and my paternal grandmother died of the disease at 48, I'd expected very different news. Instead, I had major reason to celebrate, but the festivities were cut short by some less positive news: my insulin level was sky high.

I knew that I'd had something to eat before the test, so I had reason to hope that had skewed the numbers. But given that I've had a dramatic weight gain over the past several years and my father had adult-onset diabetes and then a deadly heart attack when he was 56--a mere three years older than I am now--I got pretty scared.

I did my best to remain calm as my gynecologist, who had ordered the bloods, sent me packing to the endocrinologist. It's a good thing she did. After I had donated about 10 vials of blood and collected two days' worth of pee in huge orange jugs--what can I say, I write what I know--my kindly new doctor called me back into her office to share some utterly confusing news.

First, more good news: I don't have diabetes. (Collective sigh of relief.)

But she did have some confounding news. I have some pretty funky thyroid issues going down. I have two sets of antibodies waging war inside my body. One causes hypothyroidism--Hashimoto's disease--while the other brings on hyperthyroidism--Graves' disease). My doctor says the hyperthyroidism/Graves is winning out.

Her immediate response: Along with ordering a two-day scan that involved me ingesting a radioactive pill to show my thyroid function and another round of bloods, she put me on megadoses of vitamins D3 and B12--apparently, I was seriously deficient--and ordered up a gluten-free diet, saying it makes a lot of people feel better.

Of course, all this sent me to everyone's medical bible: the internet. Finally, I may have gotten some answers to much of what's been ailing me, much of which I attributed to stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, Graves' disease symptoms include fatigue--that's been a biggie--anxiety, difficulty sleeping. and even the fine tremor in my hands and fingers.

My luck, the only symptom I don't seem to have is weight loss with no change in diet. Perhaps that's the fault of whatever's going on with the hypothyroid/Hashimoto's antibodies, which may also be causing the fatigue and sluggishness I've been feeling for months, if not years.

I've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I've received from Facebook friends on this one, and slightly shocked by the number of women who's shared that they've had Hashimoto's and that they have plenty of tips for me if it turns out to be that. Interestingly, no one has mentioned Graves, but I'm sure there are sufferers out there.

So now I'm in a holding pattern till I get the test results back and see my endocrinologist after the first of the year. I wish I could tell you more; I will as soon as I know.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I never had any doubt that I would beat it. I was lucky, for real. It had been caught early and treated aggressively.

But I can no longer be blithe about my health. These thyroid issues have been taking me down, I don't even know for how long now.

One thing's for sure: After a long break, I've strapped the oxygen mask back on.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Body, Myself, Part 1

I've had some very good health news in the last couple of weeks, followed by some not so great news.

First, the good stuff.

In mid-October, my gynecologist suggested she draw bloods in her office, despite the fact that I'd had coffee with milk and a power bar that morning. I think she knew if she gave me a prescription to take to a lab, I might never get there.

She had good reason to doubt me: I've been letting too many things get in the way of taking care of myself for more than a few years now. (Oxygen mask? What oxygen mask?)

She also brought up the idea, again, of screening me for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, which increase the risk of breast cancer. The one caveat: whether insurance would cover the hefty bill.

I was already pretty sure I was a slam dunk for having them. Diagnosed with breast cancer at 39, I'm of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, making me more at risk for said mutations. My paternal grandmother died of breast cancer at 48. My maternal grandmother had it, too, though I've learned that since her main diagnosis was leukemia, her breast cancer "doesn't count" in the genetic Russian roulette.

So I vowed three years that I was finally going to have the testing done. If it turned out I was "a genetically loaded gun" at increased risk for ovarian cancer I would, as I wrote so elegantly, "cut those potential time bombs out of my body."

Instead, it turns out I can be a very big talker. I dawdled. I figured, why find out? Was I really ready to have my predisposition confirmed and then decide whether to have prophylactic surgery--the removal of both breasts and my ovaries? It's something Jewish Israeli women are grappling with right now as leading scientists there push for what may be the first national screening for cancer-causing genetic mutations.

Back in 1999, I had a lumpectomy, followed by chemo and radiation, and have been monitored closely these past 14 years. The one thing that did weigh on me was how much it would help my family to know about our genetics, but to me this vital test became just one more to-do that fell by the wayside in an ultra-stressed life.

But in that moment at the gynecologist's, she tossed out the screening idea so casually, I ditched my clearly genetic predisposition to overthink everything. "What the heck?" I figured.

I'm glad I did. A few weeks later, I was shocked to get a call from her office, saying that I didn't carry either gene mutation. I still need to think about having my ovaries removed per my oncologist--ovarian cancer is much more difficult to detect and therefore more deadly, and as a breast cancer survivor I have a higher risk. But my family is relieved by the news, and I have one less thing to worry about.

Except that the bloods turned up one more thing to worry about. Ah, life is always full of twists and turns, isn't it? ...

And with that cliffhanger, please stay tuned for My Body, Myself, Part 2.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Que Sera, Sera

When I was just a little girl, my mother loved to sing Doris Day's "Que Sera, Sera" to me. By then, Day had made her Oscar-winning song from the 1956 Hitchcock thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much her own theme.

The song progresses from the perspective of a child to that of a parent, but of course I only remembered the first verse:

"When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother
What will I be?
Will I be pretty?
Will I be rich?
Here's what she said to me,

"Que sera, sera,
Whatever will be will be,
The future's not ours to see,
Que sera, sera."

My mother's habit of singing to me was one of the many things, big and small, that cemented our bond. In fact, it's a tradition I've carried on with my own son. At the time, the song seemed lighthearted and lovely, the implication being that everything was going to turn out fine.

But today, the lyrics are bittersweet. Not knowing what the future holds can also be a very scary thing.

My mother lived to see me marry at 33 but died four years later. I never saw it coming. I think I was in shock for more than a year.

Yet even then I managed to maintain the laid-back "que sera, sera" philosophy. I had my health, a steady job and confidence in the future. But that was before I had breast cancer at 39 and lost my job at 46 when my industry–print journalism–imploded.

Now, as the 53-year-old mother of a 10-year-old son and a freelance writer, I can no longer sit back and trust the idea that "whatever will be, will be."

I want to know that everything will be all right–for him, for me–even though I'm old enough to have learned that life is about change, be it wonderful or awful. Just yesterday, my husband's employer laid off dozens of people. These are uncertain times.

Lately, the song playing in my head isn't "Que Sera, Sera" but the Roches' "Mr. Sellack":

"O Mr. Sellack,
Can I have my job back?
I've run out of money again.
Last time I saw ya,
I was singing Hallelujah,
I'm so glad to be leavin' this restaurant.

"Now the only thing I want,
Is to have my old job back again.
I clean the tables, I'll do the creams,
I'll get down on my knees
And scrub behind the steam table."

When I was younger and everything felt possible, I moved solo, without a care, to Colorado, then New York. I guess I didn't know any better; the economy was also a whole lot healthier. Now, the prospect would keep me up nights.

Apparently, mentally strong people don't shy away from change. The only thing we can control is how we react to the ever-shifting ground on which we stand.

These days, as I struggle to keep my balance, I sometimes wish I were a girl again, with my mother singing "Que Sera, Sera"–and making me believe everything is going to be all right.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Blunt Truth

There are some beauty routines on which I will not skimp, highlights being the prime example. My hair is far too fine, as in thin, for me to be messing with bleach out of the box. This is a job for pros. Price is (almost) no object.

As for haircuts, not so much. I've been to some of the swankiest salons in Manhattan and, try as they might with potions and dryers and sprays (oh my!), my locks remain limp. There's only so much magic in even the trendiest stylist's bag of tricks.

To be blunt, all I need is a straight cut. For that, I can pay $20 at the old-timey local barbershop–the same one where my son lost his luscious first head of curls after I finally relented and agreed to take him at 3. (There are photos of me cringing in the background as his locks hit the floor.)

Which is how I found myself in that testosterone-infused no-woman's land the other day. I watched at the two sixtysomething brothers who own the joint chatted away with their patrons, talkin' guy talk. One prime snippet: "I saw that Miley Cyrus riding a wrecking ball. The only thing real on her was her teeth."

I decided to close my eyes and relax–there was no point in trying to interject my feminist opinion or engage my guy in chit chat. And so I sat quietly...until they cranked up the Lionel Ritchie.

They usually play Frank, and I love me some Frank. But listening to the guys singing "You're once, twice, three times a lady" was too much for me. It was all I could do not to fall out of the chair laughing.

They failed to see what I might find ridiculously funny about one of the schmaltziest wedding tunes of all time. Instead, they launched into whether it wouldn't be better if the woman in the song was "once, twice, three kinds of lady," leaving my barber to quip, "Yeah, a cook, a cleaner..." "and a breadwinner," I finished, ignoring the fact that the guy had scissors to my head.

Did I get a decent cut? Sure. Was the price right? Yep.

Do I care that they may have resented a woman entering their bastion of manhood? Nope. After all, I'm the one who won't hesitate to use the men's room when the line to the women's is winding around the block.

But will I be back?

Given that the last time I was at my salon, my colorist was dishing with me while Donna Summer and Edith Piaf played in the background, I may just have to find out what a junior stylist costs.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

And Then This Happened!

Something really exciting happened yesterday, something I couldn't have timed any better. 

I've been feeling overwhelmed of late by a new freelance writing assignment, wondering what I've gotten myself into. On top of that, I had just decided to start a blog, of all things! 

I know I should be writing every day, or every other day, but I haven't come close. And yet, dear readers, I learned yesterday I was named one of 10 bloggers to love by none other than blogger extraordinaire Katie Allison Granju over at You could have knocked me over with a feather!

I won't deny connections came into play, at least initially. My dear college friend Kimi told her dear friend Katie about "The Water Is Wide." But from there, Kimi assures me, it was all up to Katie. Expanding on my "Water" theme, if she thought I stunk, I would have been sunk.

Be sure to check out Katie's blog; I'm in some pretty awesome company.

And thank you for your support. I'll do my best to write every day. Or every other day. Or something like that. 


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Curse of the Salted Caramel

We all know peanut butter and chocolate are two great tastes that taste great together. I've succumbed to more than my fair share of Reece's, thanks to what the advertisements would have you believe was a happy accident. (As if.)

Now I've fallen fully for another match made in foodie heaven: salted caramel. Apparently, I'm behind the times, as the mashup's flavor of the year status goes all the way back to 2008, after the idea was hatched in France, bien sur. All I know is that, along with pumpkin everything, it's everywhere now: in ice cream, in lattes, even in candy (!)

I shouldn't be surprised by my craving, given that I'm a salty-sweet woman all the way. Clearly, I'm not alone: Cracker Jack dates from the 1890s, Reece's from the 1920s.

My downfall: Steve's Salted Caramel ice cream, best eaten semi-soft. Now McDonald's has followed suit with its own (for now) limited-edition salted caramel sundae. And my college pal Kimi informs me that Haagen Dazs has it, too. I thought they only made caramel but, silly me, of course they're in the mix. As Kimi puts it, "I gotta have the salt, too."

In the end, I guess I owe it all to my mother, who never met a Snickers she didn't like.

Mom, this scoop's for you.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Paper Chase

At the risk of sounding like the lady who doth protest too much, I am not a hoarder. 
According to the Mayo Clinic, "Hoarding is the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them. Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter." 
I don't do that. I'm not those people on TV, the ones who now have a bona fide psychiatric diagnosis. I can walk down my hall just fine, thank you very much.
Just don't ask me to find the receipt for those two pairs of shoes that have to go back to Zappos.
I maintain a facade of tidiness: I won't leave dirty dishes in the sink, the beds and bathrooms will get done, I've been known to vacuum on occasion, and I definitely maintain a clear path between rooms.
But I have to face facts. I may not be a hoarder, but I'm a piler.
Wikipedia–my go-to source unless my editors tell me not to go there–adds that compulsive hoarding causes "significant distress or impairment." Now that has a ring of truth to it. My H is clearly distressed, though I've reached the shrug-my-shoulders stage. As for impairment, see "Zappos receipt."
The towers of books, magazines, shipping statements, and miscellaneous flotsam and jetsam just keep getting taller; a couple of them have reached the brink of toppling over. 
I must admit, it's starting to look a tad cluttered. 
I have reams of papers everywhere in the apartment: on the kitchen island, on my bedroom chairs, in baskets on the floor. You'd think I'd be more conscientious, given that some of it is important: medical forms, school progress reports, and the boy's precious handmade don't-you-dare-suggest-I-pitch-them birthday and Mother's Day cards. Yet somehow, I can never find the time. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I dread the prospect (?)
It's not that I haven't made some token efforts. I've even bought cute canvas storage containers to give myself the illusion of organization, only to chuck everything in them without a thought. 
I wasn't always this way. My life used to fit neatly in one accordion folder, sorted out on a Sunday afternoon. But then things got messy and disorganized–funny how that can happen post-kid–and so did my paperwork.  
My friend J recently treated me to an evening of organization porn when she gave me a tour of her Real Simple/Martha Stewart basement. Everything was just where it should be, in carefully marked bins placed on carefully stacked shelving. I hadn't seen anything like it since the last time my Auntie Fran sent me downstairs for some paper towels from her BJ's-stocked basement. You could eat off her spotless floor. 
I felt both better and worse when J told me a professional had helped her do it–better because it meant she was just as lost as I am, worse because I could never afford to have someone come in and save me from myself like that. 
Meanwhile, another friend scanned and then shredded all of her paper. I must really love her to forgive such complete competence. 
So now the holidays are upon us and I'd really like to get things back in order so I could have some people over...
Oh, who am I kidding? Unless I get a storage unit where I can haul this mess, I'd much rather score some invites and forget the piles.
I just have to remember to leave the important stuff on top.
Postscript: After finishing this blog, I did a bit of cleaning. Apparently, writing about the piles was enough to make me do something about them.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

And the Leaves That Are Green...

The other day, the boy entranced a new sitter by gathering a pile of the beautiful yellow-orange leaves scattered across our building's courtyard and fashioning them into a necklace for her; he even wrote a sweet card.

At first, I didn't connect the fact that these gorgeous leaves came from the same cherry trees that provide a transitory riot of pink in the spring. When I did, I was struck by the fact that they provide beauty throughout the seasons.

The sitter was in her 20s, in the spring of her life, brimming with a sort of enthusiasm I can't seem to muster these days. The leaves complimented her sunny disposition as much as her coral sweater.

Lately, I've been feeling nostalgic for the spring of my 20s, 30s even 40s. Yes, I know in my head I'm supposed to be in a good place. I have dear friends with great sites (Midlife at the OasisThe Best of Everything After 50) telling me so. But as I get older and life gets more complicated, my heart is often heavy with worries that keep me up at night.

I need to remember that, like the cherry trees, all seasons of life offer their own special beauty. That before the leaves turn to brown, they can provide a new jolt of color. That I have to try to find my own, bolder shades.

I've never looked good in orange, but it might be time to try a splash of scarlet.

Friday, November 1, 2013

'Twas the Day After Halloween

'Twas the day after Halloween, when all through the house, 
The Snickers were snickering, "We won't tell a mouse."

The Twizzlers all wrapped in their cellophane fair,
Kept taunting, "Come eat us, till the cupboard is bare."

It's the day after Halloween and I want all the candy. I'm thisclose to lowering my high chocoholic standards to gobble down every CVS-bought mini stowed in my son's bright orange pumpkin, along with the sticky high-fructose crap I could pass up easily at the checkout line.

I'd be ready to eat it all–if it weren't for the photos.

I'd left the house with a fresh coat of makeup and adorable giraffe ears, thinking I might like what I saw when my friend obligingly took some shots. But even with a 20-pound loss (give or take), I still didn't. My BMI is an SOB.

I eat when stressed, plus I'm sure genes and possibly even my gut bacteria come into play. NYU's weight loss center sees obesity as a disease, not a character flaw. And then there's this: "For some people, [processed food] is a drug of abuse, and...many of us are equally unprepared to deal with synthetic substances as we are with synthetic pharmaceuticals," creating a "maladaptive" response–overeating.

But none of it makes me look, or feel, any better.

Despite all the science, society still judges the overweight–and overweight women, in particular–harshly. One headline says it all: "Stigma Against Fat People the Last Acceptable Prejudice, Studies Find." As one researcher put it, "Thinness has come to symbolize important values in our society, values such as discipline, hard work, ambition and willpower. If you're not thin, you don't have them."

Is it any wonder that I judge myself harshly, too? Yet it makes me angry that my sense of self is still so tied to appearance.

Despite the fact that I know I have some good stuff going on and try to be kind to myself, it's hard not to buy into the general population's way of thinking when the evidence of my "lack of willpower" is apparent every time I pass my reflection, go clothes shopping or, yes, see myself in pictures. Unlike, say, alcoholism, the evidence of food addiction can't be hidden easily.

Of course, it's not just about looks. I've never been small, but I used to be a lot fitter and trimmer. Over the years, I swam, skied, went to the gym. Now, my only hustle involves chasing after the boy. I can only hope my "fitness age"–my body's ability to deliver oxygen to its cells–is better than I think it is at this point. I'm not talking about wanting to be slim anymore, just healthy.

Still, I wish I were more like the boy, able to put down a half-eaten dark Hershey's and then forget it. I could learn a lot from him. He loves, but doesn't live for, his treats.

And so I will be posting no selfies this Halloween. Instead, I'll battle to avoid eating all things–even the snickering mini Snickers calling my name.

And maybe even take a walk.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Writing Life

The other day, I did something I try to avoid: I jumped into one of those silly Facebook games. This one had me soliciting words to describe me starting with the letter "A." I would have been happy to receive complimentary but generic terms like "awesome." Instead, to my great surprise, I earned words like "author," "astute" and "articulate" (three times).

Why was I taken aback? Because this writer thing is still relatively new to me; I still don't think of myself as an "author." I only started 10 years ago, after I got laid off from my last magazine editing job. Prior to that, I'd spent 25 years behind the scenes, sans byline, first as a copy editor and then an editor.

As much as I loved working with words, I lacked the confidence to put my own work out there. During college newspaper internships, it became clear that my natural strength was in editing, not daily reporting. Instead, I respected writers even as I pushed them. ("This needs rephrasing, it isn't clear." "Where's that story? I need it now.")

As much as I preferred staying relatively anonymous while working for great national publications, I did get a lot of pleasure from writing particularly good display. I've had the luck of working with some very smart, hilariously creative headline writers with whom I engaged in a competitive camaraderie; I'd flush with pride when I came up with something that made them laugh.

But ask me to stare at a blank screen and write and I'd freeze–at least until I entered back into the job market and learned no one was interested in hiring editors. I had to accept this brave new online world, where it's all about providing content. Luckily for me, a friend was willing to give me a chance writing a humor blog for Seventh Generation about my learning curve as I attempted to green my family. People started telling me I had a strong voice, though I still didn't believe it.

But I kept going, realizing I had observations on just about everything. Like so many others with something to say, Facebook became my watercooler.

Then I started writing for the Child Mind Institute, where I've often struggled with the process but have been proud of the results, focusing on topics that mean a great deal to me. I've been lucky to have skillful editors–and I'm not just saying that in case they happen to stumble across this space. I find everything fascinating, which leads to some massive word counts. I need a good editor! I've also been thrilled to find support from expected, and wonderfully unexpected, corners.

And now I've taken the ultimate leap, getting personal on my own blog. I look back and see I was always a writer, I just didn't think of it that way. My cousins and I got a great belly laugh when we discovered my diary. The day the Vietnam War ended, my cynical 13-year-old self wrote, "I'll believe it when I see it." My log of my summer camp's road trip to Colorado led to me write an essay decades later that ended up in an anthology of St. Louis Jewish writers. (Somewhere, my mother is still kvelling.)

The challenges are great: Aside from my own near-constant writer's block, the struggle to get paid what one is worth, let alone paid at all, is well-documented. But now that the door is open, there's been no closing it. I have ideas for articles, for books, for songs.

All I need is the time. And discipline. But hey, at least I've written my fourth blog. I wasn't sure I'd get that far.

To infinity and beyond!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

You Can Go Home Again

Game 3 of the 2013 World Series, the Cardinals are home, and I'm cheering them on from my Brooklyn apartment. It's funny; when I was growing up in St. Louis, I couldn't wait to get out of what felt like a suffocating suburban purgatory. But time and circumstances can change everything. Now I'm a proud Midwesterner who looks forward to every visit.

Watching the Cards brings back memories of our split level with the dinette set featuring a faux-wood blue table and white pleather swivel chairs. My brother, C, would lie on the downstairs family room floor, eating Oreos and drinking gallons of milk, cheating the family pudge thanks to the miles he swam every day.

Decades later, I live a world away from my pink bedroom and green Gremlin. Now when I go back, I marvel at the ease of living and cherish the family and friends who know me best of all. I fantasize about a backyard with a trampoline for my boy. I value the things I took for granted.

I'm not sure when I'll return to the nest. But tonight, the Cards are bringing it home, and bringing me home, too.

Friday, October 25, 2013

So Why "The Water Is Wide"?

Just in case you haven't had a chance to search under James Taylor The Water Is Wide, let me try to explain why I chose the title for my blog.

It starts as a paean to love, with lyrics dating from the 1600s:

"The water is wide, I can't cross over.
And neither have I wings to fly.
Build me a boat that can carry two,
And both shall row, my love and I."

But then comes the verse that stops me every time:

"There is a ship and she sails the sea,
She's loaded deep, as deep can be.
But not as deep as the love I'm in,
I know not how I sink or swim."

From this point, the song is no longer about romantic love; it speaks to a feeling much more profound and primal–the love I have for my son.

Sometimes in life I sink, but I have no choice. I'm a mother.

I swim.

A Blog Is Born!

I've been hearing it for years.

"You have to do a blog."

I've resisted, for many reasons. I don't have time. I can't juggle one more thing. I'm private, at least until you get me talking.

It's not that I don't blog, but I've only done it for organizations–nothing really personal.

I save my witty, touching and/or "you've got to see this cute dog!" posts for Facebook. At least until now. After all, it's 2013. Time to get with it.

I named my blog after a beautiful traditional song I used to sing to my son, now 10, every night. If you don't know it, you might want to give it a listen. I'd include a link but I'm not sure if that breaks copyright laws. (I have so much to learn.) Just search under James Taylor The Water Is Wide.

I think you'll get it.

And if you're looking for someone to blame for unleashing yet another blogger into the blogosphere–say that fast 10 times--blame Nancy.

I do.